Sunday, January 31, 2010

busy as a bee

My busyness update
This week I have two community meetings. One will be with the youth of my village where the amazing Fale will come to help facilitate it. The second will be with the Woman’s committee in which the fabulous Elisa will come to help me. At both meetings I will be having the groups draw community maps so I am able to tell the most important aspects of their village. It will also help determine the future projects that I will work with them. The two groups were chosen because the you hare our future and if we get them started on improving their village, it may continue. Also as everyone knows the women get everything done. They are super productive in every village in getting everything done and keeping everything in line.
Last week I met with JICA and handed in the carpenter’s report. After a few weeks of talking to his family, the carpenter finally returned home from his vacation in New Zealand. It is really impressive how on top of communication he is. He is always returning my phone calls and if I ask him to be at a certain time in a certain place, he is there.
We both went out to survey the school last week. I had my notebook and I took the notes on every little problem in the school. Some of the highlights of the report were that 2 support columns were not touching the ground, while 13 were rotting. There are no louver frames on any windows and the wire fencing that is covering the windows (rusted on all windows) is missing on two windows and a few local pieces of timber are in its place. Every room has holes in it, some are in the ceiling, many are on the chalkboard, and some are exposing it to the outside, and most rooms contain multiple holes. I also learned that there are 90 desks (they each seat 2) for over 300 students. As you can tell it was very interesting doing this survey report with him.
JICA told us that our school building is in the A lest for getting a new building. They wanted to remind us that they do not pay for the entire building and that even though the application was accepted for this year, it will be a long time until anything will actually get done as they have to process paperwork elsewhere, and translate some of it into Japanese. I also am going to resubmit all of my forms in electronic forms to make it easier for them.
I joined a NGO called Avanoa Tutusa. Right now it is made up of only Peace Corps volunteers although they are always actively trying to find others that would like to join. In two weeks (Super Bowl weekend) I will be headed back to Upolu to help with one of their events. We are going to be going to one of the sites effected by the tsunami and teach about water conservation and have the youth paint the water tanks. The younger youth all of us newbie’s to Peace Corps who have an elementary education background are going to develop activities to keep them busy and having fun so they do not become covered in paint as well.
I am also working with Ben to develop a curriculum for World Water Day (I think it is in March, but I am not sure). I have a few lessons written up and he is actively trying to find different organizations that will assist us with this day. My dad here told me that the only way to be successful is to teach the older people in our community as they are the ones who waste water by keeping the water running when they are doing things such as washing clothes. I told him that at first we are planning on doing it with the youth, but maybe in the future it will develop into a bigger event as it is difficult to start such a massive event in one year. (When you are not sure who will be on board for it.) I will still bring his suggestion up in the next meeting and see what they say.
One of my sisters is leaving for Vanuatu to attend law school on Monday. My family wants me to go with them to Apia, but with so much on my plate and school starting on Monday I do not think that is the best idea.
My ears have decided that they love getting infected and I feel like I did when I was little and always managing to get swimmers ear almost every week. I have my third infection in the past month and a half.
Anyway, I am going to end with a list of ideas for community projects I am thinking of starting. I am not sure which ones will actually work, but it is good to have a game plan.
Garbage cans painting contest in the school then placing the cans in the 3 villages and seeing which village can be kept the cleanest. (I am sick of seeing Styrofoam cups all over the place from these ice cakes!)
Talking to the Samoan Water Authority to find out if we can add to our pipe line so more people can get piped water (especially during the dry season when some run out of water).
Tar sealing one of the roads. Besides the main road, the one in front of my house is used quite a bit. It is ridiculous how many massive crater sized holes are in the road. Riding in a car is an unpleasant experience and even walking I sometimes almost find myself falling into one of the ditches that lives in the middle of the road.
Creating a communication center with a place where people can use the internet and print things so a new small business can be started.
Starting a learn to swim program
Elisa wants to do a health projects where we track everyone’s weight and other easy information to showcase diabetes awareness and other facts. We would do this with all the villages in our district.
More ideas hopefully will come up with the meetings with my community at the end of the week.

Friday, January 22, 2010


In Samoa there are two television stations, channel one and three. We get the Samoan news and the New Zealand news. The New Zealand news sometimes shows us a glimpse of what is happening in the world, although it usually leads me with more questions that no one is able to answer because of lack of resources here.
It was real exciting for me last night because I got my sports fix on the news (and it wasn’t watching the normal rugby game that always seems to be on). As the Super Bowl is approaching quickly, the New Zealand news decided to show the teams in contention for the championship….and they seem to really love Brett Farve. They showed the game in which the Vikings killed the Cowboys…and man it was exciting watching the big plays! (Mike and Alex don’t worry I’m spreading the love for the Vikings here, since I miss going out to watch the games with you guys!) They then showed the Jets and it was awesome seeing some NY pride over there! I just wish there was a place here to watch the games…especially the Super Bowl!
There aren’t too many companies that fight for television air ad time it seems. Sometimes when me and some of the other volunteers get together we discuss the five commercials that they show on television. About every month they seem to change them. They just finished showing the Christmas and New Years specials, and now some of the companies are showing back to school specials.
Whenever I visited my parents I was always overwhelmed with all the channel choices they had since they had cable. I mean I did have several with my bunny ears, but it was nothing compared to the hundred they seemed to have. It is kind of nice to only have two choices, as it makes you realize there is more out there than just sitting in front of the television as there is a world outside the living room. When there is nothing on television but the Pilipino soap operas (how did they make their way here anyway?) it makes you realize that there is much more going on and to explore the volleyball games outside or the book that is sitting on my bed itching to be read.
Everyone here seems so proud of Survivor Samoa. Every Sunday night people gather around the television set to watch as they have such a big connection to the show.
I just have a few suggestions for the people who created this show, some little mistakes that I have noticed. When going to a new country, and you pick a word to be the name for the tribe, make sure you know how to pronounce the word. In the Samoan language the g makes a sound like “ng” like in sing. I know I am horrible at pronouncing it, but it is much closer to a n sound than the g sound. Week after week I hear them pronounce galue (the word for work, such as in a plantation) wrong.
I do love how Survivor shows me the places where I would like to visit in Samoa. For example this week a few people won a trip to sliding rock, which is a place that I was planning on visiting this week. It was nice to have a preview of where I was going to.
I feel like I’ve already won Survivor, lasting a lot longer than the people on the television show and not with a lot of their luxurious. I don’t have the luxury of wearing whatever I would like as they do because it is culturally insensitive to dress the way they do. (It is probably the same way in every country they put the show in.) So instead of wearing tank tops and short shorts or wandering around in a bathing suit all day, I am fully dressed covering shoulders and wearing a skirt or something equivalent that is at least to my knees. Their food situation does not seem that bad either. Sure they miss out on the American luxurious, but they have the chance to win them, where as there are no rich Americans supporting me saying if you do this you can win brownies or something else that is hard to come by here. They also don’t have the true Samoan experience in Upolu being scared off by the dogs trying to bite you. Truth be told I don’t think I have seen any animals in their shows and it seems to me even when you are away from a village there is always at least a pig running around. I may not have the million dollars for lasting, but I think I’ve had a much better fuller experience then they have had.


I guess I have never been the nicest to Missionaries trying to convert me. Although I have never been out right rude to them as I knew other to be. In college they seemed to come weekly to my apartment so I made a ritual of always inviting them in for beer and pizza. Being Morman missionaries they of course refused and asked to come back at a time without the beer. I told them with pizza you always needed beer so that would be hard to accomplish.
In my village I am taking turns going to the different churches every week so that way I can meet everyone in the village and don’t seclude myself. I go every Saturday I can with my family to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and Sundays I take turns going between the Methodist, the Morman and the Assembly of God Churches. I know how long each of the services are so I am prepared with whatever I need to keep me entertained. For example for the longer services I always bring my Samoan to English dictionary so I can look up any words that confuse me (believe it or not it is a great source of entertainment!). I also bring my water bottle as they three hour services make me feel like I’m dying of thirst.
Last week was my turn with the Morman Church. The first hour was good in which it was the service with the entire congregation. I then went to the first hour of lessons with the youth who were in the late teens to early twenties. I then headed to the third hour in which I was to go with the woman’s group. I was quickly pulled out to talk with the missionaries that were staying in a neighboring village.
I was nervous as I assumed they were going to stop at nothing to try and convert me to their religion. They put us in a room and closed the door. I started to tremble. I was wishing I brought my bag with me so I could fake something to get out of what would sure to be an uncomfortable situation. But alas, I left it inside the room that I thought I was having class in.
The two young men introduced themselves and where they were from. They did the usual, “What religion are you?” and other types of similar questions. We then out of nowhere began talking about life in America and the life of a missionary. It was really interesting what they had to say. It is amazing that one person decides on where to put these people based upon his visions, and that the visions can cause someone to have to pack and move within an hour’s time. We talked about the job market in America and their collegiate plans. (One wants to go to BYU Hawaii and the other was not sure yet.)
We then I guess got down to business. I told them how I have been to a Morman Church in America with friends, but how it was not for me. I also applauded their work in making the Samoan society a better place for families as the Morman churches all come equipped with a basketball court and a volleyball net. I also appreciated how this was one of the few churches that did not seem to make a big deal about people giving all their money to the church. We also talked about the quality of the Morman schools. (They really are supposed to be some of the best schools in Samoa. The kolisi (the word for college but really is our high school) has internet which is an astounding feat for here. The teachers are supposed to be astounding as well.)
We talked about the history of Mormonism in Samoa. They told me that the first missionaries that came to Samoa converted only a few people, so they met in a fale. As soon as they had enough people, they built one of the big churches that they have today. (They are amazing, it makes me think of Pleasantville with every building so perfectly constructed and beautiful.) With the church building came the playing courts and soon many people decided to convert to use the facilities. (Although they do let others play with them there.)
During the entire hour of meeting with them they did not try to persuade me to join their church and just seemed happy that I was making my way through the churches in my village. They did not offer me a lesson, and I did not offer them beer and pizza. (The closest pizza that I know of is probably a two hours drive away, and I am not going to try to even figure out where to buy beer in my village.)
After meeting with them I went to to’ogani with the bishop and his family. They have this beautiful faleo’o overlooking the ocean. It is the last building before the cliff and they get an amazing breeze there. It was so relaxing to spend time with them. They of course asked me about my uo situation and I told them I don’t have one yet. I told them that I do not like smokers and it seemed as though most of the boys in our village are smokers. They assured me that if I find a boy in their church he will be a good man as he will not drink or smoke. For example their son.
It is really funny going to church because every week seems like a new dating show. The pastor always makes sure to tell me that there are many nice boys in their church (sometimes announcing in front of the entire congregation). Then there seems like there is a fight over who can take me home for lunch so they can spend time with me (and make sure I meet their nice sons).
I wonder how long my village will continue this dating show ritual…

