Monday, June 30, 2008

Cale's Classes

Cale's Students Working

Things have been going very well for Cale the past week.

It was a week full of solid work. Twice he came home to tell me about his pule coming into the workshop to exclaim how wonderful it is to see a room full of working students. His students are busy working on projects and Cale is incredibly pleased with their work and progress.

What makes things even more exciting is that the former woodworking instructor who transferred to our sister school in Savai'i is back. This means that Cale has someone to work with and will have to handle fewer classes in a day. It also means that Gaui (the returned instructor) can handle the home construction portion of the Year 2 students' curriculum and Cale can teach joinery to the Year 1 students.

Maybe, if enough people post comments to this blog entry, we can get Cale to actually write a post about how things are going at his school (hint, hint).

— Sara

Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking through old pictures on iPhoto

Remember Florida?

Remember when we had a cat?

Remember when we could go to the beach when ever we wanted?

Remember when you had a boat?

Remember when I could wear less clothes at the beach?

Remember when that shirt was clean?

Remember when there was live music?

Remember cold?

Remember when we could visit our families?

Remember when I could wear shorts?

Remember driving cars?

— Sara

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Learning to Teach

Sometimes I am like a broken record. I come up with something clever to say and I keep repeating it. Sometimes it isn't even that clever.

One of the ideas I have been pointing out repeatedly is this is my learning year as a teacher. Every day I learn something new that I will do differently next year. I imagine that the learning curve isn't nearly as steep for people who actually went to school to be teachers. I imagine they come out of school knowing all sorts of things that I am only slowly beginning to understand.

There is no text book for the PSSC prescription. My school has some computer books, but only a few. They are kept in the resource room and teachers can check them out to use to create lesson plans. We do not have the resources to give each student their own book or even the resources to let each student use a book during class. I know from my own learning style that I need a textbook of my own. Learning entirely from classroom lectures and notes written on the board just wouldn't cut it for me. So, when it was time to start the section on word-processing, I created a text book for my students. Using a document created by previous Peace Corps, a Step-by-Step Microsoft Word book sent by my parents, a textbook in the school resource room and my own knowledge of word-processing, I wrote a book that specifically followed the PSSC prescription. For every topic on the PSSC, I gathered the information and listed it. I also described how to do each thing. How to open and close a file, how to change the color of text, etc. At first, I only had enough copies to use in class and the students had to return them at the end of class so I could use them with the next one. However, in less then a week, I had enough copies to give one to each student to keep and take home and hopefully study.

In addition to the textbook, I also created assignments using the Step-by-Step Word book and the textbook from the resource room. Both books came with files that the students could use to complete assignments, which I saved to every computer (no network yet). At the beginning of each class I would explain the topic, then I would give the students the assignment sheet. In some classes I could leave the students to their own devices, only answering questions. However, in other classes I had to take the entire class through the assignment one step at a time and help each student individually to complete the steps.

I learned two very important lessons from this:
  1. Even within classes there were students who were way ahead and students way behind the rest of the class. This wasn't really a surprise. I am sure that exists in every class in every country. However, it is more pronounced here because the students are not grouped according to their abilities in a subject, but only according to their English skills. I would have students finish the assignment in a matter of minutes and then I would have nothing productive to give them for the rest of the class period.
  2. I could assign the students to do reading in their book the night before so they would be prepared for the topic the following day, but I couldn't easily verify they were doing the reading and I was pretty sure that they weren't.

After word-processing, the next topic was spreadsheets. This time, when I created the textbook, I wrote all the in-class assignments and included them in the back of the book. I also wrote worksheets to go with the different topics and included those in the back of the book as well. That way I was able to assign the students reading and a worksheet to complete. That way I would have a better understanding of whether or not they were doing the reading. Of course, it appeared that most of the students simply copied of the one or two students that had done the work. But I can only fight so many battles at once.

Putting all the assignments in the back of the book let the students work at their own pace. I would still teach a lesson on a particular topic at the beginning of classes, but students were free to complete the assignments as quickly or slowly as their skill level allowed. A handful of students raced ahead completing all of the assignments in a short period of time. But there were also the students who wasted class time, completing very little work. The majority were in the middle, working hard on assignments at about the right speed.

