Samoa blog

You Can’t Handle The Truth.

I was invited to speak at a Youth Careers Evening where two of my Fab5 would be in attendance. In other words, the possibility of embarassing my children was very real.

Big Daughter’s advice – “Tell them about going on book tour and all the people that line up for you to sign their book. Tell them you work with gorgeous cover models and designers.”

I said, “But that only happens when I release a new book. As in once a year. The rest of the time Im sitting in my cave eating donuts and writing.”

Look of horror, “You cant tell them the TRUTH! Then they’ll know what a boring job you have and how uncool you are.”

Taking Your Clothes Off

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I’ve been kind of quiet on the writing front because I’ve been working on three different projects and unsure which one was going to be done first and ready to release. I’m thrilled to tell you that one story has basically got me falling in love and if all goes well – this next book will be out in the next few months. This novel doesn’t have a title yet but it’s a blend of contemporary romance and women’s literature, and most definitely NOT for children or young teenagers. So, no it’s not a TELESA Series novel. (That’s coming later in the year, I promise.) I’m having a lot of fun writing this one because  I can identify with the characters in very different ways from TELESA. There’s a strong brown female lead (of course), she’s got a sarcastic witty way with words (which means I’m laughing a lot as I write her scenes) and she struggles with very complex relationships with her very opinionated, very dysfunctional family. She’s in her mid twenties and goes to Samoa for her little sister’s wedding…which leads to all kinds of drama. This novel is giving me the opportunity to explore conflicted sibling relationships, the dynamics of sisterhood, AND all the wacky wonderful ways that we Polynesians organize our gigantic (nightmare) weddings. And, because it’s a love story…of course, there’s a hot male lead. Or two. Or three. (This character has me brown-girl-blushing when I write some of his scenes..) Anyway, enough already. I just wanted to share because I’m excited about this next book. And I haven’t felt this way about my writing in a long time.

A piece:

The parking lot is crammed with cars. But no people. I’ve chosen my time well. They’re serving dinner and nobody in their right mind would be missing out on their chance to attack the feast on array. The night air is a welcome relief from the sticky confines of the crowded hall and I take a moment to breathe.

Aaargh, my feet are dying in these stupid shoes. And the fat squeezer is impeding my circulation in horrible ways. I throw a cautious look over my shoulder. No-one’s around. I slip my shoes off and hobble over to stand on the grass, wriggling my toes in the cool wet greenness. Now for the torture girdle. I move into the shadows, put my hand up under my dress, a squirm, a wriggle and then an unpeeling of Spanx, down…down. The greedy fabric doesn’t want to let go of my fat folds and it hurts to drag it down my legs and step out of it. A quiet exult, “Yes! Free at last.”

“Isn’t that my job?”

His quiet voice from somewhere behind me has me leaping a few feet into the air with a muffled shriek. “What the freakin’ hell are you doing, creeping up on people like that?!”

He’s standing there with his hands in his pockets, moonlight glinting on the silver grey elei shirt. And the gleam of his smile. He’s laughing at me. I want to scream at him again but I remember I’m holding a crumpled piece of spandex. I quickly hide it behind me. “What are you talking about?”

He walks closer and I back away, bump into a tree. Can’t move any further. Dammit. He’s standing right in front of me now. Close. Too close. I’m breathing heavily and trying to stop my guilty chest from heaving up and down in such an obvious fashion. This close and he smells delicious. Doesn’t this man ever smell bad? Why just for once, can’t he stink? Of stale BO? Garlic? Onions? Old socks? Cigarettes? Please…And then he brings one hand up to lightly brush loose strands of hair away from the side of my face and I can’t think about smelly things anymore.

Because all I can think about – is him. Everywhere, all over me.

He leans in to whisper in that raspy tone which sends delicious shivers through me, “Taking your clothes off. Isn’t that my job?”

The Mountain Of Misery

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Some people see a mountain and think – I should hike up that. Joy!

Other people see a mountain and can admire it’s splendour from a distance. Like from the comfort of their comfy chair at their desk. Such people can say, “What a lovely mountain. We should leave it alone and never disturb its tranquillity.”

Do I even need to ask you which group of people I belong to?

When I lived here before, I used to go walking…and running, every morning with my fabulous friend Maylani. Such walks took place at Tuanaimato. Long lovely walks on FLAT roads. It was great. I was fit and healthy and I got to chat with my friend every day.

