Saturday, October 17, 2009


I feel like I am losing all these vital members of my family…Thursday one of the few people who can give New Jersey a good name went home. Peka (Becki) is so amazing and brought a smile to us every day and it was so sad to see her leave in a taxi to go. Peka always wore the best skirts and was just so much fun. I know it is not good bye forever because she is way too amazing to let go out of our lives. Last night we will lost another person in our family, Amanda. Amanda is planning on coming back soon. She just really needs to get everything under control.
On a brighter note I almost got myself a husband! I was walking down the street near the sea wall in Apia to go to the Digicel store…and this is the first time I was brave and decided to go out by myself! Normally when we walk down the street I am the social butterfly saying Malo to everyone we pass…but since I was by myself…I decided the safer route was to just get my New York walk on and just be on the zone without talking. However this police officer stopped me to say Talofa…so I responded with “Talofa lava”..then he said something really fast that I could not understand. He saw my confused look and asked where I was going, where I was from, what I was doing in Samoa..I responded of course to be nice. Then he told me how he would really love to get to know me better. That put up a big flag so I told him I am sorry but I had to go meet up with someone. After doing my business at the store I ran into one of the volunteers, Koa. He agreed to walk back with me to the hotel….and if we ran into the police officer again he was going to pretend that he was my husband. Thankfully we didn’t see him on our walk back!
We learned about what to expect for our village trip. We are leaving today and won’t be back to civilization and electricity for 4 weeks. It should be a lot of fun. We learned a lot of ways to offend our new Samoan family and hopefully I don’t do any of these things or find new ways to offend them!
About an hour after classes we had a fia fia (party!!!). The current volunteers put on an amazing show for us and cooked for us. The women did traditional dances that looked beautiful. I really can’t wait to be up there in a year entertaining the new trainees! The men also did a traditional dance where there were all oiled up and wearing leaves around their legs and around their necks. They had a drummer keeping them in line and it was awesome! My favorite part was when they yelled out tiger they made a tiger face and did something similar when they yelled out buffalo. There was a skit made by our trainers and a few people in our group sang a song. We then travelled outside for….
FIREDANCERS! They were amazing. It was so awesome as they twirled their fire sticks with the greatest of ease! Once one of them accidently lit his hair on got out easily at least.
After the fire dancers we went upstairs to eat. All of the current volunteers made a gigantic feast of food. I think the funniest food someone brought was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I talked to the guy who made it later and he said in the future I will consider it gourmet cooking.
We had some drinks and went to the bar across the street, Bamboo. It was a great time hanging out with everyone there. I stayed until 12:45…so I am really surprised I went out running at 6 am this morning!! I actually think I did the best I’ve done in awhile… running my mile without getting tired at all. I know it will be different in the village because we won’t have the sea wall to give us a path..but we will find a way!
I’ll write again in four more weeks!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

rainy days

Rainy days…
My alarm went off at 5:45 this morning and I went to the window where I was drying my clothes from washing them in the shower. (Why pay $18 tala to wash one load of clothes at the Laundromat when it is free to wash it in the shower? Korina came to me and was like “Don’t you hear the rain? Why are you bothering getting up?” I went with her to look out the window and the road next to our hotel was a lake. It was pouring more than it did in Ecuador, it was insane. I went to the balcony and studied a little bit since I was still awake….happy I could still get some more pj action for the day. Korina came out to do some exercising and all of a sudden we see Bill splashing through the puddles. When we asked him about it later he explained when you are from the Northwest you get used to running in the rain all the time. So sadly today we only had some yoga time…hopefully the rain will cease later so we can go out after our last class….and before sunset. Now I truly understand the difference between the rainy season and the dry season…and it was real neat to experience the end of one and the start of another so quickly.
We are about to meet with the Ministry of Education of Samoa…so Tofa!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

