Monday, December 31, 2012


Since many of you are still a year behind me stuck in 2012, i'd
thought i'd tell you what the future is like so you can get a head
start. I would like to type it in a list.. However i dont know how to
do that on a phone.. Things that will be popular in 2013... 1 poodle
skirts and 50s wear. 2 mullets. The party is back. 3 80s
movies..especially with the actor van damm in them. 4 driving on the
left side of the road (however in america it might be due to being
drunk on new years) 5 bouncy castles. 6 facebook on phones (i guess
its been popular for awhile but some countries just got internet
phones..) 7 farting on others..dont ask i dont quite get it either. 8
eating spaghetti sandwiches. 9 playing dominos. 10 cutting grass with
machetes.. I hope these 10 hints help and you can get to the store or
the hairdresser and get ready for the future.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy new year

Being that there are only a few hours left of 2012, i wanted to wish
everyone a happy new years. For those of you who might be curious as
to how new years eve will be ...i'll tell you about the future since
samoa is the first ones to experience it all. The stores will be
crowded.. Esp with people buying chicken go bulk for bbqs. Cops will
be stationed on the roads to make sure people are wearing seat belts
and drivers actually have drivers licenses.. As for weather it will be
rainy, which means a good time for family fun-which includes fun games
like dominos and watching movies. I hope you all enjoy your new years,
and are thankful the mayans got it wrong! Manuia le taosaga fou

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hurricane evan in savaii

We left for savaii well before sunrise and it was interesting to see
all of the villages with and without power. Upon arrival in savaii we
saw that upolu definatelly got the brunt of the storm. The rubbish
shelves were down and many trees as well. A few of the samoan fales
were down. Overall i am happy i get to spend my christmas with family
and running water and electricity.. Who could ask for a better gift?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I retreat!

Day 11- I retreat!
I have made it past double digits…We are at day 11 without water and electricity.  I decided I am giving up after tomorrow.  I want water to shower in and not to carry buckets of water up a hill in order to flush the toilet.
Last night, I became quite hopeful as I saw people working on the electric longer were the power lines in the river and dangling ready to strangle someone passing by.  However, my hopes were quickly swept away as I saw the uniform of the people on the ladders with the new wires were from the telephone company.  I guess we will just have to wait a little longer for electricity where we live.
Tomorrow, like I said, I am giving up.  I am heading over to Savaii for Christmas and hopefully I will return back home when there is running water or electricity.  I am really hoping for at least the running water as being without any water can be such a hassle!
Manuia le Kerisimasi!
Merry Christmas!
P.S. We have been using Chanukkah candles during the eleven days of no power.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Photo Blog - Cyclone Evan

Flooding in Apia Town Area

Flooding in Apia Town Area.

Pulu Trees fell down all along Beach Road.  The ones that did not fall are now just stumps allowing no shade on the seawall.

During the cyclone my neighbors braved the conditions to clear the road for anyone who needed to get past.

A fale that collapsed, amazingly, the roof is in tact.

About 8 men were lifting and shaking this car to get all the mud and debris out from it.   It was incredible how much came out.

Cyclone Evan and Apia Businesses

Cyclone Evan and Apia Businesses
Cyclone Evan killed many Samoan businesses, I think the ones that I feel bad for are the ones on the south coast that had to endure the tsunami and the cyclone.  How often can you keep rebuilding your business without giving up?  If it is exhausting for me, I can’t image those business owners.
Aggie Gray’s had to evacuate their guests as their hotel was flooded with mud.  I was told that the mud in the back reached up to my waist several days after the storm.  All of their back up generators broke.  Luckily, they have their resort in Mulifanua that they were able to bring their guests to.  They have had all of their workers coming daily to help with the clean up efforts, and excavators coming to get rid of the water.  I was told that they are hoping to reopen the front portion of their hotel on Christmas Eve.  However, just like staying at other expensive hotels, I would hate to pay the big bucks if you don’t have full access to all of the nice things on their property.
Mc Donalds had some roof and sign damage.  I think they were in a flooded area too, But I am not sure of it because when I walked around town the area was dry.  Several days after the cyclone hit, I saw that their drive thru was open.  However the next day it was closed.  I was told by someone that the Health Inspectors allowed them to be open for 24 hours to sell everything that they could before shutting down.  After hearing this, I am glad I don’t eat there!  Wouldn’t everything have gone bad after several days of no electricity?
Some businesses are open, however, be careful as restaurants may be open, but they may not have toilets.
Aggie Grays.