Now I’m back and she invites me to “come walking. We’re going up Palisi.” Im delighted as I envision a meandering trail through the windswept trees…lots of reflecting on nature…lots of conversation. And best of all, I have a legitimate reason to get away from my children for an hour.

So I go, taking my unfit, untrained, unsuspecting and TRUSTING self to “walk” with Maylani. This is the starting point. She tells me it will take 45minutes.
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Ten minutes later – I am gasping for air. And asking Maylani, “WHAT THE FOX?! This is not a walk. This is a hike straight up a mountain. This is not a smooth road, its a rough track to hell. Why didnt you tell me it would be like this…blah blah…”

Just then, we meet two people walking down the mountain. Im not wearing my glasses so I can’t see who they are. But I can hear her. “Lani, is that you? I bet you’re b**ching and complaining every step of the way, arent you? You’re gonna complain alllll the way to the top!”

It’s my friend (and former personal trainer/gym owner) Anita. The woman who knows all too well my penchant for beeatching and whinging when it comes to exercise. I’m slightly miffed at just how spot-on she is. But I do stop complaining…And we keep moving.

Twenty minutes later – my legs hurt and I’m wondering what a heart attack feels like.

Thirty minutes later – Maylani thinks she’s being helpful by pointing out a rooftop faaaaaar away in the distance, peering through the trees. “Thats the halfway mark. Not far now!”

Halfway? We’re not even halfway?! You said the whole walk would take 45 minutes? But it’s been half an hour on the steepest incline of a treadmill loaded with rocks AND IM NOT EVEN HALFWAY?!

I’m not happy. But Maylani is my friend. And I can’t kill her. At this point I don’t have enough energy to even push her off a cliffside. We keep moving.

Forty minutes later – we haven’t got to the halfway mark yet. My vision is hazy. I’m trying to calculate how long it would take for the Westpac Rescue helicopter to come save me. Awww heck, and I’m delusional. There’s no rescue choppers in Samoa…

That’s when I call it quits. I sit down on the trail and tell Maylani to go on without me. “I’ll be fine. I want to enjoy the view. Meditate on nature.” lies…lies…The truth? I want to cry and dont want any witnesses.

She keeps going. As soon as she’s out of sight, I lean back on some rocks, and hoist my shirt up to wipe the sweat off my face. And a stray hysterical tear or two. Mosquitos appear and attack me. Swarm over me. I want to pass out in a ditch but I have to do the mosquito slap dance. There’s splotches of blood all over my legs now. I want to go home. But I dont want to walk there. Save me! 

My pity fest is interrupted – by some athletic, sprightly (tattooed) men – who are running up the mountain. “Malo Lani!” they say. “Fa’amalosi, you can do it!” they offer encouragement as they dash past.

I’m suddenly very conscious of the fact that I’m a disgusting mess. And I smell bad. And I’m wiping my face with my shirt which means I’m flashing the forest (and the tattooed hiker-runners) with the blubbery body sections which only Spanx should ever see.

Just great.

I put my shirt down and jump to my feet, trying to look happy and athletic as I wave them on. “You go ahead. Enjoy! I’m ummm, waiting for my friend.” *roll my eyes* ” She’s taking forever!” Lies…lies.

As soon as they’re out of sight, I flop back down to the recovery position. But this time, my radar is honed for sounds of approaching hikers. This time, I’m ready. I have a strategy.

I hear another hiker-runner. He’s coming down the mountain. I leap up and start walking purposefully DOWN the trail. He overtakes me easily and with a cheery greeting, “Malo Lani!” He’s working a kind of #DanielTahi look and I’m very glad that I’m not a babbling mess of patheticness on the forest floor. No, instead I’m a mountain-hiking guru that’s ambling down the trail because I’ve already gone to the top.

“Hi,” I say. With an airy wave. “I’m waiting for my friends to catch up with me…” Lies…lies…

He powers down the trail. Hopefully convinced by my incredible acting skills. Ha.

One hour later – Maylani returns and together we start the descent. I don’t complain now. Because there’s no air to waste on whiny words. And because, I’m just so excited to be getting down off this stupid mountain. Yes!!

Back at the car, Im jubilant. We made it. I didn’t fall into a crevasse. Sniffer dogs won’t be required to search for my decomposing body. Okay, so I didn’t make it to the top…or even halfway…

But I’M ALIVE!! And the hills are.alive…with the sound of music!!

