Friday, July 30, 2010

Mice Update

According to my sister the mice got left in the wrong hands and two of them have disappeared. Rumor is that cats have eaten them. My sister still has hers though. She brings it everywhere with her…well everywhere our parents aren’t.
Even though mom is at school, she brings the mouse to make sure it is taken care of. The mouse hangs out in her pocket of her school uniform. She takes out an eye dropper of milk to feed the mouse throughout the day. It actually is really cute. She puts a drop of milk around the mouth, and a few seconds later the mouse licks it up.
I wonder how long the mouse will stay cute before it starts terrorizing the house and mom finds out again.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Saturday I woke up early to the heavy downpour, read a little bit as I laid on the mat on the floor, then got my clothes together for church, making sure they did not have to be ironed. Then headed to the kitchen for breakfast.
I turned the hot water boiler on, and poured myself some cereal. I put my tea bag inside my cup since it was just me there was no need to make a big pot of tea and poured the steaming water into the cup (This also meant that I would have a nice break from the overly sugared tea that I had been used to getting.) I then sat down at the table. I looked down at what I thought was a delicious meal and saw only one thing.
The ants were in my tea cup, and in my cereal. Ants have a weird fascination with water, a fascination that I don’t quite understand since they drown. The ants had apparently crawled inside the water boiler, and I had cooked them. I poured out me tea, and washed the hot water boiler and added fresh new water. That took care of one problem. The ants in the cereal is a different problem all together. There is nothing you can really do about it, because unless your cereal is locked in the tightest containers, ants or other creatures find their way in. I like my cereal dry, so every time I noticed an ant I tried to squeeze it as I took it away from my bowl. The good thing about not liking milk is not having to watch ants swimming in your food.
After my delicious ant filled breakfast, I then headed to church. I love church on Saturdays, even though all my peace corps friends laugh at me for attend church all weekend. Church is such an amazing family get together. My minister and his wife are like my cousins who I love spending time with. When I first arrived, there were only 2 other people in the church besides my minister’s family. However, shortly after another family showed up to double our numbers.
At church we sing songs, I practice reading in Samoan and have conversations that really make you think, not even in a church related way. It can be an enjoyable two hours.
After church, I relaxed the rest of the day which was quite nice.
Sunday, another church day. I wake up, iron my clothes and make my breakfast. Remembering the ants from the previous day, I opt for just water with my cereal so I have less ants to pick out.
I then walk up the plantation road to the Pati Pati (Assembly of God) church. I arrive early and the kids are still in Sunday School. I decided to join the young group of them, and they were cute as we practiced the little sayings to perform in front of the congregation.
We then head over to the church which is a nice big open fale with beautiful quilts hung about. I used to find going to church here odd, since it is quite different than any other congregation I am used to. Now, I appreciate the beautify of how it is different and love going.
Just like on Saturdays, the church is full of singing, only here there is plenty of dancing to go along with the singing. My favorite is this one song where we do the twist and shake everyone’s hand in the congregation. It is really a beautiful site to see.
I really love going to the different churches as it makes me feel a part of my village. Each time I go, I hear a special prayer for me and my family in America, and it really touches me that they care so much about me. I used to be questioned by people in my village on why I wasn’t just attending their church. Now they have come to accept it and have a quick laugh at me for what I am looking forward to about church that week. On my walk today, I was stopped several times by women from the Methodist church, and they told me to have a good time dancing at the different lotu.
After church, I attended to’ogani with a family of one of my students. One girl is in year 1, the boy is in year 6, and the oldest daughter is in year 12 at the kolisi, so I come into contact with all three of the kids during the week. Sieni and I shared a tray of delicious Samoan food. I think I ate more lau pele than anyone ever, it was so delicious!
After eating, Sieni was working on her homework, and I was impressed how the kids all worked together to get it done as we watched some television and drank cocoa. (Remember if you want a strong body, drink Samoan cocoa, I was told many times today.)
After tafao-ing for a few hours, I had decided it was time to leave, and the girls walked with me home. At their fale they do not have water tanks, or piped water, so they have to walk to a relatives’ house to shower each day, and decided walking me home was a good excuse to go there.
At home I had to get ready for church number two of the day. I had promised some girls in the neighboring village that I would go to their lotu in the afternoon that day. The Methodist Church wears white, so I put on my white tasi and headed towards the shore of their village.
While walking on the road I met a few girls. I asked if they were going to church, and they told me it was cancelled. Since it was cancelled, and I was already in their village, I decided to follow them home.
At their house I chatted with the women (about the usual, boyfriends, food, church and family), and sang songs with the kids. We then had a dance party where the kids tried to teach me how to be a better Samoan dancer. After about two hours of dancing, I was tired and decided to begin heading back.
I stopped a few more times at different people’s houses, once to try to find out if there was a reason why boys were trying to throw rocks at birds. (I misheard their Samoan, and thought they were trying to get mangos out of a tree. I spent about ten minutes looking for the mango tree.) Another person had ran into my Samoan father that lives in Upolu and wanted to let me know he sends his love. I then made a stop to one of my favorite families to visit on Sundays, the Morman bishop’s family.
The kids were all in the front fale, so I joined them and we chatted about life. The girls in the kolisi had just competed in cross country races and I found out how the event went. We then acted how we normally do, and sang songs and danced. It was a great time.
Finally, it was time to go home. The two older girls walked me home. They were laughing hysterically at all the attention I get in our village. They go to school faraway and are only in town on the weekends, so they do not see how I live during the week. Several cars passed by, “Hi Lili.” Several people walking around asked, “Where are you going, Lili?” It was as though they were invisible. I felt extremely bad, but they didn’t seem to mind, thankfully.
When I finally reached home I was exhausted. I was ready to relax and go to bed.
This was my plan about two hours ago. Yet I still sit here at my computer trying to catch up on my blogs….
It never seems like there are quite enough hours in the day.

Remember those Junior High Days?

My parents were out of town with my little sister. I got the feeling that high school kids get. All jittery knowing that I would be having freedom. Not having to ask permission to go places, and be free to travel wherever I want on my bike. One day I went to Vaipua, another day I played volleyball.
Each day the family was gone I had plenty of people asking me if I was going to be okay without my family there. They were all shocked that I was willing to stay back with only my brother present. They all seemed concerned with making sure I was eating enough.
It is a nice relaxed feeling with only my brothers home. Dinners are much less formal, which sometimes makes things interesting. Once my brother reheated rice….that had ants crawling in. So the ants were in every bite I took. At least the tuna fish tasted good! I also enjoyed peace and quiet as it was a break from High School Musical playing in the background with my sister singing at the top of her lungs.
Eventually, my family came home, and so did the noise and the more formal dinners.
I love my family in Samoa, just as I love my family in America, but I like my space, and it was nice to have it for a few days.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


School was different. On a Thursday there was an assembly for the kids, when there normally is not. After the assembly I taught a little bit, and then the bell rang for another assembly. We had visitors.

A group from New Zealand ranging from 18-60 were biking around Savai’i. I had saw them the week before in Salelologa so they were making their way slowly around the coast. They introduced themselves, and us teachers performed a little dance for them. The teachers then introduced themselves. It is really funny because I have started to get used to the Samoan humor and giggled along with all the female teachers as they made themselves available to the new men.

The visitors then shared presents with our school. Frisbees were tossed around, along with a volleyball and a soccer ball. They also provided books and other school supplies which was a nice treat.

The students all sang for the guest before heading back to class. They spent a little time visiting our school before heading down to their next spot.

I guess the students impressed them and some of the people shared their information and promised to assist our school with books and other materials.

