It was in 1972 that I experienced staying in a fale Samoa (traditional Samoan house) for the first time.
Our family of five (Mum, Dad, brother, sister and myself) were invited to stay with family inland near Tafaigata prison. My uncle and his large family lived in a very traditional fale (house). Their fale was built on an oval foundation bed of volcanic rock with small scoria and coral for the floor covering. Over the top of that flooring was a layer of several hand woven mats. The fale had no walls, only supporting poles and a simple palm thatched roof with layered pola (woven blinds) hanging from the upper edges of the fale roof.
Kerosene lamps were used at the time as reliable electricity hadn’t reached that far inland.
We slept surrounded by a thick layer of mosquito netting and the acrid smell of mosquito coils burning.
At dawn we woke to a cacophony of roosters crowing.
In the falling dusk, hunters from my Faleula family travelled inland seeking the pe’a (flying fox).
In no time at all, a tall tree full of these upside down creatures came into view. Rifle sounds pierced the quiet evening, causing the flying foxes to surge up into the darkening sky. They were fleeing in all directions. It was a sight I will never forget. I was struck by the shapes and patterns they made in the sky. I looked on – thinking of the legend that Grandpa had told me about Nafanua, the Goddess of War, who was rescued by flying foxes, when she was stranded on a hostile island.
The hunters had caught five flying foxes. These were prepared in a umu (traditional above ground oven of hot volcanic stones) by aunties and cousins to honour us as guests visiting from New Zealand in 1972.