La Sirenita

Dear Emma, please ask your uncle, the magician, to make some mermaid potion. A potion only for girls who want to turn into mermaids. One sip of it but only in the sea so you can breathe under the water. Clea, age 6.

I am going to Samoa to visit my cousin. She is one and a half years old. I am almost seven. She is my youngest cousin. I love her. I kiss her and cuddle her whenever I can. I have another girl cousin. She lives in Germany but I don’t know her. I have met her only once.

I pack my pink Bratz backpack for the trip – I have had it ready for at least two weeks!  I have books to read (in English and in Spanish), a colouring book, pencils, crayons, a writing pad (which Mamá gave me so that I can write about my holiday), a jumper and my sleeping friends. Oh, and I have some jewellery one of my aunts gave me which I put in my bag months ago and forgot all about until the bag went through the x-ray machine at the airport! Papá was not impressed.

On the way to the airport we listen to my favourite band, Ojos de Brujo. I like reading the little book that comes with the CD Papá brought from Spain last May. It’s in Spanish and English so I can learn the words of the songs. My favourite song is Nueva Vida.

I don’t think Mamá and Papá want to go to Samoa. They both seem a bit angry, like they are not happy to go. But I am happy and so, my twin brothers. We can’t wait to go to Samoa.

We travelled to Spain when I was two and a half and my brothers were one, but I don’t remember. I don’t remember visiting Singapore when I was one either. This feels like my first trip on an aeroplane and I am very excited and scared. Jordi is scared too. Omar is brave.

I sit next to Mamá. I am scared and worried so I hold her hand. I like being close to Mamá, it feels safe. She points out places through the window and I can see how little everything looks. Mamá doesn’t like flying either but she doesn’t want me to notice. Papá has my brothers on either side of him across the aisle from us.

We are at the back with all the other children. It is noisy and smelly, and they run out of portable DVD players before the hostess gets to us. There is an annoying little boy behind me banging on his tray!

So I begin writing a story about my trip to share with my class after the holidays. I start with how scared I was as the plane took off, but as I got used to flying I felt better. I show Mamá what I have written. We read our books and draw pictures for most of the flight. Mamá lets me listen to her iPod. We eat our sandwiches, biscuits and everything else we have brought with us.

I sit next to Papá as we land. Jordi and Omar sit with Mamá. It is hot outside although it’s night time; we are all excited. My aunt meets us and drives us to her house in Apia.

It is a big house. My cousin and her Mum and Dad sleep upstairs where there are two rooms. Downstairs are the lounge room, kitchen and our three bedrooms – Jordi (with Tookie) and Omar (with Blah Blas and Tigger) sleep in the first double bed, then Mamá and Papá, and then me – I have a double bed all to myself (along with Chuchi and Tower, my sleeping friends).

In the morning we wake up and find there is a large garden with a pool, plus a few friendly chickens and dogs. Jordi, Omar, Papá and I chase the chickens and the very noisy rooster who keeps waking us too early every morning.

We visit Robert Louis Stevenson’s house, Vailima – he’s a writer. I think I’d like to write books. The house is amazing. We have to take off our shoes to look around the house. There is a lioness skin rug, lots of books and a medicine cabinet with funny little bottles. I want to buy a bag from the souvenir shop. But Mamá tells me that I have plenty of bags – and I do. I like to collect bags! I have lots of them in my wardrobe.

‘Loser, Mamá is a loser’, I squeal as we play piggy-in-the-middle. Mamá is in the middle as Papá and I throw a beach ball across the pool to each other. We practise some diving and everyone is getting very brave in the water. Even Jordi is happy in the water. At first, he wouldn’t get in without the floating ring.

We go to the beach, to a place called Maninoa. We’re all squashed in the car together so that we do not have to take two cars. We drive over the middle of the island, stop to look at a waterfall and then down to the beach. It is our first trip to the beach in Samoa.

The water is warm and I can see the bottom. I find a dead blue starfish and insist on taking it home. Papá explores alone and finds a freshwater spring that seems to come out of the ocean. I go with Papá and watch him jump into the waterhole, but I don’t want to get in. When he gets out, Papá points to the colourful fish that live in the freshwater spring. All I can see are blue blurry bits, not fish!

We have hot chips and cold drinks at a café near the beach. I sit next to Mamá, very close so I don’t have to share my chips. I want to eat them all by myself!