Karl Milone

Karl Milone
A few weeks ago I visited Max in his village to say good bye and give him something to mail in the States. (Thanks Max!) and I stayed a little too late (I had an excuse, it was pancake Sunday) as it was about to get dark on my walk home. We began walking together as we lived in the same direction. When all of a sudden someone began to talk to us in perfect English as we were asked where we were from and what we were doing in Samoa.
He explained that he was from Louisiana (I forgot the city, but I remember him saying it was right by Monroe, the birthplace of Delta airlines.) He came to bring a shipment of supplies for the tsunami victims and was also visiting his family in Savai’i.
He then asked if we knew much about the NBA, we said a little. He said the he was a trainer for one of the players in it and then asked if we knew Karl Milone. He talked to us a little about Karl and how good a friend he is and that’s why Karl decided to donate so much to Samoa after the tsunami.
Max made it to his house but he continued to walk me home as it is not common for girls to walk by themselves (nor do I really like to). We chatted about Utah as that is where he met Karl after attending the University of Utah. Realizing we went to schools in the same conference (shout out to the Mountain West Conference…..go Pokes!) we talked about the University of Utah and their rivalry with Brigham Young University.
It was nice to have someone to talk to about America, someone especially that knew life that I am familiar with. It was especially great to have someone that knew of the University of Wyoming (most people in America seem to not be sure about that one…although I am not sure why, since it has been a state for quite some time now…) He walked me the thirty minutes to my house and gave me an amazing conversation.
About two weeks later I received a text message from another volunteer that also met him and to tell me “Sup?”
It is such a small world seeing how everything is connected and everyone seems to be connected to each other in some way. It is like the five degrees of separation, even out here it seems to be relevant.
Anyway, I forgot your name Karl Milone’s trainer, but thank you for your support and for making both my day and Matt’s a little brighter by talking with us. Next time you come to Samoa, if you want to bring your friend Karl Milone, you are more than welcome to!


I guess I’m starting my training for biking around the island. First it was to Falealupo, this time it was to Asau. I think I’m getting stronger, because biking to Asau it was a piece of cake, probably because we didn’t leave in the heat of the day. I see nothing wrong with the distance from me to the end of the district, 9 villages away. Travelling in the rainforest of the area where we switch districts seemed like an easy ride (even though it was probably about 30 minutes of not seeing houses or anything). Thankfully Dana was my biking buddy again and it took me about 3 hours to make the trip.
When we got to Asau we met up with Matt and Elisa as we enjoyed a fantastic lunch and swimming in the ocean there. We all decided it is hard to believe that this is where we live. It is such a fantastically beautiful place. There is always so much to do (or so little, depending on how you look at it).
We then decided our biker gang (we are cool on our mountain bikes) needed to go out for a ride. Matt took us on a tour of Asau where we learned that Asau is like an actual city with how big it is. (There are a little over one thousand people there from what I was told.) None of us have experience that in a long time, so it was funny to see so much activity. We went on a road that looked like it is barely used these days as it was a complete off road biking experience for us. We went to the abandoned saw mill and it is amazing how big the old rusty machines are. They just sit there growing older and older. I wonder how long it has been since these machines have been in actual use. The saw mill is so big and it must have employed so many people. I wonder what people decided to do for work when it closed, or even if they did go back to work.
Right past the saw mill all of a sudden I saw Matt stop short. (Making Dana as well as she was trailing him.) He heard a small sound and looked down and there was a kitten in the middle of the road (which was dirt and tall grass). The kitten was tiny and had its eyes closed. We looked around and found two more. They were trying to move, but were too little to move their legs. We guessed that they were about a day old. We stood there on the road waiting to see if we saw some more kittens or if we could find their mother, when out of nowhere a truck came barreling down the road. We barely had enough time to move our bikes to the side, and if we weren’t there the kittens would have been complete road kill. We knew we had to do something. Thankfully I had my bag that I attached to my bike with me. We emptied the contents and took the three kittens with us.
The kittens all squirmed about on top of each other as they were probably terrified. (I would be too if I was in their shoes!) Elisa said that her neighbor in Asau (Her family has family is Asau) had a momma cat that was nursing kittens. We decided to try it out and see if she accepted three more into her litter. We pulled her two kittens off (they are probably two weeks old) and introduce one of the new ones. She licked it as the kitten went off to find its food source. Success! We had saved a few kitten’s lives! We introduced the other two. One of the kittens kept getting lost and was unable to find the milk.
Matt and I left to get a thank you gift for the family that would play host to the new kittens. (Elisa promised the family that it would not be permanent, as she was busy sending out mass text messages to everyone we knew to see if anyone would want one when they were big enough to leave.) At the store we picked up tea and cookies for the family. They seemed happy with our gesture so that was good. When we came back Dana and Elisa put the other two kittens with the mom so she was nursing all five! Mom was not the happiest as she was growling but she just laid there as she realized she will just accept them as her own.
Sa (Curfew) was about to happen so we rode back to Matt’s house where we enjoyed a delicious dinner of peanut butter sandwiches and vegetables. Matt is smart and keeps all of his food in the fridge and freezer so we enjoyed frozen bread with cold peanut butter. It was surprisingly amazing like that.
The day felt like it was a made for television movie complete with a happy ending. It was a great time.
The next day we awoke to leave early in the morning. We decided that we wanted to explore Neiafu during the day then return to our respected villages. I was exhausted from the ride the day before and we started off with a complete steep uphill trip. My gears on my bike were having trouble finding a gear that they actually wished to work in. Many times I was pedaling and felt like it was not helping my cause. So, I decided to walk up a lot of the hill. One of the times I was actually on my bike I suddenly turned around causing Matt to wonder (He knew I was having trouble with my bike and was expecting the worst!).
I had found a mango tree and I was hungry. Matt and I went searching for mangos around the tree as I ate one and then we filled our bag with the rest of them. It gave me more energy to continue the uphill journey. When we got to Neiafu we stopped at the bus shelter to enjoy snacks. A lady stopped by to talk with us and we took turns practicing our Samoan. It was such a great time sitting around this little bus shelter sharing our mangos and chatting about our lives. Then the rain began, in was only a slight drizzle and felt nice after such a hot trip. (Leaving for biking at seven in the morning is way too late in the day!) We were then given noodles and ice cream for lunch. The ice cream I had was probably the best cone I had in my life. We were told it would be lime, but it was chocolate chocolate chip….delicious!
We then went on our exploration trip. We went on a hike in the jungle to try and find this mysterious private beach. Dana and I tried to find it last time I was in Neiafu and were unsuccessful, partially because we were pressed for time. We went off the trail and headed towards the water. Matt took a piece of tree bark and used it as a machete to help clear the way. Dana and I were wearing the normal Samoan shoes (flip flops) and we were still struggling on the many hidden rocks and vines that shot out in every direction. It began to rain, and I don’t really mean, like drizzle, it began to pour. We probably hiked for an hour and a half, going on a route that no other Polagi has probably seen. It was gorgeous seeing the gigantic trees growing in every which direction, seeing the coconuts trying desperately to grow into their own tree. I stopped several times to ring out my clothes as there felt like there was enough water soaking in them to fill a swimming pool.
We somehow reached the water, only it was not the beach. We saw the beach still off in the far distance and knew we were not going to make it there. Instead of going back on the trail we just took, we decided to travel on the rocks. The rocks look like lava rocks only they are completely slippery due to the downpour and being next to the ocean. There were plenty of little fresh water pools on the rocks where we stopped to watch the little fish swimming about.
We then passed by two men fishing. They had their homemade fishing rods (What else should I have expected?) using little fish for bait, as they stood on the edge of the rock cliff fishing. We sat there on the rocks watching them. It was so amazing to see them go about their business. This is probably the way they have been doing their fishing for the past thousand years. It is impressive to see how successful their way of life is when it is at its simplest. Everyone does well in Samoa living off of their land. They know how to farm the food they like to eat, and raise their meat they like to eat. Anyway, one of these two men was watching us watch them and cracking jokes about us in Samoan. We didn’t mind because we still were able to see the beauty in what they were doing.
Finally we decided that we needed to leave as we were not going to be spending the night in Neiafu and wanted to make sure there was plenty of time for us to bike home. I collected several more cuts on my arms, legs, and feet as I tripped over the rocks but it was worth it to go on the adventure we had just taken part in. We headed to a little beach where several kids saw us going, and decided to join us. It was relaxing swimming in the ocean again with friends. The kids were trying to impress us with the trick dives they could do off the rocks. (I was so nervous the entire time, ready to get my lifeguarding skills to good use as the water was shallow.)
By the time we had finished it was still pouring and we knew we did not want to ride in the rain. (Matt scared me when he mentioned hydroplaning on a bike…I never thought of that, yikes!) We laid down and just when I was about to sleep we noticed the rain had stopped. We did not know if this was going to last and if we were going to leave now was the time!
I headed home. I was tired riding on my bike as my gears did not want to switch and it seemed as though I was always stuck in the wrong gear. I was tired, it began to rain and I began to wonder if my father in my village would pick me up at the place where I collapsed on the side of the road. When all of a sudden I saw one of the vehicles in my village going in the opposite direction. I did not know how far they were heading, but I did not want them to think of me as being weak and a quitter. I decided I would beat them home. I suddenly had this gigantic surge of energy. I began biking faster than I did the previous day when my legs were fresh.
When I was about seven villages away from home someone asked me if I wanted to stop and take a break. This was the same person who stopped me last time when I was heading home from New Years. I decided to accept their invitation and had a great talk with this family. They had seen me perform in my dancing debut in Sagone and had remembered me from that. They also knew my family. (Although it seems as though everyone I run into knows them.)
I was so excited when I made it home and ready to eat! Biking really takes the energy out of you. I had biked about 90 kilometers in the past two days and it was a great experience. Maybe I’ll be ready for the bike trip around the island sooner than expected.
I am going to try to do one big biking trip a month. For February I am planning on trying the trip to Salelologa which should be amazing, as long as my gears hold up!


