Monday, October 15, 2007


If you don't already know, is the title of a book by Robert Lewis Stevenson (aka RLS). This could be a picture of me as I write, except subtract the wooden writing desk, insert IKEA laptop desk; subtract pen and paper, insert laptop; subtract confined to bed by T.B. and insert confined to bed by severe head cold. It's nearly the same scene!

And so ladies and gentlemen we shall proceed with our final episode on Western Samoa. This should be interesting do to the large amounts of cough syrup I have been consuming.

Before we start I want to give you a little background history. Here’s something you may or may not know about me. I love books. I like to read them to myself. I like to read them aloud. I like to have them read to me. I like books on tape/mp3/cd. Conversely, Markus likes his computer.

When we first got together my strategy to get Markus to participate in my obsession with books was to think of a really good piece of boyish literature to reel him. I found on my bookshelf a 1921 edition of Treasure Island, by none other than, RLS. This seemed a grand idea-swashbuckling pirate life-what more could a boy ask for? After the initial raised eyebrows and incredulity such as, “you want to read out loud?” and “you want me to read out loud?” he succumbed to my pleading and I could tell was somewhat intrigued to see what Treasure lay on the Island. Obviously this was early in our romance when I had such influence.

What I hadn’t anticipated was pirate jargon. And how incredibly hard it is to read. Silently to yourself, let alone aloud to a critical literary audience (me). Take for example the following passage that has my spell checker in overdrive, “Flin’t was cap’n; I was quartermaster, along of my timber leg. The same broadside I lost my leg, old Pew lost his deadlights. It was a master surgeon, him that ampytated me—out of college and all—Latin by the bucket, and what not; but was hanged like a dog, and sun-dried like the rest, at Corso Castle. That was Roberts’ men, that was, and comed of changing names to their ships—Royal Fortune and so on. Now, what a ship was christened, so let her stay, I says. So it was with the Cassandra, as brought us all safe home from Malabar, after England took the Viceroy of the Indies; so it was with the old Walrus, Flint’s old ship, as I’ve seen a-muck with the red blood and fit to sink with gold.”

Um..... what? Passages like these had me scurring for my:

But Markus soldiered on through the whole book. In fact he often brought it out himself with a little pirate talk, “Shall we see what old Flint is up te now, mattey (or something along those lines)?” Especially if it was my turn to read. After reading that book, Markus is now prepared every September 19th for International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So when I started reading the travel guides to Samoa when I was thinking of moving here I took it as a sign that RLS. had made it his final home and resting place. Hoping that it wouldn’t be our final, final, home (RLS died five years after moving to Samoa), we moved. Hey if it’s good enough for RLS, it’s good enough for us!

I really wanted to see RLS’ estate in Samoa on our trip and using my birthday cache, drug Markus along for the ride. The beautiful estate of Vailima (the local beer goes by the same name).

RLS moved to Upolu seeking an environment conducive to his health. Unfortunately, the tropics are not beneficial for TB, but he stayed anyway because he loved the island and the local people so much; and couldn't return to his beloved Scotland because the weather there was sure to kill him. Here's the view from the upper balcony.

When he died Samoans formed a fireline and hand over hand passed his coffin to the top of local Mt. Vaea where he is buried (it's a 45 minute trudge to the top to give you an idea of what that was like). First editions: Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.

The Library where RLS did all his writing in his final days. That's a real fireplace. Though they were never lit, he insisted on having them built into the house to make him feel more at home.

The actual bed and writing desk.

Infamous RLS photo.

Translations of RLS works.

After the museum we wandered the “botanical gardens” a little jungle area along the creek adjacent to Vailima.

Giant stand of giant bamboo.

Then we headed to the Curry House and praise be, it was open. We sat on the deck with a view of the ocean, savoring our korma and the absolute best Mango Lassi I have ever had in my life.

Later when we tried to catch our flight out to Pago, we realized after being told by our friends in the waiting area (not by the check-in desk of course) that their plane, scheduled ahead of our own, had never arrived. They had already been waiting a couple of hours. It was two more before we were told that our flight would not go out and that we would have to stay another night, expenses paid. Darn.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

WS Part Lua

The next day of our Western Samoa trip was begun with a great buffet breakfast at Aggie Greys in their lovely dining fale.

We then went on a Sunday drive. We drove out to the Southern tip of the island where friends were staying. We got to drive in the mountains! Yes where you couldn’t even see the ocean, past grazing land, plantations, lovely beach side communities. It was Sunday and few people were out so we go the full benefit of the flat, pothole free roadways where speads of 80 km were reached (what’s that in miles?). I tried to take some pictures but got rained out.

We saw happy pigs on the roadside. No sties here. I like the idea of letting these guys roam free, if only it weren’t for the listerosis . . .

There were A LOT of horses. Tutuilla I think has one. They looked fairly happy and many were grazing freely and seemed road savvy. I think Samoa might be a good place to be born as a horse.

We found our friends in a 20 something enclave of palagis in beachside fales in front of a gorgeous beach. We roused them out of their post to'ona'i (Sunday feast) slumber and were rolling down the road to Coconuts beach resort for some tasty drinkies. This place is super beautiful and right next door to the super nice resort I went to last time I was in Western Samoa. The place was built by some L.A. lawyers. I know a few lawyers, maybe they should get together and start something like this on A.S., eh?

