Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Ain't My First Rodeo

“I was sitting at the bus stop, waiting with 5 or 6 other people, and I was clipping my fingernails. That was when I knew I’d finally become a bus rider,” my friend Liam told me once. After we’d lived in San Francisco and ridden the public transportation system Muni daily for a substantial amount of time, a couple of us hopped on BART, and we were amazed by its posh decor. By Muni standards, BART was built for a king, what with its cushions, carpeting, and capaciousness. “These people are spoiled,” said Liam.

Cut to yesterday’s bus ride to the south side of the island. I got on the rickety wooden-roofed bus at 3:40 p.m. With an nebulous departure time, I took out my book and read to pass the time. Usually by Friday afternoon I’ve worked up a lot of sleep debt, and after 5 or 10 pages, I hit a wall. Since buses here tend to be packed to the gills with people, and since the hard wooden benches have seatbacks that are only about 8 inches high, sleeping on the bus in Samoa can be difficult. I chose to fold myself at the waist and fell asleep resting with my head on my own lap. This takes practice; I don’t think I could have done this when I first arrived in Samoa.

I’m guessing I slept in this position for roughly 25 minutes. I woke up when some kid tumbled past me. Not too long after I awoke, the bus driver started the bus’s engine, and a slew of stragglers got on.

Once the seats are filled on the bus, the common practice is to si’i, people sit on other people’s lap. So as a bunch of guys boarded, the girl across from me asked if I would be willing to have someone sit on my lap. I nodded and told her that was fine.

She handed the child sitting on her lap to the woman next to her, and then got up and sat on my lap. I should note this is slightly unusual. For the most part, unless a male and female know each other—usually family members of some sort—women sit on other women and men sit on other men. So there was a little bit of social rule-breaking here.

In any case, she sat down on my lap and then turned to me. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Lē afaina.” No problem.

Very slowly she swiveled her head to look at me. “Have you spoken Samoan the whole time?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“How long have you lived here?” she asked.

“Almost two years.”

“Two years?!”

Yeah, lady. I just folded myself like a map and took a 20 minute nap in the middle of a crowded bus. That’s an advanced skill. It’s not nail clipping, but it’s proof that I’m a bus rider.

I hope you’re well. Pictures from the village below.

Me and the baby. New Facebook photo?

Akanese (in the middle) and friends.

It's hard to tell from this picture, but Akanese is playing jacks with these small rocks.

Keleme again.


Rachael said...

definitely facebook worthy that kid is adorable.

Unknown said...

I love the way you put an island background on your blog title. Care to teach me? :)