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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter

Last weekend was Easter weekend, and spending it in the village made me feel so comfortable in my surroundings, as if I was a normal villager who has lived there my entire life.  It was a completely different feeling than last year, where it did not feel like any special day whatsoever.  (The church I was planning on attending, moved their service and I did not hear about it…so I spent the morning at the plantation with my brothers in my nice white church clothes.)

This year, as soon as I showed up at church, several people had already invited me to come over to eat at their house for the after church meal.  I sat next to the faletua (pastor’s wife), behind all of my students and had a smile on their face as they sometimes slyly looked back to wave at me. 

After the service, I felt like I was being tugged in different directions, trying to decide where to eat.  I opted for the faletua’s invitation, and I am glad that I choose that invitation.

All of the members of the church had prepared a dish for the meal.  There had to be at least 80 of us there (all the children were at their houses.)  In Samoa, everything is done in ranking order, so I helped prepare the plates of food for the highest members of the church.  While they were eating, I fanned the extra food, joked with the women, and tried to picture what they might be doing inside the church hall.

I pictured the fifteen people sitting on mats around the outside of the room with huge platters of food around them.  Others situated around them fanning away flies.  Then, at the end, the presentation of gifts.  Money, food, pigs, soap were all being handed out to one another. 

When they finished, it was time for us to eat.  About 30 of us women sat on mats with huge amounts of food and delicious Samoan cocoa.  All the women were joking with one another, which often lead to teasing me. 

Outside our open fale, the men sat next to the wall of the house to try to get some shade from the hot day.  They were all eating as well. 

I headed home with a teenage boy who was instructed to carry my leftover food to my family, who was pleasantly surprised. 

I rested in the afternoon with the sound of heavy rains out my window.  Later, the rain stopped and I decided to attend another church that I was invited to. 

The church put on a performance where there was acting, singing, dancing, and even a hysterical game of freeze dance.  I sat with my neighbors smiling and laughing the entire time. 

When it was over, I walked home with the young girl. As she held my hand as we walked through the pitch black night (it was about 8pm) I felt at home.  This girl was like my sister.   We spent the entire time joking, laughing and talking about our lives. 

I think being the Peace Corps is all about making these connections with people.  I love that is the main part of my job description.  It is making this year better than last year as the relationships I have here have grown into something beautiful.

Like last year, there was no Easter eggs to dye, no Easter hunts, no chocolate, but there was friends, family and food.  Can you ask for anything more?

Home

Home

You can be doing just fine.  Great even.  Enjoying your daily life, but then it kicks in out of nowhere.  I personally blame it on my 3 hour nap.  I have not had the opportunity to have a nap in the heat of the day all week because of being busy with school and Sunday School happening right outside my bedroom door.   So when the opportunity arose to have a nice relaxing nap while the family was out of the house.  I jumped on it. 

It was a fantastic nap, nice and peaceful…and I would have slept longer if I didn’t want to go exercise and socialize.  I didn’t know that nap would come back to haunt me.

Here I am at 11:30 at night unable to sleep.  Because of being up for so long, my mind has had too much time to wander, and has wandered into homesickness. 

It is weird because just a few days ago I wrote about how I am scared to go home, and it is the truth..But just because I am scared doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. 

Next week will be a year and 7 months.  That is a long time for me to go without having a NYC bagel.  A long time since having real Italian food.  19 months without Boars Head meats.  A long time since running through the snow in my bare feet in Colorado.

Everyone goes through homesickness.  That’s why during the holidays many volunteers choose to spend a fortune to visit their families.  I tried to choose the independent route and stayed in Samoa.  It is a natural feeling, and I am surprised it took me this long to long for home. 

I am still happy to be here.  I still love my life.  You couldn’t beg me enough to trade places with you.  I just wish I could zip over to America for about an hour, and then come back here to my amazing village.  Like an addict of anything, just a quick fix-then I promise to be back to my normal Samoan self-puletasi and all. 

 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Grass Pinwheels and Cartwheels

Grass Pinwheels and Cartwheels

I love Samoan children.  They are so enjoyable.  I often wonder how they act while I am not there.  I would love to be a fly in the village being able to watch.

While walking around, it is impossible to have any peace.  I am interrupted constantly by kids screaming “Fa Lili!” (Goodybye Lili).  They continue to scream that until I am out of earshot, then a new group of kids start.  It makes me laugh as the children never greet the other people I am with.   Do they greet the others while I am not there?  Somehow I don’t think all of them.

Another smile was put on my face as I was walking home from school yesterday.  Two 8 year old boys were running around with homemade pinwheels.  They had made them out of grass, and they were spinning faster than any pinwheel I have ever seen.  They are so creative for always having fun with what they have in their natural environment.

Yesterday, I saw another group of children doing cartwheels on the grass.  It just made me smile to watch them completely enjoying themselves.  After that, I got a “ride” from two children playing with their toy car.  Their car is a stick with a wheel made out of a tuna can.  I crouched down, and moved with the stick to pretend they were taking me someplace fantastic.  We all had a giggle after that.     

Child life is fantastic.  I love kid watching-especially in Samoa, where video games and television have not interrupted children’s lives and imagination.  They still run wild.

 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Plagues

Plagues

After our Passover Sedar, Rachel and I began talking and we have a greater understanding of the plagues.  We have a greater understating of our Jewish ancestors, and what they had to put up with.  Here is a list of the plagues and how I see them differently now:

Lice: Being in Samoa, with long hair, it seems impossible to not have lice.  I feel like it is something that is impossible to prevent, and just look forward to when people come over to my head to check it for those little bugs.  It really is relaxing to sit there for an hour while someone picks them out and eats them. 

Boils: I never understood the big deal  about boils.  During our training, another volunteer had one on his leg and was limping around for days.  I remember thinking of him as a baby, because ti could not possibly hurt as much as he was putting off.  But after only having two, and I spent my nights crying myself to sleep, I can’t imagine those who had their bodies covered in boils.  Just having one makes you not want to move, how can you go through life with so many?

Wild Animals: Dogs I consider to be wild animals….and they are scary.  You never know if one is going to come at you and gnaw your leg completely off.  I often get nervous of the pigs, especially when I am riding my bike.  There are also plenty of bulls that are not tied up.  Wild animals, although different than in the biblical times, are scary enough in Samoa.  At least we can scare more of them off with rocks.  (Which is why I don’t think I own a bag without rocks.)

Blood: Well, I don’t have a relationship to add to this.  Just infected cuts for everyone here. 

Frogs:  Leai se mea (there are none)

Death of the Firstborn: Thankfully not dealing with this either.

Hail:  There are no hailstorms here, but I know how horrible weather can be. After going through several hurricane warnings here, and several tsunami warnings I know never to take weather for granted.  Besides in Colorado, we have had hail the size of golf balls.  That stuff can hurt!

Locusts: None of these-just living with cockroaches, mice, and sometimes finding maggots in our food. 

Darkness:  Unless the Peace Corps volunteers living in outer island of Tonga, we do have electricity-and it is pretty stable, with only a few short blackouts each month. 

Death of Cattle: The only time I see this happen is when there is a funeral, wedding, or someone committed a crime.  Thankfully it is not an everyday occurrence.

As we were probably the only ones in all of Samoa having a Seder, and one of the last ones in the world having one, we really took the time to reflect..and although the Haggadah says we might be lucky enough to have Passover in Israel next year-we thought we will be lucky to have it in America.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Returning Home

Returning Home

After seeing a centipede (At least I think it was a centipede) that was at least 7 inches long, several cockroaches scurrying across the floor, and pili mo’o (the lizards that look they are a glow in the dark color) galore, I began to reflect on my chat with Elisa today.

