Thursday, March 29, 2007

9th Heaven

It is early. Maybe 5:00 because the sun isn’t up yet. The church bells are sounding their morning drone and the animal sounds of the night are performing their morning calls. I woke up completely awake and almost literally jumped out of bed. All night I had strange vivid dreams of the like that could set the pace for one’s day all the way up until the return to bed at night. It’s been a weird past couple of days.

Last week, Sister Fatima’s father passed away and in the last few days I got to experience everything that goes into a Samoan funeral. The whole village seemed to stop. I’ve really only been working 1-2 periods a day all week and even today I only have one class. The funeral was yesterday (actually I’m not apt with my funeral terms, this was the part where you go to the house and view the body but there was no burying yet) and the entire school in uniform and all walked all the way across Fasito’otai, our neighboring village, and waited about two hours in a roadside fale for the body to arrive at which point we lined a long road military style with two rows of people on each side as if we were going to salute the body as it passed. Everyone was pretty cheery when we got there. I didn’t see any tears although Sister Fatima understandably seemed beside herself. The students sang many beautiful songs and there was a long sermon by a local priest who gave communion and blessed the house. We all sat barefoot and cross-legged on the floor surrounding the body. Besides a few minor differences it wasn’t much unlike a funeral in the states. The funeral ended very late and night had crept over the village. It was a really nice night with a bright slice of the moon lighting my long walk home.

I’ve spent much time in Fasito’otai lately. Partly because another volunteer lives there but mostly because I’ve been networking with villagers about letting me use their waters to spearfish. I hadn’t eaten fish since mid-December but my medical officer strongly advised that I incorporate seafood into my diet as a way to promote a better immune system and after my recent infection I want nothing to do with sickness around here. I was happy to discover a wonderful section of beach that has no owner thus granting me permission to fish and have access to the waters with no hassle. I even talked to some villagers who said they would allow me to come with them on their fishing boats (awesome!) during fishing adventures. I’ve seen the prize they often return with.. I didn’t know such sea beasts existed. I’ve always been a bit of a salty pirate and it seems like I’m going to have a great opportunity to see that destiny flourish.

I also finished my tatau the other day. I was surprised at how much more painful the chest area is than I expected. Lopi came with me and he is pursuing an entire calf-sleeve done traditionally. I have to tip my bandana to him because that is quite an endeavor and having experienced a traditional tattoo I can safely say he’s in for a ride. I never made a facial expression though as I promised myself. In cultures with traditional body modification there always seems to be an essence of ‘rite of passage’ and because of this one must endure by showing no sign of the pain affecting you. National Geographic Taboo series (if you haven’t seen it – buy it – worship it – dip it in bronze) would be proud.

The person who is most interested in my tatau is Filimaua, a teacher at my school. Fili is a Matai of perhaps fifty-something years old. A matai is very proud of his title and typically they will pursue the pe’a, which is the full body tatau, as a sign of their status. The process is extremely painful and people often say that if they knew how painful it was they would have never done it. Fili seems to have family issues holding him back from getting the pe’a, perhaps a wife who wont stand for it or something of the like, and he is very distressed about his lack of tattoo. We drowned a few buckets of ‘ava the other day with Lolesio and Fiapule, two other teachers, in the teacher’s lounge while speaking of Samoan legends and traditions. ‘Ava has never really hit me too hard but for some reason the 3+ buckets we finished off left the room spinning and much of my body numb. I like being with these people in such a state of mind. Some things are the same all over the world, you sit around with people and get shitty on something while sharing stories and ambitions and making new friends at the same time. Fili is quickly becoming a good friend of mine. I think he is 51% determined to get the tatau and I told him that I would go with him for part of the process. That would be something. Watching a matai become tattooed by another matai.


- the title of this entry is 9th Heaven. This comes from a very old legend about the origin of kava however as tradition goes one is not permitted to tell legends unless they completely understand it (i.e. a talking chief) and honestly I don’t understand the story completely.