During the section on keyboarding I posted a grid on the blackboard. It listed each student and marked off incremental goals towards the overall goal of 20 WPM and 50 NPM (numbers per minute). As a student was able to type 5 WPM I would check them off on the grid. The same for 10, 15 and finally 20. I would also write in pencil their current WPM so they could see how close they were to the next check mark. This was extremely popular. The students checked this board everyday. Even when we hadn't done a timed assignment in weeks, so there would be no change to the board. I decided to continue this idea with spreadsheets. I created a grid that listed each worksheet and assignment. As the students completed them, I would mark them off. It has also proven popular and allows both me and the student to keep track of their progress.

I am still learning how to improve this technique. For example, I am trying to figure out what to do about students who are completing assignments faster than they may comprehend the concept. They can easily follow the steps in the assignment to copy and paste a formula in a cell, but may not understand what copy and paste means, why they would want to copy and paste and what happens to the formula when you copy and paste. Also, I need to find a way to help students who fall desperately behind in assignments.

This is just a small snapshot of the lessons I am learning all the time. I am also learning bigger lessons about how to organize my yearly plan and how to control my class (though this one is the one I am floundering at the most — I just don't have disciplinarian in my blood and have some how failed to figure out the detention system and have yet to successfully give a student a detention).

I keep telling myself that by the end of this year I will have everything figured out and next year will just be dandy. However, I wonder. I imagine I will continue to learn new things next year as well. Things that I will wish I will be able to implement the following year, except next year I will have no second chance. That is probably where this sustainability thing should come in. Hypothetically I will have a Samoan partner teacher who will be able to pick up where I left off and implement any changes we think are necessary in that following year when I am no longer in country.

For now, I will continue learning how to teach one little bit at a time every day.

— Sara

Queuing and Personal Space

Did you know that queuing is a science?

Oh, wait, let me take a break for friends in the States. So, you know how we stand in line? Or sometimes even on line? Well, the rest of the world queues. So now you know.

Anyway, queuing, as it turns out, is a science. Just ask Wikipedia:

Queuing theory is the mathematical study of waiting lines (or queues). The theory enables mathematical analysis of several related processes, including arriving at the (back of the) queue, waiting in the queue (essentially a storage process), and being served by the server(s) at the front of the queue. The theory permits the derivation and calculation of several performance measures including the average waiting time in the queue or the system, the expected number waiting or receiving service and the probability of encountering the system in certain states, such as empty, full, having an available server or having to wait a certain time to be served.

(Want more on the science of queuing? Look here.)

I think that science works different in Samoa. I have yet to figure out how to queue properly in this country. Queuing is occurring, it just doesn't work the way I am used to. In the States lines are pretty orderly and regimented. One person is at the front and the next person stands behind them, the next person behind them and so forth. If someone chooses to ignore this proper queuing etiquette and cut the lines in some way they are going to arouse the anger of their fellow line standers (not that we will say anything to them about it; we will just bitch quietly to each other and give that person the evil eye).

In Samoa, lines are more like clumps. The front of the line is a disorderly gathering of people around the point. It starts to get more line-like the further away you get from the head of the line. Also, you don't necessarily have to be in line, to be in line. We went to Western Union to change some money when we first arrived here. There were two windows open. A man was at one window and a woman at another. There was a yellow line stuck to the floor that indicated the line should start there. Seeing as no one was standing there, Cale and I went and stood behind the line. When the man finished at his window, we walked up to take his place. That was when we were informed that the two women sitting on a bench along the back wall were actually in line ahead of us.

All of this unorthodox queuing makes me nervous. I find my anxiety levels rising when I have to stand in a line here. I just know that someone is going to cut me, or that the line won't be neat and orderly and I won't be able to figure out my proper place in it.

The best example of queuing in Samoa is trying to use the ATM. This is where the personal space issue comes in as well.

