Rachel and I were going to the funeral. The funeral was in our old village of Manunu, and we were as far as possible away from the village while being in Samoa. So even though we woke up at 2:30a.m to wait for the bus, we didn’t arrive in Manunu until one o’clock.
We had missed both services at the church, and when we arrived, most people were still at church in the neighboring village for the end of the second service. We spent time with the family that was still there which was nice to have that personal time.
The hearse came with the coffin. Asa had 4 sons, and they helped carry it into the grave. When the family saw Rachel and myself, we were all so happy and sad at the same time. It was nice to see our family, but sad that this was the reason that brought us there. We were escorted to the front to be with the family. Even though we have only known these people for a year and a half, it was nice to see that they considered us family as much as we did to them.
Graves in Samoa are much different than America. In America, most grave are in the earth (unless you are in an area that is below sea level, like New Orleans). It is simply a coffin in the ground, with dirt on top. In Samoa, graves are also underground. However, many times they tile the inside of them, and sometimes the outside as well. Then, a concrete structure is created to put on top to keep it raised from the ground.
The coffin was placed on 2x4 pieces of wood, and the bishop lead the community in a prayer, which was followed by song. It was a beautiful site, with such a beautiful song. You couldn’t help but feel touched. (Throughout the rest of that day, Rachel continued to sing that song.)
Asa was then lowered into the ground, which the boys put thick concrete slabs on top of the grave. Many people gathered in a tent to witness the family’s offering for the church for the funeral. Women were presenting many wonderful fine mats and cans of soda with money sticking out, while men carried the cases and cases of corned beef and sardines. At the end we saw several cows over the shoulders of the men to be offered. I always think it is amazing to see a huge leg of a cow by itself.
While the offering was going on, men were creating a multilayer grave over Asa. On top of the concrete slab, 2x4s were arranged to make a box. Rocks were put inside to fill the space, and concrete was poured on top and smoothed down.
We spent the next several hours with family there, and it is amazing how much I missed them. During training, I would often get frustrated with sharing a room with a 1 year old, 2 year old and a 3 year old, but I think that was because I had such a busy schedule because of Peace Corps, and it was impossible to have any time to myself with 14 people living with you. But seeing the little ones and see how excited they were to see me, it brought a smile to my face. I was impressed that they still remembered my name, and we had a blast playing on the floor of the Samoan fale.
While I was there, the baby was nicknamed Lili, and it was cute to hear the family call her “Little Lili”, just like my family in America used to call me. (Well, my dad still does call me that…) They said that she was nicknamed that to have a piece of me in their family for the rest of their lives.
In the evening we got a ride to Apia from Rachel’s brothers , and we thanked them by treating everyone to ice cream. We fell right asleep when we got to our hotel. After two days as busy as they were (Passover and the funeral), we were exhausted. As busy as they were, they showed us some of the advantages of us joining Peace Corps and coming to Samoa. Not only do we have an amazing family in Peace Corps, but we have such a great and loving family with Samoans as well. (When you include our families in America, we might be considered the luckiest and most loved people in the world!)
For the next two days we thought back to our training in Manunu. Although we lived there for only 2 months, they were full of so many memories. It makes me understand how most Samoans will always talk about a Peace Corps they have interacted with in their lives. Just like we touch their lives, they touch ours, and teach us so much.