Since I graduated from high school in 1988 and left for college, I've only been home three times. The first time in 1991, the second in 1996, and most recently in 2008. When I went home in 1996, my younger sister was graduating from high school. A male cousin, who was also graduating, was like my sister's twin. These two were born five months apart and were inseparable growing up. My uncle named them 'the monsters' because they were always causing trouble.
I was already married when I went home in 1996 and I had a different mindset. On my 1991 visit, I wanted to be the social butterfly and see all of my friends, meet new people, etc. This time around I just wanted to see my family and some close friends. Basically, I didn't want to prove my 'Samoan-ness' to anyone. I just wanted to be me.
I was in rare form during that visit. I wore a long dress and had my hair up in a bun at the graduation so my family kept calling me 'faletua' (minister's wife). Of course my husband's being half Tongan AND Mormon made that comment even more funny to them. At the graduation dinner, my sister and cousin had to stand up and say a few words. My cousin, with all of his White Sunday training, gave a speech in Samoan that would put many orators to shame. My poor younger sister had to follow this speech and since she is not a trained public speaker, she stumbled through her thank you's. What did I do to support her? I call out at the end of her speech, "Ia manuia outou matua, ae ola matou fanau, soifua". This was followed with a roar of laughter and many "Malo, Missy's". Sure, I proved my 'Samoan-ness' but at the expense and ridicule of my younger sister. I still feel like a total jerk! (By the way, the phrase I used was from our old White Sunday days where we would always end our church presentation with that particular phrase which basically means 'Good health and life to you, our elders, now us young folk are leaving, peace and love'.)
As if my catch phrase wasn't bad enough, others began feeling the burn of my 'Samoan-ness'. Afakasi? Where?
The big graduation party was on Saturday and there was a lot of preparation that needed to be done. My older sister, whom we refer to as 'Mafa Stewart', is very crafty and came up with the idea of a ma'ilo at each table for the party snacks. One of my cousins didn't know how to make a ma'ilo but I did. Guess who was teased by all of the aunties the rest of the day because the 'Tongan' girl had to teach him how to make a ma'ilo. Even my sisters were yelled at because they were living in Samoa and their sister from the states knew more Samoan stuff than they did. Although I don't know think weaving a plate out of coconut leaves constitutes as knowing more.
After the graduation party, my brothers, cousins, and I went to a nightclub. I spent the rest of the night explaining to dance partners; Yes, I live in the states; No, I'm not palagi, I'm Samoan; Yes, I was born and raised in Samoa. Again, the entire pedigree laid out to prove my 'Samoan-ness'.
The next week my sisters, a female cousin, and I went back to that same club and got kicked out because my younger sister was under-age. My older sister went off on the bouncer telling him there were several under-aged patrons in the club and why wasn't he kicking them out, did he know who we were, and he was just picking on us because we're afakasi. (Yes, she went there.) We went home very annoyed and, of course, all the male family members just laughed. So much for our ladies night out and our Samoan influence.
My final night in Samoa we had a family prayer. We had to look up a Bible verse in the Samoan Tusi Pa'ia and I found the verse before my cousin. That set off a whole new round of teasing because the 'Samoan' girl (Finally!) could navigate her way through the Samoan Bible. It was very difficult saying goodbye to my family, especially when they kept telling me to stay home. Of course it's hard to leave the people who love you the most and despite all of the teasing, could care less that you're afakasi. To them, you're aiga and that's all that matters.