I was invited to my first BINGO game yesterday. Apparently every other week the Church Ladies hold a friendly BINGO game. Buy in is $10. I assumed that this money goes towards prizes, which I was told included laundry soap and other domestic items that women here might want. I figured $10 was worth the publicity I would gain by going, not to mention the fact that I was running low on laundry detergent. So at 9am I met my neighbor. As I mentioned in the last post I am living on my own, but the family across the street has kind of adopted me. I have dinner there every night and they tend to look after me. I don't want to call them my host parents, but maybe I will refer to them as Aunt Mina and Uncle Vaifale. So coming back to BINGO, I met Mina at 9am. She was adamant that we not be late to BINGO, insisting that if you show up late, the price increases from $10 to $20. As we walked I got more of a sense of what the game was really about. It turns out it is more of a mandatory fundraiser for the Ladies Committee. If a woman decides she does not want to play BINGO one week, she must pay $20 for not attending! And then the real kicker: this wasn't just old ladies BINGO, it was gambling! The women, who rarely, if ever, smoke cigarettes, we're sitting around smoking, gossiping, and gambling! I learned that yes laundry detergent was on the line, but so was real money!
I bought in at $10 and took my seat on a mat towards the front of the open fale. The rest of the women completed the circle around the fale with the prizes delicately placed in the middle for all to see. I was handed 10 sheets of colored news prints; each sheet contained 9 BINGO games. I thought to myself, oh my god, we are going to be playing BINGO all morning! And then the twist: turns out BINGO is played 9 games at a time! This was very different than the innocent BINGO I had played as a child. I was given an official BINGO Dotter that resembled a glue stick with red paint instead of glue at the end, marked my 9 free spaces, and the games began. I had told myself that yes, this game was going to be in Samoan but at least numbers were one area I was pretty good in. I was not prepared for the speed of the game, speed of the language, and use of the "k" dialect. The first round seemed to wiz by me! I got the sense that all the women were laughing at me, but I didn't care, the more they laugh, the more they like you (or so I've been told!) So I just went with it, and by the end of the next round, Mina was whispering the numbers in English to me. It got kind of annoying because even though it was challenging, I really was enjoying the challenge of listening and applying my little bits of Samoan language. However, like a true Samoan, she does not like to see failure, so she insisted on whispering the numbers every time. I got in the habit of trying to beat her to it, saying the number as a reconfirmation before marking my paper. She liked that, and even helped me mark my dots at times!
In the end, I made out like a true beginner with no luck. Mina walked away with something like $40, not a bad profit for a Saturday morning, and I walked away with a huge smile on my face of the ridiculous morning I had just had. I can't wait till the next game!