Friday, September 30, 2011


Pineapple Challenge

I was biking home, when I saw it.  It was so big and beautiful.  I had to have it. 

There are so many eating contests out there, why is there never a fruit eating contest? 

I bought the pineapple, and decided I would challenge myself to eat the entire thing in one sitting.  It would be my own personal eating contest. 

I cut it up and immediately started to devour it. 

Halfway in I was full, I was receiving encouraging text messages from my friends whom I had told about the challenge.  “You are living the dream,” one said, which made me laugh and continue. 

I kept on eating when my family until my family came home, and then began to feel guilty that I was not sharing.  I shared the last little 7 quarter pieces of my pineapple. 

I had gotten so close, and failed.  I am going to have this challenge again with myself-and maybe bring others into as well…


Thursday, September 29, 2011



We sat there doing our small group discussion.  There was an amazing view of the ocean where we were, two small islands in site, and yet the past right next to us.  There were graves for six children who passed away on that horrible day two years ago. 

I know we were not there the day of the tsunami, but arriving in Samoa one week and a day later; we have had to deal with the effects of what happened for the past two years. 

I remember driving through this area after we first arrived; it reminded me of a horrible war zone, which is odd in such a peaceful country.  Houses were half missing, tents for temporary shelter were set up, cars and boats were overturned, people’s possessions were scattered about.  For months on the news we heard about all the people struggling for food and water, it felt like the tragedy would never end.

Now, to the outside eye, it is difficult to see the extent of that day.  They have done an amazing job cleaning up.  There are still little artifacts to remind you, mainly the house foundations that are left, some with still a few columns, but most people have done a great job trying to move on and not live in the past.

I did not go, but I am told you can really relive the 29th of September 2009, if you go in the water there.  With a snorkel, instead of seeing the amazing coral around Samoa, you will see the remnants of that day.  Doors, silverware, tires, basically anything that was washed to sea, is still there.

From what I am told, the beach resorts in this area are back to where they were.  Villages have mainly moved inland (a common theme after any disaster), which means people have a longer walk to catch their food, or catch a bus.

Lalomanu was a place that first brought me to tears, and finally it brought me fond memories of my group for the few days we stayed there.   



Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Best Day

The Best Day

Today was an exciting day for me….for the first time in almost four months I was able to treat myself to a hot shower.  I had forgotten how amazing hot water is; it just makes you feel so much cleaner.  It makes me happy that I have been ka’a from the village because I got warm water out of it!


Close of Service


We stood on the porch watching the whales breach and jump in the distance.  It was amazing that from so far away we were able to see so much activity from them. 

Down the hill from us was one of the destruction sites from the tsunami, an event that played a big role in the start of our time in Samoa as we were unsure for the longest time if we would even come to Samoa.

Were we on holiday?  Nope, we were enjoying the down time of our COS conference.

Close of Service….the end of two amazing years….and as I heard from a few of my group members over and over again, “It’s the beginning of the end.” 

While others said, “It’s the end of the beginning.”

Both statements are true.  It is the beginning of the end.  For two years I have had 12 sisters and 2 brothers that have been the best family I could have unexpectedly asked for.  We started out as strangers, and now have grown to love one another.  We often get on each others’ nerves like siblings do, but it only brings us closer.  I remember being intimidated by some of my group members, I mean it felt as if Peace Corps had picked the best of the best….and I was confused at how I fit in there…

The end of the beginning is true as well as since it feels like our life has now restart.  We are going to be coming back to America with a new sense of who we are.

 Sessions were filled with helping us map out for the future, think of the past two years and remembering to enjoy the present.  We learned a lot, and ate a lot. 

I really mean we ate a lot!  We must have looked like savages as we neglected to use silverware, since we were not used to having more than a spoon.  There was also so much palagi food that reminded us of home that we felt the need to shovel it into our mouths quickly because we wanted to make sure we all got to eat as much as possible. 

During our downtime, besides eating and watching whales, it was nice to see the individuality that is brought to Samoa Group 82.  We are a group with a billion different interests and we show that each time we are together.  While some people snorkeled and swam in the ocean, others ran, while some sat on porches and read.  There were some on the grass doing yoga, while you could hear the guitar strumming as some members were singing.    

We did have some group time together, where we had a dance party, which in the spirit of Samoa looked similar to a Bar Mitzvah party was we danced to only pop music and even limbo-ed on the dance floor.

