Sunday, January 27, 2008

Where We Live/Our Family’s Compound


General Description
Our host family’s compound or lot is on the Savaii’s main road, which circles the island, with fales/Samoan houses built from the road to the back. The compounds of other families are also strung out along this road around the island with poorer families living away from the main road. The poorest families or of lowest rank live back in the bush. The fales are a mix of completely open structures with no rooms or walls, some partially enclosed with an enclosed bedroom or two, and still a few completely enclosed (European Style). Usually, the nicer fales are nearest the road, getting more rustic as you move back in the compound. Behind the structures is the trash area for burning trash and plant materials. This is also the area where pigs live and also some fruit trees grow. The main plantation/farm is about a mile behind the compound up the mountainside. Our host family’s compound is fairly typical of the one’s found in rural village throughout Samoa. Dogs are not permitted inside living areas. A stone awaits any canine who dares to enter.

View from across the road

Map of Family Compound

Village Committee/Mayor’s Fale
This is the dominant structure on the compound and is used for the mayor’s monthly meeting with the Village Council. It is also used for other Village Council meetings. It is also a favorite sleeping spot, hang out, and play area for village children. There are bathrooms and water fountains behind the fale to accommodate Matais during their long meetings.

Front Fale
This is now an all purpose fale and is the oldest on the compound. We use it for our Peace Corps Committee meetings, to hang wash when it rains, and the family boys often sleep there. In the front of the fale are graves of the family’s great-grandparents and an aunt who once lived in the fale. The graves are a popular place for kids to sit at night and talk; older kids used it to smoke, drink beer, and hang out.

Our Fale

Even though we have the smallest structure on the compound, it is the newest filled with modern conveniences like an enclosed bedroom with ceiling fan, table, chairs, indoor toilet and shower. We have added a propane stove and refrigerator. We are blessed with grass and rocks around our fale, making it relatively mud-free during the rainy season.

Play Fale
The children use this fale now for playing, sleeping, and hanging wash. It is used as an area, from which to serve the Village Council during their meetings by the men who make up the strength of the village. It housed the family of the host father’s brother before he moved farther back to be closer to his plantation. It probably has an even longer history. The graves of the host father’s father and mother are in front, enclosed by a fence and garden. Children’s Fale
The host father’s parents once used this fale. As the family grew, older siblings stayed to live there until they moved out to their own compounds. There are two enclosed bedrooms, which are used by the three girls and an older son, and large porch. There is a shower and toilet just outside in the rear of the fale.
Main Family Fale
This is the largest fale now occupied by our host father and his wife. There are no enclosed rooms; the fale has no walls. The inside is divided into two parts by a low wall. There is a shower and toilet just outside in the rear of the fale. Sleeping and sitting are on mats. Blinds made out of leaves and can be pulled down to keep out the rain during storms.
Dining Fale
This is the eating area for the family. There is a large table with benches, and a sink for washing dishes. It serves as the main gathering area for the family as they discuss the daily events. No cooking is done, but food is often prepared here. Pigs sometimes join the family gathering.

Umu/Cooking Fale
The cooking is done on a wood fire with some food preparation done on a shelf. Almost all cooking is done in pots. Roasting is done on an umu. The umu is made anew each time by heating rocks, putting what is to be roasted (usually pig, taro, or breadfruit), then covered with banana leaves. He umu is used each Sunday for the main meal, beginning at about 4:00 am. Cooking in a pot is not done on Sunday (I don’t fully understand why).
Washing Area
Clothes are washed in a bucket then hung out on various wires around the compound and inside some fales to dry, or placed on rocks. When is out, clothes dry very quickly. In the heat and humidity, clothes need to be washed frequently. On some days, especially Sundays, people go through several changes of clothes. Mary also finds herself washing often.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of your better blogs.