seizures and tsunamis

Malo, O e mae oe? (Hey how are you?)
We had a sad piece of news today…one of the people in our group who is super amazing is heading home. On Monday when we had our water safety day she had a seizure on the boat. It was real scary. We were all joking around on the front of the boat and then all of a sudden Amanda looked like she had collapsed. Someone yelled out that she was having a seizure. We all began yelling out to our safety and security officer to stop the boat while others began yelling out what to do to help her. “Open her mouth”, “Put a spoon in her mouth”,” Does anyone have a towel?” It was insane. As soon as she came to they put a towel over her to give her shade. When the rest of us got off the boat to go snorkeling she went inside to the cabin to lay down.
Snorkeling was awesome. I haven’t used my equipment in a long time and forgot how my snorkel works. I forgot that when the snorkel is in the water….no air comes through. I almost had a panic attack in the water….and then realized I just needed to reposition my snorkel. I had a blast taking pictures of the coral reef. It wasn’t as colorful as many of the other places I’ve been to, but it was still awesome. We saw tons of little fish and an amazing star fish.
After the snorkeling trip we rode on the bus to the beach. The busses in Samoa are so different. They should have told us to bring seat cushions for the bus….because it is all wooden. It kind of looks like the front of the bus and the back of the bus don’t match….like they build their own wooden seats and put it on the front of like a regular bus from the US. The bolts that screw the wooden seats to the wall also stick out of the wall so if you sit straight up, you get poked by the most annoying screw. There are also Plexiglas windows that can go completely down which is nice because you get an amazing breeze and never are too hot on the roads. Samoa is also full of many many many many speed bumps. So it seems like you can never go too fast because you will be stopped in a few hundred feet by another speed bump. On the bus I sat next to Maka (Matt) and annoyed him with my game of not just twenty questions….but more like 500 questions… I think I know his whole life story by now!
We went to the beach. Phono (our safety and security expert) told me that you have to pay to get onto all of the beaches. It is about $3 tala (Samoan currency) for walkers, and $5 tala for bikes. The sand at the beach was so clean. It was full of dead coral…I wish it was cheaper to mail things back to the states because I would send you all some! A bunch of us played Frisbee on the beach…. And I learned most people in my group can’t throw a Frisbee… The water in Samoa is so amazingly clean. It is the most beautiful blue. We played in the ocean for like an hour before we continued our bus tour of Samoa.
On the bus we went all around the island…U’polu (that is the island we are on, and the main island). We heard it takes about 4 hours to get across the island. There are about 3 main roads from the map we looked at. Most of the villages are on the coast line so the busiest road goes that way. There are also two roads through the mountains. We travelled all the way to the disaster areas from the tsunami and the earthquake. It was ridiculous how far the devastation travelled. There was garbaged washed up everywhere. We could see how far the water travelled because wherever the land was brown instead of green, the water hit. Someone said it took about thirty minutes for the water to leave the area. There are still some areas where there used to by swamp, and it seemed like the swamp was still overflowing. This was over a week after the devastation so I can not imagine what it looked like last week. There went little blue tarps set up for tents in many places for temporary shelter. It was pretty amazing how some of these buildings survived that were close to the water, while others that were a few hundred feet away from were completely.
When we got back we decided to go out for pizza, however because the holiday on Sunday they were closed. A few of us went out for Chinese. Although I keep telling myself I am never going to have chicken again…we somehow ordered it. We pretty much demolished our meals…except for our sweet and sour chicken so we got it in a to go box. The volunteers that are serving currently always give their leftovers to the only homeless person in Apia. He is a sweet old man who is missing his legs. It always makes you feel good when you give him the food with a little “Manuia le poi (have a pleasant evening).
Tuesday we had a lot of language classes and I feel like I am doing good with the language. I decided to make myself a liquid diet….and it was pretty interesting how people treat you in Apia when females are getting alcohol. We heard it is socially accepted in Apia for females to drink, and at the bar I have never seen a problem with others ordering drinks…however when Lacella (Rachel) and I went to the KK Mart to buy a beer. The woman who bags the groceries asked me rudely “How many of those do you have in a day?”, while others shot me nasty looks. This really surprised me because we often see little kids buying alcohol and cigarettes for their parents (all they have to do is say they are of age….and they agree…even if they are 5). Lacella and I had an amazing night giggling and enjoying the evening. We watched some South Park and had a good ol’ time.
Today like every other day we woke up for our run. We were going to try for longer, but I couldn’t do it. My muscles are so soar from running every day. After our run we went to the third floor balcony to do our yoga. Since it was so hot we were dripping with sweat and our hands were slipping all over the floor. It was pretty funny.
However, when we got back to reality and out of the exercising world we heard the news that Amanda had another seizure. Because of that she has to go back to the States to finish testing to find out what is wrong with her. Tuela (Our Medical Officer) is going back to Nashville with her to make sure she makes it okay. I really hope they solve the problem and she can join us back here ASAP.
Today Tana (Dana) and I went on a fast walk to town to buy cell phones. It is crazy how much cheaper cell phones are here than in the US. My Samsung phone and SIM card cost only $59 tala. It was pretty awesome. It kinda made me upset how much more they costs in the States because for our cheap phones we did not have to sign up for a crazy service plan. In our language class today we walked around town asking people in Samoan what their names are, where they are from and about their families. It was really interesting. I think my class is the most amazing class ever!!! It is really upsetting because we are switching groups so we can learn from all of the instructors tomorrow. I will really miss them.
Anyway the evening awaits and I have to find some dinner…Manuia le po’i!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I wish mycomputer would play these stupid AVI files.... and no one is online to help me.... this is a sad day...
We had a whole lot of language training today and an amazing day yesterday...where we got to see the tsunami area and play in the water.... ill post more about it later!
peace out brussel sprout!
ps...ants keep trying to play in my computer....that isn't good...right?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

