3 Chiefs 6 Batteries
02 August 2009 | Apia, Upolu, Western Samoa
Apia, the major port, on the island of Upolu, in Western Samoa held a major treat for Zen: a new bank of house batteries. That's a treat? Oh yes! For a little while, we've noticed our boat's main batteries decline in health. We pampered the 5-year-old power supplies, but it was time for them to retire. After a number of emails to/from the distributor, we learned a pallet of the exact brand we were looking for had been shipped to Seyleck Global in Apia. Immediately upon arrival to Apia, we sent an email to Seyleck and the next day our battery man was on the dock. Jesse, a big wide-smiling Samoan, came rolling down to the marina in his brand new bright blue Toyota pick-up truck. He and Tom hit it off right away and by the time the deal was done, Jesse had invited us to his home for a traditional Sunday meal.
Two days later, Jesse picked us up at noon and asked if we'd like to bring a few friends. Cole trotted down the dock to extend the impromptu invitation to Geoff and Julie (Flashback) and Krista and Richard (Karma). Everyone accepted and the whole group was off to Jesse's house within 10 minutes. We were expecting a nice Sunday afternoon chat with Jesse and his wife. On the ride to his house, Jesse informed us a few of his friends were coming by. Upon arrival we shook hands with 3 big men and their welcoming wives waiting for us on the front patio. Jesse's pals were the CEO of the primary shipping company, the lead investor for McDonalds Samoa and the running favorite for the upcoming Prime Minister race. It turns out that Jesse is a major importer for Samoan businesses and government. By way of a battery purchase, we stumbled upon a highly successful local entrepreneur who has friends in high places. We were fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with them learning all about Samoan culture, industry and history.
Three of the 4 men were high chiefs. Under their Western clothing were traditional Samoan tatoos covering their bodies from the chest down to the knees. As chiefs, they are served by others in the village. Younger villagers were scurrying around, cleaning and making sure the food was grilled properly. As soon as the food was ready, Jesse gave an opening welcome to his international guests. Then, the up-and-coming political leader stood and delivered a motivational speech before introducing the local priest, who was also the CEO of McDonald's. Instead of a common blessing, they gave thanks through song. Immediately all the locals broke into a beautifully harmonized hymn in Samoan. It gave us goosebumps and was a beautiful experience. They stood and invited the yachties, aka honored guests, to feast. We did...on lobster, lamb, raw fish w/Asian dip and coconut milk, taro leaves (like spinach), taro roots, potatoes, chili chicken, octopus, and flying fox. What the heck is flying fox? Bat! Yes, we are now part of the vampire tribe. Tasted like a blend of lamb and chicken. Good actually.
The whole time we were eating, the hostesses made sure we had everything we needed and the chiefs sat drinking beer and scotch encouraging us to eat more. Tradition says guests eat first. Not only did we eat the main meal, but were also served dessert before any of the locals took one bite. Finally, the women sat and ate and the men, when finished w/their drinks, enjoyed the feast. After a few hours, a taxi van was called and we were shuttled back to the marina with full bellies and much gratitude for the opportunity to glimpse the real Samoa. You'd think that would be the end of our day. Wrong! At 7:00p we sat in the front row of the Magic Circus of Samoa under the big tent. Yes, we attended a real circus in the South Pacific complete with contortionists, trapeze, tightrope, Chinese acrobats, encaged motorcycles, clowns and the piece de resistance, the human water fountain. The latter was a first, and hopefully the last. I think it was a "you-had-to-be-there" experience. But let's just say, we watched a woman drink 4 gallons of water and 4 live goldfish all in 15 seconds, only to barf it up in a showering manner that would compete with any Las Vegas fountain. Totally worth the price of admission. I don't know how we are going to top this day, so we better go to sleep before any more excitement arises. Need rest. Tomorrow is a full guided tour of the island courtesy of Jesse, his wife and his buddies.