One of the great things about Samoa is Samoan hospitality. When you get a host family, they really are your family. The parents will refer to you as their son or daughter, and they will unite behind you like your blood relations would. Since Dave and I were housed separately during our training, we actually have three host families, which sometimes makes things a little confusing. We usually refer to them as my, your and our host family respectively. Although Samoans have a strong sense of family, the boundaries of a family are a little more fluid then they are in the United States. Adopted children are incredibly common (usually not a legal adoption relationship). Sometimes a grandchild will be sent to live with his/her grandparents if they don’t have anyone else to take care of them. If a woman is unable to have children for some reason, her sister or brother will give her some of theirs and she will raise them like her own flesh and blood.
Our new host mother is Lusia. She has three grown daughters who live in New Zealand and Australia. She also takes care of two of the seven children her brother left behind when he died. The oldest three live with their mother in New Zealand, the next two with Lusia (and us), and the youngest with some other family in the neighboring village. Amalele is 14 and in Year 10. Pio is 11 and will be in my Year 6 class. The younger boys, who were staying with us during the school break, attend Dave’s school. Sio and Satu’u’u are in Years 2 and 3, respectively. Besides Lusia, Pio, and Amalele, there are two other people living in our compound, Vai and Panapa. Vai is the wife of one of Lusia’s cousins (who has passed away). She is deaf as a post. Panapa is her adopted son. Vai is a fofo or natural healer, so people stop by all day long in order to receive medicines and massages from her.