Thursday, February 28, 2008

This one goes out to Joe and Erin


Two weeks ago my school's rugby team competed in their first tournament (I know, I am behind on the blogging, so sue me). Our under 19 team went all the way to the finals and lost in over time.

I wanted to thank our friends and family who donated to the rugby team fund raising. The team is trying to go to Australia for a tournament in May and the fund raising was to help with that. A special shout out goes to Joe and Erin, friends from our days at the E-ville Courier & Press, who gave a very generous donation.

You can see the pictures of the team on the Flickr (

— Sara

Lesson learned on leaving automatic log-ins behind

So...If you are going to leave a job, I would recommend that in addition to clearing out your internet history that you also clear your cookies and any of those other things that automatically fill in fields or log you into accounts like email..or...ahem...Flickr. If you don't the next person to have your computer (who shall remain nameless) may accidently log into Flickr as you and then accidentally delete all your friends and family from your contact list. You may not be as lucky as me and know said nameless person, who was kind enough to email me and let me know what happened.

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell everyone to send us their Flickr info so I can make you a friend or family on our contact again. If you are not a friend or family contact, you will not be able to see any of the photos marked as private (which includes pitures of our schools and village and of our host family).

Thank you for your time.

— Sara

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Changing of the Guard

Farewell FiaFia

Things are changing here at Peace Corps Sāmoa. Country Director Kim Frola's last day was today, February 26. After more than four years of service, she is heading back to the States. We are sad to see Kim go, but look forward to working with the new director when he arrives.

Acting CD George Schutter (and the PC's Chief Financial Officer) took over yesterday and was already making the rounds to see volunteers. He visited with Usi and Hannah on Sunday and stopped in to see Cale and I today. Our Associate Peace Corps Director, Fata, and Training Manager, HP, accompanied him. He seems like a great guy and took a lot of interest in the computer lab at the school and the new language program the school has invested in (more on that to come.)

Our new director will be there in March. The new director is Dale Withington. Mr. Withington served as CD in the Marshall Islands from 1988-1991 and as CD and Administrative Officer in Kiribati from 1992-1995. He was also Special Assistant to the Regional Director in Washington, D.C. He served as a PCV in the Philippines from 1976-1981 where he worked with farmers to improve agricultural practices and promote conservation. He also assisted fish farmers with improving their aquaculture practices. Currently, Mr. Withington is the World Wildlife Fund’s South Pacific Program Representative responsible for the WWF’s operations in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands and Papau New Guinea. From 1995-1997 he worked with Conservation Melanesia in Papau New Guinea. He earned a Masters’ degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Journalism and Mass Communications and a B.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

— Sara

The difficulty of buying err... shoes.

So. A friend and I went to make a umm... shoe-run. We wanted a specific type of shoe. You  see,  they make two types of shoe here - regular,  and export. We had only ever seen the regular shoe, and we wanted to try on the export shoe, just to see how it fit. The regular shoe has only 4.9% umm... sole. The export shoe however, is a whopping 6.9% sole, making for err... more pleasant walking...  with ummm.... less effort and stuff. So- filled with curiosity, we went straight to the source. We called at the shoe factory. They make both types of shoes there, so it seemed an ideal starting point. Also, I had some old shoes that had already worn out, which we took back to be recycled. Once at the shoe factory, we asked "Do you sell the export shoe?"
Hearts giddy with anticipation, we received our answer.
But - there was a catch - we had to buy a whole case of shoes. That's 24. That's a lot feet for just the two of us. But at a wonderful price. We  decided to do it.
24 is more shoe than we came prepared to carry. We headed back to the home base in order to better plan our shoe run. While regrouping for the second attempt at shoe acquisition, the thought was put to us: "at that wonderful price, are you sure you aren't buying single shoes?"
They sell umm... shoe two ways here. By the umm.. pair, which is more foot-comfort per dollar, and also singly, for which you get half the foot-joy, and more packaging, and its especially inconvenient if there are two of you planning to umm... share the shoe.
Plus, at for the price, single shoes aren't nearly as impressive.
But so interested were we in trying this export shoe that we ignored our apprehensions.
When we returned to the shoe factory, we were delivered a crate of brand new, single, regular shoes.
"What about the export shoe?" we asked.
"The what?"
We had to go back and talk to the shoe seller lady.
"We thought we bought export shoe..."
"The export? We sell that in Pago pago."
"Do you sell it here?"
"We sell it in Pago pago....."
In our best not getting irritated but still irritated and hurried, slightly expectant English tones...
"But do you sell it here?"
"We sell it in Pago pago."
Uma. The conversation goes rapidly down hill.
A later blip in an otherwise unimpressive downward trend in conversation was this...
"Only 24?"
"How about if we want to buy the big .... ummm... pairs of shoes?"
"Oh. Yeah. We have 12 (pairs) for a dollar less."
We came home with 24 single ehhh.... shoes, single regular - non export - shoes, for what was a far less impressive price.
The shoes came in a nice plastic case.
We got a free ottoman.

