Monday, September 24, 2012


In other countries when you know a bus schedule, you know when to catch the bus... in Samoa you think you know a bus schedule, and the one day you go to catch that bus there is a faalavelave to disturb your travels.  Sometimes you hear about the faalavelaves ahead of time as it is well known of a village funeral requiring the use of a bus.  But for some of the smaller rentals of busses such as family reunions or other picnics, not everyone often hears that the particular bus will be out of commission for that particular day.  At least those disturbances are only for a day.
The bigger problem is when the busses are out for several weeks or longer as the bus has broken down.  While I was living in Savaii this affected my travels numerous times as twice during the two years my busses got into accidents and it took several months to repair them.  What happens is there is now a gap in that time slop of what the broken down bus travels.  Can I tell you how much this stinks!  It is bad when you are trying to get somewhere, and the next bus isn’t for a few more hours.  Usually I am not in that much of a rush, but when you need to take the first boat, this can be a hassle. 
This happened to me on my last trip to Savaii, as I was about to return to Upolu I learned the night before that the 3:00 bus had crashed into a tree and therefore there was no longer a bus for that ferry.  You could still sit outside and wait for the bus, and possibly the further district bus might pick you up, but it is not guaranteed as they could be full and just pass you by. 
I had to get to work, there was denying it.  The only solution I had was to gather a few others, and share a taxi and I felt lucky that I was able to make it to my bus in order to make it in time for work the following day.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Boat trips

Boat Trips
Oh how I miss riding the ferry all the time!  I feel like so many stories and experiences are had on the boat.  Some are good, some are bad, some are about me leaning over the edge feeding the fish.  The trip can sometimes can be an all day affair travelling between the two islands, or at least just feel like it. 
On Friday, I had an experience that reminded me how wonderfully unique Samoa is.  Elsewhere,  in bus stations, train stations, wharfs or anywhere else there is someone to make announcements when something happens to interrupt your trip, or often to only give you an update with your travels. Although sometimes they are inaudible, in the cases I grew up with, in the NYC subway, there is always plenty present that understand what is being said.  Samoa has its own way of announcing.  Fai tala.
Fai tala means gossip and happens throughout Samoa.  It is how coconut wireless, our way of knowing everything without even access to media is so strong. 
The first thing I learned was at the bus station at the fish market.  The Lady Samoa III (The newest of Samoa’s fleet) had broke down and was being serviced in American Samoa.  This meant that the Lady Samoa II (My favourite boat!) would be running in its place.
When the bus arrived at the wharf, I was wondering why things were different.  There was no long line to buy tickets for the ferry, even though the boat was to leave in 45 minutes.  Then the coconut wireless signal came in signal…even though there were no workers in sight. 
The small boat (the Foto..) broke down halfway on its trip to Savaii.  Our 4:00 boat, the Lady Samoa II, went to rescue the passengers so they would not be stranded at sea.  We had heard that boat would come back to get us…maybe. 
At 5:30 they finally opened the booth to buy tickets, and everyone crowded into the next room to await boarding.  The storm clouds brought a little bit of rain, but not much.  (You really have to look at the clouds when riding any boat other than the Lady Samoa III, because sitting outside is preferable to try to combat sea sickness and even of you are covered, you don’t want the ground to be wet under your bum. 
After 6:00 the boat arrived, and I was disappointed to see it was the small Foto.  I was disappointed for two reasons, first being it just broke down a few hours ago and needed to be rescued.  Who knew if they would send out another boat to rescue us when most workers are finished for the day.  The second reason is because that boat is so slow.  It usually takes about double the time as the Lady Samoa III.  It felt like I was going to be at my destination at 10:00 at night.
The boat was packed.  People were crammed into the tiny sitting area inside, others were on all levels of the captain’s balcony, and still more were trying to find any bit of space they could find around the cars.  I was next to the trucks carrying things for what looked like a funeral, but could be any fa’alavelave. 
Near me, someone was blaring their speakers and as the sun set on our trip, I pretended I was on Rock Da Boat and dancing to the music. 
I finally arrived at the village I was supposed to well after dark….with a million memories of one long trip! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's Sa to Go

