Monday, February 28, 2011

Medical Ailment Updates

Some volunteers keep a running list of all the medical ailments that we have encountered since being here.  It would be interesting to keep track of, since there are usually so many, and they are much different than what we go through in America. 

The latest ailment, was a little toe infection.  It caused me to limp around for over a week, but it is finally starting to get better. 

In other news for about the billionth time, I have lice again.  There might be something wrong with kids that constantly playing with my hair, or going down to their level to spend time with them. 


Sunday, February 27, 2011



Last year my mother sent me a pair of sneakers.  It was an amazing gift since my sneakers that I had brought were becoming run down, and were only being used when I traveled to Apia (and exercised….doesn’t always happen!).  So for the past year I have worn those sneakers in, well past usual wear and tear.  Still they were all in one piece and were helpful for running or doing any exercise in the village. 

One of the nice things about having visitors, is they often leave their belongings with me before heading back to America.  This means, I can collect un-moldy and unstained shirts and shorts, and best of all, sneakers.  When my parents came to visit, my mother left behind her shoes. (They could not fit on her swollen ankles because of her fall.  She is doing much better and has finally returned to work after over four months of rehabilitation and healing.  Malo galue mom!)

I decided it was time to try out the shoes, and even though they are a little big on me, it is an amazing feel to be in shoes that are not worn down.  That day I felt like I could run forever.  (But the sun had to set, which meant sa, or curfew, was approaching so I had to be at home.)

The following day when I went out for my run, I noticed a few boys waiting on the main road for me.  “Tatou o” they said and we rain through the village next to us.  As we were running back, I decided I wanted to reward the boys for their appreciation for exercising and for being such good company to me. (Which is very important!!)  Before we ran to the other village next to us, I asked the boy who had feet about the same size as me if he would like to run in sneakers instead of barefoot.  He looked a little confused as I told them to wait as I ran to my house.  I grabbed my older pair of sneakers and showed them to him.  I did a quick lesson on tying shoes as he put them on, and went running. 

Throughout our run to the neighboring village that boy had the biggest smile on his face.  I only wish I had enough shoes to give all five boys that were running with me at the time.  As we ran, they started singing the English song that I had taught them the previous week  (UTube the video Swinging in the Alphabet with the 3 Stooges).  They sounded like a small army marching around as they stomped through the village. 

It was such an enjoyable time.  5 boys aged 6-10, most running barefoot singing and running as they are just enjoying life.  These boys don’t normally run, and it was nice to see them exercising. 

When we got to our village, the 7 year old boy that I had given the shoes off sat down quickly and tried to take off the shoes to return them to me.  I explained that it was a mea alofa for doing such a great job running, so he can continue running.  His face lit up with the biggest smile I had ever seen, as he repeatedly asked if I wanted them.  He wanted to take me to the store to buy me something in return, but I refused as I was content without a snack. 

He then ran over to the volleyball court to show off his new shoes to the entire village.  While he was doing this, I had a constant stream of people coming up to me saying “ska se’vae”, meaning, “give me shoes”.  I had to explain several times that I didn’t have any more shoes to give away, and I only gave it to the one boy because he was doing a fantastic job running. 

While some kids were begging for shoes, others were coming up to me to find out if the boy had stolen my sport shoes. 

The next day at school, the little boy came up to me and tried to give me money to buy a snack at lunch, and I told him not to worry.

Seeing the smile that he had because of a pair of old sneakers, was the greatest feeling of all.  I had made this boy in an elite status.  He was one of the handful of people that had sports shoes, and could now be a valuable asset in many games. 

Before I leave, I will have another pair or two to give away, and it will be nice to see that amount of appreciation again.


(In the picture you can see how most students come to school barefoot, and play sports barefoot.)


Weekend Enjoyment


One of my favorite things about the weekend is going to church.  This may seem strange to many people who have known me growing up, but there is a reason for it.  I love seeing the village come together for this day each week.  It is so nice because it is the one day that everyone gets out of their house to meet.  It is beautiful to see everyone you know and love together in one room.

The other reason I love going to church, is what happens afterwards.  After everyone meets in church families get together to celebrate the week, and have a gigantic feast.  Samoan families love sharing with one another, so you will often see children walking with baskets full of fish, soup or other delicious food they made for that week to share with their neighbors.

 I love this feast because since I feel like I have been adopted by every family in my village, I know I always have a place to eat a delicious Samoan meal. 

