Friday, February 4, 2011

The South Side -- A Home Away from Home

The South Side-- Makes me think of The Outsiders every time. Who knows, the EFKS and Catholic church could have a rumble one day. But who would be Ponyboy?

Tafitoala. I've talked about it many times and made references to it here and there. It was my training village and it is located on the south side of the island, just west of Cross Island Road. Basically, while in training, the twenty of us were split into four training villages, five pisikoas to a village. Tafitoala had Karen, Jenny, the two Mikes, and myself. Little did I know on my first day in the village when my family's bus pulled up with a handful of drunk men that this village would become a second home and that I would find so many great people there. This post is devoted to them.

Mika and Meke at Culture Day
 We'll start at the training fale. Our teacher was Lumafale. She was great. Tehre were two kids who lived at the training fale: Susanna (6 or 7) and Meke (5). Susanna was one of my famorites and Meke the monoki (monkey) was our mascot.

Then it was Karene's family. They own a faleoloa, the one nobody really goes to. Her host mom, we, the pisikoas, affectionately called Diva; it hapens withn you wear the flashiest sunglasses and dresses. Karene has two brothers in their twenties who I knew: Sese and Kusi (whose name is also the word for "two write" or "book," but ironically, Kusi is illiterate).


Tafitoala is located off the main road (the orad that goes around the island) so going down the village road, the next Peace Corps house was mine. My host mom was Tuputala, host-dad Fuga (he'd just recovered from a stroke when I moved in; he's also a matai, a village chief). My thirty-year old brother was Amigi, named after "the great Idi Amin" as I was introduced to him. Yep, that's the genocidal dictator of Uganda. My nearly forty year old brother was Moeva; he is a teacher at one of the other training villages, Fusi. His wife, my host-sister-in-law, was 27 year old Sialei. She was basically my go-to persion. They have three children: Falelua (7), Jessie (6) who I adore, and Tala (2). My relationship with Tala had quite the evolution. In the beginning, he always hit me or threw things at me. By the end of training, he had nothing but hugs. And this kid will siva (dance) on command. He's prety spectacular. And seeing him walk around with a machete was not uncommon (don't worry, it's really not that weird). One of my favorite memories from Tafi was a dance party I had with Falelua and Jessie one night. They also know my parents' names; I had a video (before my computer crashed) of Falelua saying, "Malo, Darren," and Jessie saying, "Malo, Deb." And one of my favorite accomplishments so far, was teaching the three of them to say, "Hey, dude," especially Tala since hse doesn't even speak that much Samoan yet.

Me and Sa in Mikaele's Fale

A little further down the road is Mikaele's family. They own the other faleoloa, the one to go to. His mom was Louina matua (kinda like Louina Sr.) and his dad was Uri. His host sister (23) was Louina laititi (little Louina) and she is hilarious! Her husband is Vavega (24). They have three kids: Vanessa (5 or 6), Sa (2), and a brand new baby boy who they named after Mikaele!! Mikaele also has a host sister named Faautu (17 or 18) and another named Masani (1). Their fale was the place to be Saturday and Tuesday nights; while the viallage played bingo next door (which is huge in Samoa), Mikaele, Mika, and I would usually play cards, drink cofee, and eat cookies. Outside of their fale was the popular ploace for boys to fagota i le auala--fish on the road--aka try to pick up girls. Theis alone was reason enough for Mika or Mikaele to always walk me the fifty yeards home after bingo.
Next to the bingo hall, lived Sene. She just lived with a host-mom, also named Sene. Her and Mikaele's family are closely related.

Backtracking a little, I also consider two other girls a part of my host-family. Sene (17) (different from the pisikoa Jenny) and Limu (22). Sene is Siale's little sister and I think Limu is a cousin.

Me and Lance

Around the corner of the road, across from the ocean and next to the EFKS (Congregational) church hall was Mika's family. I fell hook-line-and-sinker for this family. Avei is the mom and Yulio is the dad (possibly the hardest working matai in the village). Mika's host-brother wasw Saigi (19) and his host cousin was Lance or Lasi (18). These two are partners in crime; you hardly see one without the other. Honestly, for about a month and a half, I thought Saigi was Lance and vice versa. Leki (16?) is the second brother; I think I only ever met him once. Mika's host-sisters were Poulima (18), Oneata (14 or 15), ruta (10), and Laupama (!!!, 7).

And on the other side of the church hall, lives the faife'au (pastor). One of his daughters, Sera (21), also became our friend.

After the Sasa at Culture Day

Some brief glimpses into a few favorite moments from dear Tafi: the last day of teaching practium at the primary school, sivas in the church hall, blowing bubbles with Jessie, walking down the road and hearing, "Sema! Fa! Fa, Sema. Fa. Sema! Ia, Fa!," being the go-to person for the Samoan food prayer (Faafetai Iesu, foa'i mai mea ai, tausi ai matou le fanau. Amene), seeing Tala crash every dance there ever was, dance party with our host-moms at our farewell party, dancing and singing to "Faamalolosi" at our last siva, doing a sasa (another type of dance) at culture day, taking Ruta and Jessie to see "Harry Potter" with Mika, visiting for a family reunion at New Years and feeling like I'd gone home.

Mika, Sene, Poulima, Me, Faautu, Vanessa, and Mikaele

I've said it many times and I'll say it here, if I could've stayed in Tafitoala for these two years, I would have in a heart beat.

Here's to Tafitoala and to the friends I'm already dreading having to say goodbye to one day. "Nothing gold can stay."

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