I went to visit Elisa to pick up my mail.  In the transition of our mail being switched to being picked up at a different post office, we are helping each other pick up mail whenever we can.  I like it because it give me a good excuse to go out and get some fresh air (and speak English). 

Elisa asked what my plans were when I return home.  I told her I plan to eat.  After eating such a starchy diet for such a long time, it will be nice to have more choices besides chicken or chicken.  (There is fresh fish often enough-but it is amazing how often chicken is served on the table.)

I was then asked for what I really wanted to do, no holding back. 

We talked about trying to go to a spa to clean ourselves….and wondered do they offer a “demoldify” treatment?  With so much of our clothes molding, us getting ill from mold, it often feels as if we too are molding (and when I was turning green 2 weeks ago, that was the first thought going on in my head). 

We then talked about what we would bring home.  I told her my computer, some pulatasis, and have my amazing seamstress make some “palagi” clothes for me to wear out in America.  Books-nope.  CD’s and DVD’s no way.  Clothes-Are you kidding me?  Why bring molding clothes to America?

I then confessed to her.  I am terrified to go back to America.  It is such a different world that I don’t think I am ready for in 7 months.  The fact that I would probably be visiting my family in New York around the holidays right away is terrifying.  Having to get replacement clothes from not living in NY for over 10 years, during the crazy shopping of Christmas in NY.  It sounds miserable.  (It is hard to imagine that not too long ago I lived for this stuff.)

We then talked about how we are changing, and not just in hair length (as to Samoan culture, ours both have  gotten long).  Would our friends be able to recognize us when we get back?   Will we mesh well with  everyone who has been in our lives for so long?  Will Backstreet Boys still be on our playlists? 

Just 7 more months…

Only 7 more months….

Wow, time is just flying by. 

I left the bathroom where I saw all of those creatures, and thought of my cats in Colorado.  Last month, Albert had given my sister the first present of the year, a nice garden snake.  He would be having a field day with all the creatures we have here.  I am just hoping I don’t have any acting as a stowaway for him to find when I come back.

In only 7 months…

 

Fa'aSamoa-Oops

Fa’aSamoa-Oops

I felt like I was back to square one.  I haven’t made this many mistakes in such a long time…..and unlike in the beginning I am being called out for it all.  I guess this means I am a part of the community and they feel comfortable enough around me. 

The first was in dress.  I was invited over for to’ogani and did not get the memo that it was a fancier occasion than a normal to’ogani.  So when I arrived in a skirt and shirt, I didn’t feel out of place, until several people asked why I was not wearing a pulatasi.  I feel like it is really hard to find the correct dress code.  I never seem to get the memo on what it is. 

At the to’ogani I set to work in helping out, and since I was underdressed, I could not present the gifts or food.  So, I fanned the food that was waiting to be served….for at least an hour.  I was offered cocoa, and accepted while I was fanning and made the fatal error of drinking while standing.  Someone immediately took the fan I was using to shoo away the flies and ushered me to a bench to sit. 

I felt so embarrassed making these mistakes, because truly I knew better, and must have just been having an off day.  I felt like I was getting the silent judgment from all of the ladies in the room. 

But thankfully, they are quick to forgive their Peace Corps, and hopefully won’t stop loving me!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tulafono and The Pigs That Follow

Tulafono and The Pigs That Follow

 

Tulafono is Samoan for rules.  Each time a major rule is broken in the village there are two Matai meetings.  The first one is to decide upon the fine, and the second is for the person to pay the fine. 

Last week there was a Matai meeting because there was another rape in the village.  It might have been an attempted rape, I did not find out all of the details and was not in the village for the day of the fining, so I am not sure of the outcome.  I just know the young girl, and hope she is doing okay emotionally.  In such a small village, I am amazed and upset about how often this kind of thing happens in such a small village.

The next  meeting for a different case was yesterday.  A woman about 40 years of age in my village called her boyfriend to come over one night.  He got caught over, and they were both fined.  She was fined 50 large pigs, or the equivalent, which could be cases of food.  He was fined 150 large pigs. 

My sister told me that if a man was caught coming over to me, he would probably be fined 200 pigs. 

I have heard about people sneaking over in the middle of the night, and I thought it was because of the shame of being caught, I did not realize there were actual rules against it. 

Thinking about universities across America, I can’t imagine how many pigs people would owe if they were under the same strict rules.

 

The Set-Up

The Set-Up

People are always trying to set me up while I am here.  Sometimes it is because they want me to stay in Samoa forever, others are hoping I will bring a family member over to America with me, and lastly they would like me to be in their lives forever.

In America when people try to set you up, they tell you the man is good for you because he has a good job.  Here in Samoa, they tell you can provide for you in different ways. 

Outside church, I was told to date this one man because he can provide for me.  He was a good fisherman, which means I would always have a good meal on the table. 

It just gave me a chuckle as the term providing for a female is different in each country.  In America it is having a good job, here it is providing a good meal.  Both are necessities in each country. 

 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tumu Uafu

Tumu uafu

After our whirlwind of a trip, it was finally time for us to head back home.  We headed to the market to catch the bus for the wharf.  We knew it would be crowded, but did not know what we were getting ourselves into.  The bus had people literally out the window.  The police had to come to control the scene.  Even though the bus was full, there was still at least 50 of us waiting for the next bus.  My friends decided no bus we would take would be completely safe, and we wanted to travel without getting sick, so we decided to opt for a taxi. 

We probably should have guessed what the scene would be like when we got to the wharf, since we have all travelled on busy days….but even the busiest day did not compare to what we saw.  There had to be at least 2,000 people waiting there.  The line for cars went so far down the road that we could not see where it ended.  It was much more crowded than when the ferry service was stopped for several days because of the hurricane.  After being in the shove fest of a line for 30 minutes, I was able to buy our tickets, and we went into the second waiting room where the line to board the ferry was. 

Picture a concert, and picture the front with the mosh pit.  That was the scene.  There was a faint sound of music, from someone travelling with a guitar in the first of the waiting rooms, but otherwise we had the heat and body odor of a concert without any of the perks.

There had to have been 2,000 of us in this little room (think the size of a double classroom in America) and more still in the first waiting room.  When the door opened for the workers to accept tickets , everyone began shoving to try to make their way to the metal gate that formed the line.  We were also scared as we saw mothers holding their babies being shoved into others.  We feared for the worst when we saw small children.  People were jumping over chairs and falling over people.  It was complete chaos, with only one woman trying to control the entire crowd with her voice.  She was getting nowhere.  We were no way near the front when we saw the gate close. 

We looked over to the boat and everyone was standing , they had run out of seats a long time ago.    I looked at the front of the line and saw another PCV, Sam, being smushed against people and felt horrible for her.  Me and my friends decided that it was not worth our health to wait on that line and were fortunate enough to find seats. 

On the line, a man could not take the heat anymore, and I saw him begin throwing up from heat exhaustion.  It was so crowded that it landed on others.  He was stuck in there with no way out looking as sick as can be. 

Another man had a big birthday cake and it had been smashed into him and was more on his shirt than in the box now. 

They opened the gate a second time, and allowed people to boat on the car level, something that is usually forbidden, but with over 1,000 people still waiting to board a boat, they were running out of options. 

Thankfully, they decided to send another boat for us, otherwise we all would have been stuck at the wharf over night.  The Samoa Express, the smallest boat in the fleet, arrived around 530pm. Thankfully, we were in a good spot in line by this time since others had left their spot to grab something to eat.  We headed up the stairs and sat on the box of lifejackets.  Most people don’t think to go upstairs on this boat, which I really appreciated.  There is no outside seating, and inside makes me so sick because there is absolutely no airflow.  I didn’t see how crowded the car deck which had a majority of the people was until it was time to leave as I did not want to lose my seat.

