Post 12 — A Village Called Tafuna

Their new village was called Tafuna, and it combined the best of Samoan living with the worst of a suburban subdivision. The houses were all identical, shoebox shaped, like larger versions of Monopoly hotels. Instead of lining up along a nice geometric grid, they were scattered in every direction, as if an angry Polynesian player had flipped the board and all the neat little houses had ended up facing different ways. There were no streets or sidewalks or signs to distinguish where your house was; just some spotty grass and sand, white coral sand that had tiny shells hidden in it that came to the surface as rain poured off the eaves of the house. All the doors were painted aqua, gold or red.

“How are we supposed to remember which one we live in?” asked Carolyn.

“Well, find a blue door, go in and if you find other people with that haircut, then there you are,” said Larry.

Once they got inside, though, the sameness didn’t matter. The house was huge, with a large combination living room/dining room and three bedrooms. Jean admired the simulated bamboo furniture and became positively speechless at the sight of the brand new electric stove. “The refrigerator has a full size freezer. Larry! A full size freezer!” Her eyes got misty as she considered exactly how her life would change with this dream kitchen.

None of our things have arrived and won’t for about 6 weeks, so everyone had brought over food, dishes and equipment enough to get us through. We had champagne and cake. Rumor has it that Mr. Bronson doesn’t hire anyone unless he looks like a party boy. They were all so nice … about 50 assorted people making us feel very much at home.


The two walls on either end of the house were made of cement block painted a nondescript tan color. They reached up fifteen feet at the peak where the roof started. A hallway ran the length of the house with access to all the sleeping quarters and bathroom, which was the only room that was entirely enclosed. Screens made up the rest of the walls, giving it a summery cottage-like feel. The westernized version of the Samoan shades were made out of canvas instead of woven pandanus leaves, but the end result was the same: let the breeze in and keep the bugs and rain out. Each shade was 3 feet wide, with a complicated pulley system that allowed the shades to open at both the bottom and top.

Kathy and Carolyn raced down the hallway and grabbed the middle bedroom, claiming it as their own, while Chrissie sighed and followed Karen into the last one. Her little sister pulled the pulley cord on the shades up and down, up and down, and then started bouncing back and forth on the beds with her shoes still tightly tied.

“You’d better stop that,” Chrissie hissed at her. “You’re not supposed to have your shoes on the bed. Mom! Karen is jumping on the bed!” Chrissie waited patiently for a parent to come in and yell at Karen, according to the protocol that had been set in motion years ago in their home in Harper Woods. “Mom!

No one came. Her mother was still in the kitchen trying to figure out how the stove worked and Larry was drinking beer with the welcoming committee, who had turned out to be all of their new neighbors.

Karen had fallen asleep on her last bounce, her body wedged between the bed and the window. The screen made a shallow waffle impression on her downy baby cheek. No one was paying any attention to the children at all.

Somewhere deep inside Chrissie, there was a tiny seismic shift as she pondered what life would be like in this remarkable place.

The house proved to be quite a pleasant surprise. We didn’t honestly expect that we’d be living in a grass hut, but we hardly expected a three-bedroom home with electric stove, refrigerator, and indoor plumbing. The housing development at Tafuna, consists of 60 or more modern dwellings, all constructed in the traditional Samoan style with open sides. The most attractive part of our new home as far as we were concerned was the bedroom area, having spent the previous night in the airport terminal.


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