I was craving a sweet treat the other day- it was Sunday and that meant the family down the road was selling pankeke (pancake balls). At 20 sene a ball, I couldn’t resist. In true Samoan fashion, my tina (host mom) and I bought the women’s committee and the Faifaiou (preacher) a bag full each. Out of respect, we borrowed a bowl from the family for the Faifaiou’s steaming hot dough balls.
So today, I went on an outing, 20 minutes turned 2 hour walk, to return the bowl back to the family.
“Que alu ai?” (Where are you going?), an older man asks. “Alu pankeke fale,” and I point at and say “bowl.” I speak caveman Samoan at him – “go pancake house.” WTF. I keep walking and see the village soles ( dude bros) up ahead hanging in a faleo’o.
“Susie- que alu ai?” and again I caveman talk at them. This happens many more times along with many kids yelling “fa Susie!”
It all seems normal now.
I get an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness seeing a chicken with tiny baby chicks scurrying across the road. I audibly “awe.”
I arrive at the Pancake House- a lady tending a fire, a giant pua’a (pig) digging, clothes strung along the clothes line. A man face timing a family member sees me, he stops and greets me with a crooked tooth smile and graciously thanks me for returning the bowl.
I stroll home, seeing the huge smiles of my students walking to the village shop (or village pantry as I have dubbed it) to get rice, sugar or their simple daily staples.
I keep walking past my house, the sweet craving is back and I want a treat. I go to Lagi’s shop and get masi popo (local coconut biscuits)- a treat I thought was flavourless a year ago, now satisfies the craving. I buy two packages, a mealofa (gift) for my host parents. I see an old man friend walking, “Que alu ai?” I ask, I act like I understand with a “mmm,” a universal noise. I caveman at him a bit and we have a simple conversation- I’m getting it- I think.
I see some young soles carrying their hand dug canoes towards the water- they are getting ready to fish tomorrows once a year Pololo- a delicacy.
I hear my name across the way and see a group of kids watching the boys play rugby on the freshly mowed lawn. I decide to sit with them and share my masi popo. Of course Tulei cries- this white girl who smiles at her constantly is strolling into her hang out fale. She gratefully accepts the masipopo and gives me a smile, while studying me carefully.
KF (child) is playing with a handsaw while KF (the cow) is grazing in the yard, and Tise is laughing hysterically (or flirting) as the boys fall when they catch the ball. The masi popo is eaten, and the conch shell will be blown any time now signalling Sa (village curfew and prayer time). They shout “Fa Susie” multiple times and I get one more “Que alu ai?” as I walk home. “Alu fale,” – go home, I say.
I bring the masi to my host parents. They have a dead chicken in a bucket and my host dad is scraping the inside of the coconuts to make coconut cream- a sound I have grown to love.