This morning, Talava presented me with a beautiful white puletasi. Nice and tight, the best fitted puletasi I own for sure. Telefoni gave me a brand new Samoan Bible and I walked to church in my new garb and with my new book. Church was short and entirely tolerable. Songs were sung, I read my English bible along with the message of the sermon, I day dreamed while we were kneeling for the 20 minute prayer and during the rest of the message I learned a few new words in my Samoan English dictionary.
After church, I took a long nap and read some of Wicked before going to meet up with Tuaia. We had promised to meet and go see the Women’s Committee president to talk about getting the Committee together Monday or Tuesday to discuss the grant proposal for the new steps down the cliff to the beach.
When I arrived at Tuaia’s house, she was busy changing into a puletasi and saying that she was obliged to attend a ceremony at the faifeau’s house and that I should come also. I didn’t really feel a strong desire to participate in the festivities, which would undoubtedly include politely refusing heaping plates of meat, fanning away flies from the plates of the matais and sitting for long periods of time straining to understand snippets of conversation between the villagers. But, thinking that this would be a valuable opportunity to meet and greet with some members of the community that I haven’t met and also show my prowess at the Ava ceremony, I hurried home to change into a puletasi.
I walked with Talava to Sulu’s house and when we arrived, the heaping plates of meat (sausages, corned beef, chicken, fish, ramen and taro) were already prepared and waiting on the floor surrounded by fanning women. I sat near half a roast pig and fanned the flies away, listening to the conversations around me and not understanding much at all. Finally, the men had finished their Ava ceremony in the fale across from us and we started to bring out the food. I presented a tray to the guest in the ceremony, a new Methodist preacher who was staying with our faifeau (pastor) then sat to fan the flies off our faifeau’s meal. I was told to sit next to Sulu and did so.
The runner gave me a cup of Ava and all looked on interested as I spilled a drop in front of me and said in a clear steady voice “Lea Ava lea le Atua, soifua!” before downing the murky contents and tossing the cup to the runner. They exploded into chatter at this and I concentrated on my cup of Cocoa Samoa. Sulu translated. The matais were saying what a good Samoan girl I was and that I needed a good Samoan boyfriend. She told them I had a boyfriend in America already and in reply to this they said I should have more than one boyfriend. They also encouraged me to come to the village and committee meetings to help with my Samoan.
After I had finished my second cup of Cocoa Samoa and had refused for the third or fourth time the food, I returned to where the women were gathered and thanked Loli Tui’s wife for inviting me and for the good food and drink. I then talked to Mele, the women’s committee president about wanting to meet with the committee before leaving for Apia on Wednesday in order to discuss the grant proposal for the new cement steps going down the cliff to the beach. She nodded at my simple explanation of writing the letter, discussing all the reasons why we need steps on the mako (cliff), how I will bring it first to the peace corps office and have it read and edited by the staff there and how I will submit it to the New Zealand High Commission office on Wednesday before going to Manunu. Mele presented this information to the Methodist ladies gathered in the fale and they nodded and agreed to meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss the idea further, but that they all thought the idea was very good and that the whole village would benefit from it. They patted my shoulder and back and said “Manaia tele oe” or “Lelei tele oe” (both mean "You're so good!" or "You're doing well!" as they left the house. I can’t describe how encouraging it was to be supported by the women of the village and for my plan to be in motion.