Twelve months in Samoa.
One month in New Zealand.
Six weeks now, back ‘home’ in Melbourne.
Twelve months in Samoa. Twelve months of heat, sweat, endless humidity, mosquitoes, Vailima beer, white sand beaches, coconuts, palm trees, Aggie Grey’s, Mt Vaea, waterfalls, packs of dogs, Apia Hash House Harriers, lava lavas (sarongs), hammocks, tropical fruit, rain lasting for days, thongs, island time, Pisikoa, breakfasts of French toast and cappuccinos at the Sydneyside Café, salsa classes, yoga, outrigger canoeing each Wednesday followed by beers and fish burgers at the Yacht Club, six tala ($3AU) movies at the Magic Cinema, fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way), seki a (cool), fa’afafine (men who live as women), taro, to’onai (big Sunday lunch), Miss Samoa, Pretty Little Teine, the tsunami, the road switch, high tea at Plantation House, Samoan Christianity, giant churches, CCK.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s home at Vailima, small cats, reclaimed land, Chinese development, frangipanis, teuila, fresh or fake flowers behind the ear, pulatasi (traditional formal wear for women), icepops, kava ceremonies, no anonymity, sturdy cars kept going by resourceful owners, potholes, Savaii, blowholes, plain lassis and pumpkin wraps at the Curry House, UN interns, the Australian volunteer community, slow internet, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, snorkeling, scuba diving, wine-fueled functions put on by the High Commission, nightclubs, Y-Not bar, Paddles, SaMoana, mojitos at Koko Banana, the sublime four part harmonies of songs sung in Samoan.
Harmless come-ons from school boys, taxi drivers and young men (“Hi baby!”, “Are you married?” “I want to sex you”), stunning Polynesian young men, Rugby, romance, community, buckets of KFC brought home on the half-hour small plane flight from American Samoa, colour and beauty everywhere, ugliness underneath – incest, domestic abuse – small, happy children in bright school uniforms, weekend road trips, unique wooden buses with Samoan pop and R'n'B music blasting, On the Rocks, my beautiful and feisty Samoan cousin Mele, frustrations, friends of different nationalities and backgrounds, brought closer together on this small island by necessity, locality, and choice, dress-up parties, incredible acts of generosity, and alofa (love) expressed in so many different ways.
One month in New Zealand. Wellington, Taupo, Rotorua. Lindy hop, cafés where they ask if you want chocolate or cinnamon on your cappuccino, Che Fu, completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike with hundreds of travelers and locals, the Art Deco festival in Napier, Petone, Wellington (my own mini Melbourne!), exploring Te Papa, nearly in tears at the Samoan and Pacifika exhibitions, kindness, café culture, Kiwiana such as The land of the long white cloud, Monteith’s Cider.
Six weeks now, back ‘home’ in Melbourne. Old friends, family, the beautiful late summer, early Autumn climate soon to become the don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed winter chill, a tough job market, a new guy, Lord of the Fries, my red cruiser bicycle, literary events, the comedy festival, busyness, 'alone time', ever further out of reach property prices, jumpers, refugee panic, Lygon Street, multicultural faces all around me, the city crowds, the teenagers in their awful early nineties retro, the urban sprawl, iPhones, superb coffee, the public shaming of Lara Bingle and Christine Nixon, the Saturday Age that takes me all day to read, the abundance, the consumerism.
I am changed.
I am the same.
I don’t know what comes next.
This scares me.
And excites me.