STONE CRATES, STONE ISLANDS, FISSURES AND THE THINGS IN BETWEEN
The Papalagi live like crustaceans in their concrete houses. They live between the stones, the way a centipede lives inside the cracks of the lava. There are stones above him, around him and under him. His hut looks like a stone crate. A crate with holes in it and divided in cubicles.
Only in one spot you can enter and leave these stone dwelling-places. The Papalagi call that spot the entrance when it's used for entering the hut and the exit upon leaving it, though it's one and the same spot. Tied to that spot is a large wooden wing that one has to shove aside forcefully in order to enter. But that's only the beginning; many wooden wings have to be pushed aside before one is truly inside the hut.
In most of these huts, more people live than in an entire Samoan village. Therefore, when you pay somebody a visit, you must know the exact name of the aiga (1) you want to see. As every aiga has its own part of the stone crate to live in, the upper part or the lower one, the part in the middle or the one on the right, the left or the one in front. And often, one aiga knows nothing of the other aiga even if they are only separated by a stone wall and not by Manono, Apolina or Savaii (2).
Often, they hardly know each others names and when they meet at the hole where they slink inside, they greet one another with a curt movement of the head or they grunt like hostile insects. As if they are angry for living so close together.
When an aiga lives all the way on the top, just under the roof of the hut, he who wants to visit them must climb on many branches that lead up in a circle or zig-zag until he comes to a place where the name of the aiga is written on the wall. Then, in front of his eyes he sees an elegant imitation of a female breast-gland that, when pressed up on emits a cry to call the aiga. Then the aiga looks through a small peephole to see if it is not an enemy that has pressed the gland. In that case, he won't open up. But if he sees a friend, he unties the wooden wing and pulls it open, so the guest can enter the real hut through the opening.
Even that but is divided by stone walls into several cubicles. By going through one wing after the other, you enter smaller and smaller cubicles. Every cubicle, called a room by the Papalagi, has a hole in the wall, the bigger ones sometimes having two or three for letting the light in. These holes are covered with a piece of glass that can be removed when fresh air has to be admitted into the room, something that's very necessary. There are also many cubicles without holes for light and air.
People like us would suffocate rapidly in crates like that, for there's never a fresh breeze like there is in every Samoan hut. The fumes from the cooking-shacks can escape neither. Most of the time the air that comes from outside isn't much better. It's hard to understand that people survive in those circumstances, that they don't change themselves into birds of yearning, grow wings and fly off to look for the sun and the fresh air. But the Papalagi are very fond of their stone crates and don't even feel their badness anymore.
Every cubicle serves its own function. The biggest and best lit one serves the family for the fono (3) and the reception of guests and another room is reserved for sleeping. There the sleepingmats lie, or more precise, are spread out on a wooden scaffolding that stands on high legs, so the air can circulate under the mats. A third cubicle is used for ingesting food and producing billows of smoke. In a fourth one the food is kept, the fifth is used for its preparation and the last and smallest cubicle is used for bathing. This is the nicest room. The walls are hung with mirrors; the floor is decorated with gaudy tiles and in the centre there stands a large bowl, made from metal or, stone and filled with sunned or unsunned water. Into that bowl, perhaps larger than a king's grave, the Papalagi climbs to wash himself and wash away the sands of the stone crates. Of course there are crates with even more cubicles. There are even some where every child has his own and every servant as well, even their dogs and horses.
Between those crates, the Papalagi spend their whole life. Now in one crate, then in the other, depending on the position of the sun. Their children grow up inside those crates, high above the ground, higher than the highest palm-tree. From time to time the Papalagi leave their private crates, as they call it, to go to a crate where they do their tasks and don't want to be disturbed by the presence of wife and children. In the meantime the women and girls are busy in the cooking-shack, preparing the dishes, shining footskins or washing loincloths. When they are rich enough to keep servants, then they do the work, while they themselves go paying visits or go out buying the fresh food.
In Europe as many people as there are living on Samoa live this way and perhaps even more. There are a few people however, that carry a great longing for the sun, the light and the woods, but as a rule this is considered a disease against which one has to shield himself. When someone is unhappy in this stony life, the others say that it's not natural, by which they mean: he doesn't know what God has wanted him to be.
Now those crates often stand close together, in large numbers, not even separated by a palm-tree or a bush, like people standing shoulder to shoulder and inside every crate as many people live as there are living in an entire Samoan village. And directly opposite, only a stone's throw away, a second row of crates stands, also shoulder to shoulder and people living in there as well. So in between the two rows there's only a narrow fissure left that the Papalagi call a street. Sometimes these fissures are as long as rivers and covered with hard stones. One has to walk far to find an open spot and on that open spot, many other stone fissures come together. Those also are as long as fresh-water creeks and interconnected by fissures of equal length. For days on end you can walk through these cracks without coming upon a wood or seeing a bit of blue sky. Looking up from out of those fissures you hardly ever see a bit of clear expanse, because inside every but at least one fire is burning and most of the time several fires at once. So the heavens are always filled with smoke and ashes, like after an eruption of the volcano on Savaii.