It was really nice for the guests to come and support our school. It had a big influence on the children and I am sure it did with the guests as well.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My distraction's Name is Volleyball

During training in my village, I have a few choices, I can run to the plantations, turn left, or turn right. Running to the plantations is uphill, as well as turning right. Most of the time I have been turning right, however, Thursday I decided to turn left. It was my second time turning left, and ten minutes into my run, I was facing the same distracting I faced last time. Volleyball.
The boys yelled at me to join, so I ran over to the court. They quickly made space for me. The beginning was fun as we were just fooling around not keeping score. I was able to hit the ball with ease without fear of the ball being shot like a missile towards me.
More people showed up, and the game turned competitive. The ball was suddenly going faster than baseballs at a MLB game. A few times I was proud of myself for hitting the ball without fear. A few times the ball was coming towards me so fast, and hitting me with such a big force that I was surprised I made it through without much more than a few scrapes and red marks. I have a big cut on one of my hands from a failed attempt to hit the ball. I never thought volleyballs were sharp enough to cut up your hand, but apparently they are when you play with the right people.
The sun was beginning to set, and like I tell everyone, I am scared of the dark because of the people on the road. There were a few stretches without houses so I did not feel compelled to stop and talk to everyone and was able to make it to my neighboring village quickly. Once there, I met up with a few girls in my year 6 class who wanted to make sure I made it home safely, so they walked with me. We walked up the stairs by the church, so we could pass our school. I only walk on this road on my way to school so many kids and adults were surprised to see me and greeted me with the biggest smiles.
I made it to the intersection and the two girls left me to return home. One of the boys in my village saw me and asked if I wanted to run. We ran up the gigantic hill that leads to my village and I headed home.
It was a long day since I was at school from 7-4, and was looking forward to having a nice break.
Hopefully next week I will find the energy to run further when I run to the left without the distraction of volleyball.

Bad Days

It is inevitable. Even living in paradise I am sure to have a bad day. It is usually caused from outside forces, since being in the village I feel as though I am living in a bubble. In this bubble, nothing really happens since each day is so similar. They are enjoyable, but no bad outside forces really interrupt my life.
Bad days happen usually when I decide to leave my bubble. This can be by going online and checking my email, or calling others.
It is good thing I have so many people to reach out to. I was really upset yesterday, and had so many of my Peace Corps family members willing to hear me share all of my problems with. All of the people I have met here are amazing and some of them are the best friends I have had in my life. I feel like I can go to them with any problem I have.
Bad days will happen, and I just glad that Samoa is full of enough friends for us to help each other through bad days. We may be far apart, but it seems we are always quick to rush to each other’s side.


“Your ideas of fun sure have changed,” my dad had told me today over the phone. I guess it has, but I haven’t taken the time to notice. At the time I had finished talking to him about training for the race, and my plans to bike around the island in a few weeks. I told him it was going to be fun, the first day after work biking about 35 kilometers until I get to another Peace Corps house to spend the night. The following morning, biking about 30 km to Ali. I told my dad that part was what I was worried about since there weren’t any villages and I really hope I will think to bring enough water and stay out of trouble. My dad asked if I was scared of rapists. “No,” I responded quickly, the truth was that thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. He was confused about what I was scared of, and I just said being well hydrated.

After that stretch, I will continue on about 10 km with Ali to the beach where a few of us will celebrate Father’s Day weekend together. (The Samoan Father’s Day is in August, and like Mother’s Day we have a day off for it.) After sleeping at the beach fales, I plan to bike 45 km to Salelologa to spend the night. The last day, I will finish up the trip with about 55 km. I am hoping I have the strength to make it the whole way, but the only real way to find out is to try it, and I am really excited for it.

Who knows, if I can do this maybe I can bike around Upolu next, and if I am feeling really strong, maybe I can try the Peace Corps challenge of biking around the island in one day. Plenty of boys have done it, but none of the girls have.

The fact that my idea of fun consists of biking around and running around, I guess my ideas of fun have changed. I play volleyball when I see a game going on, and sometimes try to join in on rugby, soccer, and other little games I see going on.

Our conversation continued with talking about the weather, and how I am going to have a hard time adjusting back to life in America, unless I move to a hot place, where I have my bike and running shoes.

Even though fun is different than it is in America, it still is fun.


Bucket ball
Kids don’t have toys like they do in America, so imagination can sometimes roam a little more freely. The other day I walked into a game of toss the bucket, so naturally I joined in.
We tossed the bucket in the air, seeing who can do the most flips in the air before catching it. Then tossed it back and forth, again trying to do flips.
As you can imagion, buckets are hard, and are awkward shaped. If you catch it in the wrong spot, your fingers can be lodged into an uncomfortable position, and during our long game, this happened several times.
I ended the game with several bruises on my fingers, including one under my nail. It hurts a lot, but as always it was worth it.

Mice Update

Mice Update

I was asked. “Can you help me with the mice?” I quickly changed the topic. She had been caught by mom with the mice. At school she gave the mice to others to take care of. But sure enough she came home from school the following day with a mouse. It was time to head to Apia so she was now looking for a new home for the mouse. It was not going to be me.

She left for Apia, and I did not find out what happened to the mouse, and I began to get a little curious. So I asked her class. Apparently the mice are divided into three different families. All of the top students each have baby mice to take care of.

At least they are the students who are most trustworthy.

But I wonder what will happen in a few days when the family returns from Apia, will the mice also return?


It’s no wonder there are health problems in this country without the education that is needed for good health. The information that is given out is not always the most accurate.
Walking around the village you will hear many different things. I have heard from some other volunteers. Like if you add sugar to tea, it will stop diabetes, or other outrageous things. It is not these people’s fault as how can you know anything if there is no correct information being passed along.
An example of a bad message is an ice cream commercial saying, “It is good for me.” Sure, ice cream is tasty, and good for a snack once in awhile. I am sure after hearing this, some people actually do believe it to be healthy for you.
Another absurd thing I have seen is the sale of msg. In America I was always in a haze of what is MSG. I knew it wasn’t good for me because of the news that is spread around America. But here, you can buy a big bag of it to add to your food for your pleasure.
It just seems odd some of the things I have seen dealing with health here.

