Because my wife has family in Samoa, yesterday was a strange one. I heard the news early and called her at work, then rang her parents (her dad was born in Samoa and grew up in a small village near the south coast), then the calls around the family began.
Last night it was clear that we are among the lucky few. It’s no great comfort.
Like many New Zealanders I have spent time in Samoa and holidayed at Lalomanu which is one of the most beautiful spots on Upolu.
I remember waking in the morning, rolling up the mat wall of the fale and seeing the gleam of white sand and blue ocean right outside. Beautiful.
I have been more fortunate than many: I have also stayed at the high-end Sinalei on one occasion, and at Coconuts next door where I spent one memorable afternoon and night at the famous 3 Stool Bar drinking rum’n’Coke with Mika who opened the restaurant there.
The story behind the founding of Coconuts says it all and Mika was highly amusing. As you may see there, he even gave me his recipe for Coconut fish.
Last night on the news I saw the ruins of Mika’s restaurant-cum-bar, and of beautiful Sinalei.
It was heartbreaking -- and of course there were the villages nearby where the people who worked in these places came from. I went to church there one Sunday. It seems those villages, and some of the people in them, may be gone also.
I am waiting to hear if anything has happened on the low-lying east coast of Savai’i, the other main island, which seemed to also be in the line of the waves. But I guess no one has managed to get over there yet.
Sudden disasters such as this catch everyone off guard by their very nature, but it was disappointing that on one television news channel last night we were being told of the destruction at Lalomanu and nearby places but the images (uncredited) were from Pago Pago in American Samoa. I’d seen them earlier on an American news channel.
It seems in the nature of television just to run with pictures, irrespective of whether they illustrate the truth or not. That’s not helpful.
I am pleased however that more news people are making the effort to pronounce “Samoa” correctly (it’s never been “S-mower”).
It will take time for us to fully realise the enormity of this, but this much we do know.
We can help.
If, like me, you ever experienced the generosity, hospitality and pace of Samoa then you know what to do. It’s simple.
Hand in pocket. Today.