Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Aru was my first (and still one of my only) young male friends. The cultural separation of men and women and my own belief that a self-imposed distance from the mischievous youngfala boys increases my acceptance by the woman keep me from becoming too close to any men my age. However, most of our handcraft group's best carvers come from this demographic so out of necessity I struck up a relationship with the informal leader of the group: 25-year-old Aru. The boys sensed my hesitation to get too involved with them so they would send Aru to my door to ask for carving tools or negotiate prices and I in turn would send him back with tips for cleaner carvings or requests for specific products. Our friendship has grown (cautiously) through the months and after his village of Vuiberugu selected him to go to the leadership camp in May we've gotten to know each other better.

Besides being a contender for sexiest man alive (he has a smile that will make a girl forget her own name. But don't worry - he's happily married to a sister of mine and is a doting father to three adorable girls), Aru is an incredible leader, an extremely hard worker, and loves life with an enthusiasm that is contagious. Only finishing school through the 6th grade he considers himself dumb and uneducated but in reality picks things up with amazing speed and ease. Show him something once and he can do it. Show him something twice and he can teach someone else how to do it. He amazed everyone at the leadership camp with his proclivity for American sports - showing an effortless mastery of American football, Ultimate Frisbee, and even Yoga while his friends struggled just to understand the rules. You might expect someone as gifted as Aru to be arrogant and selfish with his skills but you would be surprised. He just doesn't understand the point of keeping knowledge to himself. Anyone who asks is welcome to his array of knowledge from how to play the guitar to how to carve the perfect dolphin to how to make home brew. If you told this unassuming and humble guy he was a natural leader he would deny it with embarrassment, but I think he acknowledges the adoration of the younger boys and tries to take every opportunity to show them how to be better men and specifically how to be better husbands. In a culture where domestic abuse is at least tolerated if not encouraged, Aru tells the boys it's not ok to hit their women. One time he told me the main thing he tells them over and over is that they all "mas gat love lo ol man."

Aru knows he will probably spend the rest of his life in the village. He's not trying to run for office or add things to his resume. He just truly wants everyone to live as full a life as they can, and if he can help - he will.

I don't have a lot of male friends, but I'm satisfied with choosing quality over quantity :)

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