Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cabbage Lessons


Cabbage (Bok Choy) can be a great teacher. Briefly, our Samoan host family did most of the work in preparing our flower and vegetable garden. Our host father also got the cabbage sprouts from a local farmer to hasten the process. Soon my cabbage patch became the center of attention for both neighbors and the Ministry of Agriculture. It seemed my cabbages grew exceptional fast at the time of year when others did not plant them. My excitement grew as I foresaw the possibilities of helping others start their own family garden plots.

At harvest time problems began to arise. I innocently gave some cabbages to families who had given us food. When all the cabbages were ready to harvest, I decided to let our host family cut down and sell the remaining crop, leaving three cabbages to produce future seeds. A woman across the road came the next day to “talk”. She reminded Mary that she had said she could have some cabbage. I told her that we only had the three seed cabbages left. She said, “Yes, but…” Away went the three seed cabbages. Then the woman behind us who probably saw the first woman walk away with the remaining cabbages quickly came over to “talk”. She wondered why she did not get any cabbage. Fortunately, I had given her family some cabbage when she was out of town.

What seemed like a straightforward transaction was anything but that. We had figured, according to our way of thinking, our host family who helped to clear the plot and got the sprouts, as well as, us who watered and weeded, should share the spoils. We could give away some cabbage to whomever we wished; they could sell and keep the money.

Fa’asamoa (the Samoan Way) doesn’t work that way. Just how it works, I am not sure. I do know there now is even more interest in my garden as people come to see my new plantings. I also am beginning to realize that when people come over, sit down, and want to “talk”, they usually want something. This can be a humbling experience, but it is nice to know we have something to give or loan.

No comments: