The Falemoe

Falemoe (fale-house; moe-sleep) is a term used to describe the concept and practice by single young adult boys of sleeping together in one house, usually a faleo’o (hut). It’s like an extended sleepover - in terms of duration - and so it was not unusual for a falemoe to continue for months if not throughout the young adult years of the boys. Most of these boys are school dropouts and are in the process of joining the ‘aumaga (social group of untitled men). In a sense, the falemoe represents a phase for the boys, and serves as an initiation to adulthood and into their roles as taulele’a (untitled men).

Bonding and socialization are natural benefits and advantages of the falemoe. The boys would do a lot of things together especially since their roles are similar - if not the same. In a typical village, the boys would hike together early morning to their separate plantations in the mountains, a distance of about 4-5 miles one way. Along the ascent, they rest at the malologa (designated rest stops) and would chat, joke and coordinate their plans for the day.   At the plantation, they would clear, weed, plant and harvest and intuitively meet up late afternoon and return to the village together. Back home, they would help with the preparation of the evening meals and then head to the malae for a game of rugby, volleyball or cricket. Evening prayers and faasausauga (evening time merriment) follow before the boys retire to their falemoe usually at ten when the curfew conch is sounded. At the falemoe, they would play cards, chat, play guitars and sing, and share stories in the dim light of a lantern or a moli fagu (bottle light).

Because of the limited space in one faleo’o, it was common for one village to have three or more falemoe, usually one for every pitonu’u (sub-village).

Our falemoe (for our sub-village) was in our family’s faleo’o. There were eight “permanent” members and one or two who, on occasion, came and left again. The boys would bring their own pillows and sheets and would either leave them at the faleo’o or take them back in the morning. At the time, I happened to be the only one of our falemoe still in school, so I would often be away in town, but would always look forward to going back to the village and hang out with the boys. After Samoa College, and having become a social renegade, I was back in the village, eager and excited to join the falemoe full time.

Though confined to our remote and isolated village - and island - environment, we were not immune to the contemporary outside influences especially pop culture. We had access through the limited media conduits of the day. Disco culture (music, bell bottoms, hairdo, etc.) was the fad and trend then, and KC & Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, Bee Gees, and CCR were some of our favorite bands.
ka ika ia ga o le Kusi Pa'ia lava ma le loku ..LOL!

We had a cassette player/radio (battery operated) and we would play and listen to the latest pop songs. Of the two main radio stations we tuned to, one was the government-owned 2AP, and the other was in neighboring American Samoa, which actually was closer to our coast and village than our own 2AP on the other side of the island. The reception of the latter was much better and so we would listen to the American Top Forty with Casey Kasem, Pese Molimana’o (requested favorites), local Top Twenty, etc. Visual media, on the other hand, consisted of magazines, movies, television and newspapers. No Internet ...yet! (LOL!)

At times during the falemoe years, one or more of the boys would be processing travel papers to go to New Zealand, mostly on a three-month work permit. The day one of the boys finally leaves was always a sad one for the rest. Nonetheless, they would remain lifelong friends even after they’ve gone their separate ways years later, at which time falemoe anecdotes and memories would induce laughter and fun at any chance reunions.

Occasionally, however, the village fono (council) would ban the falemoe, mostly as a result of sporadic antisocial actions of a few. These included drunkenness, social rebellion like long hair, curfew violations, disorderliness, etc. But the boys would always find a way to regroup and continue their cliques. I’m not quite sure to what extent it is still practiced today, but back in the day, the falemoe was essentially a brotherhood.

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