The river at Aggie Grays.  I don't know if you can see, but there are two boats stuck and broken there.

Every PC favorite store- KK Mart.  Finally reopened after 8 days of being closed.  

Roofing problems at MC Donalds

Water and Electricity

Water and Electricity
During the Hurricane in New York a month ago, I wondered how everyone was on the internet without power.  I was informed they did this through telephones.  I am so removed from technology that this thought never came to me until several days later.
A few days after the storm, a friend of mine staying at a hotel with a generator invited me over to charge my phone.  I was so thankful because that is my connection to the outside world.  I also learned at that point that the two telephone companies were allowing people to come and charge their telephones during work hours, which seemed pretty generous to me.  But all of this gave me hope.  I am not stuck in a disaster and have the ability to call someone to make me smile.
On the 7th day after the storm, the Peace Corps office restored power.  This meant during working hours I had a back up place to charge anything I needed.
Although I say we have electricity, it is often shut off for hours at a time without notice.
Although I keep being told that we will have electricity soon, looking at the power lines dangling that cars have to swerve to avoid, electric poles that are not connected to each other, and even electric wires in the river.  I don’t see them being quick about getting electricity to my area.
As for water, I felt really fortunate about my situation.  We bought bottled water, and ground water was flowing from the wall.  However, after several days of heavy rain, it soon stopped, and my hope for everything to be alright started to go away.
On the 5th day of no running water, our wall began to only trickle.  I spent four hours filling up all the buckets that I could after an exhausting day at work.  I knew though that that was my last day of having water at my fingertips so I wanted to fill up with as much as I could.
The next day as I went off to work, my husband went down to the river to collect the not as clean water and carry the buckets up the hill to our house.  He keep doing this task several times a day.
After work, in order to clean myself, I bathed in the river, hoping some disease does not jump into my body somehow.
I thought I hit the jackpot with my friend staying at the nice hotel as I could shower there…however when I went over one day, they had just ran out of water and wouldn’t be getting more in for another several hours.  Their water supply shrank considerably and were going to be issued buckets for when they showered to collect water to use for the toilets.  I could not image paying for that kind of “luxury”.
My river bathing continued and I began to feel completely frustrated with life as not having clean water and electricity can just mess with your mind.  I had begun eating poorly during the storm, as I did not want to eat anything that might make me defecate.  I was becoming malnourished and still busy with all of my commitments and just feeling so worn out.  On top of it all, I was not drinking enough and was dehydrating myself.   I couldn’t drink in the morning and during the day because of having no toilets around, and so I only had evenings to pee freely.  Sometimes when I arrived home, most or all of the water had been used up, and I had felt guilty for not collecting water that day, so I would wait until dark and simply urinate outside.  
Finally, I reached my breaking point.  Being unclean for 8 days without electricity was enough.  So many places had water and electricity, why couldn’t we have it?  I just kept dreaming of my Christmas trip to Savaii, an island full of running water and electricity.  It almost seemed too good to be true…kind of like a mirage.  But at my breaking point, I went to see (I guess I should say cry) to my nurse.  She said everyone is feeling that way, which I understood, but it sucked.  She encouraged me to drink more water and gave me rehydration salts to put in my water.
I have now reached double digits of not having water and electricity, and I know I can hold out another day or two until I can reach Savaii.

The debris in the river that I bathe in.

The bus station.

The bridge broke see the picture below.

A crack in the bridge above.


