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Monday, January 31, 2011

First Day of School

My First Day of School

Today was the first day of school.  After the rains I experienced while having meetings in Apia, I was nervous about the waves, so I took Dramamine.   Dramamine is supposed to last for 24 hours, but I didn’t think the drowsiness would last for 24 hours.  

When my alarm went off this morning, I did not want to get up.  Then I remembered why my alarm was going, and went to grab the iron.  Even though ironing is probably the worst part of the day for me usually, I began to smile as I picked out my first day of school tasi.  I then filled my water bottle, and headed out of the fale. 

When I reached the road, I was greeted by people asking the question us PCV (Peace Corps Volunteers) hear most, “Where are you going?”  I left early and it was nice because I had time to have conversations with people on the road.  Even though I have seen them during the entire vacation, it was different than our normal conversations.  I love the walk to school because there is always so many people to interact with.

I was the first one at the school building.  I took a glance at the ocean and smiled.  This year is going to be a great one.  I feel pretty confident in my Samoan, and know a little more of what works and doesn’t work in a Samoan classroom, without  using corporal punishment like the other teachers. 

Soon the men from my village began to show up to cut the grass.  Our school is made up of three villages, and the school yard is divided into three parts.  The previous week one village came to cut their section of the grass, and I think tomorrow the last village will come to cut the grass.  It is always fun to watch these men cut the grass with their machetes moving faster than the speed of light.  When they finished, they did a roll call to make sure one male from each family showed up. 

The students began to arrive.  It was good to see them, especially since many of them still had new uniforms (still about half of them had shoes).  Then the teachers came, and the work began.  The students began weeding and sweeping up the grass .  They then moved furniture from classroom to classroom.  The walls that had fallen down the previous year, were moved around, possibly to use them as chalkboards. 

I sat on the steps for awhile watching all of the action, and some of my students joined me.  It made me smile because my year 4 class from last year came right up to me speaking English, something they would not do last year.  It was cute to see them use the word “amazing” and other adjectives that were new to them as they described their vacations.  I had actual real conversations with some year 7s in English, and it was marvelous (another word I heard them use).  I also did get a chance to practice my Samoan with some of the younger kids. 

At the end of the day, there was an assembly and I was proud of me as I understood everything the teachers said to the students.  Then the staff met, and it was refreshing to understand the staff meeting as well.  We were down one teacher from the previous year, and the roles were given out to each teacher.  Teaching materials were handed out.  We received our box of markers for the year, and about 20 pieces of cardboard colored paper. 

I walked home with the other teachers, exhausted.  Heavy rains had reached my village, and I enjoyed a nice nap. 

(Pictures are of my school, my first day of school picture, desks stacked up in one of the classrooms, men from my village cutting the grass, students carrying walls of a classroom)

 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Volunteer Conference


Peace Corps Samoa

All Volunteer Conference

Since there were only a few volunteers left in Samoa over the holidays that had been serving for over a year, I somehow volunteered myself to run sessions at our All Volunteer Conference. So for the past month I had been extremely busy, and excited about the event.

This AVC was so different than last year as we were given all of the information we needed, but did it in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. There was plenty of time for us to interact with the staff, so we got to get to know many new faces.

We even had a fashion contest, and crowned a winner of the best dressed in Samoan clothing. After they collected their prizes, they hit the runway and made it like a modeling shoot.

I love this conference because it really is the only chance we all have to get together, and I feel like I was given such a big opportunity to meet my newest family members.

At the end of the conference, we rapped up with a video, and it was amazing to see what we have accomplished in 2010. We might not see it on a daily basis, but seeing our successes on the screen brought smiles to our faces.

Tomorrow school starts, and it feels like 2011 will be about to begin. Looking at the volunteers we currently have in Samoa, I know it will be just as successful.

Lions and Tigers and Bears...are not in the circus!


Us at the circus.





Circus

The circus is in town, and I was so excited when I heard about it . I had to go opening night because of how amazing I heard it was in the past. I didn’t know much about the circus, except that there was a midget that was always in commercials, and from the advertisements there was a four legged man.

I talked Dana and Cassie into going with me, and we knew it would be a different event from the minute we walked inside the big tent. For a special treat we got cotton candy, to pretend like we were in a circus in America.

We sat on the side, in the front row, and our seating was perfect. The circus began with two Samoan ladies doing tricks on balls. They were standing and walking on those giant yoga balls, while juggling different items. They then went on an uphill obstacle course. It was real impressive.

Other acts included a man riding the world’s largest unicycle. (In my attempt to see the world’s largest everything, this was a big one for me!) An amazing foot juggler from Nepal. She juggled such big items with her feet, then put on this devise that was about 30 feet high, in which she bounced a ball up several platforms until it got in a basket. There were hula hoop artists and trapeze artists along with a few doing Circ De Sole acts. Some of the men performed dances on a pole. It was amazing to watch as they looked like they were running vertically to get to the top. There were clowns, that were pretty funny. And last, there were several jugglers. One of the jugglers had just won a world competition on juggling. But even the best get nervous, and in his finale, he lost his footing and fell off the stage onto the front row.

