The subtleties of cross cultural communication are a curious thing! He’s an example I've been working through recently.
More men have said they will take me out fishing here than I can remember (and I've been out a couple of times in the lagoon as part of that). The conversation normally goes like this:
One of the nuku men: “Matt I’ll take you out fishing sometime.”
Matt: “Yeah I’d love to go, any time. Just let me know, I'm keen.”
Matt’s interpretation of the above conversation is – 'this is now in the expert fisherman’s court who will inform Matt when is a good time to go fishing and invite him accordingly'.
What Matt is learning is meant by the Tokelau man: “Matt you come and ask me when you want to go fishing” or “I won’t ask you because that might impose on you – you ask me when you’re ready to go”
It seems that where I think I should wait for the formal invite (not wanting to impose), they don’t want to make an invite (not wanting to impose) and expect me to ask directly, “Can we go fishing tonight”. I'm still trying to get my head round it exactly – but I think that’s how it goes. So this is how it played out. Fofo – Pale’s brother in-law was giving me a lift over to Fale on Wednesday and telling me about how many fish he’d caught the previous day. I say to him in a joking kind of way:
Matt: “Hey you still haven’ taken me out fishing!”
Fofo: “You never asked me to take you out, I thought you didn't like going fishing”
Matt: [Perplexed because he’s been waiting for an invite when it suits Fofo to take him] “I've always been keen to go when it suit’s you”
Fofo: “Aye it’s your problem you've not gone out because you never ask. I said to you ‘Anything you need, just ask’. Do you want to go fishing – how about 1pm today!
So at 2pm (that’s 1pmish Tokelau time), Fofo calls me and we head out to fish. Sheepishly I tell Fofo that I've brought what are from a Tokelau perspective are a number of “non-essential” items with me. They include a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon); Life Jacket; Diving Gloves (so that I don’t get one of the ‘tattoos’ that many of the men have - where the fishing line has cut through the back of their hand when catching a fish), and a camera. Fofo finds this fairly amusing and chuckles away.
We’re aiming to troll for Wahoo (because I've mentioned to Fofo that my kids love the Wahoo fish – making amazing battered fish like you've never tasted). Fofo has made his own lures made from a mix of things – old screwdriver heads, pieces of tooth brush and pieces of cut-up lures as well. He tells me that he’s tried all sorts of other lures, but still finds his own are best. The trolling speed for Wahoo is very impressive and it was strangely rough in parts – some unusual current according to Fofo. (I still have the sore rear end to prove it!). As we progressed down the outside of the atoll we darted out further to sea from time to time to chase flocks of birds – the best indication of a school of Tuna. On one of these, my line snagged quite a decent sized yellow fin tuna. At this point I had to don the gloves, because my little palagi hands were going to struggle to pull in this wet and slippery hand line. In it came though, and a good whack to the head and we were off again.
We also (on Fofo’s line) caught a Barracuda (very good eating, different form the NZ one which is apparently not).
Other than that the other main event was careening across to another flock of birds only for Fofo to start muttering away frustrated long before I noticed what was going on. We’d found a pod of dolphins – which meant no Tuna. It also however meant ‘excited palagi’ who's never been so close to dolphins who all obliged by enjoying swimming alongside the boat. I have a shot at filming them with the waterproof camera – not knowing what result I’d get with the lessening light. This is what I got – pretty cool!
So, a happy time, some good company with a good man, a big fish for dinner, a wonderful sunset and hopefully some learning about cross-cultural communication!
Thanks Fofo, you're very kind! Anything I need, I’ll just ask!