I told Maylani we’re still friends. Right? Please? Although I’m not sure she wants to hang out with whinger unfit losers who give her a headache when she’s trying to kickstart their  mountain hiking career. Especially not whinger losers who FAKE that they’ve climbed the mountain when athletic-tattooed-types go past…

Then I went home and did what any good athlete would do after a strenuous workout – I ate cake. (that I’d baked in the morning)
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And it was very good.

I’ve decided I will hike the mountain again next week. Hopefully I ‘ll make it to the halfway mark this time.

Dangerous Thrilling Nights

I love to dance. Specifically at parties, dances and in nightclubs. A long time ago, I would go out dancing a lot. But having lots of children and work and getting older’er and tired’er really cuts down on one’s oportunities (and one’s energy) for dancing. But Samoa is a fantabulous place for going out dancing and any visitor here needs to add that to their list of fun-stuff to do.
      Assuming of course, that you like to dance. Or drink lots of Vailima beer which is the OTHER reason lots of people go out. (and if youre the kind of person who does like to drink lots of fiery stuff when you go out on the town, then please try not to spill your drink on the non-drinker-woman dancing next to you on a crowded dancefloor…)
    So anyway, my gorgeous and hilarious friend Letti, (otherwise known as Pani of the comedy duo, Pani and Pani) is visiting Samoa for a show shes doing. She messages to #ComeOut!!
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      I look at the Hot Man who’s very tired from a long day of steel fabrication stuff. Im not hopeful he will be interested in going out for a wild time in wild places. But he surprises me by saying yes. Yaay!

      So we smile very nicely at Big Son and ask him to babysit. (see this is why you should have a kid when youre reeeeally young, so that then when theyre eighteen, they can babysit your other kids and you will still be “young” enough to dance in a nightclub.) Big Son hasnt been Unionized or emancipated yet and so he is happy to provide childcare services in exchange for a plate of food from Sunrise Restaurant. #CheersForCheapBabysitting!
      And just like that, we are off. We find ourselves on a dusty strip along the waterfront called Beach Road. Its lined with cars and bars and people hopping from one to the other. There’s reggae, rap, hip hop, and techno all blaring in a mish-mash of sound in the hot, wet night. People laughing, people singing, people trying to walk straight from one bar to the next. There’s a man with his back to us, peeing in the hedge while gorgeously attired girls in mini-skirts and stiletto heels glide along the gravelly sidewalk. I marvel at their fortitude and their grace – because all I can handle in this heat, are jandals. There’s a few small children out as well, trying to sell matches and car air freshner to partygoers. Its 10pm and I think about sexual predators and other kinds of dangers in the night. The Hot Man tells a child he should go home and the boy snaps, “Aikae” and keeps going.
      The air is sweet with the fragrance of mosooi as young men line the entrance to a bar, trying to sell lei’s of golden flowers. We find a club thats air -conditioned and secure a spot right underneath a vent blasting cold air to the masses. Its a 15 tala cover charge which I think is pricey (but what the heck do I know about the going rate for nightclubs?!)
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      Lots of dancing commences. The music is PERFECT. All the songs that me and Bella dance to at home when we’re surfing YouTube and need a break from chores. Samoa clubs have wonderful music and here, EVERYBODY dances with hyper-charged enjoyment.

However, theres a slight problem. Maybe its because Im a writer and always on the lookout for stories, or maybe its because Im a hermit who doesnt get out much. Whatever the reason, i cant just follow Eminem’s directive to #LoseYourself in the music. Noooo, i have to look around a lot and avidly study my surroundings. What do I see?
     * Lots of beautiful people in beautiful (expensive) clothes, drinking a lot of (expensive) drinks. Samoa has its poor and struggling like any other country. But it also has some very wealthy people as well, just like any other country.
      * The women in here outnumber the men by about five to one. And theyre having a wild time all the same, dancing in groups and sipping from sparkly glasses. Great to see bodaciously bold women dancing up a storm as well as the chic skinny ones. No body shaming here!
      * A strong security presence. It was always annoying to be in a club that broke out in fights or that had lots of drunken unruly males groping women randomly en masse on the dancefloor. I dont see that here, probably because theres security dudes stationed in strategic places and swiftly shutting down anything vaguely troublesome. Thats a definite plus in my book.

      And thats when my nightclub study gets interrupted by a familiar face. A beautiful young woman who used to be a student of mine when I was teaching high school English. She’s also a friend of Big Son. She greets us and wants to know where Big Son is. “Is he out tonight?”