The Magic Circus of Samoa was spectacular, and I recommend anyone goes to see it that can. It is so unlike the circuses I have been to at home since there are no animals. It is just full of talented people. For those reading this in the Pacific area, after the circus is finished in Upolu and Savaii, it is going to American Samoa, Tonga and last to New Zealand. Hope you get to enjoy it!

Cyclone Drama


Group 82

Cyclone Drama
The cyclone circled around Samoa, hitting some villages, and missing others. It was a strange experience for some of us as we were getting many warnings about the cyclone and not understanding why we were getting them.
We were supposed to start our mid-service conference on Monday, in Asau. But since Asau was close to where the cyclone was supposed to be, they moved our conference to Apia.
The cyclone drama started on Thursday, and we were to stay in our villages for safety precautions until it had completely passed. By the last bus on Monday, we still hadn’t heard from our Peace Corps office about the plans changing for our conference. But they sure enough called and those on my side of the island had to call around to find a cab to the wharf to make the 2 o’clock boat.
I was confused about this whole situation because whenever I called Samoa Shipping Cooperation (SSC), they informed me that the boats were still not running. But since the Peace Corps office heard they might run, we were to head to Salelologa to see if the ferry would come.
It was raining hard throughout the day, and sure enough when we got to Salelologa, the ferry was not running. We waited for the four boat, but that wasn’t running either. By that time we learned that we were stuck in Salelologa. If you were to drive to left, there was a huge river that formed on the road to block our way, and to the left there were two big rivers, all of these impassible unless someone has a massive truck. Brave Emi, on her attempt to get to boat had to wade through a river that was passed her waist in order to find a ride to get to Salelologa.
Salelologa began to flood where it normally floods, but this time there were workers there to lay out rocks on the road to allow cars to still pass.
That night the winds were horrible, and even though our windows were closed, the curtains were still blowing to the ceiling. We had heard that the waves on the Pacific were as bad at 16 feet in some areas. We were hoping to make it to Apia the next morning, so we would not miss our conference, but sure enough the six o’clock boat was not running that morning. The seven of us took turns camping out at the wharf to try to find out information, while calling the SSC at least once an hour.
We knew we were in a bind, since the boats were not running, and there were rivers on the main road because of the flooding, so we were stuck in Salelologa. (To make matters worse they were tracking another tropical storm that they feared would turn into a cyclone.)
Finally at 3:30, on my last phone call to the SSC, we were told the last boat would not be running. We had found a place to stay for the night, and figured the next day was go home or go to Apia. Then, suddenly, Elisa called. She said they just started selling tickets for the boat. We ran with our stuff, and hopped in a cab for the wharf. Cars had been parked along the road waiting for a boat for several days, and so the road was crazy!
We finally just made the boat. Since they hadn’t been running in days, they decided to try running two boats. They were crowded, but I got a seat on the floor of the bigger of the two boats. I saw on the edge, trying to avoid conversations as I had to lean my head off the boat several times as we rocked hard back and forth.
I was so thankful when we made it to Upolu, because we had made the impossible journey possible. The rest of our group had started the conference without us, and from the rumors they heard, they didn’t think we would be coming.
We all met up for a group dinner, and it was amazing for the fifteen of us to get together. A few people gave speeches about our family, and I really felt so loved. It was worth all of the headaches from travelling to get to the people I belong with.

Cyclone Comedy-Monday Morning

The Cyclone Comedy Continues
Well….it’s raining harder than it has in awhile. I don’t know if this means the cyclone has actually come. Probably not though. I am not saying that the storm did not hit Samoa, because I did get a text from another volunteer saying a village close to the shore was destroyed because of it (makes me happy I live uta!). Also, Apia is still flooded (and has been since Thursday).
The boats are still not running, it makes me worried that they haven’t been running in 4 days how bad the water might be. I have to get to Apia when they start running again, and I know that will be a rough ride!
A few of us are considering Hurricane Wilma a bit of a comedy, since we are missing real updated news about it. We just keep getting texts with warnings about the cyclone coming soon with heavy rains and strong winds. For the past week it has been raining on and off all day, every day. I have never been in a cyclone, but I know I should be expecting worse than we have been getting.
The cyclone drama lives on….

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo Blog-Biking


The beautiful view of Upolu, after Le Mafa Pass.


Bike riding the dreadful Le Mafa Pass

The rain during our bike ride.


Beautiful Samoa-Seki'a!



The river by Falefa



Photo Blog


Views from bike riding Upolu


Turtle Pond in Upolu



Jenny and I about to leave Apia for our biking trip.


Cassie, Dana and I going to the circus.



