I’ve spent just over five years in Samoa. It’s been a rough ride in many respects and building credibility in a country that struggles to trust anyone, anywhere (and for very good reason too I might add) it has taken a lot of time. I’m still “The Palagi” to most I meet and even those whom I have befriended.
Some of this mistrust is self-imposed as I took a couple of years to truly get to grips with the people and the culture AND I’m a straight shooter to start with – both factors that exacerbated the challenges of building credibility. Put that all on top of more than a century of the white man ripping off, using and abusing the indigenous Samoans and you’ve got a real recipe for mistrust.
But with a bit of help from a few key people and a LOT of will-power, dedication and determination, I persevered and dare I say it, have built a degree of credibility here in Samoa. They might not all like me, or what I say, and many still do not trust me, but the fact that I am still here after five years and clearly by my choice says a lot to the locals.
Sticking it out; taking the blows without reacting overly and coming back at problems at a later stage to address them in a culturally sensitive way once the heat is out of the situation really makes a statement to people used to fighting, defending and high emotions.
I have several examples of how perseverance and patience has built my credibility. Here are two of them.
1. False Arrest
A week after I laid a complaint with the Police over a couple of boys who stole some gear from me, I was instead arrested by a corrupt police Sergeant – probably a relative of the boys – on trumped up charges.
It was most likely a tit-for-tat act of spite from an angry mother instructing her boys to get back at me that has had serious ramifications including over 150 interactions with all levels of the Samoan Police in the last three years, almost 50 interactions in over 18 months with the Ombudsman’s Office following a formal complaint to the Ombudsman and one Professional Standards Unit complaint. This is serious stuff that has been on the books for three years and right up to the Prime Minister’s Office several times.
I cannot imagine that anyone else would have done what I have to hold in there for not only justice but to do the right thing for Samoa, for I have held back publication of my book A little Slice of Paradise for two years specifically so that I can report good things about Samoan police, rather than ping them like everybody else does with gay abandon.
To me, the inconvenience to the book sellers who have been ‘on hold’ for years now, is a small cost for the credibility that I will gain by waiting, and doing what is best for Samoa. Nobody knows the full story yet, but when it comes out, the people that matter to me will know that I am a man of principle; a man of my word; that I actually understand what is important to Samoa; that I never give up (ever) and that I am a man of credibility.
2. Ace, You’re an Ace
In December 2012, Cyclone Evan wandered into Samoan shores. It actually slowed right down and circled Samoa, then took off down towards Fiji and tracked down their West Coast, messing them up too.
In terms of conspiracy, one would find it harder to deliberately design a more destructive path than that . . . build a small weather event into a biggie, then take it up to and circle Samoa slowly then head on down to the West Coast of Fiji. For people conditioned to think that weather is all an act of God, this will be seen as coincidence. For me I tend to doubt this for I know too much about mankind’s highly advanced ability to control remote weather patterns to just accept this primitive worldview. I digress though . . .
In mid December 2012 then, I found myself alone, in the bush in Samoa without a roof and major damage. A year out of having lost all of our investments into The Airport Lounge at Satapuala, things were looking bleaker than one would have wished upon one’s enemy! Having sworn never to go into debt again after having moved out from under a major mortgage and moving into a new country, I used the SWAP limousine (the only real asset that I had) as voluntary collateral on hardware purchases at the local Hardware outlet Ace Hardware.
Long story short, Ace came to the party and I ended up with enough materials to build Camp Samoa, get a little backpackers going and live a tight but possible lifestyle. Two years later and I sold the limousine and cleared the remaining account in full.
The real story however was the credibility that came from that exercise. Ace were ace – incredibly, even crazily tolerant of the outstanding account but I pushed through constantly initiating contact with them, paying off what I could when I could and offering to sell the limousine at any time if they wanted me to.
I captured the Manager’s words at one point which indicate the value of building credibility. She said once, “You’re an unusual customer” and noted that she “doesn’t have people that come in to talk about their account [like I do/did]”. The point was that I initiated contact, spoke straight and they appreciated that.
On final payment arrangements, she thanked me and offered the line, in stark contrast to a lot of the less well-informed gossip around town that, “We always knew that you would be good for it!” The thing was that two years ago I was the one that had offered her that very line as I secured her financial support for my rebuilding programme.
“I will be good for it!”
I was, but building credibility take time.
There’s a lot more I can say but my next post in this series on Credibility awaits. It’s the big one relating to Conspiracy Theories.
How can you question things ever that are peddled anywhere in the mainstream media without being labelled a kook, i.e a Conspiracy Theorist. With Political Correctness and Group-Think running amok, some of us attempt to retain credibility while investigating those conspiracies. Standby . . .