By Seiuli Seti Ah Young
“Saiga, get the duster,” Mrs Vaelua called out on the first morning of my attending Malifa Infant School looking straight at me. I felt my fellow students’ eyes on me and the young girls giggling behind their hands over their mouths. I slowly got up and I somehow tripped over some boy’s leg that had suddenly shot out and I fell flat on my face. The sniggers and the laughter echoed throughout the corridors. “Saiga ma’i when I tell you to get the duster walk, don’t crawl,” she laughed with sarcasm. I somehow managed to get the duster and avoided the feet of the boy, Jeremiah who tried again to stick his feet out. I managed to sit down safely. “Not bad China man.” He whispered loudly and I helplessly looked at the teacher for some respite which never came. I felt everyone’s eyes boring into the back of my head. I suddenly wanted to disappear, anything to avoid the giggling that I somehow associated with being different.
And so began my school life that I had been looking forward to for such a long time. I crawled into myself and reading and writing became my escape and, as a result I became immersed so much into my school work that I became quite the student. It became my victory over the likes of Mrs Vaelua, Jeremiah and the others. My father, a Chinese initially suffered my abuse; he passed in 1979 and he is buried in Samoa his adopted country, a country that he learned to love and cherish. I guess under those conditions, I am first generation Chinese, and I in turn learned to love my people though much of the time that love and adoration was never returned in kind! I put down their dislike of me on account of my father being Chinese. Such are the ironies of life that somehow I got to dislike my father on account of all the abuse that I was getting at school. In time I got to love and adore my dad and he became a hero to me.
I grew up at Fasitootai at a place called Tuvao where my father was tending a cocoa plantation for Urwin (Eveni) Carruthers. We hired a number of local labourers to tend the 250 acre cocoa plantation. We were everything to them, yet when we ventured outside the safety and security of the plantation we never or more precisely I never felt safe and for good reason. My father and I had gone fishing and were returning home when two big burly Samoan men, stopped us, went through our fish basket of bamboo that my father and I had made, and proceeded to pick out the bigger fish and then joyfully walked off with our dinner for the week. My father, a gentle, kind and loving man showed a characteristic that hitherto, I had never seen. He laid the two big and burly Samoans on the ground groaning from sore groins while I helped my dad pick up the fish and with a final inspection and with a clap on the back that they would be OK mate, we joyfully went on our way. I was suddenly very proud of dad and to this day he remains my hero. I hero-worshipped him my entire life.
The recent spate of violence against the Chinese in Samoa, this magnificent Christian country of ours, the Paradise of the Pacific, brought back those unsavoury memories. The TV scenes of a young Samoan man punching a Chinese woman who was serving him in her place of business to make a living can only be called cowardly and I swear if my Chinese dad was alive today he would have gently left that man on his back groaning and holding onto his genitals!
Two months or is it three months ago now, close to three hundred athletes from Samoa were guests of the Chinese people to prepare them, our people for the upcoming South Pacific Games. I am absolutely sure in my heart that when the games are in progress the Chinese community in Samoa, our people , would be out there cheering for our Samoan athletes whom they have chosen to be their people . Our Samoan picturesque country has been enhanced by the generosity and kindness of the Chinese people. Our voice, (and I speak for the writers of the Short Story Anthologies), in the form of our short stories, poems and novels have found roots in the libraries and Universities thanks to the generosity of the Chinese people. I can go on but what’s the point?
As one who has lived through the horrors of division and some segregation (for a lack of a better word), because of our Chinese heritage and blood, I ask only that we look deeply into our own Christian upbringing and merge our lives with those of our immigrant Chinese; only then can we truly call ourselves true Christians. Call it evangelism if you like.
But do it much like what the Chinese is mirroring to and for us.
Eds Note :
Seiuli is an award winning writer, an envious skill that surprised many who thought they knew him well but apparently did not.
He is to many of his students a teacher - it is his profession. Looking for a change of scenery he ventured off into the business sector as a manager and administrator.
He is also a known local sports personality with a passion for tennis, hockey and rugby.
He is our guest editorial writer today, on an invitation from Newsline to write on the part of his life where he is called a ‘Saiga’ or half Chinese.
Our Chinese Samoan community has remained relatively quiet to the unflattered racial narrative towards the new Chinese migrants to Samoa. The question is how the racial slur on Chinese as a race has impacted on Samoans who are also Chinese.
Seiuli knows more about it.