By the end of our time together we sat around a circle and one by one we told stories about each other and it was the most beautiful experience.  I had Kyle.  Kyle I feel like I did not get to know as well as I wanted to because of geography, but I still loved to spend time with him since he is my brother. He takes care of us all, and is always there with a smile (and an ice cream).  Now, from what I learned from him during Close of Service, he is quite the comedian.  Kyle will do amazing things in his life, you can just see it in him.

Emilie had me, and she brought me to tears as she talked about me.  Even though Emi and I were on the same island, we only saw each other less than once a month.  But it was nice to know she was always there with a smile or an inspirational text message. 

It was sad to see our conference come to an end, because in less than two short months our group will begin dispersing as we go on with our lives. 

We will forever be 82.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Unofficial Holiday


Was it a holiday?  A Sunday where more people were at church than normal?  If you were to look at Apia, it appeared to be a ghost town.  No busses were running, no taxis were on the road, for that matter no cars were on the road.  You could zig zag up and down the middle of the road without any problem because there were literally no cars.  Businesses were all closed, and if they couldn’t close for some reason, everyone either was in the back watching tv or listening to the radio. 

Where was the country?

Tuned in to the television of course!

Go Manu! 

Who knew rugby would play such a big part of my Peace Corps experience?

Watching Samoa’s opening match against Namibia, I don’t think you can help being impressed by the athleticism Manu put forth.  Within one minute of the game starting the whole establishment where I was cheering because Samoa had scored their first try.  No one stopped screaming until the end. 

Sixty minutes into the game, I jinxed the team, thinking it was going to be a shutout, and said out loud how amazing it would be to see a shutout in the World Cup….and then Namibia scored. You could tell Manu was tired by the end of the match, but they still finished strong.  The final score was 49-12.

As soon as the final points were up, I ran to do an errand, it was amazing to see the ghost town of Apia come to life.  It was so quiet when I left with not a single car on the road.  Then all of a sudden there were so many cars honking and waving Samoan flags.  It was simply incredible.  The noise did not stop for hours!

Saturday Samoa plays their next match, and I have a bit of a conflict with this….The race ends at the same time as the start of the rugby game.  We all need to make sure we run extremely fast to not miss a second of it!


Manunu, My Home


23 months ago we were in training in this small mountain village of Manunu.  The village was wonderful in so many ways as it forced you to be in tuned with the Samoan culture.  We lived in a fish bowl, as most of the houses were in a circle around the malae allowing you to see what everyone is doing at all times. 

There were some ups, and there were many downs during that period.  We were in such a state of adjustment that it was difficult to see the many positive aspects of living where we were at the time.

I remember sneaking over to the ruins of a house, or the “main” road to call my sister and secretly cry to her about what I was going through.  Reminding her not to tell my parents because I wanted to seem strong, I did not want them to have any reason to doubt me or the decision I made and tell me to come home. 

Living with so many people (Was it 13 or 14?) and sharing a room for sleep with so many young babies and toddlers seemed so impossible after living on my own for so long.  Feeling malnourished as I was not getting the food that I felt was healthy, or even liked.  (I remember my family trying to constantly splurge on their finances and give me a bowl of noodles for a meal.  They were so confused at why I did not like this treat as much as they did.)  Never having a place to change your clothes without everyone watching, seemed like the most difficult thing.  Always wondering if there would be toilet paper or old school notes in the bathroom to wipe yourself seemed to cause some stress as well.   The constant noise made sleep darn near impossible to get and I remember just spending days crying because I was so tired and knew I had to have classes from 8-5, and sometimes later anyway.   Four or five hours on a Sunday dedicated to church seemed impossible, and I remember once or twice hiding in bed pretending to be sick as the thought of doing the half hour walk to church in the sun seemed like walking the plank on a pirate ship.  And it was the place where cold water showering was introduced to us.  And believe me, those showers were extremely cold!  I had a family there that truly cared about me, and showed it in such an extreme that I was not used to.  I was not used to a curfew in which I should be home well before dark, and warned about rapists and ghosts in the village if I went anywhere when it was not daylight.

Though there was plenty of craziness in my eyes, I really did enjoy my family, and was only really able to focus on how much I loved them until I was removed from the area and was able to think about the good times without all of those other distractions. All of these fond memories have made me able to keep coming back for more and more visits. 

