Tamaiti, gather around with your ie afus and your aluga vavae, I have a fagogo to tell.
"Aue" back when I finish my sentences,
"What's the fagogo tonight Granma?"
"Just shut up and listen, here it goes,..There was an old woman, with crooked teeth and bad breath, from the village of"
"Is this a scary one?"
"I said, shut up or else the kemogi will strangle you in your sleep"
"Whatever! Kemogis are scared of Jesus! Jesus will get out his sword and chop him up"
"Okay, so you really want a scary fagogo? A fagogo so scary that you will stay awake for the rest of your life?"
"Are you sure you want to be tormented just because you know this horrible truth about a woman that appears as a flower, a pig, a beautiful woman or a rock?"
When I was only this tall, my mother and father were living in Patamea starting up a church for a small community.
We slept in a fale oo, built hasitly for our use.
The land we occupied was on a hilly clearing, with smooth river stones covering the ground, exposed only in parts from the overgrowth of feufeusaiga and ancient frangipanis.
For days, we woke before dawn to boil tea and cook taro before we proceeded with clear the overgrowth, to make way for the church.
My father and the young men worked arduously in the hope that the church was built in time for the John William's landing commemoration in August.
In particular, they concentrated on uprooting old tree stumps at the centre of the clearing, where two large rocks laid bare.
One evening, he limbed back to our faleoo, with a deep cut in his foot.
Blood was everywhere.
But he just shrugged and asked for a cloth and some water to clean the wound.
That night, he could not sleep as the pain keep him in agony.
At three in the morning, it was apparent that the help of a taulasea was needed.
We started walking, knowing that a car will not come this far deep into the sparcely populated Patamea valley.
The taulasea was six villages away and my father's condition was deteriorating.
From a distance, we heard a car approaching.
"Run, run and stop the car! Tell the driver if he can give us a lift to the taulasea"
My mother hurriedly pushed us forward.
We ran as fast as we could, through the bushes towards the main road.
Fortunately, the driver of the white pick up truck saw us and screeched to a noisy halt.
The driver was not a he, but a slender woman so beautiful that I couldn't stop staring. At the passenger's side was a little girl just as beautiful,
But the driver,
Her hair was long and flowing, her lips red, her teeth so white it shone,..but her eyes?
Her eyes I could not see.
I was mesmerised and scared, confused but I had no time to stop,
We asked for a ride and she just nodded in agreement.
By then, my father and mother have reached us and we proceeded to help him onto the back of the pick up truck.
The car sped towards Fagamalo, and I realised there were not headlights, or any other lights.
It was pitch black, all around us.
We got to our destination and quickly hopped off,
By the time my father was safely by the roadside, the pick up truck had sped off again.
When we arrived at the taulasea's home, the old woman was seated by a hurricane lamp, humming quietly, stopping every now and then to wipe the sweat from her face. She did not address us,
She did not open her eyes
Yet she called out to my father,
"What have you done sole? who have you upset?"
We walked to the taulasea and begged her to help, for my father was now reduced to sobs and was making no sense.
She looked at my father and within an hour, she had summoned the women to mash fue leaves, providing liquids that she proceeds to bathe my father's body with.
As she applied these leaves and oils, she smacked him in the face and screams
"Who the fuck are you?"
"What do you want?"
"What sins has this man of God done?"
"Go away, you alelo, we'll bake you in an oven"
My father suddenly looked up, eyes rolled back and pushes everyone away angrily.
Men were summoned to hold him down, but his might was frightful that even four strong men were pushed away.
After several hours of the taulasea cajoling the spirit to speak, his body shook and a voice came forth that was not his,
"Get away from my home,
Who do you think you are?
Disrupting my peace with your machetes and thatches?
I will do worse to you if you continue to disrupt me....I dropped you off this time to get you here on time, but next time....you'll be dealt with properly"
With this, the taulasea begged for forgiveness and my father fell into a deep sleep for hours.
The villagers gathered and told us things we wish we knew earlier,
The place we chose for a church is were a woman died giving birth to an infant who died soon after.
They appear as pigs, whereby if one shooed the pig away he was paid a visit in the darkness of the night.
This same stunning woman boarded a flight from Faleolo to the airport in Savaii but never disembarked on arrival. The pilot never flew this route again.
A girl of 16 picked a red hibiscus for her hair and was punishes in her sleep.
The next day, we travelled back to Patamea, to the hilly clearing where we laboured for days.
Except, it was.
Except for the central rocky area, where two large rocks laid bare.
ie afu: bed sheet
aluga vavae: kapok filled pillows: (kapok: Ceiba pentandra)
taulasea: traditional healer
fale oo: samoan hut/house
Patamea: village in the Itu o tane region
Fagamalo: originally the capital of Savaii where marines and trading was based due to deep accessible habour, also near Avao where bible was translated.