“And when the thunder clouds start beating like a drum, the wind is gonna blow and the rain is gonna come, and the river’s gonna run…” FINALLY! After a month of waiting in anticipation, the dried up river which runs behind my house and which Samoans claim to be the largest river in all of Samoa (when it runs) has started flowing! And boy does it flow. I returned to my village after the mess that was Apia, struggled through the choppy ferry ride where more than once I arose from my sleeping position to ponder the benefits of grabbing a life jacket “just in case,” and crossed the then dried up river Sunday afternoon wondering how it was still dry after all these days of rain! A side note: I may be exaggerating, but on more than one occasion I definitely thought the ferry was going to tip. I love being on my island, so the boat ride is just one small price to pay, and having recently discovered Dramamine, at least my stomach, if not my mind, can handle the rough seas. So coming back to the story of the river. I arrived home and was immediately sick. I’m not sure if it was the H1N1 vaccine I received while in Apia, a bad meal, the ferry getting back at me for avoiding sickness while aboard, or just the stress of the past few days, but I was unable to move from sickness. I went to sleep with no dinner and slept through the night; the most peaceful sleep I have had in ages.
Waking to a roar around 3am I figured a cyclone had finally arrived, but I should have known better. Knowing the roar was simply due to weather and not an intruder I passed out again in my delirious sick daze and when I awoke again it was to the beautiful sound of a raging river not more than 50 yards from my back door. I made myself a cup of coffee (a new challenge being that I broke my French press in a desperate act while cutting onions the other week, so a can of baked beans which miraculously is just the right size to fit the press part of the contraption has been serving the purpose.) Coffee ready, I opened the back door, found a pillow I never use and sat down on my doorstep to watch the water race by.
An interesting fact about my village is that because the river only runs a few days out of the year, when the road was being built through the village, it was decided that there was no need for a bridge. Instead, a concrete slab covers the river bottom at the place where the river intersects with the road. Of course this causes chaos for two or three days out of the year but is no problem the rest of the year so no one really cares to change the system by putting in a real bridge. Naturally, this lack of bridge was causing a scene as no cars could pass. The island only has one road circling it and 6 of the buses for this side of the island reside in my village. That means that no one from the Northern part of the island (the tourist area) can get to Salelologa or back to the main island for that matter, when the river is running. A few brave and heavily packed buses did make the decision to cross the river in the early morning, but by noon the current was too strong and villagers sat near the crossing advising motorists to not attempt to pass. One truck however, thought it would make it and against the villagers best advise, the Vailima truck (the only beer company in Samoa) decided to brave the current. Almost immediately the truck was pushed so that it’s front tires left the small concrete area. The rest of the heavy truck, loaded with beer and passengers sitting atop of those beer crates, found itself stranded in the middle of the bridge. For an hour or so people tried to pull it out using chains. Eventually the truck was saved when a big cement mixer arrived to save the day. With the help of about 30 men and the strength of the truck the beer delivery truck was pulled to safety. The driver presumably kept his job, and the villagers who had helped were loaded up with as much free beer as they could carry away. For about 5 minutes there was a mad dash of men and young boys and then calmness as everyone returned to the routine of just watching the river. I was guaranteed that the river would stop flowing by the end of the day, which I found hard to believe. This fact proved untrue and the river, a day and a half later, is still flowing strong. Buses are still on a limited schedule and people continue to sit and stare at the water. I love it.