Monday, December 20, 2010

Airport-Just as much fun as watching tv

The National Park in Samoa

Buying a snack on the road.

Ma tree in the National Park.

Foailalo Beach in Savai'i.

The scary ladder of the trench.

When people come to visit Samoa, or leave Samoa, it is a big event and usually many people come to see them off or welcome their arrival.
Some of the Volunteers have been coming to the airport each week to see their family members (other volunteers) off. The day that my sister and Cammi left, ten other volunteers were also heading to America. This meant that there was a “party” at the airport. We all hung out until it was time for them to go through security. The few of us who went to see them off, headed upstairs to the viewing area. We saw their airplane arrive, from New Zealand and Tonga. We pointed out a few volunteers we knew from Tonga that were also heading to America, and then headed to the stairs to see those who made it through customs. Surprisingly we knew some people coming off the plane that were heading home to Samoa. It was fun to see people get so excited to welcome their loved ones to Samoa.
We then headed back to the viewing window where we saw the people board that were bound for Los Angeles. Many of the volunteers saw us and gave us big waves good bye, and when Jen and Cammi saw us at the window they stood there for a long time waving until they really had to board the plane.
We had a lot of fun watching the plane board as well as watching the captain go through all of his paperwork. Then the plane was about to take off (It was already three hours late.) It went slowly down the runway until it reached Aggie Grays Resort, then turned around, picked up speed, and was off the ground by the time it reached out window again.
We still had a few hours until our boat would leave for Savai’i, so we decided it was finally time to sleep. Mosquito coils were lit, and we used our lava lavas as blankets and had a short rest. Before we knew it, the alarm was going off to tell us to go to the wharf.
At the wharf, it was not time to board the ship yet, so we took our second nap on the benches there, before heading on to the boat to find our next place to sleep.
Even though the sleep we got was not the best, it was still worth it to experience the time at the airport. It was such a great experience to say goodbye to our loved ones, while seeing people joyful for their loved ones arriving. People watching at the airport is just as much fun as watching television, in my opinion.

Scuba Diving

Salvadios and Jen-two of my amazing sisters at the beach by our house.

Me and Salvadios hanging out of the beach. This is the day she learned to do hand stands in the water...too bad the waves kept crashing on her.

Jen and me on the scuba boat.

Scuba diving
When I was told that I was coming to the Pacific to volunteer, one thought popped into my head, scuba diving. I was hoping that I could spend any free time doing this, and it excited me.
I am not diving as much as I was hoping, but enjoying the few dives I have been on here. The problem with diving here is the months that we have the most free time to dive, is the months of cyclone season. Several times we tried to dive last year, and it was cancelled because of strong winds, hurricane warnings, cyclones warning, and pretty much bad luck. I did make it out in March, and when I was visiting Tonga took advantage of their amazing coral and went several times.
Thankfully while Jen was here, despite coming during cyclone season and having rain, nothing disrupted our dives. We enjoyed seeing turtles, a ship wreck, electric clams, eagle rays and much more. It was a lot of fun.
Even though I don’t go to the ocean as much as I was hoping when I originally found out I was moving to the Pacific, I still really enjoy having such a beautiful clean ocean right outside my bedroom window.


The South Shore of Upolu

Some children fishing off of Savai'i.

Tools to make ava bowls.

Views from the road.

Have you ever put a machete in your hands? I used to think it was a scary feeling having this big knife in your hands. What if it drops and cuts off one of your toes? Ohh, that frightened me so much. In our house in Colorado we have several machetes from my sister’s trip to Panama, and swords from when we went to Japan. Those weapons stayed hung up on our walls for decoration, never to be used for anything.
Then I came to Samoa.
When I arrived here my thoughts on big knives changed.
It started off with the “Machete factor”, which is as soon a male puts a machete in his hands he automatically became good looking. Take the machete away, and he was ugly. I finally got over “the Machete Factor” after living here for awhile.
Then I began using machetes more and more. I used it to weed the lawn (or rocks), tried to use it to open cans of tuna, opened a few coconuts with them, and even sliced some fruit as well.
While Jen and Cammi were here, they began to see my new found love for the machete as they laughed as I cut the grass on a plantation road with my knife. I think they were laughing nervously, since Cammi was backing away far, since she was unsure of my ability with machetes, and was afraid of me swinging it like a baseball bat, as those sometimes fly out of people’s hands.
Before I left I was scared of lawnmowers, as I thought they would run over my feet. My amazing neighbor, Mike, helped me out with this. Maybe when I return I can return the favor, by finally using the machetes in the house to cut both of our grass. (Or maybe Jen will stop me, since she might worry about what the neighbors might think.)
Anyway, machete=good times.

