Saturday, October 13, 2012

Group 84 Training Village

It's White Sunday in Samoa and I'm in Apia. I regret that I'm not home in my village for one of the most special days of the year but am leaving tomorrow to join Group 84 in their training village. They left yesterday after their first week of training. I did a team building session with them Thursday, followed by an evening with the women of the group. They seem very happy, excited, scared, tired...all the emotions you might expect after a long flight followed by an intense week of training. Mostly they seem happy and enthusiastic. Friday night we had the traditional Peace Corps Samoa welcome fiafia. It started with food we each brought (I made a HUGE pan of tuna casserole) then moved on to introductions of the new group and a slide show of my group. Next was a fashion show to give them a taste of what they'll be wearing for two years. After the fashion show came the dancing. The men of Group 83 did the Manu Samoa haka, in which they were half naked and covered in coconut oil. Next, the women, including me, did a traditional Samoan dance. I didn't blow it too badly and had fun. Last was the sasa, which I didn't do but the rest of our group sat on the ground and slapped themselves silly in time to a drum. Great fun to watch. Last was the taupo dance in which one of our women, Rachel, dressed in fine mats and headdress danced. Gradually, our whole group and some audience members got up and danced with her. The evening finale was by the pool and was siva afi - fire dancing. It was awesome and done for free by a friend of one of our guys. We just had to chip in for his expenses to get there. He was handsome, talented and announced he wanted to meet a certain young lady from the new group after his performance. It was a fun evening. Several of the group came by yesterday where I was helping sell vaisalo, koko alisa, niu and raffle tickets. We're still working on raising money to bring three Samoan boys to the USA for a month-long cultural exchange program. We hope to make this an annual event, with new kids each year. I got to know the boys better and also work with their families, which was fun. Group 84 had a couple of free hours to prepare for heading to the training village for two months. They bought cold niu (young coconuts) and one brave guy tried the vaisalo which is a delicious and healthy soup made from the juice and inner lining of the young coconut, mixed with tapioca. I'll be heading to the village tomorrow and will be with them for two weeks. I'll add updates and photos as quickly as I can. Just know that they are healthy and happy and seem to be making many new friends.

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