(2) Three islands belonging to the Samoan Group. (3) Greetings. '
The ashes rain down into the cracks, so that the stone crates have gotten the color of the mud from the mangrove swamps and the people get black soot in their eye and hair and grit between their teeth.
Still the Papalagi walk around in those fissures from morning till night. There are even some that do it with a certain passion. I have seen cracks where there was a bustle all the time and through which a mass of people flowed like thick muck. In these streets enormous glass boxes are built, in which all sorts of things are laid out that the Papalagi needs for his living: loincloths, hand and footskins, head-ornaments, foodstuffs, meat and also real fruits and vegetables and many other things. Those things are laid out in a way so that everybody can see them and they appear very inviting. But nobody is allowed to take anything from there, even if he needs it very badly, only after getting permission first and after making a sacrifice.
There are many fissures where danger lurks from all sides, because people not only walk up against one another, but they also drive up against one another, borne inside large glass chests, gliding on metal runners. There's a tremendeous noise. Our ears begin to hoot from the horses striking the pavement with their hoofs and the people slapping it with their hard footskins; from the children screaming and the men shouting. And shouting they all do, for joy or fear. It's impossible to make yourself heard, unless you shout too. There's a rattling, booming, swishing and pounding going on as if you're standing on the cliffs of Savaii during a heavy storm. But even that noise is friendly and doesn't rob you of your voice the way it happens with the noise in the stone fissures.
These stone crates with all those people, these deep fissures of stone intertwining like long rivers, the hustle and bustle, the black smoke and the dirt
floating overhead without one single tree, without a spot of blue sky or nice clouds, all this together is called "town" by the Papalagi. The town is his creation and his great pride. People are living there that have never seen a tree or a wood, who have never seen the clear sky and never met the Great Spirit face to face, people living like the crawling animals in the lagoons or the coral reefs, though these animals at least are washed over by the clear seawater and kissed by the warm lips of the sun-rays. Are the Papalagi proud to have assembled so many stones? I don't know. The Papalagi are people with weird tastes. For no reason at all, they do all kinds of things that make them sick, but still they take pride in them and sing odes for their own glory.
So the thing I pictured, they call a town. And there are many such towns, small and big. In the biggest one the chiefs of the country live. The towns are scattered over the lands as our islands are scattered in the sea. Sometimes there's only a bathroad's distance between them, sometimes a day's travel. All those stone islands are connected by well cared for paths. But you can also travel in a landship, long and thin like a worm, throwing out smoke all the time and gliding along on long iron tracks, very fast, faster than a canoe with twelve men rowing at topspeed. But if you want to call a tafola (1) to a friend who is far away, you need not walk or glide over to him,you can blow your words into a cord of metal that runs between one stone island and another like a long vine. Faster than a bird can fly they will arrive at their destination.
In between these stone islands lies the true land called Europe. Out there, there are regions just as beautiful and fertile as our islands. Over there, there are trees, rivers and woods and also real villages.
In those villages other people live than in the towns, people of a different character. They are called country-folk. They have bigger hands and dirtier loincloths. Their life is much healthier and more beautiful than that of the people from the fissures, but they are not aware of that. They are jealous of the town people, whom they call lazybones because they don't work the soil, plant the fruits and pull them out again. They live in animosity with each other, for they have to give them food from their lands, they have to pluck the fruits for the fissurepeople to eat, they have to raise and care for the cattle until it has grown fat and then they have to give away half to the others. Of course it is difficult to provide all those town people with food and they do not rightly understand why those lazybones wear cleaner loincloths and have nicer, whiter hands than them and why they don't have to sweat in the sunshine and shiver in the cold rain.
The people from the fissures don't care very much about that. They are convinced that they have more rights as the country people and that their work is more important than planting vegetables in the soil. Still that conflict amongst the Papalagi is not severe enough to result in warfare. But whether they live in the country or in the cracks, the Papalagi in general likes the things the way they are. The country-man admires the living places of the crackpeople when he comes there occasionally and the crack-people gurgle and sing with all their might when they pass through a village in the country. The people from the cracks let the countryfolk fatten their pigs artificially and the countryfolk let them build their stones crates and rejoice in that.
But we, free children of the sun and light, we will remain loyal to the Great Spirit and won't load down our hearts with heavy stones. Only people sick and lost, who have let go of the hand of God can live happily inside the fissures, where the sun, the wind and the light cannot enter. With pleasure we will grant the Papalagi his doubtful happiness, but we will defend ourselves against his efforts to build his stone crates in our sunny country too and kill the joy of life with stones, cracks, dirt, noise, smoke and dust, as is his intention.
3. Stone Crates, Stone Islands, Fissures And The Things In Between