After the meal we usually lounge about the house, sometimes taking naps, and sometimes goofing off.  Then most weeks, children begin to take out their backpacks to ask me questions about their homework.  This happens especially at the college level, where the students are often given difficult tasks to perform, especially based on their English language ability.  (I picture myself in high school, having all my classes taught in Spanish, based on the language I was taught up until that point.  When you are learning a language there are usually a lot of gaps that are needed to be filled in before complete comprehension of high school work.  I know I would have struggled more than most of these children are, which makes me extremely proud of them!)  I love being able to help them.   It is such a great feeling to know that you are not thought of as just the primary school teacher, but the teacher for the entire village. 

Being a volunteer here, means you are working 7 days a week, which means we always have to be visible and available.  It is how I have learned to love the Samoan cultures, and they have learned about my American ways, or sometimes unconventional American ways.  I truly think that the weekends are my favorite day because of the exchange I share with my neighbors is amazing.   As we lay on the floor reading stories, sharing new vocabulary back and forth, it is as relaxing as a day at the beach.  (Which is good since it is sa (not allowed) to go to the beach on Sundays!) 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Water Woes

Bathroom Water Woes

Since I have been living in Samoa, I have gotten used to the fact that I will not always have running water. Running water is truly a luxury that I have always taken for granted. When I first moved to Savai’i, I avoided showering with a bucket and would only try to shower when the water taps were on. (This made it truly limiting.)

But after about a week, I gave in, and used the barrel of water and a bowl to shower. I learned it wasn’t too bad to do, and actually quite nice, as you don’t have a constant stream of cold water on you.

Then, I became more “daring”, and began showering outside when it was raining. I learned that showering in the rain gives you great water pressure that is not available in the entire country. When you shower in the rain, you never have to worry about wasting water, since it is always coming down from the gutters at a great speed.

A few weeks ago, my water situation became worse. The water is now on for about an hour in the morning from 5-6am, and at night from 10-12 at night. Sometimes it is on less than that. The barrel we keep in the bathroom full of water, cannot always be filled because of the limited water schedule. I have learned that using water for flushing the toilets is more important than using water to bathe inside.

I didn’t want to be the smelly kid, so I decided my only option was to become more Samoan and shower outside. Like most Samoan families we have a water tank outside, so I decided to learn how to shower using that.

I first wrap myself in a lavalava, and go outside. At the water tank you can hear the neighbors cooking their meals, pigs running by, roosters crowing and the villagers playing rugby. You can also see them, so one can only guess that they can easily see you. I used to get nervous about my lavalava falling down, but I feel like I have become a professional at tying it for showering.

I then find a little bucket that is easy to lift up, and fill it with water from the tank. I lift it over my head and that is my shower. Add some soap and shampoo, and it is amazing how clean you can actually get from these showers.

The part that I still struggle with is switching from a towel to lavalava outside. I can usually change without a problem outside, but the wet lavalava loves to stick to your body making it difficult.

I have learned that showering outside really isn’t as bad as it seems.

In other water news, my school still does not have running water. They say there is a problem with the pipes, although I am not sure exactly what the problem is. This means school usually gets out a little early so children don’t have to hold it in for too long.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Last year I didn’t have a classroom, I stored my teaching materials in the office, which caused much of it to disappear whenever cleaning took place.  My backpack was always full of teaching materials that I was hauling back and forth from home.  So I was extremely surprised when I was given the extra classroom this year. 

In one corner were all of the broken desks and benches, which looked like a big pile of wood.  Then, there were the desks that did not have benches of chairs stacked up, with a pile of teaching materials in another corner. 

I tried teaching in the room one day, but because of a lack of mats to sit on, and chalk to write with, it made it difficult.  It seemed easier to go to each individual classroom to teach.  However, I did spend time hanging up some of my teaching materials, and arranging the desks around the room, to make it more user friendly.  The kids loved it, and would listen to my “no food rule”, so I didn’t have noodles on the floor making the room rat friendly.  (With all the holes in the walls to the outside, it is very easy for them to pass through.)

Then, of course, things began to change, again…

We got a new teacher, a teacher that is friendly and I am very excited about.  She is in her last year of University, and has a rough position of being placed in a village far away from home.  She is living with a relative, and was offered the chance to live with my family, which she said she is thinking about doing. 

The new teacher was told she was going to share the year 8 class (the grade with 26 students, unlike year 1 who has 50…) with another teacher, and spent the first day with those children.  Then, the second day, today, she was moved to teach year 7, and the year 7 teacher was switched to year 8.  The new teacher got my classroom, but I think I might be able to keep a desk inside the room, which is a huge plus. 

I am not sure if things will continue to change, but it is nice to have a new friendly face in the school building, and a room that has a desk for my belongings. 


Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day

Last week was Valentine’s Day, and since I wasn’t in a country where I could have a classroom party for the day, I shared with my students about what happens in America on this day.  I wrote a story and shared it with the class. 

The story shared information about giving valentines to classmates, moms getting flowers from their husbands, and children receiving candy.  (The more special occasions I teach of America, the more I realize that candy is a huge part of our lives!)

After reading the short story I wrote for them, we brainstormed all the delicious treats we wish we could get for the day. Their mouth was watering as they talked about ice cream and chocolates, things that are unavailable in the village. 

I was feeling the same way, so when  I got home, I had my own Valentine’s Day treat, a saved Snickers bar.  It was delicious!

As for Valentine’s go, we all decided to have a secret valentine, kind of like a secret Santa, throughout Peace Corps.  Last year, Liz gave me a delicious pack of cookies, and a beautiful card, while I shared movies with Ali.  This year, I gave Dana an amazing Magic Eye book, since she is very artistic.  (She doesn’t know it was from me….yet…let’s see if I can leave more and keep her on her toes…)On Friday I get to pick up my gift from Cupid.  I am a little excited about it.

Hope everyone else had a great Valentine’s Day.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Road

New road


Two weeks ago construction trucks arrived in my village.  I didn’t ask any questions, and thought that the mayor was just doing some random work to his property (which I admit is strange) since the trucks were in front of his house for a long time.

While I was at school, things began to change.  First trees began to fall down…well I didn’t see them actually fall down, I just saw these beautiful gigantic trees on the side of the road.  This was in preparation for their next project, to began to fix the road in front of my house, one of the two plantation roads.  This dirt-rocky road has been full of pot holes for who knows how long. The pot holes had grown big enough for a person to fall inside, seriously.  I would not even consider them holes, they were craters.  This caused the drive to church to feel like one of those little supermarket rides for kids, just bouncing back and forth the entire time. 

I asked people about the trees that were now down, one of them was my favorite breadfruit tree, where I loved to sit under and read or wait for the bus.  I was told by someone that the family probably wanted it down.  But as I began to look further down our road, I saw that all the trees that were near the road were taken down.

They raised the road, and after a week of doing work, they had it pretty smooth pretty far uphill.  (Far enough to get to the two churches there at least.)

However, after all that work they put in, it is immediately disappearing.  We have been getting rain daily, with heavy rains at times, which washes away their work.  This is causing small holes to form. I keep hearing rumors that the construction crew is coming back to tar seal it, and I hope they come soon, before all of their work is lost. 

Samoa constantly has this problem with the roads, where they fill pot holes in the city, but they only fill it with dirt and rocks, and it seems like the crew is out every week filling the same holes.  I feel pretty lucky where I live.  When you live closer to the city, or in Upolu, the roads are much worse.  Here, only the plantation roads are affected by the weather, and the main road stays nice and smooth. 

I hope they do tar seal it soon, to save their work. 




Rainy Sunday

Rainy Sunday at church


I love rainy days.  The days are cool, and I see no problem with long afternoon naps.  I think for the past two months (at least) we have had rain each day.  It has been nice, especially because village activity changes a little. 

Sundays are the most interesting.  My day started with me getting ready to go to church.  I put on my white church clothes, and added my rain coat, and lavalava on top on my outfit to avoid it getting dirty on the short walk to church.  I showed up on time and there were only a handful of people there.  On rainy Sundays, church starts late to allow people to have time to travel in the weather.  So, I sat outside with some of my neighbors and watched.

Adults began walking to church in their nice clothes, with a lavlava over their bottoms, and an umbrella covering their heads.  Behind them, was one of their children walking, usually below the age of ten.  The kid was still wearing their dirty clothes from preparing food for their after church meal.  When the adult arrived at church, the child took the umbrella and headed home to give it to the next person in the family.  I saw the same kid come multiple times before it was their time to get ready for church.  The main road was full of children delivering umbrellas back and forth. 

Most families only have one umbrella, and seeing how quickly they break with my Peace Corps friends, I don’t blame families for not purchasing more. 

Watching the children deliver umbrellas is far better than watching any television show.    The children are so animated and a joy to be around.  (So can the adults in my village.)


Pictures are of:

My time after church with a family,

Me on my walk to church (one that doesn’t require you to wear white)

Pictures of children at church

Friday, February 18, 2011




The project that I am involved in is two parts, one part community development, and the other part in the classroom.  Sometimes it is difficult to find people in the community that your personality meshes well with to work on a project, especially on a project that both of you think is needed in the community.  So sometimes, you assist elsewhere. 

