Saturday, October 30, 2010
Someone came up to me to discuss their problems. It was a girl in year 7, and she was so confused about the decision she had to make, even though the answer wasn’t needed for another year.
She had just found out that her family was to have a family reunion the following Christmas, and attached to the family union was her grandmother’s 80th birthday. The birthday was to take place in March, and since the event was overseas, the plan was to leave in December and return in late March.
This trip causes problems for school, since the school term starts in February. The girl that was talking to me is bright and should be accepted to Samoa College, the most well respected of schools, where only the top 200 (or is it 300) students from all islands are picked to attend. However, this school would not let a new year 9 student miss the first two months of school.
She went through all of her options with me. She could miss the family get together and return to Samoa for the start of the school year. (Which was something that really was not an option for her.) Or…
She could attend the entire gathering and therefore attend a different school. Or…
She could start the school year in February, then fly out right away and miss over a month of school. Or…
She could repeat year 8.
It seems crazy for me to hear these options because I would never have been given so many hard choices as a pre teen.
I am really curious as to what she will pick.
The Samoa Challenge II was going great. I felt so proud of the women in my village for being so enthusiastic about the project. So many women were showing up and being engaged in our conversation.
I showed up for my third meeting about an hour early, surprised to see even more women around the committee house. It made my day. I quickly set up by hanging up my materials, putting out the scale for women to weigh themselves and record it on the chart, and headed right outside where a volleyball net was being set up.
The reason why I arrived early was because I had to send something to Dana, and the easiest way to send something from village to village was on the bus. I knew the bus would come within an hour’s time and I did not want to miss it. So I waited watching volleyball next to the road. I was so excited to see people playing sports in the village, since months ago sports had been banned. I felt like I had a huge victory from this health project already.
Finally, I handed the package to Dana’s bus driver, and headed inside the committee house. It was about the time to start my class. I sat next to one of the women who is a leader in the village, and explained to her the grant application I had for her. As promised, I brought the form, and told her they have to have someone help me fill out the form, and explained the different parts of the application. After answering many questions, I think I had her understanding a little.
Then, the bombshell was dropped.
“I am sorry Lili, but we are done with your health project.”
“What? Why?” I asked.
“It is too far to walk to.”
“What about the people that are close by, can’t they come to the meetings I hold?”
“No, since it is too far for us, we can’t do it.”
“Well, as promised, I brought the grant application for one of the projects you are interested in. I have more to do when we finish this one. If you help me complete my health project I will help you do this.”
The argument went back and forth. I kept offering to do more and more of the grant applications they wanted, if they would willingly come for the next 7 classes. Finally, all they would have to do is help me with a carpenter. I reminded them, if they help me, I will help them. But if they don’t help me, I will not help.
The decision was made, there would be no health project, and I would only help with the grants by giving them the different applications. I was not happy with this decision, after I spent hours not only preparing for the health project, but hours researching the different donor organizations to see about grants. It felt like it was all for a waste. In a way I wanted to still help them with the grants since I put so much work into it. But, then I would just be giving in, and I felt they would use me as a workhorse for my last year of service. (I really am busy as it is!)
I tried one last plea. Since all the women are here today, can we do one last lesson here. “No,” I was told. A child helped me take down my materials and I packed up my bags in frustration. “Don’t be mad at us,” I was told as I left. I was very frustrated.
Throughout the next week, different women were approaching me to ask about our next class. I sadly had to tell them that others decided the program was finished. They also looked disappointed. It is really sad because in my village it is all or nothing from the women. As soon as some of the top women decide they do not like something, that makes whatever they are working on finished. This way of doing things allows you to get a lot done in certain situations, and in others, such as the health project, nothing done.
I talked with some of the project coordinators to think of solutions, and we came up with some ideas of smaller scale ways to get the project done, but it appears as though I will not be able to get my village to complete the entire project.
So with only a few lessons in, I have to say good bye to the Samoa Challenge II. I wish all the other volunteers luck with the women in their villages.
Friday, October 29, 2010
There were two funerals on the same day. One was for a teacher’s mother, and the other was for my great aunt in the village. I had seen funerals when I first arrived, but did not take the time to appreciate the beauty of a funeral, since I did not fully understand the culture at the time.
It seems weird to say that a funeral is beautiful. But it really is. A funeral is the community’s opportunity to come together to support each other. In one fale in my village about 10 women gathered to prepare a fine mat for the grieving family. Every time I passed by they were working, they never stopped. For days on end they were just weaving this enormous, beautiful fine mat. The mat was so big, it covered the entire house. It was amazing to see what they were capable of doing.
At school we were also grieving for one of our teachers since she is a part of our family. We put together a collection for her family. Everyone was more than generous with their financial contribution. Also, three teachers prepared fine mats to be given to the family and the principal bought beautiful fabric to cover the coffin.
A few teachers were selected to go a few villages over to the teacher’s house to give the gifts for the funeral. I was curious (new Samoan word of the day-fia iloa) about how the school day would pan out. If over half the teachers were going to be at a funeral for all or part of the day, what would happen of the school day?
I was about to walk to school, when my little brother called to me and said the other teachers were waiting on the road for me. Out of surprise, I dropped my bag, jumped the fence, and ran through the long wet grass to the car. In the vehicle were the other teachers, fine mats and the fabric.
When we arrived at the house I noticed that all the furniture (the few chairs and tables) were taken out of the room in the house. On one side of the room was the coffin with beautiful fabric draped around it. We added our glimmering gold fabric, and the people around the coffin smiled with approval.
We left and then returned with the other mea alofa. We sat on the mats in our respected places. I was told to sit next to the vice principal. The vice principal gave a speech about how we have also been grieving since one of our teachers was grieving, and we are a part of her school family and love her for being the person that she is. We showed our gifts to the family by unfolding the gigantic fine mats and presenting them to the correct person. The money was then presented. The next part was my turn. I was to give monetary gifts for the matais in the room.
The family then thanked us for our generosity, and gave us gifts in return. They presented us with 2 fine mats, ten cases of sardines (eleni), 1 case of corn beef (pisupo), money, and several meals (including one with a soda).
After the final speeches, we headed back to the car and several men helped load the gifts into the pickup truck. We saw our grieving teacher and gave her a big hug. We knew she had been through a lot this year, and wanted to let her know we supported her completely.
I took one last look at the house. In the back were so many people preparing meals for those that were coming over. There were some men meeting in one of the big open fales, and so many people gathered in their respected places in the house. It was great to see the community together.
My first funeral I thought it was weird to have the dead inside the house, often for overnight. I grew up being creeped out by the dead. In Samoa, everyone has so much love to give for everyone, including the dead. Even though someone might be dead, you can feel their love around you from being around those that love the deceased person. It is an amazing feeling that is hard to put down in words. Even though funerals are a sad time, it is a beautiful time to bring everyone together.
We headed back to school, where we feasted on our meals for breakfast. Fried chicken, sausages, and potato salad. It was delicious! School started a little late, but it was a normal teaching day.
When I headed home I was surprised to see one of the village busses in my yard. Early in the morning the choir from one of the churches headed to the funeral home to pick up the body. It was so early that the bus driver was exhausted and after the funeral at the church came to our house and took a nap. (He really is a brother to me.) My family was still at the funeral, so I put my leftover food on the table, and took a nap. When my family returned, there was even more food covering the table. So much, that we feasted well that day.
