Friday, May 28, 2010


Being in Apia
Although it is nice to have the luxury of the “big city” life, it can be very stressful as there is so much to do, and so little time to do it. Group 82 had to come into Apia for training, which meant that during our first school break, we had to spend 2/3 of it in class.
I do love seeing my Pisi Koa brothers and sisters, but I would just love to be able to be around them when there was no newsprint involved. There can be only so many group discussions before we practically lose it!
We also have so many obligations that there are never enough hours in the day for them. Being in the southern hemisphere we are in their “winter” and so there is less daylight during the day. The sun rises around 6:30, and sets about 12 hours later. We had our group meetings from 8-4:30, and sometimes had to stay later for various things such as language refreshers. Because we wanted to eat, there was usually not much time for us to do much in the city. Shops in Apia usually are open between 8 and 5, usually less which meant shopping would always be very brief.
We even had class on Saturdays, which meant there really was no time for enjoying the Apia experience since by the time class was over, all of the markets were closed.
Of course being in Apia was not all bad. We did get to enjoy each other’s company by doing many group activities together. Most nights we planned group dinners or quick lunches and took turns shopping for the 18 of us to prepare for them. We have eaten such amazing meals as chicken parm, Mexican night (with homemade tortillas), stir fry, lasagna and much, much more. We learned quickly that our group is full of plenty of pretty darn good chefs.
There are also plenty of other good things to enjoy, such as fundraisers, other meetings, exercise, walking around, game nights, and enjoying those amazingly trashy good magazines that someone brought from overseas (We are in desperate need of colored pictures and random stories. Even though the celebrity gossip we get is often several months old.)
We have also been fortunate enough to experience some of the great power outages of Apia. Almost daily we have been enjoying an extended power outage. Being in a hot climate, this makes life miserable! (Imagine working in the hot month of August all day without a fan or air conditioning.)
Even though life in Apia can be stressful and crazy, it is great to see everyone and enjoy the good food.

Cat Sitting

Cat Sitting
Being in Peace Corps, we treat each other like family which means I have a lot of new brothers and sisters (besides my new Samoan families). Just like my family at home we help each other out whenever we need it. This week I helped with cat sitting.
The cat that we were watching was different than cats in the States. Albert and Sativa can be left for days and I know they would be okay. (Sativa might be quite a bit fatter as she eats when she is stressed, and not knowing when her human family will return is one big thing to stress about.) We were instructed to go over twice a day for feedings, which we did, despite out busy schedule.
On our first visit, we ran into several obstacles. The first being where exactly is the house. We made the mistake of going for the first time at night, so we weren’t quite sure if we were ever in the right place. To make matters worse we were searching and searching for a key, that we were not sure if existed outside in the dark.
We were told that the key would be under a rock. Not realizing that the outside part of the house is covered with rocks. We searching under cinderblocks with the tiny lights from our phones to guide us. It felt like we were moving rocks for about an hour. We were tired, hungry, and really had to go to the bathroom. Finally, we felt as if we won the huge jackpot (here I guess it would be bingo) and the key was found!
We put the key in the lock, turned the knob, and were greeted by a hissing, pawing cat (thankfully with nails that were trimmed very nicely.) Scout (Who we quickly renamed Kitty 82) was not happy that we were invading her space at all. We had not seen Kitty 82 since she was a tiny kitten, so she did not remember us and did not know what we did to her best friend.
We tried desperately to play with the cat, but she was on guard the entire time. I think the only time in the evening where she might have liked us was during feeding time where she did her little dance through our legs waiting for food. (We were so happy that she was being nice to us, that we decided she really deserved a second portion of food. A pattern that continued all week.)
After that adventure we headed back home to the hotel for sleep.
Every morning we had to wake up to leave while it was still dark outside to walk to Kitty 82 for feeding, to ensure we did not miss any of our awesome training sessions. We had to return after classes, and our other obligations (we needed to eat too) and that required us to also walk in the dark.
Being in Samoa, we learn to always be in guard in the dark. It is not because of bad people being out, but dogs. Dogs are not treated the best here, so they learn to be attack dogs to avoid people harming them. Dogs don’t know who is good and who is not, so some of them will go after biting anyone who is in their way. To combat this, Samoans have developed a difficult technique. The rock throwing. People pick up rocks and keep throwing them at the given dog until it retreats. I have only thrown a rock a few times, and each time I have a gigantic pit of guilt inside. But I do know, it is much better than suffering one of those nasty bites. So each time we went for the walk we searched the road for the perfect rock to bring with us. (This is also my practice before going biking, as dogs love to chase after/ bite cyclists.)
The rest of the week, cat sitting got easier since Kitty 82 was used to us. She also learned to answer us whenever we said Kitty 82, neglecting the original “Scout”. She was soon playing with us, and allowed us to enjoy a fun game of pili (lizard) hunting.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Visiting Home