- Cale

Monday, February 25, 2008

One laptop per Peace Corps

Cale purchased an XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child people ( during a "Get One, Give One" promotion. He paid for two of the laptops. One came to him and one went to a child somewhere in a participating country. Cale has laid claim to a specific child in Mongolia.

Hopefully, I can get him to do some posting on it soon. However, what I can tell:

1. Cale loves it
2. Playing with it sucks up all his time
3. He is not very good at managing a city (Sim City).
4. It is much tinier than I expected

— Sara

Product Endorsement of the Week: The Puma bag

"Authentic" Puma bag

At only $18 tala, this stylish messenger bag is a steal.

Available at practically any store in Apia (grocery/fabric store, pharmacy/tourist knick knack store, clothing/housewares store, appliance/liquor store), this durable plastic bag comes in a variety of colors and has many pockets for all your pocketing needs. The one drawback to the choice in "fabric" is the transfer of color to any items placed inside the bag.

Representatives at Puma were unavailable to comment on the company's decision to abandon their long-familiar, ferocious cat icon for the more comical badger seen on this bag here, but it adds a certain knock-off flair to the new line.

— Sara

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Word of the Week: 'Uma

v. Be finished, be done, be over.
adj. 1. All  2. Entire, complete  3. Whole of   4. Each every
adv. All, completely

Can you use it in a sentence?
Sara: "Your 'uma is different than my 'uma"
Cale: "'Uma is in the eye of the beholder."

'Uma is a very useful word to have in your back pocket. When class is over? It's 'uma. When the store is out of falaua maka ([fah-lah-ow-ah mah-kah] flour)? It's 'uma. When the kids sent to help clean the computer lab have swept all the dirt and trash into messy piles under the tables? They are 'uma and so are the piles. In that case, their 'uma and my 'uma were very different.

If I want everybody to be quiet, I want tagata 'uma. If I want something done every day, I want it done aso 'uma. And in the future, if I want all of the trash cleaned out of the computer lab and not just some of it, I want lapisi 'uma. Though, my students and I have different ideas of what is and isn't there could still be some more work done on communicating that.

— Sara

I shouldn't be surprised

So I arrived at school on Thursday to discover that I had a second class with my year 11.4 students. Of course, I didn't have a lesson prepared because I wasn't expecting it. I took the kids into the computer lab to play a learn to type game instead of boring them by trying to pull a lesson on computer theory out thin air.

Now, one would think that taking close to 36 students into a lab with only 12 computers was going to lead to chaos. However, one would be wrong. Though they are the biggest class I teach and the class with the least English proficiency, they were the best behaved in the lab so far. Usually when I take kids into the lab, the first thing they do when they get within arms reach of the computer is starting messing with stuff. They change the backgrounds, accidentally delete important operating system files, manage to rename the My Computer icon things like JKL and generally just mess things up.

I instructed the year 11.4 class that they were to sit at their assigned computers and not touch anything until told to. And they did. I instructed them to start and then play the typing game. And they did. I instructed them to make sure that everyone got a turn. And they did. They were also very well behaved and relatively quiet. It was amazing.

There was one computer with two girls doing the typing game. The way it works is these fish with words on them swim across the screen and you have to type the words before the fish attack your diving man. These girls had discovered that if they waited for the fish to show up, looked at the first couple of words and then hit the pause button, they could take their time in locating the keys on the keyboard. Then they could unpause and type the words very fast. This phenomenon quickly spread through the room and by the end of class they were all doing it. At first I was a pretty impressed with the students for coming up with this idea, but then it occurred to me: these kids are like 15 years old, I shouldn't be impressed, this is totally the sort of thing that a 15-year-old would figure out and do.

That clued me in to the fact that on some level I find myself assuming that if the kids don't understand what I am saying, they must not understand other things. But that is a failure on my part. A kid's English skills is in no way a reflection of that kid's intelligence.

