MJ Live

Friday, November 18, 2005

Arbor Day (Written Nov 11 2005)

Just like in the states today, we had a day off from school today. Not because of Veterans day – we just celebrated Arbor Day a week late. What that meant is that instead of going to school we hung out with our families and saw what they did on a daily basis. All the trainees did mostly the same thing with guys going to their families plantation and the women doing things at the house. So I got to go see my family's plantation which is located behind the village (with apparently every other plantation in Falevao). Since it had rained fairly recently, it was a muddy walk to say the least – thank goodness for the quality of my Chaco's. This was an adventure through the river, high brush area and many creeky (and wet) "bridges" to get across before finally getting to the plantation. I knew this would be an interesting walk because the first "obstacle" we encountered was the river that winds around the plantation area. It came up to right above my knee – it was that deep! After we (Tusi, my uncle, and I) crossed the river we were joined by Akaimo and Satuala, my brothers. So it was definitely a family affair and it gave me time to hang out with Akaimo since he's usually off doing something else during the day. Anyway, the first piece of family property we encountered was a cow (povi) pasture. My family owns 28 cows, that's a lot considering cows are like gold in Samoa (costing thousands of tala to replace if accidentally killed). It was my first time being around cows that were not a part of a zoo and let me tell you cow's are not gentle creatures if scared. Tusi tried grabbing one of the baby cows to cut its ear as a marker, but the other cows caught wind of him and started herding. It was both impressive and scary at the same time because I had never seen cows go into an attack motion. Once we got past the cow pasture, I was overwhelmed by the natural beauty of Samoa. While the beaches and oceans are beautiful, I was looking at a scene that few village outsiders get to see. I was walking with Samoans, in their plantation, in their country and viewing scenes no tourist would see on a typical visit to Samoa. That's when I was definitely glad to be learning the fa'a Samoa the PC way – only by being in the culture and accepted would they allow me to see what I was seeing (no worries, I took pictures). As we passed through other families plantations, the stalks from the taro in the ground came up to my chest (I was quite surprised Satuala could see where he was going). Falevao is located between two mountains, so it was a beautiful vista to the left and right of me. After working up a major sweat, we came to the last "bridge" before we arrived at my family's plantation – a downed tree in the water. I was like "are your crazy?" Akaimo (who is only 12) literally carried Satuala across this huge tree with ease. Tusi then crossed over it to show me that an adult could do it as well. It was at that moment that I realized that the village Samoan have amazing balance – I'm talking Olympic quality balance. Tusi asked me if I wanted to go back home but I was not going to let a little fear of falling in the water stop me. So I gave Tusi my camera (I wasn't going to risk that) and put my glasses safely away before trying to cross this tree. As you may or may not know – I have horrible balance, but thankfully I did not fall into the water. On the way back, though, Tusi (while carrying coconuts on his shoulder) did fall into the water – so older Samoan may not have perfect balance. J (BTW, he made it safely across both times with my camera). So we finally made it to the family plantation after about a 35-40 min track (it felt longer). The name of my family's plantation is MuaMoga [Moo ahh Mun ga] and that is where they get Taro from. While we were there Tusi had me plant 4 taro stalks and said he'll remember me when they come to fruition. The process of planning a Taro stalk is similar to weeding in the states. Here you take a sharp stick (with a pointed end) and heave it into the round. You then pull up the ground to create a hole and place the taro stalk in the hoel and put some dirt around it. So I contributed to my family's fortune and food supply – amazing. While we were at the plantation, another plantation owner walked by and Tusi tlked him into climbing a coconut tree to retrieve some coconuts. This was my first time seeing this phenomenon – I was quite impressed. First, they took the bark skin of a coconut limb and created a circular rope with it. The guy then wrapped the rope (figure 8 style) around his feet and just hopped on the tree and started climbing. And I'm talking a good 25 to 30 feet, with no safety harness or tree cleats. And once he reached the top, the guy had to hold onto the tree and pull down coconuts at the same time and these coconuts came down with a thud when they hit the ground. So he was up in the tree for about 5-10 mins and during that whole time I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The other amazing thought for me was that Akaimo and Isaia can do the same thing right now and they're not even teenagers. So from that moment I realized the adage of "Don't get into a fight with a Samoan" could not be any truer. At least the village Samoans have great upper body strength. So from my experience in the village, I know I made the right decision to join PC. While I can try putting my experience into words, they just can't do it justice. Today I actually felt like I was a part of the Samoan culture instead of an outsider just visiting. The village (and by association the plantation) are huge parts of the fa'a Samoa and to see first hand the difficulties of the plantation life – my respect fro Samoans has definitely increased.

The plantation was the morning part of my day, my afternoon was spent at Andrew's father birthday party. This was our first truly Samoan birthday party (since Tara's was more to make her feel better, but Andrews father was turning 50 and Samoans celebrate that birthday) and it was a great experience. As usual, all the trainees were there and it gave us a chance to find out what the others did during the day. The party was suppose to start at noon, which in island time meant 1pm – but guess what time most of the trainees showed up. There was plenty of food and music – so a good time was definitely had by all. Andrews Samoan sisters performed a traditional Samoan dance for us – a first (the one at our FiaFia was done by volunteers). Later, we got to see Andrew dance with some of his Samoan brothers in another Samoan dance. All the trainees danced at some point (including myself – I know its shocking) so once again this was an experience that someone who wasn't part of the culture would not experience. Who knows, odds are good we may have a few birthday (aso fanau) parties during our 3 weeks stay.

The last part of my day was filled playing with Satuala and Isaia. I watched Jackie Chan Adventures and Courage the cowardly dog with them in the afternoon (glad to see we're only exporting our best cartoons) and then went out to play with the boomerang I gave to Isaia. While throwing it around, I accidentally got it stuck in the top limbs of a mango tree. So its stuck there, right? I thought so but I thought wrong. Without even thinking about it Isaia started climbing the 25 foot tall tree to retrieve the toy boomerang. My heart was definitely pounding because he's only a kid – but he had no fear. Fortunately, I stopped him from going out on the limb to get the toy (he broke off another limb to knock it free) but it was still scary for me (even everyone around me seemed to see it as normal).

So in all this was a day of experiencing the Samoan culture instead of just hearing about it or being around It for only a few hours a day. This was a day that justified my PC training and future experience – to adjust (but not assimilate into) the Samoan culture. While I will always be an American – I gained a much deeper respect and appreciation for the Samoan people and way of life today. I saw views that a majority of tourist will never see on a visit to Samoa – even though I already stated that, its worth repeating and  the views I saw are simply amazing to simple kid like myself. ;) L8r.

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