Sunday, November 18, 2007

Our First Village Presentation


Last month we threw out the idea of a village talent contest for village youth (mainly idle young adults) as a way to get them organized and for them to feel part of the village. Our village Peace Corps Committee thought it was a great idea. We thought they said, “Go to it”.

Later we were told any such event would need the approval of the village council of matais. We waited for their monthly meeting. We were coached by others in the village on how to advise the mayor as the best way to present our case. We had both the highest chief of the village and the mayor’s support, but in politics you never are quite sure how things turn out. The decision of the council was to expand the event to include everyone in the village from 10 year olds on up, including themselves.

During the evening, the President of the Women’s Committee and our primary translator said she would not be able to attend our presentation of the event to the village the next afternoon at 4 o’clock the next afternoon. “What meeting?” We said. “Who called the presentation at that time?” “Didn’t you hear the horn blow to announce it?” Surprise! Surprise! Dido for our backup translator who informed us she would be gone too. “Don’t worry”, they said.

The next day we prepared flip charts for our presentation. We rehearsed what few Samoan phrases we knew, dress appropriately, and nervously awaited 4 o’clock. “Don’t worry”, the mayor said, “Samoans won’t come to a 4 o’clock meeting until 4:30”. We sat in the giant village committee house waiting. No one showed at 4:30. Village life continued as usual.

The mayor started getting nervous. He sent out a boy to blow the Conch shell horn to remind the village of the meeting. He went across the road to stop youths from playing volleyball. Still no one came.

The President of the Women’s Committee appeared and so did our backup translator. Still no one.

Then as is by magic people started to arrive. I don’t know from where. Before long there were about 40 people mostly late teens and early twenties, sitting quietly on the floor facing our flipcharts. Show Time!

The mayor said he would introduce us to the group. After a 10 minute introduction in Samoan, I thought he said most of what I was going to say. No problem.

I surprised the group by getting them involved with a couple of clap games I learned in training. Being on a roll, I got everyone doing an ice breaker game where people cross their hands in a circle, then try to unscramble themselves. It was a hit. I was hot.
I started my presentation looking out at an expressionless group. Nothing. No response.
Finally in desperation, I asked if anyone wanted to have a talent show. They all burst out with an emphatic “Yes”, followed by the same silence.

Mary also addressed the group about why we were happy to be in Samoa and especially the people of Iva. Went over well.

All the details, like place, who is going to perform, money, etc have yet to be worked out.
But stay tuned. The talent show is scheduled for December 1. Delete that. Make it December 8. Stay tuned, stay flexible, and don’t worry.

So far the only act is me doing a fire dance.

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