Sunday, July 27, 2008


It may be a little while before there is another post or I add more pictures to the Flickr. I am grounded from the computer for long stretches of time. I sat at the computer for so long working on the databases book for my students that I hurt my back and now I must let it recuperate. Unless I can talk Cale into posting, you might not hear from us for a week or so.

Things I still need to post about:
  • Sally's Rubbish Pick-up Day
  • SMUG (Samoa Mac Users Group)
  • Condi Rice comes to visit
  • My pule is transfered to New Zealand
  • And other adventures TK

— Sara

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Mice Are at War

We must have more than one mouse in the house and they must not be friends. Cale awoke this morning to discover a small pool of blood near the fridge and a trail leading to a shelf where there is more blood. We continue to discover spots around the living room where the injured creature left the trail.

We put out more rat poison.

— Sara

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Word of the Week: Ta'ele


Tā'ele {tah-elle-ay}
v. 1. Have a bath, bathe
n. 1. Bathing place, bathing pool  2. Bath

Can you use it in a sentence?
Nothing like a nice cold tā'ele.

You've not had an authentic Peace Corps Samoa experience until you've had a bucket shower. Nothing says fa'a like standing outside, wrapped in an ie, dumping cold water on yourself and soaping up while people from the village wander by.

We were prepared for the possibility of bucket showers during training. In fact, the trainers demonstrated the proper way to do it. We were told that depending on site placement, we might need to take bucket showers or bath in a river or village pool. Of course many of the volunteers who come to be teachers have indoor bathing facilities of some kind. Cale and I have a cold water shower in the house (and some unnamed volunteers have hot water in their houses, jerks). But not everyone does. So, when we went to visit Gal, I got to take my first bucket shower out in the open by his water tank. Hooray!

— Sara

PS. Pictures of Sara bucket showering are on the Flickr too.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cale Writes a Blog Entry!

Woodworking & Joinery's Conference Display

My students finished their projects for the conference. They were all excited to be done, but one thing that I am trying to introduce is the importance of critiquing work after it is finished. The night before critique, I printed up little signs for each piece, with the name of the student that designed it, the students that built it, and the price. Students would find one with their name on it and carry it around the room, just looking at it. Then we used some ribbons I bought at a dollar store in the US to choose 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention. Then Sara came over and we had a photo shoot. The kids beamed with pride. I think I will post the pictures in the room, to try to create a wall of fame.

— Cale

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Operation Vacation...Mission Not Accomplished

Operation Vacation

The failure of our vacation began weeks and weeks ago. Cale and I had been talking about going to Pago Pago in American Samoa during part of our school break. The South Pacific Art Festival was beginning there and I needed to find some clothes that fit me. However, Cale learned that they don't have Guinness in Pago (or even Bud Light for that matter apparently). And so the plans for Pago were scrapped.

Then Gal invited us to go to Namua with him. Namua is a small, uninhabited island off the southeastern coast of Upolu by Gal's site. There are beach fales there and Gal made a reservation for himself, us and Matt. The plan was to leave early on Friday (the last day of school), since I didn't have any classes and Cale's students were done with their display work (post and pictures on that to come soon). We would catch a bus or cab to Gal's site. Then Cale and I would spend the night at one of the resort fales in Lalomanu. On Saturday at 2pm we would catch the ferry to Namua and relax in the sun. It would be lovely.

However, things started to go wrong right from the beginning. I wasn't able to leave my school very early on Friday because I was helping another teacher in a computer lab. Then Matt was unable to make it to Apia early because the  buses at his site didn't run at the correct times (if there is such a thing as the correct time). By the time we made it by cab to Gal's site it was dark. Cale and I decided to just sleep at Gal's. It would mean sleeping on the floor, but that is fa'aSamoa.

Just the day before, Gal's school had completed a fence project. The fence encloses all of the school property in chain link and barbed wire, but until recently it did not have a gate. When we arrived at his school compound, the gate was locked up tight, but the keeper of the key was hanging out nearby and let us into the school grounds. After some unpacking in Gal's house we headed out to see his pule to get the key to his new computer lab. Our journey was cut short when we found ourselves locked onto the school grounds. After a brief discussion, the fence was climbed and off we went to see the pule.

