Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More observations on the kids

I think the first word Samoan children learn is aua, or don’t. I have heard kids who can barely speak saying aua like it rolls naturally off their tongue and they have been saying it forever. They hear this word 50 times a day at least and usually for just being a kid and exploring their world. Oh well, that’s just the way it is. But it is funny to hear really young kids saying aua to the older ones like they own the world. Kids seem to like to fai mea’ai or make food. They play this game where they gather some leaves, put sand or rocks on the leaf, and then pretend to eat the food. It is really funny to hear the kids say fai mea’ai and then proceed to gather leaves and rocks. It is no different from what palagi kids do, except Samoan kids have no Easy Bake Oven or plastic kitchen complete with plastic eggs and bacon. In Samoa your kitchen is outdoors, your oven (umu) is made with hot rocks, and your plate is a leaf (at least for to’ona’i, for other meals usually plates are involved). There is a little girl in my village whose middle name must be Trouble. When this child smiles, you can tell she is up to no good and she likes it that way. The adults call her “o le itu” or the devil, which sounds really cruel, but is really funny in actuality. She is a just full of energy and likes to push the envelope. One thing I hate seeing is the kids being hit. They get smacked a lot, and usually pretty hard. I especially hate it when a kid does something, usually it is nothing really terrible just a kid being a kid, and an adult hits the kid for it, causing the kid to cry, and the kid gets hit more until he or she stops crying. How hitting a kid is going to make them stop crying I will never understand. While in my training village I did hear a kid being beaten with a broom and while in another village I saw a kid being beaten with a broom. This never gets easier to witness. I don’t see much of that happening here in my current village, but I know there is a lot I don’t see. I have heard a few bouts of smacks and I did see one kid get hit with a belt, and luckily these episodes don’t go on for long because I am always tempted to intercede even if it may not be my place to do so. There is never a situation where hitting a child is ok, no matter what he or she has done. While I was hanging out with the women, we heard a scuffle and the sounds of someone being hit. From what I could gather from the women who went to stop it was someone was smacking a kid around. The kid must have been a teenager though because we heard no crying, only the sound of someone hitting. Both the belt and the above beating occurred in the same day, which was rough on me. I never like to see or hear these things. Kids are just kids and where palagi kids have outlets for their energy and smarts, Samoan kids do not. There are no soccer leagues or little league baseball. No playgrounds with rock climbing walls, ropes, or slides (best we have here are swings, which are at my house and the adults don’t really like them coming over to use them, which kid of defeats the purpose of having them). Kids here are not kids for long. They help cook, clean the house, and take care of the little kids. There is very little time for the kids to go play with friends, they have chores to do. I see kids who are only 10 or 12 going off to the plantation to fai popo or collect coconuts. The kids work hard here and it is a shame they have no outlet for fun. The boys play rugby in the evenings before the sun goes down, but that is about all there is to do here on the south side.

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