Monday, September 10, 2012

Misconceptions and Housing

Hello, Group 84 – are you getting excited?

At our Close of Service (COS) conference last week we talked about some of the expectations we had when we arrived. Even though many of us did a lot of research, stalked all the blogs (thank you, Matt Leal) and looked at every photo available, we have to laugh now about some of our misconceptions.

For example, some of us thought villages were round. I’m not sure why we thought that but they aren’t. There is one main road around Savaii. The villages (with a few exceptions) are stretched along that road, snakelike. Roads away from the sea head up into the mountains. They are called auala galue and lead to the plantations. Where families might have a second home in addition to the home(s) they have in the village.

 It is much the same in Upolu, except that Upolu also has roads that go across the island. I assumed each family had a house. I was incorrect. Most families have houses. For example, my family has a house (an open faleo’o) in the plantation. Think weekend cottage up north, if you’re from the mid-west. In the family compound in the village they have an open fale (faleo’o), 3 palagi fales (houses with walls), a faleuila (outhouse with a flush toilet), an uma kooka (outdoor kitchen for boiling dinner every night and the umu on Sundays) and a faletaiele (outdoor shower).

On either side of our compound are extended family members who have a similar number of houses and buildings. My family also has a couple of houses on a compound in Apia, adjacent to more relatives.

Growing up in Arizona, in our house there was mom, dad, brother and me. My much older sister visited occasionally with her immediate family. On holidays, aunts, uncles and cousins would visit. But most of the time, it was just mom, dad, brother and me. We lived in a house with walls and we each slept in our own bed, every night.

 Lifestyles in Samoa are much more fluid. Sometimes relatives from another village will be visiting. Sometimes the older kids are in Apia, sometimes they’re in Savaii. One thing is for sure. If you’re hoping for your own fale, with all the privacy of an apartment in America, you’ll be disappointed.

 My family goes out of their way to give me privacy and “space” but it’s just not the Samoan way. I’ll miss hearing the 13 year old boy next door yell hello every night as we cook dinner together – me in my fale and him in his outdoor kitchen. I’ll miss the “little kids” playing in front of the fale, their squeals equally ear piercing and joyous. I can’t wait for the privacy of a home in Florida again. But I’m really going to miss being part of a big happy Samoan family.

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