Post 26 — More Hygiene and Sanitation

Larry outside of a school in the village of Nua.

Larry outside of a school in the village of Nua.

The camera was running and Larry called “Action!”. There was some confusion at first because no one knew what “Action!” meant, but eventually they sorted it out. Under his father’s direction, Solomon gathered up his soap and toothbrush that had been strategically placed by Larry and headed out of his fale to the communal shower. The village’s water supply came from the reservoir that was built up on the mountain, and the shower was basically a pipe that allowed a one-inch trickle of water to flow.

“Solomon, brush your teeth,” instructed Siamau, who mimicked the up and down brushing motion that Larry was demonstrating to be sure his son did it properly. There was a breakdown of communication as Solomon swallowed all of the toothpaste and foam in one gulp and then grinned at the camera, forcing a retake so that the proper spitting technique could be shown. A bar of soap entered the scene next, and Solomon lathered and rubbed until he was covered with suds from head to foot. “Now have him wash his ears and then really scrub his hair,” said Larry, feeling like he was directing a Lux commercial and wondering why he had bothered with all those years of school getting his Masters degree.

“Hold on, we’re out of film. I have to reload. Solomon, don’t move.” said John the cameraman, trying to keep the sand and suds out of the equipment as he struggled to put a new reel in the camera. Solomon was unaware of the fact that soap and eyes are not a good combination and let out a squeak as the bubbles ran down his face.

“Okay, we’re rolling again. Solomon, you need to scrub all over your body and between your toes.” The boy was wearing a lavalava because the Samoans found taking a shower while clothed was a convenient way to get your laundry done at the same time. Once the bathing was finished, a clean lavalava was wrapped around the waist and the wet one hung to dry.

Here we saw the real evils of progress and civilization. Poor Solomon was so used to wearing shorts that he forgot the proper way to tie his lavalava. When he pulled the old one off, the new one came off, too, and there he stood in the altogether while the camera recorded it for posterity. It didn’t really bother Solomon because these kids usually run around naked until they are about ten years old anyway, but the photographer and I really broke up. Then to make things worse, the running water must have got to him and he proceeded to take a leak while the camera ground away. We don’t have the necessary equipment here or processing for film so they had to send this one to Hawaii. I imagine the people who develop it are going to wonder what the hell kind of a program we’re running here. Fortunately, we have the facilities for editing and splicing so Solomon’s privates can be removed, at least on film.

After a full morning of shooting, Larry and John determined that they had enough footage and a very pruney Solomon was released to go play. The taping had taken far longer than they had anticipated and it was lunchtime by the time all the equipment had been packed up. They had hoped to be on their way back to the studio but Siamau insisted that they stay for lunch. “Samoan custom,” he explained. “My wife will be greatly shamed if our guests leave without sharing our food.”

Larry and John felt uncomfortable about staying because they knew the family had a lot of mouths to feed, but to refuse was clearly an even worse option. They followed their host back to the communal fale where Larry was expecting another exotic meal, perhaps something along the lines of squid or some taro or breadfruit. While he didn’t want to take advantage of Siamau’s generosity, Larry enjoyed seeing how the Samoans lived and felt pleased to be invited to experience their traditions and native foods. He was somewhat taken aback when he was handed a plate of cold Franco American spaghetti and canned tuna. Apparently Siamau’s wife felt the palagi palatte wasn’t very well-developed and didn’t want to serve anything that they might not enjoy.

It’s bad enough that he’s always feeding us, but their custom goes even further. When we left the village, he loaded the truck with coconuts, papayas, eggplants, and chunks of sugar cane for the kids. This social manner is considered very important — even if it means the family won’t eat for the next few days. Siamau was formerly a principal of a Samoan school before he was hired by the studio to assist us in our lessons. We were discussing the purchase of cars the other day. When he told me he got paid 24 bucks per week, then I really felt uncomfortable about eating his food.

Things are still flying at the studio. I’m doing nine programs a week and working like hell. Mrs. Cobb, the TV supervisor, drives in from the Western end of the island each morning and tells me she sees the kids taking their morning showers and baths in the villages. Last week, she mentioned that for the first time since she’s been on the island, she noticed most of the kids are using soap. Chalk up one for Hygiene and Sanitation. 

I’m looking forward to the unit on toilet habits–ought to be a good one.


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