Monday, February 23, 2015

Samoan fale

 The Samoan fale (pronounced "fah-lay") is one of the most common sights we see on this island.  Traditionally, a fale was round and had a thatched roof.  In more modern times they are more likely to have other types of roof construction--sometimes sheets of plywood and sometimes sheets of corrugated iron.  Many of the old fales were destroyed by storms.   There are places on the island where near every building that was once standing is now gone, wiped out by cyclones or tsunami. In other areas storm damaged buildings are evident.  Some have been abandoned, left to return to raw jungle, or "the bush" as they call it here.  Other structures are being reclaimed with more sturdy materials in hope for greater security amid the fickle elements of this land. Still, the fale remains a significant part of Samoan life.
Traditional Fale photo from Unesco Report at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001398/139897eo.pdf

While some fales built today are still round,  we have seen plenty that are rectangle rather than built on a circle.  In recent times it seems there has been a lot more variation in how they look or how they are made.  Some of the fales are quite modest and some are more fancy.  They come in every color of the rainbow, some wildly decorated in hues of magenta or mustard, lavender or peacock green, bright yellow or blue (or any combination of the above).   Others are more conservative, painted a solid white or tan or deep brown.  But everywhere we go we notice the fales and wonder about what it would be like to spend a significant part of one's life in a house without any walls.

In the United States, where I come from, many people spend a great deal of money, time and energy on choosing how to decorate their homes.   They select artwork, window treatments, furnishings to reflect their personal tastes and social status.  They pour over magazines and search Internet sites to get ideas about the latest fashion for the well appointed home.

  How would my relationships with others be if we all spent our time together in open houses with no pictures, no furniture, no drapes...just woven mats to cover the floor?    

The climate where I live back in Boise, Idaho would not be conducive to that sort of  living.  Also my American sensibilities would go bonkers without a higher level of privacy.  Nevertheless, when I get back from this mission I think I will think long and hard before I fill my home up with STUFF again.  I will never be as minimalist as a Samoan fale seems to my western eyes.   Still, I cannot help but think there are some lesson to be learned from my time among these people and days spent visiting sitting on the floor of a fale.

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