Children of Samoa and the U.S.

  • Everyone uses copious amounts of hair gel. (on skin as well)
  • Hair color can be bleach, blonde, black, pink, purple… basically anything
  • Men grow out nails to show status
  • Men also paint fingernails
  • Golden teeth are fashionable
  • Abba is incredibly popular

I was sitting in my classroom drinking coffee laboring over plans for the term when several children came into my room and began to clean without prompting. A thought struck like lightning across my mind, “how different kids are here compared to home!” I have had the opportunity to observe children in my home country as well as Samoa in and outside of the classroom setting. The likeness between the youth of these two countries is as far apart as the ocean that separates them.

On the main land children have a tendency to be extremely disinterested in school, chores, or any type of responsibility as a matter of fact.

When it comes to technology they can’t wait to waste away in front of a screen. It pains me to see children sitting at a dinner table watching a video on a tablet or playing a video game. How are they ever going to be able to productive citizen if they can’t even hold a conversation? Society has come to a tipping point of over protectiveness. God forbid a child gets a scrape on his/her knee playing on a playground without it being the teacher’s fault. Personally, I believe pain has the ability to be the greatest mentor of all. It can show character, provide motivation, and if nothing else teach repeating that action may not be in your best interest.

Obviously I am generalizing. I am not trying to state that this represents all children and parents in the United States. There are some wonderful families who exemplify the complete opposite of what is stated above. It is just disheartening that we need to provide motivation for kids to go outside and play. I remember spending hours upon hours in the creek searching for salamanders, playing paintball, or riding bikes with friends around the neighborhood just because we could. When the streetlights began to hum we would mosey home. We were truly children of the sun.

Children in Samoa remind me of my youth and maybe even more of the stories of my father’s youth. At home they are expected to serve at the pleasure of their elders. They will do chores such as: cleaning the house, preparing meals/coffee, looking after their siblings, or any general task they are asked to do.

Many of the older siblings become pseudo parents and expected to look after the family. It is amazing how all will be done without a single gripe. Technology has made its way to Samoa, but its not very affordable, so access is limited. This means it doesn’t have as much as a strangle hold on society as it does in the US. Children still love to get their paws on it, but parents won’t let them play for very long. The majority of free time is spent running around outside playing games with reckless abandonment. They are extremely imaginative as they will use anything – I mean anything – as entertainment. Kids will use broken down cars, sticks, sandals, and even themselves as tools to play games. I can be quite impressive at times.

School is a haven for the children of Samoa. It provides the opportunity for them to be away from family expectations and siblings. Many times I watch children burst from the protective shell they cover themselves in at home. With all that responsibility how could one not wear a shell? Here they can roam free and play with children they don’t get to see normally.

They will have to do chores here as well, but it’s never too extensive. The worst is pulling weeds coming after a long break. Furthermore, children can be mean but they also have the uniqueness of being extremely nice as well. I watched a girl start school in year 6 yesterday and she has already become friends with all the girls in her class. Everyday I see a child get hurt and begin to cry. Others will immediately swarm this child ready to console them. Oh right! We are back on the topic of pain. Yes, children here often get hurt, but there is little fuss about it. They absolutely love to play rough and when someone gets hurt there maybe a few tears, but usually they get up, dust themselves off, and continue playing. Scars can be seen on the limbs of every individual because well, they wound up doing something stupid. This is how a lesson is learned.

The contrast between the children here and the United States couldn’t be more distant. Now, reading this entry it could be easy to say that I am simply praising Samoan children over the ones at home. That is not what I intended. There are plenty of negatives as well. Samoan children have little understanding of manners (due to cultural differences) and are weighed down by far too many family responsibilities. Each side has positive and negative qualities, but from what I have observed the two societies could learn from each other. I am hoping that my cohorts and I can somehow build a bridge between the two cultures that allows this.