Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Day in Satapuala Village: A Day of Contrasts

Christmas morning on the road to Satapuala

Shortly after arriving in Samoa, someone commented that this nation is one of contrasts: the rich & the poor, the traditional & the modern, the unity & the division, the peace & the turmoil.

The contrasts of Samoa were evident today on Christmas Day, beginning immediately as the clock struck 12 midnight on Christmas Eve and the holiday officially arrived. Almost simultaneously in the first minutes of Christmas Day, the streets filled with equal numbers of reverent chorus members singing carols with solemn tones, and intoxicated revelers going to and from parties, out to find the next bottle of Vailima (Samoa's favorite brew). 

A neighbor boy, tree-climber extraordinaire, decked out in his Santa hat. 

The contrasts continued as the day went on. Christmas morning found me at the Methodist Church across the street from the home where I stay in Satapuala. Walking slowly to the service, I was greeted by worshippers in traditional brilliant white pulitasis, freshly pressed for this special day, walking alongside kids wearing Angry Birds or Nike t-shirts and lava lavas, a modern-turned-Samoan twist. 

Samoan children wearing their Sunday's best en route to Christmas service in Satapuala

Inside the Satapuala Methodist Church, singing & waiting for the service to start

The contrast of the familiar and the new came in the afternoon, as I sat under a coconut tree in the yard of new Samoan friends, laughing & talking as we ate chicken and sausage in a very American-style backyard barbecue. What could have easily been a scene from a million Fourth of July picnics was playing out on the opposite side of the world, on the opposite side of the calendar year, when, in Wyoming, the temps would rival the ice in our Coke glass! 

Another great contrast - a man in traditional Samoan dress getting take-out for the traditional Christmas to'onei.

Although it didn't have a Christmas "feel", it was an awesome holiday nonetheless - I wouldn't change this Samoan Christmas for the world! - but it feels a world away from my usual faces & places, family members & traditions. I suppose that brings up another contrast - the difference between a simple date on a calendar, and what a holiday actually means to me. 

Merry Christmas, and Manuia Karisimasi, from Samoa! 

My Samoan friend and host sister Muatasi & I on a Christmas Eve outing

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