Some of you may know already that mornings in Samoa are my hardest time of the day. I’m slowly getting use to them, but have yet to develop a routine that feels good. But the past few mornings have gone smoother because of some small things. I’ve learned that the things you don’t think will matter, do!
A couple mornings ago, about six men from the village came by my house at 6am to cut the grass around my house. I said “E te manaomia se fesoasoani?” or “Do you need any help?” One man said no as he continued to cut the grass with his machete so I went to the back of the house and saw my neighbor working on the grass there. He knew I wanted to help so he handed over his knife and I began to swing it from left to right. I imagine I was putting too much effort into it, and there was probably an easier way, at least they made it look easy.
After about 10 minutes he took over again. I walked around the yard and picked up small pieces of rubbish (it’s called rubbish here, not trash). They were done within an hour. But there on the ground, lay all the long grass clippings, yet I wasn’t worried; I knew they would finish the job. Sure enough, they sent three young boys over the next morning at 7am. One of the boys is my neighbor. He and his two cohorts were using Samoan brooms, which are like firm long grasses tied together in a bundle. I figured I should go out and help since these kids were sweating for me.
I found out their brooms weren’t working all that well and I wish I had had a rake. Instead I took some cardboard scraps and made a sturdy handle which gathered the grass well. I think they were a little impressed with my ingenuity, because they put down their brooms and used my “rakes.”
They did the front yard and said “uma,” or “done.” I said “lei uma,” or “not done,” and led them to the back yard where they had yet to pick up the grass. I thought of my uncle Jamie who always taught me to finish a job and to do it right. I thought it was my turn to pass on the lessons of life and work ethics. As uncle Jamie always said, “Look at the BIG picture.”
After we finished the back yard, I thanked them and said “sau ai,” which is “come eat.” I handed them a deck of cards to play with while I cooked them oatmeal. When it was cooked, I added brown sugar and cut up some esi, which is papaya, to go with the oatmeal. I found myself watching them eat as closely as Samoans watch me when I eat. I was curious if they would like the oatmeal. They dug into the esi first, but of course they would, it’s familiar to them. But the oatmeal, that was something new. One of the boys admitted he didn’t like it, and I’m glad he told me the truth. The other two ate all theirs and said they liked it. I believed them. After they were done I thanked them again and told them to have a nice day.
As they left, I looked at my watch, it was only 8:30am and I felt like I had had an enriching day already. When you’re in a different culture trying to adjust and make relationships, it doesn’t take much to make a day feel fulfilling. I’m just happy they helped get my morning off to a good start, and hopefully I was able to do the same for them with my bowl of oatmeal.