I remember as a kid thinking how unfair it was that us kids were always being told (well we felt like we were always being told) to do feau / household chores, while our palagi friends were playing outside.
“O loa fufulu ipu ma kiligi faalelei le umu kuka (Wash the dishes and clean the kitchen properly)… Alu kaukau le kagamea (hang up the washing)… Vacuum akoa le fale, ma lalo moega ma gofoa!” (Vacuum the whole house including under the beds and sofas).
And whenever we would wear shoes in the house, leave plates on the table, put our feet on the couch our mum would always say “O oe se palagi?”
As a kid I did wish I was a palagi, so I didn’t have to do so many feaus. (Side note: An older cousin hated how us younger Samoans added an “s” to Samoan words to pluralise it, or “ing” for tense purposes. But that’s another story!) The life of a palagi kid, to my mind back then, was the good life, the easy life. No chores, no hidings, no Sunday School, no faalavelaves. Everything seemed nicer when I went over to my palagi friends’ houses. Nicer house, nicer furniture, heaps of food, heaps of toys and ’spare’ rooms even.
But as I grew up I noticed that various palagi friends never knew how to cook, or had never washed dishes (they had a dishwasher), or had no idea on how to iron a shirt. I realised we had been taught valuable skills when we were younger. Feeding the multitudes with whatever’s in the cupboards is no easy feat.
Later I realised my palagi friends wanting to come over to my house a lot more often.
“Your mum makes yum as koko rice (koko alaisa).” “Are you and your cousins playing touch at the park today?” “When’s your church going on that beach trip?” “Can I come camping with you guys this Easter?”
We may not have had the flash toys or the most luxurious furniture, but we did have family.
I caught my sister moaning about having to go to my grandma’s to fofo / massage her neck, back and arms. Mum would respond “Fai feau a le loomakua, e maua ai kou maguia” (Go do your grandma’s chores, and you will be blessed). And that’s the crux of it. Doing the chores, learning the basics has been a blessing. And it turns out the life we lived as kids were so full of blessings that palagi friends wanted to share in it too.
Lastly, as I watch my sister fofo my grandma’s frail frame, muttering away blessings in between her shrieks of pain, I realise we are truly blessed. We have our youthfulness, our strength, our eyesight and hearing. We have a world to discover, and a past to create. We have a blessed future…