Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Am I a Teacher or a Secretary?

Teacher vs. secretary
All Samoan school were given money from New Zealand and Australia, money that was used to buy fun equipment for the schools. We were all excited when the goodies arrived. My school received sports equipment at first. Then, before break we received more equipment. A person from a company in Apia came with a brand new computer and photocopy machine. We are not the only ones to get the equipment, schools all over were receiving the same.
It is amazing having technology in the school. It should be making our jobs easier. The only problem is since us Peace Corps Volunteers understand about technology, some of our principals want technology to be our primary jobs. This means that instead of being English teachers, we are also part time secretaries.
When our equipment came, I was with a class. I was told to leave my class to learn how to use the photocopy machine. It was frustrating to learn something I already knew how to use.
It is a few weeks later and I am sad to see what happens to technology. The principal is afraid of our new technology breaking from teachers not knowing how to use it, so it now sits in boxes.
Today I had to re-teach how to use our all in one printer/copier to a teacher who had to make many copies of a test. It took much longer with the little machine than if the new one was hooked up.
Our school really needed technology, and when our hopes were answered and we received it, it is upsetting to see what happens to it. I know my school is not the only one with these issues. Other Volunteers are running into the problems where they are the only ones allowed to touch the equipment. Their refusal to learn or have their teachers learn, or use it, is not making technology sustainable.

Back in the Spirit of Running

I have taken a month off of running. After running about 19k in the relay, many of which was uphill I was exhausted. I did not want to walk, let alone run. So I rested while my parents were in town, and kept it up while I was in Tonga. I decided to get back in the swing of things this week when I came back home. My mission is to try and run a half marathon by the next Independence Day fun run. I think I can do it, without too many problems.
Since I am not a born runner, I decided I needed to start at least inconsistent training early.
Things have changed since I ran last. I still run in one direction, and walk back to get to know people in my community. What I learned was my distractions were gone. Where I used to play volleyball when I was bored of running, is now just an empty yard. Luckily, I found other people playing further away. It is nice to still be able to play volleyball, even though I have less time to play as it is a further walk home.
I still am enjoying the time out in my village as people in villages all around seem to still know who I am. In some ways it is really nice to be famous, you can never feel lonely because everyone always wants to talk with you.

My New Little Brother

Little brother
When I came back from Tonga, I came back to a surprise, a new brother. Tonga, a 14 year old boy, is now living in our house. He doesn’t go to school, and doesn’t speak much English, but is the nicest of kids ever. He moved in while I was gone to help out around the house, as one of my brothers is planning on moving to Apia, while the other works in Salelologa.
When I get home from school, sometimes Tonga is the only one there. Speaking with him, makes me realize how much I need to work on my Samoan, because it is still difficult to stray from the normal conversations with my language ability level.
It is nice to have a little brother again (I have a few in my family in Manunu, where our training village was). He is silly, and fun to hang out with. He brings life to our house and it makes everything enjoyable.
Also, being around him will be my inspiration to practice my Samoan more.
It is going to be fun to have him around.

My Duty Free Experience


I don’t really have a sweet tooth. But when you don’t have access to sweets (or any good sweets), it makes you crave them more. I still do not like super sweet things, for examples, I will always turn down the super sugary drinks, ice cakes, little sucking candies, and other things with way too much sugar that they lose their taste, but I will never turn down a package from home full of treats.
Although there is amazing cocoa in Samoa, you can not find chocolate. I don’t get it. I would love to
support Samoan chocolate, if there was any. But since there isn’t, I have to go through other means. People visiting from overseas, friends going overseas, or packages.
Surprisingly, Tonga has chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but delicious chocolate. (This is weird to me because they do not have any cocoa plants.) It might be because they are closer to New Zealand, or it might be because the companies know where they can make a profit since Tongans will buy it. It was a homey feeling just seeing the different candies and chocolate in the stores.
On my way home from Tonga, I stopped at everyone’s favorite store to spend the rest of my Tongan money, Duty Free. I bought what any person traveling to Samoa with no plans on leaving the country in the next year would buy, chocolate. Although I only bought a few expensive bars, I felt like I struck gold when leaving the store.
The following day I shared the wealth, with Cadbury chocolate bars for my entire family. They were so delicious as we all gobbled down our bars quickly. I honestly don’t remember pure chocolate tasting so delicious before.
In 14 and a half months I’ll be back in America, and at a good time too. The holiday season is always a great time to be spoiled with delicious junk food that is not available in Samoa.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Back inthe Village

Back in the Village
I arrived yesterday, and a few things have changed at home since I’ve been gone. Houses are always changing, and we had a new addition to ours. One of my family’s cousins is now living with us. He is about 12 years old, and is comically named the same as the as the country I was just visiting. I don’t know much about him since he spends most of the time with my brothers. He doesn’t go to school, but at least is super polite.
Another thing that happened, wasn’t as happy. I had someone come up to me telling me she was raped. She was in tears and felt I was the only person she could talk to. What happened was when she was walking home from church, someone came and pushed her to the ground. She rolled around screaming, while the boy, someone who was mischievous and kicked out of school, told her not to scream. She did anyway and rolled away.
Her brothers told her it wasn’t right for her to scream and she shouldn’t have alarmed people. I was astonished that they would say that to their little sister. It was horrible and the worst advice anyone could give her. I told her it is important to let people know when you do not feel comfortable in a situation.
We talked for hours, as she was scared to be alone. I am hoping things work out for her, and she feels safe in our village again.


My mom
A few weeks ago my parents took the long journey to Samoa, their trip was perfectly planned between my mom’s school breaks. Something changed her plans for coming back as during the trip my mom had a falavelave and fell down into one of Champ’s, our dog, holes. She ended up breaking her ankle in three places.
My mom, being a normal American opted for treatment in America, instead of Samoa. I don’t really blame her based upon her experience at our local district hospital. There were no doctors, and even though she was the first person seen, she was still uneasy with her visit.
For the past two weeks she has been stuck on the bottom floor of her house, with a wheelchair as her only means to get around.
I just got a phone call from my mom. She is leaving for surgery in a few hours. She is very nervous. Mom will have to be out off work for three months and is a little upset about it. I wish her only the best in the surgery, and a quick recovery.
I love you mom!

