A 3-In-1 Update

Gratitude Posts #5 – #7

I got lazy and missed updates for Sunday and Monday so today’s update comes in three parts to cover today and the two days that I missed.

family transportI’m grateful for the various modes of transportation that I have relied on throughout my life. From the sometimes showy taxi’s and buses of Samoa to the trains, subways and personal vehicles I use on any given day, each of these are a necessity for me and the various activities and responsibilities that I have to attend to day in and day out. As much as I often loathed queuing up and boarding the early morning ferry between Upolu and Savaii, there was something nostalgic about ocean spray in my face and the unpredictable rhythm of the waves.

And what would we do without airplanes? My first ever experience traveling aboard a plane was a child when we made our very first trip to Hawaii and then eventually to Samoa. I recall the exhilirating rush of being launched into the atmosphere, the clinking of glasses as the flight attendants served up drinks and an inflight meal. I remember the hot, heavy air of Samoa when we arrived at our final destination at Faleolo and the cabin door was flung open to the sights and sounds of an unfamiliar, inviting island paradise.

I’ve been fortunate to spend much of my time traveling abroad and seeing the different ways that transportation has been a blessing to me and to others. I’m grateful for modern transportation, for those who work in the travel or services industries as well as manufacturers of automobiles – I love my truck and cars!

Good shoes
I’m grateful for transporation because without it I’d be walking all over God’s green earth and it would take me a lot longer to get anywhere without it. But if I had to, I would and I have. And walking is a lot easier when you have a good pair of shoes.

imelda marcos shoes

Imelda Marcos’ three thousand pairs of shoes are now housed in a Philippine museum

This may sound trivial to those who have dozens, maybe even hundreds of pairs of shoes. I recall a story as a youth about the wife of a former Phillipine President who had so many shoes that there were closets and sheds dedicated to housing her shoes. I remember thinking how utterly absurd this seemed because all I had at the time was a pair of worn basketball shoes, a single pair of dress shoes that were reserved for Sunday worship and my flip flops which were used for everything except church and basketball!

If you’re a Samoan kid, your flip-flops (se’evae tosotoso) are your best friend, your prized possession and sometimes even a status symbol. They came in all shapes, sizes and colors but no matter how large you wrote your name on them, if you lost sight of them for a split second you’ve lost them forever.

These days a pair of shoes can be bought with as little as $10-$15 or as much as hundreds of dollars. I’m more of a function not fashion guy so when I buy a pair of shoes it’s an investment not a fad. This goes back to my days in Samoa when you cherished the thin layers of rubber between the soles of your feet and the blacktop, the concrete, the mud and whatever else you were tracking around on the bottom of your shoes. I’ve learned to be grateful for a good pair of shoes because there are some who have never worn any their entire life.

The Cleaning Lady
I have a soft spot in my heart for the cleaning lady. I don’t know her name but I do know that she takes a lot of pride in her work. I do my best to keep my area at work clean because there was a time when my parents subsidized their income by cleaning office buildings when we were growing up. I watched as they went from their full-time jobs to their part time jobs as office cleaners, sometimes working late into the night in order to make sure that we were provided for and that there was always a roof overhead.

cleaning lady 1I don’t know the cleaning lady’s story but if I were to guess, she’s doing whatever it takes to provide for her family. I’m guessing that there are children who depend on her to bring home an income so that they can wear warm clothes in the winter or have a good meal while they are studying or participating in their extra curricular activities.

The cleaning lady, for me, is a symbol of endurance, perseverance and humility. While we arrive at our desks and log on to our computers, she is scrubbing, cleaning and vacummuing. While we complain about trivial things like the fluctuating temperature in the office and the slow Internet access, she is hauling off our trash to the dumpster and cleaning the toilets and spills we make in the break room. She does this quietly and without and audible complaint because she knows she needs this job to keep the lights on at home.

I’m grateful to my parents who made the same sacrifices for me and my siblings. I’m grateful to the nameless cleaning lady who reminds me daily through her actions that I am blessed and very fortunate to be living a dream.

