Recently my dad, who's based in Japan, and my cousins, who are based in Hawaii, crossed paths here in Sydney. Obviously we celebrated this fortuitous occasion in the way Samoans always do. By eating. A lot. In any event it got me thinking about how one of the awesome things about being Samoan, is all the other Samoans, all over the world. Yes the Samoan diaspora, it's a wonderful thing. My work has taken me around half the world. My own personal tafao vale-ing has taken me around the other half. And I have found Samoans from Sri Lanka to the Solomon Islands. Samoans who will come up to you at the airport when you are waiting for luggage at the carousel and say 'hey are you Samoan?'. Once this is confirmed they will give you their number, deliver food to your hotel and even take you to dinner.
There are only 180,000 people in Samoa. But those of us Samoans outside Samoa, well expand those numbers exponentially and then multiply some more. You trip over Samoans in the most unexpected places. From Tokyo to Turkey (I haven't actually been to Turkey yet but as anyone who reads my blog knows I am a big fan of alliteration). And somehow it's instant friends and virtual family (and then you talk for two minutes, and realise you are actually related). It seems like you wouldn't get along on ethnicity alone. But (not to sound totally self-congratulatory) can we help it if we are such a charming and open-hearted lot?
I love that Samoans are succesful all over the world. That we who come from this very small place, a paradise in the middle of the Pacific ocean, hold our own in mega-cities in a diverse range of fields. I can name succesful Samoans in art, sports, engineering, law, politics, government, music and the list goes on. We can't be doing so well on charm alone! When I was working in Samoa, my brother encouraged me to get some overseas experience; "It's easy to be the big fish in the small pond" (even though to be honest I was a very small fish in the small pond but he IS my brother, he is obviously going to interpret things in my favour). So, ever swayed by my brother, I tried out a bigger pond, and (more self-congratulation to follow) I've been pretty succesful relative to my peers. Small pond, or slightly bigger pond, it seems we Samoans, kick ass.
I love that Samoans world wide (even those rare virtually non-existent times where you are unable to find a family connection) open up their hearts and homes to you. Even those who don't have much will take you in and treat you like a queen. We are notoriously fiercely proud as a people, and that is never more evident than when you are given the best of everything by Samoans overseas struggling to make ends meet.
I love that, when my partner, my love (who is Samoan)is in PNG, I know that there are Samoans there who will look after him (and let him jump the line at their doctors offices and talk with him there for hours while other patients pull out their hair in the waiting room). I love that if the plane goes down (please God, never let the plane go down), I will have people to contact, and cry to, through the ever reliable coconut wireless.
I love that no matter where I travel to, when I meet a Samoan, in those far-flung and foreign lands, it is a little bit of home. And like home, that small dot in that wide wide ocean- it is warm, welcoming and truly beautiful.