Back to Samoa

Back to Samoa
I was excited to come back to Samoa. I had an amazing trip, but missed my friends and family. It is weird to feel homesick for a country that you knew nothing about just one year prior. Samoa has given me so many remarkable times that no other place compares to it.
I arrived in Samoa around midnight, and decided to wait for the six am boat at the airport. I learned that the Samoan airport is an interesting time during that time of night. A surprise to me was that they had just acquired wifi, and surprisingly my iPod lasted a long time and gave me a lot of entertainment that night.
That night I met many interesting people. I met a person who acted as if I was her daughter. She was heading back to American Samoa that following morning, and made sure I was safe and knew of my whereabouts at all times. The staff at the airport played cards throughout the night, and offered for me to join in.
Shortly after five, I took a cab to the wharf. I bought my boat ticket and went on the little boat and took a much needed nap. A few short hours later, I made it home. Exhausted, but excited, I was happy to be home.
I was so happy to see my Samoan family. I really missed them terribly, and wanted to know all that I missed during the two weeks I had been gone. It was nice to sit down and catch up with my little sister.
I noticed that even though I had only been speaking a little bit of Tongan over the two weeks, I began confusing it was Samoan. The words are similar, but just some of them mean different things. Because of my little slips, I have been accidently teaching people some basic Tongan.
I had a great trip, and the only bad thing I have to look back on, is my cuts that I got while I was in Tonga. Since the trip, I have spots on both legs that have gotten infected. Luckily, my medical kid is full of things to help them.
Also, people keep telling me that I am looking pale. They think that it is because I left a pe’u (boyfriend, or in Tongan, moa) behind. I love how worried people in my village and family get from me being gone. They wanted to make sure I was eating healthy and had a safe place to sleep every night. I feel like I am a part of the largest family ever.
The third term of school has started, and I am excited to get back to work with my students. I love working at Gaga’emalae, and it was nice to get back to my comfortable life in Savai’i.


Camp Glow
I went to Tonga during my school break, and it was also the school break for Tonga. They were planning Camp GLOW for that time. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World. It was taking place on two of the island groups, Tongatapu and Vava’u. Since I arrived in Tonga without any real plans, I decided I would help out.
The first few days I was in Tonga I helped with some preparation work for the camp. I went shopping with the girls, and helped get some of the materials prepared. I learned how much work actually went into planning this. There is one person that is the reason everything was going smoothly, Sandy.
I met Sandy in Los Angeles during staging. She had just finished two years as a volunteer in Benin, and was going to Tonga to be the coordinator for GLOW and get the program started. She had done 8 camps in Africa, and was starting her second and third in the Pacific Region. Sandy is an extremely hard working individual. It was amazing to see how much heart she put into the program.
Camp GLOW was a six day camp for girls aged 12-14, at least that was the age of the girls in Vava’u. I was invited to help out with the camp, and jumped at the opportunity. The girls worked on leadership skills, community service, and where to go for help with anything.
They had sessions with different speakers from organizations all over the Kingdom of Tonga. They talked about their future and how to reach their goals. They talked about what made them successful in school, and what kind of person can become a leader. The girls had fun playing games, doing different silly ice breakers, and tie dying lavalavas and shirts for their camp clothes.
The girls were in four different groups and I spent the most time with “The Smiling Ladies”. The seven girls were so much fun and full of energy. It was easy to tell from the start that they truly are leaders. We made up songs and dances. We did trust games, made pyramids and just had fun. I taught the girls about Samoa, and taught them Samoan, while they helped me with my Tongan. I also taught them some American Sign Language.
At the end of the week, the girls decided to make a club to help each other reach their goals. Their first meeting will be the following Monday, where they learned about self defense. They had a candle ceremony, and a celebratory lunch with their parents for the completion of their program.
I had a lot of fun with the girls and the counselors. They had to a survey about their week, and I had a glance at one of their papers, and I was listed as her favorite leader. It made my day, to be a part of someone’s life. A few of the girls have my email address, and I am hoping that I will hear their success story one day.
Camp GLOW is a great program, and I was happy to see its success in Tonga.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vava'u - things to do

There were if course other things to do outside of the water... One of them is the obvious - hanging out at the beach. Both Sundays that I was in vava'u I went to church with my friends and then we headed to a resort on the island of mala. The island has delicious food, beautiful sand, and great snorkeling. Both times I saw sting rays, jellyfish (they are always so tempting to touch-I had to keep reminding myself, "do you really want to get peed on?"
Another fun thing to do is to hike mount talau. Legend has it that Samoa stole the peak of this mountain and that is why it is flat on top. The first time I tried to climb it I went in the direction of the sign. There was a trail through steep grass well over my head. However web the grass disappeared and all that was left was a wooded area, I realized I was in the wrong spot. I searched for awhile before giving up and attempting to find my way through the bushes.
A few days later I tried the hike again. This time I wasn't alone so I was determined to make it with sandy's help. She started off on the wrong trail and I corrected her before we got too lost. We searched for awhile and then found the correct path. It had rope to guide the trail since it was steep climbing in some areas. Finally we made it to the top and enjoyed the scenery from the biggest mountain around. Getting back down was tricky again. I had read that the trail was a loop and I was determined to find the right path. We found a path, it probably wasnt thecirrect path, but at least it was a path. We ended up slipping and sliding between two gigantic boulders. But in the end we made it down, and that is what is important.
I also spent a lot of time exploring on my own to get to know the area which would be my home for over a week. It is a cute little village with much more than a little village. The public library is tiny, and I got I know the people at the post office well.
Besides my time evaeva, I was also helping out with camp glow with the other volunteers.

