Sunday night was typical. I was reading by flashlight in bed, listening to the sounds of everyone in my compound settling in for the night. Two of my older brothers were laughing and talking in the fale to my left.
I could hear the quiet voices of the younger kids from the fale to my right. They were whispering and giggling. Sisters, brothers and cousins, all happy to be together. They are together all day at school. They do chores together. They play together for hours. They laugh, they cry, they fight, but mostly, they laugh.
People are close here. Physically and emotionally. I’ve talked to a couple of Samoan friends who’ve lived overseas. They say sometimes they feel like a palagi and just need some “me time” but that’s not fa’asamoa. Mostly, though, like others raised in this culture, they find being constantly surrounded by extended family to be comforting.
I asked one brother who could sleep with people talking next to him. He looked at me in surprise. “It makes me feel safe. How can you fall asleep when you’re alone and it’s so quiet?”
They say that the cultural adjustment coming back from Peace Corps service is harder than the initial adjustment to a new country. I know that I’ll miss falling asleep to the steady low sound of the waves and the sweet happy sound of children whispering.