Sunday, November 15, 2009

15: Last Trip to Savaii

Siapo Craftswoman

That's it. We will never see Savaii again unless we come back to visit Samoa. Two whole years and we still failed to see the blowholes.

We left for Savaii on Thursday morning and for the first time ever actually made the boat we were aiming for. It is nice not to spend an unexpected two hours (or more) at the wharf.

I would like to take this opportunity to tout the wonders of ginger. Up until now Cale and I had been taking motion-sickness medication for our boat trips to Savaii. At first we followed the instructions to take it one hour before travel, only to discover it left us practically incapacitated with drowsiness (just as Annette) and didn't so much alleviate the gross feelings as muffle them. Later we learned to take the medication the night before, which meant we slept like rocks that night and weren't as drowsiness the next day. However, we were still left with this underlying gross feeling and strange sensations of being out of it. Thanks to the recommendation of our friends Marco and Marie Ines, on this last trip to Savaii we abandoned the medication and replaced it with raw ginger. We simply cut up some tiny pieces of ginger and swallowed them whole. It worked amazingly well. On the boat ride to Savaii I experienced absolutely no nausea and felt just fine when we disembarked.

Ginger, it has the Reeves seal of approval.

We spent Thursday night at Lusia's. Once again it was lovely. They were all booked out of the lagoon fales, so they actually set us up in the open fale the sign claims is the spa. Apparently, all it takes to have a spa is a hut and some tables. Things have changed a little bit at Lusia's. The food prices continue to rise and the menu selection has changed for the worse. It used to be managed by a Filipino family and there were Filipino foods on the menu. Now the menu has switched back to your typical Samoan-restaurant-for-palagi fare: fish and chips, chicken and chips, burger, stir-fry, curry, the like.

Friday morning we got up and caught a bus to Max's. We were so close to having our own seats on the bus, but didn't quite make it. I ended up on Cale's lap as usual.

At Max's we spent the morning hanging out on the beach at the beach fales waiting for Max to return from proctoring an exam in Asau. Because there were so many older Samoan women around and we were not paying to stay the night at the fales, I didn't feel comfortable getting in the water, so I just lay in the sand listening to This American Lifes on the iPod.

There is something about Max's village that is like kryptonite for me. It always seem hotter and less breezy than anywhere else in Samoa (except our training village of course) and I always find myself lying, powerless against sleep in a pool of sweat.

After Max's return we went to his house while he went to a primary school to help a teacher out. It ended up taking longer than he anticipated and I continued to lie in a pool of sweat in his room for two hours. When he returned he was surprised he had stayed in his room that entire time.

"It's so hot in there," he said.

He was also surprised we hadn't asked his host family for the lime we said we would need for the guacamole we intended to make and had not given them the food we had brought as a gift. In fact, the entire time we waited in his room we had not interacted with his family, except to sneak across the dining room to the bathroom and when one of the children had brought us a plate of pineapple.

The trouble is that in our two years of living in the suburbs of Apia not really interacting with our neighbors, we have not developed any appropriate village coping skills. If we had village skills we would have laid in the open fale in front of the family's house to avoid the heat of Max's room. Or we would have gone out back to where the family was hanging out and talked to them. Or something. But instead, we hid, waiting for Max.

When Max returned we went on a walk to another village to meet the woman who was making a siapo for Erik. You see, the main goal of this trip to Savaii was siapo.

Erik's Siapo

Some of our friends and family received siapo from us as Christmas presents last year. In those gifts we included this explanation:
Painted cloth made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree. It is widely known as tapa cloth, though the word tapa is of Tahitian origin.

The patterns of Samoan tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contain geometrical patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants. A common theme is four stylized leaves forming a diagonal cross. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colors are also used.

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia
Rosie wears siapo as the taupo.

The cloth was once primarily used for clothing, but now cotton and other textiles have replaced it. Tapa cloth is not ideal for clothing because the tissue is similar to paper and loses its strength when wet and falls apart. Today tapa is still worn on formal occasions such as weddings. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often found as wall hangings.

...The mulberry trees are cut and stripped of bark. These strips are about a hand-length wide and 5-6 feet long. The bark consists of two layers. The outer bark is scraped or split off from the inner layer. The outer bark is discarded and the inner bark. This inner bark is then dried in the sun before being soaked. Next the bark is beaten on a wooden anvil using wooden mallets. In the beating the bark is made thinner and spread out to a width of about 25 cm. When the strips are thin enough, several strips are gathered together and beaten into a large sheet.
There is a lot of information about siapo to be found on the internet. is an excellent source of information.

There is also
this site out of New Zealand that will donate $10 to the tsunami relief fund for every siapo sold.

This article from ABC Australia mentions the very village we went to with Max. This is the place where siapo is made in Samoa.

Strangely enough my alma mater, the University of Missouri, hosts
an informative page on siapo.

Cale wanted to ask an artisan to make him a siapo and then watch the process of making it. Unfortunately, we learned that this was something he should have planned months ago and that it wasn't something that could happen even in the several days we were willing to stay on Savaii. We will have to be happy with the siapo we know we will receive for our faamavae (farewell) or that we buy at the market before we leave.

That night Cale and I stole Max's bed. Since there was no reason to stay for siapo, the next morning we were up early to catch a bus to the wharf. Unfortunately, it was not early enough and we ended up waiting until close to 11 am for the next round of buses. Max had told us there was no noon boat on Saturdays, but we expected to catch the 2 pm boat. Since we were in Salelologa before noon, we headed over to Le Waterfront where we ran into AJ, Phil and Chris for some lunch.

Next we walked over to the wharf and looked around in confusion. It was 1:30 pm. By this time the boat coming from Upolu that would leave Savaii at 2 pm should not only be in sight, but at the dock. There was no boat to be seen. We walked over to the Savaii office where we found Briony. She had talked to Jenny who was supposed to be coming on the noon boat from Upolu. It apparently had not even left until 1 pm. So our 2 pm boat didn't leave until 3 pm.

The weather was pretty crappy outside, overcast, windy, slightly rainy. We knew this was not going to be a fun boat ride. We had just eaten lunch and I wasn't sure how a belly full of fish burger was going to go over. I had swallowed some ginger with lunch and crossed my fingers. About half way through the trip it was particularly choppy and Cale broke out the ginger and cut me off some more pieces. The other boat passengers looked at me strangely, but I don't care because not long after I began to feel less nauseous.

Marie Ines met us at the wharf and took us back to her and Marco's place for a fabulous dinner of tuna; basmati rice and pine nuts; tomato, celery and carrot salad; and taro and palusami. It was all delicious. When we said good-bye to them that night if felt like our first final good-bye. We don't know if we will be seeing them again before we leave in two weeks.

We are closing in on the end now that we are possibly seeing people for the last time. We we ran into the Liz in the office the other day she was heading back to Savaii.

"See you at Thanksgiving," she said. I realized there that this is it, we could accidentally be seeing people for the last time and not know it. What if we don't make it to Thanksgiving. Will we not see the Liz again before we leave Samoa? Cramming everything into the end hard work.

— Sara

1 comment:

Barb Carusillo said...

Things work out the way they are supposed to, but I think you missed a bit by not getting to really get involved with a village life because of your particular work environment. Before you guys left, I figured the hospitality and warmth of the Samoan people would break down your natural Hoosier reserve and totally change you, and you would want to stay there forever (and not come home). I am GLAD you are coming home, but it would have been good if you could have been a bit of a villager for awhile. Growing up in Indy with a million plus, you didn't get that exposure.