Snapshots from Samoa

This is the place where you'll find snapshots of my life as a peace corps in Samoa.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Who needs a dog?

I never thought I would fall in love while I was here. But after the last couple of months I realize I may as well own up to it… I am in love with pigs. They are absolutely the cutest things. Piglets chasing each other across the lawn will mesmerize me every time. When they get up to speed they draw their front and hind legs together and move across the earth in little leaps and bounds. The adults are cute too… I adore their deeper, full bodied grunts… really just too cute.

During training I very nearly had a pig. It was the runt of the litter and had been abandoned. The night before Ema had saved it from a dog but with no mom feeding the poor thing it was getting weak. Leo brought it into the classroom and the next thing you know it mine for the day. I fed it and it slept in my lap during class. I was getting quite attached. Unfortunately there was no way I could keep it… how in the world was I going to get a 200 pound pig back to the states… furthermore what was I going to do with it in NYC? It’s not like I could give the pig to anyone here they’d just eat it I went in search of my darling pig’s owners, who turned out to the be the pastor and his family. I was asked if I wanted to keep the pig and upon my response in the negative I was assured that they would take care of the pig. So I like to think the pig is growing up happy and safe with the pastor… I try not to think of what will happen when it gets big.

I have resolved to have a potbelly pig when I return to the states… just as soon as I move somewhere that has space for the pig to run.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Group 77 Welcome Fiafia

This weekend was excellent. We threw a fiafia to welcome Group 77 into the country. They got to sit front and center for the entertainment portion of the evening. I did the PC sasa, sang with Ema and did a siva teine. The siva teine was executed with style and grace. Much thanx to all the lovely ladies (Texas, Candice, Ema, Julia, Robin, Cecelia, and Sefa) that made time to practice… you guys rock! The guys did their “warrior” thing. And we had a hot siva afi performance. After the requisite showcase the fun really got underway… with the food!

The food was plentiful and delicious. Sefa, Jordan and I made a fettuccini alfredo with tomatoes and freshly crushed garlic… and get this instead of using milk we used coconut cream, a delectable non-dairy substitute. Candice and her roommate Sarah made some really good oka (sashimi with cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and coconut cream). And then there was the dessert side of the table… banana bread, koko Samoa brownies made by Robin, sponge cake, chocolate chip cookies, and a lovely fruit salad with esi (papaya), mango, banana, and coconut cream.

After food and a bit of conversation I spent most of the rest of the night dancing, you have no idea how happy that made me. Candice had the foresight to put together an excellent music mix. There was some techno, hiphop, we had some Jackson love (Janet and Michael), and one of my favorite India Aire songs (the one from the diary of a mad black woman soundtrack). I’d say the night was a success I can’t wait till the next one. June 2007 here we come!! LOL ^_^

Some of the lovely ladies of Group 76 (l to r: Sefa, Me, Ema, Jordan)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A look forward and a look back

WOW!! I climed out of bed at 4am this morning and headed out to the airport to welcome the new group to Samoa. Here are some stats on Group 77. There are 12 guys and 4 girls. Most are in IT but there are 2/3 music teachers and 2 who work with people with special needs. I really can’t believe another group is here already I still feel like I just got off the plane yesterday. I figure this is a good a time as any to look back on the past 4 months in Samoa.

Ahh… I have many fond memories of the Apia Central my first “home” in Samoa. It was the birthplace of “Potu Ono” which means room six in Samoan. Texas, Jordan and I bonded through late night talks and plenty of hilarious happenings. Texas was even my roommate in LA… who knew the first PC person I met would end up being one of my best friends? Potu ono now sports matching clothing items… and if anyone has an idea for a logo we’d love to adopt it ^_~

Another stellar Apia central moment was definitely the day the guys bought their first ie faitongas. “Work it boys!”

The first week we got here we had a day of “cultural exploration.” Here’s a pic of what we explored. It was definitely one of those can it get any better than this moments for me. The natural beauty here is such a comfort. Moving halfway around the world can be nerve-wracking at times but some quality time outside on the beach or sitting under a tree can really help center you again.

Here’s another one of those views. This was our water safety day. Perfect snorkeling weather wouldn’t you agree?

Then there was my next home in Samoa… Isn’t it the cutest house? I had a room in the back of the house that overlooked the bay. I really wished I could have gotten a picture of the full moon over the water... really words fail when trying to describe it.

Thankfully you can capture the sunset view from my window and you’ll have to agree that the sunset picture brings to mind the words “tropical paradise”.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Location… Same Me

For the few of you who remember the surprise going away party at Red Lobster the following story will not come as a surprise.

Upon moving into my new flat, and residence for at least the next year probably 2, I was told about the cash power system. Instead of getting billed monthly for power you’ve used you pay the power company in advance, get a receipt and punch a code into your home power box. When you’ve used all the power you’ve paid for the power cuts off (can you see where this is going?). The little meter said 300 something when I moved in… did I know what that meant? No. But there were LED’s in green, yellow and red so I figured I’d go buy power when the little light turned yellow… or red. Oh the best laid plans.