A Day in the Life of Lillian

A Day In The Life of Lillian
I wake up early to make sure I arrive on time to school. Put on my pulatasi, unlock my bike and head for the gate off of our family compound. The gate is broken, so I have to move the huge log and the piece of log that holds it closed. I then open the gate and ride my bike through, ringing the bell every time I pass someone on the road. I head downhill, then uphill again to the start of my neighboring village where my school is.
I hop off my bike, and walk it through the the gate of the school. I am greeted by several kids and adults welcoming me. The adults are selling bags of popcorn, pancakes, chips, noodles, and pork cakes (Believe it or not I did not misspell that). The kids are playing with each other before they have to do their duties of cleaning up the school.
My bike is locked next to the year 8 classroom and head to the teacher’s office. I do a little quick preparation work for the day and the kids head to class after cleaning.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the kids have an assembly. In the assembly, the kids sing songs, and have a little spiritual time before the teachers’ give the announcements. The assembly is in the last two rooms of the school. Rooms where the walls have fallen down so they connect easily to one another.
I then head over to my first class, year 5. Some days the teachers are busy, and I start with both year 5 and 6 together. Those days are usually fun, because we start off with songs and some games. We sometimes review the things I know both classes are needing help with.
After singing many songs, the year 6 class leaves, and I am left with my lovely year 5 class. We do reading, speech practice, English, and essay writing. We are so busy for the hour we have together and have a good time.
Next stop is back to the year 6 in their classroom. The year 6 classroom is full of the brightest students ever. They are always a lot of fun. We work on reading during the time we have together. My favorite part of the week is when we get to act out the stories. The kids have become real good at turning text into dialogue to create a readers theatre.
My next group of kids is with little kids. On Mondays and Wednesdays I get to year 3. Year 3 is full of the sweetest most polite kids ever. We sometimes work of speech and spelling, but usually our fun is singing. The kids prefer the 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed song, as they are amazing at acting it out.
The other days I go to a combined class of years 1 and 2. As long as one of the teachers is in the classroom with me it is a good time. We sing a lot of songs, and practice naming the parts of the body. It can be rough some days since the kids can amount to about to about 70 kids. We still can get a lot of work though with writing, and drawing. My favorite part is doing the Macerena dance to the alphabet. I use so much energy with the kids that after class I usually gulp down whatever is left in my water bottle right away.
Break time! Interval, or what we call in America, recess. Most of the days, I spend hanging out with the kids on the porch. We talk, we sing, and we just enjoy each other’s company.
After interval, I go to year 7. The kids have been cheeky this term so we haven’t had as much time to play games or sing songs. We have an hour together, so we get a lot of work done in spelling, writing, English, and essay writing. It is amazing how much work we can get done. Every week, we have testing, and I have been impressed at their improvement.
Year 4 is my next stop. The kids are always full of energy and I use that energy to get a lof of work done. Today we played charades to practice verbs and adverbs. Last week we played sentence games, and we also spend a lot of time singing songs.
My last stop at my primary school is year 8. In year 8 we alternate between writing, reading and spelling. We have pen pals at Rachel’s school, and Rachel and I giggle at the silly things the kids write back and forth to each other, since we also write silly things to each other.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have to rush out of school since I have one more stop to go to before my school day is over. I am helping out at the kolisi in the computer room. So I hop on my bike and head to the next village as fast as I can pedal, quickly climb up the stairs and open the door where about two dozen kids are. I assist them with their homework, and any computer questions that they have. I also help the computer teacher with any questions she may have about her lessons.
Finally it is time to go home and relax for a little bit, but my day is far from over. After my hour break in which I read, take a nap, write , or enjoy a little bit of a movie, I’m ready to start exercising. I am really trying to take the race next month seriously, so I make sure every week day (there is no exercising for the Sabbath of any religion, so Saturdays and Sundays are both out) I am out of my house between 5 and 5:30 with my sneakers tied, and an I’e over my shorts. I have been running between 15-30 minutes uphill towards other villages, and then enjoy a nice walk back. Because of being able to walk one way, I am able to connect with more people in my neighboring villages. I have learned that running is a difficult activity, especially when your legs are constricted by something like a skirt.
I usually find amazing people to walk with on my way home, like today I got to walk most of the way with two women from my village. They re-introduced me to every man we encountered, told me which ones had jobs, and which ones I should date/marry. We joked a bit as we walked and I said fa pe’u (goodbye boyfriend) to every man that we passed, to give us all a laugh.
They then told me that part of becoming Samoan was climbing trees, and told me I needed to practice. I tried for several minutes while a crowd of about a dozen people laughed and cheered me on. But sadly, I failed. They told me it was because I had my sneakers on and I had to do it barefoot, but I was not about to do that…today. We then had to walk through the village grooming me as I was now covered in these little prickly things. I had about four girls helping to get them out of my hair, while two people helped get the prickly things off my clothes.
When I finally make it home I drink about 64 ounces of much needed water, as even though I am exercising at the coolest part of the day, I am still really hot. Then it is time to shower.
After showering, I spend some time with my family, and then we have dinner together. Between 8 and 9:30, I am ready for bed and enjoy a nice slumber.
Although there is little variety from this schedule, I still love every waking moment of my days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Pet Mice

I have no real problem with rodents. They are fine if they are controlled, like in cages, or hidden in the subway and other places.
There has been one living in my school. I see it hiding around the office. Apparently it has been busy.
The past week there has been a lot of cleaning to get the office ready for the big library’s grand opening. The students have been doing a lot of it. Today my sister brought something back from the library. A new pet..or 3.
She found mice. She is keeping them in a little box and feeding them milk out of a little eye dropper.
“Don’t tell mom” she informed me.
“I won’t” I agreed. She showed them to me. They were tiny newborns. Very cute, however, soon they will grow up, without a proper cage to keep pets in, and will begin eating stuff around the house, and I fear this.
In a few days she will be going with the rest of the family to Apia for a few days. She was asking me advice on what to do about her new friends when she was gone.
“Maybe someone else can watch them,” I suggested since there is no way I wanted to offer my services by playing mom to three tiny mice.
“No, they will just die,” she answered. I told her I didn’t know.
I don’t know what the future holds for these mice, but the secret is safe with me…for now.

I've Got Chills, They're Multiplying

The race is approaching quickly. I have been training towards the right, which means there are plenty of hills. I am proud of myself as my stamina keeps growing.
I started leaving earlier so I can do the polite thing by running one way, and then walking back so I can talk to everyone that I pass by. My neighborhood feels like it is growing. So many people in so many villages know me and are like my extended family. I am stopped by people to ask for homework help, and little chats about where I was going to.
It was nice today because the clouds were out and I wasn’t sweltering from the heat. However, after running through my second village the windy day started to catch up to me and made my chilly due to be soaked from the huge amount of sweat dripping from my body. (Great mental imagine, I know!) By the time I got home for my amazing much needed shower. I was literally cold.
I did something that I told my cousin earlier today on the phone that I haven’t done pretty much in nine months. I put on pants. Nothing is better than the feel of nice big comfortable sweat pants. My chills disappeared and so did my goose bumps.
I probably wouldn’t have been cold if I didn’t go for the run, but I am happy I did. Not only did I make the opportunity for myself to put on the amazingly comfortable pants, but, I also get to stop often with a new family to chit chat. It is an amazing two hours that I get to have daily and I love looking forward to it.

The Break In

We entered the office. Everything looked the same, except the window. The wiring around the window was torn back. Someone had broken into the office over the weekend.
Breaking into my school is common as the building is old. The windows are all broken and there is chain linked fence covers most windows. On some windows, the chain link fence is missing on some windows. The windows are covered with pieces of wood.
Teachers hold the keys to their own rooms, and when they are absent, there is sometimes not a way to open the classrooms. Unless…
You break into the classrooms. Pull back the wood, and have kids climb into the room.
It is crazy how common break ins are in the school.
At least nothing is being taken that I notice.

Pili Vs Kitty

Pili vs kitty
This weekend television shocked me. Tons of people were gathered around to watch a boxing match, I felt as if I was back in the States. The match was out of Atlantic City,and a few of us volunteers were together, talking about memories from the East Coast, as we watched the match. I guess the reason why they were showing it was there was a Samoan fighting, which is usually why they show any international activity, but it made me feel as if II was living the high life with Pay Per View.
Like normal with watching boxing matches, I got bored quickly and paid little attention to the outcome of the event, although it did look like it was a draw. (Do they allow that in boxing events?) It was a good taste of home, watching it.
Little did I know the next fighting match would take place the following day.
The cat sits under the kitchen table staring at me. Waiting for me to get food so I can drop the fatty pieces to her. The kitty didn’t realize I was just sitting there watching the news and there was no food yet. Then we heard a plop. A pili (little white lizard) dropped from off the ceiling.
The kitty sprang into action pouncing on him. The pili was batted around a few times, and then escape. The cat caught him again quickly and a little bit of blood oozed from his head.
The cat suddenly jumped up again, leaving just the pili tail. The tail was squirming around without the body as I heard the head scream from the pain. It kept shaking for a few minutes, and then haulted.
It surprised me that they can stay alive for so long without the rest of their bodies.
Watching our cat battle against the pili made me miss Amber and Sativa. They used to battle every single creature that would end up in our backyards. Sativa especially liked attacking birds and making squirrel noises, while Albert preferred attacking Mike, my next door neighbor’s feet.
Being that it is summer time in America now, I wonder what they are catching these days to give to Jen as a present for being an amazing pet sitter/mom substitute.
The following day I saw a pili in the bathroom. It was missing a tail, but it secretly made me happy that he survived the fight.

Monday, July 19, 2010


A week in advance I was invited for to’ogani with one of my favorite families. I began looking forward to church all week because of this. The company at the meal is always amazing, and it makes me feel as if I am at home.
This morning I headed to church. During the three hours I was there, I was invited by several families to come over, and I was excited with all the invitations, but had to remember what lay in store for me.
The family I was with had visitors from New Zealand, and because of this, many relatives came over to attend the delicious meal. Like the norm for every meal I attend with a family from church, I was offered suggestions on who I should be dating. This time however, they decided that I should start marriage plans. I just kept refusing politely, “Leai fa’afeta’i.”
After the meal, the palagi visitors went swimming. I was asking why I was not going with them. I laughed, reminding them it was Sunday. The village rules say no swimming on Sundays, and since I am a part of the village I need to follow the rules. I really do not want to pay a fine for doing something little like that when I know better. (Besides I was looking too good in my awesome Rosie pulatasi to want to get wet.) They people I was with looked impressed with my wanting to be a part of the village in all aspects.
When the palagis came back, I became embarrassed at what they were wearing. The family is half Samoan, and I figured with a Samoan parent, they would have to follow the rules of the village, but I was wrong. I really wonder how I am going to end up dressing when I am allowed to wear whatever I want again. Am I going to have the same views I have now, or go back to my previous views?
After their swim, some of the Samoan kids, the palagi kids and I decided to play schoolyard hand games. I learned some of the songs that I heard them sing at school, and some new ones from New Zealand. I also taught a few songs from my days in elementary school.
After spending the whole day with the family, and not taking my afternoon nap, I was tired and I headed home.
It was nice meeting more people from another country to observe the differences between Samoans, and Samoans who move abroad. It is interesting to compare the many differences with some individuals.

