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Theme Songs of the Day:
Eyes Wider than Before – Scott Matthews
Else – Built to Spill
So a new adventure…the perfect opportunity to get re-inspired. My short visit home provided a lot of opportunity for visiting friends and re-connecting with the beauty that is the west coast of Canada. Although I continued writing while I was back home, I wasn’t as inclined to share as I have been on the road…everything was too concentrated – to upfront and real….raw; a personal journey that was better left between myself and my word processor.
On that note – I think a pinnacle turning moment for sharing occurred on my stopover in the LA airport. As I sat in one of the only two restaurants in the terminal, taking extra care in reading every available menu item and then ordering very slowly, one thing at a time; an attempt at killing six hours… I naturally began to notice the patrons at the surrounding tables. Airports are a special kind of transit purgatory- it really does take all kinds. I liken the mix of people one finds at airports, to the crowds found in malls as Christmas approaches. Even the strangest and most anti-social people both travel, and give gifts during the holidays. This creates a nice healthy mix of folks and forms the perfect breeding ground for an experiment in sociology.
Anyway, I was enthralled by this man beside me. He looked homeless at first glance, but then the costly watch around his wrist peaks out from his ratty cuff–and his satchel is weathered, but made of good quality leather. He orders a glass of champagne. Just as I’m reminding myself not to judge a book by its cover, I notice him dipping his hands into his satchel. He’s intermittently sneaking goldfish crackers from his duffle bag and scooping tuna from a can into his mouth with his fingers. As he notices me noticing him, he scowls. This is the moment I realize I have entered the realm of professional people-watcher…oh, and also that people in LA are crazy.
So unbeknownst to me, my flight from LA was to stop briefly in Samoa before heading south to Tonga. The first I heard of this was as I strapped myself into my seat and we were heading out onto the runway. My panic was brief but VERY real as the pilot told us the information for our flight to Samoa. My neighbour assured me that the plane continued to Tonga but I couldn’t help feeling as though the communication was a little lacking. I had read about this…that things are a little more relaxed in the South Pacific. My feeling is that the mild chaos is marketed as “laid-back…
Although I’m fairly organized, I let a lot of this go when travelling. I am more content having a broad outline as opposed to too many set plans… this impromptu stop in Samoa allowed me to see another beautiful South Pacific Island, at least briefly, and also allowed for a good laugh.
Never being one who is able to sleep on planes with any regularity, I get that funny over-tired-alternative-reality thing on long haul flights. It was about 5am local time and it was quiet in the one-roomed Samoan airport. Abruptly this man stared to yell and bash the wall. He was yelling into the cafe/bar which was locked and looked closed. …no one could figure out what he was doing, although I wouldn’t blame him if he was just extremely eager to get a coffee. I thought I might just get up and join him – a flat white would have been divine – but just then a dazed looking man suddenly popped up from behind the bar. He gave his head a wild shake and slid open the grate. Within moments he served his first patron, all the while wiping drool from his chin. So this is the laid-back South Pacific. I love it already!
After our touch-down in Tongatapu I was escorted to the pre-paid shuttle that would take me to my guest house. It was warm and sunny. The palms and strikingly beautiful abundance of lush green were enough to wake me up a little. I had made it! I was somewhere completely different than I’d been before. The infrastructure for tourism is hit-and-miss, but everyone is so helpful! As I looked at the throng of locals and visitors at the tiny airport with a dopey grin on my face I realized I had arrived in paradise.
I was quickly brought back to reality as this beautiful young woman called out my name over and over – scanning the crowd with an out-of-place frantic, wide-eyed sense of loss. After a bit of confusion (relaxed-chaos) it was realized she was my shuttle driver…the other van driver was trying to scoop some cash off me by dropping me off but making me pay again. Oh right…the helpfulness may, at times, have ulterior motives. No one is trying to be dishonest, it’s just that, in general, if a Tongan doesn’t understand you he will just answer yes. This is the shuttle to my guest house, it’s paid already? …yes
But never mind, I didn’t mind much at all…between the sleepiness and the happiness, I had my south-pacific-attitude down to an art. I can make a go of ‘laid-back’
This was going to be fun.