Vava'u - boating

Being on an island as beautiful as vava'u I needed to get our and explore the ocean as much as possible. Two days I went scuba diving so I can log five new dives into my dive book. The first dive I went on was the best. It was a ship that sunk in 1927 because of a fire. We got to explore all around the ship, which included finding silverware in the kitchen! The boat has suffered through several earthquakes, so we were warned not to go inside any of the rooms for our safety. The other dives consisted of a cave, amazing coral and beautiful fish. We saw the most disgusting sea cucumber as well. He was about three feet long and very fat! There was one type of coral that when you touch it, it hides away, so I had fun playing with it. At one of the dive sites we came across trash and picked it up. It is really sad to see people not taking care of their ocean, especially when they depend on it for food. The highlight of the dives was hearing whales underwater. I was hoping we might see them, but we had to wait until we were on the boat for that.
Another day I wanted to see the yaht races. I headed over to the area I was told to go to and was immediately offered the chance to hop on the boat and experience the races first hand. I of course jumped at the opportunity. A few of us went on the dingy and headed for the boat. We were given a crash course on sailing and began to look for the start line. It wasn't there. Suddenly pur dingy was stuck. There was five minutes before the race was to kick off. One of the guys went to move the dingy and fell overboard. We wet back to get him as the race started. We tried turning on the radio to get race updates but the radio was busted. So as soon as we were all on board, off we went. With most of us being new sailors we struggled, especially with the turns. Needless to say, our team ended up in last place. At least we did have many chuckles from the adventure.

Vava'u -whale and dolphin adventures

Since the kingdom is so large (or at least spread out) you need to take planes to visit the other island groups... Unless you have boatloads of time to kill and are very patient with finding out the boat schedule. This makes exploring tonga very expensive and I could only choose one other island group to go to... I chose vava'u.
Vava'u is a beautiful island that looks similar to an octupus. (I asked around and I was not the only person to think this.) there is so much beautiful land meeting the water that it feels as though you are in heaven. I choose this island because it is best known for swimming with whales, something I was determined to do!
I spent one day on the whalewatkching boat and learned all about the laws to protect the whales and to try to avoid them being aggressive. This means that different boats will share whales and only 4 people will swim with a hale at a time. Swimming with them is quite the adventure. We first put our snorkel gear on and hopped in the water. We watched the humpbacks swim far below us. Suddenly we were given a signal. They whales were coming up. It was a good thing we all wore flippers because whales are fast! During some points I swam with the calf, but a few times I was directly next to momma whale. It felt amazing. I saw her big eyes looking at me as I did my best to take pictures of her while kicking my legs as fast as they would go.
During one of our swims we experienced a true falavelave. In the boat were 3 Germans, a French couple and myself. Three of us were having an amazing time with the whales when we heard a scream. One of the French gentlemens was struggling and became a distressed swimmer. The person from the company rushed over and did a tired diver drag I get him to the boat. He apparenly got a bad cramp and struggled with the strong waves Thankfully he was okay and spent the rest of the day on the boat.
After we had lunch the whales were tired and so they were in hiding. That didn't stop our fun. We went to a great snorkel spot and saw amazing aquatic life. Then we heard something on the radio.
One of the other boats from the company we were with had spotted dolphins and had attempted to swim with them. I learned that swimming with dolphins outside of sea world is a lot different that swimming with dolphins in the wild. Dolphins get bored easily and you have to entertain them and old their attention.
Five of us got off the boat where we saw the dolphins far below us. I guess we were being boring because they took off. This is where I learned my next lesson about dolphins-they are extremely fast. Even though we were going at top speeds, we couldn't keep up. Sad and exhausted we went back on the boat. We tried again and were unsuccessful. Then again. I was ready to give up because all the swimming into the waves was wearing on me. One of the people in our group dove down and did a dance for them. All of a sudden, they sprung into life and came up right next to us. They were playing in the water and having a great time near us.
The day was an amazing experience. I totally reccomend to anyone that they venture over to vava'u at this time of year to have the same experience. It is a totally different excitment from only seeing them on the boat to actialy being in the water with them.

Differences in Pacific Islands

I must be totally used to the Samoan life because on my trip to tonga there were three things that stuck out to me as weird and different.
The first day I arrived I went to get in a cab with Dominica and Kelly, both of who are amazing girls living in vava'u. I looked around outside and asked the silly question, "how do you know what car is a cab?". I have been so used to every cab being white in Samoa and the ease of flagging down a cab because of this that it never dawned on me that white is not the universal color for cabs. Because of this I was always skeptical of each cab we went in..some were blue, others green, but very few of them actually said the word taxi somewhere on the vehicle.
Another thing that I have not been used to is the difference in burials for people. I have gotten so used to loved ones being buried right next to the house making an impressive concrete slab to hang out on. I do know of one cemetary in Samoa..but I do not know of anyone who hasn't just burried their dead by their house. In tonga I saw many cemetaries. Also, instead of the impressive slab of concrete, coral and rocks cover the plot of land making a beautiful pyramid. I know it is a custom that has been around for a long time, but I do not remember why..
The third thing I saw drasticaly different is the nightlife. In Samoa the music shuts off by ten and the different places close at midnight. This means you have to get your dancing shoes on earlier than in some other places...after being here a year and usually not leaving my house after dark, this is something I have gotten used to. Nighttime is supposed to be for sleeping, and I love sleep!
My Tongan friends told me we were going dancing and I was excited. I was ready by 7 o'clock with my jandels on to bust a move. I sat there waiting, and waiting. No one else was getting ready. I didn't understand it. By 9 I was growing impatient. I said, "Come on guys, we need to go out before the music shuts off". The others stared at me, obviously not knowing what I was talking about. We finally ended up leaving at ten, which felt as if it was past my bed time. Apparently in places outside of Samoa, people leave to hang out later in the night because the clubs close late.
I have gotten so comfortable in my Samoan lifestyle that even though I was only about an hour and an half away by plane I felt way out of my element at times. At least I was able to adjust. I hope I don't run into the same issues with any other adventures I take.


The kingdom of tonga is made up of 4 main island groups. The capital, nuku'alofa is on tangatapu so that is where me journey began and ended.
There are many things around this island that will give you a nice giggle. It includes silly signs congratulating the king for being world famous (I know for a fact that I didn't know there was a country called tonga about a year ago... And I am sure I am not the only one!) to tee shirts that compare nuku'alofa to cities such as new York, Paris and London. At least you can safely say that people do take pride in their country.
A few days I decided to try to be a tourist by myself as I tried to get to understand the local busses, while meeting plenty of friends along the way. On the bus I met so many people as I learned that there are many similarities between the two Polynesian languages. I had women and children holding hands with me, while others talked up a storm and invited me to partake in differet activities with them.
Here are some of the neat (or not so neat places) that I found myself near:
Ha'amonga Maui trilothon- this site is called the stonehedge of the south pacific. It consists of three gigantic pieces of coral to form an arch. There are many different legends on how this site was formed. Near it there is a nature preserve. I tried to head on the path to explore, but as I have learned paths do of exist. You end up finding yourself lost in the woods with only the beautiful sound of the ocean to calm your thoughts. Also at this site are people selling crafts their families made. I had a long chat with a woman about what her husband does. I was happy to help support their amazing craft.
Lapaha archelogical site-this is a bunch of pyramid stone tombs that are the richest concentration of archelogical remnants in tonga...that is according to my lonely planet guide!
'anahulu cave- I took an amazingly painfully slow bus to this site. Walk down the dirt road and find a sign saying that the cave is closed and not to enter. Since I was by myself I decided to listen and left without the satisfacation of wandering the caves.
Mapu'a vaca blowholes- the blowholes are impressive as they stretch for what appears like miles in all directions. You can't get too close to them like the ones in Samoa. My coconut I brought to put in the hole was a waste.
Captain cooks landing site-
Palace grounds
The museum of tonga and cultural center