Why you should have car insurance

ance.We were sitting on the bus at the depot in Salelologa ready to leave. The area where the busses pick up passengers can be crazy, as taxis are trying to fight the busses for their business.
Cars and busses have a difficult time leaving because of how busy this area can be. The busses sometime back up and go forward several times for reasons that I am unclear of. I think they are just trying to jockey for position.
Our bus backs up a little, and then the bus next to me does the same, “Crash”, was what we heard. We looked back and there was a bike strapped to the back of the bus. It was physically inside the taxi van. Surrounding the bike was shattered glass. The bike had punctured the window and the bus driver didn’t notice and started to attempt to leave.
The cab driver sprang out of the vehicle, and knocked on the window of the bus. The bus driver opened the window and the cabbie popped him in the jaw.
My bus then pulled away and I was unable to see the outcome.
In a country where people do not have insurance on vehicles, as well as many people driving without licenses, it is especially important to look where you are backing up. Samoa is a country where things are not settled in court, and are usually settled with fists. I am glad I can not cause too much damage when I back up on my bike.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Taste Buds

Taste Buds
I used to have taste buds. I used to enjoy the taste of different food.
I used to prefer certain food to others. For example, I used to be a chicken girl. Chicken was always my meat of choice. I would always eat it.
I used to hate fish. The fishy taste and the fishy smell disgusted me. Now I enjoy fish. I love it, well most of it. I still really hate sardines. But other fish is amazing. It isn’t fatty and it is mainly white meat. It is so good!
Chicken now is disgusting, most days. It is so fatty and boney that I prefer to stay away from it. The cats love it when I have it since my scraps go to them. (It is a lot more than they normally get to eat.) I get so excited when fish comes now.
Something drastic is changing. I don’t taste anything differently with the different food. They all taste bland.
My mission to head to Salelologa and treat myself to a real meal. I want to find out if my taste buds can come back.

Money Issues

Money trouble
I was teaching my year 5 class and was interrupted by the principal.”The only kids allowed to go to the bathroom today are….” And then listed three children’s names. Kids needed to provide money for toilet paper, and a few brought in the money.
It is so sad that these kids who have to go to the bathroom aren’t allowed to because of money. “It isn’t healthy of them not to use toilet paper, or use hard paper.” I agree with that somewhat, but it is also not healthy for kids to hold in it in for so long.
Today more kids brought in toilet paper money, but it still isn’t everyone. I can’t imagine a rule like that in the States.
This term school enrollment has changed. There are a few new faces around the building, and a few old faces gone. I talked to one person and my village and found out the reason why.
Every term the kids have to pay a school fee of ten tala, about $4 US. It is too expensive for some families so some of the kids are unable to attend school.
An example of this is this one family in my village. They live far away towards the mountains and don’t have much money. They have three kids and that is $30 tala a term that they would have to spend. That is more money than they can afford.
One of the kid’s aunts decided to host the child for the school semester. She is providing the school tuition fee, helping with the school fees, and feeding her. The girl is ten years old and it is her first time attending school.
TEN YEARS OLD! It just seems crazy to me.
I know other Peace Corps volunteers have run into the same issues. Some of the kids are 13 and attending school for the first time.
It makes more sense for me seeing first hand why kids struggle at school. There are other financial obligations for the families that cone before school. Kids also have many obligations at home that the families feel are more important than school.
It is sad to see money being such an issue in schools.

Clothes Eaten

Clothes eaten
Termites eat wood. At night they make noise and eat.
Ants eat any food that is left out, as well as cockroaches.
What eats clothes? I can’t figure it out. I started hanging up my clothes because some of them were eaten when I had them in a suitcase. But even while my clothes are up on strings, they are still being eaten.
I’ve lost two shirts and two pairs of underwear so far….
I hope I can stop anything else from being eaten.


There is a cockroach. He apparently has a thing for me. I don’t like it at all.
When I was trying to sleep last night he crawled right next to my lavalava. “Eww,” I screamed as I threw something at him.
Five minutes later, he was back and came next to my house. I tried squishing him with my hands, but he was too fast for me.
He came back several times throughout the night and the next morning.
I know I don’t have a pe’u, but I am not looking forward to getting one with a roach.
I hope the roach does not return…


I told them I would be back. I was planning on coming twice a week, and then I got into my bike accident. I couldn’t ride my bike since my hand was hurting too much to grip the handlebar. I am not talented enough to ride my bike without handlebars. The kolisi is two villages away and I really needed my bike to get there on a regular basis as walking takes too much time, especially in the heat of midday when I would be travelling.
I then went with Dana and Matt near Asau for Mothers Day weekend. It was a long bike ride and I was unable to make the return trip all in one day. Since I was exhausted and dehydrated, I spent the night at Dana’s house and took the bus home in the morning.
We then had training in Apia, and I took a trip to American Samoa. When I returned Bck to Savai’i, I was feeling ill and could not go. The sickness mixed with rainy days and more time passed without a bike.
Finally I was able to visit Dana and was able to ride my bike home. I was now free to travel wherever my legs will take me.
I remembered my promise that I would return. So I talked to the principal and I was back.
Today was my first day I helped a few kids with typing their reports on the computer. I helped them find some shortcuts on the programs they were using, and making little corrections. It was a lot of fun.
I made a commitment to come twice a week and I am looking forward to returning on Thursday, where hopefully more kids will show up for help.


My school is made up of three villages. I go to church on the weekends in my village. I have wanted to have the opportunity to connect with the students in the other villages as well, as I think having that school and village life connection helps.
I finally had the opportunity to visit another village for the second service in the next village. I arrived early and sat outside the church with a group of kids from school. They were all happy I was there and we chatted about the weekend.
Church was nice as there were so many people there. It was seriously overfilled with people. Kids were sitting on laps and people were squeezed on the church benches. Finally it got to be too much and some of the children were sent to sit on the floor.
The pastor mentioned me in his prayers which was nice, and after the service was over I was greeted by people all over the community thanking me for coming. It was nice attending a different lotu and I felt at home being with the community next to my village.
At school the following day, me attending church was the biggest talk of school. One of the teachers invited me to go to church, as well as many more of the children. I feel like I am becoming a part of more families the longer I am here.

Cheeky Kids Don't Go To The Library

Cheeky kids Don’t go to the Library
I had books donated to my school and had purchased books as well. I opened up my library to the classes that were well behaved and the kids in my year six class really took me up on the opportunity to read the books.
The kids were coming every day at interval to trade their books for other books. They were taking good care of the books and I was proud. The kids were anxious to come, and those in classrooms of cheeky kids were trying to find a way inside to the library. Peer pressure would sink in, I was sure of it and the kids would be well behaved.
My year eight class was cheeky and rude. I told them they had to start respecting me or I would not return. I did not go to them all of last week. I received a few apology notes from students in the class begging me to return.
I returned today, and the year 8 class was amazing. They were quiet and worked hard, which allowed us to go through our work fast enough to sing songs.
Tomorrow they earned the privilege of going to the library. I am glad that they are well behaved again and can go back to having fun working.