Throughout training I would go for a swim in the afu (waterfall) in Manunu. We loved going to the waterfall as it was so peaceful to go swimming in the cool water after a hot day in class. We could float on our back and look up and see all the trees blocking the clouds.
Every day in Samoa I was wearing my watch as I did not want to be late for class, and since I did not carry a phone with me places I felt the need to know the time whenever I may want to know it.
One day at the waterfall, my watch fell off and it was impossible to find in the cloudy water. I think it was symbolic of time here in Samoa. I went from going to such a time orientated country as the United States to such a relaxed atmosphere as Samoa.
If it is time for church, you will not know based upon the sound of the old tank (it looks like a helium or oxygen tank, although I am not sure) ringing, some other metal container is used to mark the start of school. If a church activity is taking place they bang on something that looks similar to an old canoe. If a Matai meeting or a village clean up is to take place they scream it out for the village to hear. In Manunu they used a conch shell to share the events going on in the village. (Which has lead me to pick up the Lord of the Flies to read.)
Time is of no importance here. It was pretty symbolic of me losing my watch in the water. Time has now been washed away. There is no need to be so time oriented here as you will be the only one who is. I have now had my mind begin to switch from needing to know the time at all time, to realizing that it does not matter. Things will happen when they do, and if you try to force it to happening when it is supposed to, it will just get you more frustrated.
I have also lost track of American holidays, and the only reason I will know of them is that the Peace Corps Office will send out a message to us saying the office will be closed due to the holiday. I just received this message yesterday for Monday’s holiday. I was so confused as to what holiday this would be. It took me a long time to learn that it was Martin Luther King Day.
Things will happen when they do, no need to look at your watch, life goes on whether you wear a watch or not.

moa = chicken

Eating is always an adventure in Samoa. Sometimes you are given a tray of food to eat off of and other times it is like family dinners in America with serving dishes.
When people want you to eat something they make sure to tell you. At the table, or sitting around an open fale people will begin to shout of the different food in front of you to remind you to eat them. I do not eat a lot of meat here, so usually they are shouting out the different meat types over anything else. Sometimes it feels as though every minute the adults I eat with are telling me something else in front of me.
The first time this happened was in our training village of Manunu (which feels like a million years ago, even though it has only been a month….It feels like I have been away from America for several years as of now. As you can tell I am having a difficult time getting my days straight.) I thought they were just trying to tell me the different types of food and how to say them in Samoan, however, it kept happening. It has been three months now and now I am convinced it will happen at every meal.
Eating is a big part of life here. In America there are many topics that are not discussed with others as it causes controversy, such as religion, politics, your weight, and your love life. These rules do not apply here. When talking to someone, there are three topics that will be discussed so if you can master them, others will think you are amazing at your gagana of Samoa (language). The three topics are food, religion and your love life.
When I eat at someone else’s house they want to make sure they feed me as much as possible. I think part of the reason they make sure I know of all of the food at their table so when it comes up in conversation with my family, my family will know how well this other family treated me and served me only the best foods. It is the same way with my family, as they want others to know that they are doing their part in trying to get me short and round. They love telling you how fat you are, even if you are not fat as I have observed. Being fat is a compliment as it shows that others are feeding you well.
When talking about religion, they ask what church I attended the previous week and which one I will attend the next week. They want to know what church I go to at home, and at first I told them about my parents being different religions, but that did not seem to make sense to them and got everyone more confused. Especially because there is no Jewish people here, unless they are here as volunteers or vacationing. (One of the other volunteers told me she tells people she is from the religion of Israel since they are all amazed with Israel and wanting to know more about it.) When I would tell them my father is Catholic, they would ask why I am not attending that church, but truth be told there is no Catholic church near here. I think the closest one is about an hour’s walk away.
They want to know about your love life and ask about your dating life. I have given the response that I have several hundred friends so that way give a laugh out of the situation. (Also that way they do not tell me about their sons who I would like.)
So when you come to visit me, be ready to talk about those three topics, several times a day. And remember at the dinner table they will make sure you know exactly what it is that you are eating, or not eating so you can share it with your friends at a later time. Moa…Chicken…Ulu….talo..esi... Soon you will know all the foods of Samoa!