As you can tell there was much I see apart from the beautiful waters of tonga. There were also so many delicious restaurants that had the best food I have probably eaten in about a year.
Tongatapu definately is a great place to visit. However I wanted to see more...


There are so many wonderful volunteers that I got to know in Tonga. It was amazing because they didn't think twice about opening their hearts and inviting me into their lives. My trip would have been a completely different experience if it wasn't for them.
I met 23 future Tongans about a year ago in the lax airport. Their faces were a bit blurry but I was hoping that since I knew one of them would be on the plane with me, she might trigger my memory.
I was sitting patiely in the gate area for the flight.. Watching the people come off the plane one by one. Finally, the last person through the door looks familiar. "dominica?" I ask. She responded, success I thought. I quickly stopped my conversation I was having with a new Zealand couple about their boat and instantly became involved in an amazing conversation with someone I felt like I've known for years. We caught each other up on what was having in each of our countries and talked about the people we remembered from the previous year.
We caught a cab together and headed for the peace corps office so we could check in.
We then spent the rest of the day with Kelly, another amazing volunteer, as we got things together for camp glow which would take place the following week.
Dominica was great as she introduced me to so many people and gave me ideas on how I can make the most of my trip. So naturally when she told me her plans to go back to her island group, I decided to tag along.
We arrived in vava'u and Dominica was disapponted that she was unable to get in touch with her school's principal. The principal's family acts as her family and she could not wait to see them.
After picking up our bags, we head outside where Dominica was greeted by that entire family. Someone had clues them in without her knowledge. The hugging from all of us went on forever. It was beautiful. We finally hopped in the van and headed to dominica's home.
As we were busy inside people kept showing up to see if the rumors were true..was she really back? Is there another palagi with her? How long will they both be staying? Finally, late at night the visitors died down and we were both able to get some much deserved sleep.
For a few days Dominica and I were unseperable. We cooked together, cleaned together, shopped together, went to church together and much more. It felt like I had the most amazing roommate who was a spectacular friend. It was hard I believe that only a few days prior, Dominica was only a face that I barely recognized.
During my trip I felt as though I formed such an amazing bond with Dominica. She is such an amazing person with a beautiful spirit. Tonga is real lucky to have such an amazing person volunteering there. I doubt there is anyone in her village that shows as much pride as her. Because of all this I feel so lucky to be on the same plane as her. It opened up the opportunity to have a new great friend.
Dominica, I hope you can find your way to Samoa so I can return the favor...and if not, there are always plenty of places on the east coast.
Good luck in your final year Dom!


I never expected to feel this way about Samoa...seriously. But towards the end of my trip in tonga I became homesick. Usually homesickness is caused when I think of all the delicious food my family might be eating in America, the good things my mom cooks, along with the delicious food options that aren't available here... Like bagels and strawberries and big city burrito and chicken parm (mouth watering). But I began to miss my loud silly family and my village that makes me think that privacy is really non existant. Being on a different island in the pacific gives you that familiar feeling of home, but is so different that it makes you crave it even more. Earlier today I went to the blowholes in tongatapu and it reminded me of savai'i. The land, the sea, it was all savai'i. While I was sitting on the rocks enjoying the water spraying everywhere two children came over to me to chat. They tested my Tongan language abilities, and after struggling for a few sentences we switched to English. These two kids reminded me of some of the students at my school and I just wanted to hang out with them forever. But being kids of the pacific, twenty minutes after we started our friendship, they had to leave for chores.
I was by myself again. Just wanting to return to a familiar place. And for some reason Denver or new York don't feel familiar to me anymore. That world I was apart of only one year ago feels as foreign as someplace I've visited only once or twice.
I was yearning for savai'i and really looking forward to thecustoms agent who would stamp my passport to welcome me into Samoa.
Finally I arrived and I opted to hang out tonight at the airport instead of getting a ride to town. I need to get to savai'i. I want to see my family and friends there so badly.
In just a few short hours I will be making my way back home and I couldn't be more thrilled.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tonga talk

Tonga is going amazing! I am typing on my iPod so I am going to keep this short...even though I am enjoying being able to use free wifi right now. I spent three days out on boats. One day I went whale watching where I swam with humpbacks and dolphins. Another day I did three dives including one amazing shipwreck. The boat was from 1937 and still had silverware in the was pretty amazing if you ask me. Yesterday I did 2 more dives and underwater we heard whales! It was beautiful. When we got on the boat we were able to see them. Later in the day I hopped on a boat for the yaht races. We first couldn't find the start line... Then had a man overboard... Needless to say we ended up getting last place. I celebrated by singing kareoke that night. Today was the last day of camp GLOW ( more about that later) so we had a nice feast with the girls.
I only have a few more days left in tonga which is pretty sad. I have had a great time here thanks to the volunteers living over here. I have also met a volunteer from Bolivia and we instantly became friends (not my moa or uo). All of us have so much in common that it is great to swap stories.
Next week when I have a computer and some free time I will share some of the great adventures of this trip.