Dana and me at the circus



Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cyclone Comedy Continues

The Cyclone Comedy Continues
Well….it's raining harder than it has in awhile. I don't know if this
means the cyclone has actually come. Probably not though. I am not
saying that the storm did not hit Samoa, because I did get a text from
another volunteer saying a village close to the shore was destroyed
because of it (makes me happy I live uta!). Also, Apia is still
flooded (and has been since Thursday).
The boats are still not running, it makes me worried that they haven't
been running in 4 days how bad the water might be. I have to get to
Apia when they start running again, and I know that will be a rough
ride!
A few of us are considering Hurricane Wilma a bit of a comedy, since
we are missing real updated news about it. We just keep getting texts
with warnings about the cyclone coming soon with heavy rains and
strong winds. For the past week it has been raining on and off all
day, every day. I have never been in a cyclone, but I know I should
be expecting worse than we have been getting.
The cyclone drama lives on….

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christmas Presents

Christmas Presents
About 2 months ago, while teaching my students "Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer", I had to teach the difference between Samoan Christmases
and American Christmases. I was posed with the question, "Why does a
fat man bring presents to palagi children, but not come to Samoa?"
Teaching about Christmas felt like it was teaching about fairytales.
The kids couldn't comprehend the amount of things we tell palagi
children.
I really like Christmas in Samoa since it isn't about the presents,
and it is really nice family time. This year though, for the first
time I saw something different, I saw proof of presents in my village.
Throughout the last week of December and all of January, 3 kids have
been looking different, as they have been wearing their presents every
day with pride. They were given sneakers, and it was so cute to see
how proud these kids were of the shoes. They know only a few people
in the village have "sports shoes" and now they felt they could
dominate at the different village sports.
One of the kids was given Heeleys, the shoes that skate. These are
hysterical because they are not meant for Samoa, as the only place you
can use them is certain houses in which they took the time to
straighten the concrete floor. With how the roads are here, they are
practically impossible to use outside. It gave me a few laughs seeing
him walk on his tip toes over the rocky areas.
I saw 2 other children playing with their presents, water guns. They
were so cute, and it was great for the hot day it was.
Kids here aren't usually given many gifts, but what you do give them,
they treasure.

Cyclone Update-Eh, Maybe Tomorrow

Cyclone Update-Eh, Maybe Tomorrow
"This cyclone should have a movie about it titled, "Eh, Maybe
Tomorrow". It would be second rate, no action thriller."
I got this text from Rachel and it gave me a laugh. It was after we
got another text message warning us about the cyclone being close to
us. This is the 5th consecutive day that we have gotten text messages
about this cyclone. For the past 4 days they keep saying that the
cyclone will hit within 12-48 hours, with of course no hurricane in
site.
Today after our to'ogani there was a group of men gathered around the
radio trying to listen for updates on the storm.
It feels like every day we prepare for this cyclone with flashlights,
candles and food stored up, and only have showers on and off
throughout the day.
I don't know how bad the ocean currents are, but since Friday all
boats have been suspended. This morning the bus passed by with people
hoping to catch the boat back to Upolu, and a little over an hour
later the bus came back as the boats were still not running.
So I guess I'll see, if the hurricane comes, maybe tomorrow?

Hurricane Wilma

Hurricane Wilma
The tropical storm did develop into a cyclone, and was named Wilma.
The center did not hit Samoa, and was about 100 miles away from me.
(I received a phone call from my country director at midnight last
night to give me this news.)
On the news tonight, they showed the storm, and it is still lingering
in this area, so we still might get some effects from the cyclone.
But as of now, it was not a bad day, with only periods of rain. We
lucked out.
Last year we had a scare from Rene, but did not receive as many
warnings as Wilma caused. I remember Rene producing a lot more rain
than this storm that came through.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lice

Lice
I hate lice. I think it is impossible to go for an entire two years
without getting lice. You are always around people that have it and
it always seems to jump into your hair.
Whenever I see people in my house picking out the little bugs, I start
to get nervous because I might be next.
I often feel like my most prized possession is my lice comb. I love
using it. It gives me peace of mind when I comb through my hair
without finding anything.
However when you do, you think about how hard it will be to get rid
of. There is no hot water to wash your things in. You just home that
the sun will bake and kill all of the little creatures.
In other words, having lice does not make it a fun day.

Laundry Line

Laundry Line
I have always wanted a laundry line in America. When my sister and I
were finishing up our basement. We thought about laundry lines. We
thought it would be neat to put pulleys inside and attach it to the
tree outside and use the window to pull clothes in and out of the
house. It was genius we thought, until we realized the clothes would
touch the ground because the window is from the basement.
Here everyone uses laundry lines, and clothes dry usually within the
day. I love it.
There is only one problem. Sometimes you see your laundry walking
around the village. I experienced this in the training village, and
others constantly see it happen in their villages. It only happened
once to me here.
The sad thing was it was a t-shirt I had attachments to. I really
liked the shirt because it was from the Perimeter Relay race. When I
saw someone wearing it, I comfronted the person. They denied it, and
then changed their shirt. I thought that meant I would get it back,
but the shirt completely disappeared.

