Life in the South Pacific

Stop in and read all about my Peace Corps journey in Samoa! Don't forget to send me letters and emails!! Packages are always welcome too! :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kiwi Land

I know I know, it's been months since i've blogged. so sorry about all that. but i'm currently in New Zealand...just under a week until i return to samoa. New Zealand is GREAT. It was even better that I started the trip with Antonietta, who stopped by samoa first to pick me up and got to see what life in the village was like for a couple of days. It was pretty interesting for her.

We flew over to Auckland a few days later. Then down to Wellington. We spent a couple days there and then took the ferry over the South Island, where we spent tons of cash on wine tours, glacier climbing, 4-wheelin', skydiving, shopping, eating, drinking and the like. but of course, it was all worth it. we drove down the west coast and spent a few days in touristy queenstown, which was just swarming with young 'uns ready to throw themselves off a bungy cord and party all nite long. We did have a good time St. Patty's Day weekend, but nothing quite beats the St. Patty Days back in the States.

We flew from Queenstown up to Auckland where we ended up for a couple more days than we thought we would. We met up with Jame and Antonietta and I proceeded to spend more money on a bridge climb, bungy jumping (so unexpected) and sailing. But again, all worth it. From Auckland, I said goodbye to Antonietta and Jame and I continued on the Kiwi Experience to Whitianga, where we got to go bone carving!, Rotorua, where we went zorbing, Waitomo, where we went caving and now, we are back in Auckland. It's been a whirlwind trip and a great time.

Tomorrow we head off to the Bay of Islands for a few days, then back to Auckland and then back to Samoa. Back to cheeky kids, teaching 3 days a week, cheeky men and boys, hot and humid weather. Can't you tell I'm so excited?

And my internet time is about to run out, so sorry if this doesn't make much sense. Tried to compose my thoughts as fast as i could. I'll try and update more!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Biking Savai'i

Saturday, December 23, 2006

We did it! We biked Savai’i! 120 miles around the island in 5 days. Now, most volunteers do it in about 3 days, but any less than 5 days and I probably would have jumped on a bus at some point. I don’t think I could’ve ridden my bike anymore any of the days. So it was John and Candice (from Group 75), Jordan, Jame and I. We left Friday,the 15th. John, Candice, Jame and I started from Apia and biked to the wharf, which is about 20 miles. Good thing we got our bad luck out of the way that first hour and a half as Candice had a flat tire within the first 5 minutes of riding (though she did get another one on our way to Ray and Jan’s) and Jame got a bit dehydrated and kinda sorta passed out for about 2 seconds. By the time we got there, I was ready for a long nap. Instead, we got on the noon ferry and arrived in Salelologa where Jordan met us. We all then biked about another 3 hours to get to Vik’s village for his “surprise” birthday party. All of Group 76 was present except for Dane. Unfortunately for us bikers, we could not enjoy the party entirely because we could barely move, but we did help to eat the wonderful hot dogs in pita bread (delicious pita bread that Jan made) and beans and chili out of the can. We spent much of the nite giving each other massages and stepping on each other’s backs.

The next morning we lounged around and Jan made those of us who were left pancakes …great sustenance. Then we continued on our way. We headed towards Manase where us 4 gals decided to spend the nite at Tanu Beach Fales. It was my first time staying at a beach fale and the location could not have been more perfect. John continued on to Maka’s while the 4 of us slept, ate, played in the water, read and had an idyllic day. Manase has to be put of the most beautiful places in Samoa. We got a lot of much needed rest for our legs and our bums which were all so sore. No seconds on dinner though unfortunately! At nite the 4 of us sat huddled in the ocean looking up at the stars.

Sunday we were on our way once again. We were headed towards Maka’s village, where we would meet up again with John. Rolling hill after rolling hill, we made it to Maka’s village after a pit stop to refuel at Vaisala. Then it was up a monstrous hill which I somehow, incredibly, made it to the top of, stopping only briefly one time to stretch my legs. I don’t know where my energy all of a sudden came from, because by the time we got to the big hill, my legs were tight and I thought I was going to cry and have to walk my bike up that hill, but I made it! We spent the nite at Maka’s and he was a great and wonderful host. The food was delicious and Maka had 80s music playing while we once again gave each other massages and filled our bellies once again.

