Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ministers finger fags

Any day of the week, Samoa is definitely one of the greatest destinations in the world; awesome beaches, wonderfully lush mountains, natural water slides off the sides of said mountains, fantastic beer, relaxed vibe (bordering-on-coma) and a serious commitment to food (my kinda peeps).

There're also the wonderful, friendly locals; always joking, laughing, dancing and singing, that make the place so welcoming and so much fun. 

Hang-on, did I just say "always friendly"?  That's definitely not quite right ... for starters, Samoans – all of 'em, at one time or another - suffer from the "musu".  This is a cultural phenomenon which, for no apparent reason, turns your normally laughing, joking, cheeky colleagues/friends/partners/waiters/hotel staff into brooding, inpatient, aggressive ticking-emotional-time-bombs in the blink of an eye. 

Seriously, the musu can easily turn a happy, convivial conversation into a spiteful verbal barrage.  For example;

Donkey:  Thanks for taking me to the pub last night, I had a great time.
Mose:     Hey no worries, Donkey, me-ol'-mucka.*  Yeah, it was really fun.  You're pretty good a darts.
Donkey:  You think so?  Ah thanks.  Yeah, I really enjoy it.  Wish I hadn't drunk so much, though.
Mose:     Ha!  It was kinda funny when you downed 17 Vailimas and spewed all over the pool table before passing out on the sea wall.
Donkey:  Urgh!  Don't remind me – woke-up with a washed-up, fermenting coconut next to my face.  Still, good fun.  How 'bout we do it again some time?
Mose:     Fuck off!

And that'll be it for Mose for the next couple of hours.  Next time you see him, he'll be his old self again.  Ah, the musu.  It can make inter-cultural relationships pretty difficult to negotiate for the uninitiated.

So as I was saying, apart from the musu, Samoans are great fun to be around; very generous with their time, their praise, their food.  Great people; very open to newcomers ... oh, unless they happen to be palagi (foreigners).  For those of us who aren't Samoan, there's a special kind of Samoan Pride (read: arrogance) which anyone whose been there for longer than a week will have been exposed to at one time or another.  It's not too bad, really; no violence or hate crimes, just a very Samoan way of talking to make you feel that you're less than the dirt under their shoe ... um, sandal.

Actually, this pride (read: arrogance) isn't only reserved for foreigners, but for all who are considered beneath the speaker in question.  So in the hierarchy of Samoa, a man will display arrogance to a woman, who'll beat-up on the kids, who'll have a stab at the dog, who'll take-on the cat, who'll chase the rat.  And we palagis are right at the bottom (luckily there's no plague in Samoa!).

At the other end of the spectrum are matais (chiefs) and church ministers.  These morbidly-obese blokes lord it over everyone, as the next story demonstrates.

Now this story is completely true (I think ... at least, I've certainly told it many times as though it's a true story ... I've even made it slightly better from time-to-time with a few Donkey-specials, just to make sure my audience is on-board ... so yeah, it's pretty true).

Many years ago, some foreign anthropologists from The States were conducting an investigation into the origins of the Pacific races.  They spent many years researching in countries all over the Pacific, and many years in Samoa, particularly.  At the end of nearly a decade of research, they offered to share (in person) their findings with the various countries of the Pacific, and were invited to do so in Samoa, where they would address a gathering of the Council of Chiefs.

This was back in the days before PowerPoint, but they had lots of slides, and went to great pains to ensure the audience understood the rigour of their research, and the ultimate findings that the peoples of the Pacific, including Polynesians, all drifted east from what is now Southeast Asia, settling, then moving on, then settling again.  They described key evidence of language, art, cultural practices, mythology and DNA as supporting these findings.

After a day of talking, explaining, demonstrating and answering questions about their research, the Paramount Chief stood up, and in the spirit of fine Samoan oratory, went on a one-hour verbal bender which can basically be summed-up as follows;

"Thank you very much for coming here today to tell us about your work.  But we know that Samoa is the Cradle of Polynesia; God put us here and from here all the Polynesian nations were settled."

Nods all 'round.  Paramount Chief ... who's gonna argue?  The researchers (both inferior and foreign) hung their heads, packed-up and went home.

Donkey, too, has come up against this closed-minded, unquestionable Samoan arrogance.  I was running a consultative workshop about health promotion; how to do it better in order to meet the needs of Samoa's most concerning health problems.

I'd wanted to get a few young people along to discuss the cause, and possibly throw-around a few ideas towards a solution to the very high rate of youth suicide in the country.  When I asked the gathering of Church Pastors and Village Chiefs why no young people had come along, I was informed by one particularly large gentleman who, despite his profusely sweating brow, managed to pull-off a spotless white sports-coat with nary a blemish, "We are the representatives of God here on Earth and we speak for our communities, which includes our young people".

OK, so by this time I'm getting the message, loud-and-clear, on the high rate of youth suicide.  "So," I asked, "what can we do about it?".

"Our young people need to be more involved in the Church ... they need to pray more and be closer to their parents and leaders, and especially to God".

Exasperated, I looked to my practical, street-savvy, scientifically-minded, Health Promotion colleagues for a life-line.  All I got were beaming smiles and,

Nods all 'round.  Church Pasters and Chiefs ... who's gonna argue?  This health promoter (both inferior and foreign) hung his donkey-head, packed-up and went home.

And now someone else has come-up against the ol' Samoan Pride.  This time it's an international climate change summit to which, for no apparent reason, someone decided to invite a bunch of senior Samoan Church Ministers.  And the result?  What is the Number 1 root cause of climate change? ...

... wait for it ...

I love the line in this article from The Register, "...Academics were apparently thrown off their consideration of "Arts in the Age of Global Warming" and "Ecology in Poetry / Poetry in Ecology..."

Nods all 'round.  Church Pasters ... who's gonna argue?  Those academics (both inferior and foreign) hung their heads, packed-up and went home.

* OK, so clearly Mose doesn't talk in cockney-rhyming slang – I was just translating from Samoan into some kind of cross-cultural equivalent ... I think I nailed it!

Wonder-twin powers...activate!  The white-coated Church Pastors from Samoa power-up to tackle climate change in their own, unique, homophobic way.  Pic:


Ann O'Dyne said...

oh christ.

FreshyNZ said...


As a Samoan I found your post very humorous, probably because of the element of truth to it. Thank you for your point of view on our people. Enjoyed the read.


DonkeyBlog said...

AOD: "Oh Christ" indeed, matey!

FreshyNZ: Thanks for dropping by. I'm taking the piss, really. I love Samoa very much - have spent a number of years living there and visiting again and again. Love Samoans too, just looking at the humorous side of life there.

sabrina said...

LOL!!! Donkey donkey where do you come up with these stories! Hahahahaha. Homosexuals! These samoans cant be that crazy!