Cyclone Update

Cyclone Update
Right now there is a beautiful sunset over the Pacific. I have a
great view of it from my bedroom window. It is really cloudy and
rainy on the mountains, and it is weird to see a great view of both of
them. For the past few days it has been raining a lot, with having
periods of sunshine throughout the day.
My parents went over to the school (My mom is the principal) to meet
with the school committee. They wanted to get the school ready for
the cyclone and invite the community to stay there. The school
building is not the safest place to be in a storm. The walls are made
of thin wood that is falling apart. There are holes in the ceiling,
causing leaks.
I talked with my sister, and during the storm, many families usually
come to our house since they have a concrete building. (My room is
in the attachment part with thin metal walls, so I will be moving out
of it for the storm.)
I heard stories about the hurricane from 1991, in which the entire
community went to the Morman Church. They were there for several
days, and it was crowded, which caused a big smell in the area.
My dad fixed my radio, and so we have been listening to it, even
though it is in Samoan, and have been giving me updates. The storm
has started to move south, but should hit us during the night. I
heard that winds might reach 40 miles per hour from one person, then
talked to another volunteer and they were told it was 30 knots.
I still have my evacuation bag ready. It is filled with Cliff Bars, a
change of clothes, long sleeves, pants, a book, a flashlight, my
passport, an extra lavalava, my Swiss Army Knife and a little towel.
I'll throw my phone in there if we do need to leave.
I'm staying safe, don't worry mom. I have plenty of people looking
out for me, the Peace Corps office, other volunteers, my family here,
and my entire village. I am in good hands. I promise.

cyclone?

Cyclone?
I rushed back to Savai'I based upon the warning of this storm coming.
I decided to not do my bike ride since it was raining, and from the
weather forecast, it was to rain for the week from the sound of it.
We were supposed to have a conference in Asau next week, and it was up
in the air if we would still have it. We found out today it was
cancelled.
We were first warned about rough seas, simply preventing us from
travelling, and as days have passed (and the rain has stopped) we have
gotten more and more warnings.
It seems strange because it feels there is less rain when we have
cyclone warnings than other times.
As of now, there is a "high probability of a low level cyclone in the
next 24-48 hours".
We were told to get our emergency bags ready in case we need to go to
our regional evacuation points, or otherwise make sure to go inside a
concrete building. (This means I would have to leave my cozy room as
the thin sheets of metal walls are not sturdy enough.) But still to
have batteries charged, food and water ready to go.
Last night on the news I saw the Doppler radar and the storm looked
big, I just wonder where it is. It makes me wish I had more access to
the outside world to see what might happen here.
Will there be a cyclone? You have a better idea that I do as you are
probably on high speed internet and can check.

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake
It was John the Welder's 70th birthday, and Lissa and I decided to
celebrate it. We would cook a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread and
bake a cake. But in the spirit of Samoa, things don't always turn out
as planned.
We mixed up the cake, boiled the water for spaghetti and cut up
vegetables to put in the sauce. I turned on the oven for the cake,
and it was not working. We spent about half an hour trying to figure
out how to fix this oven, but nothing we tried worked. We could not
get it to turn on. The rest of the food was coming out great, as we
toasted the bread on the burners with butter and garlic.
I began thinking, and I thought of my brother Billy. Billy has a
sweet tooth, and one of the things he used to love when he was a
teenager was getting birthday pancakes made by my dad. Instead of
using pancake mix, use cake mix.
I decided why not do as Billy does.
I used the entire batter to make what felt like millions of pancakes.
It ended up being a success, as everyone was happy that they were bite
sized and easier to eat than a full cake. No utensils were needed to
much on these little cakes.
The birthday party was a lot of fun, and I think we are going to use
birthday pancakes again in the future, since they are more convenient
for Samoa.