Group 83

Wow... It is hard to believe we are about at our one year mark. I remember last year doing the last minute crazy shopping and travelling constantly to say my final goodbyes to friends and family. It has been an amazing adventure since that stressful month of September.
Group 83 Samoa, as they say in Samoan aua le pepoli, don't worry. Things might be crazy right now but all of us here are looking forward to welcoming you into our amazing peace corps family. Samoa is an amazing place and I can't imagine a better place to spend two years of service.
When you travel to los angeles for staging, be sure to make friends with the Tongan volunteers... Since you never know when you might want a vacation...besides it us pretty cool to tell everyone you are time travelling.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message... I am not online constantly, but I will get back to you as soon as possible.
I hope you are excited to come to paradise!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Just a quick note….
I have heard from a few different people that people actually read my blog. Thank you so much for supporting my adventures. It means a lot to me! If there is anything you wish to know more about Samoa, or something specific about my life, be sure to comment or send me an email!
I forgot names…but…Thank you Paul’s mom for the delicious Swedish Fish! I ate them up so quickly! Also, Matt’s parents, thank you for your support!

Message from the Future

Greetings from the future. Life is Tonga is going great! I am spending a lot of time with the volunteers over here. I first spent some time in Tongatapu (probably spelled wrong) and got to see some amazing sites. I came to Vava’u on Saturday, spent the weekend in Domonica’s village, full of church and an amazing to’ogani. Sunday, we went to another island and snorkled in beautiful Japanese Gardens. I saw some sting rays, jellyfish (I was tempted to touch them…), and eels. Today I helped with Camp GLOW.
There is only positive thngs I can say about my experience here so far. The Peace Corps Volunteers of Tonga are amazing, and I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to meet them and get to know them better.
There is so much to share, and so little free time on a computer.
For all of you reading this in America or Samoa (or anywhere else) on today, Sunday for you, Monday is a great day. It is full of sunshine and nice people will talk with you on the street. Be sure to order the veggie lo mein at the Chinese Restaurant because it will be amazing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I made it to Tonga. It is interesting to be in an another Pacific country. There are some of the same customs as Samoa, but it is different. One difference is that there is chocolate here. Will report more later...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Going to the city is not as glamorous as it sounds. A lot of time, patience and seasickness has to be taken into account before deciding if it will be worth the journey.
During the school year, it is difficult to come to Apia, unless school is dismissed early since the last bus to Salelologa, where the wharf is, is at 10:30 AM.
When I arrive at Salelologa, it is now a waiting game for the ferry. The boat is supposed to leave every 2 hours from 6 AM to 4 PM. However, if I try to show up early, I know that the 8, 10 or 12 o’clock boat will not be there. It is always a guessing game as to which boat will not show up. Twice a day the new boat, the Lady Samoa III makes the trip. The rest of the time you are stuck with one of the little boats.
If you can sleep on a boat, it is a peaceful trip on any boat, but if not the 1-2 ½ hour trip can seem endless. Because of this, I often look for people I know with vehicles for me to roll up into a ball in the bed of their pickup truck to make the trip more enjoyable. However this is not always possible.
The big new boat is nice because it always seems to make the trip in about an hour. You know what to expect. Stale, cool air conditioning with a movie inside and an awesome snack cart is always welcoming. Outside there is a nice ocean breeze and you can actually relax on the floor on the chairs.
There are two little boats, one has a few seats, and the other has practically no seats. The one with a few seats is usually the one I end up with. I really don’t like this boat because I feel seasick when I sit on a chair, and my only savoir is being able to sit on the floor. Lately, the water has been so rough that it has been impossible to sit on the floor. The boat is rocking horribly, as every five second huge waves crash aboard the ship. Unless I want to be soaked, it is not the place to be.
However, when the water is that bad, and I forget to take Dramamine, on the floor, leaning over the edge is my only option.
This is not fun, but has to be done.
The unknown of what I can expect on the open water makes me hope I can always find a good place to take a nap on the ship, before I notice the rocky water.
Besides the fun boat ride, I have to take busses on each end of the ferry trip. Making my trip to the capital take anywhere from 4 to 7 hours.
There is merit with staying put in village life in Savai’i.

Time travel

Going into the Future
This week I am taking a vacation to the future. I am really excited about going to visit another Pacific Island, the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga is located on the other side of the International Date Line, so since we experience the last sunset of the day, and they experience the first. I am leaving on Wednesday, going on my one hour flight, and arriving on Thursday. When I come back to Samoa, I leave on a Tuesday, and arrive on Monday, meaning I will experience a day twice.
While I am in Tonga, I hope to experience all of the amazing sites, scuba dive with whales, see the palaces, and help out the girls in Vava’u with their Peace Corps project. It should be a great trip.

Science Fair

Science Fair
A week and a half ago was the National Science Fair. My family was all helping Savadios with the project. Salvadios is a great public speaker, and I knew she would do an amazing job explaining her project to the judges. Mom and dad went with her to put the finishing touches on the project.
Salvadios was the only representative from Savai’i and I was hoping she would live up to her expectations.
The day of the science fair my parents and I ran into her and her parents in Palagi Alley in Apia. She had gotten 2nd place. I was thrilled for her.
She was disappointed. My parents and I kept telling her how proud we were of her because it was an amazing feat. Next year, I know she will wow the judges and possibly get first out of the country.

