Thursday, December 10, 2015

Inhaling Resilience in Samoa

  • Resilience  
  • noun
    1.  the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. (like a faga meme'i really:)
    2.  ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
    At the end of any tragedy, you will hear reporters speak about the resilience of the people, their ability to bounce back and rebuild, restart their lives, etc.
    Whenever I think of resilience, I think back to the aftermath of Cyclone Ofa and seeing villagers from Falealupo regrouping and working tirelessly to protect their families, before outside help arrived. I also think of the families in Papa Sataua who built rocky foundations into the hill so that when Cyclone Val struck the following hill, they had cover.  
    I was, just a newborn of course but my memories of this time was that: people responded immediately and took ownership of the situation.
    It is this resilience which also allows people to remain in their place of origin, despite the challenges.
    Today, one of the catchphrases by so called palagi experts is resilience. 
    But here's something I believe:
    It difficult to teach resilience to people who have not really experienced a traumatic event or experience, or challenging situation. You can learn the definition, run a workshop and get case studies together.
    But, resilience truly kicks in when we are forced to take control in a desperate situation, during or after the fact, with very little or no intervention at all.
    ...but, next week, I will form part of a group teaching activities and I just realised it included resilience *gag*

    Funniest part is this, ....the people running the event were allocating who covers what and the leader asked if I could cover  resilience because it was powerful, and I sat there thinking:
    oooferkomz, I survived 3 cyclones, countless trips on the Salafai on stormy days, 2 car crashes, Omega's cooking, walking the paepae maa in lalovaea on stilettos at midnight, the falekua's salu lima,  a tsunami and a loaded gun in my living room, we inhaled resilience.

     That's what I was thinking, what I said instead is, "Okay"
    So, while we're at it, let me tell you a story, it's like a fagogos except it's real, go right ahead and laugh about it but don't laugh in my face when we meet, kefs:
    Resilience in Lalovaea
    When we were young, we all went to school in Fusi (Safotulafai) - all of us until my eldest brother Kilisi made it to SamCo and off he went.
    At lunchtime, someone from home would come with a Tupperware of sandwiches or taro and chopseuy or whatever was there for lunch. There was usually 7 of us, unless someone had moved onto Logo College up the road.
    Food was therefore, there most of the time. There was the odd day when someone doesn't show up with the tupperware but we were 'resilient' and sometimes walked to our rellies begging for food, much to our families embarrassment. More often than not, our friends or other children will also hang around for the Tupperware to arrive. 

    Other days, we'd be  given .50cents each to spend. 

    Let me say this, you get fuckall with that .50cents. 

    But, if you pool all our coins together, we could get something good so we'll starve during lunch break, but buy a bottle of coke and lollies after school  aaaand then walk home (since the busfare has been spent too). 

    My grandmother Faleasiu Liki is from Fusi, so walking home is another food journey. We get stopped by family who will tell us off for walking home and then feed us ulu and miki or elei or whatever is there.

    Food was always there.

    Then, one by one, we started moving to Apia to do the rest of our high school and my cousins went off to Seattle, (broke my heart when they left but that's another post).
    Now, going to Apia for someone from Savaii is a big deal. But going for us was different.
    We lived at the family home in Lalovaea, but, without family.
    Let me tell you this, I realised then that I. Was. Poor. And. Hungry.
    The struggle was real without having family and without that Tupperware showing up.
    We had to learn to make that pusa elegi last the month. choooohooooo.
    I think back now and realise, I truly learnt what resilience was in Lalovaea.
    While we, siblings laugh about that struggle now, I sometimes think back to that time and remember that it was in that desperation that I found myself focussed and clear about what I wanted in life.
    It was so damned clear.
    I wanted so desperately to be able to fend for myself, without having to rely on others.
    I desperately wanted to earn my own living and be able to afford things that I wanted.
    But more of all, I wanted to get the hell out of a desperate hopeless situation.
    The only way we knew was through studying and getting a scholarship (to get a degree).
    So while this is turning into a blaaaali testimonial, I just wanted to bring it back to the initial topic,
    Resilience for me was the ability to survive a desperate situation and believing that there is hope somewhere, somehow. I just had to muster the tough times and all will be well in the universe.
    I want my children to know struggle. I want them to inhale resilience.