Today I was able to check off a long awaited goal of Peace Corps Samoa – that is, I learned how to make the wispy brooms, called salu. A few weeks ago at school I had mentioned to Sapi, one of my year 8 students, that I desperately needed a new salu for my house and that I would love to make my own. “Come to my house after school!” she immediately offered. I was going to Apia that afternoon and had to pass, but I told her I would love to take her up on the offer the following week.
So today Sapi arrived at my house around 2pm telling me to get ready, her father, Siaki, would be here with his car any minute to take me to their home at the other side of the village (about a 30 minute run away from my home…so pretty far!) We arrived at her home and gathered in the large open fale to drink koko and watch music videos with the rest of the family. Sapi disappeared to cook our lunch as I conversed with her father, grandfather, mother, little sister, two little brothers, and two men from the store. The youngest brother was not happy about something or other and kept balling up his fist in a tight ball and with the full force a four year old can offer was laying punches into his mothers arm. She just laughed and called him cheeky. I smiled and hoped he wouldn’t turn on me, because I would not be so polite in dealing with him! Sapi soon reappeared with chicken soup and rice, and it was delicious!
After lunch, Sapi grabbed a fine matt and some pillows and dragged them outside to the shade of a mango tree. The children and I lay under the tree digesting and enjoying the breeze while her father went of to collect coconut leaves for our project. About a half hour later he returned and Sapi’s mother, Matelena, brought us each a knife (me, Sapi, and Sapi’s 7 year old sister, Gagau). The girls each took a coconut palm and handed me one as well. They then proceeded to show me how trim the desired leaves to their spines and pluck them off the main stalk. After we had collected a pile of about one hundred spines, we returned to the matts in the shade and began the task of cleaning the stalks with our knives. Sapi taught me how to press the knife against my thumb and glide the blade against the spine of the stalk to strip it of any remaining leaves. Once “cleaned,” we cast the finished stalks aside and continued with our task. Over the next hour we worked together to create two brooms. Sapi said I should take both home, but after all of her work and the generosity of her family, I insisted that they keep one for their own home.
The afternoon was quite memorable and reaffirmed everything I have been telling myself about these next few months: that I must seize every opportunity I can to live village life to the fullest. Since I had travelled so far from my home, I was able to interact with the women who live on the other side of town who I rarely see, and truly took them by surprise when they found me making brooms right next to their scheduled volleyball game! It was really fun just sitting around chatting with them and laughing, laughing, laughing! In this spirit, I had made a solid commitment to not turn down any invitation that comes my way from here on out. So tomorrow night, I will once again join this great family, for their Friday night dinner. I am so excited at the outcome of today and have already made a mental list of other skills to acquire (and where to go to acquire them!) before leaving. Three months to go, and it doesn’t feel like enough time to do it all!