Yesterday I sang and danced in front of several hundred people.
It all started after my evening run a few weeks ago. On my way back home a few of the women from the village called me down to the beach to go for a quick swim to cool off. They told me I needed to be at church when I heard the bell ring the following day for practice, but didn’t elaborate much. Our neighbor/landlord/principal was kind enough to fill me in with the details – practice was for the upcoming island-wide church showdown, and while optional, I felt a little pressure to participate from both Samoans and the veteran palagi teachers. From what I was told, performing in a church event is like a rite of passage for WorldTeach Manu’a volunteers. And it’s not like singing and dancing could be any harder than spear fishing in the dark or stranger than eating sea worm sperm, right? I decided to give it a try, which it turns out that decision meant spending 2-3 hours every afternoon for the following 2 weeks at the church rehearsing our songs, dances, and skits with the rest of the village. I ended up in the center of the second row with only a girl from the elementary school in front of me, so the pressure to remember the moves for our dances was high. My students seemed to enjoy getting to be the ‘teachers’ and were always moving me into the proper position and gave me some extra dance lessons during breaks at school. Over the course of the many hours spent practicing I heard only 3 things in English:
1. Thank you for coming
2. Come again tomorrow
3. Sing like this is your last performance and then you die
Sunday was the big day, and I’d say it was a success. The Faleasao performance lasted nearly an hour and consisted of 7 songs, 3 dances, and 2 skits. While I knew most of the words, I didn’t have them all totally memorized (luckily I can fake all those vowel filled words fairly well) and I made a few mistakes in the dancing. I didn’t fall over or anything though so I’m happy. One student told me this morning that I looked like a real Samoan when I danced. Another told me I was funny to watch. So my performance was somewhere between laughable and authentic Polynesian. Regardless of my true dancing and singing abilities, it was actually really fun to participate in the program. I got to know people from our village better and see my students in a very different atmosphere. I’m asking around for pictures or a video, which if I can get I’ll upload later. It was an exhausting few weeks of preparing, but I’m glad to have done it. I think our next cultural experience will be playing Saturday Bingo; I just need to review my numbers :)
For now, I leave you with a picture of some of our song lyrics and the kitten one of my students caught for me today after lunch. I’m regifting it to Sasha.