The Newbies
I feel so bad for the Peace Corps Samoa 84.  What they have had to endure while getting used to a brand new culture and new language is so difficult.  Like many others, they were not expecting the cyclone to hit, and did not stock up on food, and they got quickly stuck in their flooded hotel (their rooms were not flooded at least) before they could get out and get something, especially because stores were closing quickly.
On paper, they were supposed to be sworn in on the day after the cyclone.  Obviously that didn’t happen and they had to endure living in a hotel without electricity, and toilet water in only several rooms, and only certain hours they could quickly shower.  It is so challenging doing all that they had to do.
Their schedule was up in the air, as the day came and went for them to go to their new villages, and they were stuck in town feeling in limbo.  No one had answers, so no one was able to give them answers.
They finally were sworn in on Tuesday the 18th, and instead of being a grand big affair with the Samoan Government being present, it was a Peace Corps/US Embassy family affair.  It was nice and it felt good to see the 13 that had started training able to finish their training.
The next day, as their hotel finally received electricity, half of them ventured out to their villages, By Thursday, when there were only two left in town, they even had running water.
Secretly I was becoming a little jealous.  Here I was going to work each day, and coming hope to try to find water, light candles and water someone else cook on a fire, while they now had it all.  I was becoming physically exhausted and just wanted their lives!
I just had to keep thinking, I can do it.  I can make it.  I can do it.
Peace Corps and US Embassy getting ready to volunteer at my work site.

Peace Corps helping scoop the mud.

A US embassy worker helping in our office.

After the water receded this was still how high the water was a day later.

Sorry that Dan is sideways....a RPCV helping clean the PC office.

Cyclone Evan- Back to Work

Cyclone Evan- Back to Work
On the 5th day without electricity and water (that is how I count my days now) I returned back to work.  I had passed by my office several times and had a glimpse inside it, and was aware of the damage due to flooding and mud, but didn’t expect it to be as completely bad as it was.  We experienced a total loss of everything inside.
The Samoa Victim Support Office is located at the police station, and above us is where the police band practices.  Their roof flew off and part of their building was destroyed, so apart from the ocean that surrounded our office for a block in all directions, we also received damage from above as the ceiling was leaking horrible stuff everywhere.   I knew it had the potential to be worse than the Peace Corps Office, which is much larger, and had the potential to hold more mud.
I arrived on Monday, ready for the challenge.  There were several shovels so I grabbed one and immediately got to work shoveling the deep mud on the sidewalk in front of our office.  However, my blisters that I received on Saturday from sweeping muddy water began to ache horribly.
While I was helping out, there was one causality, as my shoes drowned in the mud and were never seen again.  
As it was apparent all of the furniture had to be removed from the building, I was given a new task.  I was in charge of a few volunteers and the unloading and sorting of office materials and equipment from the truck to our homeschool.  We had to sort muddy items, from soaked items, and even managed to salvage a few dry items. As much as we tried to clean, the mud was everywhere and you could not avoid it.  Being without water made it extremely difficult to clean anything.
We did have help, plenty of volunteers came by to help us clean and move everything.  Two of the groups that came were the US Embassy and the Peace Corps.  It was nice to see my fellow Americans helping out when duty called.
Not to mention being without water took away our ability to go to the toilet.  The only toilet I could use was a 20 minute hike to my house and I was able to use the ground water I collected to flush the toilet.  This meant that there would be no drinking water during the work day until further notice.
Each muddy day we went in the back of a pick up truck to bathe in the ocean.   At first it disgusted me how dirty the ocean was because of all the pollution, but then I realized, water is water.  I need water to survive and it doesn’t always matter what it looks like.
Being without drinking water, and doing physically demanding work, makes you extremely exhausted, and grumpy….So I am sorry for the people that had to put up with me because of it!
During the week, we continued to work on cleaning our office, trying to salvage files by putting them in the sun to dry.  It shouldn’t have been as hard of work as it felt it was.
The rest of my office had divided into teams.  Donations were coming in, and like the Red Cross, we too were going to the community to help each other.  Volunteers were assembled to help clean houses and hand out food, bottled water, linen and clothing donations.  It was beautiful to see all the smiles on the faces of the people realizing they were just about to receive relief from it all.
I know the relief effort is ongoing and we are going to be busy with it probably until after I end my Peace Corps Service at the end of January.  I am just glad that I get to help out now.  It is weird in a way, I began my service right after the tsunami in 2009, and helped a little with the relief there, and I will be ending my service after hurricane Evan crushed Samoa.  I can only hope that nothing else happens along the way…
The police station missing some of their roof and walls.

Our kitchen at work.

All of our office furniture outside ready to go to the school.

There is a mud line on the door as to how high the water got to in our office.