“No, he’s at home babysitting.”

She replies, “Thats so nice of him. Tell him I said Hi! My mum is babysitting my child.”

The group of stunning young women that she’s dancing with also add their salutations for Big Son. Which is when i make another notable observation about this club.

Most of the people in here are Big Son’s age or a little older in their twenties. They are the CHILDREN of the “wealthy people” i was talking about earlier. Me and the Hot Man are the oldest people on the dance floor.

Hmmm…#DancingOldPeopleAlert!

A brief interjection here: What do we learn from this? – We must have an awesome son because he can happily stay home to look after four irritating little people so his (old) parents can go dance till midnight. I was going to say, dance all night – but the clubs in Samoa all close at 12… We could also infer from all this that Big Son has pretty cool Forever Young And Restless parents that are totally capable of dancing half the night and having lots of fun. And i promise, next week it will be HIS turn to go out dancing and we will stay home and look after our children.

So we danced, we laughed, we quickly chatted with Letti then we bought Sunrise Restaurant food for Big Son and went home. I was feeling pretty good about life in Samoa on that drive home. Dancing in an air conditioned and relatively safe nightclub, surrounded by friendly people can do that to a person…

And then we opened our front door and saw this racing down the corridor, in all its creepy crawly, bitey, menacing evil glory.
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Aaaaaaiiiiiieeeer kill it!! Kill it quick!!

It’s only a small centipede but its enough to remind me that Samoa aint all fun and frolicking, fab food, family and friends.

No, its got a dark, dirty and potentially dangerous side too.

Marital Dischord in Paradise (Or, When Your Partner Gets On Your Nerves)

Today marks one week since we arrived in Samoa. And its taken exactly one week for the Hot Man to conclude what I suspected he would…
      “Its kind of stressful having you all here. And expensive!” he said in exasperation. “When its just me I can work and train without worrying about other people. I can just buy simple food for dinner like taro and a can of tuna from Siaosi’s shop.”
      This may have been prompted by an incident which took place when he came home from work the other day bearing fa’alifu taro ( baked taro in coconut cream) and two packets of kekesaina (local doughy cookies made with flour and water etc and seasoned with soy sauce and sugar.) He bought these items EVEN THOUGH i had told him on the phone that I’d cooked dinner and baked banana cake, chocolate pie and chocolate chip cookies. Okay, a bit extreme in the kitchen there but Im really trying to embrace this Domestic Goddess thing and to be honest, its making me very tired. And grumpy. Especially when my husband comes home with bought readymade food. Aaargh! So I was a little “sharp” with him. As in, kinda witchy. (but with a capital letter B.) And he wasnt happy about being told off by a sweaty, grouchy, tired wife. So yeah…maybe that prompted his complaints about how stressful it is living with me again.
     Even though i knew this conclusion was coming, it still rankled. “Oh yeah?! Well it aint no picnic for me either. In NZ i had the whole room to myself and i could stay up all night writing and sleep half the day because there was no psycho-athlete getting up at 6am to run 15k, making me feel like a lazy slug. And…and…and…and…you keep using my towel and so when i go shower, my towel is already damp and i HATE that!”
      But of course I wasnt done. Because of course I must verbalize ten extra complaints for his every single one. “And the reason why it costs more when we’re all here is because Im trying to feed SEVEN people and I have to shop at stores where a yoghurt costs four tala and breakfast cereal is twenty tala. And sure we could all have taro and tuna for dinner but we would need to buy twice as much taro and at least four cans of tuna which are 3.50 for one…so do the math…and blah blah …and it doesnt help if you go buy blaardy kekesaina that we dont need!”
      Yes, this is what happens when you dont actually co-habit with your partner for several months. When you only see each other on weekends every few weeks and youre in a rosey, loving (vaguely lustful) haze. You’ve missed each other so much that neither of you can do any wrong…and money is no object. And silly little things like using the wrong towel, or buying unnecessary treats are not annoying at all. And a wife who prefers to stay up half the night and sleep in the day – isnt a sign that shes incredibly lazy (or ignoring you.)
     Yep, twenty years with this man and getting used to each other and getting “in-synch” is not a painless, automatic thing.
      But today was better. Because I went to sleep early last night (midnight instead of 2am) and i cooked nothing today – so Im not tired and irritable. Instead, Im determined to be a nicer, kinder wife. #promisesPromises
      But i surely hope he brings home some taro and kekesaina today because we’ve got nothing to eat.