— Sara

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Notes from a teachers' meeting

Reminders: If you don't turn in your lesson plan book we could always send you to Savai'i. And no one wants that, do they?

Timetables: Still under construction

Sports: The coaches are responsible for the coaching AND the equipment, so don't lose anything.

Mats and brooms: All new students must bring in a mat and a broom. What do the do with the mats?

Fundraising: Lead us not into temptation and give the fundraising money to the secretary.

— Sara

Laughter is different

I didn't realize that the sound of a group of people laughing was a cultural sound until I arrived in Sāmoa and the sound was different.

I could be teaching a class or sitting in the teachers' lounge when I will hear another classroom erupt in laughter (this rarely happens in my class, but that is another story) and the sound is not quite right. Something is different. I cannot put  my finger on it. The sound is faster and slightly higher pitched than what I am used to.

The reason I think about it is because when laughter doesn't sound right, there is a tendency to think it is disingenuous. But I do not believe that is the case at all. It is just my palagi ears and ingrained training on what laughter should sound like not yet becoming accustomed to the new sound.

— Sara

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thirty-four fifteen-year-olds and ten working computers

I am not even sure if I have to say any more in this blog post. The headline says it all.

Seriously though. Today I took my year 11.3 class into the computer lab. In theory, I had it all planned out. Three teams, 11 students in each team. Team #1 plays a typing game, while Team #2 draws the keyboard in their notebook so we can label the keys, while Team #3 learns about the home row keys. After 15 minutes, they all switch, until each group has done all the things.

In practice was much more hectic and complicated and chaotic. But by the end of the period I managed to have 34 kids that appeared to have had a good time and learned a tiny amount of information. We also escaped without anything horrible happening to the computers and all of my mice still had all the balls inside! So I would call the class a success. I am very happy I only have to do it once a week. At least, it is only on this timetable once a week. New timetables are still to come.

— Sara

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First two weeks as a teacher

Cleaning up grass clippings

I am officially a teacher. I have made lesson plans, administered pop quizzes and confiscated a cell phone. Boo-yeah.

Teaching is a hard job. When I worked at the paper, I would often go in early or stay late, but once I was home for the day I was off. I couldn't design the paper at home. Totally different for teaching. There is plenty of work for me to do at home. Especially because I am working in the computer lab during all of my down periods at school.

Cale and I have a total of 27 computers working. They were all filthy with viruses and we have been meticulously cleaning them. A total of fourteen of them are now virus-free and ready for use. Soon we will move half of them downstairs to the second computer lab and have two working labs, each with 13 computers.

My biggest disappointment right now is that I have been doing all of my computer teaching in regular classrooms (you know, rooms with no computers) because the labs aren't ready. I really want to teach computers with computers.

I am slowly — oh so slowly — learning some of my students names. Though they still laugh hysterically when I try to pronounce them. There is one students name that I will always remember how to say because she wrote a helpful pronunciation guide on her homework assignment. Her name is Teuteronome, which is Sāmoan for Deuteronomy in the Bible. It was really smart of her. Now I know how to say her name right and I will always remember who she is.

I am not 100% sure what classes I will be teaching all year, as things have been in flux for the past two weeks. Originally I was teaching all of Year 13 (13.1, 13.2 and 13.3) and year 11.3 and 11.4. However, 11.4 was taken a way from me after the first class because some of the students were a little rowdy. Personally, I didn't have a problem with it, but apparently their form teacher found out and thought it was trouble. So then I was given year 11.1, who had already been seen by the HOD earlier in the week.

Things got trickier in week two. Year 11.4 was back on my schedule (even though the HOD had taught their second class the week before). Year 11.1 was off my schedule and some of the Year 11 classes were being seen twice a week and some only once. They are still working out the details of the schedule.

Two new teachers joined us in the second week as well. One is a former Wesley teacher who left to get a degree and is back. He teaches Maths and Science, but will also be teaching some computer classes. Rumor has it he is going to take all of Year 11 computer, so I may just have Year 13. The other teacher is an Australian volunteer (from Ireland — long story) who teaches Maths and Physics. They also said he could teach computers if we wanted the help. However, we only have 27 working computers in the school and we currently have five computer teachers. Some how, I don't think we need the sixth teacher.

I am discovering how different classes have different personalities. I interact with the classes differently and there are some classes that I look forward to more than others, but don't tell them that. I am also starting to get a feel for the personalities of students. I know the handful of kids in each class that I can usually count on to buckle under pressure and raise their hands when I stand in front of the class for two minute needling someone to answer or to volunteer for something. I also know the kids that are not going to answer or volunteer even if I call on them directly.