Fa'alavelave with my mom

My parents were having a great visit, we were experiencing Samoa culturally and touristy. We were having fun seeing everyone and visiting everywhere. They were enjoying life at my family’s house, enjoying village life and just having a great time.
One day we were getting ready for school, my mom and me wearing our new matching tasis. My mom walked out of the house. BOOM! She fell. Each night Champ, our loving dog, has been diving a hole next to the bushes, and my mom didn’t see it.
We helped my mom up and into the vehicle. We were off to the hospital. My mom’s ankle was swelling fast. My host dad went for a wheelchair for my mom and we waited for the nurses to show up. Being palagi, we had the advantage, and as soon as the nurses showed up we were the first ones seen. We went into the room and the nurse examined my mom’s ankle. She called the main hospital, which is located on the other side of the island and the doctor said she does not have to bother going to the main hospital and to just rest. After giving my mom a shot of painkillers, and paying our $20 tala fee, we were off.
A bed was moved to the front room, and I made sure my mom was as comfortable as possible before I headed to school. For two days she barely left that bed. We all felt so bad, and spent a lot of time comforting her there.
We contemplated going to the hospital for x-rays, but never thought it was worth the long drive. My mom thought it was broken, and my host parents thought it might be good for the traditional healer to come and massage it for her., He came, and he suggested popping it back into place. Scared (who could blame her), my mom said no.
On the last day of school she did her best to show up. With the help of others supporting her, especially my dad, she was able to come to the school to enjoy the festivities.
For their departure, my family was able to borrow a wheelchair from someone, and I accompanied them to Upolu. The whole family drove to the wharf to say goodbye. After the tearful goodbye, we boarded the Lady Samoa III. The wheelchair helped a lot because there was so much luggage to transport, it would be hard to help another person, by holding them up and carrying them as well.
The next morning, we awoke at 3 am, to get ready to leave, and shortly afterwards we were on our way to the airport. The people at the airport traded my borrowed wheelchair for an airport issued one. We said our goodbyes, and they went through security and were gone from Samoa.
I hopped in a cab to the wharf, and bought my ticket for the 6 am little boat. As soon as I bought my ticket, I was questioned by 6 people asking where my parents were. “Did they have a good time? Was I sad? Did I cry? Do I wish I was going back with them?”
Throughout the next few days the questions continued. It was nice to know how much everyone cared and wanted them to come back.
They told many people they would be back, and I know everyone in Savai’i hopes they will. I know everyone here, including myself, enjoyed their visit, despite their fa’alavelave.
On a side note I talked to my siblings today, three days after they left Samoa, to find out if my mom had finally made it back home. They had a long trip ahead of them, as they had to board 4 different planes. Mom had made it to the emergency room. Her ankle is dislocated, and had fractured her fibula, and possibly her tibia.
Even though they experienced a fa’alavelave during their trip to Samoa, I hope it did not ruin their trip here.
Feel better mom!


My parents were visiting, and therefore trying hard to see what life in Samoa was through my eyes. This meant that they would take a step out of the comfortable life they were used to, and a step into the unfamiliar shoes I walk in. Mom wore appropriate clothes every day, and even though dad refused to wear “skirts” he was still proper.
Mom is a teacher, and insisted that we not miss one day of school, and I think all of the students loved it. Every morning she would knock on my bedroom door to see if I was ready, as she wanted to be the first one there.
The first day the students put on an assembly for my parents showing them traditional dancing and singing. The children were beautiful and both me and my parents loved it.
The next week was testing week and my mom joined me in school. While I was busy with my year 5 class my mom spent a lot of time with year 8. The teachers let her help out, and she jumped into the teaching rotation. Mom also spent some time with kids when they finished their exams, having them practice their English and do little art projects.
The two of us did co teaching as we worked with the year 7class. We played games, read stories, and practiced creating sentences with vocabulary from stories.
We also sang songs with kids of all ages which was a lot of fun.
The following week my mom and I continued co teaching. We taught the children about the lifecycle of a butterfly by reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, singing songs and doing an art projects. The kids all seemed to enjoy it, and for the entire week we saw the caterpillars all over the place.
By the end of their visit, everyone had a good time with my parents. My parents wanted to thank the school for their visit, so they decided to finance a barbecue. They paid for the food, which included chicken, sausage, and ice cream, and for someone to help cook and prepare the food. That day the kids had sports day, and it was fun to cheer the kids on. After they finished eating, the children prepared a surprise for my parents in which they prepared songs. After it was all over, students from each class gave a speech to thank my parents for all they did and give a mealofa (gift of love). It was a beautiful site to see.
There is now a connection with my parents and Gaga’emalae. It was a beautiful goodbye, full of tears from all.
Their visit was a great way to end the term.

The Conclusion of the Relay Race

Race continued…
Our team was doing so great. We were passing girls teams, and getting well deserved encouragement from the teams that passed us. When we were up to our last 12km, our boys team finally passed us. We were hoping this would not happen at all, but at least it was at the end. The Peace Corps boys, Toa Pisi Koa, deserved it. Their legs were moving so fast it was impressive. We knew how tired we were, and it was amazing how they kept going.
We didn’t just have the boys team’s support and the other teams, we also had so many people cheering us on. In some areas, people were lining the road offering us drinks, are just cheering us on. The Peace Corps staff also came out to encourage us. Our country director, Dale, came to cheer us on during the run. Our Medical Officer, Teuila came to cheer us on, and check on our little medical issues that we had during our long race. Denise, another member of the staff, and her family also were cheering us on from their house. Their support kept us running.
It wasn’t just Toa Pisi Koa that was impressive, the girls on my team were remarkable as well. We all stepped up for each other when we needed it, for verbal encouragement, or stepping up to run a little bit extra to help a fallen teammate. I know hearing their loud voices screaming for me kept me going when I felt I could not go any further. Rachel’s knee completely went out on her last run. She tried her best, but could only walk, and that was in pain. Corina was quick to jump out of the vehicle and take her place, while Kaelin picked up an extra run. After running four times already, I was amazed how her legs kept moving so fast the entire time.
We all jumped out of the car on the seawall to finish the race with Kaelin. When we got to the finish line, I was amazed at how many people were there to support us crossing. My parents were there, along with many other volunteers, and friends cheering us on. We felt as if we were heroes and did the impossible with how everybody treated us. A few more teams came in, and we cheered them on.
I was about to leave and shower before the awards ceremony, when the man who ran the relay by himself came in. After running 64 miles, he was now limping, but I was amazed about what his body could do. I stopped and applauded his strength before heading to the hotel to shower.
An hours later, we were back at the government buildings for the awards. They first announced Toa Pisi Koa won in the volunteer category. They accepted the trophy. (All trophies had to be given back at the end of the day to put a plaque for next year’s winners to be impressed with the speed.) The firefighters won the Service Category. (They took their trophy last year, and since it was not returned, there was no trophy to give out.) A Samoan team won the boys trophy, and then came the announcement for the girls teams. There were several girls teams, and we thought we had won, but were not positive. They started with third place and worked their way up. I held hands with the other girls as they mentioned the third place team. It wasn’t us. Then, the second place team. We weren’t them either. We wanted to jump up screaming before they mentioned our names, but we held back.
Finally, they said Kenie Kope was the winners. We all jumped up screaming showing so much emotion. We ran for our trophy and our prize. While we were collecting our prizes, the announcer was talking about our team name. Laughing about us being fast girls.
Finally, they announced the overall winners, Toa Pisi Koa. We were so proud of our Peace Corps brothers. They had done amazing and deserved it. What was better was we swept the relay standings. It wasn’t 1-2 overall, but the boys got first overall, and we were the fastest girls. It was definitely an impressive feat. Especially, there was only one person who had ran multiple races before, 2 of us had ran only one other race, and 3 of my teammates were running in their first race ever.
There were refreshments after the awards. I talked with my friends, and many of them congratulated me on my work. I thanked my friends who were on the Hash team for their support. They had so many cars supporting their team and they were always there calling my name out, letting me know how great I was doing. They even poured water all over me on the heat of my last run.
The following week, my legs hurt every step I took, however each step reminded me of how big my accomplishment was, and it made it worth it.
Next year we will do the run again, minus Erin, and I know we will be just as successful. Group 83 Samoa, get ready. We need you for next year’s race to do another sweep!

