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Pas de Deux Champion freediver Mandy-Rae Cruikshank and friend off Kona
Vol. 11, No. 4
August/September 2008

  >>   On One Breath
  >>   Rolling Sculptures
  >>   Return to Olosega
 

Return to Olosega 

story by Liza Simon
photos by Monte Costa

 

My husband is haunted by Olosega. In our ten years of marriage, he’s told me numerous tales about the island’s dark nights. He talks of strange animals appearing on the road with gleaming eyes, making car batteries stall and foot travelers turn and run. Then he assures me with bravado that he would not run. Those animals on the road? They could be the spirits of his ancestors. Puleisili comes from a line of high chiefs, or matai, who are buried on Olosega in the shade of a coconut grove near the family’s fale. One of his oft-repeated stories is of drifting into sleep in the fale one afternoon after an uncle’s funeral and waking to find a small lizard on his chest, watching him.

“I wasn’t startled. I just accepted it as the ancestors welcoming me home,” he chuckles. Puleisili seems to find everything about Olosega comforting. So many times he has attributed his ability to handle the stress of cityscapes—Manhattan, Long Beach, Seattle, Honolulu—to his home island. “Wherever I am, I am an Olosega man,” he repeats triumphantly.

Now we are bound for the island together. It will be my first visit. We’re going to attend Puleisili’s family reunion, which is being held, naturally, at the family’s place of origin. To me, the very premise that we all belong to a place is foreign. History dealt my Lithuanian forefathers a one-way ticket: war, famine, Ellis Island, acculturation, great refrigerators and no talk of return. But my husband comes from a culture where there was constant movement back and forth between islands—at least so say more and more archeologists studying Polynesian navigation. Perhaps, I think as we board the plane in Honolulu to fly south, the massive family reunions that are so commonplace in Samoa today are a legacy of that rare ability to make migration go in reverse.


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