Last week, Rachel and I went to our favorite place in Salelologa to help a small business owner with her website.  She had been working with a company in New Zealand to create it, but there were still many things to update.

We spent the weekend hunched over a computer, studying what was wrong with it, correcting grammatical errors, and trying to add those special key words to hope that appears higher on search engines.  We taught her how to use different programs on her computer, so she use her new email account, edit her photographs and more.

The website looks good….in my opinion.  But I think the biggest goal was helping her learn new skills on the computer to run her business more effectively. 

There is still more to help her with, as we helped her brainstorm packages that would appeal to tourists, and it was great to hear her promise to network with other small business owners to complete this goal of hers. 

She is an amazing person, who is extremely intelligent, and I know Rachel and I are just happy we could help someone who is always nice to us. 



My Roommate

My Roommate

I have a roommate….one I really don’t care for.  When Jen and Cammi were visiting, they named him…I think Suzuki, or some other strange name that starts with an S (a semi-mandatory thing on my household).  I haven’t seen this roommate in awhile, but I always hear him.  He runs across my ceiling daily.  I hear him pass through the wall to outside all the time.  (My wall is a thin piece of metal with holes where it meets the wooden frames.)

But the worst is those few weeks in which the roommate decides to exclusively spend with me.  I am lucky in some ways, that I have a formal bed to sleep on (box spring on the floor, with a mattress on top).  But the day I arrived I notice a nice circular hole in the box spring, one for my future roommate.  For about two weeks every other month I hear my friend Suzuki running around the box spring, causing such a ruckus that it is difficult to sleep.  This mouse is so loud and does not stop running.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the mouse decided to attempt to go outside a different way.  He broke my mosquito wire on my window, forcing me to keep my window shut.  (Until I can get to the city and by more wire for my window.)

This week he finally left my bed, and I still hear him elsewhere, but that doesn’t bother me.  I am just happy that I am not sharing a bed with a rat anymore. 

(Rats and mice are the same word in Samoan. And truth be told, I am not sure if Suzuki is a mouse or a rat since I have only seen him once.)




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

School Update

School update

We just started the third week of school, and I feel a definate difference from last year.  I notice a difference in the way the teahers and students both treat me.  From week one the students were anxious to have me start teaching there classes, which was exciting. 

On my time table I am teaching, what everyoe consideres a little too much, however, I didn't see a way around it because of my want to go to each classroom.  My day starts at 8:30, and ends at 2.  During the day I teach 7 classes, with my only break being the half hour I have for lunch.  (During that time I still have students still trying to have me teach them!)

I was given a classroom this year, and it is nice to have a place to store my teaching materials....if only there was a lock on the door.  Some of my classes come there for lessons, while I still go to classrooms for some grades.  The room is simple, with a desk, mats and the floor, and the schools storage area in the corner, but it still is nice to have a place to work.

There are only 8 teachers, and a librarian, while make some of the classes hard to manage, especially since in Samoa there are no substitute teachers.  For example, yesterday when I came to teach my year 2 class (with over 30 students), the 50 year ones were also in the room.  80 little kids, and ony me makes teaching real hard.  I am real appreciative of the teachers who help me out. 

This week, I shared a short story I wrote about Valentines Day, and it was nice to share what kids in other countries were doing to celebrate that day.

This year I am going to continue to work my but off, but it is good, since I do see a lot of improvement in my students English speaking abilities.  I have heard from two parents about how much they see their child improving in English and it brings a smile to my face.



The baby

One of my students has an expecting mother.  She is supposed to have the baby next month.  Last weekend, the little 7 year old went to her mom and requested a name.  She asked if the baby could be named Lili.  She went on to tell her mom that she wants the baby to have that name so the baby can be a palagi and act like me. 

It was really cute to hear this story, and stories of what children believe.


82 Machetes made me into a Biker

Bike Ride

My goal was to conquer Samoa, by riding my bike around the two main islands.  I did ¾ of Savaii without a real problem, then completed the smaller Uplou island.  I had ridden over 150 miles doing this, and with a few side trips, had completed abut 200 miles of bike riding.  I just had one little portion to go.  The part from Salelologa, Savaii to my house. 

First, I was stopped from making the journey complete because of cyclone warnings (that seemed to go on forever).  Then, we had a conference in Apia, and that ran into the start of the school year.  Each time I brought myself to Salelologa in hope to bring my bicycle home, a storm was on the horizon and it rained, making me forced to take the bus back. 

It was weird because I thought that I was being smart about the entire thing, by checking the weather, and rain never really showed on the forecast.   (I guess that is still a part of living on a tropical island during the rainy season….)

