Where We Once Belonged 166-199

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Follow this link to hear Figiel read her poem “The Daffodils from a Native’s Perspective”

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16 thoughts on “Where We Once Belonged 166-199

  1. Siniva is a very interesting character. She exemplified the idea that an education was extremely honorable, but so is staying true to your Samoan heritage. The village was very proud that she was able to receive a quality education outside of Samoa, but when she returned-unwilling to return to her Samoan beliefs, attitudes, and habits-she was rejected and beat up.

    “The Wind”, Alofa’s teacher is another example of these cultural expectations. She went away to become well educated, like few other individuals had been able to do, and she returned. She was the only one who returned to serve her village and that was a highly honorable thing to do. The others who made it inter higher education were celebrated at first, but looked down upon when they chose to not return. Both of these examples show both the honor in a good education and the honor in retaining your sense of heritage.

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  2. One of the defining moments of the Samoan culture, for me, was when Alofa and her siblings are punished by Filiga after he smells Loto’s elbow and discovers the children have disobeyed. Filiga hit them with his snake skin belt, but Alofa explains that their punishment was deserved. Instead of trying to gain sympathy and empathy from her reader, Alofa instead explains that she would rather have Filiga’s attention and get hit, than be ignored by the one person she admired the most. This difference in outlook between her and that of an American adolescent would perhaps be different, based on the differences in culture and how they each view punishment.

    In addition, the chapter “Miti” confused me to no end. Siniva’s interactions with nature as well as Alofa’s explanation of the fictional stories is confusing because I, as a reader, do not know who to trust as a narrator. This is an interesting aspect to the book as a whole (the stories), however, it is still confusing for me.

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  3. In this reading it was odd to hear about their school system. The way Alofa described her experience in school compared to her parent’s experiences reminded me of how I felt about high school. The parent’s memory was extremely different than what Alofa was experiencing. We also see that Alofa was very dependent on her father’s approval during this time in her life. While he didn’t she or speak of his feelings, Alofa would notice small things that meant her father was proud. Since she idolized him, it was really hard for Alofa to see her father having an affair with her teacher. In this reading we also get a deeper look at who Siniva is. We learn her story and her history. I noticed that while the children are drilled in the memorization of biblical texts, there are still a lot of instances of Samoan myth and lore in their everyday lives.

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  4. I was very touched by the way Alofa described her relationship with her father in this reading. Filiga would secretly tell Alofa he was proud of her or squeeze her hand in his palm. She claims that her father was “the one man, besides Jesus Christ and Bruce Lee. whom I worshipped most.” on page 181. This loving father/daughter relationship was endearing to me. I was quite upset after some time when Filiga began to ignore his daughter. I felt sad with Alofa at the way her father acted like he didn’t notice her. I also found it interesting that she craved even his negative attention rather than being ignored completely.

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  5. A part in the reading that really stuck out to me was when Lisi was supposed to stand in front of the class with a razor to scrap off the nail polish she had worn to class. I know for a fact that doing so hurts. A lot. However, that’s not what I want to write about. “She was supposed to scratch off the paint, but she cut her fingers accidentally. She cried-cried and the blood ran out of her flesh onto the white in her shirt. And Mrs. Samasoni told her that that’s what happened to cheeky girls who wanted to be afakasis.” It made me wonder why nail polish would make the teacher think she would be such a thing. I guess in Samoa having nail polish is luxury.

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  6. The imagery in this book just keeps getting more intense. The part were Alofa sees her dad having an affair with her teacher is so heart breaking but was so beautifully written. The imagery is never ending on each page. There are points when I’m not sure if the imagery is real or simply part of the writing.
    The fact that she says that her dad was her most worshiped person in her life and to see such a betrayal is clearly devastating. No matter how much pain she’s feeling emotionally she still doesn’t tell anyone the true story of that dad. I hope we find out her reasons at some point.

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  7. The theme that I think was very apparent in this section of the reading was about school. In one section we hear about Alofa’s experiences with school and how she is taught to read but not taught to comprehend. At another point we hear of Siniva who goes away to college and comes back a changed woman and a reject of society. Then, we hear of Alofa’s professor who goes off to college but comes back to teach, which against expectations for her in this society, they expect her to do something “more honorable” rather than waste her intelligence on the children. I think these all had to do not just with school but with societal values. Siniva goes against the modern religions of Samoa and is seen as a reject because of it. The wind values educating young ones over working for a bank, which perplexes the village and makes them think she is lazy. The teacher also values her students success in a competition rather than their actual comprehension, which I found to be very odd for someone who decided to put her energy into teaching when she could have made much more money. In a way the wind and Siniva are black sheep of this society. I wonder if the text is going to expand on their stories further and speak to the consequences for the rejection of norms.

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  8. I find the relationship between Alofa and her father interesting. I wonder if him being restrictive/secretive about showing love to Alofa and telling her he is proud of her is part of society saying that fathers should stand back and let mothers take care of their children, or if he has his own issues showing affection. Also, I find her father a selfish character. He cheats on his 2nd wife with Pisa, and after Alofa sees him cheating on Pisa, he won’t even look at her or punish her. Then he decides to send her off because he can’t deal with the consequences of his own actions.

