Monday, October 8, 2012
October 7th 2009
On October 7 2009, 23 member of Peace Corps group 82 Samoa arrived in Samoa before sunrise. It was the hottest I have ever felt ever when getting off of that plane. I do not think it is possible for me to sweat anymore than I did that morning.
Exactly 3 years later, Peace Corps group 84 Samoa arrived at Faleolo Airport. It was the afternoon and I had just finished my afternoon nap on the boat coming home from Savaii when I saw the Air New Zealand plane flying overhead. “They are here,” I whispered to myself.
I am the sole remaining volunteer from my group, however, I have one other 82er to keep me company, Kyle. Kyle is here doing volunteer work through the Catholic Church and has been doing amazing work. I am really lucky to have him on island, and often in the capital with me as I miss my Peace Corps family who have left Samoa.
A few days ago Kyle and I were reminiscing our first day in Samoa. The first thing we talked about was the heat and how horrible it was. We wondered if the newbies would feel the same way we did coming off the plane. We were also envious in some ways of them coming in on a Sunday. We had arrived midweek, and immediately were busy with tsunami evacuations, ava ceremonies, numerous sessions held by our office staff. It is fa’asa for most people to work on a Sunday, so I knew they would have it easy. (Besides, there haven’t been many tsunami evacuations since that year.)
As I drove to town on the 7th of October, I looked out the window just as I had three years prior and realized I still am in love with the Samoan scenery. Seeing all of the Samoan fales, with kids running about brings a huge smile to my face. I love watching cows and pigs cross the road at any point, as well as chickens show their fears of cars. The only difference is how I felt in the three years. In 2009 I felt like a foreigner, unsure of everything and unsure of life. In 2012 I felt at home and at peace with how my life was, and where it was heading.
The next day I attended the ava ceremony for group 84. I saw them all nervously sitting there trying desperately to understand what was going on in this foreign country with some strange man talking continuously in a foreign language. Just like three years ago, a RPCV named Benj was assisting in the ceremony, his job was the presentation of ava sticks. There were so many speeches and I smiled brightly when I heard the newbies stumble over the words before drinking their shell of ava. (La’u ava lea lea tua, soifua).
These three years have been so memorable to me, and a big part of it is because of how supportive my Pisi Koa family has been. So to group 82, I would like to wish you all a happy 3 years of growth, and thank you for being a part of my family for three amazing years. For group 83, I want to wish you a happy two year anniversary; it’s been quite a ride with all of you on the islands. For all of the Pisi Koa in the past (there are too many groups to list) who have been a part of my experience, fa’afetai lava! And for our newbies Group 84, Afio mai! I know Samoa will be full of amazing experiences. I hope you are able to open up and embrace them all. Manuia lou 2 tausaga!
“What are you doing?” I was asked in the evening after work and a hot bike ride back home.
“Just reading my book,” I responded.
“Then come cut the grass,” I was told as I was handed my machete. Well more of a big outdoor kitchen knife. As I watched the boy with me cut the grass with ease and my knife barely doing anything unless I held the grass while chopping at it, I can’t do it,” I declared, “this knife sucks.” I tried a bit more and trimmed the grass a little bit, but not far enough before giving up on the grass cutting expedition.
I looked over to the right and saw so many dead leaves on the banana trees and made that my next expedition. The banana leaves were high up and being on a hill with random sinkholes didn’t exactly help my situation. I am glad everyone else was busy doing yard work so they didn’t see me fall several times, one time breaking my shoes. Or see me trying to jump with my knife to get some of the really high dead leaves...which was a relief. With all of my struggles I at least got a lot done and had a huge pile of rubbish. (Yes leaves are rubbish in Samoa.) by the time it was time to go inside for dinner.
I looked around and so much grass was cut, and the trees looked better, I was impressed with our accomplishment. I fixed my shoe, got stuck in the hole again, and headed back home for a tall ipu of water.