Saturday, July 07, 2007

Turtle & Shark

On Wednesday we saw six turtles. Last Saturday we saw some 20 sharks. But at 5:00 am this morning we drove out to Vaitogi to see if some Samoan guys could summon one small turtle and a shark from the ocean through a Samoan chant.


Two words could probably describe this event--"snipe hunt."


The legend goes that a long time ago, a young husband on Upolu was selected as the guest of honor at a cannibalistic feast to be given by King Malietoa Faiga. He chose to decline the invitation (for good reason). The man and his wife set out in a canoe, but while attempting to escape there was a storm and they were blown to Tutuila, where they were put up by Letuli, the mayor of Ili'ili.


When the practice of cannibalism fell into disfavor, Letuli offered them a free trip home, but they refused. Instead, as repayment for Letuli's kindness, they jumped into the sea (?!). The husband became a shark and his wife a turtle. The husband told the chief that any time a gathering of children sang from the shore at Vaitogi, a turtle and a shark would appear to greet them.


So we went out to the rugged cliffs of Vaitogi to see the turtle and shark. Some children were supposed to sing the chant for us, but our guide forgot until the very last minute. So, no children. Instead, she rounded up a few Samoan guys. Our guide explained that if we saw the turtle and shark, we should not point at them or else they will swim away. But if you saw the turtle and shark, how were you supposed to show everyone where it was?


Anyway, we walked out to the cliff and waited as these guys kept repeating the chant. The water was extremely rough. If I hadn't been coming to see the turtle and shark, I would have never thought to stand out on the cliffs where we were. What turtle and shark would be crazy enough to swim in this water?

You tell me. Watch this video and tell me if a teeny turtle or a shark would swim in this water (and please forgive my pessimism).




Waves kept crashing over us as we watched. We were all just sopping wet. Suddenly, with more wisdom than the rest of us, Jaydn turned to Jessi and said, "mom, I'm cold. I've already seen turtles and sharks; I don't need to see these ones." So Jessi and Jaydn walked back to the beach to collect shells.

While the rest of us stayed, determined to the end to see the animal couple.


Obviously frustrated, the Samoan guys doing the chant started singing Samoan top 40 songs instead. As you might expect, this did not work either.


Finally, our guide turned to us and said, "I've never actually been out here before, because I didn't think it was real." Well if our guide doesn't even believe the turtle and shark will come out, I started to wonder if the chanters did, either. They too eventually turned to us and said, "it's probably because we don't have very good voices." I thought, "the children!! What about the children's choir???"


Our guide explained that about three years ago, a palagi offered to pay $100 to a Samoan man who could bring the turtle and shark to the surface. After trying for a long time, the Samoan man couldn't do it. Obviously frustrated, the palagi jumped into the ocean and drowned.


I guess he thought maybe he'd like to try becoming a shark.


After about an hour of this, I was beginning to think that maybe he had the right idea.


Reality was beginning to settle in -- I think Mrs. Turtle and Mr. Shark overslept with our children's choir.


Oh well. After feeling wet, cold and seriously duped, I was ready to go back home.


Like I've said, it's amazing the things palagis do for excitement on this island.

8 comments:

Teewer said...

I am from the village of Vaitogi, and I'm sorry you didn't get to witness the Turtle and the Shark! A few things though, I highly doubt your guide was FROM Vaitogi. WRONG legend. Too long to explain but its actually an old woman and her granddaughter. The SONG, MUST be sung by descedants of the village ~ its an apology... and that's why it must be sung by descedants of the original villagers. I understand your pessimism. It is truly something you would not, cannot believe unless you see it with your own eyes. But, I have seen it a couple of times, and each time, I am honestly shocked that they both show up! It is one of the coolest things! Maybe next time! :)

Cassandra said...

I'm not Vaitogi. I am actually from Mesepa, but I definitely know that the legend you heard was incorrect. And everything stated in the comment above is correct. I have seen the turtle and shark both at the same time when the song was sung by people from the village. Sorry about that!

Sean said...

we have seen them too and it was incredible! not just a snipe hunt- this is very special to the village and their people. we are doing a documentary and while we were filming both the turtle and the shark came. you should check out the animation that was done on the legend the turtle and the shark.http://theturtleandtheshark.blogspot.com/2008/04/byu-weekly-news-spot.html

b said...

that is so cool!!! my mom is samoan and my dad is hawiian. my grandpa is from vaitogi.my mom grew up in samoa.I am sorry u didnt get to see the shark and turtle!!!

Kanoeonalani said...

as a little kid my grandmother would always take us up to the cliffs when tourist would come we would wear the ula and grap the leaves growing around the side me and my cousins would gather around the cliff throw the leaves in and start singing the song.. im only 17 yrs old and ive seen the turtle and the shark dozens of times and i truly believe in the legend.. the guide doesnt know wat hes talking about hes just shamed that u guys were not able to witness the turtle and the shark so he tried to cover up his ass he didnt get the right people and its a shame because i feel like u believe that our legend is not true
if u ever come bakk down to vaitogi and want to see the turtle and shark legend me and my cousins will take you down ther personally and sing the chants for you and your family my phone number is 699 7357 just ask for justin......

Tribalife said...

I also lived in the village of Vaitogi, but not originally from there, and pretty sure I'm not a descendant of Chief Letuli. As a matter of fact, I'm only half samoan and the other half "palagi." I've seen the turtle and the shark more than once, and by the way, the turtle is not so "teeny." Each time I saw them, I had to have another person sing the song because although I lived in Vaitogi, I was not from there.
Sorry you were duped by the people who took you out there, and they were probably more interested in making a quick buck than sharing our rich culture. Shame on them! You missed out on something truly special all because of their greed!
I'm moving back to Vaitogi this August with my "palagi" husband. I can't wait to take him down to the cliffs to see the turtle and the shark, but when I do, I'll make sure everything is done right.

farringtonking said...

I aint from vaitogi nore samoa, im from hawaii but my parents are. i just came back from samoa yeasterday morning from the summer games hosted by samoa, i along with 50 other people( the hawaii teams) got to witness this legend first hand, it only took 5 min. sung by the a group of boys from the village. we well caught pictures and video... well so we tought, when we went to view it after words it didnt show up on everyones camera haahaa but we got to see it with our eyes and the memories is what counted. next time offer the villigers money and your chances of seeing it will be much greater. btw reason why this is special is both the shark and the turtle swim togeater as one.

farringtonking said...

I aint from vaitogi nore samoa, im from hawaii but my parents are. i just came back from samoa yeasterday morning from the summer games hosted by samoa, i along with 50 other people( the hawaii teams) got to witness this legend first hand, it only took 5 min. sung by the a group of boys from the village. we well caught pictures and video... well so we tought, when we went to view it after words it didnt show up on everyones camera haahaa but we got to see it with our eyes and the memories is what counted. next time offer the villigers money and your chances of seeing it will be much greater. btw reason why this is special is both the shark and the turtle swim togeater as one.