I had a dream last night that me and a lovely stranger who I created in the dream completely destroyed an Egyptian exhibit and a museum. I can see it vividly in my head when I close my eyes. Not a single one of my dreams have made sense yet but I have never woken up in a clear frame of mind. In fact my dreams continue on into my waking life for longer and longer each time and I literally had to splash water on my face this morning to stop dreaming. If you think I’m going mad, press 1 at the tone and leave a message to whichever voice in my head you feel is responsible enough to take a message.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

We pay our debts sometimes

*my arm was pretty swollen here but in the days to come it would nearly double in size..
Spent the week trying to get out of this funk. I’ve been in a funk. I think last weekend’s St. Patrick’s bar crawl would have helped but I was on a heavy dose of antibiotics and I had to sit that one out. My arm is maybe 95% healed but there are strange gaps in my arm where the bacteria ate away tissue and muscle. It is very strange because I did a few push-ups this morning and my right arm feels very weak but I’m told that rehabilitation could help replace my lost chunk of arm. School was fine this week. I took a long bus rides with my iPod while finding myself thinking strange thoughts like, “I’m pleasantly lonely today.” I like the company of single-serving friends you meet on the bus. They usually begin by asking you if you speak Samoan and then follow up by asking if you’re married. My iPod was a great gift. I like to disappear into drum n bass while staring at the ocean. I’m in my own world.

I lost a few pounds this last couple of weeks. When you’re as slim as I am to begin with, losing weight is a terrible thing. I didn’t go into much of the details about my infection and the miserating sickness which entailed (mostly because I didn’t want to scare my parents) but it was pretty bad. I was told by our medical officer that I was very fortunate because infections that bad can take a wrong turn and should the swelling refuse to go down I could have fallen into something called septic-shock where the fluid in your body turns toxic. I didn’t eat much and I had a super high fever. I’m feeling relatively excellent now and gaining a few pounds back but the whole ordeal knocked my mental health on its ass. You know, I can’t escape this life-long belief in karma and I firmly believe that we pay our debts sometimes. If there is anything in the cosmic mechanics of things that I have dishonored then perhaps I am paying my dues.


This story has a happy ending though. Around eleven today, Robin, Lopi, Sitivi, Aaron and I made our way to Tamasina to do the ocean thing. We build a bar-b-q pit and cooked up two skipjack that turned out awesome. I spent the better part of the day hanging out in a beach fale with good friends and everything seemed to turn out okay. It is a strange planet we live on in this chaotic universe but once in a while life slows down enough to dip your toes in the sand and concentrate on the nothingness of things. The sky turns into a sunset which then turns into beautiful stars with a mysterious moon to keep you company. In this very big sea I am still just a fish splashing in the twilight and I know there are other fish out there just like me so there is no reason to feel lonely. Maybe it’s just my time to understand more about myself and focus on the important things of the world. I don’t know why I washed upon this shore but I am happy here.. actually from what I’ve been told about my infection I should be happy just to be alive.

Lopi of the fire people

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fai se miti malie i lalo o le moli o le masina

*make a sweet dream under the light of the moon

Besides a moderately sized hole in my elbow, things are pretty much back to normal in my arm. It’s good to be able to climb trees and rip apart coconuts again which is something I thoroughly enjoy. Last weekend was St. Patrick’s Day and I unfortunately could not partake in what became a highly celebrated holiday by my Peace Corps friends although I’m sure I would have been front row ripping fans off the walls with them had I not been on antibiotics. That Saturday morning I met with my six soon to be tattoo pupils at Kofe Haus for a crash course on Samoan tattoos and proper composure in front of matai. These six kids were students at the University of the South Pacific which sends waves of students over ever semester for our viewing pleasure. They are, in a way, like a junior Peace Corps and I think they have a pretty sweet deal. Anyway I was fortunate to be selected by them to teach them about Samoan tattoos and take them to Suluape for six traditional tattoos. They did great and walked away with impressive ink in various places. I was exceptionally proud of homeboy would walked away with a beautiful armband because the pain is tremendous in certain areas and he held strong.

