Chapter 3 - Sailiga
A beam of sunshine falling on my face through the window woke me. For a moment I was confused, having no idea where I was. Then the memories of the previous day filled me.
I sat up and anxiously aimed my mind towards a memory of my own name, or where I came from. Nothing. My memory only went back as far as to when I opened my eyes on the beach the previous day.
I saw a bowl with a jug of water on the table next to my bed, and next to it a cloth and a neatly folded towel. On the towel was a new toothbrush, still wrapped, with toothpaste and a bar of soap. I washed my face and brushed my teeth. I heard some movement in the kitchen, and the smell of roasted coffee filled my nostrils.
I dressed and went to the kitchen. Aofia smiled as I walked in.
“Good morning!” he said, placing a loaf of hot bread on the table. Also on the table was cheese, butter, and honey in a small bowl.
“Good morning Aofia” I replied.
“Slept well?” he asked.
“Like a rock!” I said.
“Hehehe, Uiga will tell you that rocks are all but asleep! I hope you like bacon and eggs”, he said as he walked to the fireplace, and took the lid of a pan.
“Oh yes, for sure!” I said. “But I like coffee even more…”
Aofia laughed. “Then you will love it in my home. I roast my own coffee beans, that we get from Aoga. Once you had Aoga coffee, you won’t drink anything else.”
“Aoga?” I asked.
“The main island of Taleni. It is where we grow all the food. Except for the fruit. Lots of fruit here on Lagona!”
He poured me a mug of steaming coffee.
“Cream? Sugar?” he asked as he handed me the mug.
“No, just black” I replied.
He smiled and nodded approvingly.
We sat down for breakfast. I was hungry, and my head was spinning with questions and thoughts about my experience on Taleni. Aofia must have picked up on it, as he said: “You must have a lot of questions going through your mind. After breakfast, I will take you to Uiga. He is probably waiting for you. That may clear up some things about where you are. But, as for who you are…you need to figure that one out yourself!” he smiled, and I smiled back and nodded my head.
“This island, where is it? I mean, near which country or in which ocean?” I asked.
“`Well, the clever people of Mafafau says we are somewhere in the Pacific ocean. Most of us, I included, have never been anywhere else than here on Taleni.”
“Mafafau?” I asked.
“One of the tribes of Taleni. The clever ones,” he smiled.
I nodded as if I understood what he meant.
“Don’t worry, Uiga will probably explain a lot to you today” Aofia said as he sipped his coffee, closing his eyes in a sign of contentment.
There was a knock on the door and it opened. Manaoga entered, with Manuia behind her.
“Good morning,” said Manaoga.
“Good morning, good morning, good morning!” said Manuia in a singing voice. “What a lovely morning it is! You look as if you had sweet dreams!” she said, looking at me with her broad smile.
“Good morning Manaoga,” I said just as I swallowed my last bite of bread. “Yes thank you, I did sleep well. And, you are Manuia, right?”.
“Yes! O a'u!” she said, beaming.
“Good morning ladies,” said Aofia as he stood up and gathered our plates.
“No Aofia, leave it. We’ve got this. O a'u” said Manaoga.
“O oe,” he replied with a smile, handing her the plates. I saw a beautiful tattoo on Manaoga’s arms, an image of hands reaching out to hands, from above, as if to help someone.
“Uiga is waiting for you,” said Manaoga.
“Then, let’s not make him wait any longer” said Aofia. “Are you ready, my friend” he asked me.
“Yes. We can go” I said. “Thank you, ladies,” I said, smiling at Manuia and Manaoga.
“O a'u", replied Manuia, taking my mug. As she did so I saw her tattooed arms – it was a sun, brightly shining from behind some clouds. As I looked at her, I wondered if she ever stopped smiling.
As we walked out of Aofia’s hut, a stocky man came towards us. He was well built with strong muscle tones. As he came closer, I saw a tattoo on his chest. It looked like a hammer and something that looked like a rope, curling around the hammer. It became clear to me that all the men had different tattoos on their chests, and the ladies seemed to have tattoos on their arms.
“You have a door that needs fixing, Aofia?” said the man as he approached us.