It’s Sa to Go.
Three years ago during our safety and security training we were warned about different places.  They wanted to make sure we were always safe and told us to avoid some of the places that might cause trouble. Those are the places where you only find Samoans and often fights break out.  We were warned and heard some horror stories to make sure we stayed away.  It seemed reason enough for me to go, and I truthfully had no desire. 
For a long time whenever others wanted to go to these places, I responded by telling them it is sa (not allowed) to go.  One year ago, I went to my first of those places with another volunteer and several of our Samoan friends.  It felt weird, like I was disobeying someone by going there.  I was committing the biggest sin of all by not listening to my safety and security officer.  I have known many, many people to go to these places, and from what I was understanding, it seemed as if there was a big enough group of you there and people to look after you, you would be fine.  I think they were correct, because when someone would approach me that I didn’t want near me, I was easily able to hide behind one of my big Samoan friends.  I really enjoyed it because there was good music for dancing and I think everyone in the world knows how much Samoans love to dance.
Two weekends ago I went to a second place on the list.  This time I was only accompanied by Samoan friends….which meant I was the only palagi in the entire establishment.  It is funny because even though I am palagi, I feel that I act more Samoan than some of the people I saw inside.  For example, a girl came over o me and was so excited to see me because I was palagi and spoke English, because even though she is Samoan she knew none of the language.  The way she dressed, many people would be offended by, yet she had no clue.  I felt bad for her because she has such a rich heritage, yet she knows nothing about it because she was raised overseas. 
I had a good time there because of the band giving it a lively atmosphere.  It reminded me of the only nightclub in Savaii, as the boys ask you to dance politely.  It is okay for you to follow junior high school dance protocol by being a few feet apart while dancing, and after the dance, an appropriate way to thank another for the dance is a handshake.  After the dance, you can run to the side, and begin to ponder if someone will ask you to another dance. 
I enjoyed being at these places, but I see how there can be problems.  Many Samoans do not know how to control themselves when drinking as they do not know when their limit has been reached; therefore too many patrons at these establishments are ona tele (very drunk).  When drunk boys are present, often there is trouble in my mind.  Fights can break out making the night less enjoyable.
 I am lucky that my two nights at the faasa nightclubs nothing happened.  But I feel as if I kept safe by having my group with me.
I still feel like a rebel for going there…

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Teuila Festival

Teuila Festival
This past week Samoa celebrated Teuila festival.  While most schools had holiday, I found myself still working so I was not able to partake in all of the events like I had hoped. 
During Teuila festival there are events happening nightly, some which conflict with other events making it hard for you to pick which ones you want to attend.  During the fautasi races, there was the first all women’s team competing, and although I missed the race, I saw them practice and it was nice to see strong women competing with the men. 
I went several nights to watch the singing and dancing in front of the government buildings, and my favorite thing there was siva afi.  During the fire dancing, one of the young boys competing lost his ie and was left to fire dance in his underwear.  I felt bad for him, but he didn’t seem to let it bother him.
I went to a rugby competition and had fun seeing some of the boys I know win the bowl. 
Although I wasn’t able to take in the entire festival like I was for Independence Day, I still had fun with what I was able to see.
Maybe now that it’s over, Apia will stop being so crowded and life can get back to normal.