Lately I’ve been learning a lot about Samoan folk legend although as I’ve been instructed it is custom not to retell a legend unless one understands it completely. The history of this country was preserved orally for many years and it should not be bastardized by a visitor like myself. Humorously however I was told that the problem in my arm was because I was bitten by the ‘bad fairy’ who lurks in the shadows at night. Upon learning about this I also discovered more about malu’ia, which is the moon mythology I mentioned many months ago. The moon is creepy here and I cannot explain why. Just last night I was having this extremely visual dream and I woke up abruptly to discover the moon lurking eerily above Mt. Tafua Upolu just behind my house and shining in my window. I would have taken a picture but it would never have done the moment justice. The strange thing was that this was one of those dreams that seems to continue into waking life and as I sat there staring at the moon I realized I was still dreaming to some degree and it actually made me shiver a little. I wonder about moon mythology all over the world and how different cultures have interpreted what it is. Ryuta once told me that the Japanese say there is a rabbit in the moon like we say there is a man, I even think that folklore in Peru tells of a fox in the moon. On long road trip drives late at night I would talk with the moon and thank it for keeping me company as my friends were sound asleep and I was alone. “Just you and me” I would quietly say and turn off the radio to listen to sounds of nothingness. I like watching the moon fall into the ocean or rise from it like an ethereal glowing orb. Kevin from Asau once told me that he brought his girlfriend to one of the lava rock freshwater springs on beautiful nights to sit in the moonlight. How otherworldy. Along those beaches there are enormous blowholes casting jets of water into the sky that must have appeared like fountains of diamonds

I sometimes have these dreams about people from home. Sometimes they are about random people of various personal significance who I haven’t seen in ages. Many of my dreams exist in a number of different worlds I’ve created, most of which containing water and aquatic wonders, and sometimes I bring visitors there to see my estranged world. The places in my dreams don’t change much although some of them have either been flooded by a broken dam or infested with strange creatures from time to time. I think one of them exists in the year 10013 ad because I asked somebody once. It’s nice to bring visitors there at times. If things go lucid and I realize I am dreaming I try to ask them if they are dreaming about me or I tell them to remember this and tell me about it someday. I never seem to do justice at explaining these occurrences to those who visit my otherworld, in fact I can never quite relay to them how wonderful it was to bring them there. Not many people usually see that place, actually it is exceptionally rare for anyone to make such a lucid appearance. I don’t know what they mean but I like how it makes me feel and I always wake up wanted to talk to that person and wonder what I have to do to invade their lucid thoughts some night.


Mt. Tafua Upolu
My dawg. He talks alot of shit but he's a good dog.

fish might not have any memory but they have intense dreams..

Friday, March 16, 2007

This article is not for the faint heart, the weak stomach or the pompous religious type

Tuesday morning I woke up around 3:00 in the morning and could hardly move my arm without feeling an enormous amount of pain. I walked into the bathroom and turned to see my elbow in the mirror and it had become slightly purple and tiny bumps were forming. I couldn’t fall back asleep that night so I waited until about 8:30 in the morning when I called our medical officer and she told me she would send a driver to bring me into town for examination. After meeting with her and being sent to a doctor I found out that I had a cellulitis infection completely surrounding my elbow. My arm had swelled to almost twice the size of my other arm and I had a high fever. They put me on antibiotics and painkillers and told me to take the week off work and hang around this part of town to be checked up on every morning. The doctor seemed to think I was going to be fine but the medical officer was concerned about a possible consequence of having severe swelling for so long in which the fluid turns toxic and can put you into shock.

I’ve basically been sitting around watching movies and keeping my arm elevated in a sling; all this and periodically draining goo from my arm. So much crap has been spilled out of my arm that it would easily have filled a small mason jar. Should bacteria and blood be considered a delicacy somewhere I bet I could have made a small fortune. I’ve decided to spare the juicier of details of bacteria drainage because it has been thoroughly video taped (oh yeah) and I’ll tell you now it will be included in my upcoming video coming soon to a doorstep near you!

This week I’ve been staying with a friend in Apia. My friend lives with this Christian girl from New Zealand who was having some friends from her church over for dinner. I came wandering in wearing a sling and appearing like a stinky unshaven degenerate but I was warmly greeted and well fed either way. The night was looking great until one of the guests played the whole, “are you saved? How is your walk with Christ?” thing on me. I responded, “Its fine I guess but I have a few beefs with Christianity.” The man asked me to name a few and even though I warned him that this would turn into a friendly debate he accepted and we began a conversation that would linger in my head for days. I thought two beefs would be appropriate so I told him that I can’t help but believe in evolution and I think it is terrible how Christians treat homosexuals. The evolution talk was a well rounded conversation. We took turns exchanging points of views and passing the microphone back and forth without ever turning into a heated argument. I had a few points and he had a few also. As debates go I will not turn this entry into a documentation of facts and points but rather admit that I enjoyed pulling my cards onto the table and seeing the cards of a player who does not agree with me. He was baffled how someone could believe in God but yet also believe in evolution but I don’t feel I ever backed myself into a corner of logic and I didn’t act like I knew anything I don’t. I liked talking to him. The problem came when the second topic, homosexuality, was brought up. The man’s wife seemed to have a lot to say about the issue and gradually my opinion of the two of them began to dwindle. This woman knew no sort of logic and rather tossed bizarre statistics around (I’ll go ahead and say it) like it is a proven fact that 9 and a half out of 10 of all homosexuals were sexually abused as a child. I took a moment and a cleansing breath to let that on-the-spot bullshit statistic pass and I said, “fine.. lets go with your proven statistical fact and focus on the other .5 out of 10 homosexuals who weren’t abused but are rather born homosexual.” She farted out of her mouth the same crap that everyone in her position says about how she has all kinds of homosexual friends and they are lovely people but what she was about to say made me so upset that I sat there in silence and stared her in the eyes in complete silence until she shut her mouth and the conversation was over. She actually had the testicular fortitude to tell me that homosexuality is no different than Down syndrome or mental retardation (her exact words) and she knows because she has worked for so long in special education. I sat there with my mouth hanging open and my eyes gazing painfully at her ignorant face.