The day usually starts at 6 a.m. I am trying to get my exercises in and for the previous three days I have been exercising from 6 to 6:30. I also turn the teapot on and make a cup of tea. I have to be at school by 7:30, but Cale doesn't have to been in until 8 a.m. (or exercise) so he sleeps in. At 6:30 I shower (as little as possible, that water is so very cold) and then make coffee for Cale who should be getting up around 7 a.m.

At first I was making yogurt and fruit and granola for breakfast, but Cale recently made two batches of bagels from scratch so we have been eating bagels with cream cheese for breakfast.

Then I put on my uncomfortable, guaranteed to be hot and sweaty all day puletasi and head to the school. I only have a class first period once a week, so the rest of the time I go to the computer lab and work on the computers. I teach three to four classes a day (out of six periods in the school day) and last week I was given three study halls to supervise.

School ends at 1:30 p.m. and I head home to shower and change. Cale gets out at 2 p.m. When he gets home we eat lunch/dinner and then end up working on lesson plans or working in the computer lab during the evening.

So there you go, two weeks of teaching. More to come.

— Sara


Riding the bus. Sublime blaring out the speakers. No, wait, this isn't the regular Sublime song, it must be a Sāmoanized version of the Sublime song — you know, with a Casio keyboarded added. that Sāmoan? Yes, yes it is. I am listening to a Sublime song, sung by a Sāmoan, in Sāmoan with a Casio keyboard in the background. Excellent.

— Sara

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Headlamp-lit Dinner

When the power goes out...

Cale was in the middle of making some very delicious cheesy garlic bread — a prelude to our planned dinner of pizza — when the lights went out. That isn’t particularly unusual, as the power usually goes out once a week for a brief amount of time.

Electricity is a bit screwy here. I am frequently in the computer lab working on computers and the UPS are constantly beeping and clicking at me, letting me know the power as just gone out for a moment or that something unusual has happened.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, I was sitting in the dark eating cheesy bread.

This time the power stayed off for what turned out to be almost three hours. We didn’t let a little thing like lack of light keep us from eating. Cale donned a headlamp and finished making the pizza. I sat at the table, romantically lit by another headlamp, sipping beer.

After dinner we headed to the open field in front of my school to stare in wonder at all the stars visible in the pitch-black night. Well, more pitch-black than usual. We do live on a busy road, so there were car headlights to contend with. Surprisingly, there was also light pollution from the capital city in the distance. I never would have guessed that Apia gave off enough light to create any light pollution. I think the hazy fog in the air helped multiply what little light there was.

It was still impressive to look up and see all of those stars. And not just that there were so many starts, but that there were so many unfamiliar stars.

We went to sleep that night still powerless, but not much later the power was back on.

— Sara

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I wasn't sleeping and it was getting to me.
For the first week of school, I would find myself awake in the middle of the night worried about something, stressed about something, filled with anxiety about something — what in the world was the something? Classes hadn't started yet. I had nothing in particular to be worried about — other than I had never taught high school before and I didn't know what I was doing, of course.
I would find myself unable to sleep with all this free-floating anxiety banging around in my head. Between the hours of 2 a.m. and 3 or 4 a.m. (one time from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.), I could be found working on lesson plans or typing blog entries or playing Tetris. Then I would drag myself back to bed and sleep fitfully until the alarm at 6 a.m.
One night I had a legitimate anxiety. I had been working in the computer lab at school that day and had seen some of the other teachers enter and leave the computer lab through the back door, which doesn't normally get used. I woke up at around 12 a.m. convinced I had forgotten to lock that door before I came home. I let that anxiety bang around in my head for several hours until I couldn't take it anymore. Then I went about the oh-so-subtle process of waking up Cale — without actually looking like I was trying to wake him up. The goal? To unload my worries and have him say something comforting that would make me feel better or to have him accompany me to the school in the middle of the night to check the door.
I should start another sidebar on the blog. It will be reasons why I am happy I am married to Cale. It will include butt boil bandaging, delicious food cooking and 2 a.m. trips to check doors that turned out to be securely locked accompanying.
— Sara
P.S. No worries, I am sleeping fine now. Please don't feel the need to send me any crazy herbs.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Excitement and Heartbreak