Cyclone Evan Day 3

Cyclone Evan Day 3
The third day without electricity and not seeing any electricity around as most generators had broken because of the flooding had warranted us to keep phones off and only turn them to check for a message and quickly shut them off again.  I had received a message that the Peace Corps office was having their office clean up and I decided to join them.
I was happy to see that a majority of the flooding was gone from town, however I still had to trudge through mud halfway up to my knees to reach the Peace Corps office.  We were greeted with shovels and brooms and saw that basically the entire office still had muddy water, or just plain mud about 2-3 inches deep.  Over a dozen of us got to work with whatever we could find to clean up what we could.
Using dishes to scoop up and carry the mud outside, sweeping and shoveling it away, and throwing away any damaged materials that could not be salvaged, it was gruesome and tiring, but we felt proud seeing what we could accomplish.   I had not spent much time prior with the new volunteers being as they had just completed training, so it was a great opportunity to bond with them and get to know them.
We endured blisters, but had as much fun as we could as the Peace Corps office became a giant messy Slip N Slide for the day.
When I got home, I began my usual task of water collections.  We are really lucky as to where we live because although we are on a hill, there is a wall blocking some of the hill above us.  That wall has several holes that “clean” groundwater was pouring out from.  That water was amazing as it kept us clean (which is something you need when every day you are covered in mud!), bathed us, was able to go in our toilets and used for everything, aside from drinking of course.  We had several buckets that I would fill and then call up to my husband to come and bring the water to our house.  It was a great system.
Cyclone Evan was bad, but I felt confident that if I could continue to get water like this, I can endure the lack of electricity for awhile.

Down power lines on the road

More down power lines

Mud inside a house

destroyed trees

Cyclone Evan After the Storm

Cyclone Evan After the Storm
Cyclone Evan hit on Thursday the 13th of December and hugged our area throughout the night as it moved slowly away.  The house shook, the sirens kept going off, and all around trees were falling down.  I stood by our window watching as huge beautiful trees became uprooted, while others snapped in half, and roofs just blew off houses.
The next day, I was told it was too unsafe for me to go out as without a radio no one knew if the storn was over because of the constant heavy downpour and strong winds.…so just my camera did and brought back incredible news on what the rest of the city was like.  Flooding was a huge concern for most of town.  I saw that not only were roofs blown off, but in some cases the roofs collapsed on the house, leaving only a roof.  One of the bridges in Lelata (or Faatoia..I am told it is in both villages by different people) cracked on the concrete leaving a huge bend on the bridge and making it impassable.  Cargo crates were washed onto the road to further block traffic.  The beautiful Pulu trees came crashing down on the main road.  Some boats were swept away and the rivers were strong.
We were able to make a fire to cook our canned food, which was a plus, because sometimes you just get sick of easting crackers with peanut butter, crackers with tuna, cereal…and well…that’s about it.
When my friend Kyle dropped by, as he wanted to say goodbye as he thought his flight back to America would leave that night, he recounted for me about his tale of the storm living several feet away from the ocean, however, feeling safe as there were no trees around to come crashing down on him.
I decided to join Kyle on a walk to the airline office to check on his flight.  After walking carefully under fallen power lines, and walking out of my way to avoid other lines, I smiled as so many trees were cut up to make the road passible because of my wonderful neighbors.
Walking around you see so many animals, especially dogs looking disheveled.  No longer do you fear that they are going to bite you, as you feel bad for what they had just endured, because unlike you, they were unable to seek shelter since they are not palagi dogs, and have no home to go inside to.
When we finally reached the main road, I was in shock.  Everything looked so different in this new light.  Seeing the destruction first hand of what I was recently seeing in photographs was just incredible.  It honestly reminded me of the tsunami damage, only I knew that the damage was not confided to a small area in Samoa, and had plagued the entire country.  It was a little eerie walking around, as we have become used to taxis being all around and busses zooming past blasting music, but today there was none.  The streets were empty of almost all vehicles except people.
It was so horrific to see what some had to endure during the storm as water levels went high into their houses.  Most Samoans don’t own much in terms of furniture, and most things are left ground level, so I could only image how bad their total loss could be.
We trudged through mud that was almost to my knees, walked in brown water that was almost to my waste as the rain came and went, heavy at times.  I will never forget this sole who found a big piece of Styrofoam and was using it as a boat with a stick as an oar.  He offered us rides on his “taxi”.    When we finally arrived at the airline office, there was a sign saying the flight was still on, so I decided to walk with Kyle to where the other Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated to, as some of them had planned on ending their two years of service that night.
When we arrived, we learned that still one of the volunteers was not accounted for, as telephone service was down in many rural areas.  However, they went to go and find her and bring her back to town.  I was told she arrived later that evening after I had already left…but somehow a strange rumor had leaked onto the internet before they had tracked her down.  There was a rumor on twitter and some other website that one Peace Corps Volunteer had passed away during the storm.  Apparently someone in her village had informed another that they hadn’t seen her, and rumor quickly spread that she had died.  Luckily, this was all a rumor and she and her cat are as healthy as can be.
While visiting the other volunteers who were stuck at their hotel due to flooding all around them, I had heard that the cyclone was coming back.  They had announced on the radio to be ready for round two.  I rushed home as fast as I could through the rain and mud, but thankfully the storm never came and I was safe at home.
Car  came inside house