The ATM at our bank is in a small alcove outside the building. The line forms in this manner:

Person using the ATM stands at the ATM. Person who actually owns the ATM card that is being used, but doesn't know how to use it themselves stands immediately next to that person trying to figure out what is going on. Person who is next in line is also standing in the alcove practically touching the person using the ATM. If there is any available space left in the alcove, the next person in line will also cram in there as well. I cannot make myself get into the alcove when someone is using the ATM. In my mind appropriate distance is to wait just out side if you are next. However, if you are next in line and you don't cram in to the alcove, someone can come walking by, see that available space and cram themselves in ahead of you.
Also, there is a large grouping of people outside the alcove who do not appear to be in line, but know one of the people currently crammed into the alcove and hand their card off to this person when they are through, effectively bypassing the line.

Can you see why my anxiety level is rising?

Once I finally do make it to the ATM, I just have to accept the fact that there will be two to three other people crammed in around me, so close they are touching me, perfectly capable of seeing me type in my PIN and what amount of money I am taking out. Oh, I am getting anxious just typing about it.

I thought I would do a little research on the 'ole internets to see what is out there about queuing and cultures (that was when I discovered that it is a science) and I found something fascinating. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Office of English Language Programs offers a class on the rules of queuing. I am not kidding. There are warm-up activities and lesson plans. The whole she-bang. At the end of the lesson it offers a rational for the class:

Queuing behavior differs from culture to culture. In some countries, people crowd around a serving station en masse. In other cultures, people line up to the right of a serving station, rather than forming a line which faces the window. This activity is presented to teach the culture and pragmatics of the queues most common in the US: the multi-server queue, where each serving station has a separate waiting line; and the "snake" line, commonly found in airports and banks, where all stations are served by one-single file line (Hall, 1993).

This activity is intended to teach not only the pragmatics of language required while queuing, but to incorporate additional information about cultural expectations and proxemics. Americans in particular expect a high degree of orderliness when waiting in line and become angry when others violate their personal space or attempt to "cut" in line.

By getting learners physically involved in a queuing role play, this activity can prepare students for actual situations they may face in the target culture, and it is more meaningful than merely reading about queues in a book or hearing a verbal description. It also provides an opportunity for kinesthetic learning (Reid, 1995).

So there you go.

— Sara

P.S. Have you noticed that I am not very good at ending my blog entries? I get my thought out and then I am all awkward and confused and just want it to be over.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Product Endorsements of the Week: Senseless T-Shirts

Product of the Week: Senseless T-shirt

This t-shirt was so exquisite, so confusing, that it called me into a store from the street. I saw this amazing item in the window and could not turn away.

Product of the Week: Senseless T-shirt

This is an official Super. Holidays Boy. Power Top, part of the rare Super Boys collection. These are a hot item and hard to find. Which was why finding this shirt on sale for only $6.50 tāl
ā was a steal. This top is available in a variety of colors and boys' sizes. If you want one, you better act fast, as I am sure they are flying off the racks.

Product of the Week: Senseless T-shirt

What makes this particular Super Boys shirt so special, is the helpful information about holidays printed on the shirt.

Product of the Week: Senseless T-shirt

While I was in CCK picking up the Power Top, I also came across this gem.

Product of the Week: Senseless T-shirt

Product of the Week: Senseless T-shirt

Though I find the creepy troll person a little off-putting, I could not deny the positive message the shirt conveyed to Samoa's young girls. "Best Bears and Sucklings," indeed. What a powerful and, of course, completely comprehensible message to share.

— Sara

Update: I should mention that these shirts are imports and not made in Samoa.

Somebody Shoot Me

Billy Ray Cyrus's Achy Breaky Heart has found its way onto the Samoan airwaves. I don't know who is responsible for this import, but it should be a crime to submit people to this music all over again.

— Sara

What Are the Ants Doing?



In the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom. They are carrying something out of the walls and kitchen island and piling it up just next to the baseboard. Why? Someone help me understand.

— Sara

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We're Famous

An editor of One Samoa, a "directory for All Things Samoan! From Samoan legends to international calling rates, use our customized search engine to find exactly what you're looking for!" for the Samoan community living abroad, has found our blog. She had very nice things to say about us and recommended that others read the blog.