At On the Rocks

Cale and I headed into Apia on Friday after our first week of school to celebrate/unwind. We met up with some other PCV at the office and together we headed to The Lighthouse or Hot & Spicy (depending on what sign you are looking at on the building). While we were there the Sāmoan sevens rugby team played Tonga (I think) and won. We could not see the TV from where we sat, but the rest of the bar was quite excited during the match and quite jubilant afterwards.
 We eventually migrated next door to Cocktails on the Rocks, where we ran into a group of JICA volunteers (including the other volunteer teacher at my school, Nao) and more PCVs. The PCVs were celebrating Usi's birthday and we joined in the fun. While we were there Sāmoa played in the finals against New Zealand. Granted, I know absolutely nothing about rugby, but I found it to be quite an exciting game. First of all rugby doesn't lie to you like football. The number on the clock is an honest representation of how much longer the game is. In football 20 minutes can stretch into three hours — or so it seems. Also, the action in rugby is constant. None of this hike, pass, tackle, stop game, wait around, reform, yada, yada, yada that happens in football.
Anyway, it was down to literally the last few seconds and Sāmoa was in the lead, but New Zealand snuck a final touchdown? I just realized I don't know what that is called in rugby and managed to win the game. Devastation I tell you, devastation. Everyone all over Sāmoa and even a government minister quoted in the newspaper were talking the next day about the clear bias of one of the refs in the game.
Anyway, I thought it was fun.
— Sara

Friday, February 8, 2008


This year the Methodist schools are creating a combined rugby team that will be competing in a tournament in Australia. Both Cale and my schools are fundraising for the $100,000 tālā it will cost to send all the players, two coaches and team managers there. That is about $40,000 USD. Quite a lot of money.

Each student and teacher was given a fundraising sheet to take around to friends and family. I have been dillegently trying to translate the form so I could retype it here in its entirety, but discovered that to be very difficult. As most Sāmoan words have many meanings and context is everything. Here is what I have come up with so far:

"We (just starting at this very moment OR starting in the past and continuing now [this verb tense means both]) are not healthy (?), we do not refuse, we do not shut a great deal the price of hiding our poverty and that we are not wealthy.

Also flow (or carry) the last receptecal (or ditch) since something (I cannot locate this word) can know and be shown the talent of the children's rugby.

We take advantage of worry and respect and honor......"

That is when I gave up.

Anyway, we are trying to raise some money and I thought I would reach out across the seas. Any dollar you pledge is worth $2.50 tala over here. If you are willing to help, please send me an email letting me know how much you would like to pledge. I will send you an address in the states you can send it to. Please do not send us a check, we cannot cash them here in Sāmoa.

Unfortunately, the deadline for these pledges is fast approaching, Friday, February 15. Sorry for the short notice.

Thank you for any help you are willing to provide. I am sure the kids at our schools will appreciate it as well.

— Sara

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What is this counterpart thing you speak of?

The answer to this question isn't quite as simple as one might expect. According to the Oxford American Dictionary:

counterpart |ˈkountərˌpärt| |ˌkaʊn(t)ərˈpɑrt| |ˌkaʊntəpɑːt|


1 a person or thing holding a position or performing a function that corresponds to that of another person or thing in another place : the minister held talks with his French counterpart.