The conversation was over at this point. I didn’t say another word for the next fifteen minutes until they left. I don’t respond to some things. Sometimes the feces that comes out of people’s mouths is so ridiculous that words aren’t necessary. I just feel sorry. I feel sorry for her and I feel sorry for ever victim in the path of her pathetic two-dimensional ministry.

Now the man originally gained my respect because of the respect he offered me. I think he even realized the illogic of his wife’s foolish comments. I still like the guy but I ran into him the next day and he busted out this document that he insisted I read because it has scientific proof that all evolutionary science is false. I read it. A few of us read it. I proofread it too and gave it some overdue spellchecking. The arguments were ludicrous and often based on one completely unrelated statistic after another. I’m not gonna get too into it. I’d like to run into him and say, “I read it. It’s cute.” Fact is that it was bad logic used on bad science and I would not even waste anymore energy dealing with these people except whatever it takes to show a finger in the center of my fist to that ignorant woman. The sad thing is that I know how these things work and I know that I’m going to become part of his sermon about how he met this lost and confused boy who was hurting and deceived by the evil veil of evolution and homosexuality but thanks to his self righteous intervention he hath shown me the light! ALELUIAH!

Dude, I hope you and your wife read this. I hope you know what a poison you fundamentalist types are to this world. I hope you realize that your people once persecuted and murdered people of the scientific community for claiming that the sun is the center of the universe. Your people get so worked up about science because you are so full of fear. You use awful logic in trying to explain things in which you have absolutely no concept of and worst of all you arrogantly and pompously condemn people as if you were God himself, herself, itself, themselves.

Shame on you.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

If they don't have collars you can kill them

The last few days were spent in recovery. Between six and a half hours of tattooing, Tuesday and Thursday, and a completely unrelated infection (prior to the tattoo) I have spent the last few days limping around with one arm tucked as if I had a broken bone. Those who understand tattoos will be happy to know that for the entire period of traditional tatau I never made a single facial expression. I sat there and turned the pain into part of the process just as every man, woman or child has who underwent a traditional rite of passage.

Suluape was a great experience and finally being able to meet this man was a wonderful asset to my stay on these islands. I learned much about the culture as well as the history of tattoos in Polynesia. He lives close by and I have intentions on remaining close with my new shaman. He told me that tattooing was not his ambition in life however the opportunity and obligation fell on his lap when his brother was killed a few years ago in Papua New Guinea. He is now the final link of an ancient name and wearing his ink on my body is the mark of a legacy.

So I spent a few days in repair while trying to remain lo-key and catching up on some good reading at the office. I almost stayed in my village this weekend but our water wasn’t working so I stumbled onto the first bus into town and set up camp for the weekend. I’m slowly working on this movie that I plan on sending back home that contains animations and random things I’ve found inspirational from the islands so far. I won’t say much about it but when it shows up on your doorstep take it with a grain of salt because it is the product of a healthy dose of madness I’ve accumulated over the last five months. I had another close call with dogs this weekend and because of my weakened state I couldn’t put on the rock throwing act in an intimidating enough manner to scare the demons away so I had to resort to yelling and animalistic hissing to slide away from a dangerous situation. Somebody told me once that you can kill them if they don’t have collars and even if they do, just make sure nobody sees you. Naturally I don’t have it quite in me yet to put down one of these menacing jackals but it’s crossed my mind. I hear them howl in the night like marauding hell spawn and it makes my spine shiver because I know how crazy they can get.