We’ve come across a few blogs now written by travelers about their adventures in Samoa.

They’ve been interesting - it’s not always easy for us as Samoans to read other people’s (sometimes unflattering) opinions about the islands we love.

With this one, we were willing to make an exception.


That’s the other thing we love about this blog. You can tell that Sara and Cale are not just in Samoa to serve, but also to learn.

They take care to describe aspects of Samoan culture - like our fire-knife dancing or the history behind Samoa’s Independence Day - with respect and accuracy.

You can see all that One Samoa had to say about us here. Also, if you are just interested in Samoan culture or history, you should check out One Samoa. There are some interesting stories on the site.

— Sara

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mouse in the House

He lives in the stove mostly. Just today Cale discovered he has been eating the tin foil he spread over the broiler tray to catch melting cheese. He's a relatively small mouse, with dark charcoal colored fur. Actually, he's sort of cute. And I don't have it in me to kill him.

I've never been a killer of things. Samoa has changed that a little. I am now a shameless cockroach smusher, centipede decapitator and Mortien sprayer. Those are bugs. I'm not ready for mammals yet.

Last night I went to the bathroom. I stumbled in half asleep, turned on the light, closed the door and took a seat. That is when I saw him. Without my glasses he was not much more than a darked colored blur scurrying from corner to corner, checking the baseboards and the door for escape. I realized quickly that there was no way out for him and decided to take advantage.

"Cale. The mouse. I have it trapped in the bathroom."
"Cale. Wake up. I want to cockroach the mouse. You know catch him in a cup or something and throw him outside."
"Cale. Wake up."
"Never mind, I'll do it myself."

The first thing I discovered as I stalked the mouse around the bathroom a Tupperware container in hand is those are speedy little buggers. Also, when he did run in my direction my first reaction was not to pounce on him with the container, but instead to jump back in fear and get my feet up off the floor. The bathroom wasn't the idea hunting grounds either. There is a space under the sink ideal for mouse hiding. In order to find him I would have to stick my head into the space to look around. I did this with great trepidation. Once I discovered he was also a jumper and a climber, I stopped sticking my head in there for fear of him falling from above into my hair. At one point he actually ran into an overturned container under the sink. I was so surprised by this stroke of luck that I didn't react quickly enough. Instead I thought to myself, this is perfect and decided how to take advantage of the situation while he ran back out.

In the end the mouse won. After about an hour in the bathroom, I found myself dozing off as I sat on the chair waiting for him to venture out from under the sink.

Today we watched him run from somewhere back in the house to under the fridge. Cale decided I would hockey puck him out the door with the broom. First we had to prop the door open and move the stove and gas tank out of the way. The plan was Cale would shake the fridge and when he ran out, I would whack him with the broom. Unfortunately, he ran into the stove while Cale was moving it and no amount of shaking or searching would reveal him. So, as far as I know, that is where he still is now.

As long as he doesn't visit the bedroom, I am ok with it for now.

— Sara

Friday, June 13, 2008

I Lied, We Do Need Firedancing

7th International Siva Afi Competition Finals

Goes to show how timely I am at posting blog entries. On Saturday (so a week ago), Cale and I went to the finals of the 7th International Siva Afi competition.


First a little siva afi lesson:

Siva afi means fire dance, but it is also known as fire knife because the dancers are swinging around knives set on fire. According to Wikipedia:

The Fire Knife is a traditional Samoan cultural implement that is used in ceremonial dances. It was originally composed of a machete wrapped in towels on both ends with a portion of the blade exposed in the middle. Tribal performers of fire knife dancing (or Siva Afi as it is called in Samoa) dance while twirling the knife and doing other acrobatic stunts. The towels are set afire during the dances thus explaining the name.

Check out the Wikipedia link for more information on the history of fire knife. There is also historical information on the Polynesian Cultural Center's website. The big fire knife competition each year is held at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. That competition determines the World Fireknife Champion. I am not sure where the competition we saw comes into play or if it is related to the World competition.