I love teaching. I love the students, the teachers and the atmosphere. My favorite classes have always been with those students about the ages of 9-12. They are the most interesting kids. They are sometimes cheeky, but always full of surprises and are funny.
There is always this one student every year that really pushes my buttons. This is the student I usually love the most as I spend so much time and energy with them.
During student teaching there was one boy who was a pro at the four day work week. I spent every day afterschool with him helping him with his studies and his life at school improved. He started doing homework, class work, and stopped being the class clown.
The first year of teaching, I had two students in my class that I still think about all the time. One of the students was a pathological liar which made every day interesting with him. The other student was well known throughout the school. Everyone was surprised that they would put him in a class with a new teacher as he caused trouble with all he encountered. The worst day was when I was threatened by him. It scared me because I knew this boy’s background. He had access to things that terrified me. Both boys were suspended at some point of the year, which made me feel horrible. I really hope those two boys are better and stronger today than they were back then.
My second year I had a student that was also trouble as he tried to be the class clown and one day he physically hurt me. It wasn’t bad, but it was still enough to cause pain. When that student came back from being suspended, he was better behaved, but always managed to keep me on my toes.
My third year I had a boy who always kept me on my toes. He acted out and never did his work.
They were always interesting, and I loved being around these kids.
This year one of my year 7 boys is the one that keeps me on my toes. He is cheeky as can be, but funny as anything. He is always interrupting my class which can be frustrated. I put him in time out many times throughout the week. One day he crossed the line, and another teacher saw. The boy was kicked out of school several times, and the other teachers had had enough. He was kicked out for the final time and was expelled.
I hope he finds his way, and finds a teacher he can connect with just like I hope for each other kid I have taught. It is going to be a different class without him as he brings a certain dynamic atmosphere to everywhere he is. I wish him the best in his new school.


I never really had allergies before. When I was about 13 I had an allergic reaction to soda. From not drinking it for about a month, and having a lot of it on my birthday weekend I broke out into serious rashes. A few years back, the school I was working at had a serious mold problem. One of the teachers had a doctor’s note that prevented her from entering some of the rooms in the school because of this. I ended the year suing an inhaled to help combat the issues.
I think the mold has become an issue again for me here. (Or something else.) I have had a few nights where I have had trouble breathing, and I had the same problem when I had to go to the bank.
Hopefully taking medicine daily will stop this from happening again.

Teaching Little Kids

I must have done something wrong, or something really right. My teachers must really trust me. Half the teachers didn’t show, so classes had to be combined. I was assigned by myself to years 1 and 2.
Imagine sixty five year olds in a room, when you barely speak the language. The kids only know how to respond to corporal punishment. When one kid acts up, the other students are quick to hand you a stick to punish the kids with. It is against the law for corporal punishment, but since it is a new law, it is taking awhile to take effect.
I am usually with the little ones for half an hour at a time, which is usually enough for me. Several hours of that many kids straight without help was going to be difficult.
I read stories in English, we sang songs and practiced English sentences. The kids are improving tremendously I’ve noticed which makes me feel proud that my time spent in the younger grades is doing something.
I was not a kindergarten teacher in America, so having a big class of little ones can be difficult. I used chanting and clapping to get their attention and sometimes it worked.
The first hour was great, but by the second and third hour, I was running out of tricks. There were too many of them, and my Samoan was not nearly good enough for teaching for that long for kids that speak very limited English.
By the time interval came, I was thrilled. It was a Friday and so the afternoon would be filled with sports.I am sure by the next time I have them again it will be better. I am learning more and more as classroom management is different than in America. I feel like I am becoming a stronger teacher by being put in these circumstances.

Walking through the spiderwebs

Walking through the spider webs
I wanted to leave early in the morning so I could still attend church with my family, however it was raining, and I was not about to ride my bike in the rain. We decided to try to find the elusive beach which we tried to find twice previously and every time ended in failure.
We set out on our mission to find the beach. The path is full of rocks, we were walking in tall grass, all of a sudden I heard the famous words from Dana, “I think we are almost there.” Like I said, we had tried to get to this spot several times before, and all of them had ended in failure with her saying, “I think we are almost there, ” several times.
We turned off the path into the bush where we were now walking in the dirt mixed with huge giant rocks. We were swatting our way through spider webs and sloshing in our shoes. Climbing over fallen trees, and crawling underneath them. We walked towards the ocean, and looked down and saw a massive cliff.
There is supposed to be a path for you to scale the rocks to get to the beach, but we couldn’t find it. The cliff was huge and I was terrified of falling off. We continued walking next to the cliff, using a stick to break apart the spider webs, to avoid eating many more of them. Bugs all around us, dirt coating out legs, it was an incredible experience. There were some trees coated with butterflies. When we approached the trees, hundreds of butterflies fluttered about. They were flying all around us and it was beautiful. We passed dozens of trees like this and it was an amazing site.
Finally we saw a path down the hill. We didn’t know where the path lead to, but since it was a path, it must be someplace good. We started walking down the narrow path. The road was steep, and muddy, and we ended up sliding down it quite a few times. Finally at the bottom we saw sand. We made it!
Only this wasn’t La Oto, the beach Dana had planned on taking us to, we had walked much farther and found an additional private beach. We dropped our things and ran towards the water. We swam at the beach for a little while enjoying the solitude. I am used to going to the beach with dozens of little Samoans following me to spend time with me, so actually being able to swim without the children was a nice treat.
We looked towards the west, and we saw La Oto. It looked like a short trip away, but what was separating us from the other beach was a bunch of rocks. We kept our shoes off and began bouldering.
I tried rock climbing in college and really enjoyed it. I was never going to be a lead climber so I often went out bouldering with my friends as equipment wasn’t needed. It really can be just as fun trying to figure out your path. Bouldering in Wyoming, does not come close to comparing to bouldering on the beaches on Samoa.
The rocks are slippery as some of the waves come crashing right on your. You are climbing with hundreds of crabs, lizards and small fish living in the little ponds on the rocks. Our feet are slipping as it is difficult to find a grip. During some points we had to jump into the water as there was no visible path on the rocks without Stretch Armstrong Arms. Our feet were crammed into small spaces as we climbed for at least an hour. Our feet were becoming cut up as we walked on broken coral, and climbed barefoot.
Finally we made it to the other beach. “Bump,” a coconut fell off the tree right near Dana’s head. What amazing food she thought. I offered to try to open it, but she said it can wait until we got back. We saw on the beach drank some water and realized how hungry we were so left and began climbing the cliff to go home. Dana looked funny as she climbed the cliff with a coconut in hand. I kept my shoes off as my feet were in pain from being cut up. So I walked on the rocks and dirt with bugs crawling all around me for the half hour or so of our walk.
We had been gone about five hours and were famished. Dana’s family were out, but left a few cans of food with our names on them. Neither of us know how to open cans without can openers, so we headed over to her neighbors house.
The neighbor was her principal and knew me and so it was nice to see a familiar face. They quickly grabbed the food from us, offered us seats on the mats. Then the food came put, we had so much to eat and so much to talk about. I love how any family in Samoa always seems to welcome you in.
Outside it wasn’t as hot as normal. So I decided it was time for me to take the long bike ride home. As soon as I left, the clouds left and the sun was out. I began to regret my decision to ride at that time. I hopped on my bike, and began going uphill. I kept pedaling and pedaling and wasn’t going anywhere I felt.
“Dang it!” Both of my tires were flat. I continued to walk my bike uphill. I then headed to Dana’s family’s house. (They have both a house in tai and uta.) They were nice enough to wake up and help me fill my tires so I could continue on my journey.
It was hot, and I felt dehydrated so I stopped several times on the 25ish km journey home. I stopped several times for water breaks. I had several people try to get me to stop and rest at their house. When I was about six villages away I began to hear my name being called out every thirty seconds. I don’t know how so many people learned my name so quickly, when I barely go to their village.
I decided that I deserved a real break when I reached Elisa’s village so I stopped for some ice cream. I sat on the store steps and ate, about ten children gathered around me quickly. We chatted for half an hour about rugby and other little things about life.
Finally I decided to hop on my bike and finish my trip home. I got distracted in the next village to mine by some students and got invited to go to attend church with them the following day.
But finally I did make it home, and it was nice to be back. My feet are all cut up, one of my toes is pussing a little , but it was nice to be home.I had a great time walking in the spider webs with Dana, and I am looking forward to our next adventure together!