The next day brought us to the Falealupo loop and we once again played in the water. We spent sometime at the beach fales and waited for the heat of the day to pass. Coming out of the loop was rough. My legs were still tired from the day before and it was definitely a tough day for me. I had to push my bike a few times to get over the many hills. By the end of the day, John was keeping me company in the back, far behind everyone else. But I made it to Satuiatua where we spent the nite at beach fales once again. We didn’t make it there till 6 pm, so we went straight to dinner and they treated us to ice cream! After dinner, Candice, Jordan and I sat in the water watching the lightning blaze across the sky for a little while. It was gorgeous. Everytime the sky lit up you would hear a chorus of “ooohs” and “whoas.”

Tuesday morning we took an early dip in the water and then were on our way to Taga where Jan met us and together we enjoyed the blowholes. It was my second time there, as I visited former PCV Sara Z. there on my volunteer visit. And Sara, if you are reading this, your village does fondly remember you and we must thank you because bringing up your name got us out of having to pay for some of the fees they were charging. It was a gorgeous day and we were the only tourists there. Tofa was there and he threw coconut husks in the blowholes for us, free of charge. THANK YOU! We had lunch at the blowholes and took a nap before heading to Jan and Ray’s village for the nite.

At Jan and Ray’s, we got there and headed straight for the vai ta’ele (pool). It was SO cold, but a welcome cold from the heat we had been riding in all day. We made dinner…French toast, hot dogs, pisupo and taro balls (delicious, courtesy of Ray!) and spaghetti. What a feast. Afterwards the 5 of us sprawled out on the fale, evenly spaced, and “mom” and “dad” put us to bed.

The homestretch! Wednesday morning, we were just a short 45 min.- 1 hour bike ride from Salelologa. We had breakfast with Ray and Jan then headed out to catch the 10 am ferry back to Upolu. We biked through the rain and boarded the ferry and just like that, our trip was over. And that, everyone, is our bike trip summed up!! I am so happy to have done it! Through all the aches and pains, I can’t wait to do it again…though I’m going to give it a few months before I attempt to. And I really don’t want to see a bike for a couple of weeks either.

Back on Upolu, Candice, John and Jordan, those hard core bikers, biked from the wharf back to Apia, whereas Jame and I hitched a ride from a faife’au and faletua. I really couldn’t fathom riding my bike back to Apia. Thank goodness we found one!!

It was real nice to get away for a few days and be palagis. My next goal is to tackle Upolu island, which is not as big, but is much hillier. December has been somewhat of a slow month. Once school ended, I really did not have much to do. Luckily, there was a bunch of Peace Corps events that kept me somewhat busy. And I did take my nephews, my brother Perenise and one of my favorite kids in the village to McDonald’s one day. It was a real treat for them and I had a great time treating them and spending the day with them. And in Peace Corps news…Group 77 are officially volunteers! We had their swearing in party on Wednesday, the 13th.



And now it's almost New Year's. Most of us volutneers still in country are headed to Falealupo in Savai'i to ring in the new year together. It sure doesn't feel like the holidays at all here. I miss everyone back home so much and I'm thinking about you all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Furry Little Visitor

So I wrote this about a week ago and finally have a chance to post it:

Sunday, November 5, 2006

So lately I have had a little visitor in my room. Yech…a mouse! I am terrified and do not like mice at all. So you can imagine that when I woke up to a scratching noise the other nite and realized that the mouse had taken down my curtains somehow and was trying to dig a hole out of my room, I was petrified. Well, maybe not petrified, but pretty near so. I tried as much as I could to ignore it and fell in and out of sleep. Luckily my mom ended up hearing the noise and had come to check up on me (since I also had a fever) and I was sitting up in bed when she came in and I told her that “I think there’s a mouse in my room.” She saw it on the window pane and called my dad and he came in with a Samoan broom and knocked it down, but then it was a completely lost cause because it was nowhere to be found. What did happen was that one of my brothers came in and looked all over for the mouse and my mom ended up cleaning my room for me. Later the furry little critter did show up again when my mom was giving my stomach a massage, must be something in the water that is giving me the runs and some pain. I shut my eyes while she yelled for my brothers. I had 2 of my brothers trying to chase down that mouse, but once again it was to no avail. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t have to ever see it.