I am currently reading the Sex Lives of Cannibals and for anyone who wants to have another understanding of what life is like in the Pacific, I suggest you pick it up!
I have seen quite a few people reading it in my training group and they all are in agreement that we can relate to how the author is living his life in Tarawa. (Although it seems as though Sāmoa is a little more luxurious.
I love what he says about the animals because it is completely true. Although I love dearly Albert and Sativa (my cats in Colorado), I can see the point of view of Islanders out here dealing with animals. Unless they serve a purpose, what is the point of them. (Although I can argue that Albert is a world class bug catcher, along with small critter catcher. Although he catches them outside and brings them inside. I still haven’t figured out a way to train him that the catching should only be done inside.) Cats really do not have a purpose in society. (Unless you talk to my dad and he will argue that it makes amazing food in Chinatown.) They might eat a few bugs, but there are so many here that it does not seem to make much of a difference. This is why cats are at the bottom of the eating chain. (First the more important people in the household, then the children who server the food, then usually dogs and cats…if there is anything left.) Cats are treated differently than other animals in Sāmoa as they are allowed to be in the house. (However if they come too close to you while you are eating you can bet that a rock will be thrown at them repeatedly until they scram. I used to feel so badly for these cats, but it is just their way of training them. Although I have not resorted to throwing any rocks (I am told that it will change), I have began to accept them being thrown. However I do not plan to resort to these tactics.
Most dogs also do not have a purpose, unless you consider their purpose to guard your house and bark while trying to attack any visitor you may have. (Please don’t be scared mom, I swear the dogs are more tame on Savai’i opposed to Upolu.) The dogs at my house also have a purpose, to ward off the pigs. Only one of the dogs actually does it, and I think he does it approximately a quarter of the time. I have learned to enjoy his job when he is not doing it. The pigs really enjoy going into areas they know they are not supposed to be in (i.e fenced areas). When they see me they stand there in shock not knowing what to do. I then begin to run after the pig while they run fast into the locked gate several times, then realizing that it is locked after hitting their head several times, they go under the fence in the hole that they created.
When dogs start to bark uncontrollably or go someplace not allowed they are also getting things thrown at them. Dogs have thus learned that when a rock is picked up to try and run away…smart dog!
Animals are not seen as companions here. They are seen for the purpose they need them for, and in some islands in the Pacific, that could entail a food source. (On islands like Tonga dogs are eaten.)
Water in many places is based upon the water tanks, and as I have found out from asking around, that at some period of the year, the water does run out. The author deals with this situation and many more than I can see myself going though. I had so many connections while reading this book that it was great to see other people going through them. He is living on a smaller more remote island, so I can imagine things being a lot worse where he lives than on the gigantic islands of Samoa. (Gigantic when compared to many other islands here.)
So if you are interested in reading about some of the adventures I may be going through, go to the library and pick up that book!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Whenever I am at my parents house and I am to set the table to eat, usually I only give a fork as it seems like the most useful utensil. When we were being given meat we placed a knife on the table. Sometimes when we weren’t sure what was being prepared we would get a spoon as well. It didn’t seem like much to wash an extra two pieces of silverware as we had a dishwasher and most of the work was putting the utensils into the drawer and back out of it.
As you might have guessed we don’t have a dishwasher here. The dishwasher is usually one of the children, sometimes the oldest, sometimes one in the middle, and now a recent occurrence is having the youngest. When the dishes were washed they were placed on the side to dry as they were the dishes used most often and so there was no need to put them away in the cabinet of dishes. Silverware is placed in a cartoon little children’s backpack or in a pitcher that contains many sharp knives (thankfully blade down).
When having a meal in Sāmoa, you can bet that being a Palagi (or even a guest)that you will be at the first group for eating. (The second is for those who serve the food.) n front of you will have a bowl, a plate, a cup (all called ipu) and a spoon. One of the children will come around with a bowl of water and a solo (cleaning towel) for us to wash our hands. The prayer is then said. When I was living in Manunu, they always tried their best to get me to say the prayer, but I felt uncomfortable saying it as I never do it in America. In my new family, I do not have this problem as my tāma and tina say it.
Then comes the difficult time. What do I do with a plate and a bowl? Should I be using both of them? On the table in meat, rice, and taro. Which requires a bowl? Am I making someone wash extra dishes if I use both. And if I use both of them, it seems like too much for me to manage!
After being here for the three months I have learned that knives are not really necessary. (Unless you need to open a can, as a machete makes an amazing can opener, although me being the klutz I am being too scared to try it.) My brother would be thrilled with how everyone eats their meat here. Just pick it up and gnaw at it. If it’s too hot, you have it just sit there on your ipu and use your spoon to cut into the gigantic taro (think potato) on your plate.
When you are finished, if food is left on your plate, it is recycled onto the next eaters and so is your plate. (Why wash it when it will become full of the same meat stains and bones in another minute?) You then get the bowl of water to wash your hands as the next round of eaters begins.

Village Site Assessment

Village Site Assessment
There are two parts to our jobs as Peace Corps. The first is to teach in the schools, the second is to make the community a better place. To do this we are to do a questionnaire that we ask around our village. It has us asking questions about health, water, businesses and other topics. It is very difficult to do as it is very unSamoan to ask these kind of questions in such an informal session. I have been breaking it up and asking a few questions at a time to different people. They are curious as to what I have in my hands as Samoans are very nosy. So I show them the paper with my questions and it is my leeway to ask them about the specific topic I picked.
Today I was asking about small businesses and I was asked to inquire with the Samoan government about getting a small business license and find out how to get a loan so our village can get a gas station. It is a great idea to get a gas station in this area as there are several people with cars and the nearest fuel station is about a thirty minute drive in either direction (probably longer).
No matter what I was not expecting this kind of an answer. Some villages do a sewing or craft project to make money, others make bread and other goods, and others do things to beef up their tourism.
I told them I do not know about it, but I will inquire about it. Making a gas station is a huge project as it needs drilling and a lot of other environmental issues.
If I am to succeed at creating this gas station they told me they will name it after me. “Lilly’s Petrol” is what they thought of. I told them it should be “Lilly’s Got Gas” and explained the double meaning of the word gas. The younger people found it more amusing than the adults.
Anyway, gas or no gas, wish me luck.


Bats are called pe’a, which is the same word for tattoo. I like the flying pe’a better. Bats eat ripe ulu. There are many ulu trees by my house. I have realized that the ulu is ripe because there are bats flying near my house.
I was told that a bat tastes like chicken. Apparently everything in the world is compared to tasting like chicken.

Grants...take 2

Grants Part 2
The nice person I am working with at the JICA office wrote an email back to me about what needed to get done to further our application. I had to get a building report about the conditions of our building from a reputable outsider such as our carpenter. I told my tinā what was needed and that she had to get in touch with the family that knows the carpenter to see when he would be back in town, or to see if his son was able to do the report.
A week passed by of me asking every so often if she has seen the family yet, then one day I was told that the family I attended to’ona’i with was the family that can get in touch with the carpenter. “Score!” I though. It will happen because this family loves me. (It might be because they really want me to be a uo of their son. But no matter the reason they are always very nice to me so I am happy.)
I decided to walk over there to talk to them. While I was walking I was stopped plenty of times. (It seems as though everyone is always very curious as to my whereabouts at all times. I think it would be impossible to hide anything as everyone in a few villages surrounding me know where I am at all times!)
When I got to the house I was offered a seat, offered tea and food. I declined (I think they are all on the operation “Get Lilly Short and Round”). We talked for a bit, them wanted to know why I needed this information, and me trying to figure out the best way to answer in as much Sāmoan as possible.
Finally they went for their cell phone to get me the phone number. I was given two phone numbers. I called one and found out the carpenter was still in New Zealand. “Don’t worry” I was told. “His son might be able to help you.” I was given another phone number.
I called. Again, I was directed to another phone number. (At this point I was thrilled that I had money on my phone. It would have been very embarrassing to have no way to make all of these phone calls.) Finally with the last phone number I was given I talked to the son. I told him quickly what I needed to get done. (I only had a few tāla credit on my phone.) There was some confusion with the language barrier and he told me he would meet me in Apia a few hours later. Finally, he understood that I was in Savai’i and not going to be in Apia at the office. He said he would talk to his dad and for me to call back tomorrow.
That afternoon while I was taking my Benadryl nap from the coral, he called back to find out more details to tell his dad about. (I was very impressed as this is very unFa’aSamoan. Usually if they say they will talk to you the next day, it means that it will be in a week or so, not sooner than they said.” I was then awoken again to him telling me that his father would return from New Zealand in a week and would visit my village to finish the last report that needed to get done for a new school building.
Hopefully, this week, is an actual week, and we can move along on our grant proposal.


Coral =Bad time
I learned firsthand that some coral is not good. I went to the sami with some of the people in my village. If everyone is in the sami and it is not a small group, you need to go swimming with everything you have, your i’e, shorts, shirt, even everyone went with their shoes. If anyone had ever swam with a skirt before and knows how uncomfortable that can be, it is the same thing with swimming with an i’a.
There were a few dozen people in the ocean swimming, playing volleyball and rugby in the water. Everyone was having a great time and all the children around me were pinching me under water then saying “malie!” (shark).
All of a sudden the wave pushed me against the ‘amu (coral). My leg began to burn in pain worse than I thought possible. I knew I had to get out of the water, but my leg did not want to move at all. I tried to explain to a few of the others what had happened and they kept telling me how I was okay and I should stay.
I slowly left the water climbing the rocks nearby carefully as they were slippery from the slime that grows atop them from the ocean water. My leg was red with rashes and I had a few marks that looked like it was a bug bite.
I headed home, and showed the mark to my parents. They said that it was the yellow coral and that it has hurt them a few times as well. I hopped in the shower and went to bed with some bendryl. I spend the rest of the day laying in bed in bed in pain. I must really be a baby for not being able to deal with a little coral sting.
I left my room a few hours later for the faleuila and was stopped to eat some food. I ate my palusami and talo and was told that dinner would be ready soon. I don’t know how I am going to get used to so many meals on one day. I said that I was still not feeling well and going back to bed.
The next day when I awoke the pain was gone. The memory of where the evil coral was in the ocean remains, and my family reminded me to only swim by the sandy beach, not by the rocks so I don’t have this experience again.


Coral =Bad time
I learned firsthand that some coral is not good. I went to the sami with some of the people in my village. If everyone is in the sami and it is not a small group, you need to go swimming with everything you have, your i’e, shorts, shirt, even everyone went with their shoes. If anyone had ever swam with a skirt before and knows how uncomfortable that can be, it is the same thing with swimming with an i’a.
There were a few dozen people in the ocean swimming, playing volleyball and rugby in the water. Everyone was having a great time and all the children around me were pinching me under water then saying “malie!” (shark).
All of a sudden the wave pushed me against the ‘amu (coral). My leg began to burn in pain worse than I thought possible. I knew I had to get out of the water, but my leg did not want to move at all. I tried to explain to a few of the others what had happened and they kept telling me how I was okay and I should stay.
I slowly left the water climbing the rocks nearby carefully as they were slippery from the slime that grows atop them from the ocean water. My leg was red with rashes and I had a few marks that looked like it was a bug bite.
I headed home, and showed the mark to my parents. They said that it was the yellow coral and that it has hurt them a few times as well. I hopped in the shower and went to bed with some bendryl. I spend the rest of the day laying in bed in bed in pain. I must really be a baby for not being able to deal with a little coral sting.
I left my room a few hours later for the faleuila and was stopped to eat some food. I ate my palusami and talo and was told that dinner would be ready soon. I don’t know how I am going to get used to so many meals on one day. I said that I was still not feeling well and going back to bed.
The next day when I awoke the pain was gone. The memory of where the evil coral was in the ocean remains, and my family reminded me to only swim by the sandy beach, not by the rocks so I don’t have this experience again.