My birthday was dope on account of Izumi and Takeda who got me some wonderful presents and good company. After tattooing and sifting through guilt brought on from my parents I went to bed earlier than I ever have on another birthday. Really though I haven’t slept in about four days because of the pain from unrelated infection and tattoos but I’m doing well again and before long I will return to my tree kingdom. Takeda got me a pua’a shirt (imagine PUMA with the word PUA’A written instead, which means pig, and the outline of a leaping piglet replacing the puma – Ian, just wait) and Izumi got me a thoughtful but strange gift involving the picture of a 35 year old JICA volunteer girl and an information card which resembles a mail-order bride application. Confused but respectfully I offered two hands to each of my gifts then collapsed into my bed with a frozen Tupperware of lentils on my underarm.

Recently I saw this video from a group of Peace Corps volunteers in 1986 who were partying at a few of my present day friends’ house at NUS. It was very weird seeing Apia 21 years ago and even weirder imagining what it would be like to find a video of our group in 2028. I heard that people from group 78 are slowly surfacing on the internet. If any of you find this page please feel free to email me or any of us because I remember what it was like to be so excited and curious. These days I’m still excited and curious and I don’t think that really goes away.

It kinda sucked having a bum arm this weekend but I made due. I found my way to On the Rocks last night where I met some interesting people from the diving community. We played the tattoo game and I got to show off my new ink while looking at other amazing pieces of art created by Suluape the great and other various Polynesian artists. One man, from Finland, has a traditional Pe’a (which means bat in Samoa – the tattoo actually resembles a bat or flying fox) that covers half of his back, half of his stomach, both of his thighs to the knees and his buttocks. One can use their imagination to figure out everything else that is covered. I also got to chat with Leua from the art school that my friend Bob teaches at. She is the one who wants me to give a presentation to her students about spontaneous art and sometime soon I will be taking her up on it. She has big plans for the artists from Peace Corps and the five or six of us will be working with her on various projects at her school. This is a good thing because I have had much trouble finding resources and fortune has smiled upon me with things like clay and a kiln. Its gonna be a rad week..
Kevin Pieters getting tattooed by Suluape a few months ago

Is this wild or what? Meijer..

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Oh no!

Sometimes when facing common trouble
When whole town is screwed
We become actually human
Act like Prometheus would
Suddenly there is more humor
In a party-tabor style
People ringing one another
Yo man how’s your blackout?
Suddenly there is more music
Played with buckets in a park
Girls are dancing with flashlights
I’ve got only one guitar
And you see brothers and sisters
All engaged in sport of help
Making merry out of nothing
Like in refugee camp

Oh yeah, oh no!
It doesn’t have to be so
It is possibly anytime anywhere even without any dough
Oh yeah, oh no!
It doesn’t have to be so
The forces of creative minds are unstoppable

And you think right now people
They have finally woke up
But as soon as troubles over
Watch them take another nap
Now nobody’s making merry
Only trotting scared of boss
Everybody’s making hurry
For some all forgetting cause
But one thing surely is eternal
Its condition of a man
Who don’t know where he is going
Who don’t know where does he stand
Who’s dream power is a bottle
Put away in dry dark place
Who’s will power is buried
Under propaganda waste
Who’s dream life in opposition
To the life during the day
Who’s beaten down in believing
It just kidna goes this way

Oh yeah, oh no!
It doesn’t have to be so
It is possibly anytime anywhere even without any dough
Oh yeah, oh no!
It doesn’t have to be so
The forces of creative minds are unstoppable