Jen and Cammi-came on a vacation to help out

Cammi teaching some children about heart rate.

Cammi allowing kids to hear their heart beat for the first time.

Cammi being amazing with children, again.

Jen and Cammi checking blood pressure in Rachel's village for the Samoa Challenge II.

Jen and me in Rachel's village.

Blood Pressure
While Jen and Cammi were here, they volunteered to check blood pressure in many of the villages in Savai’i to help with the Samoa Challenge II. They planned on 6 villages, and knew that a few more places might come up during their visit.
We started with Ali’s village, since it was the farthest from my village. When we arrived the women were carrying bags of sand, and we learned they had been doing that for awhile. Our arrival finally prompted them to take a break from their work, but they still took awhile to arrive at the Women’s Committee fale. In the meantime we spent time with the children in the beautiful fale that overlooked the Ocean. Jen and Cammi tried to explain about heart rate and used their stethoscope to let them hear their heart. It was the first time they had ever heard it, so it immediately brought smiles across their faces.
The women finally arrived and they were happy to hear the numbers of their blood pressure, since they do not usually have them checked regularly. Some of the women were advised to talk to a doctor, but overall they had better numbers than we originally thought.
We then headed down the road to Rachel’s village. Rachel had been working her women hard, as her and her counterpart Vern created new Jazzercise routines every week. Along with that, she went walking with the women, played volleyball with them and had numerous sports days where they played invented games.
It was the women’s final meeting and it was amazing to see their smiles as they weighed themselves for one final time and checked their measurements. I helped Rachel with this, while Jen and Cammi travelled around the room to check each women’s blood pressure and heart rate. All of the women in Rachel’s group had smiles on their faces the entire time we were there as they tried to offer their relatives as pe’u (boyfriends) to Jen, Cammi, and myself. When we left the room, the women weren’t done. Even though their final measurements were logged on paper, they still wanted to exercise and I was able to witness one of their amazing Jazzercise routines. I hung out in the doorway trying to do the dance myself and was having a blast.
Dana’s village was next. I was excited to show Jen and Cammi the beauty of her beaches since we arrived early. Dana’s group meets in the open fale in front of her house, and even though it is a small group, they all seemed so happy to be there and loved having Dana as their fearless leader of the program. While all the measurements were being done, she kept throwing out words of encouragement to them. She even had a women who was not able to be in the program because of her high blood pressure show up, and she explained to me that the woman still took part in each activity, even though she knew she could not get a prize out of it. Jen and Cammi were pleased to report that all of their blood pressures had dropped to healthy numbers because of Dana’s efforts.
We then headed up to Matt’s village where we saw a falavelave was going on, and were hoping it would not interrupt too much our plans. We decided to spend our time seeing some of the sites around Asau while we waited. We visited the old airport, the wharf and the pools. It was finally time for her meeting to start so we headed to the school where Matt lives at. Matt was concerned that the women might not show up for another few hours because of the falavelave, but thankfully they did, so we could continue with our plans. Jen and Cammi went around the room checking each women while I took pictures (they were going to do the other assessments at a later time) and did simple translations to help advise some women to seek a doctor for help controlling their blood pressure.
Elisa is my closest Peace Corps neighbor, so all the women in her village already know me, and it goes the same in my village. When we arrived, we were immediately impressed. Elisa had a classroom set up with posters lining the room, and check off lists for her group. She had music on in the background to make everyone feel comfortable. In her village, not only had all of her women lowered their blood pressure, but they were all at healthy numbers. Elisa had put a lot of work into her project, making numerous house calls to her “students” houses. She should be proud of her village’s accomplishments.
Our final stop was Emi’s village. We were so thrilled to get to Emi’s house because she was the only village where all of her women were there when we had already arrived. They were sitting around weaving beautiful fine mats which meant that they were rested more than other villages (especially those with women who had just finished carrying several sacks of sand). Emi is another one who made sure to work her women to lose weight as they had jazzercise several mornings a week starting before 6 am, and sometimes in the afternoon. Only a real dedicated volunteer would put in the effort she was with her women. After spending time with her women, we understood while she did it. Her women are amazing as they were constantly cracking jokes, and after Jen and Cammi had finished their work, several of the women got up and tried to teach us how to siva (dance) Samoa.
I am really proud of group 82 in Savaii for their work on this health project. Ali, Rachel, Emi, Elisa, Dana and Matt are not only incredible friends, but wonderful volunteers as well. They have put in so much work into this project to help improve their village and you can tell how much the women of their village appreciated it. Like me, they have one more year left to shock and amaze their villages and leave a lasting imprint in each villagers’ heart.
Jen and Cammi also were amazing, giving up so much of their vacation time to help out the people of my island. I know not only my Peace Corps family appreciates what they did, as throughout the time they were here, people were recognizing them to say thanks.

