Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Prodigal Host Son

I didn’t receive any inheritance from my host family, so I therefore didn’t squander it, also there was no slaughter of a fatted calf; but there was an air of guilt in my return to the host village last night because I hadn’t been back in 3 months. I guess I could attribute it to the string of visitors I had mid-April thru late May, but that would be making excuses. After living in Apia for a year and a half, my life is a lot busier than it was at first, and there are a lot more weekly commitments. But whatever. I was welcomed with open arms.

The adults in my host family smiled when I showed up, but Keleme, the baby, started yelling when I still pretty far from the house. “Mati! Mati!” She wore only a pair of tattered shorts and her hair, which is finally beginning to grow out, was all over the place. It was as good a welcoming party as one could hope for.

Much of my host mother’s children (i.e. my host siblings?) have moved to New Zealand or American Samoa, but right now one of the sons, Solofa, is back in the nu’u. I said hello, and then sat down at the kitchen table where Asolima offered me whatever leftover breadfruit and some fried fish that was sitting under the fly-cover.

Akanese, whose excitement was muted at first, quickly found her old giddy self, and suggested we go on a walk around the village.

I feel like my IMDB celebrity rating in Fausaga has dropped a few percentage points. People shake my hand and greet me cordially when I run into them along the road—many of whom I don’t recognize at all—but no longer do I feel like a curiosity. No one shouts at me from far off in the distance, no one really stops what they’re doing.

Though dinner was nothing special—we ate the leftover fried fish I’d declined earlier—there was a brief moment of red carpet when I tried to pour my own cup of tea. I was admonished by every adult in the room. “If you want tea, you tell Cousin Fialupe to bring it to you,” Asolima scolded me. Thankfully, when I slipped away from the table to fill my cup a third time, everyone let it pass.

Bingo is a primarily female activity, but no one raises an eyebrow when I show up anymore. Asolima let me play my own card, although she took over for me when I carried a sleeping Akanese home and then later when I did the same with Keleme.

I returned in time to tie for 3rd place in the jackpot round! My prize, which I donated back to my family since they had sponsored my bingo card, was $0.60. I think the jackpot round is so-called because of the large first place prize. Third place is menial; even more so when there’s a tie.

In the end, the best part of the visit was how un-spectacular it was. Nothing feels more welcoming than not having the red carpet rolled out. No one put on a show. It was all the hospitality with none of the fanfare. How nice.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.


This was a strange moment. Out of nowhere Akanese tosses a bunch of boxes of medicine at me. She then asks me to pop open one of the pills for her. Yeah, yeah. In America 6-year-olds are given medicine and everything else is kept out of their reach. Blah blah blah. She clearly knew the drill with the pills so I gave her one. Then she asked me for help with filling a spoon with a syrup of some kind. Yeah, sure. Whatever.

Akanese and I watched USA lose to Ghana in the World Cup this morning.

That's big baby Filipo (named for Phil 81) on the left and the baby's cousin (Apologies for not knowing her name) on the right.


Judgemental Jedi said...

Thats weak mate..get out to the village more frequently.

If time is running out and they're the one you have the most impact one.

Cale said...

Matt, if you were truly Samoan you would have gone ahead and referred to that baby as the fat one.

Timmi said...

How big is that glass in the hands of the baby (Keleme)?