Sunday, June 26, 2011

Being Samoan (Whatever That Means)

I've heard a lot of times people telling me I don't seem very Samoan. They sound very surprised when I tell them that both my parents were born and raised in Samoa. And that I, too, was born in Samoa and moved to NZ in 2003.

- My guess is that I "don't seem Samoan" because I don't call my friends "use" (pronouced "oos" which is derived from the Samoan word "uso" meaning sibling of the same sex but people just use it as "buddy" or "pal").
- Or maybe it's 'cos I pronounce my P and B with distinction.
- Or because I don't wear an ie lavalava every season of the year - through hail or storm.
- Or because I have a decent number of white and other non-Samoan friends.
- Because I don't speak it. Well, I can sort of still speak in Samoan, but I have like, an eight-year-old Samoan vocabulary so it's a bit sketchy and I'm not confident in conversing in Samoan.

When I hear Samoans at school talking to each other in our language, I wish I could somehow insert myself into their conversation and be part of their group if only for a while. Just to let them know I'm one of them.

Generally, Samoans are associated with domestic violence, fresh-ness, unintelligence, poverty and a whole lot of negative stuff. Esp. the Samoans living in South Auckland. The thing is (and I'm ashamed to say), that's what I associate Samoans with too. I know, I know. But it's true.

Is that why I'm so drawn to non-Samoan company? Why I thrive in trying to improve my English. Thinking that if I try hard enough, I'll become less and less Samoan and be perceived in a brighter light. Fake it till I make it. Writing this makes me feel so stupid and is a sort of wake up call.

The thing is, singing Samoan hymns with my family brings this fuzzy, warm feeling. A feeling of home. And wearing a puletasi makes me feel like an Island Princess. Sitting at the back of the pick-up truck on the way to Lalomanu and waving to local villagers who live in the middle of nowhere is so fun. I miss being able to just Siva Samoa on demand to any Samoan song.

What I don't want to do is try to live up to a standard that says I have to do "this-and-that" or certain traditions to qualify as a "real" Samoan. I don't want to feel less of a Samoan because I don't act or talk exactly like the Samoans who've never left Samoa. But I do want to get in touch with the Samoan aspects of my life and get into it more. Time to badger my mum about my queries.


(I re-read this post just before publishing and it's a bit disoriented. But I'm gonna post it before I chicken-out and decide against it).

2 comments:

  1. I love the honesty and insight in this post. Im glad you did decide to go ahead and post - i wish i had the courage more often to write with more honesty in my own blog. I too associate being Samoan in NZ with all those negative things. ( cringe cringe) Its been a difficult thing for me to adjust since moving here 6 months ago. Being Samoan in Samoa can be very diff from being a Samoan in NZ. Still finding my way. And my voice.
    Thanks for a great post.

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  2. Ehhhh whatever...

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