On my last visit last weekend, I realized how much I have grown as a person, and how Samoanized I have become in the two years.  The family has changed as people have moved away, others have gotten married and some have had children.  In my last visit, the faleo’o where the boys would sleep had been torn down because of it being old and weathered, but other than that the family is the same loving people I have always remembered. 

When visiting a family, the nice appropriate thing to do is bring food. I have learned how important this is when you visit some families than some others.  In many families there is no one working to support the family, or possibly only one person making the minimum wages of 2 tala per hour.  The family you visit want to make only the best food for you, but sometimes it is impossible for them as all they can afford is the sugar for the cocoa, as the rest of their food comes from the land.  I usually try to bring several bags of groceries for this reason, as I do not want to spend several days only eating boiled bananas. 

But as I was saying, I have realized how much I have grown on this last visit.  The water pipes were not working at my family’s house, so I joined my sister as we walked across the road to a neighbor’s house and showered outside there.  There are many parts of this experience that I would have feared two years go.  First of all, showering outside where everyone can see you I used to think was strange, I mean what happens if your lavalava falls down?  Also, having someone there with you showing can seem strange. But it felt completely natural.  My sister made sure I scrubbed my shoes for church to make sure they were as clean as possible. 

For sleep arrangements, I remember during training how much I complained and lost sleep over sharing a room with 4 people including a 1 year old, 2 year old, three year old and a 25 year old.  It drove me insane.  However, on this visit I was perfectly comfortable sharing me bed with my sister and having 9 of us in the room.  

I walked in different people’s houses in the back door and hung out with families for hours, just to talk and let them know how their Peace Corps is doing.  I went on countless walks with my sisters to catch up on life.  It was just an amazing time being with them.

I have also gained a lot of confidence being in Samoa, and I feel like I have grown and am not the same person I was 23 months ago.  (Hopefully in a better way!)

(Pictures are from our Close of Service Conference)


Perimeter Relay


Three more days, gosh that’s scary!  Are we ready?  I sure hope so…

We are almost to the perimeter relay race, my fourth race ever. Our team has had its ups and downs, with three runners having to drop out because of health issues, and several of our team members are not as healthy as last year, but we should do okay.

The Kope Keige team consists of Dana, Corina, Jenny M, Kaelin, Natalie and myself.  Rachel, one of our fallen members, has agreed to get her Samoan drivers license to drive us around the entire day.  

We realized yesterday that there is also one more complication to the relay…the Rugby World Cup.  Samoa is playing Wales at  about the same time as the end of our relay.  This means everyone will be rushing to the finish line to be able to watch the game….who knows what will happen to the Prizegiving..

Wish us luck Saturday as we tackle Le Mafa Pass, dogs, and crazy drivers as we run around Upolu.

(Pictures are from last year’s relay)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Two year 6 boys enjoying writing for the first time!

Two girls planning what to write to their postcard friends.

The kids always wonder if they should lick the stamp, or use it like a sticker....sometimes they try both.


With the addition of postcards from a few new countries, we have made the postcard count up to 87. The children love it when I with the address book for them to have the chance to write their postcards. I think the funniest moments are when the students have a mix of stamps to put on the cards, 1 being the kind you lick, and the other is a sticker. Constantly children are licking the sticker and just trying to stick the other stamp on without any saliva. It is the funniest thing to watch, and very difficult for me to not burst out into a laugh.

We are in the final stretch of the postcards as there is only 3 more months of school, and then I will be leaving my village. So if there are any last postcards, try to send them now, otherwise they may not come.

Thank you again for your support and helping me to enrich the children of Savai’i's knowledge of the outside world. Fa’afetai tele lava!

School Sports Day

Sports Day

Last week we had sports day in our school.  Sports day is when the children get together to play different games, such as coconut collecting races, tug of war, blindfolded orange collections and more. 

We used to have sports day more frequently, but since school is in the village, it has become much more difficult to do.   In fact I wasn’t sure how well it would be, since the biggest malae is right next to the road. 

The kids sat in the sun for hours cheering on their different teams and having the time of their lives playing.  When the games were over, I got nervous watching the kids run around the street….since they are small and I have seen two deaths because of cars running people over, but like normal through my village, there were not many cars. 

The children had a great time, and that is all that mattered. 


Teaching at a Funeral

Teaching at a Funeral

Having no school building makes teaching difficult, especially when there is a falavelave in the village.  Matai meetings cause some distractions as well as the women meetings where the nurses come to give babies shots, but I would have to say the most distracting falavelave is a funeral.