Tragedy Part 2

Tragedy Part 2
The day after the woman was hit by the car I was awoken a little after five to a Matai screaming in the village (this is how the people in my village communicate with one another). This screaming event felt like it was happening right outside my window as about 30 feet away is where the Matai’s meet. I was planning on going into the city that day anyway to celebrate Ali’s birthday and get my much awaited mail.
The previous day I inquired about the first bus and I was told it would be at 6:00. (Quite a few of us where meeting so I wanted to make sure I had some time to go online and put up these blogs that I somehow find time to write. I usually have to pretend I’m sleeping in my room for longer than normal in order to write.) So naturally I went outside to wait for it at 5:40. While I was waiting for the bus my many friends in the village were trying to get me to come to church with them. I politely refused as I had a mission to attend a Peace Corps sister’s aso fanau. (You can never say friend as then they think you are dating this person.) So I stood there by the road watching the Methodist Church service in front of me and the Matai meeting to the right of me.
It was extremely interesting to watch. At the church after they sang beautifully, they were praying for 20 minutes (I timed them). While at the Matai meeting I noticed there were 2 pickup trucks and a big taxi van, which I presumed to be from the Matai’s of the man who drove the car that hit the woman. They were displaying fine mats and they were presented.
Before I could ask any questions, one of the woman in my village who was also heading to the city told me that we should go to the bus driver’s house to get on the bus. (How simple does that sound, if the bus does not show up, go to the house where one of the bus driver’s lives and make sure he is ready to leave.) We hop on the bus, I tried to sit in the front and the woman in my village told me to move to the seat in front of her. The bus left around 6:10, which was not too far off the 6:00 mark so I was quite impressed.
The engine roared and the music began to blast it’s normal dance music. We turned towards the city which was an amazing surprise. We drove around picking people up and then suddenly to my surprise, we turned around again. We passed my village again (The Matai meeting was over, but church was still in session). And headed towards where the route is really supposed to start from. We passed Elisa’s village, the bus already was full of packages and people, There were already people sitting on laps. By the time we got to the last village in my district, the woman sitting behind me told me to move so I could sit on her lap, as most little wooden benches already had 4 people to them.
I moved quickly past the man and child sitting next to me and sat on her lap. I immediately felt the sharp bolt digging into my body. I knew it was going to be a long ride. We rode around for about ten minutes, and then people shifted so two men (sitting on each other’s laps) were sitting next to me. The woman from my village did not like this. She used her body the best she could to be a barrier from me and the men as she held the side of my body. When the bus stopped for the billionth time to get more passengers she had me move again so I was facing the window, so that way the men could only really see my back.
When there are four people to a seat, often the person on a lap next to the window faces the window. I learned that this is the most uncomfortable position, and although I no longer had a bolt slicing my body into pieces, I would have gladly accepted the bolt instead of my cramped quarters. Sitting on her lap, I had my knees pressed against the window, my feet in a little pocket of air in which I was unable to move them as there was no space because of packages and the other many people on the bus. My legs fell asleep numerous times and I could do nothing about that because there was no place I could move to. I could not find the room to let alone try to wiggle my toes let along the rest of my body.
The bus was full, with four to every seat, and there was just about no standing room. (The person who helps out the bus driver was hanging out the door.) After almost three hours of being on this bus (It is normally a little over an hour’s bus ride.) we finally reached the city. Passengers began leaving slowly as they wanted to get off at their different stores. Finally there were enough people off in which I did not have to lap sit anymore. (Of course this had to happen when there was only about five minutes left of my ride to go.)
The city was a good time, we cleaned our much needed office, celebrated the birthday with an amazing lunch (yummm…meat without bones!), paid the electric bill, and did our normal tafaoing. Finally it was time for the next to last bus. I wanted to avoid having the same situation as I had before, so I made sure to get on the bus early, and lucky enough I did not have to sit on anyone’s lap as the bus was not as crowded.
When I finally reached home, I had a normal evening where I watched some volleyball, fed the baby cow many bottles of milk, and had a talk with my tama. I asked him about the Matai meeting. The fine mats were covering people to show their shame and the family took it off those people to show they forgive them. The family was also presented money from the visiting Matais. They were invited inside which meant that they were forgiven.
When I inquired about the driver, the police did get involved and the man is in jail awaiting his trial. Some of the Matais said that Ofa, the woman, shouldn’t have been walking to church by herself as she was old. However, that woman had been walking by herself to church for 30 years (according to my dad) and had never had a problem as she did not walk on the road and walked on the side by the grass. Apparently the driver was not paying any attention and was old.
If I find out more about this situation, I will be sure to post it.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Who took the water?
Being in Samoa I live on an island. Wouldn’t you think because of this we would have an abundance of water, especially during the rainy season? Apparently not…
While I was living in Manunu I learned that if it rained too much they would shut off the water supply because otherwise the water would become brown from all the dirt it collected.
For the past three weeks the water is shut off for a majority of the day. It is usually turned on for about two hours during the day. Most of the people in our community do have water tanks to get the water we need. However I don’t know if I am being wasteful if I use that water for my laundry. I am not sure which water I am ever supposed to be using. It is so confusing when you are not sure which place to take the water from.
Anyway, the problem with the water comes into play with the bathroom. The water had to keep disappearing when we had guests, especially guests who felts sick and used the toilet frequently. My family solved this problem by putting a gigantic barrel in the shower and filled it up whenever the water was turned on. That way we can take buckets to the toilet tank to flush.
However, since there were too many sick people the water disappeared quickly and there was no water to shower inside. I am not Samoan enough to take outside showers. I am not sure exactly how to navigate being outside with a cloth around me showering. I decided if it got that bad I would break down and do it….but as soon as the water turned on I made sure to make a quick dash to the bathroom.
The water has been on for the past few days, but because of how unsure we are how long the water will be kept on, the barrel stays in the shower. It is difficult to shower when there is such a massive thing blocking the shower head. This causes me to still use a bucket to shower even though I am still showering indoors.
I hope the water stays on because this bucket thing is getting old….fast. It makes me feel bad for those of you who have to do it daily.

Tradegy at Church

Tragedy at Church
This morning I went to church ready for another normal Sunday. I headed there after the first bell rang. I was talking with some of the adults in my community when all of a sudden we heard a loud sound. We looked down the road towards Foailalo and saw a woman lying down in the middle of the road with a van next to her.
She was dressed in her Sunday clothes as she was heading to the Methodist church. People from all directions ran to help her. One of the people in our church drove right over towards her and loaded her in the car to take her to the hospital at Foailalo.
The service went on as normal, with a short mention of the tragedy on the first Sunday of the year. (Also another mention to me about how there are plenty of available handsome men in Foailuga for me to pick from.)
I was grabbed by the hand and taken for to’ogani at someone’s house. While we were eating we heard the church bells right. The people I was eating with went on their phone and found out the bells were for the old woman as she had just passed away.
When I got home after eating I found out from my tina that was the reason they worry about me being on my own. They do not trust Samoan drivers as many of them drive without licenses and are reckless.
It has been such a sad day. Hopefully it will turn around. My little sister told me now that she is fefe (nervous) to walk around. I hope are community grows in strength from this.

