Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leaving the village

Farewell FiaFia

Saturday was a day of mixed emotions. Part of me couldn’t wait to close door of the Land Rover, roll over the river and put the village behind me for a while. I wanted peace and quiet and privacy and vegetables. But another part of me was sad to see this time come to an end, especially after seeing how sad our host family was to see us go and how much they had come to care for us in the five short/long weeks we had been there.

Anyone who knows us knows that Cale and I are not ones for teary good-byes. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care or that we won’t miss you, it just isn’t how we roll. Leaving the village wasn’t any different, but I did feel guilty. I felt like I wasn’t sufficiently sad about leaving my new family behind. I didn’t truly see it as a good-bye. We will be back. Cale and I have plans to go back to visit the family while we are in Sāmoa and we have invited them out to visit us in our village (something the 17-year-old is very eager to take us up on. Gee, I wonder why? Seventeen-year-olds are the same everywhere, I can promise you that).

The leave-taking started the night before at our Farewell FiaFia. We finally got to put all that dance practice into use. We did the sasā, a seated, hand-gesture dance of sorts, and the boys did their clap dance and the girls did their dance as well. After those dances we performed a short play of a bible story in Sāmoan for the village (the irony being that Gal, who is Jewish and had a hard time explaining that and why he wasn’t going to church to his host family, played the role of Jesus in part of the play). We ended our official bit with a thank you song to the village.

Some of the other volunteers had also been practicing one of the dances performed at the Prize-Giving with the village youth and performed that. We were also regaled with the dancing skills of members of the village. One of our host sisters danced in four different dances and a host brother in another. Many of the dances involved people from the audience coming up to us (we were seated on the stage) and pulling us on to the floor to just kind of cut a rug to whatever song was playing. I managed to avoid most of those by looking sickly sitting on my hot water bottle and holding a large camera, but I still ended up on the dance floor. Let me tell you, this white girl cannot dance.

After that we had anticipated a quiet night with the family. We figured we would read our farewell speech, hand out the gifts we had bought, hang out with the family for a while and then head to bed. I was particularly tired from the boil pain and the cold I had developed. Earlier in the evening I had even considered backing out of the FiaFia all together and had talked to Teuila about the possibility of leaving early, but decided against it. I just couldn’t bring such an abrupt end to such an important time. I needed to stick it out and I was very glad that I did.

The family had other, more exciting plans for the eveing. Some relatives from Apia who had visited the previous weekend were back in town. Two of the girls performed traditional Tongan, Fijian and Tahitian dances for us. It was pretty amazing to see. They had hoped to get Cale and I in on their dance party, but I don’t think it turned out at they had planned. Cale was all done with dancing for the evening and my body just doesn’t move in the ways necessary to dance like that. The one cousin was trying to explain how to whip my hips around in a circle they way they do in one of the dances. I was trying to explain to her that my hip are attached to my neck and knees and I have no idea even how to begin to move like that. Cale says that I shake it like semaphore, which is not a compliment. However the dancing and music were fun and there was cake and pineapple and the ti lau mōli (orange leaf tea), which is just delicious.

Our host mom cried through her farewell speech and the family gifted us with ie (cloth used for the ubiquitous wrap skirts everyone wears) and towels. Then the aunt from a couple of houses over gifted us with ie as well. The visiting relatives also had gifts of ie and t-shirts for us. At this point, I was feeling a little guilty since we had only come with gifts for the immediate family. We hadn’t known the aunt and other relatives were coming to see us off.

Cale read our farewell speech for the two of us (in Sāmoan) and we handed out our presents. We gave our host parents a photo album with pictures from our time there and an “America the Beautiful” calendar we had purchased back in the states. We gave the older kids burned CDs and the younger kids we gave markers and colored pencils, coloring books, two mermaid dolls for the young girls and toy cars for the young boys. There was Bazooka Joe gum all around.

Wow, this post is getting long. Don’t worry I will breeze through Saturday as quickly as I can.

Cale and I set the alarm for 7 am on Saturday. We had to be at the trainers’ house with all our stuff by 8:30 and we were to be on the road by 9 am. However, the family decided that 5 am was a good time for us to be up by sending someone into our room to look for the iron and then again at 5:30 to ask us for one of my pulitasi (I think they wanted me to wear it that morning, but it was already packed at the bottom of a bag). So, by the time the alarm came at 7 am, Cale and I were already up, showered, breakfasted and sitting with the family waiting for the time to leave. It was a little awkward that morning. A lot of sitting around and making idle conversation.

Eventually it was time to go and it felt like the entire village was at the trainers’ to see us off. There was hugging and kissing and crying and then the door to the Land Rover closed, we crossed the river and we put the village behind us for now. (You like how I made this blog post come full circle? I know you do. I can feel it.)

— Sara

1 comment:

Barb Carusillo said...

I imagine the hip swivels of Fihitian, or Tongan dances must be very like what we see of Hawaiian dancers, same Polynesian background right? I think those folks must be constructed and wired differently, following the natural selection processes. You got your genetics from us, and our pelvis and hips decidedly do not do that!