about this place that makes time slow down; in fact on
Sunday afternoons I'm pretty sure it stops. Everything
else does. For time fixated westerners, used to cramming
every day with activity, each beautiful day here brings
another lesson in passing time and waiting patiently.
It's too hot here to be in a hurry. Besides, in the Fa'a
Samoa (Samoan way) anything worth doing is worth waiting
for. Now that takes a little getting used to, especially
with two testosterone powered, impatient toddlers.
The Samoans make
passing time look effortless. While waiting for something
to happen on Manono Island I watched two young kitchen
boys passing the time between meals, sitting side by side
on two upturned buckets, looking out at the lagoon. They
stared out to sea for two hours, in a silent vigil; a
display of comfortable camaraderie in which nothing needed
to be said. And nothing was.
Passing time, looking out to
sea, waiting for the sun to go down
The traditional Samoan
way of life is widely practiced in Manono, as it is throughout
Samoa. Many villagers live a subsistence existence, making
their own falé with local timber and pandanus thatch,
growing their own food in the rich volcanic soils, and
keeping a few pigs and chicken for Sunday lunch. Living
simply there is little need for money or a job. And that
leaves plenty of time to pass, sitting in the shade of
your falé, weaving, playing chequers or just sitting and
waiting for the rain to stop or the cool of the evening
A horse chilling in the shade of a traditional Samoan
Or sleeping. At any
time of the day it's not uncommon to see people lying
in their falé resting or sleeping. Samoan men are said
to be famous for their ability to sleep, for up to thirty
hours at a time, anywhere. We first stepped over them
on the ferry across to Savai'i; bodies stretched out on
the floor, bellies spread across the deck, heavy heads
on old holdalls. It looked like no amount of contortion
or discomfort would stop these guys sleeping. Apparently
the Samoan coastguards can tell a story or two about fishermen
reported lost at sea, later found sleeping peacefully
in their boats, drifting towards Tonga.
For us action junkies,
doing nothing is harder than it looks. It's hard to stop
wanting to do something, to give up waiting for something
to happen, to just accept time passing and be content
to allow it to pass, without comment. But in the past
few weeks we've had plenty of practice. And while I think
Kirstie and I have got a grasp of the basics of waiting
patiently, it's been harder for the kids.
Waiting at the airport... when
will the plane be ready Dad?
"When is the airplane
leaving Dada?" asked Matthew as we sat at Savaii's tiny
airstrip waiting for a flight back to Apia.
"When the rain stops".
"But we've been waiting for ages."
"I know, it's been hours hasn't it."
"Well, when will the rain stop?"
"When it's ready Matt."
"But what time is that Dada?"
"When the last drop has fallen."
The rain continued to lash down in endless torrents.
"But what shall we do?"
"How about counting raindrops?"
"I don't want to do that."
"Where is the music
Daddy?" asked Cameron while waiting for a well publicised
festival to begin.
"The performers will be here soon."
"Why will they be here soon?"
"Well this is where the festival is going to be."
"Why is no-one here?"
"Because they're still on their way."
"Why are they on their way?"
"Well it's the only way to get somewhere."
"Oh………….. Can we go somewhere then? Please."
But there's more
to passing time than being able to cope with waiting.
The highly skilled have a capacity to do nothing without
experiencing boredom. It's a marvel to watch people here
let time pass so contentedly. To Samoans boredom seems
like a strange western affliction, a withdrawal symptom
of activity addiction.
I never imagined
it would be a problem for us here. How could it be on
sandy white beaches, with a warm azure sea, the sun beating
down, fish dancing at your feet, amidst smiling beautiful
people and shady coconut palms? Yet after several days
in any one spot, both Kirstie and I notice a restlessness
develop in our empty minds and indolent bodies, a growing
urge to move on, change the scene, do something, anything
to inject a little new stimulus into our experience. After
six months of cycle touring, resting up and chilling out
is proving harder than we thought. Perhaps we're not ready
to give up our activity addiction yet.