Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One word. Snow!

Wellington's known for its wickedly strong winds and all around miserable winter weather (and it's uninsulated, unheated housing) but it never normally snows. In the last few years I've seen it once or twice, but it's never settled, and hasn't been down at sea level...until this week that is!

I left work yesteday afternoon to snow falling on Courtenay Place. I couldn't believe it and I didn't seem to be the only one with people leaning out of their windows, snapping photos on their phones and all with big, goofy grins on their faces that is when their tongues weren't poking out trying to catch snowflakes (unless that last one was just me?!).

Today I was at uni up in Kelburn and walked out of class and into the snow. And so instead of studying wandered around in it until I could no longer feel my fingers to snap photos.


And here's a link to a beautiful video of snow in the CBD today. http://vimeo.com/27709878

I hope there's more snow tomorrow! Except not too much that the buses don't run like they didn't tonight...that was one cold walk home!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Samoa - aso tasi

It was just over a month ago that I arrived back from beautiful, sunny, tropical, not-Wellington-in-the-winter Samoa. I'm blogging about it only now because since the wheels hit the tarmac I've been practically non-stop busy with uni, Harry Potter and then film festival and as much sleeping and knitting as can be squeezed into a day too!

After a glass of wine in the airport foodcourt (cheers, mum!) I made it through security in record time - ten minutes tops including being swabbed for explosives. It struck me how different I felt compared to last time I headed off overseas nearly a year ago to the day. Then I was nervous (ok, downright scared) and excited. This time I was just as excited, but somehow walking through the terminal, just me and my (much smaller than usual) backpack, I felt like I was at home. As much as I love my cosy, mumsie life in Wellington, the one place I truely feel at home is on the road with only myself to depend on and no idea what the day ahead will bring.

Fast forward a few hours and I stepped off the plane at Faleolo and without any checked luggage I was first out the other side where I headed straight for the bathroom to peel off some layers. One of only 3 passengers on the shuttle bus into Apia (25 tala compared to around 50 for a taxi), it was less a transfer and more of a guided tour with the driver pointing out things along the way(like his house, Salt Lake City Apia aka the mormon compound), chatting about politics and driving mostly on the wrong side of the road while he overtook cars like a maniac.

Before long we were in Apia and I was tucked up in bed with a gecko or two for company. I bunkered down the first night at the Seaside Inn with an ensuite dorm to myself for only 40 tala. Breakfast was included but I was chomping at the bit to get out and explore the next morning and find something to eat at the local market.

Along the way I passed the police in their lavalavas marching down to the government buildings to raise the flag and play the national anthem. I tried out some Samoan on a couple of locals who's first question (well after 'where are you from?' and 'are you married/do you have children?') seems to be 'are you a peace corp?' because why the hell else do you know any samoan? I discovered that the Sydney Side cafe sells a delicious banana smoothie a la Peru and the local supermarket has Maggi soup imported from Guatemala with all-Spanish packaging.
The market was busy with men gambling and drinking kava, people selling taro/bananas/coconuts/popcorn and lots and lots of panikeke, pork buns and mountainous servings of fried chicken, sausies and chips. The pork buns were delicious - your choice of steamed or deep-fried - and with a cordial included - all eaten at communal tables with teenagers from the local Mormon high school for company and interestingly, not a single pork bun to be found that contains pork...only chicken or beef buns on the menu, but it doesn't have the same ring to it. Despite having a belly full of keke poa'a I had to beeline to the ladies selling coconuts. Is there anything more refreshing than a fresh coconut?! They cracked it open for me too so I could peel out the flesh after drinking the juice. And then fell about laughing at me for exclaiming that "I LOVE coconuts" - I guess that could be taken a couple of ways.

I had to get out of there before I made myself sick with all the eating, so I headed outside to the main bus stop to make my way up to the ferry port to catch a boat over to Savai'i, the big island.

Buses in Samoa are an experience in themselves. They are colourful and wooden (and cheap!), with tiny seats that somehow the larger than average Samoans manage to squeeze into and then some. Standing isn't allowed so once the seats are full people pile onto each other's laps. Noone would let anyone sit on mine though, nor I on theirs - apparently palagis get the special treatment. A man selling banana chips pointed the right bus out to me and I bought a bag of his goods in return - chifle! It dawned on me why I love Samoa so much - it's like a little bit of Peru in the Pacific. How I've missed snacking on chifle and popcorn while riding buses!

Once at the port, there was time to kill before the ferry left (around 12 tala one way by the way) so I dug out the knitting and before long had a curious crowd of onlookers gathered around me. The ferry was the tiny vehicle one - a school teacher sat next to me and so I spent the whole ride being given an imprompteu samoan lesson of which I can only remember how to say "Ave bus. O lea le pasisi?" - which apparently means "Bus driver, how much is the fare?" - although she also added never to ask the driver the fare anyway because they'll always hike it up for a palagi - better to ask another passenger and have the right coins ready.

The ride across was a bit bumpy which made for a wet backpack - the sides of the ship are so low even with a small swell the water washes right over the deck.

The wharf was chaotic when the ferry docked with everyone racing to catch buses to other parts of Savai'i. Not me. I had a 10 minute meander down the road to Lusia's Lagoon Chalets where I had my own hut over the water awaiting me, a promise of cold beer and some Clan of the Cave-porn to keep myself occupied.

Lagoon chalet - 70 tala/night, incl brekkie

Poke - raw fish in soy sauce

More to come - bed beckons. It seems I ramble even more when writing than I do in person - this could be quite the saga!