Our boat ride was beautiful with such an amazing sunset.  Then the stars came out with the nice cool air coming off the water.  Being the smallest boat, we arrived well after 7pm, exhausted from travelling under those conditions.  We had arrived at the bus depot at 1:30.  We walked to the stairs, and saw about a thousand people on the car deck standing, waiting to unload.  It was insane to watch them all as we are not used to crowds.

We felt impressed that we survived such an experience, as it was so rough.  We tried to think of what to compare it to in our lives, and the best we could think of is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving for shopping in America.  But I honestly think it was about ten times worse than that.  We were all surprised we made it out in one piece, unlike some of the others on our boat.

 

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Funeral

The funeral

Rachel and I were going to the funeral.  The funeral was in our old village of Manunu, and we were as far as possible away from the village while being in Samoa.  So even though we woke up at 2:30a.m to wait for the bus, we didn’t arrive in Manunu until one o’clock. 

We had missed both services at the church, and when we arrived, most people were still at church in the neighboring village for the end of the second service.  We spent time with the family that was still there which was nice to have that personal time. 

The hearse came with the coffin.  Asa had 4 sons, and they helped carry it into the grave.  When the family saw Rachel and myself, we were all so happy and sad at the same time.  It was nice to see our family, but sad that this was the reason that brought us there.  We were escorted to the front to be with the family.  Even though we have only known these people for a year and a half, it was nice to see that they considered us family as much as we did to them.

Graves in Samoa are much different than America.  In America, most grave are in the earth (unless you are in an area that is below sea level, like New Orleans).  It is simply a coffin in the ground, with dirt on top.  In Samoa, graves are also underground.   However, many times they tile the inside of them, and sometimes the outside as well.  Then, a concrete structure is created to put on top to keep it raised from the ground.

The coffin was placed on 2x4 pieces of wood, and the bishop lead the community in a prayer, which was followed by song.  It was a beautiful site, with such a beautiful song.  You couldn’t help but feel touched.  (Throughout the rest of that day, Rachel continued to sing that song.)

Asa was then lowered into the ground, which the boys put thick concrete slabs on top of the grave.  Many people gathered in a tent to witness the family’s offering for the church for the funeral.  Women were presenting many wonderful fine mats and cans of soda with money sticking out, while men carried the cases and cases of corned beef and sardines.  At the end we saw several cows over the shoulders of the men to be offered.  I always think it is amazing to see a huge leg of a cow by itself.

While the offering was going on, men were creating a multilayer grave over Asa.  On top of the concrete slab, 2x4s were arranged to make a box.  Rocks were put inside to fill the space, and concrete was poured on top and smoothed down. 

We spent the next several hours with family there, and it is amazing how much I missed them.  During training, I would often get frustrated with sharing a room with a 1 year old, 2 year old and a 3 year old, but I think that was because I had such a busy schedule because of Peace Corps, and it was impossible to have any time to myself with 14 people living with you.  But seeing the little ones and see how excited they were to see me, it brought a smile to my face.  I was impressed that they still remembered my name, and we had a blast playing on the floor of the Samoan fale.

While I was there, the baby was nicknamed Lili, and it was cute to hear the family call her “Little Lili”, just like my family in America used to call me.  (Well, my dad still does call me that…)  They said that she was nicknamed that to have a piece of me in their family for the rest of their lives. 

In the evening we got a ride to Apia from Rachel’s brothers , and we thanked them by treating everyone to ice cream.  We fell right asleep when we got to our hotel.  After two days as busy as they were (Passover and the funeral), we were exhausted.  As busy as they were, they showed us some of the advantages of us joining Peace Corps and coming to Samoa.  Not only do we have an amazing family in Peace Corps, but we have such a great and loving family with Samoans as well.  (When you include our families in America, we might be considered the luckiest and most loved people in the world!)

For the next two days we thought back to our training in Manunu.  Although we lived there for only 2 months, they were full of so many memories.  It makes me understand how most Samoans will always talk about a Peace Corps they have interacted with in their lives.  Just like we touch their lives, they touch ours, and teach us so much.

 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

World Map Art Project

Hi everyone,
I would like to do an art project in my school in which we would make world maps for the different classrooms. We would be painting them and displaying them in each classroom. Students have loved learning the different facts about you that you have shared through mail, and I only have one atlas in the school for them to look at. By creating these maps, the classrooms will always have a visual representation of where all of you are in the world.
If you are interested in donating to assist with this project, follow the link below: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=491-025

Thank you,
Lili

Freedom-A Passover Tale

Freedom-A Passover Tale
(To the tune of Freedom by Akon)
Written by Rachel Goldstein

From the West Nile in Egypt,
All the way to Mount Saini,
Thanks to Aaron and Moses,
For givin’ my peeps’ their glory.

He came up with a plan,
He was gonna leave this land,
For a free uplifting world,
It’s all he ever knew.

God came a little after,
And he sent a bloody river,
All the slaves under pressure,
They don’t fight one another.

See the pain would never last,
He did the best with what he had,
He knew the world was up for grabs,
So he searched to find his:

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom
First the plague of blood, then the lotus,
Then the plague of boils,
And then the exodus,
I wanna be free, I wanna be free.
Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom
First the plague of blood, then the lotus,
Then the plague of boils,
And then the exodus,
I wanna be free, I wanna be free.

All the Jews were really weak,
They had to work on their feet.
So Moses said to Pharaoh,
You gotta let my people go.
But the Pharaoh said, “Man, no way!
My slaves are here to stay.
You can not go on your way,
It’s to me you must pray!”

So then God sent the plague,
And with them he wasn’t vague,
See he knew what would happen,
If Pharaoh didn’t listen.
And the Jews went to the desert,
And Moses split the water,
And they knew they would get there,
They finally reached their:

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom
First the plague of blood, then the lotus,
Then the plague of boils,
And then the exodus,
I wanna be free, I wanna be free.

Passover 2011

Passover 2011
My alarm went off before 3 in the morning and I thought to myself, “Why did I agree to do this?” Nevertheless, I grabbed my cooking supplies that I had hanging in a bag on my wall to avoid the ants or rats finding and eating. I took my phone as a flashlight and headed to the kitchen.
The water was off, of course. I took my electric frying pan and my bowl outside to wash with my phone flashlight in my mouth. At the water tank, I scrubbed those dishes clean so I could begin the magic of cooking.
I headed back to the kitchen with a smile on my face. I began to mix the dough to make matzo. I then looked around for a rolling pin substitute. There was an old Fanta bottle on the floor that worked perfectly. I began rolling out my dough and then stabbing it in several places with a fork to make sure it would not rise in the tradition of matzo. The matzo was then put on the electric frying pan where I cooked it. Unlike last year, where it looked like actual matzo (sometimes with different phrases carved in from our having fun with a fork) it looked like a tortilla. At least it was unleavened bread, so it would have to do. I continued the process making about 40 matzo tortillas.
My family began waking up during the time I was cooking, confused as to what I was doing. I just explained that I was cooking the bread for our to’ogani for our lotu (church) that night.
After all of the matzo was cooked, I got to work on making latkes (potato pancakes). Latkes is not a traditional Passover food, since flour is used in the cooking of it, but it was still a Jewish food that most of us really enjoyed and decided it would be nice to have.
During the preparations of latkes I suffered my only cooking injury, I grated my fingernail. I managed to keep the blood from entering food, so it was okay. I cooked about 6 dozen latkes so I would have enough for our meal, and for my family to try.
By the time I was almost done cooking, my sister was done getting ready for school, and I gave her a potato pancake for breakfast. Since it was flat, she doesn’t associate it with being a pancake and it didn’t taste like a normal pancake that the sell in the villages. It was “interesting”.
I finished cooking my food and cleaned up so I could get ready for work. My four hours of cooking that morning had finally finished and I was ready for the long day to start.

