Samoans pride themsleves in how they treat their guests whether it be an offering of gifts or showing off their newest linens and utensils. For my first meal with my host family, I was seated in the front portion of the house away from where the rest of the family typically eats - in the back. I proceeded to eat my dinner while my host mother silently fanned my food and watched. As I felt quite uncomfortable eating in this fashion, I shoved my dinner down my throat as quickly as anatomically possible to cease this incredibly awkward moment. Furthermore, knowing that the rest of the family would not eat until I had finished, I almost induced acid reflex from all the stress of eating.
It wasn't until a week later, after having gotten to know my host family better was I insistent on eating with the rest of the family. In retrospect, this was perhaps one of the better decisions I had made thus far in training. I wasn't until then was I able to feel adequately integrated into the family.
A Comment on Samoan Culture
Samoans have a deeply ingrained hierarchy which rules each individual in each household and each village at large. On the familial level, the young adults tend to high-intensity household chores which include cooking and gathering talo (taro), popo (coconut) etc. Women typically weave, cook and attend to other household chores. On the other hand, Village elders, that hold matai (chief) titles, typically males, tend to familial disputes and village matters. As they lead rather sedentary lifestyles relative to their younger counterparts, these elders tend to be more of the buxom kind, satisfactorily agreeing with my own stereotypes of Polynesians, which, thankfully, is the one familiar aspect of Samoan culture I can cling to in my overstimulated and overworked brain.
Pictured above is a picture of a typical quantity of talo in a given meal feeding a family of 10.
Pictured above is the juxtaposition between what the family eats for lunch - pork and sauce - and what I eat - tuna sandwiches and ramen.