The Vaiala Heroes at Culture Day

Culture Day at Vaipua Primary

Books Donated from Darien Aid

Tree Planting with funds donated from WaterCharity

Friday, June 25, 2010

Random Notes and Events

First and foremost, Happy Graduation to my little sis! I can’t believe you’re out of high school now…wow. Think of all the fun things we can do now without having to have you play hooky all the time? Sorry I couldn’t be there for the big day, but I do believe I strapped a king size mattress and box spring to the top of my beloved Saab and drove it from Capitol Hill to Everett on Hwy 99 in the rain no less as an early graduation present. We’ll go to a concert or something cool when I get back as an after-graduation present. Congratulations!!

Secondly, the women’s committee president’s daughter had a baby and they named it Elisa! It’s not an uncommon occurrence for Peace Corps here. It’s the ol’ namesake routine. Some volunteers find it irritating because it’s a ploy to get you to buy stuff for the baby. You know, like Pampers and clothes and things. I’ve never bought baby clothes for anyone, so it was fun to buy a tiny little dress for little Elisa. Another Peace Corps had two brothers named after him. The first baby took his first name and the second baby took his last name. Unfortunately, the volunteers name is Igor Popstefanija.

Finally, school has started up again and it’s the busiest term out of the three. All the students are studying for fall exams. I’ve started a phonics program in the morning before school to help students who are in year 7 and 8 who are still having trouble reading. Alli, Emilie and I get together every weekend and have a sleepover, usually in Emilie’s village because it’s so close to town. The new library book donations from Darien Book Aid have arrived and I’m excited to add them to our meager stack at Vaipu’a Primary. Water Charity in California funded a small grant to plant 80 fruit trees inside our school grounds for healthier lunches and I’m excited to have a tree-planting day with the kids. My cousin Jami and I have started penpal-ing our students back and fourth as a cultural exchange activity and the kids are jazzed about hearing from their friends in the U.S.

Kittten head is getting big and as soon as I get her fixed (not easy to do here) I’ll let her out to play with the pigs and chase the chickens. Until then, the position is being filled by yours truly

Fuafiva's Wedding

I recall someone, a trainer or older volunteer, mentioning during training last fall that if given the chance we should jump on any opportunity to be a part of a Samoan village wedding. Two weeks ago, I got that chance.

Now the way it works is you typically have a bride and groom from different villages. You don’t want to marry within your village because chances are, you’re related. If the bride is a girl from the village (an “aualuma”) where the wedding is taking place and the groom is from somewhere else, you get to see the best show. That’s because all of the unmarried village girls go nuts celebrating the marriage of a fellow “aualuma”. After the ceremony in the church, everyone spilled out of the double doors and followed the sounds of loud ‘whoop’s and ‘chu-hoo’s, not to mention the banging of thick sticks on rusty sheet metal and pots. Young women scattered the lawn of the fale adjacent the Methodist Church and created as much racket as possible, hooting and hollering and waving branches of teuila flowers around crazily as the wedding procession approached the fale. The yard and road came alive with ladies rusting bushes, releasing balloons and dancing wildly. Once the band (oh yes, there was a brass band brought over from Apia to follow the bride and groom around the village) had assembled outside, the dancing commenced. The aualuma lifted their skirts above their knees and showed their malu tattoos as they darted and scooped around the groom in a traditional gesture. They picked up Fuafiva and carried her around the fale, while others trailed behind singing and billowing her veil and train. Others passed out cups of ice cream and cake. This lasted a few songs until the procession moved onto the next house. Every house had a different treat for the guests and different people to dance and lift and carry and sing. After several houses were visited, there was a feast at Fuafiva’s parents house. Half a dozen roasted pigs and a butchered cow lay covered in coconut fronds outside, while 28 wedding cakes (one for every year of the bride’s age) stood stacked and decorated in the center of the tables. The dancing, exchanging of presents and eating lasted until the evening and I must have been told a hundred times, yelled at really over the loud music, that I should have my wedding in Samoa. Heck, why not? Gotta find a husband first though.

Early Service Training, River Fales and a Taupou Dance!

“English Day” marked the end of Term One and the beginning of Group 82’s first in country vacation time! Three weeks without school obligations! Too bad two of the three weeks we were scheduled to be in EST (Early Service Training) in Apia. That’s right, after all the stress of the first term of teaching we had to fill that familiar old Pacifika Inn meeting room and listen to hours of droning on about the health program that our group is embarking on come September.

