Post 18 — It’s Pongo Pongo, not Paygo Paygo

Lynn is our one hold out. She still gets a little mopey but she was doing that at home so I don’t think the change is her problem. I think it’s just being eleven and Kathy’s younger sister. They have done nothing but get on each other’s nerves. I had to separate them. Lynn is in with Karen now and so far it has been turning out pretty well; she seems a little gentler and more considerate of her since they have become roommates.


An overhead view of Tafuna. Photo by David Gillmore.

An overhead view of Tafuna.
Photo by David Gillmore.

“Has anyone seen the kids?” Jean asked the group that was sitting in lawn chairs in front of one of the houses, possibly hers although she wasn’t quite certain.

“Oh, they’re probably off playing in the banyan tree,” volunteered Mary, who was the mother of Liz, the Polynesian encyclopedia. Jean had no idea what a banyan tree was, but she didn’t feel it was necessary to volunteer that information. “Do you think we should go look for them?” she asked.

“Oh, they’re fine. There’s really nothing around here that they can get into that’s dangerous, so we let them roam pretty freely,” replied Mary, oblivious to the fact that at that very moment her children were considering jumping from the top of a forty-foot tree onto vines that may or may not have been connected to something. “Have you been into town yet?

“I think we’re going tomorrow. It’s Larry’s first day at the TV studio and we want to look around Pago Pago.”

“Actually, the TV studio is in Fagatogo. Pago is a little farther around the harbor,” chimed in another neighbor.

“I know it’s pronounced “Pongo Pongo” but I’m not sure I get why,” said Larry. “There’s something going on with that “g” that I can’t quite figure out.”

“The main thing to remember about the Samoan language is that the “g” always sounds like it has an “n” in front of it, like song.” Charlie had brought the case of beer over and had also graciously supplied the bottle opener. “So you can correct the tourists who insist on saying Paygo Paygo. Then you can teach them to say Fagatogo, which is pronounced Fongatongo. The sound comes from the back of the throat, like you’re speaking German or swallowing oysters.”

“More like swallowing your tongue,” giggled Mary. “Now see if you can say this one.” She took a stick and wrote in the sand F-O-G-A-G-O-G-O.

“Fongnongongo?” ventured Jean. “It makes the roof of my mouth itch.”

“Now here’s a word that important to know because we all are one. Palagi, which is pronounced “palongi,” not “palogee,” is anyone who is not Samoan. We have a new teacher coming in next month who is Negro, but she is still a palagi because it has nothing to do with the color of your skin.”

“You also have to watch out for the vowels,” added Charlie. “They never put consonants next to each other, so that leaves a lot of vowels in a row and sometimes they throw in an apostrophe. So then you have to say each one separately like in Fa’a Samoa. That’s “Fah-ah”, not “Fah.”

“I thought that was goodbye,” said Larry.

“No, that’s tofa. And hello is talofa, which rhymes with aloha, but it only means hello, not goodbye.

“I think I’m going to need another beer.”

We have a den now. The girls are all in one room now and although it looks like a flophouse in there, it enabled us to use the third bedroom as a sort of playroom and den thing. … It is Saturday night and the kids are doing the dishes and singing. You have to do something for entertainment. They are getting a lot of practice and are beginning to sound pretty good; at least they’ve stopped fighting.


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