Having been raised in the outbacks (my own euphemism for kuaback or kua) as a young boy, I did exactly what this young boy is doing in the picture!
Apparently, some things have not changed much in Samoa - the picture was taken last year (2009). The only thing in the picture that has changed since my days as a youngster, is the paved road. An unpaved road had its advantages, though sharp rocks and pebbles were problems as the heat is for the paved road. I so much love this picture - it brings back indelible memories of my life as a little boy in Samoa.
Now, let me reminisce through analyzing. I must say that I’m an expert and authority in explaining the picture (grin) - it’s certainly worth a thousand words or more. (Click on picture to enlarge.)
First of all, the kid. He is between ten and twelve years old. He truly represents my time as a youngster by his mode of dress - the ‘ie (lavalava). Most kids today in Samoa, even in the poorer villages, wear shorts. Our protagonist is not wearing any shorts otherwise he would have exposed them for show off and to impress his female peers. Funny but oftentimes true. Further, if he was wearing any shorts, he would have either draped his ‘ie around his neck and shoulders as a cushion for the pole (amo), or would have placed it on top of his load. In that way, he does not have to keep retying it. Though the ‘ie is convenient for the weather, it can also be a hindrance at times.
And being shirtless? Well, which Samoan-born-and-raised kid would not want to flaunt his tan and sculpted torso? They're products of his environment. Being shirtless also would facilitate the body's reception and absorption of Vitamin D (from sunlight) of which Samoans are never deficient. As a result they always have strong bones.
Next, the machete. What machete, where? It’s the black elongated piece (about 2 ft) in front of the load. What we do as boys is to chop the machete into the husk (outer part of the coconut) where it is easily clamped. When harvesting coconuts, that’s the safest place for the handiest of Samoa’s everyday tools. With the machete in its proper place, the hands are now free for switching the pole of coconuts between shoulders.
Then the sandals/flip flops. Sandals? He’s barefooted.
The sandals are part of the load too. There’s one right behind his back and another one further back. Well, why is he not wearing them? There are two possible reasons: First one, the straps may have broken yet still fixable, so he’s taking them home to be fixed. The second reason, is that it’s his way of caring for his sandals. Flip flops are a luxury and so children don’t want to overuse them, especially when they are needed at more important occasions like church and school.
There’s still another highly plausible reason. The sandals seem too big for him. Therefore, they may have been his mom’s or dad’s and he (boy) doesn’t want to dispense more wear and tear. The parent may have insisted that he take them especially to cover his feet against the hot road. As a Samoan boy, such a kind and loving gesture by a parent is often reciprocated in his own considerate way.
As one can imagine, life as a young boy in Samoa, at least during my day, seemed hard. But I’m glad that it was the way it was. It molded and refined me in many ways, acquiring values needed to handle life’s challenges in the process. Values such as hard work (galue), struggle (tauivi), patience (onosa’i), love (alofa), determination (filiga), endurance (tumau) , etc.,
Oscar Wilde once said that the only way to repeat one’s youth is to repeat one’s follies. For me, a picture like the one above surely repeats my youth at least in the keen and yearning recesses of my mind.
And as melancholy starts to set in, let me sign off .......for now.
Posted by LV