The dancers are performing with a large, sharp, hooked knife. A towel or some sort of absorbent material is wrapped around the blade and dipped in a flammable liquid. Since both ends of the knife appear to be on fire, I can only assume that the end of the knife is wrapped in a similar manner.

Now, back to our competition:

Our dancers had a two part routine. They first dance with only one lit knife. This routine usually began with one one end of the knife lit and the dancers lighting the other end during the performance in some clever and clearly dangerous way. A favorite way was to use their mouths to move the fire from one end to the other. I don't 100% understand how they do this, but they do. One that Cale was particularly impressed with was the guy that thrust his knife forward so quickly flames were left in the air and the back portion of the knife was lit when it passed through them.

7th International Siva Afi Competition Finals

Two of the performers began their routines by spraying a line of flammable liquid on the stage from the dripping knife and then setting that line on fire. It was quite dramatic.

The second part of the routine was with two knives. During this part the dancers would handle both knives independently and also link the two knives together at the hooks and twirl that around a bit.

I cannot even begin to explain how impressive this is to watch. Not only is the act itself difficult and dangerous and incredibly physically demanding, but many of the competitors were impressive showmen (or women). Their stage presences was all impressive and they were able to engage the audience completely. I am sure the fact that they were swinging fire around didn't hurt either.

The venue was a little unfortunate. The area in front of the stage was sectioned off for sponsors, so seats were only available on the sides. The way the building was constructed meant that most views were obstructed by poles. We set up camp at the bar which was directly behind the sponsors' section and had fewer poles in the way. Once the fun started, I went down front and knelt by the TV camera men to get better pictures.

7th International Siva Afi Competition

I was also incredibly impressed by the intermission show. It had typical Samoan fiafia fare. There were lovely ladies dancing and a sās
ā ([sah-sah] seated dance of sorts). However, there was also an interesting show that involved a capella harmonization/chanting singing and a dance/reenactment of the Samoan people coming to Samoa by longboat. It was awesome. One of my favorite things I have seen in Samoa so far. It felt very authentic. The music hadn't been corrupted by the casio keyboard or other modern influences. The intermission show also included what I am going to call the siva afi equivalent of a rodeo clown. These guys lit large fires on small, hip-height tables. They then proceeded to sit on these fires. I cannot even begin to explain in words. The pictures will have to suffice. 

7th International Siva Afi Competition Finals

Overall, the fire dancing experience was wonderful and I look forward to next year's competition.

As always, more pictures are available on the Flickr.

— Sara

I Thought This Was the Dry Season

So, I find myself saying that all the time lately.

I feel like it rains intermittently every day. I cannot find any source online that keeps current records of rainfall in Samoa, so I am not sure if it is rainier than usual this dry season. However, in my talks with locals they seem to agree that things have been unusually wet lately and the conversation usually turns to climate change. The Samoans I have talked to about the rain blame it on global warming. There seems to be a low-level, underlying concern here about global warming because of the anticipated rise in sea levels. One teacher at my school said he has talked to people from low-lying islands like Tokelau who already looking into leaving their homes because they don't feel like they will be there in the coming years. It is an interesting thing to think about. Many things about climate change can seem very academic and intangible when you live in the States. But when you live on an island that is barely above sea-level now, a rise in oceans is a very real, very tangible, very eminent threat.

Of course all this complaining about rain could just be perception. We were told that this was the dry season, but that just means dry for Samoa. The average rainfall in Samoa for May is 7.6 inches. That is double the average rainfall for May in Orlando (3.7) and almost double Indianapolis (4.4). So sure, this is the dry season because it is drier than the wet season. However, it is still wetter than the last two places I lived.

— Sara

Skin and Bones

Dogs are a problem in Samoa. A big problem. The islands are bursting with semi-feral dogs. These are not wild dogs, but they are not pets. From a human standpoint, the dogs are a problem because they can attack. From a dog standpoint, the dogs are a problem because no one cares for them. They have open wounds and bugs and worms and diseases. They get hit by cars and rocks and sticks. They starve.

