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…