My afternoon snack of fresh papaya with a sprinkle of lime juice sparked this post. Why? You'll see. This got long, by the way.
Are there places you have traveled to that you don't particularly wish to return to but are glad you went anyway? Is that sentence even grammatically correct? There is really only one thing on that list of mine - American Samoa (map), in the South Pacific. I would love to return to all the other places (Italy, Scotland, San Antonio, CO, Oregon, etc). Well, maybe I am thinking more of big places. I'm not burning to visit Philly again. I also don't really want to return to trafficy Detriot. So forget the question, let's talk about Samoa. It's pronounced SAH-mo-ah. I am so glad I went yet would return only for a day or so to drive around the island and have another time to be really, really far away.
I never heard of Samoa before I was sent there for work at my old job in 2003. I was a rookie auditor with a small local CPA firm and got a decent break from the bitter cold of winter in Pittsburgh to travel a total of 24 hours and thousands of miles (I'll insert the miles later because Google maps says "We could not calculate driving directions between allison park, pennsylvania and american samoa." DUH. It's over water. I thought it would at least tell me how many miles it was). American Samoa is a US territory that was acquired in 1900 for Naval use because of the deep harbor that nearly cuts the main island in two. We audited the whole government of Samoa, but I wasn't regularly on the job and only took two trips. Others with whom I worked went several times a year. I was there for three weeks for my first trip in January 2003 and stayed in an awesome B&B owned by a Samoan woman and her husband who was from New Zealand. He was into sailing and taught me that at sea level, the farthest point visible on the horizon of the ocean is 12 miles away. The Fijian housekeeper showed me how to eat papaya (there's the link to papaya!), avocado, and I ate my breakfast on the balcony with an amazing view from high up and with lizards of some sort that skittered on the walls and ceilings. It was a picture-perfect retreat with ocean breezes and the knowledge that you were verrrrrrrrry far out in the Pacific Ocean. The B&B was the second of three best parts. But during the day, I worked in a stuffy government building with AC that didn't work. Sometimes the Starkist cannery smells wafted in just the right direction (90% of Starkist tuna is canned in the historical and incredibly deep harbor of Pago Pago, American Samoa). One week into my second trip, I was very ready to go home and never return. I had seen the beauty of the island and didn't care for the work.
The first best part was the raw beauty of the 77 sq. mile island, nearly 7,500 miles from home (just remembered the mileage) and about 2,200 miles from Hawaii. We worked until 6 and the sun went down a half hour later...so there was no time exept the weekend to explore the island. But explore, I did! I was the only woman, so I had a car to myself whilst the men shared a car (we stayed in different locations). I drove on nearly every rode I could have on one Saturday, and the south, east and west parts of the island are the only parts accessible by car. The north side would be similar to the island in Jurassic Park (minus dinosaurs) - seeming uninhabited and completely exotic and tropical with many things hidden beneath all those trees. You see, there was one place I reached that was high enough to see the ocean on the other side of the island, and all I could see was ocean and green mountains covered in jungle. It was quite a moment to consider what land that was directly south of the island...Antarctica...many, many miles). I wonder if Megan feels that way when looking south from the coast of Australia. A different part of the heavens were visible too, with stars I couldn't see from home.
There are memories I have that are only from this place and while I was really lonely being there (not only was I far away...I knew I was far away...I felt it) it was a treasure to see this part of creation and God's handiwork. There was a beach of black, round rocks. The waves would crash over them and as the waves receded, the rocks would crackle as they settled. The sound surrounded me, and it was phenominal.
The habited side had its first KFC built while I was there, across from the McDonald's. The culture is slow and Polynesian. There are stray dogs and chickens e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. People burry their deceased family members in tombs above ground, and if someone new moves in, they may have a tomb belonging to someone else in their yard! The islands themselves seem to be old volcanos that simply JUT out of the ocean from far below the surface. The road around the island weaves back and forth on this tiny ledge of land, and the cliffs above are steep and dense with trees.
The third best part was my 18-hour layover in Hawaii, particularly on my second trip. I traveled back alone and arrived in Honolulu just before sunrise. I had all day until sunset and I drove around the island in my rental, saw pineapple fields and a more populated exotic, beautiful island. The weather was so incredibly refreshing after the humidity of Samoa. Wow, was it it nice. I can still remember how the Hawaiian breezes felt.
Eating papaya takes me back there. It's pretty cool. And the above are only some of the memories of a total of 5 weeks of my life.