Because of the funeral being in the village, and it being so close, there were many teachers missing from school throughout parts of the day, which made me have to double up classes.  I don’t mind doing this occasionally; however, with 60 or more students of different ability levels in a room for several hours, it is difficult to do more than play games or sing.  

What can be difficult is when people are always telling me to quiet the children down when they are not even talking loud.  Many others think that on the days of funerals, children should just sit respectfully, without talking (or sometimes doing any other work). 

Funerals often have a marching band or parade component, and when this happens, a teacher who wants to teach should just throw everything out the window.  I mean how can you seriously compete with that?

Teaching here definitely has different challenges that I never expected encountering in America.

Survival Diving

Survival Diving

It’s a school holiday, so what better activity is there to do than go scuba diving?  Since I was going to Upolu, I decided to join a group diving over there….and did not realize that they were still filming a television show. 

The problem with the dive shop in Upolu is it is a loooooong walk from the main road, so to prevent myself from doing that walk, I do the beach walk.  The beach walk involves walking on several uneven boulders, trying to avoid a barbed wire fence for balance, walking next to the golf course and then you are there. 

When I go to the area of Aggie Gray’s famous hotel, I saw several trailers, and that was my cue that Survivor Samoa was still taking place.  (It feels like they have been filming for too many months for such a short show.)  I went right over and sat on the deck of the porch of the dive shop to wait for them to open.  I saw a few people walking in and out of the production trailers.  And then the security guard came over…I think he was startled at how I was able to get in without going through the main security at the entrance to the hotel. 

I was thrilled when the dive shop opened and we were able to leave the production site.  Our dive was great as we scuba dove next to Manono Island.  We heard whales singing, saw giant eagle rays, huge butterfly fish, turtles, a fish that was almost my size and much more.    I used to complain about the lack of diving here in Samoa, but I now realized that I was somehow just going to the same dive sites over and over again.  There really is more out there which made me happier.  (My goal is to go out diving three more times before December so I am able to hit the elusive 50 dive mark.)

When we arrived back at our dock, we saw the Survivor crew waiting….waiting for us to come back.  (I had heard that they wanted to plan when our boat is allowed back which is difficult to do, as none of us wanted to be out there all day in the sun, or shorten our dives significantly.)  They were all gathered on the dock in preparation for something, I learned later one of their reward trips.  Next to the dock was a big van.  The van had those aluminum looking car shade windows on all windows to prevent anyone from seeing out or in.  (I had heard about it from the last filming of Survivor, but it was interesting to actually see it.)  The people at dive shop told us that the contestants had been waiting in the car for hours already. 

When they were ready for the contestants to go on their boat outing, someone approached us all, and told us to go physically inside the dive shop and we were not allowed to be on the porch.  She was very rude and curt with us.  I am glad that the owner stood up for us and said that we were paying guests on their property, and they cannot stop their customers from being on the deck. 

While we waited to leave, we heard a few horror stories about how some of the crew members have treated the people and tourists of Samoa.  I know that the key to the show is having the people live in isolation, but when the contestants are staying in between two popular resorts, it is difficult to stop the actual tourists from doing what they enjoy.  When the wind blows a kite board a little too much, and it ends up in the shot of one of the cameras, it is not the tourists fault.  The tourist should not be yelled at and told they cannot do the activity they enjoy while being in Samoa.  The crew should not threaten the nearby villages with their water because of this tourist’s actions. 

I know it must be difficult for the television show to find the perfect location for the show, a location close enough to a (posh) resort for all of the crew to stay at, while maintaining privacy for the contestants….but there are still uninhabited islands out there, especially in Samoa.  If you want to make sure that people are not disturbing the contestants, maybe it would be best to go there. 

On a side note, someone told me the next day that a boat zoomed past the Samoan ferry, almost causing an accident.  When the boat was described to me it sounded like the Survivor boat I saw the previous day.


Living the Homeless Life


Yesterday we had a VAC meeting (Volunteer Advisory Committee) and we discussed several important issues facing us volunteers, one of them included the cleanliness of our resource room.  We discussed the status of how the office looked now, and everyone agreed it looks much better, but I had to admit to the committee I missed our cardboard boxes.  (I am glad someone else on the committee agreed with me as well, since the staff told us we looked like a bunch of homeless people at the time.)