A trip Home
Since I had to come into Apia anyway, I decided a visit to my family in Manunu was in order. I did not expect so many falavelaves to occur at all!
Leading up to my visit I was a bit nervous as I had seen my little brother in Savai’i and I heard my brother that was closer to my age wasn’t living there. I did not know what to expect.
We took the bus to the bottom of the hill, and the group of us going to Manunu found a vehicle passing by that was going passed Manunu. (Not many vehicles go this route so it is always exciting when you have success with this.)
We were dropped off on the outskirts of the village and were impressed with the improvements to the village since we were last there (For me it had been almost 4 months). The once rocky road had become paved. It was not smooth blacktop, but the rocks were evenly spread on the road which was nice enough. (Cornia and I secretly wished this was there when we lived in Manunu as it would have made running a lot easier.)
When I arrived near the house my sister’s sibling were on the side of the road waving which was very impressive as they did not know when to expect me. They ran over to my direction, grabbed my hands and walked me the rest of the way home. I headed to the back kitchen and greeted my parents, and three of my sisters. I was told that one of my sisters was having a baby (I didn’t know she was pregnant) and that my brother had gone to Apia to be with her. We chatted up a storm as we munched on the cookies I brought with me for the visit. (They complemented me on how much my Samoan has improved since they saw me last. It is such a good feeling to hear.)
Corina, Leah and I decided the time had come to visit our favorite waterfall. It was nice stopping by each of their houses to say a quick hello to their family and I realized I had much more to say to them now that I could actually speak the language enough to hold conversations.
The waterfall looked as amazing as we remembered. Some of the Samoans showed off their skills by jumping off the high cliffs nearby. Someone brought a balloon there and the kids were passing it around like a game of water polo. I think the waterfall there will always be one of my favorite places to visit.
After playing in the water, Corina and I decided to watch everyone play rugby and volleyball. We sat on the swings catching up on life on our villages as we watched the amazing athletes triumph.
After awhile we started on the twenty minute walk home. When we got to the 3 corners (I am learning to say that more than intersection) for the road that leads to Manunu we saw that Dana and Matt had finally arrived. We made plans on our departure for the following day and headed home.
At home, I saw quickly that almost no one was there. A few people had gone to church, and others had made the trip to Apia to see if Ana had a new baby. I joined my sister Fili and headed to church (which is where we were watching the games being played.) The service was over, so I talked with different people from the area, and shortly after left.
At home I ate dinner (Avoiding the spaghetti sandwiches) and then travelled around the village to visit the families that I had grown to love during my stay in Manunu. On my way home I noticed a lot of people gathered around one house and I decided to join them inside. Since they had a TV, their house was like a movie theatre with a lot of people sprawled out all over the floor to watch a movie. It was a great sense of community and I missed all the people in the room dearly.
I was awoken the next morning by my parents who were heading to Apia to see if the baby was born. (Rumor on the auela was it was.) It was then time to get ready for church. Fili was going to join me, as I was nervous about timing so I did not know if I could successfully make the second ward that my family normally attends. It was nice to be back at the place where I spend my Sundays for my first few months of training. The people there had become like a family to me and it was nice to see them again.
After lotu, a lot of us gathered together for to’ogani. I saw with Leah and her mother and Leah and I reminisced about our first day at church in Manunu, where we also went to this to’ogani together. There was still time before our cab was tr]o leave so I joined my family at church for another hour before leaving.
The group of us Palagis came together and said our goodbyes to our families. Promised that we would come back whenever we could again.
On this trip I was reminded that some things never change. Some of the negative qualities people have, will always be there. My sister took my phone when she had a chance and transferred my money to her phone without me knowing. Many Samoans do not understand the concept of stealing, and it will be a long time until they do. But on the brighter side, the love people show you is always there and can only grow bigger.


A Visit to a Friend.
Since it is the school break, I decided to make the most of it and visit another village to see how another Peace Corps Volunteer lives. I made plans with Cassie for an ultimate sleepover.
We tried making plans to do different activities around her village, but because of a late start (The ferry did not decide to come and so there was an extra two hours of waiting!) we missed doing them this time around.
I wasn’t too worried as I had an amazing time in her village. Cassie lives with a family and has two younger siblings and we turned the entire day into a dance party. Her little sister was being an amazing teacher as she worked with us trying to learn Samoan dances.
We took a brief break from dancing to play volleyball. Playing volleyball in her village is a lot different than mine. My village is very competitive, so they don’t always let me play, but if they do let me play, they run in front of me to hit the ball aimed towards me. Her village was more relaxed and I felt myself much more comfortable with playing. I had a great time (minus the bruising my arms suffered from hitting the ball!) and met a lot of new people.
It was time for Sa, so back to the house we went. We enjoyed nice dinner with conversation and then went back to our awesome dance party. Her family giggled as we struggled with the Samoan dance moves of our 7 year old teacher. I don’t think I have ever danced as much as I did that day. We all had an amazing time.

No Smoking Day

The Quest for Perfection
The Samoan Quest for Perfection can be seen all over the school systems. The kids all make sure to have their rulers and three different colored pens. If they are missing any of their supplies they make sure to sit next to someone that has it, or throw it across the room. Neatness counts and if you get the wrong answer but are neat with your writing in your book, it is more acceptable that writing a little messy (or forgetting to use a ruler) and having the correct answer. It may seem completely backwards to us, but this is how everyone was raised.
This quest for perfection can be seen clearly at this year’s “No Smoking Day”. The schools were asked to provide students to perform a skit, give speeches, a song/dance and the best posters from a school-wide poster contest.
All of the schools wanted to be number one as they would receive a cash prize. So for the poster contest in some schools, parents and friends made the posters instead of the kids as the teachers thought they would be a better artist than their students. Some of the posters looked amazing, but you had to really stop and think, who really should have won the contest.
The skits and songs were put together in most schools the day before the contest, with the teachers taking all of the direction on what the students should do.
The speeches were written mainly by the teachers as well.
The day of the event, about 21 schools gathered together. All the female teachers were dressed in their best pulatasis and the men had a nice shirt with an I’e fai’toga on. The students looked like a sea of colors as they were all wearing their uniforms.
It started with a nice motivational speech, that might have lost its message as during the day a few people could be seen next to the gigantic no smoking signs lighting a cigarette.
The students then performed their solos (speeches). Watching these children perform their speeches reinforces how important song and dance are in the culture. The students were moving their hands in rhythm to the sounds of their words.
It then switched to acting and the kids were funny with their performances. I did not understand all of it as it was in Samoan but I did notice a big portion of it had people giving birth to pillows.
Lunch followed and the kids all ran to a vehicle from the school to get their boiled bananas, BBQ chicken, noodles, or whatever else their school brought for the day.
The day finished with song and dance. Although everything might not have been authentically made from the children, I still think they might have learned a lesson or two. And of course everything was well presented and neat.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New School Building Update

New Building Update
The principal had a meeting about two weeks ago and turned in more paperwork, so hopefully everything is going well with our grant request for a new school building.
As more and more structural damages happen to this building I am really hoping it is approved. This term one of the walls collapsed in one area so there is a hole connecting two classrooms. The classrooms were shuffled and classes are still going on as normal.
(I remember when they worst problem used to be mold in one of the schools I worked at in America.)