New Years

New Years
Most of the people in my training group and a few others got together for New Years at Falealupo. This is where the last sunset of the year is. If you were to pick up one of the tourist guides for Samoa, it will tell you that at this location is the only place you can see the next day.
We were lucky that even though it had been raining constantly recently, and it was cloudy, the sunset was still gorgeous.
At 6:00P.M. a few of us had a countdown for the East Coast New Years. We were sad to not see the ball drop, so Rachel grabbed a coconut, and at the end of our countdown it dropped. It was a great taste of home while we were enjoying the beach. I was also a part of a screaming celebration for the Mountain Time Zone New Years.
In the evening we had a fire on the beach which was beautiful. For the New Years we had our own countdown ass we sat around the fire. It was beautiful. But since everyone has their clocks set on their own not from an atomic clock, a minute after we announced the New Year another group on the beach began screaming for the New Years.
On January first we decided to head to the Rainforest Preserve and the Canopy Walkway. We were told it would be about a 30-45 minute walk to it. After walking for well over an hour people in our group began to lose their drive to make it to our destination. (Part of the reason was that we were tricked into paying money to see a footprint of a giant from Samoan’s history.) When we were about to head back to our beach fale, a car came by and offered to give us a ride. We gladly accepted and made it to the Canopy Walkway. Sadly I made the mistake of having an open bag in the car, and my camera fell out.
We climbed up steep stairs on a tree. At the top of this gigantic tree was an amazing overlook of the rainforest. We could see far around us. It was beautiful. I would to recommend anyone coming to Savai’i to come the Canopy Walkway to see it. We also got to cross the bridge between the two old trees. The bridge is very small and only one person can go at a time. Since it had been raining, the wooden planks holding us up were slippery. It was a fun experience, even though others thought it was scary.
During the night the people at the beach resort put on a show for us with their amazing dance moves. The night concluded with us doing a fast version of our dance we did at our farewell to Manunu.
The next morning we all said our goodbyes as we knew it would be another few weeks until we saw each other again. It is amazing how much we all keep changing the longer we are here. We are all growing as people and becoming such strong individuals. I love the members of my group and are so proud to hear of all they have gone through in the less than three months I have known them.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong
When I was little I remember when my mother told me it is time for me to lose my training wheels. We were living in Village Greens and having a bicycle seemed like the biggest luxury for a child. You could use it to get to the pool in about five minutes, go to soccer or baseball games, fly down the hill at warped speed, or just visit the other million kids in our neighborhood. A bicycle was the way to get to our oasis.
Being the youngest out of three, I was always given hand me downs. I never thought of it is as being a bad thing, because if my sister or brother ever had anything I wanted, I knew give it a few years and it would then be mine. The first bike I remember having that wasn’t one of those little three wheelers was my brother’s black bike. It had yellow on it and I thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. My mother had tried to teach my brother to ride without training wheels and I never remember her being completely successful at the task. However, with me I learned quickly.
As time when on and I entered my teen years biking became a less “cool” thing to do and after I was given my first real bike (not a hand me down), I quit riding. Although they say riding a bicycle is something you never forget how to do, I began to forget. It was okay with me because I soon learned about the speed of the New York City Transit System, as they get you places much quicker than the bike.
When I was about to enter college my parents decided it was time for me to learn something new, like driving. I was terrified of the thought of driving at first because for some unknown reason I was convinced that cars mysteriously burst into flames when you are on the highway. It is impossible to avoid highways, which made me think that I would easily have my car combust into flames. Nevertheless, my parents convinced me that in Wyoming (where I went to University), driving was a necessity. So a week before I went to school, I got my driving license. And after one amazing year of school my parents helped me purchase my first car (In which I still owe them a lot of money….thanks mom and dad!). Quack is an amazing car who got me everywhere, and with gas being as cheap as a dollar a gallon at that point, it was easy and cheap to get places.
However, the economy began to change….and gas went up to two dollars a gallon. I thought it was pretty ridiculous that they could charge so much for it. My mother brought me up always looking for ways to save money, so I began to do that. I decided that my solution would be to buy a new bicycle, and although it cost a lot up front, I would never need to put any gas in it.
I walked to the bicycle store knowing that I would have a new bike to bring home. Luckily the mountain bike that fit me best was in my favorite color. So that afternoon I went home with my pretty yellow Trek bike. That first few weeks I fell down several times as I was relearning how to ride it. I lived on the other side of town and rode my bike over the bridge everywhere. It brought me back to the days where bike riding made me feel so carefree.
However, when I finished college I moved to the suburbs of Denver where bike riding I found hard to get around everywhere. I felt it would be impossible to ride my bike to work (probably about 80 blocks), and to the store like I used to at college. So sadly, my bike sat more in the garage. It was taken out each year for the Tour de Fat in Fort Collins, and a few more times, but not much.
Moving to Samoa we were told we were going to get issued bikes. I marveled during training at the volunteers who rode their bikes everywhere and envied how easy it looked for them. We heard stories of those who travelled around both islands and marveled at their courage and strength of doing this feat, especially in the heat! Peace Corps did not anticipate such a small group coming in and so for a few vertically challenged people like myself, we were given bikes a little too big for us. We knew we would make due as we still were thrilled of the excitement of riding around Samoa on our bikes.
The Saturday before we were to swear in we met at the office to put together bikes. Some of the current volunteers I would consider to be bike experts and they showed us what to do at the various stations to put together the bikes. The first thing I learned was how to empty the box that contained the bike without losing the pieces. (This is a big enough feat for me.) We slowly learned how to put on the handlebars, pedals, kickstand and the bell for the bike. They double checked our work as they passed our bikes to the next station. Eventually we were able to get all nineteen bikes done in the crowded office.
I was a little intimidated of my bike at first. It looked so pretty and expensive and I hoped that I would not be the first to completely my break my bike! I finally determined that a trip to Elisa was the way to go to test out my strength. She was only about four or five villages away, so I was confident I would be able to make this excursion. I quickly learned that all the running I was doing in Upolu was not getting me in the shape for bike riding as when I arrived to Elisa’s fale (after asking everyone desperately in the village which one the Pisi Koa lived in and getting several different answers, even when I was right in front of her fale) I quickly collapsed in a chair in her room. I apparently was looking of complete exhaustion as she angled her fan directly at me and made sure I was drinking plenty of water. (Our PCMO, Teuila, would be proud of how amazing my Peace Corps sister was being of my health.)
Another day I got the courage to make the trek again, and this time extended it so I would visit Max as well. This time went amazingly well as I only had to walk up one hill during the entire trek. They both still made sure I was not completely out of breath before I would return home.
Training group 82 decided that we would spend New Years at the place where we could see the last sunset in the world, Falealupo. We knew that this destination was remote and only one bus a day would arrive there. Which is how we came up with the brilliant idea that all of us in Savai’i should ride our bikes to this destination. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to see the island in as different viewpoint than our normal crowded busses.
However, one day Ali took out her bike, and after riding in the heat, decided that this was not the best idea. The people on the north shore dropped out of the plan one by one. They began to make me feel unsure about myself doing the trip as I learned that my trip would be all up and down hills, and riding my bike for a minimum of 40 minutes for 2 days was not exactly training for this feat. I talked to my host dad about this plan and he said, “You never know what you can accomplish until you try”. He felt confident that I would be able to make it without a problem and only asked for a little phone call to ensure my safely of arrival. My family in America was also nervous as I told them how long I expected the trip to be. Looking at a map I estimated it to be around 35km. I wanted it to take no more than 5 hours with sightseeing included in the time.
On December 31st I awoke early to ensure I left early. I was able to unlock our gate and be on my bicycle by 5:55 A.M. I was feeling great as I reached Elisa’s village in what felt like record time and the little hills were not effecting me yet. I passed by a few beaches that made you pay a few tala to enter and wondered what they looked like, and if I were not heading on my own beach trip I might have taken a break there. I passed Lovers Leap and the sign that was there made me wonder if you do have all the beautiful sea creatures emerging from the water there, again another place I will have to visit. I was told by Max to stop and fill up my water at the village at the end of my district as there would not be another village for a long time following. At 6:30 I reached it, not remembering the name, so of course I drove right threw.
I began to wonder how long it would be until I reached my next village as my water bottle was nearing empty and it felt like I was riding my bike with the beautiful scenery and no civilization forever! I also began to realize that how great I thought our bike making team was, we made a few defects on our bikes and my gears were not working properly. They continued to clank until I switched gears, and then in the next gear I would hear that clanking sound persist. There was no getting around the gear problem.
Finally after riding my bike for 45 minutes without cars even passing by, I reached Falelima, the next nu’u. I was told that it was only one village away from Neiafu where I would be taking a break. I figured the villages were put together like they were in my area, close together. After walking up an enormous hill and wondering when this village would ever end, I made it to the Neiafu sign.
I met up with Dana in Neiafu Tai, which was good because after two hours of riding by myself I was ready for a friend! We went for s little hike in the woods to find a beach and after an hour of walking, we realized that we had failed on our mission.
There are two ways to go from Neiafu Tai-both are uphill. We decided to go the way that had a steeper hill because it was a shorter route. We walked our bikes uphill for half an hour. It was so steep and how that it felt worse than my two hour trip up and down hill by myself. Dana had taken the hill once before and kept up with false promises that it would be right behind the next switchback. When we finally made it up to the top we enjoyed a nice break in a faleo’o.
For the next twenty minutes of our ride we barely had to pedal as it was all downhill. We rang our bells and screamed in enjoyment as we zoomed down the hill. We passed many people who laughed when they saw our enjoyment. We then reached the shoreline and had a beautiful but rough ride. The road was no longer paved and in many places was covered with a bit too much sand. We learned the hard way that sand makes you lose control of the bike and causes you to almost topple over. It did not matter to us as we were thrilled that we were almost at our destination. It had only taken about three hours. Dana and I beamed with excitement when we saw the others.
After two amazing nights with my Peace Corps friends, (and about a million cuts and bruises from the adventures of the New Years) it was time for me to return home. Dana had left prior to me and I decided to try the other route instead of going through Neiafu Tai to avoid another super sandy road.
When I was about 20 minutes into my ride I stopped to have a drink of water. Immediately my left sandal broke. I knew I was going to be walking up hill a lot and tried to fix my shoe. I think the longer you are in Samoa the better you become at quick fixes of shoes. I know I did not get it perfect, but I was able to fix my shoe enough for about a ten minute walk uphill before it would break again.
There seemed to be more people out on the roads, more cars, more bicycles and more children screaming “bye” as I passed. (For some reason when children see a white person that is what they say, no hello, just bye….strange if you ask me.) I had someone riding with me at the end of the trip which was nice. He told me about his family in my village. Even though I was completely exhausted from the previous days, it surprisingly only about three hours again.
I may not be Lance Armstrong, but I never thought I would be able to make a long trip like this. I see cyclists like him and admire their strength and determination as they do those amazing trips on their bikes. I learned from this trip, anyone can pretty much do a long biking trip if they just have determination. Maybe by the time I finish with Samoa I will become a cyclist and see the entire country by bike.
Who knows? If others can do it..why can’t I?

