Thursday, September 20, 2007



What is it like to be placed in a position of high respect and honor without earning it? For some, this may be an enviable situation, for us it makes us uneasy. The father of our host village, and also its mayor, told us that we are to be treated as if we were his parents and he would provide for whatever we want. In Samoa, this is about as high as you can get. It is the Samoan way. Both of his parents are deceased.

We already have experienced being placed in a position of honor when attending a meeting, social function, or just visiting. We are guests, and guests in Samoa are automatically given a place of honor.

The complex system of respect is something to see when you get on a bus. Young boys get up and give up their seats first to a woman, older person, or Palangi (white person). If the bus is crowded, the men get up and move to the back. If the bus is really crowded, people begin sitting on laps. If the bus is exceptionally crowded, which is the norm, there is an elaborate hierarchy as to who moves and sits where. Young help women and their elders get packages on and off the bus. It’s automatic. It’s Fa’asamoa (the Samoan Way).

We grapple with the sudden respect we are given. It goes against how we were raised. How can we possibly live up to what others have taken a lifetime to achieve?

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