A few days later, the teacher came back to school to thank us again for being there for her. She came with huge boxes of chicken and sausages. After she left, we divided the frozen chicken and sausages up to bring home to our families.
I am not sure when she will be back to teach, but all of us will be waiting and ready to give her a giant hug to welcome her back.
Wow, I remember thinking a few months back, what really is the difference between the rainy season and the dry season. The dry season brought rain daily. I didn’t remember the rainy season being that bad. I was wrong.
Just like the dry season, the rainy season has started with rain. It felt the same as it did the previous six months. And then the rain kept coming. It rains in the morning, in the afternoon, and then again at night. During the dry season it only rained once per day, but now every time I plan to go outside, it seems to begin raining again.
The rain doesn’t bother me too much since it usually brings cooler weather. However, since the weather is changing yet again, the whole village has been given the flu. Everywhere I look, there is a sick person! It rubbed off on me, and I have a tonsil in the back of my throat that is trying to expand out of my mouth.
The doctor is in the village next to me once a week, and I decided to wait to see him. As the days passed, my tonsils grew bigger and bigger. Looking in the mirror it looked like the back of my throat was closed off.
On Thursday, the day the doctor is in town, I waited for the rain to pause, then headed to the hospital. It is funny in some ways, how the hospital is a place to make friends. Since there is only a doctor for a few hours one day a week, hospitals can be very social. I always meet new people from the different surrounding villages as well as people I already know.
After seeing the doctor and paying my fee of about $6 American for medicine, I went on my way, happy that the rain was still on hiatus.
Even though the weather only has a slight change throughout the entire year, it is still noticeable, especially to our health. It really surprises me that I notice it as much as I do, because in Colorado and Wyoming we had more extreme temperatures within a day.
I guess for the next 6 months, might as well enjoy the rain and hope my health stays in check.
I picked it off the leaf that was in the girls hand. I choose the blue one. It was hard to get a grip on because it slithered like a snake. It looked like a worm, except it was blue. “Just eat it,” I was told. Not wanting to look like a chicken I swallowed. It didn’t have much of a taste, just felt slimy. I asked about the other color worm on the leaf. “Not sure if it is different, try it!” so I did. The brown sea sperm tasted just like the blue one.
If you were to ask me over a year ago if I would willingly eat sperm from the sea, I would have laughed at you completely. For one thing I hated sea food, and I can’t imagine putting something as disgusting as sperm from the sea inside my mouth. Since then, my taste buds have changed, and my willingness to try different things has also changed.
Hearing how much people look forward to fishing for palolo so they can eat it, tempted me. Why would the whole country go fishing one night, just so they could eat sperm from the sea? There had to be a reason behind it. I needed to try it.
My mission began about a month ago, a week after the last full moon. A day which I thought would be full of fishing for palolo. I went out with my brother and his friends to the sea at 2:30 in the morning to go fishing. There were hundreds of people out at that time with their flashlights waiting for something. I had heard all of a sudden you saw blue color coming to the surface and I wanted to see it.
However, this day only happens once a year, and it was the wrong full moon. We had to wait for the next full moon. A week before fishing everyone was chatting about, “Are you going?” it sounded like it was going to be even bigger than the last unsuccessful trip with my brothers. I had to try again.
My brothers were leaving at 4:30 in the morning this time. I set me alarm, and went to sleep. My body did not want to wake up, and I overslept. I awoke shortly after 5, woke my little sister and we headed towards the Pacific. I took her through the wooded path to the rocks where my brothers had taken me, but no one was there. I was so confused, where was everyone. We headed down the steps to the ocean, and scrambled on the wet boulders, until we reached the beach. After walking across the sand for awhile, we began to see shadows and people began to call out my name.
The beach was packed with people from my village and the neighboring village. They were just sitting around waiting. A lot of them were resting on the sand, they looked exhausted, like they were camping on the beach all night. Many kids were splashing about in the water, or burying each other in the sand. It was an early morning party on the beach that was amazing (if I wasn’t so tired!). We searched around for my brothers, and could not find them, so I hung out with many of my neighbors. It was a lot of fun.
We watched different people take turns searching the water with their flashlights for the sperm to emerge, however when it was approaching sunrise, we realized it was the wrong day. Again. I was 0 for 2 for finding palolo. That is a pretty bad percentage!
Yesterday everyone was seen fixing their nets. The nets looked like a lace fabric around a stick. It was pretty functional for such a simple design. Others got their buckets ready, with what looked like mosquito netting filling it.
I was invited to go out the next morning with many people, but I decided to see how I was feeling, since I have been sick all week, and sleep is too good to pass on. So, I overslept again. And sadly, today was the only successful palolo fishing day.
As I walked to school, people were heading back from the beach. They showed me what was in their netting. Ewwww. That is what they made such a big deal about? It looked like hundreds of tiny worms colored blue and tan. Everyone was so excited to show them off to me. On the way, I ran into a girl who was headed to school at the college. She had a leaf in her hand and asked me if I wanted to see. “Sure,” I said.
There were so many little worms crawling about. I asked if she had ever eaten them, and was told she didn’t like them. I was then offered a taste, I looked at them and asked her how people it them. She must have thought I was the stupidest person around, and told me, “you just eat it.”
“No, I mean. Is it cooked, or do people eat it raw.” The answer was both. Well, I had to do it. I decided to try the colorful one first. It was difficult to pick up just one as they were just slithering about, inter-tangled with one another. I stared at it for awhile. I knew how disgusting it sounded to be eating sperm from the sea. It was already in my hand, so why not?
I put my head back and swallowed.
When I was finished I asked, “What does the other color taste like?” I was urged to try that one. So once again I went for it. It tasted the same.
Even though eating palolo is something very special for people here, I can’t believe that I will ever get that into it that I will begin searching for sea sperm when I go back to America. But while I’m here, I might as well do as my neighbors do, and maybe next year I will actually be able to have a successful fishing trip for palolo.
Friday, October 22, 2010
For the past two months I have noticed my family not watching as much television. I didn’t understand why, but I didn’t question it. One day I really wanted to watch the news, and turned on the television, all that I saw was snow. Fuzz across the screen. I figured there was something wrong with our antenna that day and didn’t try it again.
Yesterday I was over someone’s house and they were complaining about the lack of television reception. Apparently our local tv tower is having problems, and has been our for over two months. Throughout my side of the island television is out.
Before I felt as though I lived on a deserted island at times, sometimes with an isolation from the rest of the world. Where I live we do not have the paper delivered, and radio reception does not work. My only access to the outside world was watching New Zealand news, and my minimal time online. Now, without television reception, I only hear news from whatever people send through email.I can tell you all sorts of village gossip from the south west side of Savai’i, but when it comes to outside my bubble, I am as confused as can be.
The bells rang loud in the middle of the day to signify something, a death. The Methodist Church is always the bells I hear ring for that reason. Up in uta, away from the sea my mom’s aunt had passed away. She had been ill for a long time. The woman had been such a sweet presence in my time in the village. I had seen her a least once a week for the past year.
The following day, students in other villages asked me who had passed since they heard the bells.
That day my school family suffered another tragedy, a teacher’s mother had passed away. Since it is a member of our school family, the entire staff will be chipping in for the falavelave. We will be contributing money, fine mats, and fabric to cover the coffin.
