Today was my second day working with the Samoans.
(NZers pronounce Samoa like “Sah-moa,” with the first syllable drawn out; similarly, “gah-rage” for garage.)
Pacific Islanders here are in a somewhat similar situation to Mexicans and other Latinos in the States. They live in somewhat destitute conditions, working for months at a time as unskilled, seasonal laborers in NZ and saving everything they can to take back to their families.
This was the closest I’ve ever really been to the sort of life described by sociologists and economists as “migrant worker.”
One thing that stuck out to me was that most of these guys—the youngest was twenty-one and the eldest around fifty—had wives and children back home. They were exiles in NZ; only one spoke English to any degree that might be considered fluent.
The youngest—Junior—was very interested to talk to me, not least because he had developed a vocabulary of American English from a passion for rap and hip-hop and he wanted to speak with someone he thought would appreciate his diction.
“You been seein’ the bitches, bro?”
“Yeah, the bitches. I can barely go a week without one. It is my dream to go to America and find one just like Beyoncé. My father lives in Seattle. I think I will go there.”
I told him the only “bitches” I had been in contact with were the ewes gathering around us to watch us grub thistles in their paddock. And that he’d be hard-pressed to find anyone resembling Beyoncé in Seattle.
Another worker could make sounds identical to a little lamb baaing. He’d sneak up behind the other guys and nip at their trousers (= pants), piping baa baaaa.
I felt at home in the company of these guys, not because we shared the same socio-economic status or fundamental view of the world, but because we were all exiles from our homeland.
I miss the United States like midsummer wildfire.
It’s weird. I notice the words “United States,” along with photos of Barack Obama, almost immediately amongst the hodgepodge of random news articles in local NZ papers. They jump out to me as if they were my name, as if I recognized in them my own face.
Admittedly, the scenery is beautiful here, but—as I observed in my journal a few days ago—I have no emotional connection to it. It is not home.