American Samoa: Siva Samoa!
One of the most beautiful aspects of WorldTeach is that our volunteers become part of their community, outside of the classroom. For some individuals, this is through sports teams, language classes, social events, traveling. At the beginning of the year, you think, “how am I going to make friends, how am I going to find my place in this foreign world?” And then all of a sudden, it just happens. It happens because you put yourself out there, it happens because these communities where we serve are so grateful and excited to be a part of our lives. And then, you find yourself dancing with your students, at your Principal’s house, on a Friday night…
Friday, March 21st (shortly after hopping off a boat from Ofu), Jackie and I went to our first Siva! Sivas are Samoan community events that function as a fundraiser for something (in our case, I’m pretty certain it was for the church). “Siva” in Samoan means “dance”, which is very accurate because this is how the fundraiser works. Everyone in the village turns up in someone’s fale (aka outdoor porch-thing), and as a DJ or band play music, one family is called up at a time to perform a dance. Each family chooses a taupo (female “princess”, usually the oldest daughter) to perform the siva for the family. First, all of the matai (village chief) families go, then the aumaga (untitled men), and then everyone else. As the taupo dances, people gather around and literally throw dollar bills (or, as it so happened, $20 bills) at the dancer, and someone collects the money and brings it to the matais to count. Not only is this a fundraiser, but it’s also a competition! The family that raises the most money wins (though I have no idea what exactly they win)! Apparently, our siva raised a whopping $32,000! What?!? All from money being thrown at dancers?! I don’t get it, but it’s pretty fantastic!
The weekend of the Siva happened to coincide with our (shortened) spring break, so we had a couple of visitors from Tutuila, one of them being one of our WorldTeach cohort! We spent a few days hanging out with them on Ofu and then returned late Friday afternoon, in time to take a break and ready ourselves for a night of fun! We had some dinner (a sandwich! With bread! And cheese! And deli turkey! THANKS ALEX!) and a pot of iced coffee (necessary since we were staying up past 9pm), waited until “after dark” (the closest approximation to when this thing actually started that we were able to get- Samoan time, ugh!), and then headed down to the Siva! What followed was an AWESOME night of dancing, and playing with the village kids. In between the taupo songs, the DJs played dance music and everyone (aka the kids, the teenagers, and the palagi teachers) had a blast dancing the night away. This is probably the one time and place in which it is not only appropriate but actually encouraged to dance with your students… at a church fundraiser… at the principal’s house. Hm. I have to report that Jackie may or may not have injured her hip while “getting low” with one of the seniors… God, we’re getting old!
Like I said, Jackie and I had never been to a Siva before, but from the testimonials of Alex (who had been in Tutuila) and Matt (who had stopped by one in Ta’u a few weeks ago), I can pretty safely claim that Faleasao throws a good party! The festivities ended around 11pm and we stopped in to the local store for some ice cream before heading home to bed. All in all, a fantastic night, and an awesome cultural experience I won’t soon forget!
And, to help me remember, PICTURES! Enjoy!
-Alexandra Savinkina, WorldTeach American Samoa Year 2013-2014
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