Shortly after our arrival into our training village, Manunu's Women's committee put together a church-sponsored (party) to welcome our 2-month long presence in their village. It turns out that as guests we were 'strongly encouraged,' but really expected to perform, individually, in front of the entire village. As if it wasn't stressful enough in our first week of living with our host families in a culture diametrically different from our own, we were supposed to perform a dance...a Samoan dance. While news and gossip runs more rampant than the plague could even fathom here in Samoa, it's a wonder that we were never clearly informed on our duties as guests for the fiafia - most trainees had nothing prepared. Luckily for me, due to artistic curiosity, several nights before the fiafia, I had sought out a good native dancer to teach me Samoan dance. What I had practiced and what had actually took place during the fiafia night were two different matters.
Slathering on bright red lipstick to match my new red puletasi (traditional female Samoan attire worn on special occassions) I walked into the fiafia only to discover that they called up each person onto the stage to answer rudimentary questions - in Samoan - to then be followed by a solo Samoan dance performance. Mind you, we have lived in Samoa for a total of 2 weeks, one of which we spent in the city cooped up in a hotel. Samoan dance was not exactly at the forefront of everyone's mind and most certainly speaking Samoan was not exactly something we were adequately prepared to do.
My name was finally called and my host grandmother led me up to the podium. I whispered into the mic as the emcee asked me a number of questions about myself. As I did not have adequate skills to answer some of his questions, I'm pretty sure I responded with a "yes" to a question inquiring about what my family fed me that night. To be fair I was not yet equipped to answer that question; We haven't yet learned the past tense!
After a minute of complete and utter blur, I finally ended up on the dance floor to perform my own dazed rendition of Samoan dance. If you asked me what happened on the dance floor, I couldn't exactly recount the minutes as I believe my mind, which was maimed in the process, took part in a popular process called selective memory. Even to this day, I have no recollection of those fated minutes.
Here are some of the pictures captured that night. In one of the pictures you'll find my host sister and grandmother cheering on as I stumbled through my performance.