The next morning we spent a couple of hours in Gal's new computer lab setting up the computers. We also got to witness the pig chasing dance. One of the reasons for the fence around the school was to keep the pigs out. However, the gate was left unlocked for us and the pigs found their way in. We got to watch as the head of the school committee and several children chased piglets around the school grounds and did strange dance moves to herd them out the gate.

When we were done in the lab we headed out on a walk to Lalomanu, where rumor had it there was a "good" hamburger to be had at one of the beach fale resorts. We hadn't gone far before we encountered some trouble. We walked past the launching point for Namua island (where, we were told we could catch a ferry around high tide, which was about 2 pm). The place was crawling with palagi who told us they were going to the island for the night. We looked at each other worriedly. There were only 10 fales on the island and there were enough palagi in this group to fill all those fales. Gal attempted to track down the woman with whom he had made the reservations to no avail. So then he crossed the street to ask another member of the family. That was when we learned we had lost our spots on the island to this palagi group (darn tourists). Of course we found this information off putting; Gal in particular since he was heading back to America on Monday and this was his last chance to see the island. However, we decided just to pick up our things from Gal's and head to Lalomanu as planned. Instead of just staying for lunch, we would rent a couple of fales there instead.

Lalomanu was also crawling with palagi and once again we looked at each other worriedly. Inquiries were made at the resort where we had our lunch (hamburgers, yes. good? that is another question), but they were booked solid. Inquires were made at the resort next door, they had one fale free due to a cancellation, but wanted $100 tala per person and would only accept three people (we were four). Inquiries were made at FaoFao (via phone), a resort a cab ride away, but they too were full. Gal even double check with the Namua to see if our reservations had just been confused. But no, there wasn't a fale to be found on this side of the island.

We caught a cab back to Gal's where we dined on chicken and rice. We spent the night sharing music. It is hard to explain. One person would play one song on their iPod and mid-way through someone else would have come up with an "have you heard this one" song in their play list. At any given time we had four songs waiting in the queue to be played and we discovered all sorts of awesome new tunes. I think my favorite of the night was an album called Rewind 4 and I highly recommended it to anyone.

Then it was back to bed on the floor. The next morning Cale awoke with bug bites all over his arm and by late that day, early the next morning I had discovered similar bites all over my face and neck. We are guessing they are ant bites, as they do not appear to be mosquitoes bites.

That morning I took my first official bucket shower in Samoa (Gal's site does not have running water, just a water tank by the house). Then we caught a cab into Apia. The cab ride was $70 tala and we subsidized the ride of an entire Samoan family that crowded into the taxi van with us. Poor Matt, who sat in the back, caught some splash on his foot when one of the children puked not once, but twice on the ride into town. After a quick stop at the grocery store, Matt headed back to our village with us for the night. The next morning I was up by 6 am for my first computer class during the break at 8am.

And that, in a nutshell, is our failure to have a vacation. Maybe we will try again soon.

— Sara

P.S. Oh, and the weather was overcast, windy, rainy and cold the entire time anyway.

Is That a Cow Under There? Yes, Yes It Is.

Walking home from my computer lab. Glance over at the neighbors house. Laying next to the back house is a couple of mats with a large lump under them and a hoof sticking out. It appears the neighbors have a dead cow just laying out next to their house. I will report back on how long it stays there. I can tell you the flies have already found it.

Before I could even post this there was movement on the carcass. Cale came in from the living room, "There is carcass play going on."
I went out to have a look, "Looks like they are just standing around staring at it." A group of men in white church clothes were gathered around the cow.
I headed back to the computer lab.
"Oh, now there is hacking," says Cale.
Apparently someone is hacking the cow with a machete. I can assume that soon it will be divided among people and carted off in the back of pickup trucks.