destroyed house

Destroyed house and destroyed cars

Destroyed house

Expanding river during the storm

The river enters the gate to go inside a home

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cyclone evan- during the storm continued

With everyone going all the time, i became lonely, and i wanted to
experience what they were only giving me glimpses of go i begged to tag along. I was told it was unsafe.. I
explained i didn't care about going to the main road, just down the
hill a little bit. Finally i got my wish and bundled up in rain gear i
headed out. We walked for only about a minute when i deemed it truely
unsafe. We saw half a dozen trees down.. Some blocking the road,
others crushing houses. But then i saw the most disturbing thing..a
dog thought someone was touching its tail, and went to bite it and bit
what was touching of the last live wires of electricity. His
teeth were still clenched on the line. I ran quickly up the steep hill
and stayed in for the remainder of the storm..watching trees fall all
around me, interrupted only by the siren of emergency vehicles going
to the hospital. I am not ashamed to say i was scared ..

Cyclone evan-the storm

I've been in a fair amount of almost cyclones.. And was prepared for
an almost cyclone. However when the winds are so strong that it shakes
a concrete house more than an earthquake.. And the city is finally
sounding the emergency alarm,making you think that a tsunami is also
on the way, you quickly learn the difference. Being without water or
electricity i think the men of the house got antsy and decided to
survey the damages.. During the strongest part of the storm they went
out to help their neighbors with trees down clear the road. It is
incredible that the cyclone didnt bother all these people and they
just wanted to help

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cyclone evan part 3

There were no evacuation centres like most countries have when a huge
natural disaster is about to take place..however those that could
afford evacuated to hotels, while others went to neighbors' palagi
houses if they could find one, or a nice sturdy church. Samoa needs to
find out a new way to warn people about no one seemed to
really know it was coming. People were walking around Apia in the rain
unaware that in a few hours some of their favorite landmarks would be
knocked down by the wind. As for my family, we were safe from flooding
in a palagi house up a hill..our only hope was the wind didnt do
anything terrifying..

Cyclone evan continued

Evan seemed to come out of nowhere and hit us.. Sure we were warned
wednesday afternoon that a tropical depression was coming and could
turn into a cyclone.. But we had gotten these messages so many times
over the past 3 years..and they usually were nothing! Later that night
i was given a phone call telling when the cyclone was to hit Apia [i
also had gotten these messages in the past when the cyclone never
came..] but when my husband got a call from his parents saying 3
families were evacuated into their house and the mango tree just
missed hitting the car when it fell.. And the bread fruit tree fell
down to block the road i knew this was now serious! We woke up early
and as soon as the stores opened we loaded all we could fit into our
back packs.. And headed home to camp out for the storm.


Six days ago cyclone evan hit us. It was pretty incredible since it
was my first real cyclone [i am on this side of the world so it is not
a hurricane] and it came just a mere month after the rest of my family
had their first cyclone experience in new york. Six days isn't much
but i remember reading on face book people complaining of being with
out electricity for fewer days..i wondered how they got online.. And
now i see how amazing internet on phones really is... Although unlike
them, i haven't really gotten pastemail on the phone... But as i stand
here by candlelight eating fake spam and crackers fully aware that we
will probably be without the luxuries of electricity and running
water.. I am still happy i am where i am. After spending hours
cleaning mud each day out of office buildings i know that a nice swim
in the sea awaits me to clean myself and i am happy just to do my part
as it has been beautiful to see everyone helping their neighbor. I am
so proud to be a part of probably the strongest community