Thursday, April 23, 2009


Faalavelave. Ahhh, faalavelave. It is a general term for an “event”, and I’m taking the liberty to narrow it down to a rare or one-of event in terms of a persons life. That was wordy. It’s like a funeral or wedding or something. And it also means trouble or chaos. Like, the rowdy kids are faalavelave-ing. Samoan tradition dictates “giving” and then “reciprocal” giving (in general) and also as a part of faalavelave (the wedding/funeral variety). But, not necessarily giving to whom and what one might expect.

So, the High Chief, or Alii Matua, Mr. Mamoemausu Taafaga, passed away earlier this week. He suffered a heart attack after walking home from church. He was in supposed great health and his death was quite unexpected. So the village mourns. Usu and his family are my next door neighbors and I am privy to the faalavelave that has ensued. His tomb has been partially built and the family’s plantation has been completely cut down and burned to nothing. I still can’t get a clear answer on the second one. So, FAALAVELAVE. Because he was the highest chief of our village there are special proceedings. First, the family has all get here. When everyone does arrive, the high chiefs of neighboring villages will all come to Tufu to pay their respects and provide a gift. That gift will be one palm frond per chief presented symbolically to the family. Since, in Samoa, we respond to giving by giving in return (and upping the anti), each Chief will receive $1000 (WST) from the grieving family(!) There are going to be 15 or so chiefs throwing in a frond(!) And on top of this, the family has to provide all the funeral supplies, grave, food (for a grip of really hungry Samoans), and various other expenses. Luckily the village is helping, we will all give what we can. OH WAIT! They will just have to give it back 10 fold. I somehow received $20 from the last funeral I went to… of a woman that I had never met, who actually lived and died in Hawaii before I even moved to this village. I did have to sing a song I didn’t know in front of an audience in her honor, so I was a bit passive about refusing the money. My contribution to Usu will be a bolt of white fabric for the family and I big plastic flower bouquet for his tomb. Usu was a very nice man. He treated me with the utmost respect. RIP

I had the best kitten in the world for 10 days. I was sitting on my porch with my Samoan brother, Peni, and a tiny white ball-o-cat came shooting over the railing and immediately annihilated the joint. Okay, so within 10 minutes he had destroyed my seedlings, broke my tea mug, and gotten stuck in the thatch. I was in love. For 3 days it was great. He crawled into my bed at night and slept on my neck. He was soft and sweet smelling and loaded with kitteny personality. Then he got sick. Something happened, maybe ate a toxin, and he couldn’t move. He just laid there looking awful while I fed him with a dropper and changed him. I had to leave town for a bit, when I came back he had passed. Poor boo. The Samoan kids had made a grave for him. It says Sieni’s cat and has flowers and rocks around it. I have never seen another animal grave in Samoa.


School Garden:
The school garden continues to grow and has begun bearing fruit. We have tomatoes and the beans are on their way. I go to the school nearly every day to regulate in the garden. Various kids duck out of class and help me water, weed, repair the fence, and fertilize. We talk about what they did in school thus far and where their other shoe is. Translating their creative answers helps me with my language. They practice their English on me: asking the names of my parents and how many kids I have. Um. Public garden enemy #1 is kids. They trample over seedlings, cause for the institution of the 4 kids allowed at a time rule, and the introduction of me as a disciplinarian. I’m so tough now.

Fale Komiti Garden:
We are tilling the soil. It is terribly rocky and I can now understand why the land was so readily donated. The ladies of the Komiti and I work in the rock pit a few hours everyday with pick axes and machetes. Both of which they make me use just so they can laugh at me. I’m also such a good sport now. We are working all around the grave of my cat. God bless the kids for burying my cat, but their placement, um, in the middle of the untilled garden, was a little reckless. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. We are going to plant corn, peanuts, beans, eggplant, okra, green peppers and sunflowers in the garden, oh and I‘m going to discreetly slip in some jalapeño peppers. They ladies are beside themselves about the peanut situation. I’m not sure what it is about Samoan ladies and peanuts, but other PCV are experiencing hyper zealous responses to talk of peanut farming. They are easy to grow in mediocre soil with little water or attention. Sweet! Peanuts it is. This garden’s primary purpose is to produce seeds for family gardens, and secondarily to introduce some new veggies to the village.

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