-Gogol Bordello

We know the danger

I’m finding that upon learning more complex sentences and phrases in Samoan that my Spanish is beginning to come back to me. This is a bad thing sometimes because I often confuse the two but I used to enjoy speaking Spanish and to my students and other Samoans it seems like a very exotic language. My boy students always want me to teach them Spanish because they think it will help them get girls. It is a fact that Spanish is quite a seductive language and I like the practice. I recently borrowed one of those Teach Yourself Spanish cds and when I feel burned out from Samoan I like to practice my favourite language in the world. My birthday present couldn’t have come at a better time. Among other cool toys and tasty treats I got a new iPod fully stacked with music that used to narrate my life in Detroit. I cannot thank Gregg enough for bringing Manu Chao to my new world, one couldn’t explain how much fun that music is here. Last weekend, speaking of Espanol, I ran into a girl from Cuba who I met last week. I was out with my friend Lio, from Puerto Rico, and we drank tequila while making toasts in Spanish. It was a spicy night, or mid-afternoon. Tequila awakens the beast. I felt like getting into trouble. I left my Spanish speaking friends behind and hopped in a cab without saying goodbye. After tossing an undisclosed amount of money at the driver I asked him to take me far away. He drove until my small fare ran out and I ended up at a beach fale near Luatuanu’u, one of my favourite surf spots. I spotted a few female bodies holding surf boards in the distance. Loosening my bandana I tied it around my wrist and wiped the glazy tequila grin off my face. “Como esta chicas bonitas?” I half-jokingly greeted in passing as if I actually was heading somewhere and to my surprise one of them responded, “bien gracias!” I paused for a second trying to focus on her face; they spoke Spanish. After forcing myself to shift into Spanish mode I found out that they were on holiday from Spain. Beautiful. “Would you like to join us for a drink?” I couldn’t pass, it was a small cooler full of Heineken which is quite expensive out here and I was on a beautiful beach with two equally as beautiful Spanish chicas. A few beers made us close friends and anything lost in translation I just smiled to which usually brought on two cute Spanish giggles. This is unbelievable I thought. I mentioned my birthday was on Thursday, “hold old are you going to be?” the darker haired girl, Maria, asked. I took a close look at her, she must have been 32 I guessed. “28” I lied. The sun set over the northwest side of the island revealing a beautiful view of the ocean. It was really cool to meet some nice girls and ironically find a second instance of Spanish practice in one night. We had some fun for a while and granted they don’t travel to Fiji for a few more weeks I think I made a few new surf friends. Someone once told me that before long I would hate it here. I don’t sign up for bitterness. An adventurous heart will take you to the far reaches of a small island and a little tequila will end you up with gorgeous Spanish girls, or in a fight, either way its gonna be one hell of a night.

I must have listened to the Radio Bemba Sound System album by Manu Chao a hundred times since I first opened my parcel last Friday. The music does something too me. Its good to be in a hot country wearing a short-sleeved white button up shirt only buttoned 2/3 of the way with a beer in your hand and a hop in your step as the sun goes down over the bay. I never used to dance very much in America but I have grown to like it out here. Sometimes the DJ will spin some halfway decent music with a good island beat and it is impossible to hold still. I feel like a bold traveller in Tijuana moving in fusion with the vibrations from the street. There is trouble everywhere if you’re not careful and you have to know who’s girl you are not to smile at. This really is only a matter of how much you care or how well you are at talking yourself out of a dangerous situation. When midnight comes in Apia, the streets become a wild jungle. You have two choices of travel by foot because it is difficult to get a cab at this hour. You could walk on the side of the road that is well-lit with the entrances to the various bars of Beach Road but there is often conflict by drunken soles who see you as an easy target. You could take your chances along the seawall which is poorly lit however easier to sneak off into the darkness which actually offers some safety. The problem with the seawall is that if someone does assault you nobody is going to see it and help might be hard to find. Nights in Apia are debaucherous and expensive. It is fun to get crazy on the weekends after a long week of quiet village life. I find that I like it better when people don’t know where I’m at. On those crazy nights in town I will often disappear and choose my own adventure. Town is not very big and the herd is easy to catch back up with via cell phone and a cheap cab ride. Meeting people is easy and if you’re lucky those people might be surfer girls, my personal weakness. I never leave home without a Sharpe, the only question is red or black. Can I draw on your leg? Your back? Red Sharpe looks amazing on Spanish women. A few details will be left for imagination about Friday night and we can skip a few hours later to the early morning when I met back up with my Peace Corps friends. We are still up acting like monkeys. Names need not be mentioned but I got to watch them get wasted and dress up in drag while taking orders from a large Puerto Rican. The photographs from that night should be enough to prevent any of them from ever getting a job in politics. I was up until 5 when I crashed only to find that I couldn’t sleep. Every time I started to fall asleep I’d think about monkeys and laugh. No sleep tonight, I think I’ll check out the bakery for some donuts.


