August 27, 2007

Samoan Adventures

It took me a while to get my hands on these pictures. And it took me even longer to get myself together to write this blog entry. I'm not even sure if anybody is still reading, you know... Btw, if you're tired looking up my blog every week and not finding anything new, why don't you subscribe to my RSS feeds?!?

Its already a few weeks since we came back from Samoa. It took 2 days for grey cloudy rainy Auckland to wipe out the memories of a tropical island. We went to Samoa not really expecting much and that was the right attitude to have, because everything that was nice felt like bonus! Great tropical weather with light breeze from the ocean too!

Samoa is only 3.5 hours away from Auckland, but it may as well be lightyears away. We were told that few years back Samoa was listed as the least developed nation (In the whole world! Including African nations!) in some UN charts (I guess referring to the GDP and income levels). There's basically no industry there, not even significant food production. We read in the papers that every year 10% of Samoan population apply to emigrate to NZ. There's an assigned "immigration path" and "quota" for young healthy Samoans willing to emigrate to NZ and judging on the numbers of Samoan people in Auckland, the system is used very well!

People are just waking up to the idea of catering for the tourist industry, so you'd read /hear nightmare stories of non-existing "customer service", etc. And people really didn't seem to jump at an opportunity to make a buck off you (compared to some South East Asian countries). That definitely saved us some grief of being hassled all the time, but we also couldn't get some things we wanted. Like food.

We didnt expect much about food, but during the first few days in Samoa, I basically lived on chocolate bars and tortilia chips. And the following days - bananas. The Janes Beach Fales resort where we stayed had bananas freely available for guests and I surely put that into good use. There were just no opportunities to get food. Gas stations and kiosks would stock chips and instant noodles and our resort was very keen on serving us spam (canned processed meat). The local food, though not spicy, is quite fantastic, just that as a tourist you don't have much access to that!

We knew that we'll be staying in beach fales with shared bathroom, no real walls and "liftable" "curtains". And this is what we got at Janes fales in Savai'i. The bonus was a little verandah where we could hang our hammock and look at the sunrise and the sunset.

Samoans are very religious. In every village there's at least one huge church and in many there are 3 or 4. You kind off get the idea about where all the money is going when you compare churches with family houses... On the other hand we were very impressed with attempts to recycle and collect garbage all over the islands. Compared to Indonesia or Thailand where you're constantly exposed to horrifying plastic cemetaries, Samoa has sorted things out! All of the plastic bags that we received were bio-degradable! Well, we don't have that in NZ yet!

Shopping in Apia, the capital of Samoa, wasn't much of adventure either... I honestly believe that you can get much better (and cheaper!) Samoan crafts in South Auckland or at the Pasifika festival! Except for tropical weather, I think, we had much more authentic Pacific Island experiences in NZ. We know Samoan people, they talk to us, they share their food and stories with us! It didn't really happen when we were in Samoa... The taxi driver that took us home in Auckland was a Samoan guy, he tought us quite a few phrases in Samoan and even invited to hang out with his family when we told that we don't have any family in NZ...

All in all we had a very touristy experience in Samoa. Especially at the Lalomanu beach that was jam packed with tourists. The Taufua Beach Fales where we stayed probably had half of all tourists that were in Samoa at that time.

But it was the nicest beach we've seen in Samoa and snorkelling was fantastic. The defining thing about Taufua Fales was that we had lots of good food! After 3 days of feeding on bananas we were terribly impressed by lots of fresh fish, veggies and all sorts of goodies that we received every breakfast, lunch and dinner!

We weren't so sure about staying in open beach fales when we were conteplating the trip from NZ. But it was a surprisingly fantastic experience! Although you sleep and live in everybody's clear view, the possibility to wake up at night and see mirriads of stars in the sky and hear / see the ocean few meters away is really worth it all! It is like camping in tropics! We basically read, slept, swam, snorkled (saw a turtle, octopus, lots of all kinds of fish!) and eat the whole time in Taufua Fales. What else could you ask from a holiday?!?

The resort also arranged a fiafia dance performance.

It was beautiful! Somewhat similar to maori haka (maori and polynesian people are closely related, basically their ancestors are the same people that migrated from South East Asia, almost Indonesia, I'd say. They still share a lot of words with Bahasa Indonesia and Malay languages!) but it was overly good natured and happy performance. No wonder many of the NZ Idols finalists were from the Pacific Islands...

Cute piglets were running free, there were no cars on the roads, a true paradise for a week! Couldn't imagine myself living there! The whole Samoan population is over 100 000. Auckland has more Samoans than Samoa itself!!!

Oh yes! The lava church was one of the only tourist sights that we really went to on Savai'i Island. There was a volcano eruption at the beginning of the 20th century and a few churches in that village were destroyed by lava flow. They use it now as a tourist sight.

Ahhhh... looking back at the pictures, I wouldn't mind going there again... Just have to pack enough good books...

Posted by gkligyte at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2007

Cat Stories

After a week in tropical Samoa we're not impressed with grey midwinter in Auckland. Our neighbours gave us a bunch of daffodils before leaving, so it was easy to be too hopeful and expect spring to come sooner rather than later. The day before leaving Samoa we were sitting on the beach talking that we can't imagine how does it feel to be cold. After less than a week in Auckland, I can't imagine how does feeling hot feel!

Samoan pictures and stories will come later, I just can't find time to get my hands on editing the images. For me the memories of holiday were wiped away during the first day at work. As if we've never been gone... After sleeping 10 hours a day, reading, swimming, snorkeling, lazing in the sun and eating, the reality of going through emails, making phone calls, arranging meetings feels a bit harsh...

NZ news and realities all of a sudden feel very frivolous.The NZ dollar is falling for a change, housing market slowed down, the unbelievable sales are on in most shops (we have sales 350 days a year! I don't think I ever bought anything not on sale here!!), boy racers kill themselves (and other people) while being chased by police, people still don't signal and run red lights (an unknown "hoodie" pulled me off the road on Monday just before I almost walked under an SUV running red lights...)

I go through some trouble in getting Whangai (our cat) to come with us to the new office. For some reason I became the person in charge of this cat. Every morning I walk past the old office and if the cat is there, I try to lure her with me. Most of the times she comes along, terribly stressed (the path is like a minefield for her, there's lots of students, cars, lound noises and nowhere to hide!), gets her feed, tries to sleep on my lap for a while and then freaks out about something (like someone walking down the corridor dangling keys) and shoots out through the window. She knows the way to the new office, so she comes and howls at our door every night when it gets dark. The trouble is that usually it is time to leave or nobody is in the office anymore! As I write this, I listen to the wind and rain and my heart breaks thinking about this little cat out there in the dark making all the way to our office, getting all wet and finding no one there...

This picture is here just because I have pictures of the quiz night where we lost miserably to everyone (picking a better name than a "Car Wreck" for our team could have helped?). We'll be having municipality elections soon and the girl in the centre runs to be elected for a community board in our area (and happens to be Nicoletta's friend). Besides that we had an International Film Festival here (my favorite film there happened to be Lars von Trier "The Boss of it All") and I started singing in a choir (yes!). But the choir thing, I guess, will demand a whole entry of its own. After the Samoan story.

Don't forget about us here, ok?!?!

Posted by gkligyte at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)