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure Part 4

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure Part 4
I slept so well at Jenny's house that night. I thought about taking a
day off the trip and spending the time in her village, but by 8:30, I
decided to leave. (Which was kind of silly since I had waited for the
heat.)The ride started off so beautiful. The coast was so nice and
scenic. Then the road turned. I started following the river, and
eventually had to cross it. The water was up to my thighs as I waded
through it. The road kept going uphill, and in the heat I took many
breaks. When I finally reached the top I was excited, as it was such
an amazing view. I began going downhill as slowly as possible. The
road was made of only rocks, with big rocks jetting out of nowhere.
My bike is already too big for me, and I could not reach the ground
even on my tippy toes because of the inclination of the hill.
At one point I heard a metal clunk sound. I didn't stop to see what
it was because if I were to get off my bike at that time, the only way
off was to crash, and I care too much about my body for that. I found
out later the clunk was my kickstand. Although I really like having a
kickstand, it is not worth hurting myself on that hill.
When I got to the bottom I was in the village that Survivor was
filmed. I was almost there. I saw Manono island in the distance and
knew that there would be a ferry there, then a ferry to Apolima, and
then the wharf for my ferry at Mulifanua, where I had started two days
before.
The last stretch of road was flat, and easy as can be. When I got to
the wharf, I met up with someone who volunteered to take my bike to
Salelologa. I bought the ticket for my bike, and ended up seeing
people from the village next to mine. They asked what I was up to,
and thought I was strange for riding my bike around the entire island.
I didn't care I was proud.
I was cloud nine as I got on the bus to Apia. I wanted to go out for
a celebratory lunch. I had been dreaming of pizza for quite some time
at that point and was really looking forward to it. I contacted John
the Welder, a former volunteer, and he agreed to meet me.
When we got to Apia, the power was out on the entire city, so pizza
was out of the question. I settled for a big burger at a place we
found that still had power to cook.
I was so proud of myself. In three days I had ridden around Upolu,
and was planning on finishing up Savai'i this week. (Because of
cyclone warnings I decided to put this off.) I really love living in
the little country of Samoa. Travelling on a bike has made me really
appreciate the beauty that lies on these two islands.
I just wish I could ride my bike with no handlebars…

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure Part 3

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure Part 3
Jenny got off my bike and told me to sit down, I knew if I sat down
right then I wasn't going to get up for awhile so I kept refusing. We
saw a store nearby, and she offered to get me a drink. While she went
to get 2 niu (immature coconuts). I didn't want to stay on the grass
looking pathetic, the people across the street were beginning to
worry, so I hopped over to the store and sat out there to wait.
I looked at my foot. There was one toe scraped up, and the big toe
was bruising on the top, with much of my nail missing and bleeding. I
brought Band-Aids with me, but didn't think that would be an
appropriate solution, as it would be on my foot, and bandages never
stay on toes, especially when you are exercising. I tried to think of
what I could do. I had an open cut, and did not want anything to get
inside it to make things worse. I did pack my Swiss Army knife and
like normal, I was wearing a lavalava. I cut off a corner of my
lavalava and used it to cover my toe. I held it in place with a hair
tie. It still hurt, but at least it was covered. That meant we could
continue on our trip.
I was in pain as we went along, but happy that we were still going
downhill. We were going downhill for so long that it felt like we
were never going to reach the shore again. We passed by Mika and
Danny's village and decided that we would take a lunch break soon. We
were in the Aleipata District, an area that was really destroyed by
the tsunami last year, and from passing by a few times, I saw
improvements each time I was there. I haven't really spent much time
there and was looking forward to getting another good look at the
area.
We stopped in the village of Lalomanu, since there are a few nice
resorts there, so we knew we would get a good meal. As we rode our
bikes up to the dining fale, the staff members turned to look. When
they found out where we started the day, they were extremely impressed
with us. We sat down and took a look at the menu, and both decided
fish was exactly what we needed. We ordered grilled fish, and were
upset to find out that they had no fish. We were about ten feet from
the ocean, and knew that there were many fishermen in that village,
yet they had no fish. We settled for spring rolls and French fries
and decided that night we would have a delicious dinner, with fish!
While we waited for our food, we decided to take a swim in the ocean.
It felt amazing. (Besides the fact that medically I really needed to
clean my toes.) We had been riding in the heat for the past few hours
and it was nice to have a break from it.
After our lunch we got back on the road. It was extremely hot, and
neither of us were looking forward to it. We stopped several times
for coconut breaks. (It is cheaper to buy than water, and gives you
more energy!) We thought about stopping in Natalie's village, but
since she lived with a family, we knew that the 5 minute break we
wanted would quickly turn into an hour.
Suddenly we had company. There was a fish truck that kept jockeying
us for position as we took turns passing each other. We must have
switched places over a dozen times. It gave the boys on the back of
the truck a good laugh as they thought of things to yell at each for
each passing.
Then I saw Jenny stop short. I didn't know why, and was confused.
The previous day she had attached a bike rack to the back of her bike
with twist ties. (Some volunteers really know how to be resourceful)
She tied her bag to that rack with string, and the bag had suddenly
fallen off. I am glad she realized it, because I sure didn't.
Some of our friends lived in Poutasi, and we decided that we would
visit them, unexpectedly, of course. When we reached Poutasi, we
asked where the palagis lived, and of course when directions to the
house got into a conversation about how wonderful the Pisi Koa were
that touched their lives.
Being in Samoa, we are used to people just showing up, but since these
people were from New Zealand and America, we weren't sure how they
would take our unexpected visit. As we let ourselves in and walked
upstairs to find them in the kitchen, they sure were surprised.
(Thankfully it was a good surprise.) We snacked on cookies and water
before deciding to take a nice cool dip in the ocean.
This village had also been effected by the tsunami, and as we walked
towards the coast we saw many frames of houses still there in the
rubble. We also walked past a group of short term volunteers from New
Zealand and Australia who were building a playground for the
community. The water felt great, but knowing that we still had a few
hours of riding (we decided by that point we would make it to Jenny's
house) we didn't stay long in the water. We were invited to stay the
night, but decided we wanted to finish it. (Well Jenny would finish,
I still had 2 hours of riding after her.)
It was still hot when we left, and we passed by a coconut stand. I
decided to fill all of my water bottles with the delicious niu, and so
did Jenny. We also drank them while we were there. All in all, we
went through 8 coconuts. It was a site to see, as the girls kept
giggling as they opened them. We needed the energy because our stop
at Poutasi meant that we would skip our delicious dinner, since we did
not want to ride our bikes in the dark (or after sa-curfew)
We passed by the National Parks where there are nice waterfalls and a
trail to Ma Tree. We were excited when we finally made it to Siumu.
Siumu is where the cross island road to Apia goes. We had ridded over
half way around. Soon we reached Sinalei Resort, the resort where our
Perimeter relay started. It marked the fact that we had ridden 64
miles so far that day. We were extremely proud, and tired, but knew
we needed to keep going.
It was an uphill journey as we did our last two hours. I don't know
about Jenny but I was exhausted from the two previous days and just
wanted to stop, but she was my motivator as she counted the villages
until we got to hers.
When we finally reached her village it was close to 8. Sa was about
to start, so we bought some food and waited for the curfew to end to
get back on our bikes. While we waited at the store, some asked Jenny
where she was. She responded that the previous day she rode her bike
to Apia, and decided to ride it the long way home so she could swim at
Lalomanu. They must have thought we were crazy.
When sa ended, we went back on our bikes and rode to Jenny's house.
It was such a thrill to make it to her house with everything that had
happened that day. We celebrated that evening with egg sandwiches and
cookies, which were exactly what I wanted.

