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GOLDEN DATS IN MANY LANDS., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 77, 31 March 1909
GOLDEN DATS IN MANY LANDS.
By WINIFRED U. LEYS. SAMOA IN 1899—(Concluded). Certainly the most novel entertain-1 ment we attended during those days in j Apia was that given by the Americans I on their glorious Fourth .of July. The' regatta, which was the order of the j day, had no features distinct from other regattas, but in the method of issuing invitations the Americans proved their boasted originality. Using one of the ordinary ship's rafts, the sailors of the U.S.S. Badger contrived to build quite a presentable imitation of a man-o'-war. Dressed and made up to represent the most popular naval celebrities of the day, and accompanied by a few towhaired mermaids, the crew of this ingenious warship paid a. visit to each vessel anchored in the bay. As the quaint craft approached, the guns pointing from her sides let fire a salute which was duly answered by the vessel she was visiting. Then the pseudonymous Admiral Dewey came aboard, and in quite a whimsical speech invited one and all to visit the American transport during the day, and to join in the. celebrations of their glorious Fourth; all of which we accordingly did. On the "Badger" we iound novel things to eat and equally novel concoctions to I drink—in fact, a spread -worthy of the day we were assisting to commemorate. Things were very merry all day, and I heard whispers that towards evening one or two began to more fully appreciate the merits of the native kava, which, if it does somewhat paralyze the legs, and is not so palatable as cocktails, has but little effect on the brain. A couple of Gays arter this, the Tutanekai got under steam, and then for a week we cruised round Upolo and Savaii, landing in the mornings at one village and in the afternoons at another. At many places white girls had scarcely ever before been seen, and our brown sisters handled us with exceeding curiosity. Everywhere did we find a welcome. In most of the villages the Samoans spoke no English, and our tourist Samoan—our "taiofa" and "tofa," our "manuia mia lele feleni"—did not go very far towards conversation, nevertheless a welcoming hand always waved us into the house, where refreshment was offered—a cup of kava, a drink of cocoanut milk, or a few bananas, for the Samoans are the most hospitable folk dw-elling in the South Sea Islands. The ingenuity of the house builder, lor house building has always been a trade in Samoa as elsewhere, is worthy of comment. Great curved trunks of cocoanut trees formed the roof, and these are interlaced by a thatching of leaves and supported by more tree trunks. The sides are usually open, but blinds of plaited palm leaves are hung all round, and may be let down so as to keep out the wet. Several layers of stones form the floor, and over these are spread numbers of mats, so that to sit or lie down is by no means uncomfortable. In reality, there is but one room. At night, how-, ever, laTge sheets of tapa, or native cloth, are hung up, and theee divide the house into tiny bedrooms, and serve as obstruction to the mosquito as well as means of privacy. I Once or twice we were permitted to peep for a moment in at the Fonos, or Peace Meetings, but these were diplomatic affairs, and the Commissioners preferred,.to lavs-Be, outsiders, ar-focfc
-which wo did not regret so exceedingly, « for the long interpreted specohes were t very monotonous. All much preferred to 1 wander round the village and watch the J girls weaving mats, or some woman at c work by a stream scraping the white £ hybiseus bark, out of which the tapa, or t native cle*h, is made. \ Unrest and real fighting had been bo 1 widely spread throughout Samoa only 1 ! a month or so before, that it was sur- i I prising how peaceful were the receptions i i the Commissioners received everywhere, i J One day, however, the Peace Meeting assumed a most wariike attitude. , At each village the chiefs marched to , ths Meeting-house and, in orders of rank, , presented the Commissioners with pre- , sents of pigs, fowls, yams, taro, cocoa- , nuts, bananas, mats and baskets, and all , manner of native articles. Everything ( pertaining to the Fono was carried on ] with the strictest ceremony and exacti- , tude; persons of high rank always took precedence over those of inferior birth. On this particular afternoon, some muddle occurred at a village a few miles ' from Matautu, on Savaii, and a chief of ' inferior grade made hia presentation of ' yig3 and yams in advance of some more swagger chief. There was some remon- ' strance by tbs followers of the important ' chief, but of this the impudent offender ' took no notice, and continuing in his , boastful demeanour roused general indignation. Before the Commissioners . were aware of what it was all about, the air was full of flying missies, pigs and yams and cocoanuts raining round their heads in a most alarming manner. Their ' blood now roused, this coeoanut brawl appeared poor sport to the Samoans, so some more reckless warrior drew that : terrible <-apon that all Samoans of any importance carry, the head-knife. This is a long wide biade of polished ShefSeUl • steel, with one end beaten fine and curve! « into a hock. From the crack of cocoanuts