After school, I waited for the bus for an hour under the breadfruit tree. I had my gigantic bag of food (which made dogs follow me) with me. Finally the bus came and an hour and a half later I was at Matt’s house ready to finish getting ready for the evening.
Several of us were attending, and everyone had something to bring to the Seder. I had Dana’s apples for her apple sauce, and we had a great time cooking that together and enjoying hot apple cider with the leftover liquid.
Soon everyone started arriving with their food. Elisa and her vegetable soup, Rachel and her charoses (nuts with honey and a splash of wine) and matzo, and Mike and his lamb stew. Matt made a salad, and his roommate, Di, a volunteer from Japan, made salad dressing.
We set up our Sedar plate, and at sa, right before sunset began reading from the Hagaddah to tell the story.
We read through it, reciting the different prayers and telling the story of Exodus. When it came time to recite the plagues, Elisa lead us in an amazing jazz chant. As we passed around our book taking turns reading by candlelight, I felt so honored to be a part of this Seder. It was so nice to be with a family and share all the traditions that we have at home, and combine them together to make our own.
At the end of the meal, we all gathered around with a guitar and sang the traditional song Di-anu. The Hagaddah we had, was an Orthadox childrens Haggadah, and also had a different song in it, “It happened at Midnight”. Last year we rapped that sing, this year we sang it to the tune of “Savalivali”, the first song we learned in Samoa. Then as an added treat, Rachel prepared a song entitled “Freedom”. It told the story of Exodus in the tune of Akon’s “Freedom.”
After the songs, we feasted, and enjoyed such a nice big meal. In the tradition of Samoa, there was more food than we could eat. And we ate a lot.
Just as tradition goes, I hid the Afikomen, and when it was found, Rachel gave out a treat as a prize. The Afikomen is a piece of matzo that will be your last thing to eat for the night.
Then, we all grabbed a mat, and fell asleep on the floor. It had been a long, but enjoyable day. We all slept with smiles on our faces as we were happy to be where we were with such a unique dynamic family.
It was nice also because all of us Jewish volunteers were able to share our traditions with one another. We were also able to bring it to an international level, sharing it with Di, a volunteer from Japan, and sharing the food with different Samoans. I hope everyone else appreciated the day as much as me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sleeping on the Road

Sleeping on the Road

While waiting for the bus in the early hours of the morning, I first enjoyed the nice cool crisp air, the sounds of the roosters who don’t know the difference and crow all night, pigs grunting and more. Then, during the second hour I started to resent to cool air, and learned a thin lavalava is not enough to keep me warm. So I began thinking….what would I do if I was a Samoan.
If I was a Samoan I would use my resources to keep me warm. Well, the lavalava wasn’t working, so I had to look around. I could snuggle with Lasela, but she might not appreciate it. Then the idea came to me. Do as the soles do.
A sole is considered a man in the village. Usually the term is used for those that are unemployed and just stay in the village, but sometimes, the term is used for any person.
There is a growing problem in Samoa. Soles hang out at night, lie down on the road, and get hit by cars. They lie down on the road because the asphalt retains the heat during the cool night.
I decided it was my turn to try it. Lasela told me to watch out for cars, but after an hour and a half, and no cars or busses of any sort, I was willing to try it.
The ground felt so warm and relaxing. I sprawled out in the middle of the road and was so happy to feel warmth again. I just laid there, looking at the full moon and the Milky Way, and watching for falling stars. It felt so relaxing.
By hour two, others showed up to wait for the mystery bus. I was immediately confused for a drunken sole, but soon Dana recognized the warmth of the road and joined me as well. She was now my lookout and I was free to sleep.
I was asleep for almost half an hour and was awoken by Dana shouting, “Get up, the bus is here!” I couldn’t believe it; I got up quickly to avoid being hit, and boarded the bus.
I was so happy Dana was there. She taught me a lesson. If you want to fall asleep on the road, be sure there is a trustful person to wake you up in the event of a vehicle.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oti

Oti

Oti, Death.  It seems to happen so quickly.  It feels like it happens here all the time with people who you didn’t know were even sick.  It might be because of lack of going to the doctor, or it might be just because your life is so intertwined that you seem to know everyone, and how can you know everyone’s health status.  And death is a part of life.

This past week, two people I care about have passed away here. 

One, I didn’t know.  But it was a parent of someone who works in the PC staff, who is also a relative to my family here, which made it rough for people all around.  He is from my village so many people headed to Upolu for the funeral.

The other was probably the best dancer in Samoa.  Whenever I think of him, I will remember his amazing moves on the dance floor.  It reminded me of what Samoa must have been like in the 70’s.  Think Samoan disco dancing.  (Doesn’t that bring a smile to your face?)  He was a beloved father, and an amazing cook.

During the training village, he hosted one of my best friends, and just as she became family to him, I felt like I was also family, as I spent time there daily.  Several times a week, I would have my brother walk me at night to their house to watch a movie or play a game of Uno.  (I only knew 3 families in that village who had a television, so they were quite popular.) 

Each Friday, the village hosted a dance, and he was by far the best dancer out there.  Then we would look across the dance floor, and see one of his three sons doing similar dance moves to bring such laughter and smiles across our faces. 

I had a large family I lived with in the training village, 14 people to be exact.  And coming from living on my own, it was sometimes hard to handle.  That house was always my escape route. 

Since leaving the training village, I have stayed in contact with one of his daughters, another teacher.  It has been nice to keep our connection going.  I have visited a few times, and seen some of the boys in town, but our relationship could never match what it was during training, since they were my other family.

Asa was a great man, and will be missed by all.

 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Histroy Lesson From Tifa

A History Lesson From Tifa

This morning, my sister was watching television as we were eating our morning tea before church.  On Australian TV (that is the channel that is fed through tv1), there was an old couple talking about World War II. 

My sister turned to me and asked me if knew the reason for World War I.  My dad would be upset for me to say this, but history facts sometimes slip from me.  Since she is a bright girl, always yearning to learn more and studies constantly, I figured I could trust what she was to say.  I told her I forgot. 

“It is because of Samoa,” she explained to me.  “Great Britain and Germany were fighting over who had control of Samoa and it started WWI.”  It didn’t sound right to me.  But I knew in history lessons we sometimes have a little fractured tales of what happened to benefit our country.  She continued, “Isn’t it neat that a small country like Samoa caused such a big event.  Not cool, but interesting.”  She is a very, very bright year 8 student if you couldn’t tell. 

I was puzzled as I headed over to church, and afterwards I decided to do research.  Research in Samoa is different than what I would do in America.  In America I might open up a book, or go to the coffee shop to use the internet (I never had internet at home).  Here, I turn to one of the volunteers who seems to know everything, Tifa. 

Tifa, is a volunteer in Colorado who is quite possibly one of the smartest people in the world, next to my dad.  (This is why he would be upset with these facts slipping though my head.)  Whenever I have a question about anything, I send her a quick text.  (Thank goodness for free texts!)  When there was  problems with the American government, she is the one who kept me in the news, when I had questions about happenings in Upolu, she always knew.  That’s why I knew, today’s question she would be able to help me with. 

“Great Britain and Germany did fight over Samoa, but it was the assassination of a Duke in Austria that started WWI,” she responded.  It was coming back to me.  But I was still confused on if Samoa had a role in this war. 