“O a'u, Sikoa. The back door” replied Aofia.
“This is, Sikoa, from the Faia tribe,” Aofia said to me.
“Pleased to meet you” I said, holding out my hand. “Sorry, I cannot remember my name.”
“Hello” he said as he gripped my hand and gave it a somewhat too strong squeeze. “You don’t know your name, huh? But, you are all grown up? No worries, I will probably forget it anyhow. Not too good with names” he said, without a smile, but friendly, as he walked to the back of the hut, carrying a toolkit with him. “Let’s sort out this door, o a'u” he said, sounding excited to do so.
"O oe" Aifia said to him as we walked away.
“Sikoa is a fixer. From Faia, as I said. If it wasn’t for them fixers, nothing will ever get fixed around here…” said Aofia seriously. I nodded.
“So Faia is where the fixers live?”
“Well, not only the fixers. The do-ers. All of them love to work and stay busy in some way. Good for them…and for us, like now” Aofia replied.
"O a'u, does it mean 'thank you'?" I asked.
"Not exactly. It means 'I am', or 'This is me'. You say it to acknowledge if someone celebrates your being, or if you get the opportunity to be whom you are meant to be." replied Aofia.
"That's very cool," I said, meaning it. "And O oe?"
"You listen well," Aofia said, looking at me in true acknowledgement. "O oe means 'You are', or, 'I see you for who you are'. That is what you say when you acknowledge someone else for being themselves."
As we walked towards Uiga’s hut, a group of kids were walking with an adult towards the bridge. As I looked at them, Aofia answered my thoughts.
“They are on their way to Mafafau. For school,” he said.
“School, with the clever ones. That makes sense” I said, smiling.
“You are a fast learner!” laughed Aofia.
As we came to Uiga’s hut, he came outside, smiling broadly. He held out both his hands and took mine. “You slept well! And you look as if you had good strong Aoga coffee!”
“Yes, sir, I sure did…”
“Please, please, call me Uiga,” he said while pointing me towards his hut. “I have a nice view at the back. We will go sit there. Are you joining us, Aofia?”
“No Uiga, as much as you know I would want to be included in your conversation, I need to go to Aoga. A team needs me there” Aofia said.
“Ah, probably struggling to work together they do…. You go do your magic then, o oe” replied Uiga.
Aofia gave me an unexpected hug. “I will see you tonight.”
“Thank you for everything Aofia,” I said. “I really appreciate your kindness and hospitality”.
“You’re welcome, o a'u” he said as he turned and walked away towards the bridge.
"O oe, " I replied, smiling at him, and he smiled back and nodded.
The view from the back of Uiga’s hut was truly breath-taking. You could see the whole of the valley, and the pathway as it disappeared into the woods. In the distance, you could see the ocean. I only then realized that the village of Fusi was actually quite a climb from the beach where I woke up the previous day.
“Please, sit down. Would you like some fruit juice? Freshly squeezed. Mango? Strawberry? Apple?” invited Uiga.
“Thank you. Mango juice would be great.” I love mango juice.
We sat on comfortable chairs, overlooking the valley. I noticed some monkeys playing in the trees nearby.
“I sense you have a lot of questions….” Uiga started the conversation.
“I do, yes… I don’t really know where to start. How I got here…my name…those would help…” I said softly.
“That, I do not know,” said Uiga. “But, in time, I am sure it will come back to you.”
This island…or islands, where is it exactly?” I asked.
“In the Pacific. Too remote for almost anyone to find. Too far from anywhere for us to want to go there. We very, very seldom have any visitors. Sometimes we see a ship on the horizon, but they never seem to see us, really. And they cannot come close, because of the reef.”
I took a sip of the mango juice. Delicious.
Uiga continued: “We had a visitor about three years ago. She appeared on the beach on Tosinaga. But she left after a few weeks. Someone from Tosinaga took her out to the horizon beyond the reef and she boarded a passing ship. On her request. Who knows, maybe, if she arrived on Lagona, like you, she would have stayed longer.”