— Sara

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Toe Feiloa'i

Dear Gal,
 We miss you already.
 Group 79

Toe Feiloa'i Gal

Fourth o' July

Swearing in

Water Safety Day

Our training group lost a member to ET (early termination) on Monday. We visited Gal at his site for his last weekend in country (which I will write about later) and saw him off with an appropriate dinner by returning to the first place we ate when we arrived in Samoa (Georgie's pizza place).

I know that when Gal reads this he will have already taken a hot water shower and had as many cups of Starbucks coffee as he wants. He may also have new clothes that fit him and are not stained. Jerk. Ah, Gal knows I jest.

— Sara

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Word of the Week: Fono

Fono {foe-no}
n. 1. Meeting  2. council  3. conference, rally, congress
. 1. Have a conference, hold a meeting  2. confer with  3. meet
v. 1. mend, patch  2. plug, fill
v. 1. provide food to accompany kava
n pl. eaten with kava

Can you use it in a sentence?
The Methodists are having a fono tele this week.

Delegates from all the Samoan Methodists all over the world are in our village this week and last for the annual conference or fono. Other than noticing the occupants of our neighbors' houses double and triple, I haven't seen much conference activity.

However, when I got up at 6 am this morning, I could hear it. There was music and a preacher's voice booming out over a loud speaker system from the fale fono (meeting hall) across the street. They are early risers that is for sure.

— Sara

Friday, July 11, 2008

Economics and Education

Earlier, I mentioned the chart I created for my Year 13 computer students. It hangs on the wall in the classroom and I use it to check students off on assignments and worksheets. When you look at this chart, there is a clear drop off from 13.1 to 13.2 and then down to 13.3. The difference between the number of completed assignments in 13.1 and 13.2 is dramatic. It is less dramatic between 13.2 and 13.3. Assignment completion isn't the only place there is a dramatic difference between 13.1 and the other thirteens. I just have to look at my attendance book or in the Rubbermaid containers I am storing the classes' floppy disks in to see ways 13.1 exceed the other classes.

I have been told that the classes are divided along English-proficiency lines, but I think there is another underlying dividing factor. Money. I think it is more likely for the students in 13.1 to come from families with more money.

The end of May brought a new term at my school. Each term, students must pay their school fees or they will not be allowed back to attend class. The deadline for the school fees was pushed back to allow all students to sit the mid-year exams. After that, non-payers did not return. They then had two weeks to pay the fees or not return to school for the rest of the year. This meant that for two weeks after the mid-year exams I saw a drop in my class attendance with students slowly trickling in before the deadline. Of nineteen 13.1 students, I lost one student and I cannot say if it was school fees, as he was in class after the school fee deadline but has not been back in the past week and a half. Of twenty-three 13.2 students, I lost three to school fees. Of twenty 13.3 students, I lost five to school fees. Granted, this is not a statistically significant sample group, but there are other factors that lead me to believe the 13.1 students have more money at home. More 13.1 students have their own flash drives and more 13.1 students have computers at home as well.

Of course this isn't a problem unique to Samoa. It is possible to buy a better education in America as well and it can take more work to get a good education in poorer, underfunded schools in the States. I suppose that I have always known that you can buy a better education. That is no secret in the States. And as Cale point outs, you don't necessarily have to spend money to get a better education. Just having more money can mean you are more likely to get a better education. It means you probably live in a better school district, it means you probably have more resources at home, it means you might not have to work after school, it means a lot of things. What is different for me now, is that as a teacher, I get so see this idea in action.

I did some internet trolling for information on economics and education. At first I was looking for information relating to family income levels and the ability to afford a more expensive, and therefore possibly better, education. However, I also came across many articles on the economics of education (the cost of funding schools and whether or not more funding equals more achievement) and how socio-economic factors can affect a students perceptions of higher education.

One article that interested me was a study done by the Australian Government's Department of Education, Science and Training:

"Overall, young people’s interest in tertiary education is strong. Around 90 per cent of the sample reported that, all things being equal and imagining no constraints, they would prefer to undertake tertiary education of some kind after school."

