There’s a story in the bible in which Jesus’ critics get their undies in a bunch because his disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat—which is kind of gross, but beside the point. In fact, the whole point is it’s beside the point: Jesus shrugs at his detractors and essentially says he has bigger fish to fry, and that he can’t get all caught up in hand-washing. This illustrates my feelings about yesterday’s race. When the scope of the race is only the running, 64 miles is an arbitrary distance. Only when the context is provided—64 miles is approximately halfway around Upolu—does the distance have meaning.
This greater context affects the entire day’s experience. We were all focused on the race, the running, the competition, the dry-fit clothes, the water, the pace, the elevation, the constant stretching, the runner’s high, the exhaustion, the sweat, the smelliness. It’s all important and to lose such focus would be a mistake to the race and to one’s health. But to lose sight of the bigger picture—the palm trees, the ocean, the soles walking down the street with their machetes, the breeze, the fales, the women’s committees, the faleoloas, the ever-changing weather, the heat, the dogs, the smell of the ula flowers—would suck the life out of the experience.
AJ started the race just before the sun began to rise, and while we were at the first hand-off point as Trent was warming up, we saw bats in the air returning from a night of hunting. The spot was somewhere along the road in Pupu-Pue National Park. Jim told a story of some boys in his village who caught a bat and offered to cook it for him. I wondered how bats evolved. Trent guessed it had something to do with vampires.
A little while later during a stop at a scenic beach village on the south side of the island, we came to a newly built resort called “Boomerang Creek,” we think, although the name on the sign said, “Lupesina” or something. In any case, it had beautiful fales, a waterfall on the face of the green cliff, and a sandy beach. None of us had heard of the place, but it seemed worth it to go back.
At the very next stop, a slightly effeminate man came out of his house to see what the commotion was all about. He asked where I lived in Samoa, and I said Apia. “I used to live in Apia, but now I stay here with my partner,” he said. He looked up at the overcast sky, and asked if I thought it was going to rain. I shrugged. “I hope it rains,” he said. “The water in this village is very bad.”
During my uphill leg (which sucked), I saw 2 boys and a dog sitting on the side of the road. I was about 30 metres away from them when our van passed me. The dog went nuts, barking and chasing the van. I immediately stopped to pick up self-defense rocks while the boys grabbed the dog by its nape in an attempt to control it. Another car drove by in the opposite direction, and the dog broke free to chase that car. Indeed, this was a car-chasing dog, not of the human-chasing variety, and I was free to pass. “Manaia lau maile!” I called out as I continued up the hill. “Nice dog!”
For my last leg—I must have been somewhere around the village of Falefa—a couple of boys yelled from a fale far back from the road, “Fa!” I yelled back through panted breath, “Fa!” A few moments later they yelled again, “Fa, Matthew!” How the strange the Peace Corps is! I’m running through a rural village I’ve barely even heard of, and because of my quasi-celebrity palagi status, some kid knows my name. “Fa!” I yelled back with a sole-salute flick of the wrist.
We were on the north eastern coast by the time the sun came out, and right about then, we began to catch up to other teams. Adrenaline began to pump, and the thrill of the race began to take over. But we still had time to admire the waves at Luatuanuu, the ocean vistas at the Blue Marlin restaurant, and the roadside waterfalls in Letogo.
Trent offered me a piece of masi popo in Letogo. I ate it. And I didn’t wash my hands. I had bigger fish to fry.
I hope your weekend was great. Pictures below.
There was a small pig stampede in this village. Forgive me, I forget which village. The beginning of the 8th leg, if that helps.
The cliffs at Boomerang Creek. You can kinda see the waterfall just to the left of the palm tree on the far right.
Dan and Chris, who were as much a "greater context" as anything else, staged their own hand-off.
The sun coming out on the north side of the island.
Arrowheads pointing the wrong way have been added to the government's arrow lines to protest the impending road switch.
More protest graffiti. It says "NO SWIFTING HEA". It's unclear if they mean SWITCHING or SWIFTING, or if it's an intentional portmanteau.
Jim running the final leg down Beach Road in Apia.
1 month ago