No Sleeping in Samoa

The Trench & Cammi Jen and I looking awesome in our matching tasis.

No sleeping when you need to experience Samoa
Jen and Cammi came to visit me in Samoa, and I had plans made. I wanted them to experience Samoa the way I did, as well as seeing all of the beauty of the two main islands. The only problem was they had a week and a half to do it in, unlike my two years.
I tried to keep them up as much as possible, and that meant starting from day 1 we would be doing several things, without napping, except in transportation. The two of them did well as we truly experienced Samoa.
They arrived off the plane, and as soon as their luggage was in a safe place, and food was in our bellies we began to enjoyed everything in Samoa.
We started off with the Robert Louis Stevenson hike, a hike which might not have been as bad if it hadn’t been raining right before our arrival. This meant that the trail was going to be slippery. We decided to take the easier path, instead of the path that goes straight up, making it seem like you have to hug tree toots the entire time. The “easy” path is not exactly easy. It is still extremely steep, and the mossy rocks and mud make it extremely slippery. We were hopping over fallen trees in between slipping and falling on our bums. When we made it to the top, it was worth the mud filled clothes as we saw the view next to Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave.
Later that day, in between meetings, we left in the rain to go to Sliding Rocks. I wasn’t sure how much Cammi would enjoy the place, especially with her not enjoying water so much. We traveled down the million stairs to the waterfalls, and the two girls looked at me, wondering what I had in store for them. Since it was still raining, the place cleared out, and so we had the waterslides to ourselves. I tell them not to worry, since we will do the little ones first. We walk across the water, and I slide down the first slide which empties me into a pool of water. I tell them to follow me, as I wait for them at the edge of the next slide. One by one they follow. They then look down at the next slide, and tell me I’m crazy. I tried reassuring them that it will be a lot of fun as I zoomed down into the next pool of water. One by one they followed. I was really proud of Cammi, who did it, and said it was exciting, even though she said never again. We then rocked climbed so Jen and I could go again while Cammi watched. Afterwards we headed up to the biggest slide. Because of Jen and Cammi working in the medical profession, they were extremely nervous, saying that the slide was a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) waiting to happen. I told them not to worry, as I climbed up the rock, and slid down. Making it without a problem, I convinced Jen to try it with me. She enjoyed the thrill as she was scared the entire time. We went on it a few more times before heading back to Apia to watch the amazing show at Aggie Grays.
The next day we traveled to Savaii. Like them, I was exhausted, since I woke up at 1:45 the previous morning to catch the bus. So I did what I normally do on the boat, found a place to sleep. I didn’t know at the time, but the two of them thought it was hysterical, the site of me curled up in a ball on the floor of the boat. When we arrived in Salelologa, I woke up and we walked off the boat, and went to the market. We bought a lot of vegetables and went to the seamstress, so the two of them can get custom made outfits before heading to my village.
The following day was Prize giving at school, and I was thrilled with how proud my sister and Cammi were of me with my duties of the day. They then got to experience village life, which included watching volleyball, hanging out on the road, watching people sweep (The two of them are convinced that people just sweep when they are bored.) and swimming at the beach.
The following morning I had them experience the 2 am bus, to get to Upolu. They were shocked of what I do to travel to Apia. We hopped a fence, avoided horse poop and hung out on the road in the middle of the night. A bus, ferry, another bus and a half hour walk later we were in Apia. We picked up a rental car and were ready to experience Upolu. We started off at the soap factory and learned how to make soap with only cooling. Our next stop was the Baha’i Temple where we enjoyed their beautiful grounds. Third, we went to the gigantic waterfall on Cross Island Road to see pure beauty. Then to the National Park where we swam in the waterfalls, and then did a tree hike to see the enormous Ma Tree. (We would later name a tree in Falealopo “Pa Tree”.) We then went to the Si’u Trench. The trench was gigantic, and the ladder to climb down gave us a fright, but we were still happy to swim in the trench, especially inside the cave. Seventh, (I think that’s what we are up to..) we visited Kyle’s village, where we learned about making Ava bowls. We ended the day by going to Denise, one of our PC staff’s houses to celebrate Chanukkah. It was a lot of fun celebrating it with her and her family, as there was delicious food and we were quizzed mentally all night by her son and his riddles.
