copied from her facebook Notes without permission.
PS: I have removed names and deleted some things in her story to protect the identities of the victims.
It was about 25 inches high and the diameter of the thing resembled that of a say a moderately sized beach ball. That was the general specifications of the ' tuiga ' or the culutral head piece which my sister had spent a few months making from scratch in the basement of her home in Auckland.
The tuiga was destined for the head of our niece Naomi, who lives in Seattle, her mother, our fourth sister ordered the tuiga sometime back, to ensure that Naomi owns a part of our precious culture.
This of course was a great way to keep the Samoan ties alive, and to give our nieces and nephews who didn't have the chance to experience the Fa'asamoa like we did. Naturally I was impressed at the steps which Fotu and Di had taken to include Naomi in their passion for the Fa'asamoa.
My sense of admiration for the two was quickly lost when I was informed, some six hours before my flight to LA, that I would be transporting the precious cargo to the USA, to save on postal costs, and to ensure the safe delivery of the item. " Do you mind carrying it, it's not that heavy, " Fotu said, downplaying the enormity of the head gear and the task which I was urgently given
" You can post it to Seattle when you get there," she said, forgetting that LAX was the size of Salelologa, where walking to one terminal was the length of two villages in Savaii.
And what, may I add, do I get in return other than the warm feeling one gets for doing something good for others?
" I'll pay the postage. " Yay, that makes it all worthwhile :)
But in the end I agreed to take it, cause frankly I had no good reason to reject the transportation other than, well, being a difficult human being. So amid the celebrations of Maevas 5th birthday, Fotu snuck to the basement to bubble-wrap, tape, re-bubble-wrap, tape and re-bubble-wrap the head piece for the long 12 hour journey to LA.
Lan was driving me to the airport, so I took my bags to her car. Fotu ran out like a headless chicken, and in a panicky tone said: " Where's the tuiga, why aren't you taking it?" I'm like: " Mate, you go bring it to the car, so you expect me to haul it across the oceans and take it from the house into the car too?" But really I didn't know where the blumin thing was.
So she carried the precious box to the car, and Lan rearranged everything to fit the box safely. We said our goodbyes to the birthday girl, who looked sad that her favourite Aunty was leaving (ME!... in case you didn't get it.)
After 20 minutes in a vehicle with a 14 year old in a meltdown and the other teeny popper in an equal display of defiance, and Lan lecturing from Timbuktu to Falealupo, for, wait for it, not getting a cup of tea for the duration of the evening, choo hoo, we finally arrived.
As we offloaded the box, Lan noticed that the box Fotu used which was a proper shipping box, was upside down, the tuiga was indeed placed the wrong way down in the box, thus ' this way up ' was in all actuality, ' this way down ', so the nurse went nuts with her red marker, which so happened to be in the car, drawing red arrows up everywhere to ensure that no one reads the actual box instructions, but the imposed instructions by the Hamos who packaged the thing.
At check-in the airline chick asked: " What's in box? " Answer: " It's a head gear, I mean a head piece, a cultural head piece. " She looks at me like I was freaking nuts. " But it's very big." Yeah and your poin is? %&*%&, just check it through. I didn't say that of course, but was thinking it, when she decided to pass me on to the other section to scan the item.
At the scan section a young PI looking fella walks up to me and asks for my passport and boarding pass: " Madam, what's in the box." Answer: " It's a cultural head piece." He looks at me funny, then I asked: " Are you Samoan? " He said yes so I said: " O le tuiga. " He goes: " Oi ia, seki, fefe i le kele o lau kuiga. " Loverly, he was so accommodating he sought special stickers for the box and said he would ensure it's treated with care, and that he would personally deliver it to the cargo guys. "Fank it."
So that hurdle was over, the tuiga was in the belly of the plane.
Arriving in LA, the customs guy asks where i'm off to and I say, Barbados for a meeting, he starts cracking up loudly. "Meeting huh, let me guess, you have a bikini in the bag?" Floored I said: "As a matter of fact yes, but I really am going for a meeting."
He keeps at it: "Well that's a mighty convenient location for a meeting isn't it Miss."
$%^*, anyway all ended well and I quickly went to the luggage section to find the box. Nekminnit, nothing at the fragile section. It was placed somewhere else, phew!.
At the quarantine, the guy takes my passport and looks up: " You Samoan? You look too small to be Samoan. " Thanks #$^#^% just stamp the thing and let me through. I actually said: " Yes, it's quite unfortunate, I really wanted to be a rugby player, but my Dad's genes won over." He laughed for a while, then I asked if he was Samoan (he was not, but he was brown and towering above me). " No am not, why, do I look Samoan? " He asked. " Well, put it this way, you look more Samoan than me." He finally looked at my quarantine form.
" Miss, why did you check the plants and wildlife box? " Answer: " Well the cultural head piece in the box has feathers and dried plant products. " He directed me to agriculture, who were confused as to why feathers and plants would be on a head piece the size of a freaking box television st.
" I don't mind if you open it to see, " I offered, at this point too exhausted to explain that there were also mirrors, shells, human hair and other assortment of equally red flagged quarantine items in the same head pieace.
" Madam, are you staying in the US. "
Answer: " No, am transitting. "
She said: " That's fine then, because the item is not staying in the US, it's ok we don't have to check it."
If only she knew.
I'm finally cleared and I go outside and for a second I panic, what if Pka, my little cousin, is not there to pick up the piece. There was no way I was carrying the offending package to Barbados. Thankfully Pka appeared and I let go of the box. " It's light, just carry it, " I say to Pka, and within minutes my responsibility for the tuiga was gone, like that.
Hope it fits your pretty head Naomi ;)
Thank You Lagipoiva for your help, greatly appreciated. Enjoy the sunshine in Barbados.