Post 21 — The Family Learns to Dance

dancerJean took the girls to their siva lesson while Larry left to do some shopping. In a small, wooden building next to the tourist office, a very large, smiling Samoan lady introduced herself as Tuli. The carb-laden diet of taro and breadfruit tends to produce a population that is quite heavy, but in Polynesia, big is beautiful. Jean compared her own ample figure to the woman in front of her and considered that she may have come across the perfect society. Tuli greeted the children and handed each of them a lavalava to tie around their waists. “I thought we would wear grass skirts,” said Carolyn doubtfully.

“Grass skirts are Hawaiian. And even in Honolulu, good girls wear lavalavas under their grass skirts,” Tuli told them with a grin. “Only the bad ones wear them with nothing underneath!”
The lessons were fairly unstructured. Tuli explained that siva was actually the Samoan word for dance, but there was also a specific dance called the siva. Therefore, what they were about to learn was called the siva siva. Jean looked confused but the children nodded. That made sense to them.

dancer2Tuli put on a scratchy record of Samoan music and began to sway to the song, moving her hips and arms gracefully. The siva is not a wild dance, although the girl’s version of it was a bit more manic than most natives. The subtle hand and arm movements that told a story were pretty much lost in the Detroit interpretation of a traditional dance that goes back centuries, but no one seemed to mind. Carolyn seemed to come closest to mimicking the actual dance while Karen made up with enthusiasm what she lacked in hips. Since the basic movements could be learned in about five minutes, they also spent some time learning the words to a popular song called “Minoi, Minoi(Minoi Minoi Minoi! Minoi pei ose loi! A siva siva ua gaoioi!) and even got a mimeographed sheet with the words to “Amerika Samoa,” the Samoan national anthem. By the time the hour was up, each girl felt quite certain that she would be able to hold her own the next time they went to a fiafia.

While his children were going native, Larry walked over to a store called Nia Maria’s. Fifteen minutes later, he walked out having purchased a can of coffee, a pack of cigarettes and a car.

The vehicle was a four-door, stick-shift Datsun. The choice had not been difficult — you could choose a white Datsun or a white Honda. The car would arrive by boat in a few weeks and would be financed through the local bank. The purchase felt like a necessity, as it would increase their mobility and reduce their dependency on the neighbors. Not to mention the fact that they would no longer have to sit on the floor of a wooden bus next to a pig.

We got our car yesterday and we have 100 miles on it already. It’s a four-cylinder Datsun. Old timers (those who have been here for several months) tell me they get 52 miles to the gallon. Gasoline is 55 cents per gallon for regular but I guess the octane drops a little when they add a quart of water to each gallon. Since the car was financed through the bank, I had to get liability and collision insurance. Eighty-eight bucks for insurance sounds good until you consider there’s only about 200 private vehicles on the island. Of course, these crazy Samoan drivers don’t have insurance, and they’re the ones that you have to watch out for. Oh well, Fa’a Samoa, as they say here–you can’t fight the traditions of a thousand years.



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2 Comments to “Post 21 — The Family Learns to Dance”

  1. Amerika Samoa lotu atunu’nu pele oi!


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