Friday, October 19, 2007
We knew this would be hard work, but this is ridiculous
I know I promised White Sunday, beaches and snorkeling to you the last time I posted, but I might not get to the snorkeling today. Things are busy (that's pisi fa'asāmoa) here right now. Tomorrow is the beginning of the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Sāmoa. We are taking part in the activities and Groups 1 and 2 are in town for the celebration. (Frame of reference, we are Group 79). Also, this will be the last post or communication for at least a week. Saturday we leave for our host village and will be there for a week.
Without further ado, here is White Sunday and the beach.
We were very lucky to experience White Sunday so early in our Peace Corps service. Usually the group of volunteers that comes to country in October comes a week later than we did and misses White Sunday. They have to wait an entire year of service before it comes around.
White Sunday is a holiday for the children. Kids are not treated or viewed the same in Sāmoa as they are in the States. Age had great value in Sāmoan culture. We have been told that the older volunteers will have an easier time simply because they have grey hair. Usually children serve their parents, when families eat in shifts, it is the children that eat second. However, on White Sunday, the kids are pampered. They are treated to new clothes and are served first at the meals. They also prepare pageants weeks ahead of time to put on at church.
We attended the church service at our Safety and Security director Fono's church. He arranged ahead of time so that they knew we were coming and that families would be prepared to take us to their homes for dinner. The service was a little over 2 hours long and it was mostly taken up with song. The children sang quite a few tunes we recognized (though in Sāmoan) like the Deep and Wide song (there's a fountain flowing deep and wide) and Amazing Grace. We actually sang as well. It was a little awkward, but we muddled through.
After the service we sort of lined up like puppies in a window and families picked out the volunteer they wanted to take home for dinner. Cale and I went together to one family. The granddaughter spoke good English, but the matriarch had very little English and we spent most of our time with her. It was an interesting mix of our bad (non-existent) Sāmoan and her English. For dinner there was chicken and pork and taro and steak (sort of Salisbury like steak) and a beef stew AND raw fish in coconut milk. Which I ate, I would just like you to know.
It was an interesting experience. We had a good time, but it was a little awkward with the language barrier. Also, they were very proper around us since we were guests. I think that they would have been more relaxed had they known us better...and the other way around, I am sure as well.
Monday was also part of the White Sunday holiday, so we took the day off of classes to have a "cultural experience," aka going to the beach. The girls had to be reminded before hand that they must keep covered. I had my suit on under a lavalava and a t-shirt. We could see other women, even Sāmoan women, wearing more scantily clad clothes and even a bikini or two on young girls. However, as Pisikoa, we want to set a good example and live by the modesty levels that are acceptable in the village and not in Apia or the more touristy areas.
I promise to write about the "water safety," aka snorkeling as soon as I can, but the Internet cafe is closing soon and I still have homework to complete. Next time you hear from me I will be back from a week in the village.
Posted by Cale