“New Zealand troops acting on behalf of Great Britain was able to peacefully assume control of Western Samoa as a result of declaring war on Germany.”

So Samoa wasn’t really the cause of this war, at least in our American eyes. 

I did mention this factoid I learned from my sister to one other volunteer, and she responded by saying, “Well Samoa does have some good cocoa.”

 

Passover 2011

Passover 2011

Tuesday night will be the start of Passover, and all of us Jewish people in Savai’i decided we will get together to celebrate it like last year.  Last year, I play hostess to several volunteers and university students as we had a great time with our Seder.  We baked matzo from scratch and each brought a little piece of our family Seder to the table.  It was a comforting thought to think that our families were doing the same thing as us that night. 

This year, we decided to change locations to avoid others missing school, and went to the most centrally located place, Matt’s house.  Although Matt may be one of the farthest to go to on the island, there are busses to him on both sides of the island.  Matt is a volunteer that is a volunteer that is so integrated into his village, that he never sees the need to leave his village.  So, all of us are looking forward to going up there to celebrate the holiday with him. 

Since none of us will be missing school, we are making it a potluck Seder.  All of us are bringing something, some are bringing things for the Seder plate, others for the main meal.  Since the bus will come to me right after school, I am going to have to wake up early to make matzo and my other dish. 

The guest list includes all of us Jewish people on the island (all four of us) and a few others that are excited to learn about our traditions.  It should be a really good time.  I am really looking forward to it. 

 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Samoa Victim Support

Victim Support

Most of us Peace Corps Volunteers are working in the schools in rural villages throughout the two main islands of Samoa.  There are 3 volunteers that have extended than are doing other jobs as well.  I would like to share with you about one of them and their job.

One volunteer is working for Samoa Victim Support, an organization I knew little about before he started working there.  When he shared with me all that they do, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Samoa Victim Support is an organization that reaches out to so many people.  They reach out to those effected by domestic violence, and best of all they touch the lives of neglected children.  Children of abusive families are taken away by them, to be put in a more neutering environment.   Since education is compulsory at the primary level, when a child is caught selling things in town instead of going to school, they are brought in to Samoa Victim Support.

Recently, with so many children living with this organization, they started a school.  They are not an official school funded by the Ministry of Education, and do not have the funds to support the salary of a teacher for this multilevel class. School still goes on, with the workers there assisting as teaching, as well as other volunteers from the community.  Miss Samoa often comes to teach, along with local business owners, and several other volunteers in the community. 

They do so much for these children, that it is hard to put into words.  (Especially since I am not the expert.)

The most amazing thing about them, is that they do it because they care about others.  That’s it.  They are not funded by the government, and their only source of funding is through donations and fundraising.  There are only two people on staff who are paid, the rest just volunteer for the love of the children.  Many of them are evening working full time as volunteers, an impressive feat, when you live in an expensive city like Apia.

Samoan Victims Support does so much for the community, and each time I hear this volunteer talk about his work with passion, I feel privileged to just know him, since I know he truly is making a big difference in the lives of many. 

If you would like to learn more about them,

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Samoa-Victim-Support-Group-SVSG/363269208292




 

 

Corina

Corina

There are many talented people in Peace Corps, but I am privileged to be in the same group as a celebrity.  Corina was not always a celebrity, and I pretty sure  she has a normal life in America.  But when she arrived in Samoa, she brought with her one of the most beautiful voices around which made many people flock to her.

At many of our Peace Corps functions we are privileged enough to hear her sing, and that alone is amazing.  However, not only is Corina a fantastic singer, but she is an amazing traditional dancer.  When you observe her, you can see how she has really taken time to understand the culture of Samoa.

The reason why I say Corina is a celebrity is because of her YouTube videos.  Just like Justin Beiber got famous off of YouTube, Corina is doing the same.  I would like to think she would be bigger than Justin, but when you record traditional Samoan songs, your audience is much smaller than mainstream pop music.  Especially since she is performing in such a beautiful language. 

Several times now, I have been asked by people if I knew who she was.  They were people visiting from overseas who are big fans of hers.  They wanted to know all about her, and I felt as though I was the one privileged to know such a super star. 

I honestly think that if I were to go to town more often, I would be asked by more people about my celebrity friend, because as of right now, I rarely see anyone who is not from my neighboring villages. 

Not only does Corina have such an amazing voice, but she is honestly one of the nicest and funniest people around.  Everyone loves to be in her presence. 

I don’t know if Corina’s fame in Samoa will continue when she goes to America, but just like those people I met that found her on YouTube, she found me as a fan for life.  I know I will see her perform in America, I would love to see it at Madison Square Garden, but if for some reason, she can’t get there, I’ll find a way to see her, even if it is singing Karaoke. 

If you would like to see what all of the hype is about, you can find her videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmROzzL1KHA

 

A Growing Country

Changing Ways

As I am here in Samoa and continue to grow, I notice how much Samoa is growing and changing as well.  It is amazing to see the differences when comparing Samoa to when I arrived a year and a half ago.  It is getting busier, more roads are being built, landmarks are changing and much more.

In the rural village we don’t see as many changes.  Sure, there are a few more cars, but it is so few that it won’t stop us from walking in the middle of the road to get where we are going.   They are trying to make improvements, in which we see much construction equipment lately, such as new water pipes being put in, roads being improved, and ditches for runoff of the water to make sure the unpaved roads stay in better condition. 

Our bustling city of Salelologa is going through small improvement changes.  New bigger stores are being built on the way to the marketplace.  A few months ago, a second nightclub was built, making the bar count on the island up to two.  Even though there are small changes, it is still the same slow city I have come to love.  There is still only one store to buy our groceries outside of the marketplace.  The traffic light (the only traffic light on our island) has been out for several months, and has not caused any problems. 

I notice the changes when I come to Upolu.  Every time I am there it seems to be busier than the last.  There are more and more cars that actually create traffic jams.  After sometimes going for weeks without going in a moving vehicle, I go crazy seeing all the traffic.  I sometimes get startled when crossing the street.  And the bus ride to town from the wharf seems to take forever now.  (I guess it doesn’t help that I travel at the time that would be considered rush hour in other countries.)

In the past year, buildings have been torn down on Beach Road (the main road through town) creating sometimes new infrastructures, or just empty space.  Actual buildings have been built to house the different ministries that look completely modern. 

The biggest shock came to me when I was in town last.  One of the Samoan landmarks was in the process of being torn down.  This landmark is so well known, as it is on postcards, and even featured on the money.  It is the Catholic Church.

 The Catholic Church in Apia was the first church I attended in Samoa.  Our first Sunday in country, we all dressed in our best white clothes to go to church for White Sunday.  Many of us attended the Catholic Church.  It was such a beautiful building, and when I look back and think about it, I think of all those smiling children that I saw singing and dancing that day.  Whenever I walked around Apia, I would look in to see what was going on that day.  Sometimes I was able to witness weddings, other times school celebrations, and just other events.  It was always full of such beautiful music, that the memories I have of it will live on. 

While I was walking, I noticed a big fence, and could not see to the other side to what was happening.  It took me awhile to walk past some of the restaurants, such as Italianos, to see what was actually happening.  The bell tower looked as if a wrecking ball had hit it.  My next time passing, I looked through the cracks and noticed different sized bells just sitting on the ground.

There are more changes, that some think are for the better, while others think it is for the worst. 

I know many of you that are reading this have connections to Samoa, and if I am able to notice these changes from a different island, I am sure it will look completely different for you when you return. 

 

Postcard Project Update

Postcard Project Update

A few days ago I rode my bike to pick up my mail at another volunteers house, since she had gone to the city, and was amazed at how many post cards were delivered.  (I was also amazed at the stamps, especially the dates and countries…for example, a postcard from America sometimes goes through Tonga?)  I got 7 in one day!!!