After enjoying some cool Samoan renditions of bar favorites by the Samoan band, we were heading down to Black Sands beach. Truly one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. We just lolled around in the gentle waves for hours. Markus was adventurous and snorkeled out and found a few fish around. We watched the rain pass us by further out in the ocean in front of us and the hills behind us.

By the time we got back to our place we were starving and had room service. I feel asleep promptly while Markus in desperation to watch anything, ANYTHING on t.v. (we don't have one at home), watched a documentary of an Australian aboriginal woman at the turn of the century. It's quite fascinating you should ask him about it . . .

Friday, October 12, 2007

Go West Young Men! Go West!

Because it is damn beautiful. I might have said this in my other brief post about Western Samoa, but Upolo is a beautiful island. It's my big 35 in November and Markus gave me a trip to Western Samoa for my early birthday present on our three day weekend. From one world traveler to another, "Thanks, Columbus" (or as they are now calling it "Discoverers Day")!

We got up really early in the morning, leaving Pago airport at 8 am and getting in at 8:30 am. We had a long ride from the airport in our very cute Swift red car, and yes it was, Swift; to our hotel in Apia. The car rental guy was ever so adorable.

This was Markus’ first trip off-island since he arrived seven months ago, well except our trip to Manua (which is like going to a neighboring county from Tutuilla (our island)). He was a little overwhelmed with the "bright lights, big city" by which I mean stop lights, traffic and a semi-urban air.

I had my Western Samoa driver’s license (12 tala@$4us) in two shakes and we were off to The Sydney CafĂ©-the first wonderful food experience in what was going to be a series! Markus enjoyed (despite this look on his face) a mocha , I enjoyed slavering in front of the deli display.

We checked into our lovely room with a great view of the harbor in the way cool Aggie Grey Hotel in Apia. A quaint place with lots of Samoa kitsch. Some of the rooms are little fales in the courtyard. Very cute on the outside, a little bland on the inside and not a lot of privacy.

They had a nice, simple pool, but we didn’t partake-I’m just not a big pool person. Our room had A.C., a view and a T.V., and quite a few less cockroaches than my last hotel in Apia- all my prerequisites for our stay.
After checking in we hit the markets in a big way.

The amazing fish market. The fish so big. The fly situation (thus the palm leaf fans) a little unappetizing.

The best 'aiga bus yet on the way to the produce market.

The produce market. I was envious. We rarely get pineapple in A.S. or the variety of local produce that was on display. And the prices! Oka!Oka! (oh my goodness)

Then the flea market. No pictures of the actual market, because my hands were full with goods. Conch shells, my beautiful turtle bowl, feather fan and a gift or two.

Then we went on an unhappy search for the famous Curry House. Oh, the chance to have Indian food, and highly recommended, cheap, with a view Indian food. After driving up and down the road in front of the restaurant a couple of times, we finally arrived—to be told they had no water (oh, Western Samoa! Not you, too!) and would only open for dinner. We had an unsuccessful series of lunch attempts to which I was willing at the end willing to eat at McDonalds because of my catastrophically low blood sugar (we are talking Jekyl and Hyde situation here). Luckily, Markus talked me out of my folly and we ate at The 1 Dollar Restaurant-a floating restaurant on a boat with the best fish and chips we have ever had. Unfortunately, nothing was a dollar-we are assuming that was the price paid for the boat.

The rainy afternoon was spent watching ½ of about 3 movies. The T.V. is very strange there. It seems like they just run DVDs on the stations and they all start on the hour, and they run them over and over again. So if you don’t catch the first half of a movie you just watch it and then catch the next half after it’s done. The whole time we were there they played the same four or five movies.

We had a drink in the lounge and Markus got propelled with the Slingshot. Wow. One strong drink!

Then we got dressed up to eat pizza! Oh hallelujah, pizza! Giordanos pizza is renowned for it’s fabulous pizza-in the heart of Samoa is a little pizzeria with outside seating that makes you feel like you are in Italy. I think it was even better than most pizza I’ve had in the states. It was that good.

Now that’s what I call a good day.

Stay tuned for Day Two!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wish You Were Here

So I suddenly realized that it was October.
Then I suddenly remembered what October used to mean to me . . . rain, cold, dead leaves, gray skies. And I rejoiced.

Forecast: Today-80, Tomorrow-80, The Next-80!

This October would mean more sun, more heat, lush tropical foliage, sunny skies, and blue lagoons. And ok, rain, lots of it, but that's not new here, and it's warm. Notice Rainmaker Mountain in the background, taking a day off from making rain, bless it.

On October 1st I was paddling in a turquoise lagoon, under azure skies. I ate mangoes (helloooo, mango season!) while bobbing in the waves. I dozed on my boat and opened my eyes to see a turtle rise to the surface, look at me and swim away. Man it doesn't get better than that.

So this is my "Wish You Were Here" postcard to all of you folks entering into Fall (sure Fall is beautiful, I know, but it gets cold real fast).

Next weekend is a three day weekend and Markus is taking me to Western Samoa for an early birthday present. I never thought I'd be this happy turning 35!