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure Part 2

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure Part 2
Jenny and I had woken up early for our second day of biking. We
decided that we would go over Le Mafa pass that day, but thought that
we would stop at a beach resort to spend the night. We joked about
the possibility of making it all the way to Jenny's village, but
didn't think we would make it.
We left early, right as the sun was rising, and headed west. We
stopped along the way for a coffee break in the beginning. We rode
past Katie's village, then Cassie's, then Jenny C, then Lindsey and
Sam's village. When we were in Sam's village we were riding near the
side of the road and a car came by…
The car was driving really slow as it passed me. I was happy that the
two of us were practically riding on the grass because something about
the car made me suspicious. The car kept going and hit Jenny. The
car hit her handlebars and knocked her down. The driver immediately
drove off. Then about 100 yards in front of us stopped to talk to
someone, and turned around. By the time the car had come back, Jenny
had gotten up and dusted herself off. Jenny's sunglasses had flown
off, but happily had not broken. The driver asked if she was okay as
he kept driving. She was, and just shot a well deserved nasty look as
he passed.
By 9:00, we had reached the base of Le Mafa Pass. This was the
section of the road we knew would be the worst of the day and we were
happy to be getting it over and done with early. We looked up at the
mountains, and it was the most gorgeous site I had ever seen. The
clouds were passing by making a dazzling location. Thankfully, those
clouds took away the sun, and it started to pour on us. (We had
checked on the weather the previous day, and it was supposed to be
completely sunny for the entire day.) We continued up the mountain
slowly.
Finally we reached the scenic spot towards the top of the mountain as
the sun came out. Jenny got excited because she thought it was all
downhill after that. I however knew the truth from running Le Mafa
Pass in the relay race last August. We enjoyed a nice snack at the
site, as we were content with our accomplishments so far. We took out
the little map, and smiled at our success for the day. A car turned
into the scenic site, and it was someone I knew. He was dropping some
tourists off at a resort, but wished us luck on our ride before going.
We continued uphill, wondering when the mountain would end. I kept
pointing to the cell phone tower nearby saying that is where I thought
we had to go to, and Jenny kept hoping it wasn't going to be that
high. We ended up going almost to the top of "Digi Mountain"(our new
name for it, and any other hill with a cell phone tower on it).
Finally, we had reached the top. There was a woman working on her
gardening. She yelled at her dog to make sure he didn't go after us.
but, the dog was smart. He went around the woman like he was heading
home, and then ran after Jenny. She jumped off her bike without delay
and put the bike in between herself and the dog. The woman was able
to get the dog off of her shortly after.
Now, it was all downhill, and I was looking forward to it. I was
enjoying the nice cool breeze that you get from going downhill braking
sporadically, to not go too fast down Richardson Road. The problem
with roads in Upolu, that I forgot, were the speed bumps. (There was
also a massive pothole problem.) The speed bumps come out of nowhere
and just attack. You think that they will be the nice long bumps that
don't hurt, like the ones in Savai'i, and they come out of nowhere as
a mini rollercoaster.
I was going down fast, not super fast, but faster than I probably
should have been going. I saw the speed bump and tried braking for
it. I wasn't sure what exactly happened, but just felt throbbing pain
in my toe. I quickly slowed my bike down so I could do a "mini crash"
to get off my bike quickly and fix my toe.
Jenny was behind me, and saw everything. She had some laughs, before
she realized I was hurt. What she saw was me fly completely off my
bike, but since I was holding onto the handlebars, I was able to land
back on it.
It was only a few hours into the ride, and already Jenny had gotten
hit by a car and chased by dogs and I flew off my bike. We weren't
sure what we were in store for next.

