This photo (left), taken by my cousin Alyn during his most recent trip to Samoa with his lovely wife Kimberlee stirred up memories of my youth on the island of Upolu. I have no clue who this tattooed man in the bright construction-orange lavalava is or how he managed to find an equally vivid shirt of the same hue, both of which he has neglected to use to adequately cover his noticeable girth.
I won’t even pretend that I can comprehend the amount of patience it must take to sit in the market all day trying to hawk fresh produce to passersby before the lettuce and pineapples are carried away by flies. After all, I sit in an air conditioned room all day staring at a computer screen trying to come up with something clever to say, all the while wondering what dinner Little Caesar’s or his neighbor the McDonald’s are going to entice me to buy for the evening meal.
There is at least one thing I do know that me and my inked-up, orange clad ‘friend‘ have in common. At the end of each day, no matter what walk of life leads you from your front door to the world and back again, there is one thing that easily initiates conversation; one thing that invigorates your senses, eases your mind and sparks flights of fancy; it is the equivalent of German chocolate, French pastries and Greek Baklava; it is an essential part of Samoan life that appeals to both the well-heeled and the laborer. Nothing binds us and brings us closer than the pungent aroma and sweet, rich taste of Koko Samoa.
I had a cup or two the other night in my home after seeing this photo. It was in homage to all that I’ve learned from koko Samoa. Weird, I know but that is the effect it has on those like myself who have come to understand the intoxicating force of God’s inspired elixir to my people.
As the magnificent, heavy scent of koko beans wafted from the boiling pot, my thoughts immediately turned to Samoa at dusk. That moment just before the deep reds and oranges of the tropical sun heaves its final sigh before retiring below the dark roiling surf of the opaque Pacific Ocean is when koko Samoa becomes the warmth we gravitate to after a hard day at work, when the fire in the sky has abandoned us.
Laughter comes easily with koko Samoa in our system. Tales are spun more eloquently and those silent lapses in between conversation before our most intimate thoughts are revealed, become less awkward because koko Samoa has loosened our tongues, our hearts become uninhibited and our true nature is disclosed.
In that instant when you are fully unwound, unburdened and your worries are briefly discharged; when your body, spirit and mind are at last ready to submit to that long anticipated Nirvana we call sleep – you will resist. You will repel that often elusive euphoria of dreams because you need one final cup of koko Samoa. Such is the affect and hold that koko Samoa has on me. Try a cup, you’ll immediately see why I’m crazy about the stuff.