Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Samoan Tale


It is said that Polynesians can only truly love something after they have ruined it. Here is my paraphrasing of a story by Epeli Hau’ofa from his “Tales from the Tikongs”.

An English volunteer was working in an office when he asked his Samoan boss,
“I say, where is everyone?”
“At the feast”
“What feast, may I ask?”
“A family feast”
“Do you mean to say everyone has gone to a family feast during working hours?”

The Samoan boss pretended not to hear. This is the most effective way Samoans have in dealing with nosey foreigners.

The Englishman asked,
“ Where are all the department vehicles? I suppose they have also gone to the feast.”
“That’s right”
“But department vehicles have nothing to do with a private family feast”

Speechless, impotent, and utterly indignant the Englishman stalked out, went home, and drank a bottle of whiskey. Over his next year of service, his health continued to deteriorate until he became a sick, old looking man. His Samoan boss loved him.

On the Englishman’s final day, a huge feast, lasting nine hours, was given in his honor, complete with prayers and speeches. He got even sicker and miserable as he said his farewells. He died on his flight home. He became forever revered by his boss and fellow Samoan workers.

The Englishman’s Peace Corps replacement turned out to be a hopeless case. Coming from a growth-crazed society he refused to be affected by anything around him. He decided to outdo the Samoans at their own game. If they used a department vehicle once a day, he would use it twice. If they called in sick twice every week, he would call four times. When he heard other foreigners decrying the rampant Samoan corruption and nepotism, the Peace Corps Volunteer merely said, “So, what else is new in the world?”
Since his Samoan boss could not drive him into self-righteousness and hence into early old age, he was heartily despised.

No comments: