Oops! A correction: Last week I wrote about a Samoan girl who
offered to sell me an octopus for "a quawter." The size
of the octopus was 20 inches not 20 feet!
My camera was ready as I walked alone on a beach near Pago
Pago, American Samoa, watching an older girl wading in water with
her clothes on. Her skirt was wet because she leaned forward,
reaching with both hands as if searching for something
underwater. Suddenly she stood and held some living thing up high
out of the water as she reached into her pocket for a knife. The
thing grabbed her arm and held on tight as she stabbed its
tennis-ball size head to kill it. Gradually the suction cups
released her arm one at a time and then all of its eight arms
fell limp. She had captured an octopus for supper!
As she turned to wade out of the water, she discovered my
camera and me. "May I take your picture?" I called from
water’s edge. She jabbered something in the native language.
I had snapped one picture earlier but wanted a closer one. She
argued in her own language as she approached. I realized that she
was trying to sell me the octopus! No thanks! She insisted, and
she finally extended it to me, dropping the price to "a
quawter." I turned and left in a hurry without the second
snapshot, and I certainly didn’t want that octopus at any
The purpose of this bicycle trip alone, stopping briefly in
Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, was to observe leisure
activities of peoples of different cultures. All of these islands
are located far from neighbors; the natives have developed their
own dances, games, sports and fitness activities. Fitness was a
way of life. As with all of us, the climate, terrain and weather
affected their use of leisure as well their housing, clothing,
jobs and education.
In American Samoa homes were without walls. I could see
through their homes, which had flexible side walls, rolled up day
and night until the stormy season. There was little furniture and
the beds were floor pads, which were stacked when not use. Meals
were prepared outdoors. By observing clothes on the outdoor
drying lines I decided that the children must have been the only
ones who wore underwear. Adult laundry was mostly gaily-colored
rectangles that were worn tied under the arms, by women, and
around the waist, by men.
I made this three day visit there in 1968. The high school
students were taught partly by educational TV from the United
States. Their area was separated from the lower grades, but
sidewalks were shaded by posts supporting a roof. I saw no
playing fields, gyms, swimming pools or parking lots near the
On the weekend the Western Samoan soccer team and boosters
arrived by boat and were trucked to the playing field. They
played in what might have been a pasture, hastily marked and not
level but all of the rewards of vigorous recreation were there.
Competition was keen and spectators entered into the fun with
noisy, sometimes rowdy, enthusiasm, just like home.
As I pedaled the nine miles from Pago Pago back to the airport
I recalled children at recess constructing towers with driftwood,
boys scampering up coconut trees, the girl catching an octopus in
her hands, the boys in their homemade boats and the store clerk
who said, when I was hunting the hotel in total darkness,
"Oh why you not stay the night with me?"
Next trip I’ll do that.
I loved those warm and friendly people.