floods

Floods
Last week, Jenny and I rode our bikes through the floods of Upolu.
The water was flooded on the malaes (grassy areas), and some on the
road. Most it was, was a few inches deep. It wasn't too bad for us
to go through. This was during the two week period where we were told
that there was flooding, even though I never saw it in my area.
It had been raining a lot for the past few days, and I talked with a
friend staying at one of the resorts in town and apparently, the
flooding has gotten worse. The flooding has reached some of the
expensive hotels in the Apia area.
Tonight on the news I saw that the flooding is as bad as I heard on
the phone. At the market, it has gotten really dreadful. The water
is at least a foot deep. Surprisingly, business is going on as usual.
People are standing at their stalls with the water as deep as their
knees hoping for business, while the Samoan Water Authority and the
Fire Department work on the flooding.
With bad weather on stall for the next few days, that may turn into a
cyclone, the flooding will only get worst. It makes me happy that I
live on Savai'i. Savai'i doesn't have as much flooding as Upolu, as
the water can run off into the ground. Upolu has a lot of concrete,
with sidewalks and roads that the water has no place to go, so it
floods. There are a few places that do flood here, like the river in
Rachel's village, but it is nothing compared to Upolu.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cyclone Season

Get Your Emergency Bag-It's Cyclone Season
I was in Apia getting my presentation ready for our All Volunteer
conference the following week when our country director came into our
resource room. He said he was happy he saw me because there was a
storm coming, and I needed to head back to my island before I got
stuck in Upolu. After he warned us we received text messages that
said, "High winds and waves Friday through Monday. Avoid travel and
ocean activity…" They waves were to swell four times higher than
normal, which would make anyone sick on the boat, if the boats were to
actually be running. Needless to say, I decided to head back to
Savai'i right away.
Next week we are having our Mid Service Conference, which the office
was amazing enough to plan it on Savai'i, but our conference might
have to be postponed due to this weather and staff members and
volunteers not being able to travel on the boat.
So as I decided to quit lounging about, my favorite rainy day
activity, I repacked my emergency evacuation bag and merged it with my
Mid Service Conference packing. I had packed in the non emergency bag
games, Phase 10, Uno, Apples to Apples, and decided that those games
would still be appropriate if I got stuck in a church for an extended
amount of time. I added to my backpack clothing, I was to be gone for
a week, and packed the bare minimal for that.
I then realized that batteries needed to be charged, and took a break
from packing my bag to get my flashlight ready and my phone charged.
As I touched my phone, a text message went off again. "Please ensure
extra preparation for cyclone that may strike within the next 24
hours. Stay alert."
Back to packing I went. I put my passport into a dry bag, and put my
Swiss Army knife into the bag. Then thankful that I still had food
leftover from my sister's visit added a few Cliff Bars. I then put my
rain coat next to the door, and made sure my wallet was accessible.
Now, my bag is ready, and so am I. We had a warning last year for
Hurricane Rene, but it only turned into torrential downpour.
Hopefully this time it will pass again. We might have our meeting
next week, we might not, no matter what we'll try to stay safe.
(My host family is also getting ready with candles and flashlights
stashed about. I know we will be okay no matter what happens.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure


Biking on the North Shore of Upolu


Biking around Falefa. (This was after Jenny got hit by a car)