Church Fun

I did it, I finally went to the last Church in my village. I saved the one without an actually physical church building for last. Being at this church it made me realize what church may have been like when the missionaries first arrived. It was held inside an open fale. All of the children sat on the fala on the floor, while they had a tented area for the adults to sit. When I arrived I began to go to the back, and someone lead my all the way to the front to be with the children.
There was a lot of singing as there was a little church band. Some of the woman began chanting aloud “Praise the lord” at the top of their lungs. They reminded me of the people that sometimes jump onto the subway cars or NYC busses screaming that and other religious expressions.
After the church we all headed down towards the end of town to the sami (ocean) where there is a vaita’ele(pool). They began to baptize a few of the people in the congregation. It was very unique because I never saw this before. It is amazing how everyone is involved whether they enter the water or not.
After the baptism I went with the faife’au to the to’ona’i. Another person visiting from American Samoa was also there. We enjoyed a delicious meal with three different soups as well as many other delicious foods. At the meal they convinced me to come back at 4 for the children’s service. (They lured me in with the thought of receiving pancakes. Trust me Samoan pancakes are so amazing they would make you attend anything to in hope that you would get them.)
I spent the afternoon relaxing as I knew there would be plenty of church in the evening. Three of the churches were meeting at 6 in the evening for a service where they will have their different choirs perform. Rumor on the auala is that one of the churches decided not to attend because they wanted to be last on the program and they were not.
I went to the falesa at 4. There was a lot of dancing and singing. It reminded me of a talent show as people came up with their requests on a piece of paper, and then they were called up to perform. The youth group did perform and they had pretty remarkable dances as well. I was asked to go to the front of the service and onto the microphone to introduce myself and tell little tidbits of information to make everyone realize how interesting of a person I am so they will feel the desire to get to know me.
The clock was quickly approaching six, and I did not want to be late to the other service. I quietly excused myself, which I knew made a scene because again I was placed in the front.
Someone saw me on the auala and offered me a ride to the Iglesia. When I stepped inside I was greeted by the different people from the three churches and asked to sit at the front. (Something I should be getting used to!)
All of the faife’au gave their sermon and the different congregations began to sing like angels. I was asked to sing with the Aso Fitu Falesa (Seventh Day Adventist) as they are the church of my family. I went to only a few of their practices as I have been busy running around meeting the different people of my village.
The rest of the congregations sang from their seats, but like normal, guess which group got to get out of their seats and stand in front of everyone to perform. I don’t know if it is because we are the smallest congregation as there are only a few families in our church. But I still think it was partly due to the fact that they wanted me in the front of the room to sing.
Church ended around 9 at night and I was pooped! I had spent around eight hours at church that day. Going to church was beginning to feel like a full time job. I can tell you that I was excited to realized that the holidays were over, as the long church services were about to come to an end.
I am beginning to see an appreciation for church more and more as it is a great way to bring the community together, but it is difficult when I come from a society where there is not as big of an emphasis put on attending.