Its Thursday, March 6th. Yesterday I made the appointment and today I am face to face with the most legendary man in Polynesian tattoos. The day begins at 2:00 when school is over and I am surrounded by four of Suluape’s many children who are students of mine at Paul VI College. I need to prepare an ‘oso (gift) for my meeting but everywhere I look is sold out of Vailima, the islands only beer. Hopping from faleoloa to faleoloa I am shit out of luck for finding a case of twelve large beers to make for the perfect gift to the man who will deliver to me my most ambitious tattoo yet. Let us disregard the fact that I am surrounded by 4 of his 8- 13 year olds while ignoring the fact that it looks awful fishy that I am at a store buying beer with so many youngsters around – the culture is my only guise and nobody seems to think otherwise of this mighty purchase, in fact I’ve seen children buy beer for their parents many times. We wait for a taxi and end up hitch-hiking a ride in a large van heading in a direction which I’m sure Suluape’s house resides and to my avail I find that the children remain silent when time comes to explain where their house is. After a bit of confusion I find myself at the beginning of a long road leading to the fale of Suluape, the man I have waited so long to meet. I make a short stop at the faleoloa and purchase twelve large beers which I must carry for like a mile to Suluape’s property while surrounded by question-asking youngsters very curious to what I am doing in their village. Before long I am confronted with a quaint faleo’o where a heavily tattooed man resides passed out cold in front of a television playing Lord of the Rings. His youngest daughter wakes him up and his awaken presence alarms me. The man is quite intimidating like all tattoo artists are but I am taken back by a mantra tattooed on his leg which is identical to the one on my forearm – he knows a bit about Buddhism Upon arrival I find myself immediately humbled. I explained that I am the teacher from Paul VI who has been calling him and he recognizes my request for a large tattoo on my chest and shoulder. He takes out a Sharpe (go figure) and begins to draw a crude outline all over my torso and upper arm without uttering too many words and before long I find myself lying on his floor surrounded by tattooed Samoans holding my skin tight as he pounds ink into my flesh. I didn’t tell him much, I simply pointed to where I wished to be inked and the rest is tattoo history. He didn’t talk much, he just sat there pounding ink with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth as an unnamed sole caught the ashes into a well-positioned hand fan. The pain was quite a bit more extreme than a machine tattoo but in the same like I lay there and ignored every moment while staring at the ceiling thinking of things completely unrelated. A few of his children passed and we exchanged eyebrows but the majority of the experience was held in silence. I was nervous yet stoic and I didn’t make a single expression as I’m told traditional tattoos should employ. Funny thing is that halfway through a man from Italy showed up and for the rest of my tattooing experience. I sat there being surrouned by soles, Suluape and an Italian tourist. I didn’t know this at the time but shortly after my first tattoo session was over me and the Italian would become friends. His name was Gianluca and he was from Tuscany. He has travelled all across the Pacific islands in search of tattoos and historical culture while probably not realizing just how lucky he was for landing upon one of the most famous tattoo artists in the world, 52 year old Suluape. Suluape explained to me that my tattoo would take more than one sitting and from this moment I am only half through with my engagement. My shoulder was shaking with pain but I never once made any facial expression to show how bad it hurt. I will come back on Thursday to finish my chest and bicep region but until then I am left staring at the unfinished project of Suluape the great. The man seems to be as equally prolific as a philosopher as he is an artist. His work is great but just as all other tattoo artists I have known, the experience was capitalized by the conversation which followed. His life was incredible. He has seen more in the last ten years than I probably ever will. A few ‘oso beers and brief post-tattoo periods afterward and I really got a chance to understand the great Suluape and where he has come from. I’ll spare a few details but it seems that he was a teacher at my school for three years and a vice-pule at Chanelle college for some 13 years. He told me that his first passion wasn’t tattooing but rather teaching. I spent the next few hours getting drunk with him and the Italian while explaining that he should speak with the pule at my school about getting his job back. It was a beautiful experience just speaking with the man and he gave me a ride home while telling me the stories behind each of his many childrens’ names. For now, my arm is leaking black ink and blood while I try to figure out how to sleep tonight. I left my shoes over his house and I figure tomorrow should be interesting – I don’t even wear shoes to work anymore so I’m not too concerned. I have to come back on Thursday to finish the job but until then I am very happy with the ink that has been pounded into my shoulder. What does it feel like? It feels like a very gruff man is trying to crack my arm off very slowly and the only way around the pain is to ignore it completely or become one with it. Unlike many of his victims he offers me and the Italian a ride home all the way back to my village where I was greeted by Izumi and a tremendous feast. My duties with Suluape are not complete and this story shall continue on Thursday, my birthday..