Jordi and I play in the car with my cousin. We play ‘this little piggy’ with her feet, and ‘round and round the garden’ with her hands. Then we hire DVDs for the night. I really want Hannah Montana but Mamá says I have to pick something that Jordi and Omar will like, too. As usual, I take a long time to decide. I choose Brother Bear 2.

Mamá packs a few things in a small suitcase to take to Lalomanu. That’s the name of another beach in Samoa. We don’t need much; we are only going for two nights. My aunt lends us her snorkels and fins. We have our own goggles.

On the way to Lalomanu, we visit the markets in Apia. I find two dresses I like. Mamá promises we will return and she will remember which shop they are in. Papá says I can definitely have two dresses, not just one. Mamá finds one she likes as well – it’s pink, it will look nice on her.

I sit in the far back with Mamá – there are three rows of seats in the car. There isn’t enough room for Mamá but she squashes in next to me, nice and close. Jordi and Omar sit on either side of my cousin in the middle, and Papá sits in the front with my aunt driving. Samoa is very green. We get to the Taufua Resort in Lalomanu in time for lunch.

Our fale is in the front row right on the beach. I have never seen a fale before. They are little huts on stilts built on the sand. The roofs are thatch and the walls are wooden planks – light shines through. They are like tiny little houses. Ours has a veranda and walls. Others have steps and no walls. Luckily it is warm. Inside there is a mattress on the floor for us and a double bed for Mamá and Papá, both have mosquito nets. There is not much room for our things.

There is no television. But we love books and have brought a lot of books with us. Jordi has his favourite library book that he has borrowed lots and lots of times called Fabulous Monsters. Omar has a pirate book also from the library. I have my fairy library books, and we also have books in Spanish. Mamá and Papá have their books too. And, of course, I have my story so I can keep writing while I am at the beach. I have already written quite a bit about my holiday in Samoa. I have been writing every day.

It’s funny, outside the fale there’s a bucket of water at the bottom of the stairs, so we can wash our feet and not bring sand into the fale – it doesn’t seem to work very well as there is sand everywhere.

We have lunch in the restaurant with my cousin and her Mum. We walk along the beach until our lunch settles. Papá is picking up broken bits of glass; he says he does not want us to get hurt. We spend the afternoon swimming in the ocean. My cousin and her Mum stay for afternoon tea. After they leave, we continue to swim on our doorstep. It is so much fun.

Omar does not feel well and sits on the beach building sandcastles. He was actually sick during the night. Jordi is being brave and for the first time uses his goggles. He is so excited watching the fish swim past. I use the fins and snorkels. The fins are too big but I manage to wear them and to attach the snorkel to my own goggles because my aunt’s goggles are too big. Mamá shows me how to walk backwards into the surf with my fins on. She knows how to scuba dive. I spend the whole afternoon in the water. I love swimming. I want to be a swimming teacher when I grow up.

Papá swims away from the beach looking at fish near the reef. He wants me to go with him but I don’t want to go too far from Mamá. I swim around with her. Hanging off her. Wrapping my long brown legs around her. Like I always do. Even at the swimming pool in Canberra, I am on top of Mamá, hanging on to her, near her, waving to her, or sitting on her. She thinks it is hard to swim with me. I just like being close to my mum.

We are having so much fun that Mamá forgets the sunscreen. She is very badly burnt. I am a little bit burnt but not much. I am going brown as usual – just like Papá.

We shower, get dressed and walk to find ice creams. Papá takes some photos of us on the fale veranda before we leave. We walk along the road to the village, find a shop but no ice cream. The man at the shop gives us bubble gum – I have never had bubble gum before.

We walk back and build a sandcastle on the beach before going to the restaurant. Papá buys us some lemonade, and we play with some other kids.

Papá meets some people who speak Spanish. He wants me to speak to them, but I’m shy. I only speak Spanish with Papá. We want to climb a tree near the restaurant, but Mamá won’t let us. We are having such fun. I play with some other girls and tell them I’m nine years old. Mamá tells them I am only six. I sit on Mamá’s knee feeling a bit cranky. I sulk.

We sit at long tables for dinner with the Spanish people. I sit at one end, next to Omar, and Jordi sits on the other side of the table. A little boy wants to sit with us too, but there isn’t enough room for his parents so they sit somewhere else. The people from the resort bring lots of food — my favourites: noodles, mussels, and prawns. Yum, yum.

