From my office at the top of the stairwell, I hear everything in the neighbourhood. Workmen on the building opposite hammering like miniature-Thors, and the baby downstairs wailing. One will be completed one day, and the other will grow up. But not during the three months we’re here. I cover my ears and head downstairs. To join Kate at another of our little godsends: the cafe, ‘All Things Sweet’, on the corner.
We sit at a long table drinking sasalapa juice (squeezed from a sweet Samoan fruit) and eating a cinnamon spiral and a meat n’ cheese pie. Kate opens a copy of the local newspaper, the Samoa Observer, and gestures excitedly at an article on page twenty-six.
Entitled ‘The Coconut Champion’, it announces that George Iona of the Cook Islands has beaten Samoa’s favourite Fiapai Elio to take the title of the world’s fastest coconut tree climber. In the photograph, George looks both triumphant and familiar. And no wonder. This is the same George Iona we’d met in Rarotonga in April, where he works as a guide on Captain Tama’s Lagoon Tours. That day he’d demonstrated his tree climbing skills too, tying his feet together with coconut fibres and shinning like a gecko up the smooth bole. He’d challenged four warriors from the audience to do the same – John from the UK, Lance from Australia, Jason from NZ, and Eddie from China. John, Lance, and Jason faltered in the first few feet. Eddie went up like a Duracell bunny and almost reached the top.
“Small world, huh?” says Kate. She flips over the page to another story of tourists who’d met and bonded at a wedding at our favourite watering hole, the Toana Tusitala. We recognise one of them straightaway: the man with long grey hair and a green lavalava. He’d wandered around like a Biblical prophet there last Sunday, as we tried to contain the worst excesses of Ted and Teresa. Pity we couldn’t have siphoned them off to the wedding too. Our week might have been quieter.
Another couple sit quietly in the cafe. A man and a woman on holiday from Auckland. They tell us they’re staying a Let Vasa Resort – a cooperative between two villages at the north-western tip of the island. They had intended to stay at Aggie Grey’s resort in the same vicinity, but heard Le Vasa was better, plus all profit went back into the local community. So far they’ve been pleased with their choice. The resort is friendly and the food good.
They leave to catch their bus. For a moment, there’s a lull in the traffic, even the workmen stop hammering. Peace. We’d better not get used to it.