If I go to the main road and turn left, my closest Peace Corps neighbor is Liz, about a two hour bike ride. If I turn to my right I can visit two different volunteers riding the same amount of time, Elisa and Dana. This weekend was going to be a Dana weekend.
I made plans with her to take the bus after school, which meant I would hopefully leave around 2:30, depending on when the bus would come. I asked around my village when people thought the bus would come, and I got all different answers ranging from 2-3:30. To be one the safe side I packed up my stuff, grabbed a book, and headed for the road at 2. (I did not hear a bus pass before then so I felt pretty confident that I would encounter a bus quickly.) Some of my students were on the road selling mangos. They told me to wait with them, and how could I refuse? We hung out singing songs, talking, eating and selling mangos, and before I knew it, it was 4:30 and the bus had showed. The time really did fly by and I enjoyed waiting with them. While at their mango stand, I talked to a lot of cars coming through and people passing by. They offered to let me spend the day and night with them and their family instead of visiting Dana. I kept refusing politely as I really wanted to see Dana (and get my bike back that I left at her house over the Mother’s Day holiday).
I cannot imagine waiting for a bus for two and a half hours in the States. I think I would have given up and returned home quickly as it would not be worth the hassle. Sometimes resorting to my telephone to see who might want to give me a ride, or a local cab driver’s phone number. Other times deciding that my plans probably weren’t worth the wait. I used to hate waiting, now it seems like it is a part of life, and at least usually there is something to keep you occupied.
After my long wait, I was happy to get on the bus, especially since a rain storm was approaching. The people of Samoa always seem to amaze me as they are always willing to shift around to make sure everyone fits on as comfortable as possible. Today, a kolisi student gave up her seat to me and sat on the bus steps.
Dana lives at the tai (Oceanside) of her village, and the bus only goes to uta (away from the beach). There is a giant hill separating them, and Dana offered to meet me on the hill. When I got off the bus I began waiting at the bus shelter since it was pouring. However, a pickup truck arrived and a few of us piled in the back. Halfway down the hill, we saw Dana dancing in the rain, I knocked on the window and hopped off the truck. The two of us were giggling as we splashed through the puddles on the way to her house. When we arrived we were soaked, but anxious to catch up on life.
We headed over to the beach to sit on the rocks , watch the children swim and eat mangos. Dana is so involved in her community, it is amazing. She knows all of the little kids by name and is always anxious to invite them to hang out with us. This was my fourth time visiting Dana’s village and I was surprised at how many of the children and adults remembered me by name. I am horrible with names. I’ve been living in my village for six months, and feel as though I do not know most names. (Part of the reason is because I’ve past the time period where I can re-ask their names, and previously I was concentrating on figuring out what they were saying.)
When we left the beach, I suggested that we go train for our relay race next month by running up the massive hill. We started to walk across the sand to Dana’s house, when we saw people playing volleyball. Training can wait we decided and headed over to the game.
I really like playing volleyball, despite what many people think. I am just horrible at it, and so the people in my village don’t let me play since they are way to competitive. However, if you want a good laugh, invite me to play with you, although Dana is pretty funny to watch as well.
When the ball is spiked towards us we cover our face to not get hurt. Sometimes I jump to hit the ball, and then realize that I am about a foot too short to actually reach the ball, even while jumping. We tried though and had a real fun time.
Sunset was approaching so the game had to end and we headed home. Dana is my sister. I love her to death, so it only makes sense that her family is an extension of my family. Her mom, really is my mom. She passed me a towel which Dana and I were chit chatting away, and told me that I needed to shower. You have to listen to mom, so I grabbed the lamp and headed into the dark shower to bucket wash.
After showering, it was one of my favorite times of the day, dinner time. It was hard for Dana and I to find time to eat as our mouths kept talking trying to catch up on every aspect of our lives and our vacation plans.
We then turned the open fale into a movie theatre as the neighbors all piled in to watch a movie. As soon as they heard the sounds, about 30 people showed up to watch the movie with us. I had a little girl who had been hanging out with me all day, stay true to form in her attempt to become my new best friend as she tested my Samoan by chatting through the entire movie.
The movie was long, and I have a bad habit of sleeping through movies, even when they are incredible. So true to form, I took a nice nap and awoke when the credits rolled across the screen.
We parted ways with our Samoan friends, and they begged me to stay longer than the morning so I could attend church with them. Another time I told them, as I love spending time with Dana, and know that I will continue to visit her village.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

School Update

School Update

Last week the Japanese Ambassador came by to see our school pertaining our grant. Before coming to us he visited other schools in Upolu. I was surprised to hear that our school building is in a lot better shape than the other buildings that he saw. (One of the women with him said she was worried the whole time that the ceiling was cave in while they were there.)

On their observations they told me that the condition of the school building could be learned just be knowing if the principal was a female or a male. Apparently females take better care of their buildings. (Which is good for us because one of the things that worries them is helping to provide money for a school building that is not maintained.)

The building’s structure was in good condition, but they saw the many problems we had with our school.

I think the meeting went well and I will keep you updated on what happens next.

The other issue with our school is the bathrooms. There is no running water in the school, and so all of our water comes from the water tanks. There is a barrel in the bathrooms for you to bucket water into your toilet to flush. Hopefully soon this will change. Yesterday some of the staff members from my school traveled to Salelologa to find out about piped water, and it looks as though it will be turned on here. Today I saw PVC piping coming into the school, which is an amazing sign.

On an even brighter note, I started loaning out the “special” books to my students. The special books and the ones I have bought since living here, the ones my family has sent over, and the ones from Darien Books. The kids I opened up the library to went wild with excitement. The excitement will continue as I heard a rumor that our school will be getting a librarian to help take care of the books. (Something I feared as I have seen many write in books and cut apart books for their pictures.)

In other words school is going good, and a lot of improvements can be seen here.

The World is Spinning

America isn’t standing still, life is still going on. Today, July 8th, two big events happened that make me feel sad that I am missing out.

The first one I knew of from the start. My mother’s birthday. I haven’t lived with my parents in about eight years, so I have missed celebrating many birthdays with her. It made me stop and think what would I be doing if I was there? Sometimes my brother convinces the family to go to a ball game. Other times, we head into Manhattan to see a Broadway show. Other years we have spent the day at the pool, play games and go out for Chinese food that evening.

What would I be doing with her if she was her? Maybe take a trip to the ocean for a swim, or even a trip to the beach resort for a nice dinner. I probably would do the normal here of taking her for ice cream in one of the neighboring villages. I am sure it would be similar to an ordinary day here.

Now, the other big event happening.

About five years ago my sister bought a house in Colorado. She picked out the house because of the basement. It was gigantic and full of possibilities. She had the amazing plan that me and her would finish the basement ourselves and make it into the most amazing hangout spot ever.

Our love for power tools grew and we began working hard on it. Soon, the most incredible things began to happen. We framed, put in insulation, and put up the sheetrock. A bathroom was built that was the biggest, most incredible bathroom I’ve ever seen. We bought the paint to finish, and my trip to Samoa was calling so I had to stop working on it.

Jen would send me pictures and tell me updates on the troubles with our uneven floor, our bathtub television that had no sound, or other little unfortunate incidents. It didn’t stop her and she kept working.

At lunchtime I checked my voicemail, the final inspection was passed! A few years worth of work had finally come together. The televisions are up in the wall, the electricity is working, the heated tiles in the bathroom are warm and toasty.

I am missing the opening to the basement. I am missing my mom’s birthday. I am missing many other things. It doesn’t really bother me though. I am still enjoying the fulfillment of my life in Samoa.

Congratulations Jen on completing the basement!

Happy birthday mom! We will celebrate in a year and a half!

