2009-10-26: Kioa Days


Today is the anniversary of the original group of settlers arriving in
Kioa. Every year the Kioans celebrate at least a couple of days.
Sometimes the celebrations last all week. It is all up to the three
chiefs to decide the length and program.

This year the festivities will last two days to give the men more time
to farm and fish in preparation for Christmas. Yes, they are already
thinking of Christmas and New Years. We’ve heard it is quite the
ho-down. The men have been working hard on community development
projects and several more as scheduled between now and the end of the
year so the chiefs wanted to keep the workforce’s time away from
making money for their family to a minimum.

This morning’s activities started with a two-hour church service.
Several of the elders, including the only surviving member from the
original group of pioneers, gave impassioned speeches. I tried to
follow along but after an hour my brain starts to hurt and I read
Proverbs. Today I diverted course and read the entire book of
Nehemiah.

After church we went home, changed, gathered our food, and headed to
the Falekaupule. Before arriving we had to adorn the proper apparel
including a foa and garland. Kelly’s made her itch so she had to take
it off. Foes don’t do much to hide my large noggin and make me sweat
profusely. We endured the uniform and marched diligently to our spots
in the great hall. After several speeches from many of the same folks
who spoke earlier the preacher prayed and we ate in typical
Falekaupule fashion.

The Falekaupule is a large rectangular building that closely resembles
a horse barn. It has a tall peaked roof in the center with smaller
sections on either side. A colonnade runs down the sides of the
center section and there are 16 posts. At these posts sit elders and
leaders of the community. Nobody sits in the center of the hall. The
women and kids sit along the outside areas behind the men at the post.
The youth don’t come to communal events unless they are needed for a
specific function like entertainment.

The women serve meals by bringing the men their plates of food covered
with cloth. After removing the cloth they sit aside and fan the plate
keeping the flies at bay. Men quickly eat and often don’t even make a
dent in the copious amount of food. The more food you have at your
feet the more prestigious it is. After finishing the cloth is placed
back over the food and everyone starts wrapping up about the same
time. Then in sudden synchronized fashion the women quickly remove
the plates to the side sections where the other guest proceed to eat.
This eating takes place for about an hour while the elders give
various speeches on topics from why the youth are going to hell in a
hand basket and what the latest community developments are. Of course
I don’t know for sure what they are because I can only pick up a few
words but the villagers usually fill us in on the highlights in
English when asked. The best speeches are the ones with jokes because
everyone laughs heartily and it breaks up the monotony.

After this is all over the entertainment typically begins.
Yesterday’s entertainment was dancing by the school children. They
performed a variety of dances including Indian traditional dances and
the popular Fijian Meke. Mixed in between where some less desirable
scenes of small boys and girls grinding on each other to pop music.
My grandmother would have had a heart attack if she’d see some of the
moves these youngsters where making. For such a traditional, Mayberry
type community it is odd that they enjoy such acts. Other than that,
it was a wonderful morning of entertainment and the kids really put a
lot of time in preparing.

The lunch event followed the same pattern as the morning with most of
the same people who spoke at church and breakfast speaking… again.
Rewind and play for the evening’s program. The only difference was
the entertainment following the soapbox dissensions. The sunrise side
and sunset side of the island had a fatele face-off on either side of
the hall. One side, with their big box drum and dancing entourage,
sang a few songs and then gave the floor to the other side to see if
they could be outdone. This lasted about an hour with each giving
forth their best effort. Without having a clear understanding of the
language it is hard for an outsider to distinguish the difference
between the songs. They all have an intense drumbeat that slowly
increases in vigor throughout the performance, which tends to drown
out the unintelligible lyrics. We hope to get a songbook soon to
learn the words and sing along. The fatele is definitely my favorite
cultural entertainment experienced on the island so far.

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