The following day was Sunday, we went scuba diving, and we had to head back to Savai’i. Again, I got a nice nap on the boat, and woke up just in time to arrive in Salelologa, where we checked into a hotel, and took gigantic leaps into the lagoon surrounding the hotel. It was a beautiful place to relax as we swam until sunset, then climbed the ladder to the deck of our little house. We left our clothes out to dry during the night and I covered them in rocks to avoid them blowing away. But about 4 in the morning we awoke to the sounds of rocks falling to the ground and I lost my favorite lavalava. Somehow all the other clothes survived.
We started the day by going to the Tafua Crater. We wanted to do the hike up to it, but were not sure where exactly the hike was. So we picked up a village boy and took him in the car with us so he could show us. We had a laugh, as there is no way this would happen in America, a family just letting their son go in a car with a bunch of foreigners.
After the crater, we had work to do, so we went to two villages on the North Shore of the island for Jen and Cammi to do blood pressure checks in Ali’s and Rachel’s villages. Then made the long trip back home.
The following day we headed west to Dana and Matt’s villages. We also got to watch my Samoan father’s performance at a church, snorkel, go to the Rock House, hang out on the beach, see the sunset from the westernmost place on the globe, and a few more sites to ensure that we were as busy as can be.
On the one week mark of the trip, I made sure they awoke early to go back to the rainforest to do the Canopy Walk. Then to Elisa and Emi’s villages to finish up the blood pressure checks. We ended the afternoon by swimming with turtles and visiting the lava field to see the church that was destroyed by the eruption. (Also the car that has been there since 1905….which is extremely amazing since it is a car from the 1980’s…)
The next day Jen and Cammi said goodbye to my family and we drove to Taga to see the blowholes. I have been here several times, and thought I knew what to expect, however the morning proved to be full of surprises. While Jen and I were standing off to the side where the blow hole wasn’t erupting to, the biggest gust came up and headed straight towards us. We tumbled to the ground where we laid there for several minutes wondering if we could get up. Finally we did, as Cammmi watched nervously trying to decide what to do about us. Jen and I were scraped up pretty bad, but we were not going to let it ruin our fun. We visited the closest volunteer, Supi, and had him empty out his medical kit for us. After a morning like that we deserved to relax, so we headed off to Manese to enjoy beach fales. They were happy because we finally had a day to relax, even though it meant that our trip was winding down. That night a gigantic storm blew in while we were at dinner. One of our pillows blew out of our little hut along with mattresses blowing against the walls to become as soaked as possible.
The next morning the rain stopped, so we relaxed on the beach, while Jen joined Cammi and some children build sand birthday cakes on the beach. We then went to Salelologa where I showed them Savai’i nightlife, by taking them to our only bar on the island. The night started with a cultural show where they were able to see Polynesian dances from across the Pacific. Then, the fun started (for me at least). Eva Eva (the night club) has a house band, and plays the best music of the area, including hip hop and Samoan covers. This night however, they even included a Christmas mix, and the Hokey Pokey into their song repertoire. The way nightlife works is, boys come up to girls and bow to ask them to dance, then after the dance you shake hands and go back to your seats, until the next song starts up again and the next boy comes over to follow the pattern. It always makes me laugh because I feel as though I am at a junior high dance.
The next day we picked up Jen and Cammi’s new outfits from the seamstress. They decided to pick out clothes from magazines and the seamstress made them to look perfect. We then headed back to the north shore to go scuba diving and have an amazing dinner with a few members of my Peace Corps family.
Sunday meant that there was only one day left, sadly, we headed back to Upolu where we went to the South Shore to spend the night with a family before doing the river hike the following morning.
The hike was a perfect way to end the trip as we hiked alongside the river, through the river, jumping off waterfalls, rock climbing and just really enjoying the Samoan outdoor life.
I kept the two of them extremely busy throughout the trip, but I think it was worth it, because we all had an amazing time. I was even voted tour guide of the year by them. It was sad to see them leave as I watched their plane take off, but I know in another year we can all have another adventure in the Rocky Mountain region.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Planes, Umu, and Dancing