Hopefully bad events don’t travel in 3’s and all the falavelaves are over.
This week is the year 8 National Exams, which means school is canceled. They do not want distractions in the school, so the solutions is to keep the others at home. Teachers are switched around from school to school to proctor the tests, which makes the week interesting.
The teachers who are not proctoring the tests at other schools still have to attend school. They are to prepare food for the teachers from the other schools. They are not alone though. Four children from the year 7 class had come to assist the teachers with passing out the food, making sure everyone had the apa and a solo (bowl of water and towel to wash hands with), and clearing the table when the meal had finished.
The day starts with breakfast, today I was to help out by slicing bread (tipi falaoa-new verb for me so I am excited to remember it). I then joined the 3 test proctors, members of the school committee and the first assistant (vice principal) for breakfast. For events where someone from outside comes to visit, there is always amazing food, and today was no exception. The food felt like it was overflowing off the table. I ate so much, even knowing that I will be eating more in just a few hours when the exam finished.
While the exam is going on, the teachers relax in the room designated the “kitchen” until the food began to arrive for lunch. While they were relaxing, I helped organize the library by putting books into fiction and nonfiction sections of the library.
After lunch we all cleaned up, and headed home.
Although it doesn’t sound like much, it is busy for the teachers, especially since it is a full week long.
I am looking forward to school starting up again next week.
I was telling Supi about my weekend, and he asked how I get to do everything I did, especially with as little money I have, I told him it was because of being a part of the dynamic duo of RiRi and RayRay. The weekend was amazing as we really did do so much together.
I love Samoa, since I always feel like a celebrity both on my island, and in Upolu. I don’t know how I meet so many people, but it is nice to feel at home everywhere I go to. Whenever I walk around Apia, I always run into people I know. Rachel also has the same problem, so when we walk together, a five minute walk can often take half an hour. It usually is okay, since we are running on Samoan time. Knowing this many people can be really great, as it builds connections for our lives.
Friday, we had the fia fia with the rest of the volunteers, and Saturday we decided to dance. I convinced Rachel that we needed to go extra early to make sure we went to the club real early so we would have control of the entire dance floor. When we arrived there was us and only two others there. We immediately started dancing, and as the club filled up, people were coming up to us to complement our dance moves, and try to join our dance sensation. The club had a special permit to play music until midnight, so we danced for four straight hours, and didn’t want to stop.
I used Rachel’s connections and we stayed at a nice resort for the following two days. It was really nice because we were able stay in the staff quarters, which meant that it was free. Because of not having to pay for lodging, we got to spend money on one of favorite things, food. We ate so well at the beach resort. We had the best barbecue in Samoa over there. What made it so delicious was it had the amazing side dishes like we have in America. The vegetables were so delicious. Rachel and I also got to relax in the pool that overlooks the ocean, as we watched the surfers in the ocean.
On Monday, we went to Hash. Hash is normally a running club, but this week, it was an adventure week. Instead of running, we rock climbed on the other side of the seawall, and then everyone swam to a yaht where we were allowed to explore. I didn’t get to finish the adventure. After about half an hour of rock climbing barefoot, I slipped when trying to avoid some glass, and slid into another rock. My big toe was gushing blood, as bumps were emerging where cuts were being formed. I hobbled back to the starting point to wait for the barbecue to start. I watched everyone swim to the yacht, and noticed how familiar it looked. It had been in Tonga along with 2 other identical boats, one from Maori and another from another Pacific Island Country. Everyone spoke so highly of the Samoan yacht because of it’s captain. I mentioned this to someone, and they mentioned that they were recruiting for a crew. How amazing a life would that be to live on a boat for a year?
On Tuesday, we finally had to head back to our villages. Even though Upolu had been a lot of fun, both of us sighed a sign of relief as we exited the ferry. We were home. Immediately we both ran into people we knew, and they quickly grabbed our bags to carry them to the bus. I smiled the whole way back on the bus. Life is pretty great in Savai’i. All my troubles I had before have washed away with a nice visit with my peace corps family, especially with my partner in crime. The next year will be pretty amazing, I can see it already.
I didn’t go to sleep. I kept thinking if I go to sleep now it will only be two hours of sleep, then one hour, then thirty minutes and it just didn’t seem worth it. I heard the bus coming at 1:45 AM. “Wow, it’s early,” I thought, but it’s time to go. I gabbed my things, locked the door and headed to the road to wait for the bus to return. After 2, I was on the bus ready to get to start my adventure and meet group 83.
I sat next to the window where there was an amazing breeze because of the rainy morning. The bus ride was long, and since it is approaching Christmas time, (I had heard several Christmas songs recently) I listened to several songs to get me in the holiday spirit. I was sitting there enjoying DJ Okay’s Christmas mixes along with other normal Christmas songs. I arrived in Salelologa close to 5, thankfully when it had stopped raining, ready to wait the hour for the boat. Rachel came by shortly after and met me in the office and we walked together onto the Lady Samoa III. We went on the top deck and sat down. We had only been on the ship for ten minutes when the rain started again. This time it brought an intense wind. Pretty soon, even though we were under a covering, we started to get wet. Everyone quickly shifted over to the other side of the boat to avoid getting wet. A river of water began to form below us as we quickly lifted out bags into the seats, since we realized that a bag with clothes in it would make an amazing pillow to rest our heads on. I quickly fell asleep, and it felt amazing. I awoke when the announcements came on to inform us of our arrival. Thankfully it had stopped raining. We headed onto to Pasi o Va’a to Apia.
The bus had great music, but the bus had problems, and when we were a little over a mile away we were stopped and told we could get on another bus. I convinced Rachel even though we had several bags, walking would be more fun. It probably would have been, if we knew ahead of time about the rain and were prepared with our rain gear. By the time we reached the supermarket, we were drenched and ready to hop in a taxi to the office to do our several errands, and prepare for the fiafia (party) to welcome the new group.
Tensions were high leading up to the event, as not everyone was ready with their dance moves, and costumes, but I feel as though we were ready for it.
The event started with introductions from the new group and staff, I was impressed to see there are three new Coloradoans to join Samoa. There was also someone from Buffalo, and I was excited thinking I might have someone to discuss Sabers victories with.
Group 81 then dazzled us with their sa-sa. Us girls of 82 performed a dance. It looked like a fashion show of the best politasis around Samoa with how good everyone looked. The evening continued with the boys doing their dance. It is amazing to watch them as they are doing the best cardio workout jumping around and slapping their chest. They hit themselves so hard that their chest was red in several areas. The magic continued with fire dancing. It was the same group who had come the previous year. It was amazing how much they had improved from the previous year. Afterwards we feasted on amazing food that each current volunteer had prepared for everyone. (Rachel and I prepared burritos…with homemade tortillas!) It was a great opportunity to eat on the floor with the newbies and learn about them.
That weekend was full of opportunities to meet all 20 of them and fall in love with them! They are quickly fitting into our Peace Corps Samoa family. I had the opportunity to sit down with a few of them and they asked the difference between islands. I told them all the truth. Us Savai’ians are snobs and prejudice to our island. I told them how little I go to the city, since it is far away, which means less fresh delicious food. Also about all the amazing things and people on my island. For some reason, everyone I talked to wanted to be signed up for Savai’I by the time I was finished with talking to them.