in the air, and the aoft thud of pigs, as they ! came pounding down on some unfortunate back, the majority of the white spectators fled to the boats. This may ■ not sound very brave behaviour, but < while an atmosphere of pigs and cocoa- ■ nuts may be amusing, one bristling with head-knive* is not so. The Commissioners, be it feaid, with great presence of mind, managed to calm the fighters, not, : however, before several braves had received severe gashes in the back from those formidable weapons. That Fono, ' when continued, was certainly a peace meeting in the correct sense of the world. The Samoan is gentle in manner, and he is hospitable to a degree that keeps him almost poor, communism being a general rule throughout the islands, but the love of fighting, though suppressed, runs in the blood of all the Pacific Islanders. The Samoan may be humorous and full of winning ways, but I fear ' he is not reliable. In the morning, only a few hours be- . fore the coeoanut brawl, we were ashore at Matautu, the most beautiful spot on all Savaii. There we were welcomed by the young missionary and his most charming young wife, with a welcome 6uch as a -white man gives to another / when that other happens to possess the ■> only white face the poor man has seen 9 for many a weary month. The nervous • excitement of the woman, who for eleven ' long months had seen no other whit* woman, impressed mc with a more appreciation of the brave life these rfijf* * sionaries live. Their home was euo^' a s one as the romantic dream about, J,* 11 "! f their village the neatest aad cleaned we l saw in all Samoa, but. the Ualati?* °* l their life was appalling to think UP?*' * * iwell remember tne pride yritb, whie» J& e y. 3 f
shewed us the chapel and school tho native boys had built, and how hopefully they epoke of the progress they had innde in teaching Christianity to these dark-skinned fellows. Indeed we were all much impressed with that little Matautu village. So no wonder our hearts were turned in real sympathy to these two young workers, when a day or two later -we learned that the natives whom we had seen displayed as models of virtue in Matautu, had been the leading spirits in the fray along the coast. Samoans have a keen sense of humour, and laugh most readily on all occasions. In the guest house on Manono were gathered the finest group of warriors we saw. What happened to the women that morning I cannot say, but never a one did I see. While chatting to a brown fellow -who spoke English, I raised his head knife from the ground, and asked for what purpose he used it. "When enemy in battlo ahead, you run after him and catch him so," and suiting the action to the word he hooked mc round the neok with the crooked end of his cold steel knife. Naturally I cried out loud and drew back, whereat the warrior unhooked mc, and, ;^ n company of the thirty other great oiled fellows who were squatting roiind, rolled on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. I have long ago lost count of thf number of villages at which we janded, though each one possessed some, characteristic of its own, but the dajh ashore at Apolima in the surf boat, j when we werp piloted in through a paieage that is often impracticable for fix months in the year, made the heart Seat a little too fast to be easily forgotten. Samoa is well exploited" ground for the copra industry. In lffl* a great deal of tha-t trade was in Geniwui hands, and since the absorption <rf the principal islands by Germany the"whole industry is under German control- Thanks to the kind and thoughtful arrangements made by Baron yon Sternberg, we were guests for a night and a day at the plantation of Mulifanua, which'"* 9 one of the most extensive plantation* in Upolo. Even the rattly gigs of Samoa couldn't manage to jolt on the soft grass roads of the plantation'over which we drove from one depot *° another. At the depots we stopped to see the heaps of cocoanut kernel" drying in the sun and fco hear the planters describe the methods employed in s*he production of copra. I*rom the appearance of the dry looking kernels onefould never guess the quantity and vajtte of the oil obtained therefrom. ,-./ The dajT* passed all too swiftly; at least foffUß in our idle enjoyment of these ljucuriant, sunny islands, if not for the Commissioners, whose days were occupied with the more serious work of extracting information from the natives as t<?/*heir desires and well-being. Ifcji outcome of the Commissioners' report!" to their various Governments was th»# Germany got the control of Upolo. for which she had been hankering, Savaii v«s given to England, but afterwards <f<led by her to Germany in exchange for the administration of Tonga, and America retained her coaling-station of Tutuila, which possesses the finest harbour in the group. Our hearts were quite lost to sunny Samoa and her hospitable people ere our trip came to an end, and as we steamed away from Apia and from the plaintive strains of 'Tofa, mia feleni" (good-bye, my friend), we all vowed to carry with us always affectionate memories of the happy day* we had spent there. A, tow whioh I, lor one, have not forgotten.
GOLDEN DATS IN MANY LANDS., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 77, 31 March 1909
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