After an enormous Sunday lunch (to'onei) we've been given strict orders to rest - the national Sunday pastime in Samoa! But instead of resting, we've had repeated visits from our AYLP students and their host siblings. A great substitute for rest is hearing their questions & excited observations about their village stays so far.
We have had nearly a week of staying with our host families in the villages of Satapuala, Satui, Vailuatai, and Faleatiu. Our 22 students and 5 adult leaders are spread among their host families in these 4 villages, which are dotted along the northern coast of the Samoan island of Upolu. Our AYLP students have taken up quite a presence in the villages, being easily recognized as the palangis (non-Samoans) and we 5 adults as the palangi teachers.
Upon our arrival in the villages on Tuesday, the chiefs (or Matai) from each family held an Ava (aah-vah) ceremony to welcome us into their village. In addition to a great deal of ceremony & tradition, the Ava also included the distribution of provisions or supplies (mostly food) that the AYLP program uses as host family stipends.
The beginning of the Ava ceremony
The villages are quite close to each other and our group of both American and Samoan kids are enjoying time with each other, as well as with their host families. No one has been allowed to feel hungry - the true Fa'a Samoa, or 'the Samoan way' is expressed through gracious & sometimes overwhelming hospitality, which almost always involves food! We have a variety of host family homes - from open fales to encloses Western-style homes.
Our participants are doing great. I am so very proud of their attitudes & perspectives. They are taking full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience for all it offers. From weaving coconut leaf baskets building an umu (traditional outdoor oven), from eating fresh oyster to counting out their talla to make a purchase, from wearing the lava lava and learning a Samoan dance, they've been diving into Samoan village life head first. At our orientation we often discussed how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and those lessons are coming to life here. Language barriers and homesickness and sunburns are a reality, but these kids are problem-solving & making their experience the best it can be.
Internet service in the villages has been scarce to nonexistent, but I'm writing this and plan to post on our day in Apia tomorrow (Monday). We may have one more chance for internet before we leave on Saturday for Savai'i, fingers crossed! Of not, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and send all my love from Samoa!!