Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Funeral (part one): Getting There

The Women line up to present the flowers

Funeral Flowers

Sunday I heard the news: the ministers’ mother in law had passed away. There would be a fa’alavelave (funeral) the coming Thursday in Apia. The church ladies would be going to comfort his wife and the high-ranking officials from the church community would be going as well. While I am neither a church lady nor a high-ranking official, I wanted to go. My faifeau’s family has been like a second family to me during my time here in the village, and to not pay my respects seemed wrong. So I asked my neighbor if she thought I would be able to tag along with the church. “Sure Sera, no problem!”

Tuesday during dinner I asked about what I should bring. Having never been to a funeral here I was unsure of the proper ways to show ones respect. Mina suggested flowers and said she had ordered some in Apia. I asked if this was something I could do too, to which she replied, “Oh, no, it is too late. You must go to town tomorrow after school to buy the flowers.”

So Wednesday I boarded the bus and headed into town with $50 in my pocket to spend on a funeral wreath. I found a beautiful display at Frankie’s, the first place I looked, and since it was within my budget I bought it and headed off to the office to relax before catching the next bus out. For some reason the 2 boat did not come so I had to wait for the buses till 5:30pm. When I finally got home I went over to Mina’s, reassured her that my flowers were safely bought and stored in the Peace Corps office in town, and inquired about the details. She said we would be taking the 6am ferry and the bus would be coming at 2am. TWO AM! I was shocked. The wharf is only an hour away from my village! But the flowers were already bought, my excuse was handed in at school; there was no backing out of this commitment. I made french toast for dinner and went to sleep by 9pm in anticipation of the 1:30am wake up I was not looking forward to.

Somehow I woke up, pounded a cup of coffee, heated my left over French toast and wrapped it in foil to be eaten on the ferry, and packed my bag. I dressed in the uniform of the day: white puletasi top with a black bottom. Mina had joked that I should dye my hair black to look more Samoan. I didn’t get that far. At 2am, Mina and Pele arrived. They asked if I had had coffee. I said yes, and they said, “oh, good! Can we have some?!” So I made two instant coffees and delivered them to the front of my house. Then Tevaga showed up and I made him a cup as well. By now it was 2:15am and I was entertaining a full house, by my standards. By three, the bus was still not here. I did the dishes and we decided to go wait on the road.

We waited and waited under the stars. It was peaceful and chilly out and I welcomed the light sweater I had brought along with me (Thank you to Clem and Fran!). At 3:30 we finally heard the sound of the bus rolling into town. The church had rented out a charter bus to take us all to and from the event, and it was winding its way through the village, stopping every 10 feet to pick up more people. By the time we loaded it was about half full. The bus stopped in front of the church, where dozens of fine mats were loaded onto the back on the bus. Then we continued through the village. Before the bus turned around, I was nominated to sit on some ones lap. They all joked that I was the lightest one and so naturally, I had to do the lap seat. I hate sitting on people, especially for such a long ride.

A painful hour and a half later we reached the wharf. It was funny doing the trip with these women who rarely leave the village; they were all so pushy about things! They insisted that I should not stand in line to wait for my ticket. Instead, we had one of the churchmen collect all of our money and deal with the ticket counter. It was a nice change, not having to fight the crowds. Once we had our tickets, I took out my French toast to have a bite to eat before the ride. Everyone marveled at the yellow bread I was eating and I offered everyone a bite. They all insisted they were not hungry and so I got to eat my whole breakfast, but they were very curious and kept asking how I made it. I think they are surprised that I know how to cook anything for myself. I promised to make all of the women French toast at some point in the near future.

When I was done, about 5am by this point, the four women I was hanging with decided we should get in line. Being that it was the big boat and no one had lined up yet, their urgency was a bit much, but we squeezed into the narrow entrance way and took a seat. When the doors opened, we were the first ones to board the boat, and so we had free pick of our seats. I chose to sit off to the side in order to have a place to rest my head. I took out my lavalava, scrunched it up into a pillow, and went to sleep for the most refreshing two hour nap of my life. 5:30am and I had already been up for 4 hours, speaking Samoan and being the butt of everyone’s’ jokes. It was time to rest.

Stay tuned for part two….

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