You’ll hear all about that in the September newsletter, so I won’t bore you with it now, instead I’ll tell you about the magic and tranquility that is “the river fales”. A small group of 11 Savaii and Upolu volunteers got together and stayed at these charming fales for a weekend.

The stay included a 3 hour waterfall hike through the jungle in and along the river. During this tour, we saw eight gorgeous waterfalls, and not only saw them…we rock climbed over them, jumped off them, crossed over them holding hands and swam in the pools beneath them. Our Samoan guide was there every step showing us where to put our feet and grab hold as we slowly dragged our limbs up the craggy rocks alongside the rushing falls. Our poor Emilie, who fell backwards and smacked her gourd, sustained the only head injury during the trip. She was a trooper and made it through the rest of the hike though.

The Avanoa Tutusa (a non-profit Peace Corps run organization who organize “Equal Opportunity” events) held a fund-raiser dance during our EST. The taupou (a traditional maiden who dances covered in coconut oil, wrapped in a fine mat, with a bedazzled and mirrored headdress) dance was one of the performances in the program The fun of it was trying to get a hold of the taupou fine mat and headdress, which we discovered at the last moment that Peace Corps had misplaced.

We all went different directions making phone calls to and visiting establishments and people that might have this outfit and who might let us borrow it for a night, with no luck. I decided to hit the taxi stand across the street and ask if they knew someone. First, they made me dance the taupou dance on the taxi lot while they clapped and ‘chu-hoo’ed. Then one guy ushered me to his cab and took me to his parent’s home down the road. After a brief explanation while he grabbed a handful of chips from the kitchen, his elderly mother shuffled near me. She bent over a wooden chest, opened it, and gently lifted out their family headdress and fine mat and handed it over, smiling wide and wrinkled, just an hour before the event.

English Day at Vaipu'a Primary

This day was a huge success! The principal approached me in March about having an “English Day” at Vaipu’a Primary. The HELLO! school in Japan where I was working held an annual event every February where students could showcase their skills, so I immediately started envisioning a similar production to what we had done then.

First was a play, simply written and with both group characters and individuals so all the students could take part. Year 1 & 2 were cast as monkeys, Year 3 were kookaburra birds, Year 4 played flamingos, hippos and crocodiles, Year 5 were bears, tigers and snakes, Year 6 were wolves and Year 7 & 8 played either a main character (Zebra, Lion, Rhino) or were story narrators. We took simple English songs like “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” and changed the lyrics to fit the story. So when our heroes were being chased down a mountain by wolves, the school sang “They’ll be running down the mountain when they come…” and so on. Year 8 students were also given short speeches to present, like welcoming the parents, leading the prayer in English and closing the program.

The masks we made for 100-something students were a huge hit with the parents and the kids.

The older students decorated the hall with coconut leaves wrapped around the poles and leaf garlands strung everywhere. Parents told me later that it was the first time they had heard their children speak English or do a play.

There was just the one little bump during the program when a mother in the audience fainted…but after she was carried away and resuscitated, the show went on!

Aso Sa Tina: Mother's Sunday

The mother’s and grandmother’s of Vaipu’a spent weeks rehearsing for the choreographed dances they performed on Mother’s Sunday. Over 50 women, ages 25 to 70, lined the church in matching white puletasis, their best hair clips and bright pink lip stick to dance for the congregation to the beat of a techno “Mama Mia”. After the dances, the women dressed in colorful robes and sequined headpieces to depict a story from 1 Kings 21. A story where Jezebel, Queen of Israel at the time, comforts her husband King Ahab about not being able to procure a sweet vineyard from a dude name Naboth and plots to have Naboth stoned because of it. Jezebel says “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat? and King Ahab says “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell my your vineyard…but he said ‘I will not give you my vineyard’”. Jezebel chastises him “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite!” After the thrilling reenactment of the stoning of Naboth (played by one of my favorite neighbor ladies, who cured my ear infection with a banana leaf massage), the mothers lined the church again and all their children and grandchildren (Samoan’s on average have 7 children…so you can do the math) came to them to kiss their cheeks and adorn them with lolly necklaces. The older and more respected the women, the more lollies they got. So the oldest lady there and the pastor’s wife were up to their chins in stacked candy necklaces. I even got some.

Family Photo!

Vaipu'a Women's Committee

Reaching the Last Waterfall on the River Fale Trip

River Fale Trip


Mother's Day Skit