In other news, all is going well on my tiny island. Dane and John came to visit yesterday. We took a walk around the island and went swimming in Apai. The tide was real low though and the weather was only so-so. It’s been rainy, windy and cloudy here the past couple of weeks. But it hasn’t been too hot which means a lot less sweat. It was nice having them here and showing them around, though it was John’s 3rd time to the island. My family and the other villagers enjoyed having them here and by meeting other “pisikoa” they can see who I’m talking about when I talk about them. They got coconuts and breadfruit fresh off the umu to take with them on their boat ride back to Upolu.

I am settling in nicely to my village, though there are days, especially the past few, where I just don’t feel like I’ll ever really belong or ever get the hang of this language. I’ve been hanging out at the school more and giving Year 8 the chance to use the lone laptop we have at the school. It is tough “teaching” with just one laptop though, as the kids sometimes have to wait awhile before their turn. But they do manage to pass the time, and it generally passes pretty quickly. Going to school gives me something to do and keeps me somewhat occupied. The kids are learning how to type right now and then play games after their lesson. It’s not hard to keep their attention because they absolutely love playing on the computer. Pretty soon they’ll all be computer junkies like us back in the States.

The village has been busy and finally, the pastor’s new house has been finished. Hallelujah! For the time being, I don’t have to worry about what to do with myself when everyone else is working hard. The opening of the pastor’s house is on Friday, so we will be busy preparing for that.

Baby Stephanie is doing well as is her mother. She smiled at me this morning while I was holding her. All the kids in the family are doing great…they cry, they laugh, they eat, and they cry some more. It just wouldn’t be the same without them.

And now I’m off to bed and keeping my fingers crossed that my little visitor doesn’t make an appearance tonite!

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's A Girl!

So my sister in law finally popped! She had a baby girl on the morning of October 20. And guess what they named her...Stephanie! I was quite honored and amused as well. It's hilarious listening to my little nephew try and pronounce the name. But finally, a girl in the family! I'm disappointed I missed the whole delivery. I heard crying and yelling at 4:30 am and just thought it was my family being crazy and the babies crying. So when I woke up at 6:30 am and my little nephew, Evile, kept saying "pepe" I didn't think much of it until my mom came and told me that the baby came and she just finished delivering at 6 am, in the little fale right behind my house. My house is going to continue to be just crazy.

So on October 11 we welcomed Group 77 to Samoa. Insane that a new group is already here. Seems just like yesterday we were the ones being welcomed at the airport. This time it was our turn to be the greeters. Group 77 is mostly IT people and there are 12 guys and 4 gals. This will be the first group that we will leave, instead of people leaving us.

On that Saturday we had their fiafia and it was tons of fun. We got to perform our siva teine that we performed in Vaie'e once again, with a couple of volunteers from other groups joining us. And Jordan, Jame and I made fettucine alfredo with pe'epe'e cream (coconut cream) and it was delicious. Much more dancing at their fiafia than ours, mostly because the sound system was working this time. Most of the volunteers were in so got to catch up with a lot of my girls.

I also spent a nite in Vaie'e to visit my training family during the week I was in Apia. It was nice to see them, but a bit weird because it feels like I don't have much to talk to them about. I can't believe it's been 2 months since the 15 of us were running around crazy in the village.

Last week Year 8 was in exams and for some reason, the rest of the kids didn't have school. I came up to school everyday to hangout and let the kids play some kids on the laptop. They're getting to know how to use it pretty well and loving it. I am excited to try and teach them how to use the computer. I am hoping to start a library here in the lab as well and get the kids reading a bit more too.

Okay, time to go. The kids are starting to swarm me!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Church Church and More Church

It has been a busy past few weeks in the village. I’m not even real sure what I’ve been doing, but I do know that it’s mostly all been church related. From a youth choir competition to a fa’alavelave (a funeral in this case) a church opening and now with White Sunday upon us (a day for the kids, where the kids put on plays, sing songs, dance), there has been so much to do. All of these activities have helped me to settle into my village more comfortably and get to know people in the village. The days go by pretty quickly, though most days I wake up and have no idea what I’m going to do, somehow it passes pretty quickly.

