Two weeks ago, my biggest worries concerned managing my classes, having three dance practices a week, organizing events for the Harvard College Women’s Center, and writing this column. But two weeks ago, I didn’t know that I would be packing up my things and leaving Harvard for the rest of the semester. I didn’t know that I would be getting stuck in Hawaii for a week with my older brother, scrambling to move my cousin out of her apartment with the threat of her being out of a job soon and unable to cover rent. And I didn’t know that all three of us would be flying to American Samoa together with the fear that we could be carrying a deadly virus back home, threatening the lives of, not only our families, but our entire community. To say that the things I was worried about two weeks ago now seem small and insignificant is quite the understatement.
In fact, as I sit quarantined in an apartment building, separated from my little brother, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and cousins, I can barely summon enough concentration to carry on with classes over Zoom or even write clear sentences for this piece.
Last month, as I sat in my common room surrounded by pizza boxes and blockmates impatiently waiting to watch Shakira and Jennifer Lopez perform at the Super Bowl LIV halftime show, I could not help but think of home.
I come from a lineage of geniuses.
My Samoan ancestors were so intelligent that they figured out how to sail across the Pacific using only the stars as their guide. Can you imagine that? People nowadays can barely get from point A to point B without Google Maps dictating each and every step that they’re supposed to take.
Back home, family is everything.
The value of family is evident in every aspect of life in American Samoa, as well as in many other Pacific islands and cultures. It is evident in the way that our people are able to trace our histories through family lineages. It is evident in the way that the concept of orphanages and retirement homes seem incredulous to so many back home, because of the idea that every child and elder must have a family and a home. And it is evident in our dedication to serving and supporting our families, when we gather together at family functions.