Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tell Me What you Wanna Hear

One of the most frustrating things I have come to accept as the norm here in Samoa is the assumption of an answer. In America there is a crude phrase that warns, “If you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” Although I feel it cliché to repeat such a phrase (and a bit cliché to even use the word cliché here…!), it is a very true statement that needs examination. I have been guilty of assuming peoples preference for food or drink, interest or lack there of for certain shows and movies, and other trivial matters that I never quite felt made an ass out of anyone. However, in Samoa, the assumption is not made around solid facts. Instead, people try to assume what you want to hear. In preferences of drink such as tea verses coffee, no real harm is done when you are served one without being consulted first. However, in more pressing matters such as, “is the ferry running?” or “will there be a bus soon?” it can be maddening t receive the answer someone “thought” you wanted to hear, regardless of if it is true or not.

Although I confront these assumptions daily at school (ex. Does everyone understand the homework? YES THANK YOU! When clearly they do not…), the most recent confusion occurred last weekend.

I was planning a trip to Apia Saturday morning to celebrate Lili’s birthday in town with her and some of the other girls. They had all gone in Friday, but due to the opening of a new church hall in my village, I had decided to come in Saturday morning and hopefully spend the day by the pool reading and relaxing. Friday night as I went for my afternoon run I decided it would be a good idea to stop by the “Bus terminal” to check out the times of the morning buses. I was hoping to catch the 8am ferry and was curious if there would be a bus leaving in time. The owner of the buses was at the store and I know he understood when I asked if there would be a bus leaving for the 8am ferry. His response was, “yes, but you will not make it in time.” Huh? I was confused. I asked again: “What time will the bus be leaving?” His response was 6am, or 6:30, but again he warned that I would not make the ferry. I figured this was just him being overly cautious and I thanked him, announcing that I would be waiting at 5:45am to make sure I did not miss my bus.

I awoke at 5am to a starry sky draped over a slumbering village. As I sipped my coffee by the front door I marveled at how pleasant village life is and how lovely this hour of the morning felt, long before the roosters started their racket and the sun scorched the earth and air. At 5:45 I heard the bus rumbling from a distance, put down my coffee, and ran out to the road. I watched in horror as the bus appeared, going the wrong direction! Sure enough, the bus had left “for the 8am ferry,” however; it would be another hour and a half before it reached me going the proper direction to take me to the wharf. I had not thought to ask which direction the bus would be going at 6am, only to ask if it was running. And Mika had not wanted to disappoint me with a direct answer. I assumed and made an ass of myself. Silly me.

Over the next few hours several buses did pass me, all heading the wrong direction. At 7:20 that first bus finally rolled back through my village. I hopped on defeated, knowing that I had missed the 8am ferry and the 10am would not be running. I had woken up at 5am to take a boat that left at noon and would not arrive in Apia till 3pm due to ferry issues. I arrived in town and settled into Lusia’s for some breakfast as I began my long wait. Never again will I assume anything about a bus, or try to take the 8am ferry!

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