Uiga smiled while his head nodded slowly. I admired his long white robe and his white beard. He looked wise. As I thought yesterday when I saw him first, he reminded me of Gandalf. He moved forward to put down his juice, and I noticed a tattoo on his chest.
“You are wondering about my tattoo,” he said without looking at me.
I was starting to think that Uiga could read my mind.
“I am sorry…. It’s just, every man I have met so far has a tattoo on his chest.”
“Yes, we do. I will show you mine.” He opened his robe and all across his chest was an amazing artwork that depicted stars and galaxies. The universe.
“Wow!” I exclaimed in amazement. “It is absolutely amazing!”
“O a'u” he said matter of factly.
"O oe" I replied, pointing at the universe. He smiled. "Yes."
“So, every person has a tattoo about something they like to be or do? The men on their chests, the woman on their arms?” I asked.
“Close. But it is actually a lot more than that.” Uiga leaned forward and looked at me.
“The tattoos are not merely something we like to do. It is who we truly are. Our energy. Our being. The tattoo shows our unique self. It illustrates what sets us apart from anyone else.”
“Most people would say that is what a tattoo should be, anyway,” I thought out loud.
“Aha!” responded Uiga. “But, most people have no idea who they are… most tattoos are a search, a longing, or even a signal of yearning for identity, or memory of the past. With us, the tattoo follows you as a person. You are the tattoo even before you realize it, and definitely before you get it. And, most importantly, nobody chooses his or her own tattoo. It is given to you by the elders and the tribes, in celebration and confirmation of who you are.”
“Interesting. But what if you do not like the image you are given? That will be a bummer," I asked, curiously.
“That has never happened. By the time your name and image of the tattoo is given to you, you know, and love yourself well very well, and everyone else knows you even better. It is a celebration of uniqueness. Like being born…again. Our tattoos are not something we try to say about ourselves, like in other cultures. Our tattoos are what others celebrate about you. It is the way they see your energy flowing.”
Uiga looked at me as if he was wondering if I understood what he meant.
“Your name and your image? You are given names only when you are given the tattoo?” I asked.
“Absolutely. Like the tattoo, the name follows the person. We do not give a name to babies. Impossible. Even disrespectful to their being. Then they may follow the name…in mostly the wrong direction - the direction the parents chose. We respect them too much, we want them to first become, then be named.”
I frowned. “So, what do you call your children then? Or do you just whistle to them if you call them?” I realized I should maybe not talk so fast, just saying what I thought. But Uiga laughed, his head tilting back.
“I love your sense of humour! Yes, that is quite funny. No, we use nicknames. Some children have many nicknames as they grow up and develop. But, you are only allowed to give a nickname that is positive and upbuilding to them. Like “energy”, “funny” or “curious”. We do not allow children to be called names like “naughty” or “fearful”. Then, they may follow the name…and become it. Nicknames are fun, but only if you give it in love and appreciation."
“Wow,” I said. “That is strange…. But in a weird way, it makes a lot of sense to me…. when I was a kid everyone called me 'Frown-face'....”
“Frown-face you are not. They probably just did not see you. Maybe, you are only in your head a lot. But I am glad you see the meaning behind what we do. And, as you cannot remember your name you should get a nickname, for now, not so?” remarked Uiga.
“I suppose so…” I said slowly. "Just not 'Frown-face'!"
Uiga smiled reassuringly. "Give me the honour to be the first one to celebrate you with a nickname. I will call you “Sailiga”.
“Sailiga? What does that mean?”
“The one who searches.”
“It sounds as if I am lost, or confused…”
“Ah! But, my dear Sailiga, not all who searches, are lost, or confused… and believe me, it is a very good quality, to search!” he laughed and his head tilted back again, his white beard shaking.
I laughed. “Okay Uiga, okay. At least I have something to be called now. It is good. Then, I am Sailiga, for now. Just no tattoo yet, please,” I said, rubbing my chest.
We both laughed, as he filled my glass with more mango juice.
"Tell me about your name, and tattoo, Uiga. Why the universe? I don't get it?"
"Ah, glad you asked, Sailiga. Let me tell you about me... O a'u."
To be continued....