Down in the Boondocks ("Kua")

A Christmas story in Samoa Planet on which I commented.

Excerpts from the story 

The air-condition dial in the office is set at 24 degrees centigrade, but on a very hot day like today, you can feel the blistering heat penetrating ever so quietly through the massive window pane overlooking the Savalalo Flea Market. The thickly-pleated curtains provide a buffer between the humidity on the outside and the comforts of an air conditioned office on the inside. It is only then that one muses over the spoils of corporate existence that seems so far removed from the huff and buff of the Fish Market next door or the smoke filled bus depot alive with commuters going about their usual daily grind.

I peel back the curtains to take a peek at the crowd outside and witness a fracas in the car park of what appears to be two young girls pulling at each other’s hair. What is more noticeable though is that one of them is wearing a Santa hat which seems to stay firmly attached amidst their energetic tug-of-war. Santa Hat!

My forehead cringes into thin layers of fatty tissues as I ponder the significance of it all which reminds me it is Christmas this week. I am curious to find out what the young ladies are fighting over and since I haven’t taken my afternoon tea break, I decide to wander over to the car park and have a bit of a nosey around.... I lean over the counter and ask the shopkeeper about the fight and was the least amazed at how fast the news travels in this small community of ours.

According to her husband who witnessed the fight up close, the two cousins are from ‘kua’ and they were arguing over the Christmas hat.

The two young ladies fighting over a Christmas hat never doubted for one moment, that the red woolen hat with blinking neon lights and probably made in China, was worth fighting for.

But is Christmas what it’s supposed to be anymore? Is it worth grovelling over? Is the three tala Christmas hat worth the hair pulling and the tears?

For the two young ladies who fought over the Christmas hat, I am sure that by the time they get on the bus on the way home at the end of the day, they would have experienced the ups and downs of Christmas through their own eyes – while getting caught up in the frenzy of pre-Christmas Apia. Hopefully they would have kissed and made up and learn to share their Christmas Hat with blinking neon lights on Christmas Day.  -- (Emphases mine)

My Comment:
  1. Kalofa e, i gai o’u kasegi mai kua..hahahaaa!
    I couldn’t help but mull the significance and/or implication of “kua” in the story. I think I know, having been born and raised in “kua” myself.
    Unless the word has gone through amelioration, it still carries the stigma that it had when I was growing up. For those not in the know, “kua” (kooh-ah) is a Samoan word that means “outback”, “back country” etc. It connotes backwardness, from the bush, boonies, destitution, inferiority, etc. I believe this is how kua is used in the story – intentional or not. The poor and backward context is compounded and made more compelling by the vivid, offsetting and contrasting description of the city/town (Apia) and the rich lifestyle of “corporate existence” (air-conditioned office, massive window panes, thickly-pleated curtains, afternoon tea break, etc.). If that’s not enough, the fact that the ladies were fighting over a “three tala Christmas hat” which was “probably made in China” amplifies the stigma of the poor and penniless people of “kua” fighting over cheap stuff.
    Tourism may help in ameliorating the word (from a pejorative to an approbative) through its association with modern resorts, beautiful beaches and accommodations in the villages (kua). However, the insinuations such as those in the story only serve to rekindle and resurrect the stigma.
    What would have made the story a lot more profound, beautiful, more meaningful and “Christmassy”, however, would be a redemption (pun intended) of the kua ladies. This can be done by mentioning the rustic, poor, humble, lowly and inferior conditions in which the Savior was born, and then liken those to the similar conditions in kua – poor, inferior, lowly and humble. Jesus may very well have been born in “kua” in other words.
    And as for me, even while I now live in the richest country in the world, I still, personally, would rather spend Christmas in the simple, lowly, poor, rustic village in kua. And definitely not in Apia either.
    … ia fai aku ai fo’i!
  2. Back in the 70's/80's pickup trucks were a common mode of transportation to town from the villages on Upolu. On Fridays, especially, after work, many of these pickup trucks, overloaded with students and villagers who work in town, would leave Apia on their way to kua (to Aleipata, for example, where I'm from) and as we passed the town dwellers, they would call out "Kofa oukou i kua!" (Goodbye to you from kua) often in teasing and mocking manner. Kua is also a variant of "kuapeki" (kuaback) which carries the same stigma of being poor and backwards. If you're a "kuaback" you're inferior. Today, I hear that the tables have turned (albeit slightly) as the townspeople are now attracted to - and frequenting - the beaches and resorts in the villages (e.g. Lalomanu) picknicking and spending their weekends in kua. Notwithstanding, I think the stigma still exists to some degree. Tourism, again, plays a role in this marginal reversal. 
    Here's a verse from the popular song (re: post title) that refers to the same kua stigma:
    Down in the boondocks, down in the boondocks
    People put me down 'cause that's the side of town I was born in
    I love her, she loves me but I don't fit her society
    Lord have mercy on the boy from down in the boondocks

    Hence, Lord have mercy on the girls from kua who fought over the Christmas hat..... LOL!!

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