Saturday, June 19, 2010
Samoa - The People (Part I)
It was almost time to leave for our day driving around the island of Upolu. I sat on the porch outside our room, looking out over the beach and reading a book, waiting for the word that everyone else was ready to leave. Steve was finalising the car hire paperwork. Abbey was playing inside the room, occasionally coming out to the porch with me.
I heard a noise that sounded like the front door to the room opening and closing, so I looked up, expecting to see Steve walking in. No one there. Hold on, I thought, that isn't right. Where's Abbey? I walked into the room - she was nowhere in sight. I checked the bathroom - not there.
I opened the door and stepped out to the front of the room. I looked to my right - nothing. I looked to my left - there was a housekeeping lady waving to me. 'Have you seen my daughter?' I asked, beginning to panic.
'Room 122!' she said excitedly. 'My daughter went into another room?' I asked as I raced to the room next to ours. How on earth would she get in there? The door was slightly ajar, so I pushed it open. There, sitting happily on the hip of a Samoan lady chatting away as she cleaned, was my twenty-one-month-old daughter.
I grabbed Abbey and said to the woman, 'You frightened me; you can't just come and take my child!' and rushed back into our room. I was very shaken.
It took me a few hours to comprehend what had happened. In our world, taking someone's child like that is not done. Turning to see your own child out of sight is scary - they could be anywhere, anything could have happened. We don't allow strangers near our children and we know where they are at all times.
But, as we drove around the island and I saw children wandering around, playing in big groups together, the older kids carting the younger ones around, it dawned on me. This is the Samoan way. In the evenings, we heard bells being rung, and we were told that was the parents calling the children in for dinner. I realised that if this is how they are raised, the housekeeping woman would not have thought that I would be upset by her actions that morning. She knew there was a toddler in our room - she had spoken to her before around the resort - and just wanted to see her, perhaps even to help me.
The next day, when we walked into a restaurant and, once again, Abbey was scooped into the arms of the closest waitress and taken into the kitchen to say hello to everyone, I knew.
I knew that I had a lot to learn about life on this island. The children, growing up here, the way of life, the values of this culture. Because this one aspect of life had thrown me, it had shown me how big the gap really is between our world and theirs.
And isn't that what travelling is all about? Learning about other cultures, finding out how they live, and broadening your mind.
In Part II, I'll share some things I learnt about the Samoan culture.
Posted at 11:31 AM