Kope Keine Means Fast Girls

Kope Keine Means Fast Girls

My knee hurts when you put pressure on it from where I chipped my bone, and Thursday night to Friday, I was sick as a dog. I was trying to show my parents the beauty of Upolu, but during most of our drive I had my head out the window being sick, while my parents were amazing with being patient with me, and keeping me well hydrated.
We hurried back to Apia, faster than originally planned, because I wanted to see the PCMO medical officer to get medicine to get this bug out of me. I told her my symptoms, and my intentions for the next day, and the recommendation was not to run. The thought of all of my months in preparation for this day being a waste seemed ridiculous and unheard of. She thankfully put me on different antibiotics than planned, since there was a possibility of me running.
I saw my team that evening, “We need you,” they told me. That added to the fuel. I was going to run whether my body liked it or not. I rested for a bit, then met our team for our sleepover/team dinner.
The US Embassy’s office is amazing, because not only did they sponsor the event, they played a huge part in making sure both Peace Corps teams were healthy and as prepared as possible. A big part of why our team would be mentally prepared is the country’s wonderful Charges ‘de Affairs. She offered the girls team so much, with her car, and her willingness to drive us the entire day. And, to make her an even more amazing person, she offered to host us for the evening, to make sure we had a proper runners meal, and a good night’s rest. My body needed some fuel for the following day, and thankfully my body was able to hold down the amazing pasta dinner we shared.
After dinner, we all tried to go to sleep early, but our nerves were present to make it difficult for us, and before we knew it, it was 2:30 and time to wake up. We put our race clothes on, a team shirt that a few people took the time to paint and make us look like a proper team, and I added my I’e since that is the only way I know to run island style through villages. (It was my one with fast colors from the 10k race in May. We added ice to the coolers. The Charges ‘de Affairs had provided us with sandwiches, cookies, chips, fruit, water, a power sports drink, and much more to make sure we were truly ready. We loaded the car, and we were off on our adventure of a lifetime, knowing that this challenge was going to be bigger than we realized.
Our team name is Kope Keine. At the awards celebration later that day they mentioned that kope keine means fast girls. It is really bad because I was a part of this relay experience and I always thought that the word kope means hurry up, and keine, or teine means girls. I feel bad being a part of this team and not knowing that our team name means two different things. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to shout out, kope, meaning hurry up, to our team, and we would do amazing. But we will still unsure of our abilities, and that is how we got our name.
We drove across the island to the start of the race. The Australian volunteers team was getting ready to start their journey. We wished them all luck, especially the few on the team that we knew, and their kickoff member, Aussie Andrew, got them started off properly.
We went to the bathroom, not sure when the next church with an open bathroom would be.
Before we knew it, it was our start time. Kaelin lit up our baton/glowstick, put on her reflective vest, and off she went.
Kaelin started off so fast, it was truly impressive. I think it gave us the boost we needed for the day, because next in the line up was Dana and I could not believe how fast her legs went.
While Dana was running, we headed to Erin’s village where we took our first of many bathroom breaks. We didn’t have time to relax because before we knew it Dana was back, and Erin was off.
I began to get my first sign of nerves knowing I was next. My first run was 4.3 km, and it said it was going to have some hills. They were right when they said that., but less than half an hour later, I was a quarter of the way done with my portion of the race. Rachel followed me, with Corina being our closer.
The race was long, and after a few hours we began to catch up to some teams, which really excited us. About an hour later, teams began to catch us, but we didn’t let it bother us. We were having a blast.
Along the way, we had a few falavelaves. For starters, the markers on the road were not written well and we had trouble seeing them. So much trouble that in one spot, we accidently made Corina run extra because we could not find the spot. She did it like a champ. It was amazing.
Later on we had our next problem, Rachel’s knee began giving her problems. In between runs we made sure there was plenty of ice on her knee and it was kept elevated at all times. By the time it was her last run, it completely gave out, and thankfully the rest of our team stepped in to help her finish her run.
As for my runs, the first one was hilly, but fine (They called it variable.). The second was mostly flat and was the easiest of my day. My third was the one everyone was nervous about. It had a hill that went straight up for a long time. I knew this was the hill that Erin had run the previous year and was the reason why her team did so well. I did not want to let my team down, and I ran my heart out for the hill. My teammates saw the hill, and were worried about me. They wanted to make sure that I was feeling okay and tried to meet me at the top to provide me with water, since it was already really hot for the morning. But I surprised them. By the time that they reached me, I only had a short run down. My last run, was another “variable” and the heat made it unbearable. I tried running, but had to do a few short walks to give my body time for rest. I kept jockyig for position with a female on one of the others girls’ teams. I didn’t let it bother me if I were to be passed, because I knew we started the race well after her, and were still beating her team on time. I was so thrilled when I finally saw the church to show that my part was ending.
To be continued…


