The mayor, pulenuu, of my village was let go. I’m not sure what the actual reason is/was; and I think it is wise not to rely on the various creative answers given to me by the women of the committee. I guess I’ll refine the information given into a sort of truth. I do know he was asked to step down 2 years shy of his family’s allotted 3 years to hold the position. Then, later that day, he was struck by lightning. He was knocked unconscious and has pretty awful looking burns on his chest, but is apparently okey dokey. He didn’t even go to the hospital. This just isn’t his week. His wife is having a baby soon. They told me, if it’s a girl, it will be named after me and if it’s a boy it will be named after my father, Wally. Hopefully that process goes a little smoother.
Women in Samoa can’t or don’t do a lot of things. They usually don’t hold Matai titles (ie they don’t hold political positions of power in the village council of cheifs). Usually. There is one woman mataii in my village. Her name is Luama. She runs a Noni Juice factory, is working on becoming a certified organic farmer, is partial owner of a flipflop (the staple shoe of Samoa) company, knows how to drive a delivery truck, is a selfmade woman, generally kicks ass and is quite a role model. (contradiction) She smokes, which is another things women don’t do, at least often, in public. The older a woman, the more slack she is given. You just don’t tell an elder what’s what here. Men do smoke in public. Women drinking alcohol in the village is a major taboo. I should add that after talking to other volunteers, the aforementioned may be more applicable in some villages than others. Like mine. Women do not drink alcohol in Tufu. Women, likewise, traditionally, don’t drink Ava. Ava, or Kava, is a tepid tea of dried ground pepper plant root mixed with water. Ava drinking ceremonies are commonly given to visiting parties as a village welcome. A young virgin girl, the taupou, mixes the Ava and all the dudes sit around in specially designated places and say specially designated things and drink Ava. Or, probably more commonly, there is no virgin or party to welcome, just a bunch of old farts having social hour. It‘s this country‘s version of the table of grandpas at Pig and Pancake that sip coffee all morning. The next house over is where they all gather in Tufu. I know Ava is also common at Samoan construction sites. Okay, so it is a mild stimulant and it makes your lips and tongue numb. Drinking Ava all morning affects me less than consuming 16 oz. of coffee (which throws me into a complete spaz). It’s pretty harmless. It tastes like Mate, which in turn tastes very similar to dirt. Oh, not that I would know… (As I write this, the old men are at it again, giggling like 1st grade girls).
---- A few weeks ago I was schlepping around my house when I spotted the whole matai council trekking up my hill. I was their target and I scrambled to find appropriate clothing, which I didn’t really. They crowded onto my porch and talked to me about the proposal I wrote to the UNDP for water tanks. They had some questions, but mainly just wanted to thank me for my effort. (I really hope the proposal is approved). To show their appreciation, I was invited to join them to drink Ava! I told them I heard it was forbidden for women, but they assured me this was a special case and they would love my company. They said I should change my clothes while they mixed the Ava and a boy would come and get me. So they all went to the fale next door and I changed and sat on my porch; waiting and waiting and waiting…. like a dumbass, apparently. The mataiis had pulled a prank on the Peace Corps girl. They drank their Ava without me and shared quite a few jokes on my behalf that morning. Now every time I see one of them, they dramatically asked me why I never showed up and tell me how sad everyone was that I didn’t come. Alright, matais, I see what your playing. It‘s the practical joke game and I am in.