Coming Home

Coming home from Mothers Day
After my sleepover with Dana I awoke early as I wanted to make sure I caught an early enough bus so I could get to school on time. I left her house before 5:30, as there was a possibility of a bus being there around 6am.
Dana’s house is in a postcard location. Her house is a hop skip and a jump away from the beach. (The following evening her host brother gave us a snack as we sat on her step watching the waves crash in the water. It was simply beautiful.)The only problem is that Dana’s village is far away from the main road. In fact it is a big hill away from it. The hill takes about half an hour to walk up. (She has to do this hill every day for school.)
I began walking, happy that I had my flashlight as it was pitch dark. (There were clouds covering the stars). My flashlight helped guide me on the road as I also used it to pick up rocks as I was not sure if I would run into any dogs. I felt like I was climbing the hill for hours as I was exhausted from the previous day and knew I had close to an hour on the bus to get home.
Finally after walking for what felt like days I finally heard voices. Those voices were followed by shapes of bodies. (I was still unable to see in the dark.) The sky began to lighten and I saw that those bodies were kolisi students. A few of them came over to talk to me to test me on my knowledge of the Pisi Koa that they knew.
About 6:30 the bus finally arrived, and I was amazed with how full it was, but determined that I too would find a way to get on it. As I piled into what felt like I clown car, I saw that every seat had 4 to a seat, and some had five. All the people standing reminded me of that childhood game of Domino Rally. There were 3 people hanging out of the door. It was intense.
Where I was I had trouble seeing out the window to figure out what village I was In, and the person next to me thought they were being helpful, however, they kept giving the wrong village name and when I corrected them, they told me I was wrong. This caused me to go passed where I normally get off the bus.
I quickly showered and headed to school. I was exhausted but knew that a few hundred Samoan children would be quick to energize me.

Mothers Day Bike Trip

I awoke at 5 AM not really sure if I would be ready for my trip. I already packed the night before, changed quickly into my clothes for the trip and attached my bag to my bike. I attempted to put my bag that contained my book for beach reading on the back rack, and headed off.
I walked my bike to our fence, being that it was still dark, I struggled to open the fence. (Our fence is pretty broken. The gate is tied shut with a rope and then a tree stump is in front of it to block it from a pig accidently being able to bite through the rope and open the fence. Although that would have to be one smart pig!) I started off on my journey, rode passed the church where people were getting ready for the morning lotu and realized that my bag that had my book fell off of my back bike rack, so I had to turn around. So I headed back home.
Take two. I started off again. I had my bags both attached to the front of my bike and a flashlight in my mouth. It was a little after 5:30 and the sky was beautiful. The stars were amazing and I got chills looking at the beauty of the moon.
I rode for about half an hour in the dark before stopping for a breakfast break, I brought crackers. I had a car stop to make sure I was okay and offered me a ride. At this break I realized that my trip will take me longer than last time as my hand was in pain and I could not constantly keep it in that position for the few hours I knew I would be on a bike.
A little after 6 I was able to take the flashlight out of my mouth (I was getting sick of the taste of metal in my mouth). I was beginning to travel into the villages I rarely bike to, so I was being called “palagi” as I rode passed villagers.
I began to look at the clock and feel bad as I told Dana I would arrive shortly after 7, and I was running real late due to my frequent stops to adjust my hand and rehydrate. It was about a 20K ride to Dana, and with the condition of how I was feeling, it took me two hours to make it to her. I felt horrible as I did not have any money on my phone, so I could not get in contact with her to tell her that I would be late. I bought a niu in the village before hers to have a delicious cool drink, and carried the coconut all the way to the bus shelter that I was meeting her at.
Dana was gracious enough to give me a nice break as I began smashing my coconut against the ground to open it for a delicious snack. (She suggested I ask for a machete, but I was feeling a bit too tired to move.) We rested for about fifteen minutes and were off again as there was still about 10 more kilometers to go on our trip. It is the part of the ride that we both look forward to as it has a gigantic hill.
We arrived in VaiSala and met Matt about an hour later and headed over to the beach. Vaisala has some of the best snorkeling ever. It was so great chasing fish around the gigantic reef. It felt like the reef could go on forever.
After I finished snorkeling, Dana borrowed my gear and went out herself. Her last words were, “I am not a strong swimmer so will you help me if I need anything.” I of course answered yes, told her to scream, and she got in the water, as I laid under the shelter in the sand with my book.
About half an hour later, Matt and I began to get worried. Where was Dana? If she was worried about her swimming skills she shouldn’t have gone that far out. We began scanning the waters for her and were not successful. I began to wonder if I should head in the water. I took the other mask we had and headed towards the water still scanning. We were real nervous as there were cliffs nearby and if someone is not a strong swimmer, could she have gotten stuck over there with waves crashing her into the walls? I held off going into the water and Matt and I began thinking of the correct safety procedure. (First we call our Safety and Security Officer, then jump in. Do we have to call her family? What if I get stuck out there as well looking for her?) Finally Matt talked me into waiting to go in the water and going to a high balcony at the hotel to scan the waters.
It had been about an hour since we had last seen her. We were terrified as we ran up the stairs. After about five minutes of scanning the water, Matt noticed Dana struggling with her fins. She solved her problem by taking them off and kicking to shore slowly. I ran down to greet her. She didn’t believe me that we were so worried about her because she felt fine in the water.
After the scare we shared an awesome meal at the hotel. (It is great to treat yourself after an intense bike ride!) and headed home. We were leaving late, and I was worried that I would not make it all the way home, and Dana offered me the chance to have a sleepover, and I jumped at the opportunity.
We began biking and I began thinking, “What was I thinking? Doing 60km roundtrip in one day in the heat is ridiculous! Especially in the heat of Samoa!!!” Dana was very patient with me as I had to walk up the nasty hill, and a few other semi nasty hills. I had to stop at one point as I was beginning to become ill from dehydration and the heat from the sun. I began thinking of this one store that we often stopped at…and the ice cream that awaited me there.
We finally made it to Dana’s house, and I was quite happy with my 40-45 km bike ride, even though I was miserable during the final 10 km. Dana and I kafao-ed with her family and it was nice and relaxing.
Even though the day was long, it was full of so much adventure I hope to never forget it…and have an even better experience on my next bike ride there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mothers Day

Mothers Day
Mothers Day is a different occasion to Samoans than Americans and it was quite the experience. This year I spent Mothers’ Day for the first time at church.
Leading up to the day I spent my time questioning people over which church service I could go to since an event like would be exciting. I was told to go the Methodist Church as they are the most colorful.
I put on my bright church white pulatasi early in the morning and headed over to the church. When I exited my house everyone knew where I was heading. (I wear my all white tasi for going to the Methodist church, usually a tan one for going to AOG, and different colors for 7th Day Adventist and Morman.
The church was set up for the special event. The benches were pushed to both sides to give extra room in the aisles. I sat with some teenagers in my village who also looked eager for the event to start.
It began with the mothers marching in with flowers singing beautifully. The regular church service started with many women coming up to do readings from the bible.
After that the women (I was told they did not have to be a mother to perform) sang, danced and performed a skit. It had some very funny parts and I enjoyed it completely. When they finished the children came over to their mothers and other women in the village they have love for and put candy ula’s around them. I ended up leaving church with a few myself.
The rest of the day I spent with my family as I knew I was in for an adventure the following day. My Mother’s Day celebration would continue as the day after Mother’s Day is a public holiday. Since there was no school, I would join Dana and Matt on a bike trip to Vaisala about 30 km away.

