Thursday, January 24, 2008

Samoa Part 4: Arrival

It was 2:something AM when our traveling party arrived at Faleolo International Airport from LA-X. The flight on Air New Zealand took some 10 hours to complete. We unloaded directly onto the tarmac and made our way into the tiny airport building to collect our bags.

Though it was nighttime, Samoa was still very warm. The humidity enveloped us like a moist blanket. When I entered the airport baggage claim area I was suddenly struck by the realization that I was a pilgrim in a strange land. All around my companions and me were large, brown men and women wearing vibrantly colored aloha shirts, lavalava, and puletasi--a stark contrast to the dark suits, white shirts, and ties that we were wearing.

Our eyes scanned the crowded, open air baggage claim for some familiar sight. Soon we spotted some stern looking native missionaries dressed similarly to us. These would take us to the mission home in Pesega in the greater Apia area.

Once our bags were heaved onto the tops of vans, we crowded inside and drove for the next hour or so to town. Minimal street lighting illuminated the sides of the road where I directed my attention, eager to catch a glimpse of my new home. Hedges of croton lined the roadways, a plant that I thought was limited to small pots and interior decorating. But other than that I couldn't see much save the dark outlines of some Samoan- and Western-style fale.

We arrived at the mission home and bedded down in bunk beds located in a small building behind the mission president's quarters. The air in our dormitory was a frigid contrast to the comfortable warmth outside. I quickly learned that Samoans love to sleep in air-conditioned rooms if possible. As we each selected our bunks, dark faces with even darker eyes greeted us with, "Malo," and, "Talofa." We answered in kind, thankful that they didn't inquire any deeper because we couldn't have replied let alone understood the inquiries posed.

I didn't sleep well that first night. It really had nothing to do with the newness and strangeness of the place I was in. I got cold. I didn't have more than a sheet to cover myself, and the air-conditioner relentlessly poured its icy emissions into the one large room that housed us all.

In the end, my bad night's sleep didn't last too long. We found ourselves getting up two or three hours later anyways to the crowing of roosters and the prodding of the assistants to the president. Our first full day in Samoa was going to be a Zone Conference and we needed to be up early to get ready.

No comments: