When I met my husband in Suva, Fiji, seven years ago, I did not realize that the day would mark the end of my open admiration of Shania Twain, obsession over corned beef or giving freely without questioning.
I'm Samoan, born and brought up on a fiercely proud tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific. I married an American and I lost a part of who I am. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband, he is a wonderful man with a good heart and he is an amazing father, but he is American, and a certain type of American, the type who hikes, makes pasta from scratch, reads The Sun magazine, listens to jazz and knows the difference between pinus radiata and pinus ponderosa.
I'm sure many a women would die to have a man like this, who cooks amazing food, is fit, attentive, likes good music and cares about the environment, but this is not what I bargained for. You see, growing up on the island of Savaii, I only knew of Americans through tourists that came to our island, the magazines that somehow found it's way to Samoa, and from watching the odd movie here and there on the one television screen in our village.
Americans as I saw through these mediums were wrestlers, survivors of the Titanic, Backstreet Boys and Steven Seagull. The man I married was as un-American in my mind as they come, and let me count the ways.
1. He cooks and cleans: The Americans we saw on TV merely ate in fancy restaurants or Casinos when they are not getting shot at by bad guys.
2. He does not eat at McDonalds: Where I'm from, it's a sign of prestige to eat at McDonalds, where he is from, it is most certainly not a sign of prestige to eat at McDonalds. I am fine with this and willingly support this particular trait.
3. He does not listen to Shania Twain: My husband listens to Jazz, or Latina music, or some sort of blues. In Samoa we sing our own music, we listen to Bob Marley and do not attach socio-economic or political values to music, it's just music, it does not reflect your personality.
4. He does not dance: Where I am from, dancing is like breathing and singing is like opening your eyes. Everyone sings and dance, I could not comprehend how my husband cannot hold a tune or slap his body while holding a fire knife that is burning with fire.
5. He likes to hike: In Samoa, if you were born in the village, walking is the rule and driving is an exception. We do not do strenuous activities just for pleasure, we walk to get food, we swim in the fresh water pool to clean ourselves, we farm for food and we sleep to gather our strength for the same work the next day. It is unfathomable to think that one would walk for the sake of walking.
6. He likes to go camping: I grew up in a village, we cook food in an open fire, we feed the chickens and the pigs, our houses have no doors and we sleep on mats. Why anyone would find it pleasurable to then replicate this way of life, is something that is both confusing and intriguing.
7. He does not just give money away: When asked to contribute to Church, family activities, village causes or just to lend some money to someone who needs it, he questions the financial implications on him. I never have. In Samoa, when someone asks you for something that you can give, you give, no questions asked.
8. He does not eat canned food: I have an Uncle who is named 'Apa' which means 'can' as in 'canned meat.' He was named this because in the year he was born, the American marines popularised the canned pea soup. Canned meat is a luxury in Samoa, it is apparently frowned upon in America. I still eat corned beef when he is not looking.
9. He is not violent: Violence in subtle forms is very much a part of my culture. The first word that many children learn is "sasa" which means "smack," it replaces the words no, don't and stop. He has not once threatened me with violence or our daughter.
10. When he dies no fine mats will be used: Upon the death of any Samoan, fine mats are exchanged as a sign of respect for the departed, and to adhere to traditional funeral rites. Due to the fact that he is not Samoan, he is not a chief nor the son of a high chief, I do not have to worry about fine mats, cooked pigs, dead cows or dozens of tinned fish when he dies.
Many Samoan women have married Americans and our experiences are all different yet similar, we marvel at the cultural differences and our perceptions, but ultimately we appreciate what we gain from marrying outside of our culture. My husband may not eat corned beef, sing or dance, but he is a responsible father, who adores our daughter and he appreciates nature more than many Samoans do.
The author Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson is a titled taupou, and daughter of a High Chief from the island of Savaii in Samoa, her husband is from Santa Barbara.