I am sitting here in Salelologa, and have so much to share with everyone about the adventures I had when Jen and Cammi were visiting, that I have to clue where to even begin. I have scrapes, cuts, and bruises covering me, but it does not bother me because they each have an amazing story to tell.
While we were waiting for the 3 hour delay for my sister's flight to America, I took out a pen and began labeling where they came from. Even though some of them are still fresh and hurt, it bright a gigantic smile to my face.
On that plane were 10 members of my Peace Corps family, and a few Peace Corps from Tonga, and it was just as sad to see them go. Some of these people have been there through all of the ups and downs in my life for the past year and are true family members, and it is sad to think they won't be a bus ride away any more. It made me realize how gigantic our country really is. A flight ride in America to visit my parents from Rocky Mountains to East Coast, takes the same amount of time as visiting a neighboring country here. Even though I might complain about sitting on a bus all day to visit someone, I really have to remember, at least I can get where I need to. I know those that have left will still be there for me, but it will never be the relationship we had here.
I can't be too down about it though, because since one group cos-ed (closed of serviced), it gave room for new and energetic volunteers to come. I am pleased to report, they have now been Samoa-ized. No longer do they smell like dryer sheets, they are now smelling like bucket washed clothes. They know how to build an umu (outdoor ovens) and maybe even climb a tree or two. They are coming out to there new sites on Saturday, which means I will have a new neighbor, Devon.
Group 83 will be sure to make 2011 an amazing year in Samoa. (With of course the help of 82...alofa outou!)
A few hours ago I was sad as I waved goodbye to Jen and Cammi, but became excited, because it is the start of the New Year. The only thing left to do in 2010 is dance. And I will make sure to siva as much as possible on Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blowholes 2; Jen and Lilly 0

This morning we went to the blowholes that claimed to be the best in the world. They were awesome... and awesomely huge! Lilly traversed the lava rocks to stand right next to the blowhole and I shortly followed her. We watched the water shoot up from the blowhole and it was amazing... the water was so strong and powerful. Then suddenly the blowhole shot up in the other direction and Lilly and I were knocked down.... and not just knocked down but thrown several feet across the lava rocks. Lilly's hand was slashed on the rocks and she bashed her knee... I scraped my leg and my arm. Thankfully we didn't hit our heads on the rocks and the only things that was brought back to the ocean were my sunglasses and a coconut. Cammi was able to take a picture right when it threw us down and you can just see two blobs on the ground... which were us.
This was our last day staying with Lilly's family. They were so nice but tried to feed us too much. They learned that we love pineapple and pineapple was served with every meal.
We've also learned that the creatures that live in the walls aren't as scary when you name him.. so now the rat is named Sopapilla, the giant spider is named Sam, and the cat is named Sitead. Whatever food we would leave out (especially apples) Soapapilla would go after.
We are heading to the beach soon to camp out on the beach... though Lilly says it's not really camping because we're staying in this shack on the beach.... or beach fale... camping sounds a little more fun though. Once we're there I'm sure Lilly and I will count our battle wounds to see who has the most. I'm quite sure I'll win this one.
I'm looking forward to relaxing on the beach for a while. I've brought 3 books (thanks Dad you trained me well) as well as my journal so I can keep track of everything we've done.
Thanks for listening... Jen