White Sunday

We have had a lot of training sessions…most of them long! We started learning the language. It is pretty cool… although it is difficult to remember all the vowel sounds. My first group teacher is Joe…which is kinda funny because there is no J in the Samoan language. We asked him what his Samoan name is and it is Iosefa. I guess they are pretty close.. but it made me start thinking of a few of the Samoans I have met…quite a few have “western style names” such as our amazing leader Henry Paul (HP). He said he got his name because his parents really enjoyed the singers Peter Paul and Mary.
We also had to get more immunizations….o what fun! I got my first ever flu shot and typhoid. As expected, I do what I normally do…and get nauseous! Martin (Samoan name Matini) was sitting next to me and I made him look after me. I am sooo happy that I roped him into it because I was not feeling too hot. And after shots we got the pleasure to learn about diarrhea….What an interesting topic when you feel horrible (I’m kidding!). We did learn about a few new diseases that are not found in the States.
After that wonderful lecture many people had to switch rooms because the volunteers that were staying at our hotel were finally going back to their home country…and they wanted us all on the same floor. I am happy that I was one of the very few that did not have to switch rooms at all.
Later that day I learned that there were two Phillies fans in my group. So we shared evil eyes during our upcoming lectures as we flaunted out hats…I do believe the Rockies one looks better!!!I have a bet going with both of them. When the Rockies win this series I get taken to lunch by someone and another person has to wear a Rockies hat for the week…. If by some strange phenomenon the Rockies lose… I have to take someone out for lunch and wear a stupid Phillies hat… Go Rocks!!! (By the way I am really bummed out about the snow out of the game… I think that would be an interesting way to play… I mean if the Broncos have to subject other teams to that kind of weather…why can’t the Rockies?)
We ended the week of our group discussions with a pizza filled girls night. We learned about dating Samoans….only the term dating does not really exist. It is really a courtship... (Don’t get any ideas mom!) So if you hang out with a person of the opposite sex a lot you are preparing for marriage. Apparently marrying someone from the States is considered an amazing find…so we should be expect for village women to try to set us up with their sons..weird.. After the discussion we went out with a few of the volunteers to a bar called Bamboo across the street. One of the volunteers knows the owner and the bouncer of that bar and told us that we should make friends with every owner and bouncer of any place we go to ensure there are no problems. It was great to hear their perspectives on life and about half an hour after we arrived the boys came to complete our family outing.
This morning we went out around town because most of the restaurants and stores would be closed Sunday and Monday for the holiday..White Sunday I think it is called. We went on a mission to find the cell phone store, buy veggies because we are having our own version of Stone Soup on Sunday night, and find a three prong converter. I don’t know if it was just because of the holiday weekend or if it is a weekend ritual, but everyone was out around town. There were people on the streets selling everything and some of the stores were so crowded that it overflowed onto the streets. I ended up buying two cabbages (kapisi) from a really nice woman on the streets who helped correct my Samoan attempt to say cabbage. We went to the bank to exchange our money. I learned later that my group went to the bank that had the