Diggin’ on Swine

Our neighbor’s son, Bear, recently came home for a short visit from Japan, where he plays professional football. He has visited pretty regularly since we moved to Faleasao (maybe 2x a year?), and we really love it when he’s home. Bear and the Beard get along really well and like to do all kinds of manly, dangerous things together. 

Ex: a few weeks back, we had a tropical cyclone warning (Cyclone Evans, which caused substantial damage in the independent country of Samoa). After boarding up the windows and doing other storm-prep, Bear and the Beard decided to take advantage of the weather by breaking out a kite…. to go surfing. In a storm. 

Bear & his Kite

The Beard in the Water

Unfortunately for them, the wind wasn’t consistent enough to really get out in the water, but they had fun trying.

While Bear was home it was like Andrew Zimmern was living next door. First, it was typical: Bear went fishing with some other guys in the village and caught some reef fish and lobster. Okay. Normal stuff. Then, all of a sudden, it was a shark. Then it was a bat (or flying fox). Littered between these other adventures was story after story of catching wild pigs in the jungle just beyond our village.

Now, we all knew about the wild pigs. (I even caught a glimpse of the backside of some pigs last year while hiking to Toa Cove.) I’ve heard about some men in the village hunting the pigs, but in the time we’ve lived here I’ve never seen anyone hauling back any carcasses. Until recently anyway.

Bear (along with two migrant workers from Tonga, Saia and Mote) were like pig-hunting madmen while he was home. Every weekend they’d come back from Toa with a pig. I was starting to wonder if there’d be any left in the woods. While everyone on the island knows about the wild pigs, they aren’t hunted very often. A lot of families raise their own pigs, and slaughtering your own is much easier than trampling through the jungle in search of a feral beast that might charge you.

The first couple of times they prepared and cooked a pig, I kept my distance. Some of you may not know this, but I didn’t eat pork from about 2006 until around the time we moved here. And I haven’t really been chompin’ on ham-hocks or anything since we came here. It’s more… well… I’ve been eating a lot of Spam and sausage and other not-good-for-ya meat and meat-like substances. So I’m not as picky as I used to be.

I’ve always had this fantasy that one day I would move to a foreign country, raise chickens, and learn to kill and clean them myself. I think it’s a sort of get-back-to-nature kind of thing; maybe part of me thinks things like gardening and killing chickens will bring me closer to my southern roots. Hey, I don’t know why. That’s not the point. The point is more that I’ve never even been able to handle a processed, boneless chicken breast–we’re talking from the package to the pan–without feeling a little queasy.

So it was with a lot of hesitation (and some internal pep-talking) that I decided to join the boys next door as they prepared a pig. I hid (awkwardly) behind my camera–sometimes closing both eyes and shooting blindly (the quality of these photos is therefore pretty horrible).

Bear and the Beard helped out while Mote and Saia prepared the pig the Tongan way and cooked it in pieces in the umu (the traditional, lava-rock oven). A week or so after these pictures were taken, while the Beard was on Tutuila for the Science Fair, I also got to see a pig cooked Tongan style (skewered on a big stick and turned by hand over an open fire).

I’m warning you RIGHT NOW that these photos are pretty graphic. I can’t tell you how it all turned out because I decided to eat an extremely rare pizza Hot Pocket instead (which was absolutely incredible). But the boys were pretty pleased with themselves.

Inflating the pig's lungs. Eww.

Inflating the pig’s lungs. Eww.

This pig was not a smoker.

This pig was not a smoker.

Dead Pig

Who doesn't like to pose with a bucket full of guts?

Who doesn’t like to pose with a bucket full of guts?

Mote cleans the pig

This was around the time I was taking photos with both eyes closed. Ew. Ew.

This was around the time I was taking photos with both eyes closed. Ew. Ew.

Laikiki looks on hungrily

Laikiki looks on hungrily

Bear went back to Japan and Mote & Saia are only here for a few more weeks so I think our pua’a days are over. As adverse as I am to pork, and blood, and guts, and the smell of an animal’s internal organs sweltering in the hot equatorial sun, it was a pretty neat-o experience and I’m glad I woman-ed up enough to go next door. But I don’t think I’ll be killing any chickens any time soon.

About Cat Q.

For three years, I lived on a tiny little island in the South Pacific called Ta'u, where I taught elementary and high school English. Much of this blog is a chronicle of my time there, and of the travels we were able to do while we were on that side of the world. Now, I'm doing a different kind of travelling in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two children.
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4 Responses to Diggin’ on Swine

  1. Jenny Floyd says:

    Cat! I love you and your chicken killing aspirations. That has always been something I thought was cool about you.

  2. Jonathan Renz says:

    So was he blowing into the pigs lungs? I’d totally be down with hunting, killing, and eating a wild animal…maybe more so a different animal though. Jacklyn and I had pork the other night. Very good but I still don’t think pig holds a candle to chicken or steak (but who doesn’t like bacon?)

    Anyway, good to read up on what ya’ll are doing. Can’t wait to see you when you get back for summer vacation!! We’ll have our baby by then!!

  3. Jackie R. says:

    Hi! I got accepted to WT in AmSam for 2013-2014. It sounds like there is a good chance I could get placed on Ta’u (it sounds like something I would love) but I also still have time to request the main island. From what I hear all of us are teaching high school as well. I’ve read your blog and Ta’u sounds great but I would love to get your take on the placements and ask a few questions. If you wouldn’t mind sharing your experience shoot me an email at jlyn7791@gmail.com. Thanks!!

  4. Hi!
    I stumbled upon your blog while doing some research on the Samoan education system. I have a few Samoan students in my classes and would love to be able to relate to them better and incorporate their culture into my curriculum. What are some things that you would suggest? It seems you have great experience. I would love to learn more about their culture and figure out what the needs of my students are because of their background.
    Glad to see Laikiki/Laititi is still doing ok :).


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