My first weekend in Aurukun I wondered how I was going to fill in the time where there were no café, cinemas or friends. But I was invited to go fishing with another nurse and the two Samoan guards. I caught my first fish, a Trevally, and began a habit of walking down with the boys most weekends and spending time with a rod among the mangroves. Fasi and Tupe were fun to be around. They laughed, joked and told stories of Samoa. The time with them went too quickly.
I soon looked forward to having a chat with Fasi, on the clinic verandah on my way back home after seeing patients after hours. His English was better than Tupe’s and he told me stories about working on the family plantation in his village of Tuan’ai on the island of Upolu, before and after school. Of the long walk there and the need to please his often angry father. Being taught to dive by him, to spear fish and octopus to feed the family. He taught me a few Samoan words and laughed at my pronunciation. He talked about breadfruit, taro and coconut cream and other Samoan foods.
A month or so after I arrived Fasi and I walked down to the landing most afternoons after work if we weren’t on duty. The landing was where we fished and where the locals put their boats into the Archer river and headed off closer to the Gulf waters. On a slow wander along a red dirt track one afternoon we found a tall breadfruit tree, covered with green fruit the size and shape of small basketballs. Fasi was excited to see what he called in Samoan, an ulu tree. He knocked down four with a long forked stick and we carried them back to his flat. I had my first lesson in Samoan food preparation. The tiny kitchen soon filled with the warm scent of baking ulu. The next thing to do was to find coconuts to scrape the flesh and make cream to dip the ulu in, take fish out of the freezer and an island style feast would be ready in no time.