We arrive at the Apia Central markets to a melee of pedestrians, busses and cars, people not running but meandering towards the hub. We get out of the car and walk into the markets. The locals greet me cross-legged cutting coconuts and peddling their wares. What seems like acres of stalls selling all manner of trinkets, Lava Lavas, jewellery and food, but then I snap back to reality. Its not acres its around one hundred meters square but intense none the less.
I walk deeper into the markets around the shops and past the food. I get ambushed by a Samoan boy who offers me all manner of things. I spy a ball. I am told by my guide that it’s a ball that’s made out of rubber from the rubber tree. He tells me that these take pretty much a whole day to make. I think that I may buy one, yeah I will, so I do, a measly 3 tala (equivalent to 1.70NZD).
I then have a chat, (as you do with people in Samoa ) with the boy who sold it to me. He asks where I’m from, I respond Auckland, this is greeted by a HUGE smile, and he is instantly down with me. He then tells me that he used to live in Mangere and as I leave he offers his hand out and shakes it excitedly. I walk on.
Around the corner and I get hounded by another girl to buy a lava lava, I’m honest and say “Nah I’m waiting til Thursday when I have more cash” she smiles sweetly and says, “You come back then I sell you lava lava for 5 Tala”
The heat intensifies . . .
I walk around the corner some more past all the beautifully crafted goods, necklaces, bowls etc . . . At this point I have lost Mate, my guide, and I’m well and truly on my own. The locals watch me intently as I walk through and browse.
I can feel the temperature rise to an almost unbearable level.
I walk out into lines and lines of food vendors, I walk along them all looking for a cold drink. I stop at one place and ask politely what they sell here. A young Samoan woman looks up at me. Smiles, pauses and says “pork buns, 3 talas” I think for a moment, and then decide I wont have one, I explain to her that I’m not a fan of pork buns.
She then brushes her hair off her face and looks at me with huge inquisitive eyes and asks “Where you from? ” I reply, ” I’m from Auckland”. Her facial features change from just asking the obligatory questions, to a look of intrigue . . .
“So . . . ? Where’s your wife . . . ?” she asks. “My wife? I haven’t got a wife” I reply . . . There’s a second or two of silence . . . “So what are you doing?” she asks staring intently at me. leaning over her fry pan and gas cooker.
I reply, “Talking to you” my sarcasm rolls off her like the sweat rolling off my forehead as the temperature increases as the 20 or so other grills and frying pan cook their food.
I then say to the girl ” I’m going to have a cigarette ” the girl asks ” can I come and have one too?” I reply that I will come back soon, and quickly left.
Stumbling outside, dizzy from the intense and sweltering heat from the markets and the sweltering and intense discussion I just had I sit my self down in the shade on some steps and roll my self a cherished and VERY IMPOSSIBLE TO GET IN SAMOA Port Royal.
I am transfixed on the spectacle I see in front of me. Unbeknown to me there are a row of 20-30 food stalls all cooking various foods – all working in a weird chaotic yet collective individual hive. At the out side edge there are washing stations where a platoon of young kids are busily washing all the dishes. I watch them as they do this endlessly – more and more plates and things piling up and more and more clean ones going back to the stalls.
I focus my attention on my surroundings. I notice a palm tree with two dogs sniffing at the bottom. In the palm trees branches there is a weird metal piece of rubbish. The image serves as a totem to me; a reminder of the mish-mash and contradictions that are more than on the daily here in Samoa, it seems like I have so far witnessed a million of them in less than 3 hours of being here.
I look to my left and see a small boy positioned in an annex of a closed shop. He is laying down watching the world go pass. I sneakily grab a photo of him. I then make my way inside to find my work mates who I find. They are sitting down chatting and eating pancake balls. (Weird little fried pancake ball things, all warm and sweet).
We have two more additions, two Louises from the UK that Helena had befriended. I sit and happily chat with them. Dennis comes back with a bag of lamb buns, We eat them gladly. I buy a drink of cold raspberry cordial.
Life is good – but very HOT!