Finally, last week, I went to Salelologa, and in the morning the clouds appeared like it would be another hot day.  After having a nice big breakfast, I braved all the potholes created by all of the rainstorms we have had lately and began to ride home.

It felt really good to be on my bike again.  In Satupaitea, I passed one of the pastor in my village’s car.  I was honked at by the busses from my district, as I just waved on. 

When I reached the never ending village of Gatavai (seriously, even when you are driving, it feels like 30 minutes to drive through!), I encountered a surprise.  I heard a familiar, “Hi Lili!”  I immediately turned around and saw some of my students on the road trying to say hi.  I was still far away from home, and surprised to see these kids there, since most kids rarely leave their villages.  I stopped and spent some time with them, and learned a little about how my former year 8 student was doing in college.  When I got up to leave, I heard something that put the biggest smile on my face. 

I had been concentrating with my younger students on different things to say to palagis besides “bye-bye”.  In my year 3 class (after last year where some of them learned to answer the “how are you question” with “spectacular”, “excellent”, or “great” or “amazing”)I have been trying to get them used to more familiar speech, and they are doing a surprisingly good job with it.  Especially for their age.  Anyway, I heard, “Have a good day!” from a little girl in that class.  I felt so proud that I wanted to stay and hug her for hours, but my journey awaited. 

When I reached the next village of Taga (another never ending village), it started to get hot.  Really, really hot.  I never realized that there were hills in this village, but there is a hill that at the time felt never ending.  I had my own mini temper tantrum, where I decided to stay on the grass, and hope that the hill went away.  I must have been there for almost half an hour when I finally gave up wishing the hill would just go away, and got back on my bike. 

As I headed towards villages closer to my house, I was amazed at how many people knew me.  Some of them said a plain hi to me, while others asked where family members were. 

When I got closer to my village, the clouds began to build up, and sure enough, 3 and a half hours after I started, I arrived home, and the rain started.

Last year Dana, Matt and I decided that we biked enough together that we should form our own biker gang.  (I think our 18 speeds can rival with some of the best.)  We called ourselves 82 Machetes.  After completing the ride around Savaii, a feat that both Dana and Matt had completed previously, I felt like I was officially initiated into our little gang.  We bike and we know how to use machetes.  I say that makes us pretty awesome.

Now that I completed the two main islands of Samoa, I am trying to scheme to bring my bike to Manono.  A small island like that will be easy after all the mountain passes I’ve seen on both Savaii and Upolu over the past month.

For anyone looking at biking around.  I was told Upolu is about 95 miles around, and Savaii is about 110 miles.  Upolu has worse roads, as there are always more cars on them, and it sometimes get scary with them on the road.  But if I can do, anyone can.  I really mean that!


Animal House Update

Iit is always so sad to report on animals.  For awhile my dog Champ was walking with a limp, and I as scared that he had a broken leg.  Someone threw a rock at him and he was in pain from that.  He is now healthy as can be.

In sadder news, the old cat, who lost its teeth, and was scared of human interaction passed away.  So did the really sick dog, whose name I don’t know. 

So on our family compound we still have: Sunshine the cow, the cat that steals food from its neighbors, and Champ

The gate to our fence broke so we sometimes have visiting chickens and pigs, which are a lot of fun to chase away.

I feel pretty lucky, because only one of the animals that I have had here has been poisoned (that I know about at least), and a few cats left in the woods….Other volunteers have had several dogs poisoned.  It is really sad to hear their stories.

I never was a dog person, but finding those sweet dogs that you don’t want to throw rocks at, makes me really love them. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Postcard Project

Postcard Project

Hi everyone,

For the start of the school year I would like to build global awareness to my students.  To do this we will be doing a few different projects to gain understanding of the world outside Samoa. 

My students this year will be painting world maps for their classrooms.  By doing this they will learn about the different continents and countries than influence Samoa.  (It is amazing how many countries do, as they offer support in the form of volunteers or grants, or are used for imports.)

We will also continue to read English books from different countries.  By doing this, the students will have a better understanding of how life is in these other countries.  These picture books will help foster language development.

Finally, I would like to implement a postcard project.  For this, I would love to have your assistance!  The best way to learn about other places is from people.  I would love it if you could send a postcard from your hometown/country.  This way my students will have a picture to have a better understanding of your area, and whatever you would like to share about your home.  In return, one of my students will send a letter/postcard sharing about their life. 

If you would like to participate in this project, please send your postcards to:

Lillian Watson
Private Mail Box 7139
Salelologa, Savaii
Western Samoa
South Pacific

Thank you for your help!  I look forward to sharing all of you with my students. 

Lillian Watson, known as Lili