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January 20, 2013

Coming over the mountains to the south side of the island is like entering a different world.  Whereas the rest of Samoa is waterlogged and covered by five inches of mud, this side looks like an atom bomb has gone off.  All the trees have been shredded, and many of them lay uprooted and broken and tangled on the hillsides… but there is an orientati...

April 17, 2012

It turns out that receiving a chief title, becoming a matai, is a much bigger deal than I thought.  If you do not inherit your title, it takes years of community service before they even consider bestowing one on you.  In fact, many Samoans are angry that Prince Charles received a title on a recent visit because he hadn’t really done anything for t...

April 17, 2012

Happy post-Easter.  Here in Samoa it’s an all-weekend holiday of church-going and pageants by the children.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday—no work, but events, food, church, and more food.

Living in the village for so long has enabled me to see yet another layer of the culture and aspects of a small community, as individual personalities...

April 11, 2012

So the guys tell me they love to play volleyball.  I’ve played some myself, so I think maybe I’ll join them in a pick up game.  The court is a cracked concrete pad with two uprights anchored in tires and a tattered net.  I think, How good could these guys be?

The game is underway when I arrive.  The rag tag group—guys playing six on six, w...

April 3, 2012

Hankering for a cup of hot chocolate?  Grab a can from the shelf and scoop out some powder and add water?  Not so fast, American—like everything else here in the village, making a cup of Koko Samoa—a rich, coffee-like brew—is no simple task.  Here’s how you can approximate the experience at home:

Drive to the local jungle and pick some rip...

April 3, 2012

One day, Tavae asks me if I want to go to “survivor’s beach.”  Of course, I don’t understand what he’s talking about, because one: I don’t understand what he’s talking about, and two: I don’t watch TV, so I have no idea that they filmed a couple of “Survivor” shows in Samoa.  Well, it turns out that the “Survivor” beach is over the mountain behind...

March 27, 2012

The incredible experiences are piling up so fast I can’t write about one without the next one happening and clouding the details of the one before.  (I am even breaking the rules by working on my computer on the day of rest.)

Today, after church, I was invited to the chiefs’ lunch, or to’onai, with the leaders of the village—only seven people—five m...

March 26, 2012

Matafaa, Samoa

If you’ve ever spent any time in a rural area like this, or on a farm, you know that the romantic notion of a single rooster crowing once at the sign of first light is a fallacy.

Actually, dozens of pesky noisemakers create a cacophonous riot pretty much all morning long—starting way before dawn!

Here, there seems to be a poultry malfun...

March 19, 2012

Matafaa, Samoa

The other night I was sleeping—early, admittedly, about 9 p.m.—when the door opens and in comes the high chief, the man who brought me the can of corned beef on my first night.  In tow, he had one of his attendants who carried his bag.  I roused to greet him, a bit groggily but with all due respect.

​Matafaa from across bay at Fal...

March 17, 2012

It’s hard to put into words, so much was going on when I arrived at Tuilagi’s house for umu—the traditional meal cooked in a pile of hot stones.

I say this without condescension: it was as if a diorama at the Museum of Natural History came to life—so many traditional activities and tools were in play.  Also, the kitchen—a corrugated metal addition t...

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