My trip was not uneventful, but it was adventurous in the nicest way. To be sure, there were a few hiccups, but, on the whole, it was a good journey, full of pleasant surprises, sheer boredom, and an uncomfortable moment or three.
To begin with, I left Asau. I had packed the day before; for those of you who know me, you can see that that means I was planning ahead! For those of you who don’t know me very well….you just learned a little piece of trivia about me. J Anyway, we left at 7:00 in the morning, packed and prepped. With us was Tumanavau, a deacon in the church; he was going to Apia, the capital of Western Samoa, to have some scans taken at the hospitals there. He could have gone two days earlier, but he was bent on being there for my last Sunday. Tumanavau, a cousin of Miss Emi’s (in Asau, who isn’t?), has an outrageously, contagiously hilarious personality—he can say anything to anyone and get a laugh. He loves to tell a good joke, and I get a kick out of watching him enjoy his own jokes more than anyone else present! So, as you can imagine, it was a pretty noisy, laughter-filled ride to Salaloga. Pastor Jim and Tumanavau, up front, enjoyed themselves like little boys, with Pastor Jim pretending to race the car just to get Tumanavau laughing helplessly. I was the quietest person for once!
Once in Salaloga, we bought our tickets in the crowded dock waiting area, where I had been when I arrived in Samoa. It was strange to me to see a white person—they stood out like proverbial sore thumbs. By their clothing, you could tell what they were doing in Samoa; those with the floral shirts, shorts, and sunglasses were tourists fresh from the States or New Zealand; those with serious faces and little baggage were there on business; those dressed like the Samoans were with the Peace Corps. There were only a smattering from all three groups though.
The ferry ride was shorter than I remembered. Hannah, Miss Emi, and Tumanavau napped; I watched first a dumb Australian children’s show, featuring men singing children’s songs and then acting out a story with dolls, and secondly a documentary of one of Australia’s prime ministers. I did feel a tad queasy, since the ocean was a bit rough, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. At one point, I saw ‘things’ jumping out of the water in the distance—porpoises, maybe?
Once we reached the main island of Western Samoa, Upolu, we drove to Apia. Wow! We were suddenly in the ‘big city’! At least, it felt that way to Hannah and me. We actually got to eat at McDonalds! I got a hamburger and fries—I don’t think I’ve had any beef since I’ve been here, so it was a singularly refreshing meal. Then Pastor and Miss Emi got us checked into our hotel, and were off to take Tumanavau to the hospital for his scans.
Hannah and I luxuriated in the amenities of our hotel room, realizing, at the same time, that it wouldn’t exactly be considered ‘five-star’ in the States. After spending most of the evening in our room, vegging, we went to the hotel restaurant. We ordered, Hannah using her Samoan to advantage and impressing the waitress to no end. In fact, the waitress proceeded to sit down at our table and make herself at home after she had delivered the order to the kitchen; she was full of questions for us. All the Samoans I have met have been intensely curious. They want to know everything about you—how long you’ve been in Samoa, where you’re from in America, with whom you’re staying, how you like Samoa, how did you learn so much of the language, etc., etc. Hannah was a little disconcerted, but she held up the conversation beautifully, mixing Samoan words into the Q&A.
Once we got our food, the waitress left, but the waiter was up for his turn, taking a seat and plying us with more questions as we ate. I actually didn’t mind too much—it was late at night and he was probably bored and wanted to talk to the palogi girls—but I couldn’t help smiling a few times, thinking about how such behavior would be perceived back home.
One good thing came out of it, though—upon learning how early we had to leave the hotel, and noting that we would miss the complimentary continental breakfast, our new friends the waiter and waitress pulled a few strings to get us hot sack breakfasts to take when we left! Hannah said wistfully, “Don’t you wish they would pack a ham and cheese sandwich?” Even though they hadn’t heard her wish, the next morning we were supplied with (guess what) ham and cheese sandwiches, hot banana muffins, and fresh fruit, all in a convenient, traditional brown paper bag. That was a special little blessing!
After eating our breakfasts, we reached the airport, checked in, and waited for our flight. I said goodbye to Pastor Jim—unfortunately, his foot was hurting him, so it couldn’t be anything very elaborate. Miss Emi, Hannah and I left Apia on the tiny plane I mentioned earlier in my blogging. Once again, we crossed the International Date Line, putting us back from Tuesday to Monday.
That morning, we met and visited with the Thrunn family, missionaries in American Samoa. Former missionaries to Papua, New Guinea, the Terry and Linda Thrunn have six children—Megan (20), Amy (18), Kaitlyn (16), Caleb (13), Jared (8), and Hannah (6). Though they’ve been many years on the mission field, their original Georgia roots showed in their accents and warm Southern hospitality. While Miss Emi and Mrs. Thrunn went out for lunch, Hannah and I stayed at the Thrunns and had lunch with their girls. We quickly found many things in common, including a love of books and an interest in adoption. We had a splendid time and were sorry to have to leave so soon. By the way, Mrs. Thrunn makes an absolutely sensational banana bread—those of you who follow my blog and therefore know about my banana cake fixation will understand how much I enjoyed it!
In the afternoon we did some shopping, some eating, and some final packing. After pre-checking my bags at the airport, Miss Emi took Hannah and me out for some ‘real’ pizza. Lo and behold, when we walked in the door of the delightfully-American pizzeria, who should we meet but some long-time friends of Miss Emi’s! It shouldn’t really have surprised Hannah and me, since Miss Emi knows just about everybody, but it did surprise us when this sweet couple insisted on paying the bill, in advance, for our meal. A former student of Miss Emi’s then came in, talked with Miss Emi, and insisted on slipping some money into her hand. Even the waiter was a friend of Tory’s, and insisted on making us a specialty pizza in honor of our visit to American Samoa! Talk about VIP treatment! I’ve rarely seen Miss Emi happier or more overwhelmed.
Then we journeyed to the airport. As before, there was an absolute mob milling about—apparently, there’s a whole family for each person on the plane, and they all showed up to see them off; aunts, cousins, everybody. There was too much noise and bustle to have a big, drawn-out farewell—we made ours simple and to-the-point. I felt fully capable of handling the situation, but I do admit to a bit of a lonely sensation when Hannah and Miss Emi disappeared into the throng. However, everything went as it should in an airport, and I was soon safely aboard the plane.
I’m sure you all know the details of travel, so I won’t belabor the point. I had an 8-hour layover in Honolulu, which I expected to be horrifically boring; actually, it was quite relaxing. I had a great time by myself, exploring the airport, stopping in shops, getting a Starbucks mocha. J As for the other flights, I did sleep a little, and I didn’t have to sit next to anybody objectionable—I’m sure you know what I mean! J
The only snag was at the very end of my trip—when I got off the plane in Cleveland. My plane was fifteen minutes early, so I went down to the baggage claim and collected my baggage (which all arrived safely—amen!). I then went and waited outside the front doors of the airport for a half an hour, wondering why my Dad hadn’t come to pick me up! Actually, we had just missed each other; they were waiting for me in the baggage claim area. William keeps insisting that I was ‘hiding’! However, we finally found each other, so it worked out.
So now the trip is over—it was good to go, I’m glad I went, but it is good to be home again and see my family! Hopefully, I’ll get to see you too in the near future. Thanks for following along on my travels. I hope you enjoyed it!