Mothers Day

Mothers Day
Mothers Day is a different occasion to Samoans than Americans and it was quite the experience. This year I spent Mothers’ Day for the first time at church.
Leading up to the day I spent my time questioning people over which church service I could go to since an event like would be exciting. I was told to go the Methodist Church as they are the most colorful.
I put on my bright church white pulatasi early in the morning and headed over to the church. When I exited my house everyone knew where I was heading. (I wear my all white tasi for going to the Methodist church, usually a tan one for going to AOG, and different colors for 7th Day Adventist and Morman.
The church was set up for the special event. The benches were pushed to both sides to give extra room in the aisles. I sat with some teenagers in my village who also looked eager for the event to start.
It began with the mothers marching in with flowers singing beautifully. The regular church service started with many women coming up to do readings from the bible.
After that the women (I was told they did not have to be a mother to perform) sang, danced and performed a skit. It had some very funny parts and I enjoyed it completely. When they finished the children came over to their mothers and other women in the village they have love for and put candy ula’s around them. I ended up leaving church with a few myself.
The rest of the day I spent with my family as I knew I was in for an adventure the following day. My Mother’s Day celebration would continue as the day after Mother’s Day is a public holiday. Since there was no school, I would join Dana and Matt on a bike trip to Vaisala about 30 km away.

Norweigian Flag Day

Norwegian Flag Day
When we arrived in Apia for training there was talk all around about a bunch of us participating in a 10K. I have never been a runner in the US and since school has been in session, have slacked off in my attempt to be one. (I do go running sometimes in my village but sometimes there are two week breaks between runs.) It is difficult to run in Samoa because it is so hot here all the time! The best time I think to go is right when the sun is rising. (less chance of dog attacks, and strangers talking to you) the problem with that is recently the sun has been rising closer to 6:30 AM, and with so many things to do daily, it is hard to find time to add running into the busy morning schedule.
Monday morning I decided to put on my sneakers and give a run a try. As soon as I put on my sneakers I remembered exactly why I haven’t been running in awhile. I still have a nasty blister on my ankle from about 2 weeks ago on my last run. This blister refuses to get better. (It might be because of the klutz issue and I end up hitting the back of my ankle against everything, which opens and extends the cut there.
I walked out of the hotel and ran on the seawall for a few minutes until I could not bear the pain anymore. I walked a little, trying to limp on my ankle, but that did not seem to help. I tried running again, hoping that my brain would forget about the pain, it however did not. After a run/walk for about 15 minutes I found myself back at our hotel.
When I arrived, most of my running buddies were getting ready to start their run. I really had the urge to join them, so I switched my sneakers for Jandals, (No that is not spelled incorrectly, that actually is how sandals are spelled, at least the cheapest kind that everyone in Samoa wears!) and went out to join them.
There are several factors that show how much you have assimilated to the culture here. One of them is the ability to run in Jandals. When I first arrived here, I refused to wear them as they were not as comfortable as my awesome American sandals I brought from home. But after a few months, my shoes I brought began to ware, and Jandals were the best option. In the beginning I tried playing sports with Jandals on. Those attempts ended quickly as I found it much easier to run barefoot than in those shoes. The Samoans saw no problem with running in Jandals as it is what they are used to.
Being that I have not really attempted to exercise in Jandels, my expectations were not high. I surprisingly was able to keep up with a few of them for a got portion. (I consider 8 minutes a good portion.)
After the two short exercise spurts, I went back into Peace Corps training mode, where I got ready for class, and spent a good portion of the day learning in training.
Later in the evening I decided to go for my Hash event to see what it was all about. Hashers are a group of runners who get together weekly to do a 3-4K and spend the evening together sharing dinner. Because of it being Norwegian Flag Day, we were told to dress in red white and blue for the occasion.
I bandaged up my ankle and we headed up to the mountains for the event. It was a beautiful area to be in. On the drive Paul, another PCV, pointed out the moss covering the trees. It apparently is a moss that can only grow in places of very high oxygen. (Another volunteer mentioned that we would be running in a “runners paradise” because of this.)
We met at someone’s house (a house that gave me flashbacks to Fairbanks) and had a quick description of the run. (“We will be passing cows and by the cows watch out as there is a hole, do not fall in like I did” Also reminded to look for the paper markers to guide us.) And off everyone went. I decided because of my blister problems I probably wouldn’t be running, maybe jogging or walking….however the blister decided to take control of my plans and hurt even worse than in the morning. I decided, to take off my shoe on my right foot and do the route walking with one shoe on, one shoe off. The trail was very rocky, but surprisingly my feet held up pretty nicely.
When we got back to the house everyone immediately welcomed us in and we had some great chats. Some of the people there were Australian volunteers, others were Samoans, others were volunteers from other parts of the world, and some were just Palagis that decided to move to Samoa. Later in the evening, one of the Hashers sang the Norwegian National Anthem in honor of their Flag Day. We then feasted on Norwegian reindeer meatballs and Norwegian Stew.
It was truly an amazing time. I hope my blister decides to finally get better so I can join them in an actual run next week.