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Saturday, oh wondrous Saturday

Gratitude Post #4

Matuas win 2017

Quinn and teammate TJ Ragigia celebrating their championship

I live for Saturday. Monday through Friday I’m working, coaching, volunteering, cleaning and trying to squeeze as much as I can to make sure that Saturday is a day that I can dedicate to my family. There are times when Saturday becomes the busiest day of the week for us. But it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as we’re doing it together, it’s still a special day for us.

IMG_1621_smallToday for example, I was up early to assist our State Rugby Organization run a couple of rugby clinics before spending the next two hours watching our youngest son Quinn win a football championship against a much bigger, more aggressive opponent. He had a great game, and even though the weather took a turn for the worst, we enjoyed watching him and his team play their hearts out.

On occasion, Saturday provides us with an opportunity to have dinner with all of our boys. As the days, weeks and years pass us by we realize that these opportunities are becoming rare. So we savor these moments and drink in the rehashing of stories from the past week and interesting things that happened.

I’m grateful for Saturday’s – they give me a moment to catch my breath and spend time with the people I love most.

Matuas 4 Nov 2017

Some of the family enjoying a Saturday evening dinner

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I need a fire, a pot and a good story

Gratitude Post #3

Samoa 2017a

The above picture was taken on my most recent trip back to Samoa two months ago. I took the picture to remind me of where I came from and where I still am in my head and in my heart in so many ways. This scenario and many more like it are a constant reminder to me that no matter where I go in the world and no matter what successes I enjoy in life, I must always remember where I come from and the people like my fore-bearers who struggle to scratch together a living every single day.

I’ve written extensively about my experiences in Samoa as a youth and the things that helped shape me as a person. I often reflect on my experiences in Samoa because I recognized immediately, even as a young man, that even though our family didn’t have much, we still lived a relative life of priviledge and comfort. Even though we cooked over an open fire and there were not a lot of comforts and amenities in the villages, I knew that my time in Samoa would be short and that I’d eventually return to the United States where hot water, a soft bed and the knowledge that just about anything you ever need or want is always within reach.

There is a misconception that everyone in Samoa is living in abject poverty; that the people there are unhappy and that they are living under an oppressive regime. That is hardly the truth. A large portion of the population is living comfortably and Samoa is enjoying its best years of prosperity. The people, for the most part are happy and there are very few who are not content with their situation. Of course, everyone longs for a few extra dollars in the bank but that could be said of everyone living in the U.S.A., Australia, the U.K. and other developed nations. But people in Samoa also live humbly, they are the salt of the earth and for the most part they are grateful for what they have and do their best with what little they have.

Samoa 2017b

Niko, kitchen boss, working on some palusami

Which brings me back to the pot and the open fire. My family back in Samoa still cooks over an open fire occasionally because they enjoy the process – it is what they know. They are using natural resources rather than over extending themselves by using up precious, limited cash resources to live luxuriously. Instead, the gas stoves often go untouched and they still use traditional methods to cook their meals. It’s been that way for us for as long as I can remember and I’ve encouraged the younger generations inhabiting our familial lands to do the same. Never abandon traditional methods or practices for the sake of convenience because convenience comes with its own price. And anyone who has eaten food straight from the ‘umu or over an open flame will tell you that it tastes so much better than food cooked on an electric or gas stove.

While in Samoa I learned how to cook taro, breadfruit, green bananas, fish, poultry, beef, pork and traditional Samoan dishes from my cousins, uncles aunts and my own parents using customary techniques passed down from generation to generation. We spent countless hours stoking the coconut husk fires as the day turned into dusk. We shared a number of laughs and daily anecdotes that still resonate today, as our eyes teared up from the smoke and our glee from a story well told as our guffaws filled the cool evening air. I miss the camaraderie of those days and the lessons I learned while sitting in a thatched hut near a hearth, cooking a meal for a loving, patient and grateful family.

Samoa 2017c

Hangin with the boys in the tunoa

I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to learn how to cook in a humble hut on a beautiful tropical island. I’m grateful for the humble lessons I learned from humble people. I’m grateful that I learned to love the traditional foods of Samoa. Palusami is my weakness!

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