“Going Out” in American Samoa

Posted by Heather Tang in American Samoa 19 Nov 2013

Alexandra Savinkina arrived in American Samoa this past summer. She recently participated in a very unique American Samoan tradition that gave new meaning to the idea of “going out” on a Friday night. Read on to learn about her experience…

 

“Are you going out tonight?” one of the other teachers asked me as we were leaving school on Friday a few weeks ago. A pretty typical question to start off the weekend… except when you’re in Samoa, and it’s one week past the full moon, and “going out” actually means standing out in the middle of the ocean at 2am catching sea worm sperm with a giant net. Of course I was “going out”!

 

pololo

 

Palolo is a Samoan delicacy beloved by all. It’s also basically sea worm reproductive organs. Yummy! The palolo “rise” once a year, one week after the full moon in either October or November (there are lots of ways that people believe you can time it exactly, but not that much is actually known about palolo rising and people usually end up checking the ocean for a few nights before actually hitting the jackpot). On the night the palolo rise, entire villages plunge into the ocean in the dead of night (they usually come between midnight and 3am or so) with buckets, nets, and, in some cases, bed sheets, to catch the worms as they rise out of the reef. They’re attracted to light, so they swarm towards underwater flashlights… or, as we discovered, headlamps!

 

After successfully staying up all the way to midnight (this included the use of lots of caffeine and lots of dumb TV), we (the palagis of Faleasao) went out to the beach where some Samoans were already sitting, having snacks and talking and joking as they watched the ocean. We hung out for a bit as more and more people gathered, nets and buckets in hand. Wes guessed that the palolo wouldn’t come until 3 or 4am, based on when the moon would rise, but we actually got lucky and the rising started around 1am! We went into the ocean about waist high and all took turns holding nets or buckets and catching the wiggly little worms as they flocked to our flashlights. We stayed out until about 3am, by which time our buckets were half full, the palolo were slowing down, and all of us were slowly approaching hypothermia (in the South Pacific! That might be a first).

 

This was probably hands down the strangest Friday night in my life. But hey, when in Samoa…

 

– Alexandra Savinkina, WorldTeach American Samoa 2013-2014

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