2 Law one of two or more copies of a legal document.
So that is clear as mud.
Before I joined the Peace Corps, I read many PC blogs. The impression I got from the blogs was that a counterpart was an in-country national (which is what the PC calls people who live in the country you are in) who was chosen by the PC for the volunteer to work hand-in-hand with during their service. This person would either have the same position as you (i.e. another teacher at the school), work in the same project as you (i.e. another member of the organization you were working for or the government ministry you were involved with), or be your supervisor at the in-country organization. The counterpart would teach you all you needed to know in order to do your job (not just job-specific tasks and logistics, but also how to work effectively inside the culture) and you would teach them all you had to offer about the topic you were assigned to and help them develop sustainable change and projects.
Things are not quite as cut and dry as that.
First of all, you are not assigned a counterpart. The counterpart relationship is something you must develop along the way. For some, it may be obvious who their counterpart will be (for me, right now, I assume it is my head of department in computer studies). For others, it may take time to determine who in the community is the person you will be working with most closely (this in particular for Village-Based Development volunteers, who have no specific assigned task). There is also no limit to a single counterpart.
The idea behind having a counterpart is relatively similar to my original idea though — someone who can help you navigate through the organization and the culture of the country and who you can help to develop new skills, projects, etc.
During training we were given two essays written by PCV on the concept of counterpart. R. Adams's paper, What is a "Counterpart?" offers a PC-specific definition:
"The term "counterpart," a term at the very core of Peace Corps' philosophy of human resource development, or capacity building, is one of the most misused and maligned terms in our Agency's vocabulary…
In Peace Corps terms, I offer the following description of a "counterpart." While at times a counterpart may be a specific, "assigned" individual, it is more likely that:
'Counterparts are those people who work with Volunteers and jointly learn through experience how to do something new within the local cultural context with enough competence and confidence to transfer their learning (in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitude) to others.'"
I was having a conversation with my neighbor, the director of the school board I work for, and he asked me how I found my counterparts. At first I was a little taken back. I realized that I hadn't solidified in my mind who my counterpart was. I hadn't been at the school long enough to see who I would be able to work most closely with or what sorts of projects would present themselves as most appropriate for the school. I assumed he meant the head of my department and I said as much. As it turned out, he also meant the business studies teacher who would be teaching computer classes as well.
There are other volunteers whose counterparts, in the most basic sense, are teachers who can go overseas for further education while the volunteer fills their role at the school. In fact, that used to be a specific PC program in Sāmoa. It could be said that I am doing that as well, as one of the computer teachers is now attending university to get a degree in computer studies. However, I would argue that these volunteers also find other counterparts at their school to work with during their two years of service.
The idea of counterpart is integral to the Peace Corps. Host country nationals and volunteers alike are aware of the concept and my have similar or vastly difference ideas of what a counterpart is and how the volunteer and counterpart should interact.
— Sara

An Open Letter To All The Teachers I Have Ever Had

Dear Teachers,
You must either be truly dedicated, amazing people or insane. I think that can be said about all the saints as well.
I am sorry that I was not more appreciative of you and all your work when I was in your class. Teaching is a hard, thankless job filled with long hours and mediocre monetary compensation in the States.
Mr. Birchfield, I am sorry that I slept in your AP U.S. History class whenever you turned out the lights and turned on the overhead projector. Mr. Ewing, I am sorry that I spent my time in your Government class coloring in my Little Mermaid coloring book. I am sure the fact that I already knew all the answers didn't make my complete disregard for your existence anymore acceptable. What's worse, I cannot apologize to many other teachers because I cannot even remember their names.
I don't have the right to be composing this letter now. After only three days of teaching, I am sure I have yet to scratch the surface of the difficulties of the job. Just know that now, many years too late, I appreciate you and your carefully planned lectures, your myriad of researched overheads, your countless worksheets and quizzes, your hours spent creating alternative learning methods, your early mornings, your late afternoons and your long nights — red grading pen in hand.
Thank you. The world needs crazy people like you.
— Sara

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

E fai Cale mea‘ai tele (Cale makes a lot of food)

You have probably noticed from the pictures on the Flickr that Cale has been cooking up a storm here in Sāmoa.
He has been working pretty diligently on a Tusi Cuka ([too-see coo-kah] cook book) that he wants to be Sāmoa Peace Corps friendly — foods that you can make with locally available foods, preferably with only a two burner gas stove.
Cale has been having an a great time experimenting and creating from scratch things that you would normally run out and buy at the store easily in the states. The big accomplishment has been the tortillas. So easy to make, very inexpensive ingredients and then, like magic, Mexican food.
I have been trying to think about what I would be eating if I had to cook for myself and the prospects seem dim. I am a pretty horrible, unimaginative and impatient cook. Without Cale I would probably live entirely on rice and pasta. Cooking for one in the States can be a challenge. Cooking for one in Sāmoa must be even harder.
See, everyday I think of reasons to be happy I married Cale. He dresses my butt boils and he cooks me food. What more could a girl want?
— Sara