On Monday I got to help out with a teaching session where we talked about teaching speaking and listening. At the end of the session, I helped them write lesson plans. It was funny, because I saw ourselves in their shoes. I remembered how fresh our ideas were, and group 83 was the same way, I hope they don’t lose their spirit. But, I had to rein them in a little bit, to tell them how school really is in Samoa. I told them it really isn’t that bad though, we really learn to be creative to teach with only the bare necessitations. It really isn’t that bad, since it reminds me how spoiled I was as a teacher in America, even though I complained about the lack of funding all the time.
I would like to say one last welcome to Group 83, all of you seem so amazing and full of energy (also you smell so nice with your un moldy clothes!), I can’t wait to get to know you over the next year.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wow, after having such a stressful week, my day was pretty seki’a. Maybe even better. I was expecting the day to stink to be honest, since that is what it felt the previous days have felt like.
At school I gave my year 4 class an exam, where many of them bombed it. But I am not too worried about that since they are picking up some, and I am challenging the gifted learners. We had a great day of new vocabulary reading the Little Red Hen. At the end of the day they cleaned the room better than ever, which was a great surprise.
After school, I followed the echoes of my name to another plantation road where a few students were up in a tree. I shouted “Ska mango” (Give me a mango) and they told me to come. I watched a few of the boys and girls look like monkeys as they appeared to swing from the branches from every direction. Other students were under the tree collecting the mangos that were thrown down. I then had a few of them tossed to me. They tasted so sweet and delicious, probably the best mangos I ever tasted.
I had a book about animals in my hands, and a few kids begged me for it, literally. Thrilled that these students had developed a love of books over the year, I quickly handed it over. Many of the boys struggle with reading, and so we looked at the pictures, and said what the animals were in English and Samoan. They liked it so much that we read through it several times until it started to rain.
The rain was my clue to go home and relax until my health meeting with the women in my village. It rained for hours. By the time the meeting was to start, buckets were still falling. I was really nervous that people would not show to the meeting because of it. I gathered my materials and walked slowly in the rain to the Women’s Committee Fale.
When I got to the road, I was in awe, the meeting was to start in half an hour and already there were more women than there were at the previous meeting. I took out the scale and the tape measure and some women began comparing themselves from the previous week. It was so impressive. More and more women kept appearing drenched from the rain. Someone was talking positively about me and the project and I was thrilled.
At the meeting we talked about the fatty, sugary and salty food that we love to eat and talked about suggestions on how to lower the intake to prevent diseases. It was nice to see them think of ways themselves on ho to be healthier, such as use less sugar in tea and such.
We then worked in groups to design a meal that was perfect in our eyes. I realized our views of an amazing meal are so different.
Throughout the entire meeting we shared so many laughs as the women cracked jokes about one another and myself. I felt so much like a part of the community with my 40 women in attendance. It was an amazing meeting.
We closed the meeting with jazzercise where we had a blast making up silly dance moves for about twenty minutes. I saw quickly the difference between the women who are currently active and those that are not. I kind of felt like we were doing a little kid game of copy cat, for every little silly move I did, they copied me completely. As silly as I made it, they kept imitating me. It was hysterical.
We then had a short talk about the upcoming meeting, and I reminded the women that they are free to call me to go for a walk, run, play a game, or even dance with. They seemed happy with that idea, and about five minutes after I left the fale I received a call asking if I wanted to go for a walk. I felt so good about myself as I talked on the telephone.
I spent some time watching volleyball in my village and it was great tafao-ing (hanging out) with some of the women and kids in my village. I had a few kids ask if I was mad at them because I haven’t been to their class as frequently. I told them not to worry because as soon as exams were finished I would be back to have fun with them. (I truly did miss them.)
Ana, one of the girls from my village asked if I wanted to walk home with her, I agreed and followed to her house. I helped her sister with some homework and had an amazing girls night. Ana has one older sister and two younger sister, al of whom I love dearly. We joked around so much and had a great time, that when I was asked if I wanted to stay for dinner, it was impossibly to say no.
I enjoyed delicious koko esi (papaya with cocoa soup. There is also rice mixed in.) It was so delicious.
It was approaching ten o’clock and I knew I had to go home since I was taking the first boat to Apia in the morning. The bus leaves at 2 am, so I only had a few hours to shower, pack, and sleep. (And of course since I still am beaming from my night, write this.) Two of the girls walked me home. Sadly my phone had a dead battery, which meant I had no flashlight, and I fell into a hole once. (Thankfully I didn’t have the same misfortune as my mom with that.) I was just happy I missed all the piles the horses left behind.
Even though I feel like I have been having a rough past few weeks, I am still so happy to be living in Samoa. Everyone is bound to have bad and good days. I’d have to say that the good ones completely outnumbered the bad ones here. Samoa is full of the friendliest people in the world, seriously. They are amazing at their ability to bring smiles to faces. Hanging out with my friends, they reminded me of some of the upcoming events I have to look forward to with them. In two weeks there is a dance (which means I will have to miss spending Halloween with my palagi friends…) Then there is another church event in November which is sure to bring an amazing feast. And Ana made sure to remind me that I will be here to help her celebrate her 21st birthday. There of course are many other things, and thinking about the good times ahead makes me so excited.
I have to keep in mind, as much frustration I might get from work, there are still amazing people that include me in their lives and fun events to look forward to in my village. I love my life.
I have been living in my village for ten months now, and I feel like I hit more frustrations recently than when I first arrived.
No one still seems to understand our project that we are working on. Right now, we were told that we are to work full time in the school (check!) and do two projects in the village (check). When the project was first introduced, the villagers thought we were here to work in the school and find money for whatever they needed. I was told computers, plantation equipment, water, and many other gigantic projects that require help. As many times as I try to explain what I am doing here, they still don’t understand.
Right now, I am teaching in the primary school. Until the National Exams are finished, I am acting as a substitute for the many teachers who are absent for various reasons. It is not as much fun, but I feel like I am bonding with my group of 7 year olds, and enjoying the other classes I see daily.
For many months I was heading over to the college after school to help in the computer room. I helped the kids with computer questions as well as homework. (Again because of exams, I am taking a break since there are no kids staying there after school.)
I am still assisting with the grant for the new school building.
I am also currently working on the Samoa Challenge II.
Along with the health project, I often go exercising with children in the village to promote health.
I also assist with the various little things in my village from fixing computers, to homework help, to typing letters to the government to ask for assistance.
I have also helped to get many books donated to the school.
I feel like I am doing stuff in my village, and helping people.
I thought everyone else felt the same way, until recently.
It was brought to my attention that I have not done enough for my village yet. I was told people are complaining about me not getting them money for different projects. I have been compared to different volunteers, and it is very frustrating since we are doing completely different things.
I was told that I will only be a successful volunteer if I can get something big for my village. If I can’t everyone will forget me as soon as I leave..
Big projects like they want are a lot of work. It takes time on the computer to research, and time to run around to different organizations. It is hard to get done when you are working full time, and going to church all weekend. You need help, and if no one in the village is offering to help you, it is impossible to do.
I don’t feel like this is true, but having someone mention this to me every other day begins to wear on your spirit.
It just makes life frustrating. I feel like I have to defend my actions at every turn.
Hopefully everything will click into place for everyone.