Turning Colors

What’s with all the colors? (Or is it colours?)
In my 27 years I have accepted the fact that I am a klutz, and being a klutz I know that bruises come from time to time. Being in Samoa my body is taking it to a new extreme.
Palagis who look at me often wonder and question what is wrong with me and wonder if I had recently been in a fight. I answer them no, it’s just living in Samoa. Right now I have several bruises up and down my arms. Some of them are from playing volleyball, and some are just from living life.
What makes me even more colorful, is the fact that I have some kind of sun fungus on my body which is turning me white. Only it is a white splotchy mess. My face was tan, and suddenly white streaks arrived on my face, which spread to take it over. It looks like my face is striped. The whiteness has spread to my neck and I have perfect circles spread all over my neck. It looks like I was wearing a necklace and those were the places that didn’t tan.
Looking in the mirror for the first time I had to laugh. (Being in Samoa you learn quickly that mirrors are non-existent. Sometimes when there are mirrors, the lighting is so bad that you cannot actually see inside them, so they are pointless. About every two months we actually get in front of a mirror….and are sometimes are surprised about what we look like.) For the past two weeks people have been coming up to me saying “pala p’la”(the wrong spelling for dirty) and trying to rub stuff off my face. The first time this happened I was very self conscious as people kept rubbing my face off as if I didn’t take care of my hygiene. At the first chance I got, I saw a mirror and saw I had white streaks all over me. I talked to other volunteers and they said they had the same problem and to just go to our medical officer for cream to fix it.
I am finally in the capital, and able to see our medical officer today which makes me happy as I just looked in the mirror and the white spots have spread to around my neck. When I walk into her office later today, I will probably be one of the most colorful people she has seen in awhile.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


When I came to Samoa I was a scared little girl, but after two months I was Samoan (well much closer to Samoan than I even thought possible). I was used to driving places, living on my own, cooking for myself, piped water always on, and not having a curfew among other things. I had a great family to help me through the transition.
My Manunu family was large but always loving. I had 3 younger brothers that would bend over backwards for me. I helped them with their homework, while they climbed trees to give me delicious coconuts to drink. I wanted to swim, so they walked with me to the river or waterfall to take a break from school. I wanted to go to a friends’ house to study, and they made sure to walk me there and pick me up. They also took me to the plantation so I could feel like a strong woman carrying coconuts home.
My four sisters were always there for me. We loved spending time together playing basketball, going for walks, and even just enjoying a game of uno. They learned what foods I dislike and like and were amazing enough to make them for me.
My cousin, and 2 nieces and nephew were also living with us. The three little ones were always entertaining as they helped teach me Samoan. (After a short while I got better than the two year old at Samoan!) My cousin was always trying to find me a pe’u so that a marriage would keep me living in Samoa forever.
My parents were also very loving. They let me help out around the house and feel like an equal.
Many days I felt like I was going crazy living with so many people. It took a long time to get used to the idea. Leaving “home” made me miss them more and more.
Today I saw my little brother Peni on the bus. He lives on the other island, which made it quite surprising when I saw him as I passed on my bicycle. I called my family and they told me the village he is in. I am hoping to ride my bike around there and see if I can find him. Peni is such a good boy, and an amazing rugby player. It would be great to catch up and see how kolisi is going for him.
II also made plans with my family for a visit. They put me on speakerphone and it was great to hear all of their voices in the background. Next weekend I will spend with them and I am really looking forward to it.
This family taught me so much and made me comfortable with the culture here. I owe them so much and am looking forward to seeing their smiling faces again. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Samoa would definitely not have been the same.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Day

A fun day
I’m sitting on my bed enjoying the nice pitter patter of the rain outside. I had such a fun day that I am looking forward to a nice night’s sleep.
Today I woke up and went to school. I rode my bike, and even though I was wearing my pulatasi I did not fall. Yay! (I am still having pain from the accident.) I went over the end of term exam with my year 7 kids then headed to Elisa’s village for their English Day.
I showed up about halfway through the performance. I was happy I was in time for the skit. It was pretty amazing. The kids were singing and dancing to songs about jungle animals. Elisa made cute masks for all of them to wear. I cracked up laughing hearing the songs from the Lion King sung with a Samoan adjustment. It was the best musical I think I’ve seen in a long time.
In the middle of the performance, there was a falavelave. A woman in the audience fainted. People crowded around her to fan her and try to nudge her awake. They then carried her to a vehicle to be taken to the hospital. It was really scary, but I heard she is okay.
After the performance in true Samoan fashion we were all severed a lot of food. (I was more excited about drinking the fresh coconuts.) I was ready to leave, when I realized that my shoes were gone. I left them by the door in true Samoan fashion, and they disappeared. A people offered me their shoes to walk to Elisa’s house.
We got changed and went to the ocean to go swimming. It was very peaceful and enjoyable. We had all of Elisa’s neighbors and family come with us and they were fun to be with. The waves were perfect, however soon after we got there, the waves were heading closer to the sand, and we noticed that Elisa’s shoes had disappeared. We ended up having an adventure to find them.
After swimming, we went on a hike towards the mountains. We had people greeting us from every house we passed by. We saw people cutting down cocoa, others climbing trees, and plenty of cows on the road. A little girl jumped from the bushes and gave us each a niu to drink. We sat on the ground and shared some of our experiences as we drank and ate our fresh coconuts.
As we were heading back, the kid came back with a bag full of niu. It was so thoughtful. I love how nice everyone is around here. I cannot imagine a life where people don’t greet you everywhere you go. People from villages all over know your name and your back story. The best part is, people are so welcoming to their community and offer you such nice gestures all the time.
After our adventure I biked home, and stopped at the shop for a new pair of shoes. (I hate biking barefoot.)
From swimming in the ocean, and walking through the wooded areas, I was pretty dirty (and covered in sand). I did what any good Samoan would do. I used this as an opportunity to wash my clothes. (Water splashed everywhere when you wash from a bucket.)
I had such a fulfilling day, just like every other day I have had here.
The rain is still coming down, and I know this means I will have a nice peaceful sleep.

