Post 13 — A Village Called Vaitogi

Although the family hadn’t slept in the last twenty-four hours and the whole experience was taking on a vaguely hallucinogenic quality, the neighbors told them that there was a fiafia being held in their honor at the village of a Samoan teacher. Fiafia is a term used throughout Polynesia and is loosely translated as “the happy time.”

Jean could think of few things that would make her less happy than having to drag her four jet lagged daughters out into the pouring rain again, but clearly a lot of effort had gone into the party and it seemed rude to refuse. Twelve years of schooling by nuns had taught her manners, as well as the ability to spell. So they piled back into the assorted cars and jeeps that had brought them to their new home and set out for the village of Vaitogi.

The village where the fiafia was being hosted was quite a bit different from the village of Tafuna where they had reluctantly left behind six comfortable beds. Vaitogi was more what the family had imagined Samoa would look like. Clustered together under huge palm trees were several smaller fales where individual families lived, with a larger communal one in the middle. The village was on the southern coast of the island, but instead of a tranquil, sandy beach leading down to the sea, the edge fell away abruptly and jagged lava formed a cliff. The ocean roiled, with huge, mean waves crashing against the rocks, sending salty spray straight up into the air. To a family whose main idea of a body of water was Lake St. Clair, it was terrifying.

We had to take our shoes off and the whole floor was plaited pandanus mats. They even had a roasted young pig, baked on hot rocks! They had baked taro, which looks and tastes like Play Doh, Samoan cabbage stuffed with scraped coconut something that tasted like one of the Greek or Syrian spinach dishes – I liked it. Someone’s father made it. They also had potato salad, baked beans and fried chicken for the palagis (non-Samoans). Coconut milk to drink and coffee. Afterwards, about five or six young men played ukuleles and sang. Everybody sings. A few of the teacher’s danced the siva, which is the Samoan version of the hula only it’s not as wild, looks like an easy-going twist.


It seemed as if all 200 inches of rain that was allotted per year was falling that afternoon. The downpour was relentless as the family was taken to the large fale that was set with low tables groaning with food, most of which was unidentifiable. The Samoan teacher who was hosting the fiafia was named Siamau. He greeted the family warmly and introduced them to his wife and his father, who was the chief of the village.

The Broquet girls were wide-eyed with amazement as well as dripping wet as they tried to take in the scene around them. There were kids running everywhere, as well as chickens and dogs. The shivering children were offered dry dresses to change into and only Kathy declined. Karen hid behind her mother until three little Samoan boys managed to coax her out, at which point she started chasing them as if she were in her grandparent’s basement with all her cousins around her. Poking and teasing seemed to be the same in any language and pretty soon Chrissie joined in, not really understanding why they were running around the fale but knowing it felt great after days of being in airports and on planes.

Ducking around one of the support poles, Karen suddenly found herself face to nipple with an enormous brown breast. A topless Samoan lady was nonchalantly feeding her baby and she grinned and waved at the astonished little white girl. Karen backed away, unsure if she should wave back or just stare. Although there were five females in the family, Jean was very modest and this was Karen’s first glimpse of what awaited her in puberty. She decided denial would be the best course of action and took off running again, trying to find the boys who were now tormenting her sister. She finally plopped down between Kathy and Carolyn, who didn’t even notice her. They simply watched the activity whirling around them, too stunned by the change in their lives to even move.

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One Comment to “Post 13 — A Village Called Vaitogi”

  1. Siamau was Dad’s translator. He also named one of his kids Larry.


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