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Prizegiving 2010

Yesterday was our prizegiving at our school. Confusing, since I thought it would be a week later. I felt so unprepared for it because of this. I was told to practice the names of my students, but no one game me the roll until that morning to practice. I also wasn't told what to say, since I didn't know I had to give a speech about my year 4 class. I knew I was going to be testing myself from the start of the day.
I was really impressed with my Samoan language ability since I was able to put together a speech at the top of my head. I also only made two errors on names, and with a class of 29, where I never use their surname, I think that is pretty good.
I was also nervous because I had a gift for the year 8 class, a movie I made for them about their last year at our school. I had planned for having an extra week to make the 33 copies, and was not ready to give them out the day before prizegiving, since I still had 27 copies still to make. I almost pulled an all nighter using the burner software my sister just brought for me. The next morning, I still had 3 left when it was time to head to school. I felt obnixous as I walked to school with my laptop open. Somehow I was able to finish copying before the days events started.
The day overall was pretty amazing, the children danced beautifully, sang great, and were cute as a button.
I will write in more details about the event at a later time, but it's 5am, and I am exhausted and ready to get on the ferry.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guest entry from Lilly's sister

Well I'm not sure I knew what to expect when I booked this trip to Samoa. The only thing I really cared about was that I was going to see my sister. As the trip came closer and closer it began to hit me that after a year I was going be able to gossip with my sister again.
I decided to follow in Lilly's lead and try In n Out burger while I was stuck in LA for the day. All I can say is that Lilly is definitly wrong on some things and I was just not impressed...
The trip was long but after passing through customs with was well worth it all to see Lilly's smiling face waiting for us.
And Lilly hadn't changed at all... she had just as much energy as she did when before. After arriving at the hotel and eatting breakfast we immediately caught a cab to the Robert Louis Stevenson house where we did a hike to his grave. Since it's the rainy season the path was extremely slippery and thankfully the only thing that I hurt was my pride as I slipped when I was coming down the mountain. When we made it to the top we took tons of pictures (shocking I know).
We took a cab back to the city and after a quick trip to the Peace Corps office we were on our way to sliding rocks, the natural water slide. Wow that was fun... though extremely intimidating. As we looked at the water rushing over the side Cammi and I both looked at each other and said "That looks like a spinal cord injury waiting to happen" There are times like these that I wish I didn't think like a medical person.
Thankfully Lillian was brave enough to go first and I'm glad she did because we both followed. It was such a rush! We went down all the waterfalls and had a great time!
In the evening we went to Aggie Grays and saw the dinner show. Lilly was nice enough to volunteer that I danced on stage with one of the dancers. Thankfully this was no marriage ceremony and I will be coming back home single (This happened to me in Africa).
Overall the trip has been exciting and we've only been here a day and a half.
Today we took the ferry over to Savaii and I'm excited to see how Lilly has really been living for the last year. The people have been friendly so far... and I feel like I'm with a celebrity sometimes when everyone knows Lilly for her running. But I have to wonder if when we get back to the states if it will be the same thing.. if so Lilly and I can run across the reflecting pool in DC together (think Forrest Gump... run Lilly... Jenny... nevermind).
Oh and before I forget... it's hot here... like hot hot... though I'm trying not to complain. I'm trying to experience it all.
Thank you all for listening to me ramble. I know my writing may not be as good as Lilly's but I'm glad I could share. I'm sure I'll have more to tell by the end of this trip....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Most Important Items...