One delightful Tuesday some of my favorite people came into town… Texas and Peta. We were going to have a “potu ono” (more on this later) reunion at my place. We bought honey chicken from Chopsticks and mix for hot, chewy chocolate chip cookies. It was shaping up to be a great evening. We took a cab to the flat and walk into a flat with no electricity. Needless to say there were no cookies that night. But there is a happy ending…thanks to Aunti Mabel I was quite prepared… I got out the candles and the lighter and potu ono had a candlelight dinner. I of course got some more power the next day ^_^.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The beginning of catching up... end of training

I've been pretty busy in Samoa. Only three months in and already I've been in the paper once and have been on tv at least twice. What extraordinary things have been happening? Well…

The first chapter of my Samoan experience has come to an end. There are no more language classes, no more technical training, no more cross cultural training. I no longer spend my days and nights with the other crazy/wonderful members of group 76. Gone is village life and the best family in . On the last day in the village there was a huge fiafia (party). My group performed a slew of traditional Samoan dances the taku paku (guys), a slap dance (guys), a sasa (all), and a siva teine (girls). As usual when you have palangi's butchering the Samoan arts humor is your best ally. We also provided several musical selections that were done with emphasis on spirit rather than on key. We did manage to fit in a quartet who sang "Afai e te alofa" that didn't sound half bad. Of course yours truly was part of that group… along with Ema and 2 of the language trainers, Fale and Setu. To round things off we threw in a play: Jesus and the Untitled Man. To this day I don't think I've ever seen a more hilarious performance… wow I'm starting to laugh just thinking about it.

Group 76 performing a sasa… probably the only dance we didn’t completely butcher.

Here are our guys looking like the fierce warriors they are.
(left to right)Back row: Tim, Iona, Dane, Ray, Emillio
Front row: Vik, Elika

The fabulous four singing "A fai e te alofa" by 5 stars. And we were in key almost the whole time!!!
(left to right) Me, Ema, Fale, Setu

Friday, August 04, 2006

Once a scientist...

You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been doing this past week… I almost feel like I haven’t left the states. Why? Well scientific meetings are the same all over the world. I’ve been attending a technical meeting on cetaceans in the pacific islands! It’s been a great introduction to the issues going on in the region in terms of cetaceans and conservation. Going to the meeting is rather timely since the Ministry of Natural Resources, the department I will be working for while I’m here, is going to start a more directed approach to managing cetaceans. The dept. already does an annual sea turtle survey and they want to start an annual whale survey… how excited am I? The one thing that is definitely different about the meeting are the tea brakes. The tea is awesome… custard tarts, freshly baked cookies, chicken salad sandwiches, papaya, orange, coconut… we even had pizza for afternoon tea today. Needless to say I’m expanding. Thankfully the meeting ends tomorrow. I must make sure to exercise every day from now on… or something.

What else has been going on? Let me update you on the dreaded “Drop Off”. The journey started at a ridiculous hr of the morning, the sun was not up when we left. After driving all over the island at 7am Setu stops the van in front of an abandoned house. Tim and I are told to get out. “See you back at the village!” And the van drives off. Ok… I’m in a foreign country left in the middle of nowhere as far as I know… nothing to do besides start walking. A good 10 minutes later we find ourselves in a village and it just so happens that the first people we meet are waiting for the bus into Apia. [Apia is kind of like Rome… all roads lead to it. From there you can easily get wherever else you want to go] The bus takes it sweet time coming and shortly into our journey Tim and I find out why. Engine trouble. Six guys and the bus driver end up standing around staring at the engine. Time to try another method of transportation… Hitchhiking! We flag down a van and jump in the back along with 5 kids on their way to school. We were in Apia by 5 to 9. The rest of the day was easy plenty of internet and BBQ chicken pizza. I can’t believe I was worried.

Other exciting news: I’ve started dancing!!! Two dancers from Samoa’s national dance team came out a couple of days to teach us siva Samoa (Samoan dance). One of the women is the niece of the head of PC training, HP. I love family connections. The dance we’re doing like most all female dances in Samoa is slow, and soft. Hands float as your body sways slightly to the music. A vision of beauty and grace… or at least that’s what it looks like till you get 8 palangi’s (white people/ westerners) dancing. Given 2 of us are dancers but I don’t even want to know what ran through the Samoans mind when they first saw us dance. After a “bit” of late night practice the PC group doesn’t look half bad.

More on the dancing front: last Friday the women in our village organized a tausala. The pastor described it as a dance-a-thon, which I kind of agree with. Every family gets their name called for a song. When your song is called you have the floor. Family dances while the audience cheers and gets up to put money in a bowl that’s in the center of the floor. To make things interesting you can also put money on people… behind their ear, on top of their head or down their shirts. I of course was the best PC dancer of the bunch… being modest of course.

Most of my days are still filled with language classes and life and work sessions. The language is coming along slowly, but it’s coming. All in all I am blessed and life is wonderful.

Next update I’ll try to post pictures. Till then…


Friday, July 21, 2006

In the beginning

Of course I start posting one month and a half into things. There is just so much to cover that I can't. I do promise that the next post will be full of pictures and other information but I won't be in town again for another week. Until then take a look at Tim's blog he's got some good pic's up.