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  9. There were several parts of this section of reading I found really unexpected and interesting. One thing was the relationship between Alofa and Filiga. Alofa says, when referring to hearing the sound of her father’s voice, “It was the laugh of the one man, besides Jesus Christ and Bruce Lee, whom I worshipped most,” (Figiel 181). By saying this we really get the impression that Alofa really idolized her father and thought very highly of him. I think it must have been upsetting for her to see him cheating on his wife with her teacher, but still she was the one to be punished. I thought it was kind of crazy for Filiga to send Alofa away because he could not stand to deal with her after the situation. I would imagine dealing with this must have been hard on the both of them but I do not think her being sent away was the right answer.

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  10. I thought that the relationship between Alofa and her father was somewhat heartbreaking in this section. The relationship between a father and his daughter, or at least so it seems, is very distant. The fact that Alofa took excitement from a simple look of appreciation from her father. In our culture fathers and their children (for the most part) have very close relationships. I know, personally, my father and I are very close. I would be able to tell him anything! Alofa and her father do not have this type of relationship. I wonder if fathers and their sons have closer relationships in the Samoan culture, more so than fathers and daughters. I think it is interesting to pay close attention to the dynamics of Alofa and both of her parents.

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  11. While reading about the incident when Alofa saw her teacher and her father having an affair, the issue was handled very differently than it would be handled if it took place in our culture. Rather than talking it through with Alofa, or even being sneaky and telling her to keep it from her mother, the father completely avoided her–dismissed her throughout all occasions. She no longer received beatings and she could do as she wished, which may have been his way of bribing her for not telling Pisa about what she saw. Then, however, Pisa became angry about Alofa’s behavior and wanted her father to beat her for her misbehavior. Rather than doing this, he sent her away to live with her aunt. Instead of addressing the issue and talking to her about it, or even threatening her in order for her to not tell her mother, she was punished in a way making it seem as though she was unwanted and unloved.

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  12. One of the things that I really connected with in this reading was the relationship between Alofa and her father. As much as she looked up to him, admired him, and sought his approval it was interesting to see how part of that faith in him failed when she discovered him mid-affair.
    I’m not sure, culturally, how father daughter relationships are in Samoa, but it could be an interesting avenue to explore!

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  13. From page 183-184, a scene is presented which demonstrates a sad misunderstanding of the adolescent mind, which is not uncommon in the culture of America. However, in Alofa’s telling of this, the misunderstanding is much more severe; so severe, in fact, that Alofa threatens to “kill [her]self.” From what I as a reader know about Alofa and her interpretation of suicide so far is that the decision to end one’s life is a severe and adult decision. Perhaps this is her way of communicating to her critics that she is in control of her life and involved in adult matters.

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  14. The majority of the text was about education, but first I again want to talk about how this culture intertwines religion and spirituality. It’s been a big theme through much of our readings this semester, including in Sundiata, where Islam is practiced, but Jinns and sorcery are still part of the culture. And here in Where we Once Belonged, Christianity is practiced, but Samoan myths and legends are spoken about with idol-like individuals therein. It’s so fascinating to me that the authors of these texts didn’t conform to a dichotomy- they didn’t even give the pretense of preferring a dichotomy, and that’s what’s so fascinating to me- that they simply didn’t think they had to choose. This contrasts so much with Western culture’s views, in which you only get to have one typically.

    Of course, Alofa’s relationship with her father was really upsetting- I expected it, so not surprising. It’s this thing in every culture where the father is put on a pedestal as the moral and structural leader- the mother accomplishes nurturing tasks and etiquette training so that the father is free to be the moral compass. The phrase always goes “Children need a mother” and “A male figure is needed”, rather than ‘Children need a mother’ and a ‘Female figure’. This shows that a mother is needed for mother tasks, while a father’s maleness accents his value. This heightens a male’s importance, which makes him the figure which children most seek guidance and acceptance from, since his judgment is more powerful. It’s heart-breaking to see children affected by this influence, as well as the diminished self-esteem and sense of personal value in women. She deserved better.

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  15. I find the relationship between Alofa and her father very interesting and heartbreaking. The sense were she catches him cheating with her school teacher to be written very detail that it couldn’t help but break my heart. I can really relate to Alofa here from my own experiences with my parents relationship and how there relationship drama really effected my life.
    Also, i think its really heart warming that she still looks up to him and admirs and she still wants his acceptance.

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  16. I was very angry at Alofa’s father when he said he was sending her to live with her aunt. He made the decision not to punish her because she knew that he was cheating on her mother. It was his fault in the first place that her mother wanted her sent away because he wouldn’t punish her. I feel bad for Alofa because after all that happened with her father cheating on her mother she still wanted him to accept her and be proud of her. This shows when she’s at church and everyone is congratulating her for her perfect recitation. However, the only person she wants to congratulate her is her father. Instead, he just tells her that he is sending her away and this breaks her heart.

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