View from the road




Taking a picture break in Solosolo



A sinking boat at Mulifanua



From Being Hit by a Car to Flying Off Bikes, It Was an Adventure

Jenny had decided to go conquer Upolu with me, and I was looking forward to it. Based on plans, we decided to leave on a Monday, spend the night in Apia, then bike a little further so we could have a fresh start on Le Mafa Pass during the morning, before spending time at a few beach fales to finish up the island.
For two weeks prior to our trip, we had been getting text messages warning us about flooding, but neither of us had seen any floods, so we decided we should be safe.
I woke up at 1:30, ready for the 2:00 bus, and was surprised when my bus showed up early. It is a good thing that where I live, I know I can count on the bus passing a few times through my village, because by 2 am I was on the crowded bus headed for Salelologa.
The bus ride was faster than most early morning busses in which we normally feel like we are moving the same speed as a snail. The bus also got really crowded really quickly. In most seats, including mine there were three people sitting on each of the little benches, however towards the back, there were 4 in most of them. If that didn’t feel crowded enough, there were at least 30 people standing, some of whom were hanging outside the door of the bus.
When I arrived in Salealologa, I was happy that I could now relax and stretch my legs out. However, I decided to relax for a little while too long, for when I took my bike over to the boat, there were no seats. The boat was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. Both levels had every seat taken, and in the outside hallway, floor room to sit or stand on was quickly becoming sparse. A woman offered to move a little bit over for me, and I sat down to try and enjoy the long crowded boat.
When I got to Upolou, I knew I had to wait since Jenny had quite a bit of riding to get to me. I enjoyed breakfast, I talked on the phone, I sat and read, and I just had a good time trying to convince my body it was not as exhausted as it was.
After waiting for over an hour, Jenny appeared ready for action. We hopped on our bikes and began pedaling. After riding the previous week by myself, it was nice to have the company, as Jenny and I kept each other pretty entertained.
When we had reached about our halfway mark (Which was only an hour in), we were reminded of why most people do not do all of this riding during the wet season. A storm blew in out of nowhere. We ran to take cover, finding a family waving us inside quickly. We spent time with that family eating cookies and chatting until the storm went away. After about 45 minutes, the storm finally tapered off into a drizzle, and we were off again. We took a few breaks to visit turtles, have a snack, and attempt to go to the bank (the power was off, so there was no way they would let you do business at the bank).
Finally, about 3 hours after we started, we made it to Apia, and were ready to run our errands and relax to prepare for the ling bike ride the following day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Group 82-I Miss You!


During training, 82 having lunch at the beach.


During training, 82 eating ice cream in a faleo'o.



During training, 82 going to church in a truck.


Some of us enjoying our last moments in America.



Group 82 when we arrived into Samoa.



Return of my Group
For about a month, most of my group has been on vacation, leaving me to secure Savai’i, and one of the Jennys on Upolu. It has been strange for both of us without the help of our normal support group, but somehow we have managed to make it, and have a fun time over the holidays.
This week my group will begin to return home after their trips, and although they might have some amazing stories from their adventures, I am sure to tell them about the many adventures I have had in their absence.
From carnivals to weddings, biking adventures to the people I have met while running, it has been far from a dull month.
I do miss my group, and it will be great when we all get together at the end of the month for conferences to share our stories.

My Bus Driver's Wedding


Mats presented as gifts.


My brother, one of the groomsmen.



The happy couple



The flower girls rolling out the white carpet.



The groomsmen and the groom in the front of the church.



My Bus Driver’s Wedding
I try to be loyal to the busses in my village and use them over the other district busses when I have the choice. My family is good friends with the bus driver, and he is like a brother to me, so when I heard that he was getting married, I jumped at the chance to go and congratulate him in person.
The bus driver was marrying a girl who lives about 8 villages away, and as the norm, the wedding was in the village of the female. My sister came with me to the wedding, since it was my family’s Sabbath, and they were going to church.
We showed up early, and sat with people from my village. Throughout the wedding service, it reminded me how much some Samoans complain about the heat. It makes me feel like the few times I complain, it is completely justified. The woman was using a piece of paper to fan herself, and it was often going in front of my face with a few taps.
The groomsmen (There were at least 10) came in the side door of the church and immediately sat down with the groom. When the wedding was to start the bridesmaids walked in by themselves. They then rolled out a long white fabric for the bride to march in on. There were several flower girls, to place the flowers on the end of the fabric as they marched with the other young girls to spread the fabric across the aisle of the church.
The wedding ceremony was similar to most ceremonies here. However, towards the end of the service, people started leaving. They said it was because they were hot. I didn’t understand the real reason for leaving, until later, so I stayed until the end.
The reason why they left early is to secure a seat in the hall. There were not enough seats for as many guests as they had. So my sister and I sat on the edge of the hall. It was strange because this was the first major event I was not getting the “special Palagi” treatment. A few people felt bad, but no one could secure a seat for me. I didn’t mind too much since outside was less crowded with a breeze. So I enjoyed the view from outside cheering on the dancing and speeches.
Then, they had the presentation of gifts, and I always love watching this as some Samoans make the most wonderful presents. There were so many fine mats with colorful feathers that were magnificent. There was also plenty of food, such as cases of corned beef and sardines, and fabric to be presented as well.
When that was over, my sister found me and told me to tell me it was time to go. I didn’t mind, because later that night the family would hold a dance to celebrate the union of the couple.
My parents had reservations about me going to the dance, since I would be going far away from home, and they wouldn’t be there to ensure my safety, but finally let my brothers be my chaperone.
At the dance there was one corner filled with people from my village, and in the true junior high fashion I took turns with dancing with each of them, when they asked me to dance.
Throughout the night the power wasn’t stable, and we had several (at least 3) power outages, leaving us in the dark with only the glow of people’s cell phones to keep us from tripping over one another. For the longest one, me and my brothers went out to the cricket field to relax in peace.
When the dance was over, we forgot to secure our ride home. A group of 8 of us walked for over a mile before we found a ride to take us home. One of my brothers was screaming out “Taxi!” to each incoming car.
It was a great celebration for my bus driver.