My first tattoo was made by the Suluape Family in Apia back in February of this year. Tattoos are a Samoan tradition and great meanings are held in the design and placement of every symbol. Traditional Samoan tattoos have been such a part of Samoan heritage and culture that they have been around for hundreds of years. As a result, the Samoans have a very different method of tattooing than we are accustomed to in the West.
Naturally, in the spirit of Samoan culture, I wanted my tattoo to be done in the traditional style using the traditional tools. However, this was not possible for my first one, as its designs were too curvy and detailed. Once again, Anna provided the necessary means to get things done that I have been putting off.
Inspired by her travels, Anna decided that she wanted to get a tattoo before leaving as a constant reminder of her time abroad. Finding herself in Samoa for her last country, it seemed a fitting time and place to do it, especially with the cultural significance. Early in the week I encouraged her to really think about what she would want. Over her week here, she saw many tattoos, and she soon decided on what she would get. The traditional womans tattoo, called the Malu, is located on the thigh area and extends down past the knee. One of the symbols used is a star, signifying “Navigation.” After two months of travel, what better symbol could she have decided on?
We went to the tattoo parlor together on a rainy Saturday, and as often happens when one is sitting in a tattoo shop, I got inspired to stop the tautalatala (too much talk), and finally get my foot tattoo that I had been dreaming of. Since my first tattoo had been done with the gun, this time I opted for the traditional “tap-tap” method.
Unfortunately, my design could not be done all with the tap-tap because the flower in the middle was too curvy, so my tattoo was done in two stages. Part one was the flower, made by the gun, and the rest of the designs were done with the pillow, stick, razor, and tapping. All in all, I was surprised to say that the tap-tap did not hurt nearly as much as the gun. Maybe it was the style of the design or the placement, but I found the tapping almost soothing, and the pain totally bearable.
Although I cannot predict the future, I think I am done with tattoos for the time being. I have two great designs to last me a lifetime, and to top it off, they were done in a country I now consider a second home by people I now consider friends. I hope that my tattoos will serve as a daily reminder of the people I met, the experiences I had, and the lessons I learned, while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Samoa.