St. David's day reflections

Today is the St.David's Day - patron Saint of Wales. Even though I'm far from home my roots are still important to me. I'm originally from South Wales, in the UK. I went to a welsh-medium school (my parents speak only English), so I was bilingual from the age of four and I identify very strongly with being Welsh. I'd even go so far as to say that I'm proud to be able to speak welsh, even if I don't get too much chance now that I live in Rurutu! It's strange, but while tahitian culture might, at first glance, seem to be so very different from my own, I find many parallels between being Welsh and Viriamu's tahitian roots. Granted there are a lot less coconuts in Wales, but all the same we are a people anchored by our history. In a similar way a friend of mine tried to explain tahitian culture to me - she said that Tahitians stand with their backs to the future, we can't predict it or see it coming so we don't worry about it, rather we look to our ancestors for guidance. I know it's a slightly strange concept, but I think this is a very profound difference, certainly I and many of my English, French or American friends and colleagues are very goal-oriented and are always looking to be in control of the future, while most of my Tahitian friends are much more able to let life happen to them - and I think this is something that I could learn from.

Like Tahitians the Welsh have our own culture, quite distinct from either the English, Scots or Irish. Tahitians are fiesty, fiery, proud and headstrong, with a strong oral tradition, not a million miles from the Welsh temperament, we also have our poets and mythology. We even have an annual cultural celebration, the Eisteddfod, paralleled by the heiva in Tahiti. Both languages and cultures were forbidden and threatened at certain points in history, and both cultures have rediscovered a new contemporary vibrancy, yet still need to be cherished and preserved. Rurutu, as French Polynesia, is currently undergoing rapid and major cultural paradigm shifts, the younger generation look to french and western culture as a model for the future and the 'old' ways are all too easily discarded. While Viriamu's parents speak only rurutu, and Viriamu likewise has trouble with french, his boys speak mostly french and many of the youngsters in Rurutu no longer speak their own language. We're trying to teach Matotea to speak rurutu, french and english (and maybe a little welsh too), in fact she is already able to understand words from of all of these languages. But this is not enough, we as a community Welsh or Rurutu need to work together to preserve our heritage, something that I hope we will be able to do!

R. S. Thomas, a famously cheery anglo-welsh poet, sums up the Welsh predicament in his poem:

Welsh Landscape
To live in Wales is to be conscious
At dusk of the spilled blood
That went into the making of the wild sky
Dyeing the immaculate rivers
in all their courses.
It is to be aware,
Above the noisy tractor
And hum of the machine
Of strife in the strung woods,
Vibrant with sped arrows.
You cannot live in the present,
You cannot live in the present,
At least not in Wales.
There is the language for instance,
The soft consonants
Strange to the ear.
There are cries in the dark at night
As owls answer the moon,
And thick ambush of shadows,
Hushed at the fields' corners.
There is no present in Wales
And no future;
There is only the past,
Brittle with relics,
Wind-bitten towers and castles
With sham ghosts;
Mouldering quarries and mines;
And impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding.
Worrying the carcase of an old song.

While I'm a bit more quietly optimistic, much of what he writes rings true to me.
Happy St. David's Day!