The Samoa Challenge II was supposed to start when I came back from Tonga. The project was put together by the amazing Joey, and it is to focus on health topics with women in the village. Since women always do so much for the family and the village, it is a great group to focus on. During the upcoming months we will talk about preventing diabetes and other diseases, healthy eating and exercise.
I had been talking up the project for awhile, but noone would sign up for it until there was a Woman’s Committee Meeting. I tried and tried. Everyone told me it was a good idea, and would be interesting, but would do nothing until they met. Have no fear, they will meet the first Monday of October I was told. So I waited. I ducked out of school during my lunch to go to the meeting, and found out it was cancelled. I headed back up to the hill upset.
I went and talked to the president of the committee, and heard that the meeting was cancelled because people were busy. Wait another month to do the project I was told. It took a long time to explain, I needed to do the project NOW. The meeting was then changed from waiting a month, to waiting two weeks, to the meeting will be the following week.
I prepared newsprints and studied my Samoan. I had 14 people come, which wasn’t too bad. We set up a time for a weekly meeting, and hopefully they stick to it.
Then I brought out the scale. It was hysterical watching these women on the scale. Unlike home, people are rarely on a scale in Samoa. They loved comparing each other. I showed them the chart to see if they were overweight or not. (All of them were.)
We talked about the diseases that can come from being overweight and having their lifestyle they were used to. We also talked about how this is a recent problem in Samoa since people used to live off of the land and walk more than they do now.
The conversation engaged them, and hopefully it will continue to.
We are having another meeting on Thursday where afterwards we will try to jazzercise. This means I need to polish some amazing dance moves!
For over two weeks I was at church daily. On weekends I was at the different churches in the village, and during the week I went to the different practices for White Sunday. I would put it into my exercise routine, making sure I ran to a specific church to watch the children, or making sure I ended at a time good for watching the children. During the two weeks I viewed seven different church practices.
The week before the holiday, school got out early several times to make sure the kids and teachers had enough time to prepare for the holiday.
The holiday weekend started with watching dress rehearsals for the children in the village next to mine. First, I went to the Methodist Church where the children performed many songs, dances and acted. It was great and I was really proud of my students. Some of the songs were church songs redone to popular music and were quite catchy with great dance moves. I then went to the Congregational Christian Church were I was dazzled by their dancing and acting.
On Saturday I went with my family to the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The children lined up outside the church and marched in together with a song. They sounded beautiful all dressed in their new White Sunday clothes. Afterwards almost everyone in the congregation came over to our house for ice cream.
The following day was the rest of the people in the village’s celebration. I was told that church started at seven, eight, or nine for the Assembly of God. I decided to go for the middle time and hope it was correct. As I was walking uphill to the church, a few families called out to get my attention to invite me over for breakfast. As I declined, I knew the day would be full of plenty of delicious food.
I showed up in my bright white tasi (I have two of them), and many of my students were seated on the benches on the church. Service used to be held in an open Samoan fale that was decorated brightly to always make you feel at home. However, a few months ago they began construction on the new church building. They had the four walls for concrete, big gaps in the walls for windows, and a roof on top of the building, making it ready to be used. The gigantic windows made a great opening for a breeze. The concrete floor was still new enough that when you walked barefoot, your feet turned white from the dust of the new concrete. The front of the church had the same amazing musical equipment to let you know that church would be full of fun.
My students looked so beautiful. Two of the boys got spiffy new white suits, which made them look so cute. It made me laugh since I have known these boys for about a year, and for the first time I saw them wear pants.
Before 8:30, the children got ready, and filed out of the building. They then marched around the church building several times singing songs. There was enough children to make the building completely surrounded, allowing us to hear the magical voices from every direction. They then came in and dazzled us with singing and dancing. At the end of the service, the children performed in what looked like a talent show. Each family of children went before the rest of us and recited a part of the bible, then performed in some way. Some children sang, others danced, while others acted. The pastor tried to get me to perform, since I don’t have a husband I am a child. I was nervous, and just spoke quickly in Samoan to my neighbors to wish them a good holiday. Four hours after I arrived at church, it was over. Time had really flown by since it was an interesting service. The pastor gave chocolate to the children as a present, a really good present if you ask me.
Although I had been invited to what felt like 100 meals after church, I opted for going to the house of another teacher.
The family is interesting because the family goes to three different churches, but they al meet up to have a delicious feast every week after church. The meal was great, we al sat on the mats in the Samoan fale in the back. There were so many delicious foods, that it felt better than Thanksgiving Day. I ate so much that I had to decline the ice cream, even though I knew that was a treat to everyone.
I headed home and took my afternoon nap, and was awoken by the bells to let me know my next church service was about to start. The Methodist Church.
I started to sit next to some people and was ushered to the front. The children were all seated on the mats in front of us. This church has many more members in its congregation, and all of the children looked amazing. I had a laugh when a few boys wore garters around their heads. During the service the children sang, danced and did hysterical acting. My favorite dance move had to be the air guitar, as well as the air piano. The other churches had finished their services for the day, and so throughout the service more and more people began filling the pews. It was great to see the amount of support everyone gives their neighbors.
At the end of the service they had a prize giving. It still makes me laugh when I see children getting excited over bars of laundry soap as a present for doing good work. I couldn’t imagine getting a gift like that when I was young. Receiving a gift that showed you would have to do some work when you get home, doesn’t really sound like the most fun for me.
The following day was the National Holiday. It was a great Monday. I woke up early and went for a long run, ate some tea with a family in another village (I actually had a type of fruit for the first time, nono’o? I don’t know exactly what it is called, but it looks like a bell pepper, and tastes similar to an apple, that is dry, and at the same time extremely moist. Weird description, I know…) It was nice to connect with my village as I watched volleyball and relaxed with everyone.
The day before, I heard every teacher remind students to bring their gifts. The following day, October 5th would be Teachers’ Day and the students were expected to bring gifts for their students.
On Teachers’ Day I arrived at school early and the malae was filed with students having wrapped gifts. Unlike most days, the students were dressed in their sports uniforms. I knew the day would be interesting from the start.
The day started with an assembly, the kids were asked if they brought gifts for their teachers, those that did went to the classroom to give the teacher their gifts, those that did not stayed back in the hall.
In the classroom, the students names were called out, they gave their gifts to their teacher, while their teacher wrote down what each student gave. Some students gave laundry soap, others gave bathing soap, and few gave clothes, fabric and money.
Afterwards the students headed back to the hall, where they sang a few songs, then headed to the malae where they played assorted games. School was over by eleven.
That day the teachers compared what each student gave them, and decided who was superior based upon the gifts.
For me, it was a nice relaxing day.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
It is early in the morning on October 7th 2010. I would just like to write a big Congratulations to myself and the rest of my group for making it through one year. One year might not sound like much, but our group has been through a lot, and I love each and every member of it because of everything.
We started with 23 amazing people, and sadly we trickled down and are now at fifteen. They expected our group to lose many, since we are “the guinea pigs” of the project. It was really sad to see them go, especially because we all saw the drive they had, combined with their amazing ambition, and we saw it head back home.
I feel as though I am a different person that I was a year ago. I remember quite vividly October 5th of last year, the day my sister dropped me off at the airport. She stayed with me, following the line as it went through security as long as she could. She had tears in her eyes, and I did too. When I was finally on my own, people began to wonder and ask me where I was going. When I told them, I was given a, “Wow”.
