Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ʻO le Vāfealoaʻi

The theme for this year's Samoan Language Week is ʻO le Vāfealoaʻi--Strong and Respectful Relationships.

If you can read Samoan, hop over to my Samoan language blog, where I explain the concept of vāfealoaʻi.

For the rest of you, let me briefly explain in English. First, vāfealoaʻi is really a combination of the words , meaning an opening or space, and fealoaʻi, which is the reciprocal form of the root alo, or the front of one's body.

In other words, vāfealoaʻi refers to the space between two people who are facing each other, and just as we speak of close or distant relationships, the  or space between two people can be of variable physical and metaphorical distances.

One often hears in Samoan the phrase ʻia teu le vā, meaning, literally, take care of the space. A Samoan knows at any given time the exact dimensions of the  between him and the man or woman, boy or girl, facing him, and takes care that he doesn't neglect or go beyond the scope of it. He speaks in respectful terms and shows great hospitality to his elders, people of rank, and strangers, and speaks in more familiar terms with those he is familiar.

Every relationship is a vāfealoaʻi that needs cultivation. I've learned a lot from the Samoans in the past 11 years that has strengthened my relationships to my parents, siblings, wife and son, friends and strangers, and God.

In what ways can you cultivate strong and respectful relationships this week?

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