The best Christmas ever….
Growing up we would always have a pretty normal Christmas. Not doing much for Christmas eve, except for sometimes getting a last minute Christmas tree, (My family is notoriously known for being probably the last one to get a tree.) or doing some last minute decorating with whoever was coming in for the holiday from college or for some other reason, or better yet doing our last minute Christmas shopping. The Christmas shopping always happened with at least one person who was slacking because they did not wait to head to the crazy shopping malls of New York, so they waited until the last minute to buy something, when of course they malls were the worst. (Shopping lines of dozens of people and waiting for an hour to buy one little item is not my idea of a good time!) Last year me and my siblings hung out for hours in my sister’s bedroom putting the finishing touches on the gift for our parents as we realized that mom would not complain and ask us to return a gift that was homemade and not from the department store. We usually did things as a family nonetheless, playing cards and just spending time together.
On Christmas day we always had out little silly traditions. We would wake up our parents early in the morning, even as we grew older, my brother still continues this tradition as he anxiously awaits opening his gifts. We all stay upstairs in our pajamas while our parents go downstairs to prepare for our arrival. I remember being little and trying to grab a sneak peak of what everything looks like under the tree. Hoping to hear the silly little tunes of our musical Christmas tree lights. Dad sets up the video camera, and mom takes reins on the regular camera so they are able to act as a team to capture our every movement. The music from the radio, record player, and as we grew up and technologies advanced a cd player is turned on to a jolly Christmas song.
My brother and sister and I make sure our slippers are tightly secured as we don’t want the embarrassment of a trip or a small slip down the stairs. We line up in age order, and begin doing a silly little dance slowly down the stairs, stopping at the landing so we can “oooh and ahhh” at the sight of all the gifts under the Christmas tree. It always looked so magical, even when we had our little Charlie Brown trees that looked like our heavy ornaments were ready to take down the tree before you knew what would hit you. We then quickened our step as we knew what awaits.
My parents usually sat on the couch, or a nearby chair as they seemed to enjoy us looking like birds scavenge around to find the amazing treats that await. We pass the wrapped boxes to whoever the sharpie name says they go to. My brother used to be excited when he received a toy in his set as he was always anxious to get the elusive whole collection of something. We make a pile for my parents and beg repeatedly for them to open their present so they can see they silly things we made for them, and they always refuse and wait for us to finish. My mom always insists she is given the wrong thing, especially from my dad, and makes a point of asking him to return it, while she has a silly sad look on her face. (This is probably why my dad struggles so much with finding the ideal gift for her each year and waits for the last minute.) My dad always insists that he doesn’t need anything and we shouldn’t have wasted our money on him. (I’m sure he probably said this based upon the really ugly ties we would pick up for him on our many trips to Chinatown. Us kids were probably the cause for him not enjoying the gift giving…one too many bad ties!)
We would then head to the kitchen while dad made delicious pancakes (usually chocolate chip). We then spent the rest of the day playing with our new toys and relaxing. Sometimes we would make the trip to Yonkers to visit my aunt Ann and Uncle Guy, but we usually made the trip before the holiday, as traffic was always an issue and my mother would rush us so we would not be late. That combination made it difficult for us to travel on holidays, especially when we were young children.
Christmas day in Samoa we were told is nothing like it is in America. When we first arrived here in October all we would hear from everyone’s blasting stereo was Christmas jingles, usually mixed with a dance beat, or a random hip hop song, or something else that seemed a little off to an outsider. We all assumed that Christmas was a big holiday because of the big lead up to it.
When asking around what people did on this holiday it seemed different than our expectations. Some of the Peace Corps volunteers told me that they people in their villages did not go to church, and would spend their afternoon playing volleyball in their malae. The real holiday was on Christmas eve in which everyone went to church and a performance by the youth took place with singing, dancing and acting.
Talking too people in Foailuga, it seemed as though my village was an exception to the rule. I had heard rumor that they would be pese ma savavali (caroling) on Christmas eve put on by the Methodist Church. Since I was spending so much time with that church because of their youth group, I should be able to invite myself. Otherwise I knew that on Christmas day we would be performing our dances, and volleyball would be taking place. So as you can tell I was expecting a laid back holiday, as is the life here in Samoa. (I knew it would especially be different because I was living with a family that was a Seventh Day Adventist, so they did not celebrate this holiday.) Leading up to this day I saw maybe a dozen families with either a Christmas tree or Christmas lights strung about. My favorite was several glass ball ornaments on a little tree outside the family’s home.
We started Christmas eve evening by going to Sagone, a nearby village where my tama was helping with their Christmas program. His family is from that nu’u so he still feels very connected to his roots there. It was to be similar to our upcoming performance as the skit would be the same. Nevertheless, it was something to do so I tagged along on the outing.
My borther Iosefa (Joseph) drove us since it was already dark. We saw some of the youth group dances which were amazing. It is great to see how awesome people can choreograph their own dances. They always pick up beat fun music that just makes you happy to be around them. Then the skits started and I recognized the songs and dances that I would take place in the following day. After hour about 3, the baby was tired, and so was I (of seeing the performances). So we headed home.
As we headed to the laolao (table) to eat I heard the banging of the canoe at the Methodist Church to call everyone to go caroling. I threw the food into my mouth as quickly as I could and changed into my church white clothes. I left in such a rush that I forgot to bring a white piece of cloth to cover my head. Apparently we were to dress like the Arabs or something. I honestly do not know enough about the bible to understand the reference, especially when it was pretty much explained to me in Samoan and broken English.
In movies I have always enjoyed seeing people caroling and secretly wished I was in their shoes. It always looked so beautiful seeing people go around in the snow with their song books and singing songs that made them sound so angelic. I have never been a singer, and in fact I consider myself to be one of the worst in most situations. But the thought of caroling still seemed like the perfect way to celebrate the holidays.
I got to the church hall and everyone seemed happy that I got the information on the coconut wireless to come and join in on their festivities. I came prepared with my flashlight as I normally travel in the evenings with it as I am always nervous for tripping on the several massive holes on the road. They were quick to invite me to attend church in the morning with them. When I inquired about the time I was given several different answers. They told me answers anytime from 6 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.. The clear consistency was just go when the church bells ring.
We headed down the road to Satuiatua. I was giggling at the excitement that was to await me. It is an incredible experience being a part of a group of at least fifty people on the road all dressed in white with white things covering their heads (although I do have to admit, at one point I did get an image of the Klu Klux Klan). We got into formation. They put me in the front of one of the lines, as everyone seems to normally do. (It doesn’t seem to bother them about my lack of staying on key for singing, as they are just thrilled to have me join them in their daily experiences.) We went to a house that I assume is the faife’au (pastor)’s house. Him and his family greeted us with a prayer and money to thank us for coming by with our song. We continued down the road everyone singing the songs out of memory. Thankfully someone had the vi’iga (hymn) book for me to look on with a flashlight. I always thought reading and walking was difficult. Imagine walking, reading by flashlight, singing all in the dark. I felt so horrible for the person in front of me as I continuously was stepping on their heels.
We stopped at different houses who had their lights on and were out to greet us. They all thanked us for our angelic voices, gave a prayer, and then money of course. We went past our nu’u and onto Foailalo, the village on the other side of us. Everyone in our group was smiling and laughing the entire time. At close to midnight we headed back to the church hall.
Someone gave a speech about how amazing we did, and others reminded me to attend the morning service. I ended up getting home after midnight. (What a late night for being in Samoa.) I knew I would have to set my alarm clock otherwise awake in the morning.
I awoke bright and early in the morning and immediately heard the church bells ringing. I quickly put on my white puletasi and headed down the road to church. Some of the people that have been dancing with me took me by the hand and guided me towards the front to sit with them as I could also sing along from their vi’iga book. It was the first time I went to church on Christmas and it was a good experience. It was really nice to see how it brought the community together. Even though there are four different churches in the village, it was nice to see a gathering of well over a hundred people for this holiday.
After church I headed home for a huge delicious breakfast and a nice malolo (rest). It began to rain and everyone thought all of the games were going to be off as people do not want to be out in the rain, and for most of the day that was the case.
In the afternoon I headed out to my dance practice for the evening’s program. Me still not understanding how time works here, showed up when they told me to, and I was very late. They told me that we would be leaving for the performance at 3:30 in the afternoon so we should arrive dressed.
I headed with a few of the others to the malae to watch and play volleyball. Not playing volleyball in years has made me one of the worst players in the world. I think I constantly hit the ball with my face more than my actual arms. I knew there was not much time so I left without playing much there.
I ate quickly as I did not know how long that evening would last and when my next meal would come. I walked over to where we were supposed to meet for the day. I hung out with the people who lived there as they hung around the house….not getting ready. 4:00 came and went. 4:30 still nothing. Around 5:00 the family began taking bucket showers outside and others began to trickle in. Around 5:45 most of my group had shown up. They decorated a pickup truck and two of the girls in my group dressed in traditional clothes while 2 men also did as their protectors and they were loaded into the bed of the truck. Then the engine started.
Someone had the tin from the tin of a massive container of crackers and a stick to bang a beat on. Another group of boys had a log to do the same with. My group began singing as we marched down the road.
Growing up I loved to go to all the parades of New York City. I always begged my parents to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and because of my mother’s need to be everywhere early, we would be able to go often since I could argue that it was on the way to Yonkers. I even enjoyed going to the little Staten Island parades as they were entertaining in their own ways. Whenever I visit a different city, if there is a parade going on, I love to attend it to see the excitement and thrill of that town. Nevertheless, out of all the places I’ve been to, Macy’s steals the cake as one of the best parades. However, the people from Macy’s should come to Samoa as they have some competition to stay on top!
The group grew in intensity as we went down our rocky road. We marched past the church and headed towards the end of town sparkling in our matching uniforms, not caring about the rain that began to pour down. If anything, the rain made my group grow in intensity. When we reached the end of our nu’u, we headed back toward the church hall where we marched in circles around the parking lot singing many songs in harmony as we have a little dance in each step. A little while later the other group followed in a traditional manner. It was amazing to see how enthusiastic every single person in the youth group was. We then awaited inside the building for the program to start.
After the traditional lotu (prayer), the groups took turns doing dances. The red group went first and they were fantastic in every move they made. They all seemed like they have been practicing for hours daily because they were completely in sync. After two dances, I was told to get ready…
The leader of our group told me to go to the front of the group, not where I have been practicing. And then the song started… and I realized that the put me in the song that I had not been practicing as they told me they were already full. I tried mimicking everyone’s moves, and at least I had everyone laughing. No one seemed to be disappointed with my amazing moves. For the next song they pressed me into standing in the front of the group again. Again, not the place I was practicing. It was okay because it seemed as though everyone enjoyed it.
While I was dancing I began to realize how some dancers felt. When people like your dance moves they either put money into a bowl or put money physically on you. Many times I would have people rearrange my hair so they can put some tala inside it. Other times I would have to stop my amazing dance moves for someone putting tala inside my shirt.
The night went on with more and more amazing dance moves. I did the boys dance, the hula, the sasa and had a growing laughter each time I made my way onto the dance floor. I did not disappoint anyone in my own point of view. We continued on with our skits and other little songs. They added a new part for me in the skit in which I had to give a banana tree to someone, and so it was a shock to learn about this during the skit. The funniest point of the night was several of the boys in the other group dressed like girls and did several dances to songs like Grease and Mama Mia and other funny songs. They also did a Backstreet Boys routine.
Afterwards the night was a success. It was about 11 at night, and I was super tired. We were thanked for our performance, sadly they did not declare a winner for our dance off. (But I knew my group would probably be it, as they had me in their group.) We were given some buttered bread and I was presented with a pie as a thank you for joining their youth group. I started to head home and asked others where they were off to, and they said they were also going home. I was excited that I did not have to worry about missing any of the after performance party as I was exhausted from the day.
I went home and headed straight to bed happy as can be that the Christmas was such a great success.
The next day I learned that the rest of my group was looking for me at night because they were having a team dinner to celebrate their wonderful performance….if only I was in touch with the Samoan ways to know when going home means actually going home.
It is such a hard thing to first understand the language and then to be able to interpret if what they say actually means what it actually literally means. We were told during our training classes that yes does not always mean yes and I understand that to an extent. But it will take some time to understand when a Samoan means what they say. Maybe by the time I actually leave I will start to understand this…but who knows!


Our program for the Peace Corps is a combination of the jobs that people in the Peace Corps have had prior to us coming. They decided to combine the teaching aspect with village development. We are to spend approximately 25 hours teaching English and working on school projects and about 15 hours a week doing village development projects.
For the first two months we are to get accustomed to our community and get to know people by doing little projects. School is on break for the holidays, since I guess it is summer break, although I guess you would call this the rainy season break. We have to do surveys of the people in the village and write reports about them. Our village development is not supposed to start until May so we have time to get settled in (and so that way Peace Corps can train us on the how two’s of grant writing).
So after being in Foiluga I was surprised when my tina who is also the pule (principal) of the school came to me with a packet and told me after lunch I am to finish filling out the grant application for a new School building after eating lunch. They had done a lot of the work to get the application and filling out the application form and were heading to Apia the following day to turn in the application.
I helped Muena finish filling out the forms, created a letterhead for the school, and helped her type up a report about the school building. I don’t consider myself to be a good writer, especially because growing up that was the subject I struggled the most with. But apparently on Samoan standards, I am a grade A typist.
After filling out the application, me and my uso, Sharlene, went to the school to take pictures of the state of the building to support what I just wrote about. I later put captions on the pictures so they were ready for Apia.
Apparently our team did a great job with the forms and JICA recognized that it is an unsafe school so they asked for me to write a letter myself to support what the pule was saying.
I didn’t know where to start. I had only been in the building a handful of times. Only twice during a “normal” school day. I told about my nerves of going up the cracked staircase to the row of classrooms. I explained about the holes in the walls and in the ceilings. I talked about the leaks that were sure to happen and my fear of the building’s support beams not touching the ground. The classroom’s windows were all missing and wire was in its place, and for a few windows there was no fire and only a few logs to protect the safety of the materials inside.
When we went to Salelologa to send an email with my letter, I realized that I forgot the e-mail address in my fale. I called the JICA office to find the e-mail address. I think I was expecting it to be an office like we would find in America, and was a little shocked over how Samoan it was. They told me the person I needed to talk to was not in and would be in the afternoon and she was unsure of that person’s e-mail address, so I would have to call back in the afternoon. I was used to in America being put on hold so they can give you the information needed, or at least offer a call back when they find it out.
A few hours later I called back and the person still was not in, and apparently was not coming in for the day. In American offices it seems as though people can always give you the little bit of information you are needing, such as an e-mail address. However within a few months time of bring here in Samoa, I learned it is waaaaay different. Instead I got that person’s address and hopefully my letter was transferred. I guess the only way to find out is after the holidays when the falavalava’s are over.