Saturday, October 03, 2009

Finding Humor

Phil, Koa, and I spent the day bringing supplies from the Red Cross camp in Lalomanu to the affected families in the neighboring village of Saleaaumua. On our last outing from the camp, we were sent up the hill to bring large United-Nations-labeled water tanks to a Lalomanu family. We missed a turn and ended up in the village maumaga surrounded by high grass and palm trees. A helicopter rose above the horizon in the distance carrying a load of supplies from Apia. Koa started singing the theme song to “M*A*S*H”.

It’s was a telling moment; not only in the sense that it bore a striking resemblance to the Vietnam War era Korean War movie and television show, but also in that the premise of M*A*S*H—madcap doctors using (often dark) humor to get through the atrocities of war—mirrors the sentiments among relief volunteers over the past few days.

Much of the humor is in the same vein as the normal bittersweet humor Peace Corps Volunteers use to cope with the stresses of being away from home for 2 years. We continue to make fun of each other for the same reasons we have for a year now—Phil for surviving on his Weet-Bix-Only diet, Supy for being incredibly lazy, Blakey for her back door compliments a la Jenna Maroney. And then there’s the normal Samoan “Where’s your girl?” humor. There was a sole on the back of the truck today who couldn’t stay off his cell phone. We enjoyed grilling him about the whereabouts of his down-low relationship. “Where’s your girl?” “Leai se mea.” “Ahhh… Malosi fufu ?” Chee-hoo!

Upon finding a one-zy in the bottom of the pillow box that had no zipper, the sole blew his nose with it and tossed it off the truck.

Some of the humor comes out of the tasks at hand. The soles at the Red Cross camp have a good time hurling boxes at each other, seeing how fast they can unload and load trucks. This morning sitting around camp, the poor kid who was brewing tea for the rest of the volunteers caught an earful from across camp as people began shouting their opinions on how much sugar should be added. It was funny to hear the tea micromanaged from 30 yards away.

Phil, Koa, and I found ourselves standing in the flatbed sifting through boxes unpacking tarps and blankets and pillows for specific families. Seeing us standing up there, one lady asked the Red Cross rep who was in charge, “How many palagis do we get?” He offered them Koa.

The best joke of the day was the stuff we handed out. From what we could tell, some Goodwill secondhand store took all of its gaudiest, most bizarre kitchenware and wrapped it up and donated it to the cause. Some of it wasn’t even kitchenware. Among other things, this box included a(n):
  • Whole bunch of Scotch and Cherie glasses;
  • Ornate statue of man and woman, woman’s head is missing;
  • A slew of mixer heads with no mixer;
  • A ridiculously small wine glass;
  • An Eisenhower-era hole punch;
  • Other more ornate hole punch which punched out snowflake shape; and
  • A strangely shaped glass object, which seemed mostly to resemble some sort of bong.
And yet, despite the ridiculousness of these objects, every single item was distributed to a family.

“We know you’re lost everything and been displaced from your house. Our condolences. Here is a hole punch.”

Note: We did, of course, distribute lots and lots of mosquito nets and blankets and matches and shoes and mosquito coils and pillows and clothes and mats and cups and plates and spoons and forks and water and Tupperware containers. So don’t worry.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Ridiculously small wine glass.

I was taking a picture of the two girls in the back, who were darling, but the women in front of them posed, which was also cute.

We gave these boys a transformer and a toy elephant from the random box. They were happy.

The hole punch.

A kid came up to Phil and handed him an ANZ bank receipt that had a girl's number written on the back. We never found out which one was Theresa.

Senior Red Cross Volunteer Tavita and man receiving supplies.

Toa delivering water.

Boy in bad-ass pose holding machete wearing wolf shirt.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. Yes, I know you did it every day before the earthquake/tsunami but it's even more appreciated now.

Amanda said...

I'm happy to see all these smiling faces.

mom, interrupted said...

I found your blog while looking for news updates on the earthquake/tsunami. It is outstanding! My husband and I were PCVs in group44 teaching at STC/PTC and lived in Vaivase-tai. Your post on humor really stuck a chord with me though, that seemed to get you through at times. (Our question as a couple was always "why dont you have a baby? E lei tai-tai - I think) Just wanted to let you know how much an old(er) RPCV is enjoying your blog. Denise

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posting. I enjoy reading your posts everyday and now with your updates on how things are going there is much appreciated. Keep up the good work and thanks to you and everyone else for helping those who have been affected. I wish I could just get on a plane and come home to help but unfortunately I can't. Take care

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt, thanks for always keeping us updated with the "going-on's" in Samoa, especially now. I've always loved reading your blogs. You are a great writer and you're very humorous.

Unknown said...

I just also realized this was the first week in a long time there was no "odds and ends thursday". im glad there is humor (almost wrote humour) found.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your postings. We are in Canada and my husband is a Samoan preparing to return to the island shortly to be with family. There have been few smiles at our house since the tsunami hit but reading your post today, I cought myself smiling at the humour, Samoan and otherwise. Thank you.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

I didn't know you were in Samoa until the Argus article. Good for you. Any water polo over there?

Stay safe and keep up the good work.

Colleen Hazlett