Riding the bus, going on a bike ride, coming out of a restaurant, you see them. Dogs with every rib painfully visible through matted fur. Hip bones sticking up like mountain peaks. It hurts me to see them. As Cale and I were leaving the restaurant after our anniversary dinner, I spotted a dog across the street. He was here because he could smell and he knew there was food. But where? His fur was matted and missing in places. He was filthy. I could count his ribs. And yet he had this pleading, friendly face with one ear standing at attention and the other flopping over to one side. It hurt me to walk away from there, leaving him standing on the side of the road, starving to death outside a palagi restaurant.

The hardest part is that I know there is nothing I can do. One meal is not going to help these animals and I cannot adopt every starving animal I see or I would have hundreds of dogs in my house. There is no humane society or shelter for animals in Samoa. The one organization valiantly fighting the dog population and abuse is APS (Animal Protection Society). One of the volunteers in my group, Ane, works for APS as a veterinarian. Back in the states she worked with exotic animals in her own clinic and really exotic animals as a zoo vet. APS is doing the best it can to help curb the dog population and educate the public on humane care of animals. It is a staggering job.

I know that the dog problem in Samoa is not going to be solved any time soon, definitely no during my stay here. But at least I can take some comfort in the knowledge that someone is out there working for these animals.

— Sara

Monday, June 9, 2008

Word of the Week: Vai

Vai {vie}
n. 1. Water  2. Medicine, remedy  3. coco-nut gourd
. 1. Trick, trap, guile
n. 1. Bird, the white-browed rail

Can you use it in a sentence?
Cale, there's no vai.
Nothing is coming out of the taps.

Woke up this morning and there's not water. We've had the power go out, but this is the first time for the water. I am not sure what to expect or how long it might last. I am also not sure if it is just our problem or a village-wide problem. It should make taking a shower interesting (or not an option) this morning. I guess we will have to see what happens as the day unfolds.

Interesting fun facts about vai:

There are many villages with vai in the name. Vaitele (many waters or big waters), Vaigaga (circle formed by fishermen in the water), Vaiusu (I am having a hard time figuring out what that one can mean).

The word for urine translates to near water, which also happens to be the name of a brand of bottle water here as well. Hmmmm...

Update: Well, as I was typing this, Cale went out by the road and turned the handle on the water supply thing there and (drum roll please) we have water. So this was a short-lived problem. A very anti-climatic story really. But it got me to finally post a new word of the day.

— Sara

Saturday, June 7, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinking Firedancing

Group 80 Fiafia

The current volunteers fiafiaed (fiafia [fee-ah fee-ah] in this instance it means party or entertainment, but can also mean enjoy, like and happy) the new group last night. There were lovely ladies dancing in matching puletasi and gorgeous men stomping and slapping in coconut oil and banana leaves. Manu Samoa made an appearance (ok, not really. It was those same coconut oil covered men again doing the Manu Samoa haka [I don't know the Samoan word for this, that is the Maori word]). Jame performed a beautiful tāupou dance ([tah-poh] Title of village maiden. A position held according to Samoan custom by a virgin singled out for her charm, looks, and manners. Among her duties is the preparation of 'ava and performing the final dance at ceremonies and fiafia). Jame's dance was particularly poignant as the last dance because she is also leaving Samoa on Monday. Her host family was there. Her host father is a faifeau ([fie-fey-ow] minister) and he said the lotu ([low-too] prayer) before we ate.

And boy did we eat. There was a ton of food. Pasta salads and tuna salads and spicy salads and potato salads. Chili and spaghetti and pizza and casseroles. Cakes and cookies and brownies. Cale made hot wings (with the hot wing sauce his dad sent in the mail) and bbq wings (we found Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce at Ming and Hanna). I made pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. There is a strict order to the feed at a fiafia. First guests, then PC staff, then the new group (80), then the oldest group (76) and then we move up through the groups until finally getting (79). By the time Cale and I went through the line his wings were gone, as was my pie. I think that means that people liked them.

This year the fiafia was held at the hotel where the new group is staying. It was a lot of impromptu and informal fun. Hannah is the Volunteer Action Committee social chair and organized the entire event beautifully. Last year, when we were fiafiaed it was also the 40th anniversary of Peace Corps in Samoa, so things were considerably grander, more regimented and much more formal. Cale is a firm believer that this group's fiafia was more enjoyable.

