Poutasi, Samoa - Coconut Husking
Friday was supposed to be a day where we could laze around with nothing to do. But our teachers had quickly realised that there was no way twenty teenagers could be expected to sit and do nothing for twelve hours. So we had activities planned, but also had a large amount of downtime in between.
The first item on the agenda was coconuts. We were taken to a building behind the fales, where a mound of unfamiliar shapes awaited us. Apparently, coconuts don’t fall in the obvious, bowling-ball shape we know so well. They fell in a husk, which we had to remove to get at the coconut beneath. The husk was to be removed by impaling the coconut on a sharp stick, before prising the husk off. It was a lot more difficult than peeling oranges! Once the husk was off, we had to break open the coconut. Our eyes roved for another intricate contraption to break the nut. A circular saw would do. Instead, we were handed a stone. Not a sharp stone, just a stone. A few good strikes with that smashed the nut, revealing the insides of the coconut. The water inside we gulped down with glee, before moving to the next station. This required us to use a contraption that looked like the inside of a shark’s mouth to shave of the coconut flesh inside the shell. This was the hardest part, not because it was physically strenuous, but because it was so hard to get the hang of. Many times did our Samoan observers lose patience with us, and snatch the nut to show us their ways. Again. I am pretty sure I shaved off part of my finger with the flesh in one really bad stroke!
That was the order of our day before lunch. After the midday meal, we partook in weaving activities. Most of us were coming into this lesson with little to no weaving ability, so this was a spectacular test of patience for our Samoan teachers. By the end, we were split into four groups. Those who had picked it up immediately, those who struggled, but managed to pick it up, those who tried, but ultimately were destined for other things, and those who just didn’t try. I’m happy to say the 4th group was the smallest, and the 2nd the biggest. In fact, we had a sizable pile of intricate creations piled up. And a very sizable pile of complete and utter failures. But hey, you learn from your mistakes, right? Well, if you do, then I must be a complete weaving master.
However, our day wasn’t done yet. We had yet to welcome to our fales very special guests. Lamapeti and his family were due to visit our abode. We were happy to greet them, and we had one member of our group who already knew them. Mr Murray made a speech of welcome, and our groups sang to each other. We sang E Toru Na Mea, and Lamapeti’s family responded with a song that they learnt in Sunday school. Finally, to round up the welcome, we performed our Sasa for them. This was our most low-key performance we would have on this trip, but we still gave it our all, attracting other guests to the scene.
We spent the rest of the day mingling with the family, playing sport and eating dinner. Many of the items used were recognisable from our efforts throughout the day. For example, the bowls were efforts of our weaving, and there was a special dip/sauce made of our ground coconut. And the meat had been cooked on a fire. The fuel for said fire? Coconut husks and coconut shells.