After dinner we are all very tired. Papá reads to us. Mamá and Papá take turns reading to us every night. Then Mamá kisses us good night saying the same thing as always ‘Good night (kiss), sleep tight (kiss), I love you (kiss)’. And Papá kisses us saying ‘buenas noches’.

I’m lying in bed, and I can hear Mamá and Papá on the veranda. I think they are reading. I can hear the ocean, it’s so close!

It’s a bit windy on the beach, but it’s not cold. We can hear the wind and the waves outside the fale. The waves sound like they are just below us. It is so noisy; it is a bit scary. We all sleep together. Jordi is in the middle, Omar at the far end and I am on the side next to Mamá and Papá’s bed. It is very cosy. There is no light. We don’t like sleeping without a light.

Omar wakes up scared, screaming. He wakes Jordi and me too. We all scream. ‘Don’t worry’, Mamá tells us, ‘Mamá is here’, and she kisses each of us again.

We wake early. It is a beautiful day. Mamá and Papá kiss us good morning, as they do every morning. We sit on the veranda eating fruit. I eat a pear, all the pear (I don’t usually eat all my fruit). Papá gives us some biscuits too. Our swimmers and towels are hanging all over the place. There are a couple of chairs and a small table.

We change into our swimmers, except Papá. Mamá and Papá bought new swimmers for us. I have pink bikinis with a swim t-shirt, my brothers have Ben 10 swimmers and swim t-shirts. Mamá has pink swimmers as well – I helped her choose them last weekend. We have our very old beach towels with hoods. Towels we have had for a long time. Mine is a princess towel, Jordi’s is a skateboard towel and Omar’s is a tiger towel.

Mamá says we’re going to spend all day on the beach. I can’t wait. I don’t think anyone is going to get bored. Mamá brushes my hair and ties it up with a hair band. It is a bit wild after swimming yesterday. She ties her hair up too. We don’t bother with hats, as it is not sunny yet.

I want to wear Mamá’s pink shirt. I love that shirt. She says no because she is badly sunburnt and doesn’t want anyone to see how burnt she is. She says I have to wear my swim t-shirt or that I can wear her green shirt, but the green one isn’t as cool as the pink shirt.

Our sandcastle has disappeared so we build it again. There are a few people around, some kids, not many people. We suddenly feel the earth moving underneath us. The fales are rattling. I don’t know how long it lasts. A few people come out of their fales to look around, not many.

Papá says let’s go for a walk as we still have two hours before breakfast. We wander along the beach. My brothers skip in and out of the waves, dawdling in the sand. I walk beside Mamá. She hugs me and I come right up close to look into her eyes because I like to do that. Papá is in front. I think he is looking for glass in the sand again. Mamá follows in his footsteps. ‘What are you doing, Mamá?’ I ask. ‘I’m following Papá’s footsteps’, she says. ‘Me too, I want to do it too’, I say. Then Mamá follows in my footsteps. I don’t do a very good job at stepping in Papá’s footsteps, as my legs aren’t as long as his are.

Suddenly, Papá yells, ‘Corred, corred’. Run, run.

I run to Mamá to hold her hand. She has Omar’s hand in her other hand. We run. Papá and Jordi are behind us. We run over the sand, over the road, past a few houses. ‘Run, everybody run’, Papá is yelling to the people in the houses. I don’t know why we have to run, but Papá’s voice sounds very serious, so we run.

I run a little ahead of Mamá still holding her hand. We reach a taro garden outside the houses, and we slow down a bit. We aren’t far from the hill. We turn and look. I don’t understand what I see. Mamá thinks we must have run far enough but she makes us run again.

The water comes. There is so much water. I am knocked off my feet. I lose Mamá and I can’t find her. I hit something, one of the trees. The water is so strong! I can’t see Mamá. I can’t see anyone. I panic. I struggle against the water. Too much water.

Mamá, where are you? I must be brave. I don’t like being alone. I’m scared. I can’t breathe. I don’t have enough air. I swallow water. There is too much water. Where are you, Mamá? Mamá? Papá?

I don’t understand what has happened to me. It is quiet and peaceful. I am alone but I am not scared. Maybe I am a mermaid. Maybe I can breathe under water.

About huntersoledad

Mother of three. Bereaved mother of one. Survivor and victim of 2009 Samoan tsunami. Could be if would be writer.
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1 Response to La Sirenita

  1. Pingback: Swimming Lessons | huntersoledad

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