My students are up to 15 post cards and loving each one more and more.  We are up to 3 countries, America, New Zealand and Ireland.  In America-4 states and the capital have been represented.  All of the information on them has been exquisite!  They are learning new vocabulary, as they learn about the different cities and countries.  We had just been learning how to write compare and contrast essays, so it was good to see them compare this week someone’s life in Madison, to their lives in Savai’i.  There were a lot of similarities, such as fishing, boating, and swimming which made them excited. 

The students have been pouring over the chance to use the atlas, and argue over who can look in the table of contents to find the place we are learning about.  They then love searching for the given country. 

We have also been doing math with the postcards to see how long it takes for mail to come to us.  From Virginia, we learned it took one post card 1 month and 2 days to come.  Not too bad, when you think about it travelling halfway around the world. 

A few of them asked if they could write back to you.  The students were studying the postcards, looking at the pictures and planning how to decorate a postcard if given the chance.   If you would like them to write back, you can e-mail me your address, or place it on the postcard.  My email is lili.ann.watson@gmail.com 

If you are need the address it is:

Lillian Watson, PCV

Gaga’emalae P.S

Salialua Post Office

Savai’i, Western Samoa

 

Thank you again for your continued support, especially from those people who are writing multiple post cards.  My students feel like they really know who you are, and are excited to see what you have to say next. 

Fa’afetai lava mo le mea uma!

 

 

 

My Faletua

My Faletua

All of us volunteers here, look at the life of a pastor and the pastor’s wife as living in luxury.  They always seem to have much money and great food.  I think of them as  the only people who usually have a kitchen with food without having to go to the store daily.  They also have a refrigerator with things inside, usually more than water.  They are some of the few privileged people in the village who sometimes own cars, washing machines or computers.   I think of life there being plush living.

Of course that job comes with responsibilities.  They are always having to entertain, hold classes and do many other obligations in the village.  They have an extremely busy life.   Just like me, they have to be on their best behavior at all times as they are constantly being judged. 

I know there is a different standard of living from those pastors that are from bigger congregations, than from those that are in smaller ones.

But I was a little surprised when I talked to my faletua (pastor’s wife) at one of the smaller churches in my village.  We were talking about many things, and household appliances came up.  She mentioned how they just got a television, and were shocked at how much the electricity bill had gone up because of it.  It was almost too much.  Her husband mentioned to her about the possibility of getting a refrigerator as well, and she flat out told him no.  She told him the electric bills would be too high, and she was worried that it would force them to take out loans to pay for the bills. I was shocked to hear all of this, because as a faletua, I expected them to also have plush living.  I was wrong.

Just like how Samoans judge me when they see me, and sometimes only see a dollar sign, I was wrong in seeing them and thinking the same thing. 

I have a growing respect for all of my different pastors and their wives.  Their lives are a lot harder than I thought. 

 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

School Grant Update

School Grant Update

Well, over a year after writing the grant proposal, rewriting things, going to Apia to talk to people I found out some good news.  My grant for the new school building was approved, for next year.

 We went through Japan to get the new school building, about because of all of the devastation they have put off the grant money.  Which is good, because of what I have seen on the news they need to focus on rebuilding inside their country before helping their Pacific neighbors. 

 

How many cars are in NY?

How Many Cars are in NY?

I was invited to play volleyball in my neighboring village, so I decided it might be fun.  I really don’t care for the games in my village as the boys sometimes play too rough, and I like my face the way it is.  In the next village, the women take over the field and play together for hours.  I was more than interested in joining. 

After playing and spending some good quality time with the ladies, I left early to go for my run.  This week has been a great week for exercise as most of the kids have been in Sunday school each afternoon, making me hear the question, “Where are you going?” a more manageable amount of times.

Because of that, I was started when I heard someone coming up from behind.  One of my year 3 students was catching up to me with his rugby ball.  He ran with me for awhile, then disappeared.  I figured that was my cue to keep going….then he came back without the ball.  And he was fast!  I struggled keeping up with him.  We ran a shorter distance to the next village and walked back.
The walk we had was probably one of the most amazing times I have had here.  We talked about his village, and the people in it.  He told me which people were good and which were bad.  We talked about how fast it takes someone to climb to the top of the coconut tree. (Less than two minutes.) And we practiced English and Samoan.

At the end of the village, there was a machine digging a trench for a new water pipe.  We watched the machine at work for about twenty minutes.  I never realized how interesting construction equipment could be to watch until coming here.  But I find myself always interested in how the machines work, what they are doing, and trying to decide if it really is for the best of the village.  No wonder in Samoa they draw such a crowd. 

On the walk back, we were stopped by several people asking what we had been talking about.  When I mentioned who was good and who was bad, we got mixed responses.  I think my favorite was from a man about the same age as me.  He handed over a Chinese cookie to the boy.  (I was told the man was good.) 

Then I was asked a question that stumped me.   He asked what village I was from.  This question didn’t stump me, even though I give mixed answers all the time.  I told him New York, since he knew my parents were from there.  Then, “How many cars are in your village?”

“New York?” I asked him. 

“Yes,” he responded. 

I guess this is a valid question because in all of the villages that he knows you can always count the number of cars there.  (In mine there are 7 cars, 2 busses and 1 school bus.  3 pastors have cars, the mayor has a car, my family, and three other families.  One pastor drives the school bus, and there are 2 district busses operating from my village.  We have a lot more vehicles than his village has.)  He wanted to know a real question.  I didn’t know how to answer.  Thousands?  Millions?   In New York, there are several families that own several cars, something that is even more unheard of here as owning a car.

I told him 1 or 2 thousand.  And got the answer I expected, “Oka!”  Wow!  I think he then went into a private daydream.  I can’t imagine what would have gone through his head if I told him an answer I really thought. 

Finally, the sun was about to set, so I had to say goodbye to my little friend and I walked home with some other people.  The men who govern over curfew/prayer time were setting up on the field.  They offered to let me be a policeman with them.  I gave a chuckle as I told them I didn’t have a white shirt with me. 

Even though I spent the entire day outside of my village, I felt just as at home as if I was there. 

Seki’a Savai’i

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

End of the World

End of the World

You have to give the Samoan Observer credit….they know how to sell a newspaper.  A few of us went out to breakfast, and I looked over at another person’s table and there was the paper sitting there.  The headline read, “How world will end?” 

I immediately stopped talking to my friend and asked the people sitting there about the article.  During our brief talk I did not have time to read the entire article, so I, like many others went on a search to find the newspaper. 

The previous day I also bought the paper, and it is a rare occurrence for me to buy it twice in a weekend, particularly because I am usually not in an area that sells the newspaper.  In the editorial section there was a cartoon of church.  A man is saying to a boy, “Sole, is the world really coming to an end?” The boy responds, “I don’t know, Papa.  But I hope so if that’s what it takes for you to come to church.”

With a cartoon like that, leading to a headline the next day, I was wondering what the newspaper is trying to tell Samoans.   Were they trying to provoke fear into all of the citizens here?

The article was about the billboards that were put up here, along with other countries, about the end of the world coming this year.  I was surprised to see that the man who has started the end of the world movement was from a state I called home not too long ago, Colorado.  The article talks about the end of the world probably not happening right away, telling us to not be afraid to live our lives.  It went on to describe the countless people who have predicted the end of the world in the past, and how they were still wrong.  It had a lot of interesting information in it.

But still….did they have to title it, “How world will end?”  I can see countless Samoans who are only so so with their reading ability in English seeing that title and getting extremely nervous.  Thankfully, no hysteria has happened as a result.  However, “Judgment Day” is less than a week away….I really hope no panic begin. 

