The Best of Times ...

...young and so in love

It was the seventies. It was the best of times for some sectors of American society - but also for one or two on one tiny semi-primitive island in the Pacific.

I graduated from high school (Samoa College - "Samco") and did not want to go anywhere but back to the village. I was already fed up with school, tired of being pinioned by rules and conformity dictated by society’s norms and expectations. I wanted simplicity. I wanted freedom, which for me, had much to do with living the simple life in the village. I developed a fervid repulsion for life in town (Apia). With its more modern institutions, the town for me was a symbol of subjection and control. In fact I missed half of my senior year having already developed a deep disgust, not so much for school, but for the so-called city life.

But while in the city, I learned about life in America - in delay mode because of distance - especially the counter cultures (hippie movement and others) from movies and from magazines. I remember reading and following the story of Patty Hearst, and fascinated by the pictures of the Vietnam War in Time and Newsweek magazines.

After graduation, I was not one of the smart or lucky ones to have been offered a scholarship for further studies overseas (not surprising for someone who spent half his senior year in the village). So I retreated to the village. I did not look for a job - against my Dad’s urging and persuasion. In a very real sense, I became a rebel just for the sake of being rebellious, and not for any clear defined cause or reason.

The hippie revolution in the US was waning but its far reaching ripples had already sparked some fledgling and nondescript offshoots among me and my peers. I let my hair grow long. It seemed that I wanted to imitate the popular culture of the time though there was something more profound that I was craving. And no, it’s not the destructive stuff like drugs, alcohol and tobacco. (They’re not profound in any way shape or form - well easy for me to say ..LOL!)  In fact, I never - at any point in my life - developed a liking or desire for any of them. Never had and never will. I’d die to know why because all my best friends and most of my peers smoked and drank. (Peer pressure revisited!) At Samco, I remember some of my friends snitching some hydrochloric acid from Chemistry period, mixed it with Coke and ...drank it! Oh, and in case you’re curious, sex among young people was a taboo and not as free as the hippies and Margaret Mead had premised it. LOL!

So after Samco, and back in the village, I did not mind tending our family’s taro and banana plantations up in the mountains. It was my main responsibility and I enjoyed it. There was something satiable and fulfilling in farming and in the woods. Personally, it was therapeutic for the fettered impact of the Apia years. If the village was a single dose of freedom medicine for me, the mountains certainly tripled it. It’s amazing that several years later, at the university, when I read Thoreau’s account of his time at Walden Pond, I was awe-inspired. I found in Thoreau - and Emerson - validation of my post high school years and the yearning for pastoral simplicity and the rustic village life.

And so in the village I lived my dream of being an emancipated young man - or so I thought, since I was still expected to care for the family farms. Young adult boys were also under strict village council rules governing outside influences of the hippie culture especially long hair. To this day, I still do not know why my dad (our family chief) was not penalized for my afro. My friends’ dads were all fined for their sons’ hippie afros. I suspect that by that time I was already back in town working, and either I was always absent from the village or the chiefs were obsequious to me - especially when they needed someone to help with some of their transactions in town like vouching for them as recipients of remittances.

I had already met Dearie at the time; we met while we were both in high school. She attended Church College in town too. Our villages are about three miles apart so we were able to see each other from time to time. We would meet at dances and at my rugby games where she would bring oranges and drinks. We were married and I joined the LDS Church of which she was a member. I loved attending church with her (picture). Those were some of the best times of our lives; it has been a dream ever since.

No comments:

Post a Comment