|A typical fruit stand in Western Samoa|
In May 2000, I traveled with another artist to Western Samoa. It was to be a 2 week trip but my artist friend, Lucy, had to return home since her house had sold and she needed to attend to necessary business. That meant that I was alone the second week as there was not an airline seat available and only two flights a week go to Apia, the capital.
Being by myself meant that I did more visiting with the people there and I learned some very interesting things – about my own country.
During that first week we met Ray, a taxi driver, who took us to those areas out of our walking range. So for the second week, I set up several days so Ray could take me to some of the more out of the way places. One day we drove around the entire island and we had time for a long visit.
Ray was a very ambitious man. He had 3 taxis, a rental business in machinery and was getting ready to expand his rental business to party supply. In contrast, a young man who visited with us when we first arrived was trying to find a way to gather more money in addition to his regular job. He had asked Lucy for a loan and when she asked him what he could do to earn some extra he said he could fish. Well, everyone fishes there and fish are available all over the island.
|The home or fale (fall-ay) of the matai on tiny Monono Island.|
Ray was a huge contrast to that line of thought, looking for ways to provide a service that was unusual and needed. He told me that his ideas were as a result of living in Hawaii and Los Angeles for a few years. That exposure to entrepreneurship in the United States was the catalyst for his work back in Samoa. He was so successful that his father-in-law asked him to assume the title of Matai or high chief of the large extended family. That was a huge compliment as the Matai is handed down to either a man or woman according to the family line and they are responsible for the financial health of the family and well as the one to mete out necessary discipline. That discipline even extends to being sure that the family members take good care of their property. Ray told me he was flattered but wanted to do for his own family before he took on the responsibility for the whole extended family.
I realized how much we take for granted because of our childhood environment. Perhaps we may be too critical when judging other cultures because of our assumption that they have the same opportunities. I had two examples of young men - one with a limited view on how to achieve his goals and the other who because of his travel had a clear idea of his path to financial independence.
This was one of the more fascinating and unusual painting trips I have taken.