 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Fun

Weekend Fun

I love the weekends so much, for reasons I would not like weekends in America.  My life is completely different here that when living in Colorado, Wyoming, or even New York.  I do things that I normally wouldn’t, which makes life more enjoyable because it is so fresh. 

Saturdays and Sundays are full of church.  I wake up each day for morning tea, head to church and then have an amazing to’ogani with a family.  On Saturdays many times our whole church gets together to eat which makes it quite enjoyable and feel like such a great family.  Sundays, just as I alternate churches, I alternate families to eat with.  After eating such a magnificent meal the afternoon is spent relaxing.  On Saturdays it is just around the house, and Sundays it is in whoever’s house I eat at, with sometimes a break to go to the pool to cool off.  In the evenings I sometimes join my family on a drive on the main road. 

This weekend made me smile as it showed why I love Samoa so much.  I love spending time with the people in my village as I feel like I connect with them so much more from the time we spend together.  Today, I ate my afternoon feast with a teacher from my school.  She lives with a small family, so it was a totally different experience than normal.  There were only 4 of them, so 5 including me.  So for one of the first times in Samoa, I was able to have a family meal, where everyone eats at the same time.  It was so nice to eat with everyone and made me think of my family and the family meals we normally have. 

After our meal, I helped with homework, lounged about, then hung out watching rugby on television.  During the hot afternoon we  walked down to the pool to cool off. 

Samoan pools are completely different than the pools we are used to in other countries.  Next to the ocean, a cement/rock wall is built to make a circular pool where fresh water collects.  During low tide it can be pretty shallow, and high tide it is very nice.  These fresh water pools are SOOOOO cold!  It can be rough at first, but is very enjoyable with how hot of a day it normally is. 

On Sundays it is against village rules to swim in the ocean, but it is allowed to wade in the pool.  During the hot afternoons many people in the village congregate to the pools to cool down.  Men and women take turns so they do not bathe at the same time. 

We spent such a long time there and had a great time, but I had to get home to get ready for school the next day.

The day was so relaxing.  I left for church at 8:30 in the morning, but returned home well after 5.  Spending time with such an enjoyable family the time seems to always fly by. 

Weekends are something I always look forward to. 

 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The hospital

The hospital

If you want to run into someone from your district, the hospital is the place to go on a Thursday afternoon.  Once a few, for a few hours we have a doctor visit our hospital, so many people come on this day.  There is only one hospital on Savaii with doctors there at all hours, and that is in Tuasivi, a 2 bus commute.  Most people can’t afford to travel all that was to see a doctor, so sicknesses can wait.  Me, I don’t want to be on a bus all day when I feel ill, so I also try to put off any sickness I have until Thursday afternoons.

On a Thursday afternoon, there usually is more than 50 people waiting to see the visiting doctor making visits extremely short.  Most of your time is spent in the outside hallway with all of your neighbors.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I see some of my students, neighbors, teachers from other schools, and many others you meet from simply travelling on the same busses.  I would never have thought of a hospital being such a social place. 

While I went for my last visit to see the doctor, during my 3 hour wait, I saw 3 teachers from my school, my School Review Officer, and countless other people.  Everyone chats to find out what is wrong with each other.  My brain gets tired from talking so much Samoan, so I always bring a book to have an excuse to not talk for too long. 

Even though there is only a doctor once a week, there are nurses on staff 24 hours. So it is the place to go to for medical treatment that is not from a traditional healer. 

If someone is sick, and needs to stay at the hospital, there is a place for that.  One of my neighbors was in there for several days, and when I walked his family members home one day I learned about having someone stay in the hospital. 

For someone to spend the night in our district hospital it is extremely cheap.  I don’t remember how much, but she told me it was between $10 and $20 tala a night. The expense comes in when you observe the Samoan culture of giving.  Every day, family members need to bring food and tea to feed all of the nurses and staff to thank them for the treatment.  Buying food to prepare adds up each day to make it quite expensive, especially to people who do not have much money to begin with. 

The one great thing about being a patient there is the treatment.  You can be sure that you will get a lot of individual treatment from the nurses, and they will know all of your medical history and are quick to help out.  Whenever I see a nurse anywhere, they always seem to know so much about my history, even beyond medical.  I feel like they really take the time to connect with everyone.  They still ask weekly how my mom is doing from her time in the hospital after falling in my village in September.  They really care.

Doctors and nurses can’t use lack of transportation as an excuse to not come to work.  The hospital has a driver to pick up and drop off all of the doctors and nurses that come to work. 

Although medical treatment can be limited in our little hospital, it is good to know that such a friendly place is there.

Daylight Savings

Day light savings

In September Samoa introduced Daylight Savings Time.  Most of the country was against it as the sun began rising so late, and set late at night.  People were getting sick because of their time schedule.  They were waking up too early, and going to bed too late.  It took me a month to get used to it where I felt as if I was a walking zombie with a constant cold, like most others in the country.  The worst part of it was we switched from having dinners at 7, to close to 9.  I never felt like I was getting enough sleep.  When school started I spent my morning watching outside my window for the sun to rise, so I did not have to walk to school in the dark. 

A few weeks ago we had our time change.  We fell back to the regular time.  It was nice to be back to a normal life again, however, I had gotten so used to the weird schedule of life I was leading.  It was hard to get back to “normal”.  To make it harder to get back to normal, they changed the school schedule.  Instead of assembly starting at 7:45, it was now starting at 7:15.  I was so bummed to hear my alarm charm at the earlier hour. 

Most people in Samoa that I talk with are not fans of Daylight Savings.  They don’t see the need for it.  In a society where everything revolves around the daylight hours, you get used to that being your clock.  This means on a normal day, when the sun rises at 6ish, people start heading to the plantation and women start their weaving.  They work throughout the morning, and head home for the hottest part of the day.  People usually take naps during the hottest part of the day.  Then in the afternoon women begin weaving again, and some people head to church.  In the evenings, around 5, everyone gathers around the malae to play volleyball and rugby.  Then the church bells ring for evening prayer/curfew and everyone heads home for dinner.  It is a nice schedule that everyone gets used to. 

With daylight savings, those who work jobs outside the house have to deal with the confusion.  This means waiting for the bus in the dark, and go to church at different hours.  When you go through your life by a clock, it makes little things confusing when you are used to such a strict routine. 

They said Daylight Savings was started to save money on electricity by having more hours of electricity...however I never understood this.  Samoans do their life by the sun.  When the time of the sun setting changes, all of the activities around it change as well.  Instead of curfew being at 6:30, it was at 7:30.  I think more people that worked were using more electricity as they had to turn lights on in the morning to get ready for work, instead of needing electricity in the evening. 

I just don’t understand the need for it. 

Daylight Savings, I am not a fan of you.

 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Road

The Road

The Main Road in Savai’i is the best place to spend time.  When you are there you can hang out in the middle of the road for a long time without a passing car to move you.  The Main Road is where you can run into everybody, and meet everyone new who is visiting.  There you can listen to hear who has broken the village rules and their fines as the man shouts them to the village.  You can hear them beating the canoe to call everyone to the church hall.  On the malae you can see everyone gathering around to play volleyball and rugby each evening.  Chickens are sometimes chased by dogs, dogs sometimes chase the pigs as they all scamper across the road.  Sometimes horses break free from their rope and play chicken with the traffic to test their luck.  And sometimes, you get the honor of seeing something unique.

Twice last month on my way home from school I saw young men returning home with pieces of a cow (is it called beef then?).  A few people had legs complete with the hooves on then, someone else with a part of the torso, and someone else with the head.  When you see a cow cut apart like this, a few things could have happened. 
A. Someone died
B. Someone got married
or the usual answer
C. Someone broke a major village rule.