Door to Door Salesmen

Door to door sales people
So as some of you may know, I have had quite a few experiences with door to door sales people in America. I’ve had great conversation and interesting times with the vacuum salespeople, the magazine salespeople, and even the food ones. When the seasons are right there has always been more than my share of people who pick up leaves, and kids who shovel snow.
Here, just like anywhere else there are door to door salespeople. Usually they are kids though. The kids come by to sell the fish they or their fathers fished for that day. (Which means daily you can get fresh fish, or octopus right to your door.) Kids also come around to see the fresh cocoa that they picked from a tree, grounded and then roasted the beans. (Which means amazing fresh hot Samoan cocoa, or koko esi….yummm.) They also come by to pick up trash in yards for extra cash.
Raking the leaves is a lot different than in America as the leaves from the breadfruit trees and gigantic. So rakes are not necessary, you can just use your hands to pick up the leaves by themselves as they are the size of my body.
When we are on the bus at one of the bus shelters or the wharf, people come around the windows of the bus to sell different things. Drinks, pies, chips and meat cakes are all sold.
It is always entertaining to see what the next person will try to sell me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Speed of Life

Samoan time

Things do get done here…on Samoan time. Samoan time is different to everyone. It could mean it is happening now; something already took place, or will take place shortly, or make sure you have a book ready because it will be awhile.
A trip on the bus can be a quick easy experience, or it can be a long journey that tastes place over days (when you were hoping for it to one by an afternoon).
I used to get frustrated when things would not get done quickly, and often still get a little upset. But I have learned that there is no point is being upset over things you can not control.
You can not control other people to get things done quickly, the shopkeepers to open the shops, or the schedule of the bus. Complaining just makes yourself upset.
The best solution is to enjoy life while you wait. Look at the beauty around you. You don’t want to let life pass you by.
Samoa is great because it makes you slow down your life.
This is one lesson I hope to keep with me forever in Samoa.

Busses, Turtles, and Supo Moa

A day with Lasela

It had been awhile since Lasela and I both hung out since we were both so busy in our village, so we decided to do something about it.
The day started off with an early bus to Salelologa. I always know the day is going to be ad adventure when the bus ride starts out interesting. With 4 people to a seat, meaning a lot of lap sitting, I was ready for whatever the day entailed.
When I got to Salelologa, I had no clue when the next bus for my journey mould be, and I did not want to miss it. I waited around the office for awhile, and realized that the ferry that normally comes at that time did not show up (Fa’aSamoa). The busses on my island go off of the ferry schedule, so when there is no boat, that could mean that you can wait for a bus for another few hours, or that the bus will show up whenever it feels like it.
I waited, and waited, and waited some more, until I finally got bored of waiting. I decided to do something productive, like go to the post office. While I was walking there, the beautiful Sasina bus rolled up. I ran as fast as I could to make sure it would stop for me, and thankfully it did.
I found a seat on the bus..and in typical Samoan fashion, many more people were also coming on the bus. I tried to do the “fa’aSamoan thing by letting people sit on my lap; however, I think some Samoans are scared they might crush a Palagi, so very few people ever take me up on it. The bus then pulls next to a shelter full of older men and women. Being the good Samoan citizen I am, I gave up my seat and stood awkwardly.
If you don’t know about Samoan busses, riding them is always an adventure. I don’t even think the bus driver ever really knows what is in store for him each day. On this particular day, the bus driver was carrying plenty of gigantic sacks of sugar, stopped at the hardware store for gigantic corner beams and pvc piping, as well as stopping to pick of several big cans of gas. This is on top of having between 3 or 4 people to those little seats and many people standing. The bus can go fast (Samoan fast), then stop short to go over the speed bump, making standing on the busses when there is little room for your feet interesting. I was thankfully able to grab a hold of the only pole on the bus, however I could only reach it with my bad hand (still hurting from the bike accident) making the ride painful.
Rachel and I decided to swim with turtles, so she rode her bike and met me in that village. Since the bus times are unreliable (and we made several unexpected stops, like visiting villages that normally aren’t on the bus route) she beat me there and spent her time talking to the people who run the turtle area.
I don’t know if Rachel is trying to test me, but her way to have the boys stop trying to ask her to date her or marry her is to bring them on me. So before I got there, the man knew my name, my village and leai se pe’u (no boyfriend), basically all of the essentials for dating a girl.
The man who worked there gave up papaya to feed the turtles and they immediately swam right to us. Pushing against us and starting little turtle wars. It was so amazing watching them nibble the food we gave them.
We began naming them…but were never sure if we were giving the same turtle two names, so only one named stuck, Mamba Jamba. Mamba Jamba was the biggest turtle there, and whenever he saw us with papaya, he came rushing towards us. We tried to give him a little piece, but he always snatched the rest of it away.
It began to rain, but we didn’t mind as we were having the time of our lives. I don’t know if some of the turtles thought we had more food, or if they were hungry and turning carnivorous, but a few of them tried to bite my clothes and the rest of my body. Shortly after the bites kept occurring, we decided it was time for us to leave.
We decided to walk to the next village to have lunch at Le Lagoto. It is such a beautiful resort, with amazing food (and an affordable lunch menu!) Eating our lunch (or lunches) and talking to the staff there made us realize even more the great thing about Peace Corps. It really helps bring the world together. They reminisced with us about the Peace Corps they have known throughout their life and shared many stories of how they touched their lives. It is so great to hear how those people made a difference to them, and it made me hope that someday someone will say half as nice things about me.
When we finished eating I began waiting for the bus to go back to Salelologa, so I could catch my bus home. But it being Samoa, the bus did not show. After waiting for quite some time, a bus arrived, that was going to Rachel’s village. Realizing that there was no way for me to go home, I opted for that option.
At Rachel’s house we cooked supo moa and then went to the family across the street for dinner. They eat in their Samoan style house which meant that if we were not covered in bug spray we would have been covered in mosquitoes. The family who lives across the street is extremely nice and we had such an enjoyable meal chatting about villages and work.
The next morning I awoke and left the house in the rain at 3:45 to ensure I would catch the bus. A man in the village saw me and ran over. He was heading over to the 6 am boat, and offered me a lift to the wharf. I gladly accepted.
We headed over to his fale, and being a Palagi everyone had to wake up to meet me. I felt bad for it being so early and them waking up for that. Nevertheless, we still had a good conversation. They drove me the wharf, while the father told me about all the available men in his family. It is entertaining how many men here want to date a Palagi. I am getting used to finding new ways to say no. Rejecting this all the time makes me think of DARE and the ways they tell you to say no.
The adventure was long, but the experience was worth it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review Week

Review week.
In school last week the students were having review week. Review week in America is a lot different than review week in Samoa.
Review week in America consists of hard cramming, a lot of work and homework u[p the wazoo.
Here review week consists of a lot of cleaning, playing sports, and maybe an hour or two of teaching a week.
Hopefully being here longer, things might change…


In Colorado me and my neighbor bought those electric fly swatters. They look like tennis rackets but have when you press a button have a zap of electricity to kill the bugs. For the big ones there was a was a satisfying sizzle. I miss that thing.
I have learned that flies are attracted to cuts and I am too much of a klutz for my own good. Sitting around the tree with the other teachers after school today I was getting sick of shooing the flies away from me. My blister exploded into a big mess and apparently the flies love it….along with the cuts from my fall off my bike and ordinary life.
I need to learn to be more careful since I don’t have that fly swatter.

