If you've been following this blog you know that I love Samoa and I also love Samoans. But though I've been told by many a Samoan that I'm "brown on the inside" that doesn't hide the fact that I'm about as far from being brown on the outside as I could get...unless I was an albino.
Nevertheless, beginning in 2003 I became affiliated with the campus Friends of Samoa club, and as my schooling has increased its demands on my time over the years my affiliation became looser and looser.
But my old mission buddy sent me a flier for a Wednesday night Friends of Samoa club dinner which indicated that not only was the meal free, it was being catered by campus dining services. Not a bad gig if you ask me.
So Deb and I make our way up to the seventh floor room where our hot meal is going to be served and I see one of my former students and his wife dressed all fancy and obviously on their way to something too. I wondered what his connection to Samoa was.
I ask him where he's headed and he tells me a dinner. My heart sank a little, but I brushed it off with the thought that multiple dinners could be happening on the same night on the same floor of the same building.
But when we exited the elevator and I asked a caterer where the Friends of Samoa club dinner was being held we received a blank stare and then the reply, "There's an athletics dinner tonight."
My heart sank a little further. We walked down the hall toward the dining room. I didn't have the guts to go inside so I called my mission buddy to confirm that we were there on the right night.
Then the guests started arriving and I recognized some of them as my fellow graduate students and former students. "Why are you here?" one of the PhD students asked. The dinner wasn't for athletes, we found out, it was for athletic trainers - a field that shares my same academic department.
The only thing is, I'm not a trainer. I study exercise physiology. So I'm called either an exercise scientist or an exercise physiologist, but I know very little about athletic training. If you get injured I'll probably tell you to get a bag of therapy ice and make a snow cone with it.
Deb saw one of her former lifeguard buddies and asked her what was going on. She informed us that the dinner was a "Seniors' Night" for the graduating class and that it was doubling as a recruiting effort to get Polynesians interested in majoring in athletic training.
Then my mission buddy and another mission buddy and the first mission buddy's wife show up. Deb explained to them the situation. Apparently there had been some sort of mix-up we come to find out. My mission buddy's coworker happens to be the staff adviser to the Friends of Samoa club. She had received the word that this dinner was happening and she passed the word on to my friend who passed it on to me, etc.
And now we're back where we started: I'm white. My wife's white. And so is my buddy and his wife and our other mission buddy. We could have gone into the athletic training dinner and filled five of the ten reservations in the name of the Friends of Samoa club, but we felt a little sheepish about doing so, and I was a little more than embarrassed to face my peers and former students as the lone exercise physiologist, non-Samoan crashing the athletic trainers' special evening.
Do you remember that game you used to play in grade school? You know, the one called telephone where the teacher whispers into the first kid's ear who whispers into the second kid's ear and so forth until the umpteenth kid blurts out what she heard to everyone else and all the kids roll around because it's so ridiculously funny?
Yeah, we lived that game Wednesday night. Except there's nothing funny about walking away from a free catered meal when you're hungry.