best exchange rate (all the boys learned this the previous night.) We went to a book and stationary store to buy index cards and other items to help us study and learn the language just a little bit better….hopefully! We also went to Digicel to find out about cell phones and they were sold out of all of their cheap phones. I don’t think I need a cell phone that much to buy a super expensive one! We walked around practicing what little Samoan we know, and every Samoan that I have encountered is super patient and willing to help out with our quest to learn the language. They are willing to help us when we falter and translate things they say when we give our confused looks. The people in this country are truly amazing!
My mission to like tea and fish is going pretty well. I have been drinking tea every morning. It is not that bad without sugar but it reaches its best taste when I add one spoonful of their delicious sugar. I have had fish a few times. I have been adding hot sauce and other sauces to try to get rid of the fishy taste….It has been working okay… I am actually going out for dinner at a place called Seafood Gourmet pretty soon…so I am looking forward to trying more of it.
Speaking of food, I feel like I have been in heaven every morning with the amazing food they serve at breakfast! I have become in love with papaya (esi). They also always have two of my favorites, mini bananas and toast! I don’t know what it is about the butter they have here but it is so addictive! If you are ever travelling to Apia I fully recommend the Pasifika Inn based on their free breakfast!
Just to let everyone know I lost my memory stick for my camera in my computer…and can not figure a way to get it out… as soon as the mail comes from my loving sister in a few weeks I will put pictures on!
Today was a holiday…it’s called White Sunday. It is a holiday pretty much for the kids…which I think it pretty dang awesome. From what I understand…the parents wait on the kids and do everything for them. We went to the Catholic church for their Samoan mass. It was so beautiful seeing all the young children lined up to go inside the church. All of them were dressed in white. Many of the boys had these cute little red bow ties. They also had these amazing flowers around their head like a crown.
When Mass was starting, the alter boys walked in first, followed by the parade of children. There seemed to be hundreds of them. During the mass, two groups of children took turns doing a dance with songs. It was an amazing experience to watch them. Later on, when they were doing the wafers, the choir was singing and there was this stunning female who was dancing in what looked to me like one of the mats we sat on during the Ava ceremony. She had a lot of red flowers and had something that looked like a machete in her hands to dance with. There were two boys on the side wearing their lava lavas and an awesome necklace doing a dance as well. After Mass was over, the children were given candy leis, and Rachel and I decided to stay a little while to see how the English mass would be different….and it seemed VERY different… at least to me. We did not stay the whole time but it reminded me of a mass that you would find in most Catholic churches in the US. The children did also parade in for the holiday. They had these cute little pictures they made with them for the holiday.
We decided to leave after 30 minutes to walk down the road to see what the other churches were doing. Some of them were decorated with balloons, others with amazing colorful signs. Throughout our entire walk back to the hotel it was full of amazing songs by these cute children.
I hope everyone in the States enjoyed their White Sunday as much as I did!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