It's electric!

It used to be electric
Every time I used to use my computer or touch my ipod when it was charging I would have this electric shock run though my body. The current here is completely unstable and will randomly shock you when something is plugged in. It felt like it was going to be an ever going struggle with my electronics (which consist of my Ipod and my computer). I was getting quite used to the shock when suddenly…
It stopped.
I don’t know where this shock went to? But out of nowhere it disappeared. I guess the current stabilized, and for some reason I miss getting my daily shock.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

karate kid

Karate Kid
There are many days where I sit around thinking I shoud be in training to be the next Karate Kid. Every day when I am sitting around and I see a fly or mosquito I try to capture it one handed. I used to be really bad at this game, however, I am starting to get pretty good. My only real mistake is forgetting to not close my hand completely. Too many times I have let a mosquito out and he flies away and stings me in a place elsewhere. As you can tell I still have much more training to go through.

Is it ordinary?

An ordinary day here is extraordinary
On Thursday school was ordinary, and so I figured the day would be ordinary.
After school I decided to go for a walk to the store. On the way I ran into some of my students. They had a few coco plants and a machete with them. All of a sudden one of them opened the coco up. And cut the white piece that has the seeds. I was offered some. I didn’t know exactly what it is. Eat it I was informed. It tasted like something I’ve never had before. It was quite satisfying. They spent some time with me giggling as I tried to spit out the seeds (They are much harder than sunflower seeds, and I struggle with those too!).
After awhile I continued onto the store, and after doing my business there, a few of my year 7 students showed up. They were quick to start a conversation, and I decided to use that time with them to review what they had learned about trees in science. We spent a long time sitting around a tree with me going over the parts in Samoan, and them going over the parts in English. (I really hope they do pass this test now!)
It began to rain, and I joined the others sitting around the store. Many other people came to have small talk with me, which proved to be great conversations. The girls decided to check my hair for lice, as this is a normal occurrence at most places. We then sang a few songs that I had taught them during their English classes. When the rain had slowed down I decided that it had been quite a long time since I left so I should start to head back to my village.
Along the way I had people shout hello to me, and from one house it came from the distance. I decided to go back and see who it was. It was one of the girls from my family’s church. They were making the meal for after church that day. The girl was cracking open the coconuts and shaving them, while her mom was getting the fire ready. I stayed there chatting, and then decided to help. I tried shaving the coconuts and did it for about a minute, until my hand was hurting too badly. (It still hurts from the bike fall).
It started to get close to nightfall, and I needed to head home as I told my family I would go with them to church in another village. Even though there was a bus going to the village, my father took the pickup truck.
When we arrived we heard music filling the air. I saw a gigantic screen (okay, really a white sheet) inside a tent. On the screen were the words to the song the person was singing. They were having karaoke and it was amazing.
After a few songs some people had their guitars and sang songs. It was amazing how different men can change their voice for songs, and make them sound like the typical Pacific Islander. It really reminded me of a time when I was learning about Polynesian culture.
The sermon began, and then they did trivia to give away prizes. The night ended with the pastors singing beautifully.
Even though this day was quite ordinary, thinking about how different it is from my life in America makes me appreciate the day much more.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


A Homecoming Like No Other
My Samoan father was gone for about two months in American Samoa for Flag Day (He did the choreographing for the celebration) and when he returned it was unbelievable.
In Samoa people are thanked for their good work for with presents. But I didn’t expect what was about to happen for his homecoming.
The night before he was to come home my brother went to Apia with the pickup truck to get him. (They were trying to get something bigger, although I did not know why.)
The Friday he was to come home, my family participated in a massive cleaning. Everything was cleaned. When the sun was beginning to set a van showed up. Tupai was in it. I became real confused about the whereabouts of the family truck. My questions were soon answered about five minutes later.
Thevehiles showed up at our house and were quite the spectacle. They were overfilled with boxes, while me and my brothers and my sister helped bring in….for maybe an hour.
There was two lawn mowers, about 20cases of siamini, many many many many cases of Ramen, hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar and rice, bins full of clothes, chocolates, and cloths, and a few electronics. It was quite the spectacle. Our house was full of these gifts.
The next week was spent with my family giving away the presents received. The constantly visiting family members elsewhere full of boxes of food.
It was amazing to see how giving they were.

