As I understand it, evening prayer should be timed so that the sun is completely gone just as the prayer comes to a close. In Samoan, this time of day is referred to as Sā. Usually bells are rung to alert the entire village that it’s time for prayer. During Sā, all activity stops; a temporary curfew goes into effect, fale’oloas close, children come in from play. In general, very few people are out on the street—families can be fined by the village for not abiding by Sā.
Peace Corps aren’t necessarily held to such penalties, but it’s still a good idea to go inside and keep quiet, whether it be out of respect or simply to avoid dirty looks in your village. Of course, different villages view Sā with varying levels of severity. Cale and Sara’s village was quite strict; my school’s compound, not so much.
But by that hour of the day, I’m either inside my house or completely off campus, so it’s rare that my presence would interrupt Sā.
Either way, I admit I enjoy Sā even though I don’t partake. You see, since Sā coincides with sunset, the temperature inevitably drops by 5 or 10 degrees just as the bells ring for prayer to begin. Then, off in the distance, I can hear at least 3 different families begin to sing, often in multiple-part harmony. The effect is quite calming.
When I stay in the host village, I am given a central role in the family prayer. The sequence would go as follows: Mele would say a short prayer, we’d all sing 3 or 4 verses of a song, I would read the bible aloud in Samoan (it’s a phonetic language so it’s quite easy to read, even with a complete lack of comprehension) (also, Akanese has started taking over this job as seen above), Mele would say a really long prayer, and then we’d close with a short song.
As I said, all of this happens in Samoan, and I can follow here and there, but inevitably I zone out. But zoning out can be quite Zen-like, and even without hearing the formal structure of the prayer (or maybe because I couldn’t hear the formal structure), I can appreciate the practice. It’s not a terrible way to end the day.
Tomorrow’s Cultural Exploration: TBA
I hope you’re well. Picture below.
Note: Jane emailed to point out village bells are often made from empty propane canisters. I never really thought about this before, but she’s totally right. Next time I see some, I’ll get pictures.
Luisa is here.