tsunamis and funerals

The first day in Samoa was an adventurous one. We got our new Samoan names…my name is Lili. We did a ceremony welcoming us to the country of Samoa. This is done in the villages as well. It sounds like we will be a part of it a lot of times while living here. For the Ava ceremony there are a few speakers that say things. They are the leaders of the group welcoming us. It is a big deal to be one of those people. There are also two people that give us coconut shells full of kava. We all say something in Samoan, drop a little bit onto the ground and drink the rest. I still think kava tastes like dirty water!
After the ceremony we were given some time to rest and we were in our rooms. A little while later we heard knocking on doors and were told to meet in the conference room (also the dining room). We were told about the earthquake on another Pacific Island and that we were in a tsunami watch because of it. While they were talking to us sirens began to go off and it was immediately changed to a tsunami warning. We all ran down the stairs and jumped into vehicles so we could flee as fast as possible. After the cab of the truck was full, we all began piling into the bed of the truck. I think we had at least ten people in it. We began to go up hill. While in the vehicle we saw little children and immediately one of our trainers jumped out of the truck bed and went to go assist these children. We also saw a woman in a wheelchair and someone running to bring her uphill. We travelled until we reached the Peace Corps hostel. A few volunteers that were nearby also showed up. The rest of us in training and volunteers went to the country directors house. They were constantly on the phone making sure everyone was accounted for and safe.
While outside the hostel I talked to one of the volunteers and learned about this worm that people eat. Apparently it is only available once a year and this Saturday is the day people go out with nets to get it. I guess they eat it raw. It costs like $100 Samoan a worm because they are so rare.
Not too long after we were safe and clear to leave. We weren’t allowed to be in the back of the pick up anymore, so we had to wait our turn to get back to the hotel.
Later that day….we heard another siren….at 5pm….
They apparently do it at the end of the work day…
And today we learned they do it at the start of the work day….at 9pm.
In the morning we took a walk. A few people wanted to scope out the terrain for running. There are quite a few uncovered manholes so it was good for them to check it out. We also learned about the local dogs. Apparently they do not like runners and they will attack them. Many many many people told us to carry rocks or sticks to hit the dogs.
Today was a holiday for the tsunami and earthquake victims. We saw a parade of the funeral procession. Just like in the US, they use four ways on the vehicles.
Things are going well and it is such a beautiful place to be here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Write to me!
Lillian Watson, PCT
Peace Corps
Private MailBag
Apia, Western Samoa
South Pacific
(its a 98 cent stamp!)

In N Out

So today I woke up waaaaaay too early and my roommate and I decided to walk around to find breakfast. It is pretty funny because walking to where the food places are away from the hotel you have to walk right by the runway for the airport. So there are planes looking like they are about to fall on your head the whole time. It reminded me of Wayne's World...
We had some training sessons and then had lunch. I went to In N Out. it was an amazing burger. I love In N Out. I wonder why they don't spell all the words. It is an awesome place because they have nothing on their menu and it is easy to order. The drive thru line is ridiculous. It seriously stretches for blocks. There are no tables because it is so popular. I loved my experience there. I loved it so much that I rushed there later on for dinner before leaving our airport for the flight.
We checked in at the New Zealand desk later... and it was kinda crazy because after I checked in they decided that all staff members take a break for a meeting. So this gigantic line followed behind. I was so happy that I got in when I did!
Right now I am sitting at the gate waiting for the flight. I think we checked in 5 hours early for the flight...I was asked by Alyssa to watch her bags while she changed into UnSamoan gear for the flight... I told her I would. Someone wanted her bag pretty bad and so they started a fight with me... The TSA security had to take me away and I am sitting in a "special area" waiting for the flight...hoping to still get on... None of what I just wrote about Alyssa's bag is true....She just asked to be a sidenote in my blog.
Anyway Ill be in Samoa in the morning. Ready for the heat!

Good bye normal life, hello unknown!

After a morning of random busy times... Jen Took me to the airport. I have so much luggage I better be ready for this! After our tearful good bye and one last call to mom, dad and billy, I was off on my own.
The flight to los angeles was packed and I think I was too nervous to sleep.
I haven't been to Cali in years... So it was crazy seeing the skyline in a polluted haze. I got to baggage claim and the ceiling was broken.... Apparently LAX has really gross stuff living above carousel three.
I got to the Radisson in time for check in for our group... Apparently this is the hotel for all US groups ready to leave for some place because the army is here along with a lot of other groups. Our group has I think twenty people going to Samoa and twenty people going to Tonga. It's kinds funny because they are so close but because of the date line they could not be further apart in time. Apparently with the tsunami last week the news reported how one was on Tuesday the other on Wednesday.
We were given an ATM card to take out money for dinner..and the atm in the hotel ran out of money. So we went off to invade a new hotel in search for money. After, I went off with a few others that are Tonga bound walking around the awesome clean streets of LA looking for food.
After dinner I met a few of them for a drink in the hotel bar...
I think all the travelling made everyone exhausted because it seemed everyone left for their rooms by 9:30.
In my room I played with my sleep number bed which I am convinced is just a fancy air mattress until I fell asleep.
We have a long day tomorrow and I am anxious for what's in store