Pastors advice
Last week my pastor invited me to lunch at his house after church. I graciously accepted, knowing that I would be indulging myself in some of the best food of the village. After the meal, I was offered a piece of advice from him. Always make sure when you travel you bring two things, since you only need two things in Samoa.
It took me awhile to think of what they might be. During our safety and security training we had to plan our emergency evacuation bags, and a year ago the things we thought were important were can openers, money, food, a change of clothes, and our passports. Some of us thought of machetes to open coconuts, but we never said the two items that he said were necessary.
Are you wondering what they are?
Fia iloa? (Curious?)
A cup and a spoon.
People in Samoa will always give you everything you need, a change of clothes, a place to sleep, or even a bite of food. But sometimes they do not have any clean spoons and cups, so for our own health, we should make sure to carry them with us at all times.
I haven’t added those items to my bag yet, but who knows, maybe I’ll change and see the importance of those things as opposed to the other items.

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010
It’s Thanksgiving. The more I think about it, and how excited I am for this day, the more I realized how important this holiday is for me. I have had a lot of amazing Thanksgivings over the past many years, all over the place.
Of course there were my many Thanksgivings in New York, either at my parents’ house or my Aunt Ann’s house. Many Thanksgivings I would bug my parents to brave the traffic of NY and take me to the Macy’s Parade. Even though we were constantly late with leaving, causing us to be towards the back of the crowds, it didn’t bother us. The beauty of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is it doesn’t matter where you are standing, every spot is great since the amazing sites are the balloons floating in the air. Whenever we had Thanksgiving with my Aunt Ann’s family they would always make sure to pick up the best dinner rolls ever. They are from their local bakery in Yonkers. They seriously are so amazing, that when it has been awhile between visits, my family makes sure to have rolls for me to indulge in.
One year my sister and I decided to make use of the long holiday weekend and spend Thanksgiving in Dublin. We had a really fun trip, especially since it was during the election of 2000 debacle. Thanksgiving Dinner was spent at Captain America’s restaurant, so we could have a taste of home.
The following year I found myself at the University of Wyoming (go Pokes!) , and because of the tragedy of 9-11, I found myself very homesick come Thanksgiving, however, I could not afford to come home, especially with it being such a short trip. So I had to find a new place to celebrate Thanksgiving. Just a few states away was Billy, my brother, who was studying at Eastern New Mexico University (go Greyhounds!) Unlike plane tickets, Greyhound bus tickets are much cheaper. I hopped on a 12 hour bus trip and visited him. It was both of our first Thanksgivings without family, in a place that we thought we really should be cooking. On Thanksgiving Eve we found ourselves walking to the supermarket to buy our Thanksgiving feast. We walked through the aisles talking. Neither of us were quite sure about cooking a turkey, especially since they are so large. But those little Cornish hens, those are small, and we could easily figure out without burning, or worrying about keeping raw. So we cooked a chicken along with a few small sides to put together the most random collection of food. It was the Thanksgiving that I found myself stuck in a windstorm on playground equipment, and saw my first tumbleweed.
Of course I have celebrated Thanksgiving in Wyoming, the best of which was with my friend Liz White’s family. She lives up in Sheridan, WY, one of the best cities in the world. Liz and her mom and as professional as it comes to being chefs, so there is always the most amazing food to feast on. After cooking, the crowd that will be coming for dinner comes to the back deck to spend time at the fire pit, before coming in for dinner. It is always an amazing time.
Thanksgiving in Colorado was a great few day experience for me. The one time I spent it there, I went to my friend Kate’s house in Fort Collins. My neighbors Alex and Mike were there, along with my friend Monica. It was a great gathering. The most memorable part was taking Mr. Potato Head parts and putting them over the raw turkey. That turkey was so much fun to play with!
Last year, we had a cultural day in Thanksgiving. It was a great chance to have exposure to Samoan culture, and realize what we will have to look forward to, and be thankful for. It was great because it was spent with my entire Peace Corps family, a family that would always be there for me through thick and thin. A group of people that I knew would help me though all of the hard times, and share the joy in some of our great times.
It brings me to today. Thanksgiving 2010.
The day started with text messages from others wishing me a happy Thanksgiving, and them sharing the silly things they were thankful for, one was for the water being turned back on in time to shower, another was for her family cooking delicious koko arisa (rice in chocolate-so amazing!) It made me begin to think of what I was thankful for. I could probably fill a list a mile long with the things on my mind….the biggest being:my families. No matter what I know my families in Samoa will be there for me. First my family in America, this includes my family I grew up with, and Sharlene my Samoan sister who lives in California. They always call aor send messages online to check on me and support me through thick and thin. It is an amazing feeling to hear them say how proud of me they are, when I don’t feel like I am doing much to deserve this recognition. My family in Samoa, always makes sure I have a full belly, ironed clothes, and enjoy each and every day here. They put up with my picky eating…well at least it isn’t as picky as I used to be. When I need medical help, they make sure I get it, and when I need something little like someone to talk to, I know they are there. My little sister is always there providing a laugh or a dance party, while my brother are amazing cooks.My friends, especially the ones I refer to as my brothers and sisters. They provide so much for me. Sometimes it is a place to sleep, other times a bite of food, or even a chat. They are always there for me. I love the fact that I can just show up unannounced at one of their houses, and they not accept it, but appreciate it. They are such a great family.I am also thankful for the Peace Corps staff, because they really do a great job of supporting us, especially when we need it the most. I am especially thankful for our Medical Officer who deals with all of my issues.Savai’i- It sounds weird to be thankful for my island, but I feel like the entire island has taken such good care of me. I love especially my side, where people know me in villages throughout and are constantly asking about my family abroad. Besides Savai’i is such a beautiful magical place, I am just thankful to be here.My school, especially my students. My students are my friends. They help me as much as I help them. When I find myself in a sticky situation, whether it be vicious dogs, annoying men, or even just very thirsty, they are always there to my rescue.
To be in the Thanksgiving spirit, I decided to eat like it was Thanksgiving, and eat everything in sight. The day started off easy for this task, with one keke pua’a (deep friend dough with noodles inside). Then they handed me breakfast, 4 pankeke (pancakes that are deep friend dough shaped like those little muchkin doughnuts), and 2 more keke pua’a. I encouraged my belly, and was able to complete the task.
I waited a few more hours until lunch, where I had moa farai (fried chicken-probably spelled wrong) with gravy and fa’I (bananas). Sadly, I was unable to finish the 3 giant pieces of chicken with 5 bananas. I of course left the bananas…I don’t know what’s for dinner but I plan to feast as well as I can.
Besides this is my preparation day for my second Thanksgiving, the real one will be on Saturday. It will be at the Charge D’ Affairs house, and always has amazing food and company. I truly cannot wait for it. To hold me over, I am having people I talk to explain to me in details what was on their table as my mouth waters.
I am just really thankful to be in the situation I am in, because life is amazing.

