Taga ‘two-seater’

In the days I served in Samoa as a Mormon missionary in the mid-1960s, there were still lots of fale or Samoan houses, just like at the Polynesian Cultural Center . . . and falevao or outhouses were everywhere, usually rickety things hanging over a beach. At high tide fish would come under them. Ebb tide provided the “flush,” and pigs would sometimes scrounge underneath at low tide. Government and Peace Corps sanitation programs were still a few years in the future.

Some villages, like Nu’uuli in Tutuila, for example, had a long row of them. But the one that really sticks in my mind, even though it’s been over 40 years since I first-and-last saw it, was a little two-seater in the small village of Taga, Savaii.

A Samoan semantics side note: Vao means “jungle” or “bush,” so a  fale vao is literally a “jungle house.” Some people a little more politely called them fale uila (which could literally be translated as “power plant”) and fale ‘ese or “different houses”; but young missionaries also sometimes jokingly called them fale telefoni — a “telephone booth” (this at a time when there were very few phones in Samoa), and none in the vao, a fale laitiiti — “small house,” or even a fale fiafia — a “happy house.”

One day in early 1967 all of the missionaries in the Falelima District got into our four-wheel drive (which we used regularly) Toyota Land Cruiser and went to the village of Taga, where we presented a group church service, followed by a traditional meal. As the drive back to the far end of the district could take at least two-or-more hours, we all made a falevao pit stop before leaving.

This particular two-seater falevao perched precariously over the edge of a small cliff, about 30 or 40 feet high, that dropped straight into the ocean. Two tree limb branches braced the structure underneath at a 45-degree angle to the cliff. Upon stepping inside, the floor felt springy; but the biggest surprise was yet to come: The view through the two holes was straight down to the ocean. We quickly discovered that when a wave hit the base of the cliff, it shot a gust of air straight up through the pukas.

Like surfers waiting for the right swell, you had to time your moves just right, so to speak.


  1. Daisy Kim says:

    This is some great stuff Dad!! I like the layout and the soft tones of color. You are shaka Dad!

  2. That’s my daughter, Daisy, everybody…in case you couldn’t tell. She and her family live in Hilo, and they all speak Hawaiian. E ola mau ka olelo.

  3. Hey Mike…
    The fale uila was an experience never to be forgotten that’s for sure! Especially when you’re sitting there at high tide and the fish below are having a “yuckfest”!!! Thanks for the memories!! hehehe
    Aloha to the Kims…Uncle and I are still missing Hilo big time!!!


  1. […] Savaii is Samoa’s “big island,” and the Falelima district was huge, starting at Taga and extending to Asau. We had a rugged Toyota Land Cruiser to do district business, and needed its […]

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