I didn’t know what that wow would entail, and I don’t even think they did. It didn’t matter though,, they knew I was off on an adventure across the world, and I was excited (and a little nervous) about it.
I arrived in Los Angeles and found the shuttle to our hotel for staging. I was greeted by my friend Tiffany, a fellow Coloradoan. (Can I call myself that for only living there for four years?) To be honest Tiffany but who was I to talk!) , and I wasn’t sure what would happen to our friendship. We talked for awhile, but really got the chance to know each other when we roomed together during training. The first thing I learned about Tifa, is she is definitely not a morning person, the complete opposite of me. Other things I learned is she hysterical, has a warm heart and will always be there for you. Also she is extremely intelligent, and learned Japanese while living overseas.
Over the next day I met more people from our group, but I had trouble distinguishing them from the Tongan volunteers that were there with us.
Here are some of the things that struck out to me from our first encounter:
Ali and Amanda both had beautiful dreadlocks. They were advised to cut them off, since dreadlocks broadcast an image that they probably weren’t looking for. No one had to worry, because after about a week of dealing with Samoan humidity, there began to be problems, and Ali cut hers off. Amanda left about two weeks into training for health related issues. I am sure she is still rocking her look in Tennessee.
Matt had hiked the Appalachian Trail. Apparently you burn enough calories during it that at the halfway point, everyone eats a half gallon tub of ice cream to themselves. He also brought a little hiking guitar with him, which everyone loved.
Many of us were scared of sharks, luckily for us, and not our Tongan neighbors, we do not have sharks near the coastal waters.
In N Out burgers are the best food to eat when you are about to leave home. They really are a treat.
When we got on the plane I sat next to Cassie. We didn’t talk much during our long overnight flight. (Trust me, we made up for that later.) And I didn’t know this at the time, but my future best friend was sitting right behind me (Rachel), thinking I was strange as I changed my clothes completely while sitting on the plane.
When we arrived, I wanted to hop back on the plane. It was only five in the morning and the heat was already unbearable. I remember thinking that there was no way I would ever make it through a year of this, let alone two.
As we entered the baggage claim area, there was amazing Samoan music filling the air, and after going through our last customs check we were greeted by HP (our leader through training), Rosie, Benj, and Spencer as they gave us ulas and helped us load our bags onto the bus.
We went to our hotel, and quickly made ourselves at home as we befriended the entire staff so they would help us practice our language. We then participated I our first of many ava ceremonies, and experience our first of many falavelaves. We had to evacuate up the hill because of the chance of a tsunami.
We were greeted by the current volunteers with an amazing fiafia (party) where they showed us traditional dancing, as well as fire dancing. It was an experience, and a great break from our normal 8-4 (or longer) training schedule.
After being in Apia for almost two weeks, we moved to a quant little village of Manunu where we were greeted by our new families. We learned how to act like a Samoan with them, as well as have a lot if fun. Moast mornings Dana, Corina, Rachel and I woke up at sunrise to run to the Morman village next to us. Many days I went to Matt’s house or the Morman church to play basketball, Other days we went to the waterfall or river to enjoy a nice swim. Once and a while we went for a hike to the plantation. Each week we had a dance and danced our bums off. It was a busy life, but we enjoyed it. Especially with the special events we were able to participate in. The first one was Halloween. We threw a party for the kids in our village and it was amazing playing the little party games and dressing up. Next we had culture day for Thanksgiving. We went to the plantation, cooked food over the fire and learned a lot while having fun. At the end of our two months in Manunu we were excited with how much we had learned, excited to start our new jobs, and sad to leave our families.
In the beginning of December we swore an oath and became volunteers. We were so excited as we split ways and spread out throughout the islands of Upolu and Savai’i.
I learned how to siva Samoan in my village as I danced the night away on Christmas, and enjoyed caroling Christmas Eve.
I joined Dana with biking to Falealupo for the last sunset of the year. Most of group 82 joined us and we had a great time celebrating the end of 2009 and the start of an amazing full year in Samoa. Since we were missing the ball drop in NYC, we preformed our own coconut drop for the different New Year celebrations in America.
School began in February and I learned a lot more as a teacher than I ever thought possible. For the next many months I was to teach years 1-8 and I always had a great time doing it. We sang songs, played games, had read alouds, and did many English activities. I learned how stressful situations can be, just witnessing corporal punishment as I vowed never to do so.
Also during those months I had come to love my family. I live with parents, a sister, three brothers (it was 2 for about 10 months), a niece as well as many animals. I also got to fall in love with my sisters who live elsewhere, Sharlene in Califoria, Masau in Vanuatu, and Sharon in Apia. I became best friends with Champ, our loveable dog (when he isn’t attacking pigs), and Sunshine, the cutest cow who I love to spent time grooming.
During the coming months I enjoyed exploring all around, riding my bike, wherever my legs had the strength to pedal to, or running around (literally) to try and meet people. I also began volunteering at the college (high school) to help with computers and homework. I enjoyed Salelologa as a nice escape from village life, and a great place to catch up with other volunteers. Us girl volunteers got together for flossing parties (we seriously spend many hours flossing teeth), making palagi food, as well as enjoying the amazing water of the Pacific. Sometimes we all got together in Apia, and enjoyed the nightlife, as well as the company of those we rarely saw. Twice the US Coast Guard came, and we had a great time spending time with them, especially during Independence Day when we got to even tour the ship.
In May I went on my first vacation, to American Samoa. I had a great time with Emily and Kelly as we went on waterfall hikes and I explored the National Park.
I ran in my first race ever, a 10k, and got 6th place. A few months later, I entered my second race, a relay race around Upolu, where the 6 of us ran 104 km and won the race. It was an amazing accomplishment because a year ago I wasn’t a runner at all.
Running wasn’t the only thing to keep me busy, I was also attempting to bike everywhere. I explored all over the south shore of my island, with only two big crashes.
My parents came for a visit two months ago, and with the exception of my mom’s fall, we had an amazing trip, exploring all over Samoa.
Then, I took my second trip. I went to Tonga, and swam with whales, dolphins, and had a great time with the Tongan volunteers.
It has been a crazy year, full of a lot of fun. I would not change one part of it. I have made many friends, that are now like family members to me.
Yesterday the new volunteers arrived, and I am sure will have just as a good a first year as me and my friends have had. It is hard to believe in one short year, we will be finishing up our service and ready to travel back home.
Life sure does move fast.
School buildings have keys. I think in America, the custodian has them as well as the principal, with probably another copy floating around some place. It should be easy to have multiple sets of keys, especially since you usually buy a lock, it comes with two keys.
Keys are not as easy to come by here. For some reason, there is always only one key. Each classroom and the office have keys, and only one teacher has the key. This means having to wait for a person to come to open the office, have school close early for the day since the bathroom key it is missing, or having trouble opening classroom doors when a teacher is absent. I have seen kids crawl through broken windows to open doors, or have classes combined to have a gigantic classroom when the owner of a classroom key doesn’t show.
Keys can be suck a hassle. I just don’t understand why they cannot make multiple copies…
For some reason my school seems to have baby fever. Out of the ten professionals in our school building, one of them had a baby between the first and second term, another one had hers a week ago, and a third is pregnant.
There are no rules at our school to prevent teachers from bringing their kids to school, which sometimes causes a big distraction. Babies and toddlers often join their parents when they come to teach. Sometimes students are pulled out of their classrooms to help take care of the kids, other times they run around the school as if they own the building. Babies are brought for mom to feed them.
