Thursday, November 19, 2009

Married to Samalae'ulu

1. picture of my house in Manunu; 2. Coming back from the plantation with Sana, Tana and my bro Samu.

A new village, a new phase in my life. Last Friday, or Christmas in November as I like to think of it, was the big site placement day. After our morning meeting the Peace Corps office joined us in the hall to make the announcements. They brought in two maps, one of each island, and as our names and villages were called out we were handed our picture and invited to place it on the map to indicate our new homes. The excited energy in the room flew higher and higher with each name called as we eagerly sat with our fingers crossed, hoping for our requested sites. One by one the Savai'i names were called and halfway through my name joined the list! A huge smile crossed my face as I jumped up to add my face to the Savai'i map - I had received one of my top choices!

The weekend was filled with anticipation and then Monday morning at 4:45am we met at the trainers fale in Manunu to begin our journeys across the country. We were driven into Apia and dropped at the market where we caught the 6am bus to the warf. Next was an hour long boat ride and when we docked, a frantic race to find our designated buses before they took off. Ali and I boarded the "Ito o Tane" line and waved a quick goodbye to the other 6 Savai'i people. We slowly made our way out of Salaelogo, stopping at the market, then the fish market, a whole sale store, and lastly a bank. Then the bus turned onto the main road and we were off!

We drove along wide, semi-paved roads, passing brightly colored fales on the beach, turquoise water, and pigs, pigs, pigs everywhere! The bus turned inland, and after about an hour on the bus I was dropped in Samalae'ulu right across from the "Pisikoa House," my new home. I was greeted by a counsel of men - 4 high cheif's, the pulenu'u (mayor), the reverend of the Congregational Church (there are 4 churches here), and a few untitled men. They admitted to me that they had expected a male volunteer but they were just as happy to receive me. An Ava ceremony was performed and I somehow pulled that rusty phrase out of a back corner of my mind. Tevaga, the VP of the school committee and a high chief in the village stated that I was now a daughter of the village. Many words were spoken that I could not understand at the time. Since my house wasn't ready for me yet, I went back to the Reverends house and took a nap there. When I awoke I was taken to undoubtedly the most beautiful place on Earth for dinner. Two rainbows painted the sky in all their glory, touching down on the water just in front of me.

Tuesday was spent with a grand tour of the village led my Tevaga. We started at the primary school where I met the eight teachers and was introduced to the kids. Then it was off to meet key members of the village. As we strolled we talked about many things. I was blown away by our conversation. Tevaga told me he knew I was a twin the moment I met him. When I asked how, he said, "I read it on your face. You are calm and collected and connect to people. It is clear that you have that relationship because you form relationships naturally. It is science, and science does not lie." This little old man is quickly becoming my favorite Samoan. He took me to the women's committee fale and then then to the preschool. As we approached the preschool Tevaga continued to blow my mind with words. He explained to me that during the Ava ceremony he had introduced me as a daughter of the village but also as a marriage in three parts: Color, Language, and Culture. My coming to Samalae'ulu is a marriage between brown and white, of English and Samoan, and of American and Samoan cultures. Did I mention this man is poetic? Yeah.

So here I stand, Lasela, daughter of Samalae'ulu, married to a threefold harmony of culture, color, and language, caught between these two very different worlds, and ready to offer whatever I can while learning as much as I can... and loving every minute of it.

Lots of Love,