My village, surprisingly, speaks very good English, which has helped, but does not help my Samoan at all. I have found some cool girls to hangout with in the village. My family is great, my brothers do just about everything for me. My sister in law is about to pop any day. My 3 little nephews drive me crazy sometimes, but they are the most adorable things. The other day my 5 year old nephew even locked me in the shower (since it can be locked from both the inside and outside). He was fooling around while I went in to take my bucket shower and when I’d finished I couldn’t get out. I found it pretty amusing and my family thought I was crying because I was scared, but I really was just laughing. My family is very protective. Actually, the entire village is very protective about me and worries about me if I spend too much time in the sun or if I’m not feeling well. It is difficult having so many people worry about me all the time, they always want to make sure that I don’t hurt myself or strain myself too much.

I have felt somewhat productive in the village, helping out at the school on occasion. The other day I gave my first computer lesson to Year 7 and Year 8 kids. Pretty much I just introduced them to the laptop and let them play Hangman. They loved it. And it was good for them just to play around on the computer. Watching them enjoy something like a laptop, where we all take it for granted, made me so feel real fortunate, but at the same time, it really made my day watching these kids have such a good time. I’ve also been working on getting the new Fale Komiti built for the Women’s Komiti and the drawings from the architect came out really great and the Komiti loved it. Now to just get the carpenter here and make a list of supplies so that we can get a quote on the prices. Feels good just to do a little something here and there. I participate in as much as I can with the church cuz I know that they love when I do and it does help me to feel more like a part of the village.

I also went to visit John in his village one day. I was surprised that I was allowed to spend the nite, but I guess since his mom is the principal at my primary school she worked things out. It was great to see him and get to see what his village was like. Very different from mine and being a guy in the village is just a lot different from being a girl. We walked up a mountain in the morning, it was exhausting. It was so steep, but the views at the top were amazing.

Hard to believe that a new group is coming on October 11. And I can’t believe I’ve been here for only 4 months. I feel like I’ve been in Samoa for much longer. I am enjoying myself in the village. It is definitely a rollercoaster of emotions and there are moments when I just wish I could be home, but it passes and things get better.
And now I am apparently performing for White Sunday as well. My intention was to go and watch some of the practices the kids were having, since its right next door to my house. But somehow whenever I try and just watch, I get dragged into participate. So now I am singing and dancing with the kids as well as the pastor’s wife (faletua) in the play we are doing. Mostly I just stand there and let the pastor (faife’au) do all the talking and he helped me learn one line to say. It’s actually pretty fun and be part of a White Sunday. I probably will really just watch next year, if they let me!

I love living on this tiny island, away from everything, in a lifestyle completely different from everywhere else. It’s so peaceful and relaxing, no hustle and bustle. I love that there are no cars and no dogs. I love the sand paths and I feeling isolated enough but also knowing that I can get to Apia within 2 hours if I needed.

Church has become my life. I actually look forward to some event for the church because it means that the village will be busy preparing for something and I will have something to do. Though it has been about 4 straight weeks of church stuff and it has been pretty exhausting.

Oh yes, and if you all would like to look at some pictures, check out Marques’ website at www.mjpeacecorps.blogspot.com. He’s got a lot of good pictures up and there’s even a folder he created for us Group 76ers. That’s all for now folks, I’m headed up to school in a little bit. Till next time!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Settling In

So we have now been in the village for almost 2 weeks and it sure is a lot different from training. It’s weird to be on my own and not have the rest of the group around. It’s overwhelming and a bit scary. The village is beautiful and my family is wonderful. The people are all very nice, but it’s hard to push myself to constantly go out and try and make conversation with people. It’s frustrating because I can’t say much in Samoan and I really want to be able to speak the language and understand what everyone is saying, but I just run out of things to try and say in Samoan after awhile. It is going to take lots of time. As much as I want to get to know everyone in the village, I also find that I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with myself. The volunteers weren’t kidding when they said that we’d have plenty of time to read, write and get to know ourselves. Everyday I spend about 2-4 hours in my own room and get my nap in and a lot of reading and writing done.

