Sunday, July 29, 2007

Culture Day

July 26, 2007

At 6:00 am this morning we all gathered to participate in what our trainers call “Culture Day”. This is our first actual experience in the collection, preparation, giving thanks to the village and finally eating a truly Samoan meal. I hope you enjoy sharing this day with us.
WARNING some pictures may not be suitable for all audiences.

Gathering before dawn.
Our host families gathered things for us to bring. Some brought fish, pigs, chickens, coconuts, taro, papaya, and other items. Our happy group is ready to go.

What we look like at 6:00 am

Men going to the Plantation
In Samoan fashion, the men and woman are separated. The women stay behind to prepare papaya soup, shredding coconuts to make coconut cream while the men go out to the plantation to gather banana leaves, small tender taro leaves, coconuts, and leaves to make baskets.

Making Coconut Cream
To make coconut cream which is used in many dishes, you need to first get the coconut, husk it, split it, and then shred it before you squeeze out the coconut cream.

The Umu (Samoan Oven)

The Umu is an oven you make using hot rocks for heat and banana leaves to retain the heat. Before you can heat the rocks you need to start a fire. This is done by rubbing a stick against another piece of wood (Boy Scouts should understand this process). Coconut husks and wood are used to heat the rocks. Once the rocks are very hot, they are spread out, ashes fanned off them, then leaves placed on the rocks.
The Spirit of the Umu (aka Jacob)

Preparing Pua'a (Pig)
The pig is not only the source of wealth in Samoa, it is also food.

Preparing Moa (Chicken)
Samoan chickens are wily creatures that spend their days running around eating bugs. They are survivors in a harsh environment. They do not succumb easily to the pot.

Ava Ceremony
Ava (Kava) is a non-alcoholic drink made from the root of a pepper plant. It is used through the South Pacific for ceremonial purposes. While others are preparing the food, the village high chiefs sit around with their guests and toast to the Ava God.

I was unable to get pictures of the actual ceremony and the drinking of Ava. But pictures of our own Safyia who had the honor of preparing the Ava for the ceremony, wearing a traditional Samoan dress with her host mother and her bodyguards, I hope suffice.

The Ava Godess (Safyia) and her Warrior Guards (Jacob, Benj, and Nick)

Umu, Part II
Now it is time to place the taro, pigs, pulasami (coconut cream wrapped with taro leaves), and fish on the umu to bake, and then finally cover them with banana leaves.

Weaving Baskets
The Peace Corps wastes neither time nor resources. While our meal cooks, we learn how to weave baskets from the leaves of the local fala tree.
Eating Samoan

Chiefs, village officials, and Peace Corps elders (that’s Mary and me) eat first. We are served by the younger members of our group who bring us the food on woven mats, fan the flies away, bring us a bowl to wash our hands (done after eating the meal with your hands, not before), then clearing away the uneaten food. The younger volunteers then eat at another location as well as other members of the village.

In case you want to know what we ate, from the left is:
Fish head cooked in coconut cream (on plate)
Pulasami (green)
Served on a Breadfruit Leaf
Drinks, not pictured:
Water from an unripe coconut
Chicken broth

The End.
Time to take a nap. It has been a long day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to see what you are doing! I love the photos and descriptions. Plus it's great to see your faces. We miss you in MN! You look happy and healthy and un-sunburned. Heading to a TWINS game with your son this week...we'll be thinking of you!

Love, ANN