The Pig and the Dog-A Scary Tale to Tell

On the one hand I shouldn’t be upset. The dog is just doing his job protecting our land. He sees his threat and goes after it. The main threat being pigs.
We usually call off the pigs by a simple “shh” sound. Usually it works and the pigs try to run away. The “shh” sound also informs our dog Champ that there are intruders. The dog chases the pigs around the yard until they leave and go home.
It started off like such a calm day. I was just sitting outside eating a mango I bought from my neighbor and enjoying the heat of Samoa. Samoan mangos are probably the best thing in the world. They are so fresh coming right off the tree and are just seki’a. All of a sudden something caught my eye.
Champ was hiding in the bushes waiting to make his move. He looked excited for the chase. I made the “shh” sound and the pigs started to move, but so did Champ. Most of the piglets ran the correct way, however, one made the unfortunate mistake of going to a dead end. The pig had no way out.
Champ grabbed the pig by the mouth and played with him like my cat plays with a fly or a bird. I ran after them and Champ started to run, pig in mouth. I yelled, I threw rocks, nothing seemed to work to get the pig out of the mouth. I did not want the pig to die and I stupidly almost put myself in harm’s way.
I ran after them and tried to hit the pig out of the mouth. It didn’t work. Some of the neighbors heard the scream. “Alu ese” (Go away) one of my student’s called to me as he began pelting rocks at Champ.
The chase continued as Champ headed under the car. Finally the little stones worked as the pig came out of the mouth. He was covered in blood and began limping. We chased the dog away and the pig got the courage to start walking and began running from us. The others chased the pig around and finally grabbed it. They brought the screaming pig home.
I stood there in shock. What else could I do? I ate my mango. Reminded myself why it is necessary to carry rocks when running and went back inside where there are no dogs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Classroom Jobs

Schools in Samoa are truly unique. We lack the resources that American schools have. It is not just the physical resources, but the resources that come in the form of people as well. This means that teachers and students must jump in regularly to help make the school a successful place to grow.
Some things are very basic such as taking over a class for a teacher that is absent, or doing various chores such as cleaning the school until it shined.
However there are two jobs that I find strange and am happy that these jobs were never available for me.
The first job is for teachers. I heard this job takes place in both the primary schools as well as the kolisi (high school). One of the teachers does underwear checks. He goes to the different classrooms and makes sure all the boys are wearing their undies. If they are not, they are taken out of the classroom for the various punishments.
The second job, I somehow believe is worse. In my year 7 class, the students must all wait outside while one student lets them in one at a time. One of the students smells their armpits. If they smell okay, the student can come in. She seriously spends several minutes each day with her nose pressed up against her peers’ armpits. I think it is gross!
I am glad that I am a volunteer and don’t have to perform these different jobs. I don’t think I will complain again about the teaching conditions in America. I really did have it easy when compared to the life I would have had teaching here.

Fine Mat

I heard the beating of the tin can of crackers. Women were screaming about. It was an amazing sound, and so I decided I needed to follow it and find out where it was coming from. On the main road I saw a massive object being carted down the road.
The women of the village had finished weaving this gorgeous gigantic fine mat and wanted the village to see it to share in their pride.
The mat was huge; my sister told me it was the biggest mat she had ever seen. It reached the ground, and if it wasn’t folded over it probably would have gone to the top of the utility poles.
It is nice to see them show all that pride in their work. I would love to make something like that and then travel around my village shouting, to let them know my project is finished.
Seeing the excitement drawn from the fine mat was such a beautiful experience.

2 year olds play with machetes-why am I so fearful?

Grass grows, and sooner or later in needs to be cut. Lawnmowers are rarely used as people do not have the finances to afford them, so machetes are used as replacements. I love watching the cut the grass as they do it with such ease.
As I have mentioned before, I hate cutting the grass. I really do not know how to. The lawnmower we had was always too heavy, and the little ones made me scared I was going to lose a toe. Luckily I had an amazing neighbor who was willing to help me out with this dreadful chore.
At school, the men from the villages cut the malae (playing field) in front of the building, while the children cut the grass on the sides on the road leading to the school building. It is usually the children in the upper grades as the younger ones pulls weeds and do other little chores around the school building.
A few weeks ago on my run, I saw a two year old with the machete cutting the grass. I was shell shocked to see this. This two year old was doing an amazing job, much better than I know I could have done. He was fearless of the machete and I think it helped him.
I am still full of fear when doing things with a machete and I think it really hinders my ability to do things appropriately. I am just fearful of the knife slipping away and hitting someone.
Hopefully by the time I leave I will be fearless of the machete and offering to cut my neighbor Mike’s grass, instead of the other way around!

Independence Day Part IV

Independence Day was on a Sunday, which meant that people in America had the day off on Monday, and we felt as though we should be included in this as well. I had plenty of errands to run in town, and there was no time to do them earlier during the weekend.
I continued my tradition of eating chili cheese hot dogs for the weekend, and it was delicious!
We decided to stay for the hash run that evening and were glad that we made the right decision. The hare who set up the route, I think forgot to do it ahead of time, because as we were running up and down the hills of the Cross Island Road, I saw someone dropping the pieces of shredded paper all about the side of the road.
Training for the relay is really helping out and I am feeling as strong as ever. The hills did not bother me quite as much as they did a few weeks ago which made me happy.
In the spirit of Independence Day, I kept my flag flying high in the sky as I ran around in what felt like circles. Many people were laughing, but I felt proud to be an American.
The next morning, we headed back to reality. We awoke early, hopped in a cab at 4:45 to catch the first boat to Savai’i. (I had lost the key to my house over the long weekend, and I had a spare in our office. So I really needed to make sure I had time to make it there.)
I was tapped on the shoulder as soon as we boarded the boat. I ran in to Aussie Andy, a volunteer who is working on developing cricket in the villages. He was heading to Savaii to work with the youth in a few different villages.
He invited us to spend time with them on the boat, and since there were no free chairs, we were eager to take him up on his invitation. The back of the pickup was filled with bags of cricket equipment. I crawled in, found a little nook to lie in and took a nap. When I woke up, Andrew was laughing and told me I have become a true Samoan, able to sleep anywhere.
This leads me to the present where I am sitting in the office, watching the rain and wondering when my bus will show up to take me to work and home. Today is Tuesday, and the ferry runs a random route today, so I am clueless as to when the busses come, since the ferry might not arrive for hours.
Sooner or later, I will get home and be able to relax and enjoy my loveable Samoan family.

Independence Day Part III

We are American and wanted to spend some time with Americans. What better place to do that than go aboard the Kukui and experience an amazing tour courtesy of our Coast Guard friends. We arrived at the gate leading up to the wharf, ready for some excitement. We said who we were to the people at the gate, and told them that someone from the ship was going to pick us up for a tour. They responded with telling us no, we weren’t allowed. Sunday is a day that the port is closed and we should not be on board. We walked away upset.
Denise, one of the amazing staff members we have in our Peace Corps office did not want to take no for an answer, so two of them got on their phones to try and get stuff done. About half an hour later, one of the men was sporting an amazing Kukui hat, and we were finally walking to the ship.
The tour was awesome; we learned why they were in the area and what exactly they do while at sea. We saw some familiar faces from the previous night, which is always comforting.
The best part about it was I got a new pe’u (boyfriend). His name is Oscar and I was able to hang out with him for awhile as he is always jus sitting on the deck of the ship. Oscar is the dummy for practicing the different drills. He has a dislocated knee and a missing foot from all the work he has to do.
The men took us around to see the different parts of the ship, the cafeteria, living quarters, and much more. Everyone was so friendly and it reminded me of a miniature version of the Intrepid, the ship that my family made a point of touring yearly in the NY Harbor. I felt like a little kid again as I hoisted myself onto the captain’s chair and had a great view of the ocean.
They taught us basis about the machines and the computers, and we were able to find the Peace Corps office on the computer screen, which put a smile on my face.
At the end we were presented with a nice Kukui hat to remind ourselves of the men and women we met aboard the Kukui for Independence Day.
Later in the evening we decided to relax at Aggie Gray’s resort. (We figured we derived it.) We met up with some of the Coast Guard men, and some other friends and had a lovely evening relaxing at the pool and chatting on the seawall.
There were no fireworks for the 4th in the sky, but with the experiences me and my friend had for the holiday, we were still very excited with how the weekend turned out. We are ready for next year and the adventures that unwind.