I feel like that statement would hold true in the States. In fact, the expectation of going to college has become so prevalent in the States, I think that even students who don't want to go to university would answer in the affirmative for fear of being discriminated against or looked down upon for not aspiring to university.

However, on my first day of class here in Samoa, I asked my students how many wanted to go on to university. If I remember correctly, two people raised their hands. That so shocked me that I almost didn't know what to do next, since I planned on telling them how important knowing how to use computers is for a university student.

The article goes on to say one of the decisive factors in a students desire to continue on to higher education is his or her parents' education level. Regardless of socio-economic status, students with university-educated parents are interested in going to university themselves.

According to the World Development Indicators database, in 2001 7.47% of gross* were enrolled in tertiary education in Samoa. This is well below the weighted average of 27.1%. UNESCO puts Samoa's most recent tertiary enrollment rate at 10.9% and the weighted average at 23.8%. So I am going with somewhere in between (though, if it is any indication, on the World Development list, South Korea was number one and on the UNESCO list the US was number one). It also does not indicate whether or not tertiary education is including trade or vocational schools. Based on this information, I wonder how many of my students' parents are university educated.
*Gross enrollment ratio is the ratio of total enrollment, regardless of age, to the population of the age group that officially corresponds to the level of education shown.

I am going to assume that two of the factors university-educated parents introduce to the mix are:
1. The expectation their children will go on to university and
2. Early exposure to the idea of attending university.

Which got me thinking. What if students were introduced to the expectation of going to university and the exposure to higher-education early in life through the education system? What if field trips to NUS (National University of Samoa) were part of every primary school students experiences? What if secondary schools offered classes on preparing for University? Would this help encourage students to look forward to and strive for a higher education? Of course, Cale brings up an excellent point. What are the four years of high school in the States, but preparation for university? However, in Samoa, if a secondary school student wants to go on to university they must attend University Preparatory Year, where I assume they learn all the things they need to know for university they did not learn in high school. What if the focus of high school was continued education either at university or a trade or vocational school?

Now, I know at this point, I have wandered way, way off my original point on buying a better education, but this is where Google took me. I cannot deny the Google, it did find me some very interesting articles and statistics to share.

— Sara

**For more Samoan education statistics, look

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kids - 1 , Cale and Sara - 0

Health Clinic in Manono

Last Saturday we headed out to Manono with several other volunteers. Laura's father was visiting from America. He is a doctor and the last year when he visited he held a health clinic in Laura's village. This year they decided to have the clinic on Manono, a small island off the west coast of Upolu. He also brought a medical resident and an audiologist with him. Obviously, these guys were going to be doing all the hard work. Us volunteers were tagging along to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

Stephanie already had everything organized at her village. A string of rooms in one building had been set up for the clinic. Sally, whose Samoan skills are monstrous, served as check-in. It was her responsibility to determine the patients complaint. They were then sent on to the next room where Matt, Kate and Hannah gathered temperature, BP, heart beat and respiration data. All of this information was carefully recorded on a prepared sheet. Next the patients queued up to wait to see the two physicians. Also in with the doctors was Country Director Dale who kept are record of the doctors' diagnosis and prescribed treatment.

Across the street at the school Tim had set up a kid corral. That was where Cale, Mike and I were. It was our job to keep the village kids occupied so they were not interfering with the clinic. Next door to us Laura, the audiologist (not Laura the PC volunteer, I know it is confusing) and Rosie, our resident speech therapist, teamed up for hearing checks. Anyone complaining of hearing trouble or any children with runny ears and noses were sent that way. Dylan and Tim worked crowd control keeping people in the correct line and directing them to the right place.