I do like my family a lot. They have been very welcoming and have let me have my space. My nephews are the most adorable things and I’m hoping that my sister in law has a girl the end of September.

So last week I did stop in Apia on Monday, mainly because I had lice. I was eating breakfast Saturday morning when my cousin all of a sudden pulls 2 bugs out of my hair, and then my sister in law and brother pulled out a bunch more as well. Yuck. Teuila gave me shampoo for that. I did run into Jame, Jordan and Jess at the Peace Corps Office and I was so extremely happy to see them. It felt like we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, but really it was only 4 days!

The week dragged slowly. I went running once and walked around the island once. I spent some time at the school. The schools are on break this week and next so last week the teachers didn’t do much teaching. They had sports day and movie day 2 of the days that I was there. I also showed some teachers how to use some of the games on the laptop and they loved it. John came to visit me on Thursday morning with his “mom” and once again, I was very happy to see someone from my group. I showed him around the island and we got to trade stories.

This past weekend I was in Apia for the weekend to run some errands and also because I had to run some errands with my mom and dad. It was nice to be in town and because it’s the start of the Teuila Festival there were a lot of other volunteers in town. I got to know some of the volunteers and we went to the siva afi show (fire dancing) and it was amazing. There was a juniors and seniors competition and they were so awesome. Last nite was the start of the festival and I went with Jordan, Jame and Candice to the choir competition, mainly because Jordan had told her village she would be there to support them. We showed up a bit late, but the same song was sung 31 times! Dane and Amanda were also in town singing with their villages so we got to talk to them too. And apparently Amanda, Jame and I were shown on TV so when I was in Apia today as well as in my village, everyone I knew told me they had seen me on TV last nite. I felt like a mini celebrity.

We spent most of the weekend lying around Jame’s apartment, eating lots of junk food (I brought her lots of cookies and panipopo), reading and talking. I felt like I was in college again.

I am getting adjusted to the village. I’m used to the bucket showers now. They’re really not so bad! I’m slowly getting to know everyone in the village. The primary school students have made me feel welcome. The girls always stop and talk to me and the boys will occasionally walk me home if I’m up at the school.

I’ll be back in town on Thursday. I’m excited because most of my group will be coming in so it will be a mini reunion after 2 weeks.

Time to eat!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Officially a Volunteer!

So Group 76 are officially volunteers! We had our swearing in ceremony in Vaie'e today and tomorrow we separate to our own villages. It's going to be real weird being on our own after being with the group for just about every waking moment. I'm looking forward to it and a little scared and nervous as well.

The past 3 weeks have flown by. The last two weeks in the village our schedules were jam packed with activities and we were either practicing for the fia fia, working on the village project or in class. But we survived and made it thru! The fia fia with the village last Friday was great. The boys did 2 slap dances, us girls did a Samoan siva, we did a sasa (slap dance) together and then we performed a mini play. It was tons of fun and the village appreciated all our effort. They went all out as well and we were showered with lavalavas, handicrafts, jewelry and fans. It was amazing. They are truly some of the kindest people ever. Later that nite my own family had their own fia fia for me. We had a BBQ. They actually went out to buy a grill so that we could have a bbq. I tried to help them put it together in the afternoon but we ended up having to redo just the stand about 3 or 4 times because I am terrible at putting things together. I ended up going to take a nap. Then my family showered me with some gifts. I was amazed. They were crying and sad to see me go. Samoans are so big on family and I was very touched.

And today it was great to see everyone again. I'll be back to visit soon I'm sure. The Teuila Festival is next week and I am very excited. It's this huge weeklong festival here in Apia and Samoans from New Zealand, Australia and the States fly in to see it. I can't wait to see what it's like.

The past few days in Apia have been crazy busy too. We've had a few more sessions, getting tours of the Peace Corps office, our access codes (finally!), seeing the hostel and meeting more of the staff here.

And I've finally linked some blogs from my group for more stories. Tim has some pictures up so be sure to check out his.

And now I'm off to run errands before everything closes! I bought a cell phone yesterday on the recommendation that it would work on Manono but then when I went to another store to activate it, another person said for sure that it wouldn't.

Cheers for now!