An elderly grandmother ordered me in broken English to stand next to her at the luggage terminal. At 5:30 a.m. the airport was buzzing to a soundtrack of live music provided by performers in matching tropical shirts and lava lavas. I stood next to my new friend and followed her direction in taking my luggage off the conveyor belt and making my way through customs.
I must have looked like I had never travelled before. Funny, considering how comfortable I feel in airports. Not that you would have known from the way I bungled security when leaving Salt Lake. There's something about kissing your husband goodbye for the last time before a five-week absence that makes you forget to take off your belt or put your sweatshirt in the right bin and look back instead of forward and almost trip over the mat.
But anways ...
So Luke puts my luggage in their family van and I'm hurled across the coast line at sunrise. It's now 6:30 a.m. and the island is already very much awake. Kids are walking in crisp polo shirts and colored lava lavas on their way to private church schools and adults are waiting on the side of the road to cram into yellow and red buses and taxis. There are colors everywhere. The houses, the flowers, the sunrise, the clouds, the ocean reflecting all of it.
Luke points out traditional villages with fales (thatched-roof homes with no walls) separated by the Samoan version of suburbs. Small roadside stands selling beer, cell phone credits, and packaged foods crammed into jungle along with small single-level European homes.
Yellow signs, some of the only signs on the roads declaring "NO to rape and indecent acts" are attached to the string of telephone and electric poles that follow the coast line. I instantly wonder if they are a product of the government agency I'm here to volunteer with.
Within a half hour we've passed the LDS temple and a chapel or two and my amazement gives way to a feeling of familiarity. Even in Samoa with their open buildings and lush vegetation, there's a "look" to LDS chapels that feels like home.
The van pulls up to the house I'll be staying in for the next five weeks and a few men look up from cooking that's already been under way for an hour in stone ovens under a thatched structure. I'm welcomed in by warm friends and shown into the house. So this is Samoa. Everything around me reminds of a mixture of South America, the states, and pictures I've seen of the Pacific in travel magazines. Chickens and dogs run loose in the yard. There are pigs in the back. A modest kitchen boasts running, but not heated, water. The house is basically a huge screened porch divided into rooms. Curtains hang in a continuous wall of fabric eye-level and down and room is a different color. I'm staying in the pink room -- Princess Pink complete with an old Tinkerbell poster taped to the wall. More later on my adventures on trying to sleep.
P.S. My access to the Internet is not always constant so I have a feeling some days there will be multiple posts I've had waiting to put up, and other days that I won't be able to connect. You, of course, are under no obligation to read them all at once when that happens. =)