The cardboard boxes were flatted and laid out under tables for people to take naps.  It was really nice to have a place to hide and take a break, especially when you have had a horribly long commute or just a long week.  It was our little cave to escape our host family and whatever problems we faced there. 

Why did we sleep on cardboard boxes? Here are some of the reasons we loved them:

1.       Cardboard boxes are extremely comfortable. 

2.       They prevent you from lying on the cold tiled floor. 

3.       They somehow radiate a little bit of warmth into what could be a cold air conditioned room.

4.       They limit the amount of bugs and other creepy crawlers from crawling all over you.

5.       When you are feeling ill, somehow lying on them always seems to magically make you feel better.

6.       It felt as if by laying a few boxes around the room, we have now transformed into a free hotel, and sometimes you just really need a nap.

Okay, so looking at the last reason, maybe we did look like a bunch of hobos, but after sleeping on many cardboard boxes, I will never mock the life of a hobo again.  They seem to have gotten it right as cardboard boxes are the way to go for a comfortable sleep.


Monday, September 5, 2011

baby Cows

Baby Cows

Sunshine made my transition to village life more fun, as I had my own cow dog. I call her a cow dog because she had many of the same personality traits as a dog did.  Whenever I was feeling lonely I would go outside to read a book, and Sunshine would come and rest her head in my lap while I pet her. 

Sunshine loved people and refused to go to the plantation where the other cows were.  Every time she would be brought uta, she would find her way to escape and come back home.  (Finally when she was about a year and a half old she ended up staying in the plantation.)

When I was over at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, and offered a trip to go see their baby cow, Laina, I jumped at the opportunity.  Unlike Sunshine, whom I bottle fed, Laina drinks and eats niu (fresh young coconuts).  It was nice, that after I had a nice drink myself, I was able to share it with him. 

Last week I received a text informing me about Laina’s death.  After a young cow dies, they burn the body.  A few of us volunteers were wondering why they don’t just eat the meat, and we have come up with the conclusion that it might be taboo.

Now the question of the day is, what actually happens with the road kill?  Are the rats, chickens, pigs and dogs also burned?


Friday, September 2, 2011

Pe'aPe'a Cave

Pe’aPe’a Cave

Another bring your machete to school day….did I want to spend the day watching my students cut and weed the grass, trim bushes and pick up the rubbish, heck no.  I was ready for a new adventure.

I was telling everyone I was heading to the bat cave because I knew pe’a meant bat.  I was excited to go to my first “cave” in Samoa.  The cave is located between A’opo and Letui villages on the northern end of the island.  I have never gone to it before as it is located in an area difficult to reach without a car, as busses and other vehicles pass by infrequently so you cannot be sure if you would be able to hitch a ride. 

The cave is actually a lava tube from the 1906 volcanic eruption which caused much of the lava rocks on this island.  It is also the eruption that caused the lava tube in Falealupo to be formed.  (A lava tube that has saved lives during the times of cyclones)  The one at Falealupo has many holes to the outside, and no torch is required.

Forgetting to bring a flashlight we stepped into the Pe’aPe’a cave, thinking we would be aright with only using the light from our telephones.  We were wrong, thankfully, the man who took our admission money was there to give a helping hand and lend us a torch. 

I was surprised to see that there were no bats in the cave; but instead, there were downs of birds called swiftlets (the real meaning for pe’ape’a). It was amazing to see them fly about the lava tube.  They were really beautiful animals and it is shames that they live in the dark so most people aren’t able to see their beauty.  The cave was pretty small, but it was a nice trip. 

Next time maybe I will go to Dwarfs Cave, where no one has found the end of the cave.  Should be a real adventure then!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fun Facts About Pigs


One day I was on the beach when I saw two of my students.  After their swim they collected a huge bucket of water and began to bring it home.  These students that I saw were about 8 years old and tiny; it looks like they have no muscles at all. 

I caught up with them and offered to help carry the big bucket of saltwater, and they refused to give it to me.  I felt really bad for them since it was a huge walk uphill, and then quite a big distance further to their houses, overall, about a mile away. 

I finally asked why they were carrying the buckets, and I learned my new fact about pigs.  Pigs are bathed in saltwater.  (Horses are too.  People ride their horses into the ocean to bathe them.)

The other fun fact I learned about pigs is, you can trade someone a very large male pig for a cow. 

The more you know.