I am short on clinic details because I spent my time in the play room. I was put in charge of face painting and quickly lost control of the situation. There were three brushes on the table and before I knew it, the two I wasn't using had made their way into the hands of older kids who were face painting the younger kids. At first I was ok with that. It was nice to have some help as the face painting was popular. However, that quickly got out of hand and supplies were getting ruined. Tim ran interference and we were able to cut back to one brush (just me, thank you very much) and one open paint of each color. I still spent two solid hours telling kids to "Fai le laina" (Make the line) and asking them "O le a le lanu?" (What the color?). Which was the best that I had in Samoan. Oh, and "O fea" (where?), as in where do you want me to paint? The face painting came to a abrupt halt when the line had once again gotten out of control and pushing and shoving led to the knocking over and breaking of the mug with the paint water. I decided that was an excellent opening for a break.

Things had started out rather orderly over at the mask making table where Cale was in charge. He had originally created some very elaborate masks for the kids. However, by the end of the mask table was over run with destroyed paper plates, cap-less markers and empty glitter pens. Though, Cale would like it to be known that he kicks ass at masks and that he could possibly be the best mask craft day guy ever.

By the end of the day all I could say was that the kids had won. I am not sure what the competition was, but they had definitely won and we had definitely lost.

Stephanie's village (she hosted the clinic) had cooked for us and afterwards it was back on the motorboat to head home.

My two favorite parts of the experience were seeing Stephanie interact with her community and hearing Laura talk more about her work. It was the first time I had actually seen a VBD volunteer in action and it was inspiring to see how comfortable she interacted with the kids and her family. It was intimidating to hear her talking so freely in Samoan (though she has a year and then some on me). It was nice to see the sort of connection she had made. Laura is here as a special needs teacher and has seemed to have found a niche working for better hearing and eye care. She is in contact with groups that visit the islands to organize clinics for hearing screening and eye screening. One group assessed a group of kids for hearing aides a year ago that she was just able to have fit with Laura the audiologist in country. Laura, the PCV, works in particular with one student at her school who had a hearing aide for the first time last year. It was broken and he had gone six months without one until recently. She has also been in contact with a group will be fitting people for glasses and hopes to get them to come to her side of the island.

It is a little intimidating, seeing other volunteers working on so many projects that seem so productive and beneficial. I feel a little inadequate. But I also know that I have another 17 months to work on these sorts of things. Who knows what things I might be working on in my last few days of service (Stephanie's group has already COSed [close of service] and she will be heading out soon).

—  Sara

Monday, July 7, 2008

Happy Birthday America


We celebrated our nation's birth at the former home of the U.S. ambassador in Samoa. There were crazy festive decorations; delicious, delicious foods and an open bar — what more could you need?

The food came from Bistro Tatau, the most expensive restaurant in Samoa. There was sashimi (which was amazing) and seared tuna and meatballs and chicken wings and cheese poofs (pastry with blue cheese inside) and some other tiny pastry type items. Every time a waiter with a tray came out of the kitchen he would be swarmed by Peace Corps like locust. I am surprised any other guests got any food.

Apparently, in previous years Peace Corps volunteers have taken too much advantage of the open bar and have caused a little trouble. I think we were rather well-behaved though definitely celebratory. The other volunteers hit On The Rocks after the party, but Cale and I headed home. We knew we were needed to get up early the next morning for the trip to Manono for the health clinic (more to come on that later), so we were in bed by 11 pm. Gosh we are such old, boring people.

—  Sara

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Iron Stomach No More

In training we had an Iron Stomach Club. It was simple, if you had puked or if you had another stomach related illness that caused you to miss class, you were out of the club. By the end of training it was just Masi, Ane and me. I was disqualified by the others in my group when I missed class due to my possible bronchitis / laryngitis. I never agreed with the ruling since that had nothing to do with my stomach. Oh well.

Last night I finally booted for the first time in Samoa. I have been very proud of my stomach up until now. Even this booting wasn't very spectacular and doesn't appear to be due to some sort of weird tropical illness or the water or anything. Looks like it was just something I ate.

I was wondering if I could make it the two whole years. The answer is no.

— Sara

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Trying to Talk Myself into an Ice-cold Shower at 7 am

"Ooooohhhh, this is going to be cold."
"Just do it"
"Come on Sara, just do it. Jump in."

Cale, helpfully from the other room, "Want me to push you?"

— Sara