Sometimes cows, pigs, and even horses are used to pay village fines.  These are from when you commit a big offense, the major ones being adultery or theft.

When this happen the matais (village chiefs) meet in their meeting house (which is right over the fence from my window).  The untitled men sit outside.  I never know what happens, even through my year of spying on them.  But at the end, the tins of food, slaughtered animals and money are divided upon the chiefs. 

As you can see our Main Road is never dull.

Pictures are of:
Some of us spending time by the cricket field next to the main road, 2 of my neighbors in a tree by the main road, and some of my year 6 students.

 

I Broke the Rules

Breaking the Rules

Lately I have been getting in trouble.  My neighbor has been yelling at me each day on my bike.  I didn’t understand it because it has just started recently.  I don’t always hear all of the words because it is muffled through the lack of teeth, but I head one.  Tulafono.  Rules. 

My neighbor was complaining about me riding my bike on the plantation road that runs right outside out house.  I was under the impression that you can ride your bike where you need to, as long as it is not interfering with anyone’s grassy area and it is on a road, not a path.  So when I ride my bike to school, I get off and walk it before I reach the gate. 

I never thought there was a problem with riding to my house, since a car can drive there, most people would assume a bicycle can go there as well.  And if you talk to some people, that is the rule.  If a car can go down the road, then a bike can. 

However, there is a village rule that people do not obey that in my village.  You CAN NOT ride your bike on the plantation road.  This would limit your bike riding experience to about one minute (if you are going on the downhill part of the road only) through my village.  I have not heard of this rule because I have seen others ride their bikes on the road in front of my house. 

I am not sure of the specifications of this rule, because some people have told me the rule is different when I have been inquiring around the village.  I have been told that I am able to ride my bike as far as the churches on the plantation road, past that, to the plantations in forbidden. 

I have tried getting off my bike early, and not riding on the grass to my house, but I still get yelled at by my neighbor. 

I don’t know if I should let it bother me, and continue to do as I want with my bike; as it does not bother anyone else, and he only started caring when the new road was put up (and has been being built for the past 3 months).  Or I should take the extra time and just walk my bike in the heat. 

When talking to one of my brothers here, he told me to not let it bother me since I won’t get fined since others ride it down the road. 

To ride or not to ride, that is the question.

 

Postcard Project Updateand Change of Address

Postcard Project Update

I am up to 9 Postcards from 3 different countries, thanks to from Ireland.  The students have been really enjoying them and have been learning how to read maps and use an atlas.  They postcards are displayed in a book that the students are constantly checking out to read and have been learning a lot about the other countries because of you!

Thank you for your support during this project.

My address will be changing, as I will have less access to Mail in Salelologa.  It will be:

Lillian Watson, PCV
Gaga’emalae P.S
Salailua Post Office
Savaii
Western Samoa

 

 

Updates

Updates

Sorry I have been so bad about updating this lately.  It seems like life has taken over without much free time to sit down and reflect on. 

Samoa has two islands, Upolu the main island, and Savaii, in my opinion the better island.  The main Peace Corps office is in the capital of Apia, which is on Upolu; however, we had a small office we called our home in Savaii.  It was small, but had its own charm.  The ceiling leaked, or over a year and a half there was no light in the bathroom, and often the lock got stuck and locked us out.  We loved it though, it was a place for us to exchange resources, have a lending library and pick up mail.  The office is being forced to close, and us volunteers have been trying to figure out the status, and what to do with our books.  The final week has arrived, and I think we have it all settled.  Some volunteers are upset, but they will learn to live, as it is we are losing a place that was often our sanity.  When we have frustrations with our lives, whether it is from work, or our living situation, our tiny office was our place to meet and regroup so we could head back to our village more composed. 

As to myself, I still have  an infected toe.  Then one of my tonsils grew something that looked like a pimple, and then turned green.  I felt like I was turning into an alien with green body parts.  But thankfully, some of the infection has left, and I am doing better.

I hope everything is great with you.  Hopefully the weekend will be full of downtime.

 

 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Things Living in my Room

Things living in my room

I have found a new creature in my room…Here is a list of all of the things I have found living in my room:

·         Cockroaches

·         Rats

·         Crabs

·         Ants

·         Termites

·         Mosquitoes

·         Flies

The cockroaches are always hiding in the deepest places.  I opened up my suitcase for the first time today, and a large family crawled out.  I don’t know what they were doing there...Is there a way to get rid of them without that horribly toxic bug spray.

The rat is my on again off again roommate.  Currently he is taking a break from living with me, which is nice.

The crab is the new creature.  I really wanted to cook it and eat it.

Ants are everywhere; there is no getting rid of them!

Termites leave piles on the floor from the ceiling.

Mosquitoes and flies came inside my room when there was a hole in my screen wiring.  My window has been kept closed.  As soon as I find a staple gun I can put up my new wiring and have more fresh air.

I’ll update if more creatures appear.

Feet

Feet

I learned from the movie Forest Gump that your feet are the thing you should take the most care of.  I don’t know if it is just me, or if it is most people in Samoa, but your feet suffer the most problems over here. 

Infections come all the time from our cuts.  I’ve noticed that most of the ones that turn into infections are on my toes.  I have had one each month recently. 

Aside from a limp sometimes, infected toes aren’t too bad while you are trying to fix them.  The worst came when I was at church yesterday.

To show that we are humble, we washed each other’s feet.  The scrubbing was so painful on my greenish yellow toe. 

My toe is getting better, and I don’t have any more cuts on my feet to get infected, yet.  Hopefully, I won’t have too many more and will take better care of my feet so I can have less multicolored toes. 

 

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Busy Life

My busy life

Wow, life has been busy.  I feel like I haven’t had any time to catch up and take a breath.  (Notice with the lack of blogs…)  Here is a sample day for me lately:

6:00-wake up and get ready for school, get last minute teaching materials made
7:00-walk to school where I teach about 6-8 classes a day
2:30-walk home, quickly change clothes, fill up my water bottle and head out the door on my 18 speed bike
3:00-ride my bike to a student’s house for tutoring/homework help
5:00-ride my bike to another student’s house for tutoring.
7:00-go to another person’s house for computer tutoring
8:00- finally get home in time for dinner.  Shower, read, and go to sleep to get ready for another long day the next day.

They always say a busy volunteer is a happy volunteer, and if this is true, I feel as though I must be the happiest volunteer in the world!  Some days I wish I had more free time to myself, but when I see the relationship growing with the people in my village, and the villages surrounding me, it makes me smile.

It feels like the more integrated you are into your village; the more willing people are to ask you for help all the time.  I honestly have begun to love them all so much, that I really want to accommodate them.  In return, I have had amazing snacks while tutoring, nice meals outside of my house, and people left and right inviting me to come over.  I don’t think it is possible to feel more at home than I do right now. 

I did decide I can’t keep going on like this since I am running myself thin, and I need to take control of my health.  So I have finally talked to the principal at the college and will start tutoring there three times a week, to avoid travelling between several villages in a day to help the students. 

Last year I only tutored in the computer lab there, and I think it prevented some students from coming to me to ask for help.  This year the principal and I decided to make a change.  I will get a classroom to tutor in (unless the year 13’s need help with their computer assignments) to make myself more available to all students.

So far my tutoring has been in many subjects ranging from English, to geography to science and even food and textiles.  As many of you know, these subjects are not always my expertise, so it has been good to work out solutions with the students.  Since they learn more by explaining to me what they already know.   

Hopefully next week, I will be back to my normal self again because of this.