I feel bad for some of the students on certain days, if their teachers were not playing the parental role, they would be getting a much better education. Even though I do not have a kid to bring to school, my teaching still suffers because of this falavelave. I have had toddlers walk into my classroom armed with sticks, wanting to hit my students. I spend a lot of time trying to pry sticks out of hands, while hiding others, and still trying to prevent a little girl from crying.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Elisa’s principal has banned teachers from bring their children to school. It sounds great on paper, except for when you take a look to examine what is really happening. Teachers now have to go home throughout the school day to nurse their baby. When Elisa asked, why they couldn’t just bottle it, she was told it would hurt too much.
It makes you wonder, what is the better solution. Being there with only half your attention on your students, or leaving throughout the school day. If only all the teachers were male, it would solve this problem completely!
“Sounds like you have a case of the Mondays,” Rachel told me during one of our many conversations this week. I felt like I was stuck in a rut with everything seeming to go wrong. At times like these I am known to be a crybaby, and I had many teachers trying to help me when they saw me looking down.
Between rude comments, too many teachers being absent (causing me to watch many classrooms at the same time), lack of food (it is not good going through the entire day with only a few crackers in your belly until evening), and many other little issues at school, home and our secondary health project, I felt like a wreck. I was gifted a migraine headache that would not leave, making me feel like a ghost in my house.
I was not the only one going through this. Rachel and I talked forever about our problems, and it felt like in some ways, the other person had it rougher. This is a time period I thought we would all be at our high point. We were about to celebrate one year, and looking over that year it was great. But I was not in the mood to celebrate. I was on a downward spiral, and could not find a way out of this funk.
After a full weekend of feeling like a bad Monday, I decided that I would take action, so each evening, I went for a jog, looking for something fun to do. On Monday, I visited a few different church youth groups in other villages to watch their practice for White Sunday. Tuesday, I headed the other direction, and in addition to watching kids sing and dance, I got to play volleyball with people two villages over, which was a blast. Since I was still down, on Wednesday, I was really determined to change my outlook. I needed someone I could talk to, someone I could relate to, I was going to visit Elisa, and enjoy that great palagi connection we share.
I started running, and it began raining. I ducked inside a church and watch some of my students practice their singing. They were so cute with their dance moves, it quickly brought a smile to my face. The rain stopped, and I had a lot more ground to cover before I even came close to Elisa’s house, so I kept on down the road, and hearing all the people call out my name felt so good. Here I am feeling so depressed, and I have hundreds of people who appreciate me for being here and being a part of their lives. Even though I was tired, and it was hot, it gave me the strength to keep going. I stopped off at the store, picked up some bread for her family, and turned down the plantation road to her house.
Elisa was also not at her all time high. She had just come home from working on the health project, and was trying to think of ways to make it successful for her village (as well as not make her crazy with being overworked). The two of us talked about our problems, talked about the good experiences we were having, had a delicious meal of macaroni and cheese with garlic bread. (It is amazing what you can cook when you only have access to a hot water boiler.) It was great talking to her one on one. I had such a good time, I didn’t want to leave, but nightfall had come.
Elisa came with me to wait for my parents on the main road. We sat there talking, admiring the stars, and I was feeling better. We talked about all the good things about Samoa, as we stared at the Milky Way and watched out for shooting stars.
I am glad I have Elisa nearby to help me out when I need her. She is a good friend to have, and a great peace corps sister.
I am feeling a lot better right now, and I hope it stays this way.
If you ever watch a movie in Samoa, you will see quickly the difference between what is appropriate, and what is not. Public display of affection is rarely viewed in Samoa. In fact with the exception of one time at night, palagi visitors, and people in Apia, it is something that I never see. This includes hand holding. (Although it is completely appropriate if you are the same sex.)
When you watch a movie with a Samoan, if there is something as little as a kissing scene it is fast forwarded. This means pressing the skip button on your DVD, and you end up missing a whole chunk of the movie. I think it is really interesting, since it is things in America that would be rated G, or things that are appropriate for television.
Because of this, when watching a movie with a Samoan, you have to know the movie ahead of time. One day I slept over Dana’s house and we were watching a movie with about 40 people from her village. (Who doesn’t want to hang out with Dana? She is amazing!) Dana had watched this movie once before and knew a kissing scene was coming up, however wasn’t sure where. She sat up next to the screen for about twenty minutes, ready to press the fast forward button, and therefore not offend her neighbors.
At home I have the same experiences. My sister is constantly fast forwarding through whatever she is watching. (I do not think I have a full half hour of something without fast forwarding.)
The only time we get to watch something complete is in the privacy of our own rooms.
I grew up as the youngest child of three and I think there is nothing better than being the youngest. I got away with a lot more than I should have. Starting from a young age, I would always set up my siblings to get into trouble. For example, when I was a baby, I used to climb out of my crib. My sister would see me and try to put me back in. However in the process one of my parents would come in the room and scold her for “taking me out to play”. When I got older, I sometimes targeted my brother. (Sorry Billy!) I would kick him under the table, and he would always get caught in retaliation.
Of course I wasn’t always a brat. I enjoyed spending time with my siblings. They were the best friends to have, especially because they were always around. I always shared a room, with either my brother and sister. We fought sometimes, but thinking back on them I have a laugh. What kind of harm can come out of throwing socks from across the room? When I was little, my brother Billy and I used to play Heman and other toys under our dining room table. We had dreams of owning a mansion when we were older. Complete with toys galore, and a big dining room table to play under. My sister Jen was the one to get the house first, so I took total advantage of it. Living in a gigantic house to myself, while my sister traveled the US working. The first purchase for the house, even before a bed, was a gigantic dining room table. Although I didn’t still have my Heman and Shera toys, I enjoyed playing many games and doing puzzles on the table.
When I came to living on Savai’i I was blessed with a younger sister. A younger sister that would make up for how I sometimes treated my siblings. She can be loud and obnoxious as she borrows my stuff and sings at the top of her lungs.
Then the power of younger siblings doubled as I go a twelve year old brother. The two of them ganged up against me to play pranks some days. When I take a shower, sometimes they shut the lights off on me, leaving me covered in suds in the pitch dark. (There really aren’t any windows in the bathroom.) Other times the booby trap the house causing things to happen when you open doors and such.
Having two younger siblings can definitely bring twice the trouble. It makes every day interesting as you never know what the pair has in store for me.
Jen, I admire how you put up with me and Billy, if we even did half the things that Salvadios and Tonga do. You truly are a saint.
The power is off. It is raining outside so I am not surprised at all. Living here in my village I have learned to not take two things for granted-water and power.
It is hot in my room, and I keep hoping the wind will start to blow through my windows to make up for the lack of fan, but it is not changing. The nice thing about having a blackout at this time is that it is daytime. I don’t have to worry about searching for a flashlight to wander about the house, or sit down to a candlelight meal.
Some days power on the whole island goes out. I know this because one of us will text another volunteer, and text another all about having to spend the night in the dark.
The water goes out here daily, and I know my village is unique in this, because most other volunteers only lose their water once or twice a month. I don’t mind this, since we do have a water tank to get our water from.
