Sunday, May 2
Today is Sunday and the day consists of attending church services in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
There is a big family meal called the Toonai which is usually followed by an extended nap. The only work performed is that which is necessary for the preparation of the meal. The meal planning began Saturday night with the butchering of a puaa (pig). The meal consisted of breadfruit, taro, fish, a soup of rice, chicken, and some sort of vegetable, and pisupo. They also served sisi which is a small snail. As with all meals they served hot coco. They make their own coco and in this part of Samoa is considered to be a necessity at all meals.
For desert they served ice cream. Desert is not a usual part of a Samoan meal and to have ice cream is a real treat. Pisupo is a canned corned beef that is about half beef and half fat. It comes primarily from New Zealand and along with breadfruit and taro is a staple of the diet. The name is a corruption of the word Pea Soup (pronounced peasoupo). In American Samoa the islands were governed by the U.S. Navy until mid century and one of the foods provided to the sailors was pea soup. This was the first canned food that the Samoan people had seen and when corned beef was imported to islands they adopted the name ďpea soupĒ because it came in a can.
Meals are an all engaging affair. In Taiís family there are 28 people, 30 counting Tai and me, living together. In this particular case 21 are female and 7 male. They live in four houses in a family compound. Most evening meals are communal affairs with all the family eating together. You can imagine how difficult it is to feed so many people. Usually the preparation for the next meal begins shortly after cleaning up from the previous meal. The manual labor for the food preparation is done by the young men and girls. In this case it is supervised by Figoa who is also the only person in the family that holds a cash paying job. Her day usually begins at 6:00 am making breakfast and then getting ready for work. When she comes home from work at 5:00 pm she begins the preparation for the evening meal. Her day ends around 10:00 pm. This may not sound very different from what many of you experience, but consider that she has 28 hungry mouths to feed. She is assisted by about six young people who make the coconut cream, tend the fire and do the other manual labor involved. The food is cooked over an open fire and a kerosene burner. The food supply seems to be quite adequate and maybe a little better than I remember five years ago. There is plenty of food high in starch and carbohydrates. There has been more than enough protein mainly chicken, fish and corned beef. What are missing are green and yellow vegetables. They do cook some beans and cucumbers in various forms seem to show up at most meals. There is the occasional tomato. I suspect that the meals may be a little better than usual for my benefit.
One of the most striking things about meals to the outside observer is that the adults are fed first with the children and young adults serving their elders. The meal is held in the largest fale (house) with the adults sitting on mats along the outside perimeter facing inward with their backs against a post. Prior to the meal being served the family conducts a short vesper type service of about fifteen to twenty minutes called Talosaga. It usually begins with the singing of a hymn followed by a prayer given by one of the senior members of the family. Everyone is expected to participate in the Talosaga. Generally the Talosaga is held at the same time of day and this is usually announced by the ringing of a bell. Many villages will not let you pass through the village at this time and walking around is highly discourged. I have heard of tourists being stoned while walking though a village during Talosaga.
Once the Talosage is completed the tautua begin the food service. The tautua are sort of like waiters except they are usually the young people in the family and/or those of lesser status. You are brought a small dish pan of water and a cloth to wash and dry your hands. You are then served your meal on a laulau, a placemat woven of coconut leaves. A child is assigned to serve you and he or she sits facing you fanning away the flies. After you are finished the food is removed and again you are given a bowl of water to clean your hands. If you havenít guessed it by now most of the eating is done by your hands. Iím the exception and they provide me with silverware. However, I am finding that it is much easier eating with your fingers while sitting on the floor than it is using a fork and spoon. The only downside is that your hands really do get messy. Once your food is removed the kids and the other food preparers are free to eat.
I brought some flower and vegetable seeds with me to start a garden. However, most of them were taken by the agriculture people at Samoan immigration. I made the mistake of not declaring them. They did miss some seeds and I have started some tomatoes and beans which managed to germinate in three days. Iím going to try some cucumbers and lettuce later.
It rained hard for about a half hour this afternoon and made sleeping very pleasant. The temperature today, mid afternoon, is 84 making it considerably cooler than previous days. The roof of the fale (house) I am staying in has a tin roof so hard rain showers are quite noisy. With the air temperature being so warm being out in the rain can be quite comfortable. I have been jogging and walking in the mornings and yesterday I got caught in a heavy downpour but that didnít stop me and the young girls that accompanied me.
I got a lot of positive reaction to the photographs of the flowers so I have added a page devoted to flowers. The link is in the column to the right of this text. I will add additional flowers over time. Because of bandwidth restrictions I have had to reduce the size of the images. I hope they are adequate. To my friends at WPSX-TV I hope you notice the 16 x 9 format.