A Thousand Proposals

The weekend of a thousand proposals
There has been buzz around our village for the past few weeks of the upcoming wedding. The week before you could find many people hopping on busses and coming back with gifts. Scattered around the village some lucky people received invitations (they looked like a beautiful brochure) inviting them to the occasion.
I was not one of them. However I have learned from many that it is perfectly alright to be a wedding crasher. Especially if you are a visitor in the village (and being Palagi helps!) The previous week I was torn on if I should be a wedding crasher and learn the cultural aspects of village life…or leave the village for the first time in a month (besides my fun trips to the hospital) and enjoy my adventurous side of SCUBA diving. The cultural aspect won. (With the help of a hurt arm, and a horrible sore throat.)
On Friday night we heard something happening at the Methodist church. Me and my sister decided to have a look. It was the rehearsal. Dozens of people came by to have a firsthand look on how it will look the next morning.
After the rehearsal, many people decided to tafao outside, and with my sister’s persuasion I joined them. It then started.
I had several men coming up to me asking me in Samoan if I wanted to go to another wedding…with them being my husband. I don’t know what kind of answer they were expecting from me. But I politely laughed at them and turned them down one by one.
It was getting late and I was getting sick and tired of all the men coming up to me, and it was then when I realized the somewhat burden of having a little sister. She still wanted to tafao, and disappeared. Both of us knew that we were to return home with each other, and so I was stuck waiting for her. (I am sorry Jenny and Billy for the times I put you through this…it really is little child syndrome.)
While I was waiting the pastor’s wife came over to me and asked if I could help her the following day. She asked when I would awake in the morning….and I was told that 7 is too late, and I should get up earlier. (I thought sleeping in was what weekends are for!) I volunteered to be at her house by 7 the following morning to help make the tea for the honored guests.
The next morning, I became a little frazzled. What do people wear to wedding here? Is it the church white pulatasi? Or another one? Or maybe you can just wear another nice outfit. I went with wearing another nice outfit so I would not get my pulatasi’s dirty. Apparently I made the wrong decision I learned when I arrived at the pastor’s house.
“Aua le pepoli, you can change when you are done here.” I was told.
We started with pouring bowls of cereal, and wrapping them up. They slicing the bread, and toasting some of it in the oven. Other pieces were used to make pisupo (corned beef) sandwiches. I often felt I was doing the wrong thing as all times. I would do what was asked, and then they would fix it. Then I would do the little change, and was laughed at for doing the wrong thing again. We then made egg and cheese sandwiches , and poured the coffee into cups.
It was finally time for all of the guests to arrive. They were all dressed in their church white clothes. The table was set for them and whenever anything was asked for, it was my job to bring it to them. So I went inside several times to give additional spoons, refill coffee cups, and other little tasks.
While they were eating a noise began to fill through the air. Could a marching band really be in Samoa? What was the point of the marching band at a wedding. Sure enough a few minutes later out the window a band was passing by….followed by the wedding party. They marched their way to the church.
The guests were also making their way to the church and had finished eating, so after a quick clean up, I munched down a few sandwiches, and rushed home to change into my church white clothes.
The church was overstuffed when I got there. On the benches people were squished together, and they added a few extra chairs to wherever they could. There were still plenty of people watching from outside. I was one of them.
Being outside was interesting to say the least. It was where other “wedding crashers” , a few invited guests and the marching band were. I had to stand on my tip toes to have a little glance at what was going on as many people were standing in front of me.
Since it was in a foreign language (no I am not fluent yet) and I was far away I could not tell exactly what was going on. I do know that towards the end of the ceremony both the bride and the groom had to sign their names several times. The bride also wore a gown that reminded me of an 80’s wedding dress.
After the ceremony, the wedding party marched out and they got into several cars. Some were in vans others were in regular cars. The bride and groom got into a little Hyundai and they all went cruising around the nearby villages. I heard several times screeching coming from the cars as they passed out village time and time again.
The reception was held at someone’s fale and the wedding party had their own special place to sit. The bride changed into a more “modern” gown for the reception. The marching band played music to dance to, and everyone ate a lot. Not a lot of what I thought of as wedding food, but a lot of messy food served in Styrofoam clamshells. (I arrived late as I did not want to impose too much with eating. However as soon as I showed up, they made sure to give me a clamshell overflowing with food.) There was also a slaughtered cow that was given as a gift.
At the end of the wedding, people were all bringing home all of the leftover food (the family cooked a lot!) The pastor gave be a gigantic can of pisupo (corned beef) to bring to my family. Many people were still partying on the streets as I headed home that afternoon. (It was not a drunken partying, as there was nothing alcoholic served.)
Throughout the service I had an overflowing amount of men coming up to me asking when our wedding would take place. It was a bit overwhelming and annoying.
The next day I went to the Methodist church (I take turns every week between the many churches in my village). It was still beautiful as the balloons were still in place from the previous day. Afterwards I was approached by the pastor to come to his house for to’ogani. I agreed and went home to change into “normal to’ogani clothes” (I usually go straight from church and I am over dressed in my pulatasi, while everyone else is wearing a tee shirt and an i’e. I often am given clothes to wear when I do not know to change first.) However I did not know this was not a normal to’ogani.
Many people were heading to the pastor’s house with gifts and tons of food. They were all dressed to the nines looking their best, and then there was me in my plain brown shirt, and my orange i’e. I felt so embarrassed and out of place.
I was offered to go sit with the matais, church leaders, and the happy couple, but told everyone I wanted to help instead. First we displayed the gifts on trays. There was tons of laundry soap, bathing soap, gigantic fine mats (I do not know how people make them so big!) cases of pisupo, and cases of eleni (sardines). After they were ready, we began preparing the plates of food. When that was ready, so were we.
We headed into the church hall to display the gifts. Then came the time to serve the food. I was put in charge of giving the apa (bowl for washing hands) and solo (cloth) when people finished. So I sat there cross legged there patiently and quietly awaiting for my job. I should have expected what was going to happen based upon how the previous days had gone. I was first pointed out by the pastor all the single men in the room. He then told me that someone would find me a suitable husband at the pastor’s college. I just laughed it off, happy I could understand what they were saying about me.
I was a little nervous about my job as I did not want to mess up, and when I was caught not paying attention, someone would whisper to me to go as someone had finished. They were of course lying, and everyone burst into tears of laughter. Finally I went at the correct time and the bowls of water kept flowing to the several people in the room.
When everyone was done eating, it was our turn to eat whatever goodies were left. We all sat around sharing food gossiping about which man they wanted me to marry, as some men offered their opinions. It was real good company, and I have learned that no matter what, this topic will continue to come up daily so the best thing to do is to have a sense of humor about it.
The weekend was a lot of fun, even though there seriously were at least 100 wedding proposals.


Last week one of the people from Peace Corps came by to make sure my school understood what co-teaching meant and to see if we were doing it. I was happy to hear that me and my school are working well together.
I love going to each of the different classes and make sure I plan with them to make sure we are on the same page with teaching. I feel like we all have a lot to bring to the table and love working with them.
I was worried at the start of the week, as my teachers were not prepared to plan with me for Monday’s lessons. I knew it could go either way, but I was trying to stay optimistic.
Thankfully my teachers are good for our quick meetings and from going to their class often enough I knew what to expect. One of the classes I went to we co taught in ways that I thought we would have to work towards for months. It was amazing to work with her as we completely fed off of each other.
I am so happy to have such an amazing relationship with the staff at my school and am looking forward to see what else it can blossom into.