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The True Samoan
Destiny Epirosa Fepulea’i To’ala
aged: 14 years old

The True Samoan has many a face
Encompassed in loyalty, love and grace
From the day he is born, he learns night and day
To respect his elders and traditional ways
Stop the press! Let me tell you the real story!

A beautiful part of our Samoan Culture includes experiencing the “laying on of hands” from our beloved parents. “We shmack you bekosh we luff you,” they say. We will nod, partly in fear, and partly because we still love and respect them. Maybe the next day, we’d have a good laugh about it with our friends. Each of us comparing our bruises, black eyes, and the item with which we got a hiding with, to see who has the coolest injury.

Or how about our school lunch?

Mum brings our lunch in a bright yellow Pak ‘n’ Save bag. Out will come our “stylish” lunchboxes made from last week’s ice-cream container. We just ignore the kids eating their pies, chips, and chocolate bars, as we sip on last night’s chicken soup, and bite into the cold taro. We look proud, but perhaps feel a little…well…envious. Envious of their lunch. And clothes. And their brand new shiny white socks.

But I will be grateful. Grateful to have clothing at all.

Grateful to Aunty Loimata for her holey brown socks I’m wearing. And grateful for Cousin Leata’s old “NO FEFE” t-shirt that I proudly exhibited on the first day of school, and have worn for two weeks non-stop.

Remember our old van? The van we lovingly called our family “Fire Truck”, because it was such a brilliant Red (apart from the rust spots). “Such a beauty!!” Mum would say. We didn’t think so. There was a lot of bending down to pick up “the pencil we dropped” as we drove past our friends in their flash cars.

But undeniably, the Family Van is something we are well known for. With Father driving, Mother in the passenger seat, grandparents and an aunt in the middle row, and the screaming children in the back seats.

Don’t forget the happy smiles on their faces – psht, yeah right, looking like they’re all going to a funeral more like it. Not to mention the painted tennis balls pinned through the aerial, and last year’s Christmas lights lined against the border of the windows. Who needs a limousine!?

Have you heard of the Samoan Woman’s Eye? MAGICAL it is! Just do something displeasing in front of our Mother or the numerous Aunties, and the evil eye of Egypt is nothing compared to theirs. Trust me, “I know to you!” Not sure which is worse, the Evil Eye or the Belt!

Yes, the same belt Father wore as he stood at the pulpit on Sunday in front of the 500 strong congregation, and encouraged the people to “chelish and luff your children”.

Speaking of Church, the whole family go together, sit together, and sing out loud to our Lord whom we love and worship. We then go home and memorise pages of the bible for White Sunday. A hard enough task in the English language, but we have to do it in our native tongue. When we recite it back to our parents, there can be no mistakes, for our parents have memorised the bible inside out, and any slip-ups will result in the ‘Evil Eye’ being cast upon us, with the promise of dire consequences.

But, of course they love us. Enough to give us our much needed exercise, when they call out our name urgently and we run in from outside, expecting to see them on the floor hurt and injured. “Can you kiff me da guitar?” they ask. We hold in our sigh, as we hand them the guitar, that was standing only a few centimetres away from their seat.

They also love us enough to turn up to our school trips and fundraising activities in their mu’umu’u* and jandals. We show our love for them in return by hugging them in front of our friends with no shame.

Our parents look after us and cater to our needs. Take homework for example. They give us “da proffeshnal advishe” and their methods for our Maths work, only to result in big fat red crosses next to the sums. But we smile and thank them for helping us. “See, I da proffeshnal on da skool fings, I reach Form Two when I wash seventeen”.

Pre-school brainwashing techniques kick into gear about now. “Your parents are ALWAYS right.” the voice in my head repeats soothingly, time and time again.

You can’t help loving our Samoan parents when they try to sing and reach the high notes on these modern day love songs, making sure the neighbours can hear, and wondering why they weren’t picked for NZ idol. And you gotta see my Grandma do the ‘Beyonce bounce’. As for us, we sit there with forced smiles, wishing to add earmuffs to our Christmas list. Our faces frozen with looks of OBVIOUS appreciation…OR ELSE!!

Nevertheless, I love my family. Even my extended family. I put up with having to kiss my aunt’s moustache, also massaging my uncle’s dried, cracked, and smelly toes, which I’m sure I can see mushrooms growing out of. One of their visit highlights is letting us pluck out Great-Aunt’s white hairs for 5c apiece.

I also helped my Great Grandfather with his English, when he came to me one day, pleading for some English words, because our bubbly next door neighbour wouldn’t stop talking to him, and all he could do was nod. The first words he learnt to say were “YES” and “NO”. He was so excited.

I overheard him and our neighbour one day, as she greeted him with “Good Morning! How are you?”

He proudly replied with his newly acquired English vocabulary “Yes!”
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” our neighbour continued.
Again, a proud and resounding “No!” from Great Grandpa.

So being a Samoan is certainly a Rollercoaster Ride for me (and an enjoyable one at that!) and people will always know that I am a True Samoan no matter where I go, what I do, and what new languages I learn.

I am BROWN and PROUD, and if it takes wearing an XXL mu’umu’u and driving a rickety van full of mu’umu’u wearing people, then I ‘m all for it.

*mu’umu’u 1) a tent size dress
2) A tent in Summer, and in Winter, Aunty’s Nightie.