As several visitors have pointed out in the Guest Contributor series, Samoa has relatively few conspicuous homeless. The streets of Apia are mostly empty at night, and those that are out tend to keep to themselves. Panhandling is, for the most part, limited to young children around town during daylight hours singing the unapologetically direct, “Ska kupe.”
“Ska kupe” is a slang contraction of the phrase “Aumai se tā tupe,” which technically translates to “Give me our money”—How beautifully collectivist is that? “You know that money in your wallet that is both yours and mine? Give it to me”—but in the modern lexicon essentially means, “Give me some money.”
The first time I was ska kuped was shortly after I moved in walking back to town from Ming and Hana’s Supermarket. Two children walking toward me, a girl no older than 7 and her younger brother. On seeing me, the girl stopped, pulled the boy back, and whispered in his ear. When she let go, he trudged right up to me, and with as much assurance as I’ve ever seen, he stuck out an open-faced palm and commanded, “Ska kupe!”
Ska is used with other objects, of course. It’s not uncommon to hear teachers to call out to students during Interval, “Ska tea!” When I was in the front office today, I used “Ska flash drive” talking to the librarian.
Still, the brash entitled demand of Ska kupe is not lost on Samoans. Consider the following situation. In Samoa, rather than accepting gifts and money and drinks from your friends on your birthday, it’s more traditional to buy drinks and food for others. So earlier this year, after computer class, one of my year 13s revealed it was Luana’s birthday. So without missing a beat, I turned to Luana and said, “Ska kupe.” The class seemed wholly entertained.
Tomorrow’s Cultural Exploration: Honking.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
These are the kids from PCV Leah's school on the south side of the island. None of them gave me a ska kupe.
The view from behind the camcorder.