Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Trip through islands illustrates life in Samoa

Oops! A correction: Last week I wrote about a Samoan girl who offered to sell me an octopus for "a quawter." The size of the octopus was 20 inches — not 20 feet!

My camera was ready as I walked alone on a beach near Pago Pago, American Samoa, watching an older girl wading in water with her clothes on. Her skirt was wet because she leaned forward, reaching with both hands as if searching for something underwater. Suddenly she stood and held some living thing up high out of the water as she reached into her pocket for a knife. The thing grabbed her arm and held on tight as she stabbed its tennis-ball size head to kill it. Gradually the suction cups released her arm one at a time and then all of its eight arms fell limp. She had captured an octopus for supper!

As she turned to wade out of the water, she discovered my camera and me. "May I take your picture?" I called from water’s edge. She jabbered something in the native language. I had snapped one picture earlier but wanted a closer one. She argued in her own language as she approached. I realized that she was trying to sell me the octopus! No thanks! She insisted, and she finally extended it to me, dropping the price to "a quawter." I turned and left in a hurry without the second snapshot, and I certainly didn’t want that octopus at any price.

The purpose of this bicycle trip alone, stopping briefly in Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, was to observe leisure activities of peoples of different cultures. All of these islands are located far from neighbors; the natives have developed their own dances, games, sports and fitness activities. Fitness was a way of life. As with all of us, the climate, terrain and weather affected their use of leisure as well their housing, clothing, jobs and education.

In American Samoa homes were without walls. I could see through their homes, which had flexible side walls, rolled up day and night until the stormy season. There was little furniture and the beds were floor pads, which were stacked when not use. Meals were prepared outdoors. By observing clothes on the outdoor drying lines I decided that the children must have been the only ones who wore underwear. Adult laundry was mostly gaily-colored rectangles that were worn tied under the arms, by women, and around the waist, by men.

I made this three day visit there in 1968. The high school students were taught partly by educational TV from the United States. Their area was separated from the lower grades, but sidewalks were shaded by posts supporting a roof. I saw no playing fields, gyms, swimming pools or parking lots near the high school.

On the weekend the Western Samoan soccer team and boosters arrived by boat and were trucked to the playing field. They played in what might have been a pasture, hastily marked and not level but all of the rewards of vigorous recreation were there. Competition was keen and spectators entered into the fun with noisy, sometimes rowdy, enthusiasm, just like home.

As I pedaled the nine miles from Pago Pago back to the airport I recalled children at recess constructing towers with driftwood, boys scampering up coconut trees, the girl catching an octopus in her hands, the boys in their homemade boats and the store clerk who said, when I was hunting the hotel in total darkness, "Oh why you not stay the night with me?"

Next trip I’ll do that.

I loved those warm and friendly people.


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