Milo with his chocolate pudding!
Birthdays aren’t that big of a deal for Samoans. For the first couple weeks of school I asked students in my class to tell me when their birthdays were, so that I could give them a card and have the class sing to them on their special day. However, some students didn’t even know when their birthdays were, or had to stop and think about it for a moment.
Growing up in America, birthdays are a day that children look forward to weeks in advance. Cake, ice cream, candles, balloons, cards and presents are almost always a guarantee. I can still remember the smallest details from birthdays that are now 20 years past. There’s always a special feeling I have on my birthday, and although it’s a day like all the rest, it does feel different.
Many of you have read in this blog, or heard me talk about one of my best friends: Milo. Milo was the first one to greet me the day I moved into my house here in Samoa. I can still remember him carrying my luggage down the hill beside my house and dropping it inside the front door. From that first day we’ve been buddies! Milo was 11 years old when I arrived, and for the past 17 months, I’ve been able to watch him grow up. This past Tuesday, on March 1st, Milo celebrated his 13th birthday!
I made his birthday last year a special celebration. I had bought him a chocolate cake and made some tapioca pudding. I had given him a few small gifts, and made him a card. A couple months ago I was shocked to see that he still had his card which I had made him last year on his birthday! So this year I wanted to continue the tradition.
As the week approached, I kept reminding him that his birthday was a few days away. He already knew, and I think he was looking forward to it more than last year. Besides the tapioca pudding I’ve made for him, he’s also a big fan of chocolate Jell-O Pudding! So the afternoon of his birthday I made tapioca and chocolate pudding to take over to his house for dinner. I also bought four pounds of chicken to give to the family to cook for the meal.
With all the packages I’ve gotten over the past year, Milo has also become a huge fan of bubble wrap. Whenever I have any laying around my house he’ll want to crinkle it up to make the bubble pop. So this year I decided to wrap his gift in bubble wrap. I decided to keep the gift practical. Last year I got him a match-box car and I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I’m guessing he lost it. This year I decided to give him one of my nice mechanical pencils, along with one of my good ink pens. Kids in Samoa never seem to have a decent pencil and their ink pen always is dried up.
Tuesday night I headed over to his family’s house for dinner. Milo got a big grin on his face when he saw the tapioca and chocolate pudding. After eating, I gave him his presents, along with another card I had made him this year. It was a simple evening, but I could tell he really enjoyed it. This will be my last birthday with him before I leave Samoa in December, but I told him as he walked me home, that I would be thinking of him next year, and would try to call to say hi.
Milo has been such a huge part of my life here in Samoa. He’s always there to help me when I need him for something, and on days when I’m lonely, all I have to do is call his name from out my back door, and he’ll come over and play a game of cards with me, or just sit and visit.
I’ve been able to have Milo in my English class both last year and this year. Last year he was one of the weakest students in his class, but this year he is one of the strongest. I’ve watched him as he’s started to read and answer questions with confidence, which a year ago, he didn’t even know. The other day the class had some free time for reading. I found him with one of the books that had a map in it and he was at the back of the room at the big wall map, trying to find the country from the book. I just smiled at his cleverness.
I’m looking forward to our final months together and continuing our great friendship. I hope that these past two birthdays will be days he remembers for years to come, and maybe he’ll remember me when they come around each year. I know I’ll think of him.
Milo on his 13th birthday!
Milo loves bubble wrap!
Milo and I with his card.
This was my ride back to my village form the capital last weekend. As I say, whatever it takes!
This is what all Samoans do when they are out on a sunny day. You cover your head with whatever you have, since the sun's intensity is so strong! This was me in the back of the pick-up truck.
Taking time for a picture on the long and beautiful walk back to my village from the main road last Sunday.
Milo was cutting these bananas down out in front of my house on Thursday.
The sunrise this morning, March 5th, on my way into town.
Another view from the bus this morning, on my way into the capital.