To begin with, it was very difficult upon the first reading to really delve into Hua’ofa’s reading as I was laughing (and wishing I could be more mature) to intensely. However, after re-reading the first half of the novel I began to think back to my days in the day care center I spent most of my early childhood in as both my parents worked. Those days were filled with much learning and fun, though I can definitely attribute my resiliency to pain to the injuries I acquired there. A day was not complete for me unless I had crashed my Big Wheel and scraped the skin off my knee or had my fingers slammed in a door, cutting them to the bone.
But what really stuck in my mind as I recalled those memories was the treatment I had received. Every band-aid and swap of Neosporin was accompanied by, depending on the person patching me up, a kiss, a pat on the head, or for especially nasty wounds a cookie. Then too getting sick as a child was always an event accompanied by a flurry of attention, with every family member and friend suggesting various remedies. There were quite a few hare-brained cures for a simple stomach ache, and everyone thinks they’ve found the ultimate cure for hiccups (drink while holding your ears); however, what is important to remember is the source of these “cures”: tradition. Each one seemed to have been passed down from generation to generation in a sort of fail-proof manner, “Well, my mother always used to say….”
Why do we place so much faith in cures that modern science tells us have no real effect on the body? The truth is that believing in a tried and true tradition can be very comforting for the afflicted, and it always seemed that kissing a “boo-boo” was the most effective way to treat a scrape.
Treatments also differed amongst my friends, who, after I had described to them what had been forced down my throat, would counter with an equally horrible yet different cure they had recently taken. This showed me that everyone, depending on their home, had a different theory on medicine. This is something that stands out in Kisses in the Nederlands, as part of the humor comes from his escapades with the various dottores of the Pacific, trying cure after cure. As Mere says, “Hedge your bets.” However, this problem, while dressed up in absurd hilarity and classic comedic elements, never once struck me as something intrinsically hilarious. At the end of the day, Oilei was in an incredible amount of pain which I would wish on no one. The humor does its job well: it distracts the reader from the horror of a terrible, seemingly incurable pain and shines a spotlight on the various cures and treatments Oilei seeks in his pathetic state. Each one is different in its origin: some are passed down generation to generation like the faith-hands of Losana (a technique I thought was similar to a palm-inner energy technique that was popular in the 90s which doctors believe to have a powerful placebo effect on some patients due to their “faith” in its healing power), yet others are invented by conmen as a get-rich-quick scheme. Still, the power these men and women held over their patients could not be refuted. Belief in tradition is a powerful tool, made more so by the promise of healing and the apparent success of them on others.