Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Coconuts, fish trucks, and Bikes-Happy New Year

My home!

Family photo

Coconuts for sale on a Sunday morning at the fish market.

Bike trips around Savai'i are always fun.

Coconuts, fish trucks, and Bikes
What do Coconuts, Fish Trucks and bicycles have in common? A New Year’s celebration for me in Samoa.
I was thinking about celebrating New Years in my village, since I know many villages have community celebrations to mark in the new year, but when I found out there was no such thing in my village, I decided to go outside to celebrate it.
As the tradition was started years ago, the newbies to Peace Corps go to Falealupo Tai to see the last sunset of the year. I decided I would go and join them. There is only one bus there a day, and I was not going to wait around and depend on it, especially when I was not sure when it would allow me to return, so I did the only practical thing and rode my bike there.
The previous week I was feeling sick, and still was not feeling up to par when I left, but I figured it would be better than just sitting around. I rode to Dana’s village, stopping a few times for water and niu breaks. Even though Dana wasn’t there it was nice to see her family, and see how much they missed her. They invited me to celebrate the New Year with them as their church was putting on a dance, but I decided to keep with my plans. (Dana is my normal biking buddy, so it only seemed natural to see her family. It was just weird not having Dana there for me to continue my trip.)
The ride went pretty well, with a few exceptions. When I was off the side of the rode because of cars on the road, I accidently ran over some poop. It went on my back tire, and my i’e brushed into it and I instantly got poop on my leg. In Patricia’s (one of the newbies) village I began to feel real sick, and ended up laying in one of her village bus stops for about half an hour, until I got whatever is in my system out a little bit so I could continue riding.
I finally arrived at the beach a little over three hours after I started the day, which was not too bad. I quickly went into the ocean and felt so relaxed. I was the first one there, so it was nice to have the beach all to myself. I then went on the nice hot sand and read my book.
I idin’t get too far in my book when the newbies began arriving. We had a good time relaxing during the day. It rained quite a bit, but we didn’t let it bother us, as we enjoyed to ocean and played volleyball in the rain. The rain trickled into a drizzle right before sunset, so we took our dinner outside to watch the gorgeous last sunset for 2010, while to the east of us we could see a double full rainbow. It was the perfect way to have dinner. After dinner, a former volunteer’s, Spencer, dog showed up and was happyto see us as we fed him our leftovers.
We decided the celebrate New Years for the time zones that were important to us. For the East Coast New Years, we had a coconut drop at the end of our countdown since we were unable to see the ball drop in New York. A few of us had Colorado ties, and since Colorado is such a healthy green state, we decided to have a water bottle drop. For the Samoan New Years, we didn’t drop anything, and instead just had an enjoyable dance party on the beach.
The next morning I knew I was pushing my luck. I was feeling better after drinking about 30 water bottles full of water, but not at 100%, and wanted to leave after breakfast. However, the longer I waited, the hotter the sun was getting. I said my good-byes, and set off on my bike.
The beginning was nice, as even though I had to ride on the sandy road, there were plenty of trees for shade. Then the hills began, and I began to feel the heat, I didn’t get too far when I stopped by Patricia’s village to meet with her and see how her first few weeks of village life were going.
Patricia seems to be doing amazing. She seems already so integrated into her village, and it is nice to see how comfortable she feels. She keeps herself extremely busy with village activities, which is making her enjoy each and every day she is there. She is not alone, as since she is living in a former volunteer’s house, the dog that was left behind, Yogi (After Yogi Berra), keeps her company, whether she wants it or not.
When I finally left, the clouds were building up, but I was hoping that they would stay far away.
I was riding for less than half an hour when I heard my name called out. I was startled, and decided that I should stop by and see whoever was calling out my name. It was someone from two villages away who was visiting family. While I was visiting, a huge storm appeared, and I stayed with them until the rain passed. I kept on riding, and stopped to visit Dana’s family. They looked up at the clouds and offered me a place to stay. I refused, since I was out of clean clothes, and the following day was Sunday, so I knew I would have to stay for over a full day.I rode until the end of their district when the downpour restarted. I decided I would just keep riding unless someone stopped me. I was stopped at the end of the district, right before I was to enter the long stretch where no one lives. I hung out with this amazing family, at their BBQ restaurant for a few hours, at first waiting for the rain to not come down with such force, and then realizing how late it was becoming, waiting for cars that were going near my village. The family became instant friends as we sang, danced and joked with one another for hours. This family seemed to know everyone by their car and would mention what village they were going to as they passed. I ended up hitching a ride on the fish truck, (The family of fishermen 2 villages away, that drive throughout the west side to sell fish) since it was big enough to hold my bike.
As we drove home, it was fun to see how their operation works, as people wave the truck down to see how big the fish are and either buy them or not.
When I got home, I was excited to wish my entire family a Happy New Years. My sister Sharon just had a baby, and she and her family were home and it was nice to see them all and spend time with them.
Today, January 2nd, I went online and saw my sister’s New Year’s message for me from the States, and it had her resolutions on it. It made me realize that I hadn’t made mine.
I have a few goals for the year that I came up with, and here they are:
· I want to work on my Spanish again. Understanding, and not being able to speak, which is what my Spanish has come to is not good enough for returning back to the States. Elisa and I are going to help each other through this goal.
· I want to write a Samoan alphabet book.
· I want to continue running and run a half marathon. (To make sure I don’t return home short and round-which is what my family predicted.)
2010 was a great year as it was a full year in Samoa (with only a little over 2 weeks off for vacationing on other Pacific Islands). It was full of learning a lot about myself and growing as a person. I feel like I am a different person than when I entered in 2009. (Besides the fact that I keep getting confused for being a Canadian or half-cast).
2011 is the year of my 10 year anniversary from high school. Which makes me reflect on the past 10 years, and I know this year will be a good one. I hope everyone who is reading this has a prosperous New Years. Manuia le Taosaga Fou! Feliz Ano Nuevo! (To work on my Spanish!)

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