Other highlights from the fiafia include:

Cale and Dylan wearing matching outfits and spending most of the night seeing if they could confuse me. I don't know why, but I was always able to pick out the right one.

Shane forcing me to delete all pictures of him from the camera (I think he is in the witness protection program).

Moving the party to Cocktail on the Rocks, so as not to keep the hotel guests up all night.

I suppose I should explain my headline for this blog entry. The annual
siva afi ([see-vah ah-fee] fire dance) competition is being held this weekend. The new group went to see the semi-finals on Thursday night and one of the competitors was hired to perform at the fiafia. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, he was not able to make it to the fiafia. So there you have it, the reason for the title.

— Sara

P.S. Oh, I forgot one detail. We also voted for new Volunteer Action Committee executive committee members. President, VP, social chair and secretary. I found out when I arrived at the fiafia that I was running for secretary (I am still not sure how that happened) AND somehow managed to win. So now I am the new VAC secretary. Another member of Group 79, Eric, is the new president. Very exciting.

Update P.S. I also forgot to mention that Cale received no less than three marriage proposals during the evening after word got out that not only does he cook, but he also sewed my puletasi.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Group 80

The newest group of Peace Corps arrived in country yesterday. We saw them briefly for dinner at Italiano's. If I am remembering correctly, they had a pretty hectic day: getting of a 10-hour international flight at about 5:30 in the morning, moving into their new, temporary homes at the hotel, participating in an 'ava ceremony and beginning their language training. By the time we saw them, I am sure they were wiped. Most of them turned in early, leaving as a group at around 8 pm or so (oh, I remember the days when we only travel in a herd). One brave soul stuck around and he was still hanging with the veteran volunteers when Cale and I called it a night.

We will get to meet them more on Friday at their fiafia.

— Sara

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Always An Adventure

"I have this bit of dirt on my toe that I cannot get off. I have washed my toe many times since I first acquired it."

"Eh, it will be gone in a couple of weeks or so."

"Or about 16 months at the very least."

"What? The toe or the dirt?"

Shrugs shoulders and raises hands in the air. "That is what makes it an adventure."

— Sara

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Samoa Celebrates Sara's Birth

No wait. That's not it.

Samoa Celebrates Queen's Birth.

Oh, no wait. I was wrong.

Samoa Celebrates It's Independence.

Yes! That's it.

My birthday happens to fall during the three-day national holiday celebrating Samoa's independence. According to our Peace Corps trainers, Samoa actually gained it's independence on January 1st in 1962, but celebrates on June 1-3. Our trainer's said independence was not celebrated in January because New Year's was already a national holiday and they didn't want to waste two national holidays on the same day. Cale was also recently informed that before independence Samoa celebrated the Queen's birthday on the first Monday in June (same as New Zealand). I suppose they decided to keep that day as a national holiday and switched it to Independence Day.

According to Wikipedia:

...initially peaceful protest by the Mau (literally translates as "Strongly held Opinion"), a non-violent popular movement which arose in the early 1920s to protest the mistreatment of the Samoan people by the New Zealand administration. The Mau was initially lead by Olaf Nelson, who was half Samoan and half Swedish. Nelson was eventually exiled during the late 1920s and early 1930s but he continued to assist the organization financially and politically. In following the Mau's non-violent philosophy, the newly elected leader, High Chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi, led his fellow uniformed Mau in a peaceful demonstration in downtown Apia on December 28, 1929. The New Zealand police attempted to arrest one of the leaders in the demonstration. When he resisted, a struggle developed between the police and the Mau. The officers began to fire randomly into the crowd and a Lewis machine gun, mounted in preparation for this demonstration, was used to disperse the Mau. Chief Tamasese was shot from behind and killed while trying to bring calm and order to the Mau demonstrators, screaming "Peace, Samoa". Ten others died that day and approximately 50 were injured by gunshot wounds and police batons. That day would come to be known in Samoa as Black Saturday. The Mau grew, remaining steadfastly non-violent, and expanded to include a highly influential women's branch. After repeated efforts by the Samoan people, Western Samoa gained independence in 1962 and signed a Friendship Treaty with New Zealand. Samoa was the second or third Pacific Island country to become independent, after New Zealand and arguably Tonga.