Other Peace Corps Volunteers call us Posh Corps, or Beach Corps because of our location. They think life is easy for us since we are on the Pacific Islands. Although it is peaceful, and I enjoy it, it is definitely different than our lives were in America. They don’t understand our lives because they don’t experience it first hand. We both experience hardships on our own ways, but just never talk about it with one another to really know what we deal with.
Life might be posh in some standards, but it is not completely. I do get privileged to a hot shower once a month; but the rest of the time I am privileged to bucket showers. Most of the time showers are inside, but some of the people on my group do bathe in the bathing pools, and sometimes we actually have to brave the neighbors and find a way to shower outside. I know not everyone in Peace Corps has electricity, and I love that we do have it here, for peace of mind, as well as safety. We are witness to corporal punishment, as much as we try to stay clear of it, and witnessing that can bring mental stress to anyone. I can go to the city and access “palagi food”, but it can be a long trip. But mostly we have island fever. Peace Corps Volunteers elsewhere have neighboring countries they can visit for a break. We have to hop on a plane to get anywhere. It is easy for us to not see the outside world for two years since it is expensive to travel everywhere.
Our scenery and our beautiful beaches and waterfalls here make life amazing. Whenever you are having a bad day, it is easy to listen to the waves crash to clear your mind. Otherwise ask a kid to climb a tree to get you a delicious snack to remind you how unique island food is. For miles on each direction of my village, everyone knows me by name, and often invite me over for tea. (Although I still do not even know a tenth of their names!) They get mad at me when I go out to exercise, because that takes away time that I could have easily spend hanging out with them.
All of us volunteers are on a rollercoaster ride for two year, we experience hardships as well as some of the best experience ever in our lives. It is our job, and I am sure none of us would change our decision to sign up.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Two weeks into school, and I still don’t know what I am doing. I am working hard, but am unable to figure out a definite schedule with all the falavelaves around our school. In the two weeks, we had one teacher have a baby, another teacher get married, the flu virus hit everyone (Thank you Teuila for my flu vaccination!), and teachers leaving left and right for meetings elsewhere.
I have been a substitute teacher in many rooms, and enjoying teaching whatever I felt was necessary in those classrooms. It has been fun focusing on math and English. I have taught many classes Michael Jackson’s Heal the World, and we have been enjoying rocking out to that, along with our other favorites. I have also been focusing on word problems for math.
Yesterday at school, there were only 2 other teachers besides myself. That meant we had a lot of running around to apply somewhat effective teaching. I was teaching 4 classes of 25-35 students at a time. Thankfully I planned this ahead of time. I prepared a test for my year 4 class, a quiz for year 7, and in year 5-6 they had some work from their teachers mixed with a read aloud and singing with me.
Watching multiple classes has become something that I have grown used to. Although it is not the most enjoyable teaching.
One great thing I’ve been doing this term is bringing a stack of books outside during recess. I have a group of kids that sit with me reading. They have a great time and I love hearing their reading improving.
Hopefully my schedule will become more consistent when most of the teachers come back. If it doesn’t, at least I am doing the best I can!
I know that friends and family of PCV’s read each other’s blogs, so with group 83 Samoa coming in a few days, I wanted to give the new group’s family advice.
1. Don’t be surprised if the volunteer has a new obsession with poop. It seems to be a common discussion topic among us here. Since we all talk about it, we sometimes get confused when others don’t want to hear about our fecal matter.
2. Training is a stressful time. Most of us come from living by ourselves, and go straight into living with a family of 5-25. (Although my family only had 14, another person in my group did have 25.) It is a strange adjustment for us. So be patient.
3. Everyone tries to keep in contact with people at home, but sometimes stores run out of phone credit. So if we are neglecting to contact our loved people at home, we are also neglecting our friends here. While we are out in the village, especially our training village, internet is near impossible. We still love you!
4. Send pictures, not just over the internet. Everyone loves to see the pictures we get in the mail. They think they know my entire family and everything about them from my descriptions of the pictures. Postcards are also pretty amazing!
5. When we start learning Samoan, a few Samoan words become engrained into our English vocabulary. (I honestly forget that people don’t say those words at home.) Just ask us, and we will help you understand us.
6. Since we are teaching in primary schools, we might begin to sound British. The English language we use is theirs, so we need to spell unAmerican English. (Besides just our writing, I have been told by many that I have developed a Canadian accent. I don’t know how that is possible, but we might begin to lose the normal way we talk.)
7. Don’t get scared of stories of our cuts and bruises. They are just battle wounds. We are strong and are being careful. (Even when we jump off cliffs into waterfalls…I promise it is safe!)
8. Our taste in music probably will change. The pop music sensation mixed with ABBA (Mamma Mia) grows on us. So when you hear Backstreet Boys in the background, don’t be surprised. We had the Macarena blaring the other day on repeat for awhile. I am not saying that is normal, even by Samoan standards.
9. Remember there is a time difference when you try to call us. Being awoken at 2am is not fun for anyone.
10. Make sure you tell us how much you miss us and love us. Even when you are having a bad day. When we talk to people struggling, it rubs off on us, and although our support group is strong here, it is not as strong as it was back at home. One bad message can stay on us for a long time.
Hope this helps!
Sunshine is our beautiful calf that has lived with us for the past 10 months. I love her. She acts just like a dog coming whenever I called, or letting me pet her head and all over. Sunshine is an amazing pet to have, but Sunshine has grown up. She is old enough to go to the plantation with the other cows. (This is where she was born, however her mom died at birth. We were able to play mommy at our house.) Soki, my older brother brought her there.
The next day, Sunshine was back. I would like to think it was because she missed me. No matter where she is, I love having her around.
“On the seventh day after the full moon, the palolo reef worm emerges from the coral reef to mate.” (From Lonely Planet Samoan Islands) The color of it is blueish-green, and is considered a delicacy in Samoa. When I arrived in Samoa last year I heard all about it from now former volunteers. People who go out that night to catch them usually make a fortune from their findings. I wanted to experience it for myself.
When my brother said he was going on Thursday night, I knew I had to be a part of it.
We awoke at 3:30 AM, gathered nets, buckets and flashlights. We then headed over towards the malae and hung out on the cricket field to listen to the tides roll in and out. We must have laid out on the slab of concrete for about an hour. The tide was right, we began to head towards the ocean.
We walked between houses until we got to the path. Over tree branches and around rocks, we arrived at the steps that lead to the water. We then turned left, onto a path I have never traveled before. I stumbled as I walked through the dark, wishing I brought my flashlight too. We jumped over some slippery boulders, and were right next to the Pacific. It was low tide. We all just sat on the rocks watching the water, waiting for something to happen.
Suddenly people began to show up. We saw flashlights heading towards the water of the next village. Then someone went in the water. I just saw a flashlight bobbing around the water. Our flashlight went in and scanned the water. This process was repeated about every 5-10 minutes.
It was a beautiful night. I loved just sitting there in the nice chill of the night watching all the flashlights bob around from all different directions.
Two more people went in, one was from our village and was yelling funny things along with updates.
Hours had passed. We had seen nothing.
The sky was beginning to change colors, the sun was rising. There were no palolo. We had gotten the day wrong. They were to emerge the following morning.
We headed home in the dark, and I got ready for school.
Today, I was going to head over to the ocean to see if they were there, but I was too exhausted. I missed it. The one day a year that people fish for this, and I missed it. I guess there is always next year, and hopefully someone invites me over to try it.