Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sāmoa is made of music

The sites

Our first week in the training village was an interesting experience. On Monday, I thought the week was never going to end and by Friday, I couldn't believe it was almost over.

When we arrived at the village we were greeted with an ava ceremony. (As an aside, we met a man from the attorney generals' office at one of our training sessions and he said he has only been to three ceremonies in his life and we have been to three in the past three weeks.) We could tell right away that the faife'au (pastor) of the village was an important man because he sat in the position for the high chief during the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, our names were called out one by one (or in our case two by one) and we were handed off to our new host families.

We were met by our host mother. As it turns out, she is related to one of our trainers, Leata. She had been at our hotel earlier in the week and had already seen us before we met her that day.

That first night we experienced our first Sa (village prayer of sorts). The entire village has a curfew from 6:30 pm to 7 pm. A warning horn is blown around 6 pm. Our family gathered in the fale i tua (back house) to pray. They started the prayer with a song, which was sung beautifully and with enthusiasm by the entire family, from mom and dad all the way down to the three year old. What was amazing was sitting there in the twilight, listening to this family singing in a language I didn't understand and hearing all across the village and off into the distance other families singing as well.

We ended the evening playing a Sāmoan card game that has become all the rage among Group 79 boys. It is called suipi (I think. I will have to check on the spelling, but is sounds like sweep-ee). The second oldest daughter and our host mom played with us while the the other kids hung around, too.

I should probably introduce the family better. Our mom is a seamstress and she has a shop in Apia. Our host dad works on the village plantation (farm). Their oldest daughter is twenty-three and married with two kids. Her family lives with her parents. The next daughter is 17 and waiting to go to New Zealand for school. Apparently, she will be adopted by relatives there. The next daughter is about 13 and goes to high school. The only boy is 11. The two youngests are about eight and six.

There is a lot of English-speakers in the family. Our family is really great at helping us learn the language. Of course, Cale is doing better than I am, but I am slowly picking things us.

Our schedule is pretty packed. We are at school everyday by 8 am and classes end at 5 pm. They are followed by a one hour optional tutorial. When school is out we head home to shower before the Sa and dinner and then after diner we usually do homework or play suipe with Gal (Kale) who is with the next family over. Then we sleep.

More from the village to come.

— Sara


Barb Carusillo said...

Well, I really enjoyed your installments....about your week in the village, about the ceremonies. I think you are having the luck of once in a lifetime experience, meeting all these dignataries, and some of the original Peace Corp workers to ever be there. Some don't look old enough to have been there 40 years ago, unless they were just kids! Maybe you will be back there 40 years from now too. But, first, you have to really wrap your mind and soul around this adventure!

Barb Carusillo said...

I did a count, and figured there must be 11 people living within your host family's domicile, 2 parents, 6 kids, one son-in-law and 2 grandkids. Plus you guys? Where ever do they put you all? Is there grand pa and grandma somewhere in their too? Are they like the Amish, and have datty houses on the property?

Cale and Sara join the Peace Corps said...

Mom, there are several buildings on the property. Cale and I actually have the European-style house all to ourselves because it is their guest house. The family lives in two Samoan fales. The kitchen is also a separate structure.