Thursday, January 6, 2011

Living on top of a pedestal

Lately, I’ve been struggling with topics to write about. My life isn’t very exciting considering school is on break, and I’m living in the village again. With me being a palagi, on top of being a Peace Corps people in the village look at me with a different standard. I am given the utmost respect as well as held to a different standard. This has its definite pros and cons. I am always served food first, I am always given a seat on the bus or car, sometimes my family has done my laundry.  These are all well good, and at first I really enjoyed it. However, when you are trying to become equals with the people in your family as well as village it can make things a bit difficult. For one, you have no say in what you eat, and when people are constantly doing everything for you, you are left with nothing to do, and complete boredom tends to set in. When I walk around the village, and observe the people in my family their daily lives involve cooking for hours, doing the wash by hand, cutting the grass by hand, sweeping the house, feeding the animals etc. With me being palagi, and Peace Corps Samoans don’t want me doing any of these things. To them, I am showing them disrespect by attempting to do the chores with them. I am also making them look bad. Lately, it’s been a huge accomplishment for me that my family has started to allow me to make my own coffee, instead of them making it for me. Another hurtle that stands in the way is the issue of contributing food. In Samoa its customary for individuals and families to contribute food to other families or individuals. So common in fact that this act has its own word, “oso.” For example, any time a person goes into town they are expected to bring back a small oso, for their family or at the very least the children of the family. Whether it be, tea, sugar, lollies, pastries, etc. You are expected to bring something back. The problem I face is every time I try and give my family an oso they tell me not to. Now I know from living here for several months that what I am doing is the customary way, but because I am who I am they don’t want me to. To them, I am telling them they don’t have enough food. These little obstacles are making it difficult for me to find my way.  In the past, it’s been easier but because me finding my way relies on other people in my village, and how they perceive me, I’m having trouble.  I’m never going to be able to fully integrate if they keep putting me on this pedestal. I’ve been racking my brain for ideas on how to integrate better and here is what I’ve come up with. 1.) I officially now go to church (anyone who knows me, knows this is sooo out of my character) 2. Not only am I going to church, but I also joined the church choir. (Even MORE out of character, considering I can’t carry a tune to save my life) 3. Going to watch and play volleyball with people in the village. 4. Attending and participating in Sivas (dances) 5. Having others help me with my Samoan. With these acts I’m hoping to meet more people, and overtime become just another person living in the village.

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