Monday, July 18, 2011

Being Female in Samoa

July14, 2011

Living in a traditional society is hard, especially for Westerners. Many join the Peace Corps to be an agent for change. Of course, the change envisioned is to bring your view of enlightenment to others.

Females are particularly prone to this notion as they grapple with their new “lower” status is Samoan society. If you are married, as Mary and I, you find it is your husband who is heard and given credit, even if are the one responsible. If you are female and young, only the strongest in language skills and personality seem to thrive. If you are older and female, you may fall in between. This gap is especially evident during the first year of service.

As time passes, those still here find either Samoans have seen the light you bring or you have seen and figured out how to negotiate your way in the fog. It probably is a mixture of the two with the latter being the predominant hue. Whereas others thought you a complete incompetent before, you now find yourself leading an exercise group at 5:00 am in the morning or having other teachers wonder if some of your methods may have some validity. You may even be contemplating extending your service into a third year. Flip a coin as to who is the wiser.

I being the old, white man with a string of degrees have an easier time of fitting into a more respected role. I can blow into a school, command attention from principle, teachers, and students about the Samoan Challenge whereas the younger female Peace Corps teacher struggle. I can help them get started and give the program a legitimacy they could not.

I do have a lingering question though. I wonder if young females understand their responsibilities to old, white men with a string of degrees when they return home.

Dana Gray
Elisa Law

Lilly Watson

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