Destruction, Death, and Exile in the Village
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 orientation to the mess—you can tell they were all blow down from the same direction… the same relentless wind. They look like palm-tree dominoes.
Matafa’a itself was hit hard with many roofs blown off and some houses completely destroyed. The villagers have done a good job of rebuilding some, already, and have taken in those without a home.
It seems that that everyone is happy that I have come back to help; the biggest assistance, so far, are the solar chargers. Since the people have been without power for a month, we can now charge their cell phones and they can contact friends and family around the island… if they have credit. We have yet to distribute the donated clothing, but I’m sure that will be a huge hit, as well.
Many people I have talked with have mentioned the passing of one of the other high chiefs, Unaasa Asa. I remember him as the quiet, gentle elder who patiently taught the boys the finer details of canoe-making. He would sit for hours showing them how to mend a crack with jungle resins and how to deftly and securely attach the outriggers.
The big news, though, is that my dear friend Tuilagi has been banished from the village. In fact, he cannot even come into the district; so severe was his crime that the surrounding villages are honoring the sentence. As you may recall, Tuilagi was my erstwhile interpreter, an aspiring pastor, and his family took care of me. I got very close with his kids, his wife, mother, and extended family. And now he is gone—living on the other side of the island until the chiefs see fit to bring him back. In fact, there is a chiefs’ meeting next week—which I will attend—to decide his fate. His crime: adultery!
Hard to believe, but I guess it’s true: he strayed with one of the young parishioners. After confessing his sins to the Rev. Fepai, Tuilagi was officially forgiven by the church (although he‘s been stripped of his church title), but the chief council of the village imposed the exile.
Such is life and justice in traditional Samoan culture.
I met with Tuilagi in Apia, where he told me most of the story in his broken English, but I got the details from Rev. Fepai once I got to Matafa’a.
Continuing my work in the South Pacific.