Independence Day 2012

Independence Day
While I wasn’t blogging, and only thinking about it…this is what was happening:
Samoa celebrated it’s 50th anniversary on the 1st of June 2012.  It was an exciting time as there was so much going on, however there was much confusion as it is different than celebrations in other countries.  The biggest problem was the schedule of events was late coming out, and therefore the government was late in deciding which days were declared a Federal holiday.  The holiday ended up being Friday the 1st, Monday the 4th and Tuesday the 5th, with a half day holiday on Saturday the 2nd, to allow everyone to shop for what was needed.  The Public schools had a confusing time as well.  The Ministry didn’t do a good job communicating when school would resume, and some schools had another week off from school because of the confusion, while others resumed without notice of what others were doing.
I was enjoying the holiday as I find myself working many more hours at my new job compared to previous two years.  I stayed really busy trying to take it all in and had an amazing time. 
I had an amazing accomplishment as I competed in my first half marathon, and finished in 5th place!  I am really proud of myself as I was able to complete the entire race running.  It was different than the previous years running as there were only four of us Peace Corps competing and I missed our large Peace Corps family waiting at the finish line.
I also participated in probably the longest shortest parade ever.  It was the longest based upon the amount of groups marching in it, which was 250 if I remember correctly.  We were all told to wait on a field in front of the government building for several hours before the parade.  The area was small and we were all cramped together with barely enough room to breathe.  Participants were getting sick and fainting due to the hot conditions.  When it was time for our group to march, we were so happy to move and stretch out our legs.  However, it was so sad to see how short the area was that we were to march.  It was just in front of the Prime Minister, Head of State and other distinguished guests.  It was not a parade for everyone to watch, except for on television.  We marched for about one minute in total before it was done.  It was such a disappointment as they could have made the parade so much better than it was.
During the week I attended my first Fafafine Pageant .   It was a lot of fun and an interesting experience.  All of the contestants picked a country to represent them, and it made me laugh how some of them probably picked a country that they knew nothing about.  They gave speeches about their given countries and had outfits made that represent that area.  They had a talent competition, swim suit competition (which was different to say the least as it was men parading around in women’s swim suits.  From the people at my table I learned a lot about how strong the fafafine community is in Samoa as they help others even around the world.
I went several times to the fautasi races (the boats with 50 people rowing).  It was always interesting because of the tide they would race at different times throughout the day, whichever seemed the least convenient it seemed.  The finals took place about 5 am, in the pitch dark, with the boats reaching the finish line about the time of sunrise. 
I went to the marching band and marching competitions.  The marching competitions had students in primary school doing marching in a fun hip hop dancing kind of way.  It was really enjoyable to watch.
I went to the candlelight visual service which was probably my favorite church service during the year.  Hundreds and hundreds of people outside with candles as they sing songs and have a church service created a magical experience.  It was beautiful.
I attended my first professional boxing match in which people from overseas came to compete.  It was exciting to me as I was trying to figure out what the referee was doing.
There was also singing and dancing competitions throughout the week which were fun to watch. 
Many people felt the highlight was the UB 40 concert.  There were many amazing opening acts, and UB 40 was spectacular.  I had to leave early as the next morning was my half marathon, and I wanted to stay refreshed for it.  The comical part of the night I missed.  Samoans aren’t used to concerts, as they are not as well trained as us from overseas.  After UB40 finished their performance the spectators left, they didn’t know that encores usually take place following the acts.  Then all of a sudden without any warning, the band returned back on stage.  Those who left Apia parked returned to enjoy the surprise encore. 
Independence Day in Samoa was a memorable but busy time.  I don’t think I will forget the week of events.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Well, it’s been awhile...and I’ve had enough people ask me why I haven’t been keeping up with this blog...Well...the truth is...I have no real excuse.
It is weird because the more that internet is available, the less I try to be on it.  It is less of a luxury, and you begin to notice the price tag going up each time you go to the internet cafe to access it.  It is the same thing with other luxuries as well, like going out to eat.  I used to crave different types of food and going to certain restaurants... now I have gone back to craving my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 
My journey in Samoa has been an interesting one, and it is hard to believe that it started almost 3 years ago.  Throughout this time I have learned a lot about myself and have grown a lot as well.  With less than half a year left, it is hard to see it come to an end, however it won’t be a complete end.  Even though I will be closing my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will have a piece of Samoa with me wherever I go.  Next month I am going to have my own Samoan wedding. It makes me chuckle because I have heard of my friends planning weddings in America, and they seem so stressed out all the time, and me, I am taking the more laid back island style approach.  Things will happen when they do, and there is no use in worrying about it. 
Work continues to be work.  The students are continuing to test my patience with trying to turn everyone against me, or the one other teacher.  It is actually amazing how they can unite like this.  They continue to be really sneaky, and it is important to know where your valuables are, just in case.  I feel like my students have grown tremendously and I couldn’t be prouder of them. 
But as for me, I am going to keep living and enjoying life.