Saturday, February 2, 2008

First Week School

I think we last left our intrepid teacher-to-be unsure of who would be the head of the Computer Studies Department at the end of the second day of school.
Wednesday I talked to the pule early in the morning and he said that I would he the HOD. So I spent the day spazzing out. I had a vague understanding that the senior students that wanted to take computers were supposed to come to me in my room and I would take down their names. By the mid-day break only two of the six classes had come. There then seemed to be some question as to why I hadn't gone to their homeroom classes and collected the names myself. Mainly because I didn't know where those rooms were or that I was supposed to do that anyway. The former HOD collected the names from two of the four missing classes and the homeroom teacher collected another class's names. So after the break, I only had to wait for one last class. They came, I had them write down their names and sent them back to their class. On my way back to the teachers' lounge to ask the pule what I was supposed to do with these names, I passed the last class's homeroom teacher. He was wondering why I was done with his class so early. Apparently, I was supposed to be giving some sort of speech about my class and my teaching style and getting to know the class during this time. No one had told me that either.
I had found out during the break that I also needed to be figuring out what teachers in my department would be teaching what classes. At that point, I didn't even know there were other teachers than me and the former HOD and I didn't know what classes they would teach. In fact, I was having a hard time seeing why we needed more teachers. There is only one computer lab. There are six periods a day. So if two teachers split it up they would each have only three classes a day anyway. What would we do with more teachers? We need more computers in another lab to make use of more teachers. At least that was my thinking. I started creating elaborate charts of how many classes we could see a week and how many days a week we could see the different grade levels (if we see two Year 13 classes five days a week and three Year 12 classes four days a week, then we can see two Year 11 classes three days a week…such on and so forth). However, with out moving some of the computers to the now defunct and electricity-less old computer lab and getting it up and running so that two computer classes could be going at the same time, I could see no way that more teachers would be helpful.
I met with the pule and the former HOD and told them what I had been working on. How I didn't know how they intended to teach two Year 13, three Year 12, four Year 11, five Year 10 AND five Year 9 classes in the only computer lab. With only 30 possible classes in a week and that being 19 classes right there you would basically only be able to see most of the classes once a week. The pule seemed to think that the computer "theory" could be taught in a regular classroom, one with no computers. I was trying to explain to him that it is very difficult to teach students what a Graphical User Interface is if they cannot see it. I think it just made me come off unreasonable and pushy.
Anyway, here I was spazzing, no knowing how to create this schedule or who was going to teach what. Trying to figure out if I was being unreasonable and pushy to think that all the computer classes should be taught in the computer lab (ideally with only one student per computer — now I am being unreasonable and pushy!). Wondering what they did last year and how I could someone just build on or modify that if I only knew what it was. When the pule dropped the happiest bomb in the world.
He appreciated all my hard work that day, but I could not be HOD. Thank God! Oh, wait. So who will be HOD? The former HOD will have to accept his position back. Genius! I love it. The pule explained that the HOD could not be someone who was on a limited contract and planning on leaving in two years. I totally agreed. He explained that he understood that the former, now current again, HOD had stepped down because he had been so concerned over the students poor performances on the PSSC and School C test the previous year. The pule said that the past was the past and now the HOD needed to move forward, improving on last year. Fabulous. The HOD needed that pep talk and afterwards his spirits seemed bolstered. Yay for me not being in charge any more.
Thursday and Friday were cake after that. I had some students sweep out the room. I worked a little on the computers. I wrote scripts for my first two classes and planned them out in detail. In general I just waited for classes to start and stopped worrying so much.
JICA had been hosting a conference on waste-management for the past week or so that several Peace Corps volunteers (and several representatives from other countries) were participating in. They came to my school on Thursday to distribute a questionnaire to the year 13.1* students and the teachers to determine what they knew about recycling. All of the other classes got out early. On Friday, JICA came back and did a presentation on recycling to the Year 13-Year 11 students. Year 10 and 9 got out early (at 10am) and we were done for the day after the presentation (12pm).
*Each class is broken into levels 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, etc, depending on how many students there are. The 13.1 students will be the "brightest" and they supposedly go down from there.
The presentation was great. The kids seemed to be interested and involved. A recycle bin for plastic bottles and tin cans had been supplied to our school, so that was cool. One kid even asked a great question about whether or not other plastics could be recycled in that bin or if it was just for plastic bottles. I think the most interesting thing about the presentation though was the opening prayer my pule gave. He did a reading from Genesis about the creation of the world from nothingness. Then he went on to talk about how the key part of this story was that God created the world with the power of the Holy Spirit and that everything thing in the world has a piece of the Holy Spirit in it and we must treat is as such and take care of it. Which I thought was a really smart way to incorporate environmentalism and religion. But the thing that really stuck with me, so much so, that I wrote it down, was this:
"Taking care of the environment should be a major focus of theology today."
I thought that was really progressive of him. I feel like I am just now hearing about religious groups (Christians in particular) in the states including environmental issues as core concerns for their ministry (and voting recommendations even). It was nice to hear those sorts of sentiments coming from a faifea'u in Sāmoa.
— Sara

