Sunday, September 4, 2011
This week marked Samoa’s’ annual “Teuila Festival,” a festival celebrating Samoan culture and geared towards tourism. In Apia it is a big deal and every night different events take place, ranging from the Miss Fa’afafine Pageant (drag queen Miss Samoa) as well as the REAL Miss Samoa Pageant, to traditional Samoan dance competitions and my favorite, the long boat race. In the village however, it is re of an after thought. People gather at night to watch the televised broadcasts and speculate on the results of the Miss Samoa Pageant, but for the most part, the festival is not celebrated.
However, Thursday as I walked to school I was greeted by the decorated faces of the village’s two women’s committees. The village, being so large, is divided into two groups: the sasa’e group (meaning south/east), and the north/west, although I forgot the name for that group. Around 7:30 in the morning, the women of the north/west, all wearing red and white, were gathering at Mina’s house across the street from me. As I walked by, Sineva ran out and insisted I join their group once school let out. I agreed and so began my day.
An hour later, school was over, as all the teachers were planning to participate in the villages Teuila activities. I raced home, but on my Maliolio Girls shirt (from the Samoa Challenge last year), and got to the volleyball court where the games were just beginning. The south/east team was decked out in red and blue shirts with yellow lavalavas and had clearly been practicing, because they began singing and dancing at 9am and did not stop all day! My team was a little less organized and it took some coaxing to get them signing, but both sides were merry and fierce on the court.
The volleyball games went on for hours, and not once was I invited to play, although I had been chosen for a team. Then finally, my opportunity came and I was thrown in. I soon remembered how much I dislike volleyball, and the blazing noon sun only furthered my lack of enthusiasm for the sport. I enjoyed my first game, and then was shocked to learn that my team, although the losing team, was slated to play two more rounds! By the end we were all exhausted, however, in traditional festival mode, we all danced back to our teams shaded trees where the older woman were beating time on old metal cracker containers and the younger woman sang. This strut back to our team areas turned into a dance off with every woman trying to out dance the others. Laughter, song, and dance grew to a loud peak, and then died off to await the next round of players. The day continued like this till 5pm at which point the women sang their final songs and then loaded up into cars to drive home and reflect on the day. I will never forget the music of that day!