“People of the Pacific” Event helps Lehigh get to Know New Zealand and Samoa
By Courtney Buchanan
A Samoan graduate student who grew up in New Zealand did his part to help the Lehigh community get to know the place he calls home a little bit better through the International Week event “People of the Pacific.”
Christian Schmidt, who focused his talk on the countries of New Zealand and Samoa, said that in the Pacific Islands everyone knows each other and much emphasis is put on local culture and community.
Schmidt recalled how growing up in the Pacific; he picked ripe mangoes off the tree with his family when they were hungry. He said, “A lot of the time we just lived off the land.”
Here are some highlights about New Zealand and Samoa shared by Schmidt during his presentation:
Although New Zealand is a small island, it offers many activities from skiing in the mountains to surfing at the beach, all within hours of one another. The flag demonstrates that New Zealand was part of the British Commonwealth, with the British flag in the upper left corner. The Southern Cross, presenting the four brightest stars in the constellation, stretches across the remainder of the flag.
Maori is the indigenous culture of New Zealand. Aoteoroa, the Maori name for New Zealand, means “land of the long white cloud.” The official languages are English, which 98 percent of the population speaks, and Maori, which 4.2 percent speaks. Pakeha, or the Maori name for white people, account for 78 percent of the inhabitants, and 14 percent are Maori.
What is the world’s longest word? It is the name of a place in the Maori language. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, consisting of 85 letters, is the official name of a hill in New Zealand that most call Taumata Hill.
Rugby is the New Zealand’s national sport. The haka is a traditional Maori war dance that athletes perform before a competition to intimidate their opponents. Schmidt said, “The haka is like a warrior chant.”
There are two parts of Samoa – American Samoa in the east and Western Samoa. The Samoan islands have a population of 178,000, of which 98 percent are Christian.
In the Samoan language, words are not pronounced as Americans would expect. For example, the word “Samoa” is usually pronounced by Americans with the emphasis on the end of the word, Samoa, but it is actually pronounced with the emphasis on the beginning of the word, Samoa.
Tattooing is a huge part of the Samoan culture, according to Schmidt. A culturally significant and sacred tattoo that spreads from the belly button down to the knees is called pe’a on men and malu on women. Samoans use bone to tattoo instead of a needle. Stretching and puncturing the skin, “they just wipe the blood away as they go,” Schmidt said.
Men who have a stronger feminine orientation are called fa’afafine. Sometimes being fa’afafine is encouraged by families. Schmidt said, “Fa’afafines are known for their confidence and humor.”
Respect, or fa’aaloalo, is of prime importance in the Samoan culture. Schmidt said that he always says “excuse me” and that when he walks past someone he must duck down out of respect.