As soon as I arrived in my village, my family informed me about the 15 de Agostu festa. Every day after that, I was reminded about the upcoming festa by a neighbor, new friend, or family member. This weekend we festa’ed – a festa of all festas. I awoke last Monday, a week before the festa officially began, to my brothers painting the fence lining the road to the village and a new diskotecha being constructed for the sole purpose of the festa. Houses were repainted, buildings opened, streets were cleaned, and food was prepared. Every individual in the village had a part in this festa, even the children.
I came home to my 5-year-old nephew carrying the bloody fur of our “pet” goat. As he attempted to hug me, I repeated “laba mon, laba mon.” I don’t think I will ever get used to detached hooves and fur, even if it’s for a festa. We went to the market on Saturday, along with the rest of the village, to buy enough food to feed the entire island. My mom literally held my hand as we made our way through the maze of merchants, introducing me to each vender along the way. I always eat a light breakfast when my mom says we are going to the market because I know I am about to encounter squealing pigs in sacks, flies feasting on raw meat, and dead fish staring at me. After it’s all said and done, I have a feeling I will be a true-life vegetarian.
Although the festa was officially Sunday, I have learned that festas never last for merely a day. Whether it’s a birthday, funeral, or religious celebration, everyone will celebrate for a minimum of 3 days. By everyone, I mean everyone — festas come with an unspoken open invitation. On Friday night, the village gathered at the soccer field to dance the batuka, grill mysterious meats and mingle. Although I went home around 2am because I could not keep my eyes open, my sister and brothers stayed until 7am. And the process was repeated Saturday night, with the addition of more food, music and people. After asking my brother how he stays awake for 3 consecutive nights, he gave me a confused look and said, “Sleep on Monday. Festa is sabi (meaning really good).” Sunday consisted of what I like to call “txiga’ing.” [As I walk home each day, my neighbors yell “txiga, txiga,” meaning come come. They will continue to yell and motion you into their home until you give in and stay awhile.] I started at one end and made my way across the village, stopping to eat more than I could hold, dancing until my legs ache, and using every Kriolu word I knew. Everyone wants to feed you. You cannot be too full. No does not mean no.
This weekend was a time for my village to shine. They are proud of the fact that they can fill your stomach with food, your soul with dancing, and your heart with community. I am proud to be a part of this community, even if for a short time. My family and neighbors have introduced me to an entirely new world — full of hard, manual labor and hot rays of sunshine, yet rich in community, life and fellowship. When time is not money, you get to know a different side of people. A side of people that is more concerned with giving than receiving, listening than talking, and happiness over profit.