This weekend marked one of the biggest holiday weekends here in Samoa, White Sunday Weekend. White Sunday, also called “Aso Sa Tamaiti,” or “Lotu Tamaiti,” is the holiday that honors Samoan children. For this day only, children are excused of their daily feau’s (chores), they are showered with gifts from their parents, and they eat first, a right at all other times reserved for elders, parents, and special guests. In addition to the pampering at home, church also shifts it’s focus to the children. Although the holiday originated at the EFKS (congregational) Church, it has been adopted to fit all the churches here.
I decided that being a teacher, I needed to be present to celebrate all of my students White Sundays with them, so instead of limiting myself to the EFKS church, I made an effort to visit the other denominations in my village as well.
I began my church tour Thursday night by attending the Assembly of God (Worship Center). This church is very different than the others here. It is sometimes called the “Pati Pati Church” (meaning “clap clap”) because the congregation is in a constant state of singing and dancing. I find it a little weird, but it is nice that people are free to worship through self-expression, however they feel fit. The show started around 8pm and went till 11. It was chock full of rock hymns, interpretive dances, small dramatic interpretations of the bible, and a Bible Trivia game offering prizes to the bright students of AOG. Although I was a little worshipped-out by the end, I did enjoy seeing my students perform. It turns out one of my students is the drummer for the AOG band, and many others get up and sing solo’s on a weekly basis. People of all denominations were in attendance of the show, so I did not feel like such an outsider. I felt more like a community member supporting the children, which is exactly what I intended to do.
The next day was my dancing with Mormons experience so check the last blog for that experience. Then Saturday I planned to go to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, however my ride never showed up. So instead of going to church, I watched Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on the projector with a few of my neighbors. I love that movie!
I woke up Sunday around 7am and hit snooze, enjoying the fact that I did not have to be at church till 9am. However, I was awoken by a phone call from Mina 15 minutes later, inviting me for morning tea. How could I say no? I jumped out of bed, did a quick bucket shower, and was over within a half hour to sip on sweet coffee and eat delicious homemade pudding (kind of like a ginger-papaya sponge cake made on the stovetop). Mina and I walked to church together around 8:45 and took a seat in the second pew.
At 9am, the children lined up outside and paraded into the Church, boys walking down one aisle and girls the other. They sang a beautiful song and joined each other in the front of the congregation. The morning service was not a traditional one: instead of the Faifeau preaching, the children each recited small prayers and then put on a magnificent show of songs, dances, and story re-enactments for the next two hours. I have to admit I fell asleep a few times, but it was still an excellent show!
I returned home around 11, gulped down a cup of coffee for fuel, and then headed over to Faoa’s house for Toonai (Sunday lunch). Faoa was having a family reunion and had invited me to attend, however when I showed up, one of her cousins whom I did not know looked at me as if I was lost and asked if he could help me. I responded with, “Fa’amolemole, ou te fia ai!” Meaning, “Please, I’m hungry!” Faoa showed up laughing at that point as her cousin looked at me questioning, and I was invited in to sit with the children (and therefore be served first!) The plates were piled high with sausage, BBQ chicken and fish, Taro, Breadfruit, and palusami. A side dish was set up with Oka (raw fish in coconut cream), and a special dish of my favorite food, fe’e, was served just to me! I guess it’s a good thing to talk about the foods I like all the time – it pays off in the end! I ate as much as possible, but Faoa was displeased and made fun of me, calling me too skinny. I tried to eat more taro but just couldn’t do it, so I was sent home with a heaping plate of BBQ chicken, taro, and of course, the fe’e.
I went home to enjoy a nice long afternoon nap and awoke at 3:45, realizing I was late for second service! I threw on my Sunday Whites and headed down the street to watch part two of the entertainment. The afternoon was so much better than the morning. Every family had prepared either a song or dance to perform in front of the congregation. My favorite was a family of about 12 kids who did a fake beauty pageant - lets call it a “Prophet Pageant.” They had 4 children dressed up as Abraham, Moses, Noah, and I forgot the last one, but each was equipped with an outrageous beard and paraded across the stage flaunting their staffs and wardrobes. It was very funny. The quality of the dancing was great, and overall I really enjoyed the afternoon.
When it ended I was invited to the Faifeau’s house for the evening meal where once again a plate of BBQ chicken and friend fish, palusami, taro, breadfruit, pisupo, and cake was placed in front of me. Again I was made fun of for how little I eat, but it was all in good fun. The meal was topped off with ice cream bars and picture sharing.
When I woke up this morning I was worried about offending my three favorite families by not being able to experience White Sunday with all of them. As it turned out, I got the best of all worlds. Each of these families feels like home to me. They are all so different but their common quality is the pure love and acceptance they have for me. And I feel the same for them. If all goes as planned tomorrow, I am going on my first fishing trip with Vaifale! I hope it goes through, I am ready for another village adventure!