Rachel, My doctor, my friend

Rachel-My Honorary Doctor
(Please note Lasela is Rachel’s Samoan name, so I used her name interchangeably throughout this. I am not creating imagionary people….I promise!)
Lasela, is one of my best friends over here. I don’t know what I would do without her. She helps me with everything here. I am sure she does the same for everyone back at home, that they must miss her horribly.
Not only does she help me with my little problems, but she also takes a crack at my medical issues over the phone. It is nice to know you can count on her when you live so far from the city, and you know that there will only be a doctor near your village once a week.
Don’t let me confuse you, Rachel was not a pre-med student, in fact she graduated with a degree in anthropology. You may be wondering why I consider Rachel to be my honorary doctor…Here are some of the reasons why:
· Rachel is a hypochondriac, so she knows a lot about sicknesses.
· Lasela has read our medical manual from cover to cover so many times, she must have it memorized. I think it must me on her top ten reading list.
· Rachel and I have previously been in competition for who can have the biggest medical file for our medical officer….we make sure she is really busy all the time.
· Lasela has learned Samoan remedies so much that she now will make up her own and prescribe them. For example I texted her about a stomach ache, she told me to drink hot tea, and stay out of the sun.
Rachel is an amazing second in command to our medical officer! Since I am posting this on Thanksgiving, I would like to say I am very thankful for her friendship, along with all my other PC uso and tuagane! (sisters and brothers)