Independence Day Part II

Saturday we were ready for our round two of celebrations. The morning was spent diddly daddling around the office and Apia. We went to the market to buy fresh fruit to make fruit salads for our events later in the day.
When we were hanging out, we got to talking about one of our favorite events over the 4th, and hot dogs came up several times. Who did we think was going to win the hot dog eating contest, and what are the best ingredients to put on a dog. We talked about it so much that I craved hot dogs all weekend and tried to eat them every chance I got.
Since we had a water boiler, a few of us decided to have a hot dog party, since we didn’t have the financial resources to make our own hot dog eating contest. We cooked our hot dogs and walked to the sea wall to get the full experience of being in Samoa on an American holiday.
The hot dogs tasted so good that we ate and ate until we were stuffed. (Then wondered how the people in the competition at Coney Island can go through 50-60 dogs in such a short time.) While we ate we had two dogs drooling over our food. Since there were leftovers as we are not the true Coney Island champions, we decided to feed the hungry dogs.
The Ambassadors office was having a picnic for us that evening so we headed over there where we shared food and a good time.
At the park we played croquet, ate a lot of food, and played volleyball. The US Coast Guard was docked in the harbor, so some of the men from the ship came and joined us. When it became too dark to see the ball we headed back to the shelter where we watched a slideshow about America making us all teary eyed. They handed out sparklers and the evening came alive. It was beautiful.
After the picnic we had a gong away part for group 80. The party was to take place at another volunteer’s house which is on the school compound. The students at his school helped him clean up and decorate in true Samoan fashion. The place looked amazing.
We played games, ate a lot of food, sang karaoke and just had an amazing time. It was truly an evening to remember.
Throughout the day, I decided I was going to celebrate the holiday right, so I kept two flags in my hair at the pig tails. I would randomly take them out and begin waving them around until some begged me for a flag, and I caved. (PS Jen…can you find more flags!)
It was still only the 3rd of July…so more fun had to happen before the holiday was over!

Independence Part I

ID4 Part I
I made the trip to Apia, it was long and I was exhausted. The only plans I had for the day was to do my normal errands (shopping, paying the electric bill and visiting the PCMO [Peace Corps Medical Officer] to update on my random illnesses.).
In the early afternoon we gathered together to get ready for our soccer game. We were to be against the leoleo (police). We arrived at the soccer field ready to play, as well as ready to finish the game early so we could attend the Ambassadors’ celebration for the holiday. We started warming up doing these drills and realized quickly that too many men’s voices are not helpful. Everyone of them tried to contradict each other as they know they are the alpha male.
After our 30 min warm up the other team began arriving. There must have been 50 of them. They looked strong and we had heard many rumors about them which made us nervous. The game began and we were surprisingly keeping up. I was able to play defense and had a few steals of the ball which made me happy. We had a few shots on goal that were all unsuccessful, and our amazing goalie Erica (No Way Erica-because there is no way the ball can get passed her) stood her ground on the other end. The boys on our team were working together and not trying to dominate the game. Halftime the score was still 0-0.
The second half, some of the boys turned into the alphas I know. The rules for the league are there has to be at least 2 girls on the field at one time, which means there could be more. The boys wanted to dominate the game, they wanted the chance to be victorious, but they didn’t think having certain girls on the field like me would help their chances and so I spent some of the second half arguing that I can trade off with a boy. Finally they caved and I think there were 4 of us girls on the field at the time. We held our ground, with the score remaining unchanged when the boys subbed us out again.
There was only a few minutes left in the game and we began to get nervous. The leoleo were powerful and we spent a lot of time just playing defense. Several times there were throwing the ball in right next to the goal and I was nervous that it would be too much for Erica. Then in happened.
A ball was passed in and everyone was ready to defend it. It went high. A few heads were ready to bounce it out of the way.
One of the Peace Corps guys jumped up high.
The ball bounced off his head.
Erica jumped up high but could not reach the ball and it bounced into the goal.
We played our hearts out the last minute of the game, but were unable to score ourselves.
It was a disappointing loss as we all tried so hard and thought we had the game. No matter what, we were not going to let it ruin our spirits. This was our weekend, and we had to celebrate for the entire the weekend.
We quickly went into the locker rooms which they graciously opened just for us, and changed into our fancy clothes that we normally are unable to wear (as they are not Samoan) and headed for a taxi.
We showed up late to the Ambassador’s party, and missed the beautiful singing of Corina doing the national anthem. We were able to hear the beautiful speeches welcoming us to the party, and were all given a miniature copy of the Declaration of Independence to bring home.
We snacked on appetizers as we chatted with all the Americans they could round up in country. I talked with one woman who did the relay race last year, and it was nice to be able to size up our competition for August.
Most of the volunteers were in town and it was nice to be a part of my Peace Corps family. It was Friday and the weekend had just began and we were ready for more fun.


Independence Day Reflections
I have had a lot of fun and exciting times on Independence Day over the past many years. Growing up it was always a family holiday where we would often spend time with our neighbors seeing what fireworks we could see over the houses in our development. Someone would always bring out sparklers for the kids, and some of the neighbors across the street would light their own show while I watched wondering if they would burn our street down. I was always terrified of being too close to fireworks as I thought they would cause me to be on fire, even the little sparklers.
There were a few years where we left New York, and took a family field trip to North Carolina or other places. I remember one year in North Carolina we all gathered with the rest of the small city at the local high school to watch the fireworks.
When I got older, I was finally able to stray from my parents for the fireworks show while still being in New York. Each year is always so memorable. I have spent the evening under the Verrazano Bridge to see the amazing Macy’s show. We have spent a few times at the ballpark where they do not disappoint their spectators. South Street Seaport was memorable as we alternated hiding from the downpour and watching the show in the sky. One year I went with my friend Robin in a car to chase down the best on street illegal firework show. Staten Island never seems to disappoint with their block party shows.
When I moved to Wyoming, we had a few fun times with the 4th of July with bonfires in the mountains. There is a nice firework show, and one year me and my friends sat on the tires on top of the roof of their doublewide to watch the show. When it was over we shot off bottle rockets from the roof, and thankfully no fires were started.
Moving to Colorado, I quickly came back to the family atmosphere with my neighbors. Every year we are blessed with one of the best shows and always have the best seats. We enjoy our time together eating to our hearts desire, then when it starts to get dark the ladder comes out. We made our way to the roof, usually wearing layers of clothes as the 4th seems to always be a chilly evening in the Denver area. We are so close to the action that the fireworks actually fell on us. It was always an amazing view.
Two years ago my sister decided to make the most of the holiday by giving ourselves the ultimate treatment. We started the celebration with a baseball road trip, while visiting a few other memorable sites across the country. (The world’s largest shuttlecocks are fun, as well as the world biggest easel that holds the world’s biggest Van Gough replica.) We stopped for the 4th in Washington DC and visited with Shannon. Shannon took us to the river where we saw the amazing display and afterwards we lit sparklers on her roof. The following day we explored the mall area and had a great time experiencing the beauty of Washington.
I then finished up the baseball road trip with my dad as we went to a few stadiums on the east coast.
This will be the first independence Day away from the States. I am not sure what will happen, but I know it will probably be just as memorable.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cows and Independence Day

It’s 4:30 A.M. What am I doing? Waiting for the ferry of course. I wasn’t planning on leaving so early in the morning. In fact I was looking forward to attending school today as I had to collect things from my year 8 class. My dad was going to Apia, on the first boat, and I was asked to join him instead of going at a later time. How could I refuse?
Until this morning, I never understood the purpose of cows being tied up to trees, however I am convinced there is a cow gang on the west side of Savai’i. There are always too many cows out on the road at this time. What are they doing? My prediction is coming from a cow rave. Because these cows are still in their funny mood from their party, they don’t notice the cars that are coming by on the main road and cause accidents.
Cows, please start going to sleep at night so we can have a safe drive.
But as for me, I am off to Apia for the Independence Day celebration. It will be a lot of fun, especially because all of my non American friends know of this holiday. However, they do not know of it in terms of history books. They know of it from the movie Independence Day. Quite a few of them have asked me about the aliens and Will Smith. For any non American, or American that thinks this, this is not what the holiday is about. It never happened. It was a movie.
In closing words, Independence Day is about freedom from British rule, and cows please stay off the road.