Friday, February 1, 2008

Packing Recommendations Pt. II

Cale already had a go at suggesting what to pack and what not to pack. I thought I would give it a try from woman's perspective.
We found the lists we had made for ourselves when we first started planning what to pack and I am going to use that as reference.
Chacos, Chacos, Chacos. I cannot emphasize enough how important my Chaco Headwaters have been since I arrived here. I also have a pair of Chaco flip-flops (the ones with no leather). I have not worn my tennis shoes once. I cannot imagine a situation other than hiking through a dense jungle where I would want a shoe other than the Chacos. And even then, I think I would go for the Chaco. If you do not run regularly in the states, you will have no need for tennis shoes in country. You may want them if you travel to Australia or New Zealand while it is cold there.
Sports bras, sports bras, sports bras. A girl can never have too many sports bras. I was not a sports bra wearer in the States. I was not sporty. I am not sporty here either, but damn if sports bras aren't more comfortable when you are sweating like it is your job. Also, my favorite non-sports bra has no underwire.
Bring lots of underwear. Bring more underwear than you can imagine you will ever need. Bring it brand new still in the package. The ants, ahem, like to get into the dirty laundry…and eat them…if you get what I mean.
Boys' boxer shorts. I may never know, but boys' boxer shorts could have saved me from the entire boil debacle.
Modest shorts:
So I failed entirely on this one. The note to myself says five to six pairs. I brought two pairs of shorts, neither of which were modest enough. I recommend one pair of capri or pedal-pusher type lightweight pants and one to two pairs of board shorts that cover the knee. Covering the knee is key. If I am out in public and my knees are showing, I feel dangerous. Also, they are blindingly white, so there is that. You will most likely only wear these shorts while in Apia, under a lavalava while biking or in the water.
Warm clothes:
You must think I am crazy. However, I have worn my long-sleeved tee three or four times and my jeans several times. Once while I was sick and I felt cold even in the heat, I wore jeans, the long-sleeved tee AND my hoodie and I was still chilly.
Business casual attire:
Apparently we are supposed to wear business casual attire and no flip-flops to staging in L.A. What a bunch of hooey. I have two outfits that I wore to staging that I have only worn here because I made myself wear some of the clothes I have never worn one day. Dress shoes? Blah. Flip-flops are dress shoes here. If you are a lady and you work in a village, you will wear a puletasi to work. None of this palagi wear. Don't bring it.
Bring a pair of jeans. Bring a pair of lightweight pants (mine even roll up into capris with straps to hold them in place).
Does it cover your knee? If you have to think about it and look in the mirror to decide, it is too short. I know; I have one like that. Wore it once, felt inappropriate the entire time. I would say mid-calf is a better length. Everyone will tell you that lavalavas abound, they are cheap and the staple attire here. This is true. But I occasionally still like to put on something with a waist (and POCKETS! OH FOR THE LOVE OF POCKETS!), instead of dealing with all the complex tying and re-tying of my lavalava all the time.
Yes. When you work you will wear a puletasi, so these are shirts for non-work wear. T-shirts, yes. Nice t-shirts, yes. Something that makes you feel cute, because sometimes you need to feel cute, yes. Can all of these be had here? Yes. Though the cute things can be pricey.
Wow. So I had no concept of modest swimwear at all. I knew that my two-piece wasn't going to cut it here. But I just couldn't bring myself to purchase the booby-smushing speedo-type suits that made me look like a fat 8-year-old. So I ordered this cute one-piece from Victoria Secret and is sure seemed pretty damned covered-up and modest at the time. However, it isn't. There is cleavage. I wear a t-shirt over it anyway. Get a speedo-type suit or don't even bother with that and just have board shorts and a t-shirt to wear in the water. If you feel attractive in your swimwear here, you are not wearing the right swimwear.
I have only worn my belt with my jeans. It is a web belt with simple medal clasp. It works just fine.
Wow, what a long entry and I am still on clothes. I will have to do lotions and shampoos later.
Just a word of advice. What you need in training and what you need when you are done will be different. However, the advice to mail things to yourself is kinda crap. The stuff may appear when you are done with training or it may take longer. Clothes-wise for training, make sure you have some Chaco-type sandals and some flip-flops. Make sure you have some t-shirts and some nice t-shirts. Make sure you have one or two calf-lengthed skirts. Make sure you have one white top and a white skirt for church. Underswears and bras should round it out and you will be good to go.
— Sara