Being a tourist -Savai’i style

Back in Savai’i , Mm parents came with me to school daily. The first day they were greeted with a school assembly. The students sang and danced to welcome my parents into their community. The teachers also introduced themselves by dancing to their students voices. It was really sweet and my parents loved it.
That weekend, I made my parents become a part of the community by attending church with me. I had warned them that it would probably by about two hours long, since they do not attend religious service regularly. They sat through it real well, and before we knew it, the two and a half hours of service were over. I am really glad that they came to church because I feel as though my church is just like a family to me. I needed my parents to meet them all. After church, a few of the church members came over to our house for to’ogani, in which my brother made only delicious foods.
I wanted to spare my parents the hassle of being guilted (I know, it is not a word, think I have been in Samoa too long, and my words are escaping me quickly.) into going to church both on Saturdays and Sundays of their visit. So after church we headed to one of my favorite hang out spots in Salelologa. My parents had a giggle when we shared the honeymoon sweet, especially since the honeymoon suite had two beds. But outside of the fale I shared with my parents the dock some of us volunteers like to hang out on. They witnessed the other volunteers that were also enjoying the time there do terrific jumps into the Pacific.
I spread my time between the two groups, playing games with my parents, and saying goodbye to Group 80, as it would be the last time I saw many of them, until our reunions in America.
Some of the places we visited after that weekend included both rainforest preserves located in Savaii. One of them is in the village of Tafua, and the other is in Falealupo. We only drove through them, neglecting to do the hikes, and tree climbs to make the views even more fascinating. I was amazing still seeing the lush forests. They were beautiful.
Another day we headed to the southwest of the island. We picked up Dana, since I wanted to show off my parents to everyone I encountered, and Matt rode his bike to meet us in Vaisala. Vaisala has the best snorkeling around. The coral is amazing, and Dana, my father and myself enjoyed it thoroughly. Matt and my mom hung out on the beach.
After the beach we went to Falealupo where we went to the Rock House. The Rock House was a competition between men and women to see who could build a house made of rock the fastest. (I am not sure of the time period.) The women stayed up all night and beat the men. The lava rocky area was really neat as the houses included stone chairs. Another interesting fact about the Rock House, is that is where the lava tubes where the villagers rescued themselves from a hurricane.
Also at Falealupo we were able to witness the last sunset of the day. Falealupo hosts the westernmost point before the International Date Line.
Another day we met up with Supi and went to the blowholes of Taga. It was amazing to watch the pools of water fill up before shooting out. We went at high tide so it was incredible!
Our final trip was to the north shore where we met up with Rachel to do touristy things. We first swam with turtles which was a lot of fun. (My did experience, our big friend, Mamba Jamba’s big little teeth biting his bathing suit.) We fed the tutles plenty of papya and they loved us for it. After that we went to the villages that were destroyed by the volcanic eruption in the early 1900’s. We walked into the church that was destroyed by lava which was incredible. We also visited the Virgin’s grave, which was one of the only things untouched by lava during the eruption.
Overall, we had a pretty great time exploring Savaii.


Being a tourist-Museums

With my parents visiting, I have had the wonderful experience to see Samoa as a tourist, and go to some of those places that I have always wanted to go, but never really had the time to go to.
The first was the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. Going on this tour made me learn quite a bit more about Samoa, as well as the famous writer. The museum is his former residence, and after he passed away and his family moved back to America, the house had many famous residents. When Samoa was under German influence, it was where their leaders met, and the same was true when Samoa first gained independence. However, in 1991 (I think), Hurricane Ofa came through and destroyed the house, along with much of Samoa. There was another hurricane, I think in 1993, that helped to destroy many places.
The Samoan government could not afford to renovate the house, so it sat there for several years falling apart. Then former LDS missionary from the States came back to visit Samoa, and saw the shape of the building. He decided he would make it his mission to bring the house back to its glory days. He invested millions of his own money at the time, and is still putting in much money to ensure the house stays in its best condition.
Things I learned from the museum, Robert Louis Stevenson came to Samoa for his health. He was searching the world for a place to help him have a better quality of life for his sicknesses. While he was in Hawai’i, someone clued him in on the beauty and fresh air of Samoa. His family all made the trip with him. Apparently, they loved the lifestyle here, and only the maid had to return because of the heat. All of RLS stories had to be handwritten because the time period was before the age of even typewriters. His daughter worked as his scribe writing and illustrating all of his novels. While he was in Samoa, he wrote more than one book a year, which is pretty impressive (I am having enough trouble keeping up with this blog, and thankfully I don’t have to handwrite it.)
Their house is not very Samoan at all. It has a lot of Scottish influence (Where he was born.), and American influence (Where his wife was from). It was strange to see a Samoan house with a fireplace, but if it helps you to feel at home, it is very important. (As a PCV, I have learned that some little things that connect you to home are extremely important to hold on to.) His wife’s bedroom was constructed with wood from California trees, to give her a taste of home.
Of course they did not live as they did in the past, and integrated well into the Samoan culture. The name Robert Louis Stevenson is long and hard enough for those of us who are used to the English language, but for Samoans at that time, it was near impossible. Because of this, they gave him the name tusitala which means storyteller.
There is a hike you can do to his grave, but we decided to hold off on that for another time.

We also made the trip to the Samoan museum. The Samoan museum has great cultural information about Polynesian culture. There are artifacts from all around the Pacific as well as Samoa. It actually helped me out as I saw a few things that I noticed in the village, and now I actually know their purpose.

Kope Keine

Kope Keine
I just woke up with the biggest stomach ache. I haven’t run much in the past week and a half, and yesterday when I tried to go running my knee felt funny. My knee still has a bump, and when I went to the nurse last week, she thought I might have chipped the bone in my bike crash. It still hurts when pressure is put on it, but at least it is not infected.
If you were to ask me even a few days ago if I was ready for this race, I would have told you, “Yes sir,” however now that it is less than 24 hours away, my body is helping me realize I really have cold feet.
I have not been in the loop with the race news, but we are running about 64 miles (at least that is what last year’s tee shirt said) and it sounds like much of it will be in the heat of the sun, since we are starting at 4:45 a.m.
I am nervous and anxious to get started with it. Our team captain in Erin, and she had made sure we are as prepared for the day of the race as possible. Our team is being sponsored by the Charges de Affairs, who is being extremely nice. Not only is she donating a vehicle, but she is going to spend the day driving us around, and prepared sandwiches and drinks for us.
The rumor is we will start an hour before our Peace Corps Boys Team will start. Our mission is to ensure that these boys do NOT pass us. Some of them were trying to make bets on where along the race this might happen, and I hope we can prove them wrong. They might outsize us by 7 feet or so, but I do not think they all share the heart we do for this race.
Our team name is Kope Keine, which means “Hurry Up Girls”, and our team symbol is a girl with a dog chasing us. The dog is something that we are hoping is under control and we are not as fearful of the dogs as we are thinking we might be.
No matter what happens, I am really proud of my team and all they have done. Tomorrow will surely be a success in all of our eyes.