There were very few Independence Day related activities going on as far as I could tell. There was a march or parade of some kind at sunrise or so Monday morning. Most school children were required to be there in school uniform to parade around. Teachers were supposed to attend as well. I decided that I didn't want to spend my birthday getting up at 5 am so I could go for a 20 minute walk, so Cale and I skipped that event. There were also boat races and some "traditional activities" according to Radio New Zealand International.

Personally I think they needed some fire works. They could have had a show over the water in the harbor in Apia. It would have been spectacular and would have been a great way to lure people (and tourists) downtown. Then, with all those people downtown, they could have had food vendors and booths with traditional crafts. Oh, wait...that is how we celebrate independence in the states. Never mind it would have been a great way to celebrate my birthday.

— Sara

Monday, June 2, 2008

Shh, Someone is Sleeping

Those are words you will never hear in Samoa. I may have mentioned this before, but I have been thinking about it a lot recently. So I thought I would bring it up again.

In the States there is a pervasive respect for sleep. Entire households may tiptoe around and whisper if a member of the family has fallen asleep in a common area. If you call someone at an even remotely early or late hour, you apologize for possibly waking them up. Sleep is only interrupted in case of an emergency.

There simply is not the same attitude towards sleep here. Six o'clock in the morning is a perfectly reasonable time to start blaring music at top volume for all the neighbors to enjoy. Six o'clock in the morning, on a Saturday, is a perfectly reasonable time for your cell phone carrier to text you with an offer to save money if you spend a ridiculous amount on calls before 7 am. Six-thirty in the morning, on a national holiday, is a perfectly reasonable time to start playing handball in your carport. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. You say to the sunrise.

As a country Samoa appears to be an early riser. Activity at our host family could be begin as early as four or five in the morning. Part of this can be attributed laying around in the heat of the day that will occur later, once the sun has hit it's high point. But even then, sleep is not respected. Those who are not resting to avoid the heat will still be blaring musics and yelling at top volume. They will also have no problem with yelling the name of a sleeping person continuously until that person wakes up — usually so they can be asked an unimportant questions or send on a errand the other person could have easily done themselves.

On the bus ride to the wharf for our Savai'i vacation one girl was sleeping in the seat in front of me. Her sister or cousin on the other side of the aisle would continually hit her until she woke up and then ask her some question. The girl would answer and go back to sleep. Ten minutes later, it would start all over again.

The part I have a hard time with is that no one seems to be upset or bothered when they have been woken up for no apparent reason. The girl on the bus would keep going back to sleep and then waking up to answer questions with out the slightest indication of irritation. I watched people in the village (mostly children) be woken from a deep sleep, go about performing whatever task and then wander back to sleep without complaining. I don't know about you, but I would get cranky if someone was waking me up all the time.

— Sara


We started out the day by doing absolutely nothing, which is always lovely. Cale gifted me with five new glasses (as I have broken almost all of our old ones) and I gave him five letters. I would call them love letters but that sounds horribly cheesy, so I won't.

Around 5ish we biked to the Peace Corps hostel in the city. We took a quick shower and caught a cab to one of the nicer, but not too pricey restaurants, Giordano's. Cale likes them because they have real pizza ovens (from Italy) and real cheese on the pizza. Apparently one half of the owner couple is Italian. That helps. Cale had the carbanara and I had the lasagna. We had banana bread and ice cream for dessert and by we, I mean me since Cale only got one bite before I devoured the rest. 

Then it was back to the hostel where we attempted to watch a movie on the laptop. Unfortunately, the movie turned out to be stupid (Waking Life? Anyone? It was supposed to be good, but it bored the crap out of me). So instead we ended the evening reading a report on the state of the Peace Corps post in Samoa that was put out in 2005 and based on information from 2004. What's more romantic than reading government reports?

— Sara


Either that or a train went by and I find the train very unlikely. However, the internets are providing no informations.

— Sara