Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Two Tins of Pisupo
Today we went back to Vaovai and Poutasi village. We drove inland on a rocky dirt track to meet with several families who have relocated and are slowly rebuilding. We met a man along the road, heading for the plantation with a basket of popo on his shoulder. He was happy to speak with us but the rain sent us scooting for shelter into the nearest house. Another tsunami survivor family. They graciously welcomed us in. The head of the home is an older gentleman in a wheelchair. His daughter and grandbaby died in Vaovai. He was not there on tsunami day because he had spent the night at their plantation house. He is still somewhat bemused as to how and why his daughter died.
"She was a very strong woman. Her husband is a carpenter and he's always away in Apia doing jobs so she looked after the family by herself. She would do the plantation and go fishing. She was a very good swimmer. She wasnt big and fat and slow like lots of other women...I dont know how she couldnt survive the tsunami..."
During the conversation, he sends his grandson to the store to buy two cans of pisupo. We are served a sumptuous lunch - rice, pisupo, tuna, sweet hot tea. The family sits there and watches us eat. I feel terrible. We have come to gather stories from people who lost everything and they are feeding us the very best. We apologetically explain that we cant drink the tea. "We are Mormons..." The man laughs. He jokes "Dont worry, I wont tell on you...see, look at our roof? You are sitting under it and God cant tell if you have some tea today!" Then he sends his grandson back to the store. To buy large bottles of coke for us instead. I feel more terrible. We eat. I havent had pisupo for about three years now...all that trying to be low-fat and healthy you know. But it would be even more terrible if I didnt eat. They bring bowls of water for us to wash our hands. We depart well-fed. With many good wishes and blessings, hopes for our work to go well this day.
Another dirt road. Another interview. This time with several men resting in the shade beside cut trees. Yes they were in the tsunami. Yes their houses were ruined. But life is good. Nobody in their family died. The main speaker - an elderly man in his sixties - has 40 head of cattle which he points out proudly. A wriggly house in the bush.They get us fresh niu to drink. And give us another basket of niu to take with us. "Better than spring water! You take these to keep you refreshed during your work. "
We drive back to town. Humbled. Grateful. For Samoan hospitality. Generousity amidst devastation. For the kindness and courtesy of strangers. We ask a lot of people as we visit. Please welcome us into your home. Please share your tsunami story. Please allow us to see your loss. Please let us witness your attempts to rebuild. Time and again, they do. With grace. With warmth. With patience. And sometimes, with pisupo.