Sunday, August 31, 2008

New Zealand Day Four: Happy Birthday Cale

It was Cale's birthday on this side of the date line today.

I gifted him with a Pua'a Samoa Sportswear t-shirt. Puma clothing (and knockoffs) are very popular in Samoa. The stalls at the flea market have started to sell Pua'a clothing. Pua'a (pooh-ah-ah)is Samoan for pig and instead of a puma jumping over the logo, a pig is jumping over the logo. It is pretty clever. A New Zealand Samoan noticed it at dinner later in the evening and complimented him on it.

We had Starbucks for dinner and the wandered around downtown Auckland for a while. Cale was peripherally searching for a new wallet and slippers, but really it was just a wander. I broke down and bought a winter coat from the Recycle Boutique across the street. I had been freezing (yeah, I know, it isn't really that cold, but it doesn't change how I feel) and miserable outside, but now I am all toasty warm.

For dinner we went to Galbraith's Alehouse, which we had passed on the initial shuttle ride into town from the airport. It was a little bit of a walk away from the hostel, but we have been doing tons of walking here and Auckland and it hasn't been a problem. Galbraith's brews several different ales and lagers. We ordered two tasting racks (four small beers each) and still didn't try all the beers they brew. It was interesting because the menu was so informative. In addition to a paragraph describing each beer it also included the alcohol content and the serving temperature. Our first tasting menu was all beers that are served at 10-12 degrees Celsius. They weren't my favorites in the first place (I didn't like the taste), but I also prefer my beer to be cold, very cold. After that I got a rack of beers served at 1 degree Celsius and that was where I found the Tuatara Bavarian Hefe. According to the menu it had hints of banana, vanilla and clove and damn if it didn't taste a little like bananas. It was delicious.

We stayed at Galbraith's for a while and we kept ordering food. Cale had a steak with potatoes daphonaise and I had lamb shank with mashed potatoes. Then we had the breads and spreads appetizer (I know, going backwards). For dessert we had an apple and raspberry crumble with fresh whipped cream and blueberries. God it was awesome.

After Galbraith's we headed out to the King's Arms Tavern to make up for being so old and not fun for the past few days. According to the internets they were having a rock-and-roll show and we were going to see it. However, when we arrived the place was dead and we discovered a sign telling us that the gig had been canceled that night. At least this time it wasn't our fault that we were old and not fun.

Instead we walked back to the hostel and watched the end of Music & Lyrics and all of Accepted in one of the TV rooms.

Food Watch: Day Four
Chai latte
Latte
Ham, egg, cheese, tomato crossiant
Goat cheeses and crackers
Lamb shank and mash
Steak and potatoes daphonaise
Emerson's Organic Pilsner
Epic Pale Ale
Renaissance Brewing Co Stonecutter Scotch Ale
Tuatara Bavarian Hefe
Galbraith's Bob Hudson's Bitter
Galbraith's Bellringer's Best Bitter
Galbraith's Bitter & Twisted
Gathbraith's Old Burton Pale Ale (which was the special and included a quote from the Wind in the Willows on the menu)
Breads & Spreads
Raspberry apple crumble

Weather Watch: Day Four
Auckland: 58 F
Samoa: 82 F

— Sara

New Zealand Day Three: Goat Cheese

We slept in and lallygagged and lazed about. Then we showered and headed to the Auckland Fish Market. The internets had promised me a selection of cheeses there and I wanted goat cheese.

We took a round-about walk to Fish Market and even though it was after noon, the streets of Auckland were suspiciously dead. By the time we reached the market, we were worried that it wouldn't even be open, like the rest of Auckland. However, we were happy to find it was indeed open. We loaded up on cheeses, crackers, bread, Italian meats and a bottle wine. Then we headed back to the hostel to eat our pretentious meal in the cafeteria.

Staying at this hostel is exactly like living in a dorm at college. I cannot speak to the singles with multiple people to a large room, but in the private double room the only thing we are missing from a dorm room is posters and desks. Downstairs at reception there is a lounge were people can hang out, a computer lab with wireless internets, two TV rooms to chill in and watch TV and a large cafeteria/kitchen space where people can cook and eat their own food. Most of the guests fit the college age range. I would say 18 to 25 probably covers the majority. But we also see older people and at least two families staying here as well.

We returned to lazing about until dinner time when we headed out for Mexican food and margaritas. While at the Mexican restaurant Cale and I discussed our long-hatched plans to see a rock-and-roll show while in Auckland. One of the things we were determined to do while on this trip was see loud music in a live venue. It would be dirty and smoky and possibly smelling, but it would be wonderful. However, we had yet to successfully accomplish this. Here is was, Saturday night and we had looked up on the internets the possibility of a show this evening, but now we were tired and old.

"We're old, we're very old."
"No, we're not old. We're just not fun."

So, instead of going to a rock-and-roll show, we came back to the hostel and watched bad movies in the movie-watching room. Either we are old or not fun. Or possibly both.


Food Watch: Day Three
Cheerios
Buce de chevre (goat cheese)
Waitaki camebert
Te Mata Mt Erin (goat cheese)
Water Crackers
Copa and Salami
Pide (bread)
La Vieille Femme Wine
Tostados
Nachos
Margaritas
Chips and Salsa
Tui

— Sara

P.S. I think I mentioned that staying at the hostel is exactly like living in a dorm? Well, it's just before 1 am. I cannot sleep because someone has set off a car alarm outside. Actually, from the sound of it, someone is repeatedly setting off a car alarm outside. It sounds like a perimeter alert, chirping to warn the person away, followed by an alarm. It will finally stop after a while for a varying interval only to have it start all over again. It is possible I could have slept through this alarm if it had started while I was asleep, but I was awake when the alarm began. I was awake because a large, beefy man with an Australian (or Kiwi or British, who can tell the difference?) accent was outside our door. He and a girl with a shrieky voice demanded entry to the room for 10 minutes straight before the man started threatening to break the door down. I knew they had the wrong room as they were demanding that Owen let them in and insisting that they could hear Owen inside. That was when I got dressed and opened the door. I discovered they were actually trying to break into the room next door, but thanks to paper thin walls, it sounded like they were at our door. The disappeared for a brief time, I can only assume to find some one with a key because they returned and gained entry to the room. For a while there was yelling of the name Owen, but that ended quickly and the number of voices grew and a party has appeared to have started next door. Personally, I am still worried about Owen. He name is still occasionally yelled out questioningly, as if he is passed out in a drunken stupor and the party people occasionally would like to rouse him.

I just looked out the window and it appears that Auckland is a rocking place on a Saturday night. The streets outside are packed with cars and there is a rather large group of kids (I am calling people probably in their early 20s kids now, I am old) dancing like crazy in front of the Burger King. Cale is asleep in the bed and I am typing cranky blog entries. The only thing that could make this worse is if Cale and I had actually asked the front desk for a board game earlier this evening as we had discussed. Board games and then to bed before midnight. We are indeed happening cats.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Zealand Day Two: Hanging out at the Dentist and Other Adventures

Cheerios.

I started the day out with Cheerios. In Samoa there is a grocery store where you can buy Cheerios. They cost $16 tala a box. Seeing as how I can get two weeks of breakfasts out of a $5.50-tala container of oatmeal, I cannot justify a week's worth of $16 Cheerios. However, they were only $4 NZ, so I am going to have Cheerios ever day.

Breakfast was two courses today. After the Cheerios, some internets time (dear lord! the internets are sooooo fast!) and a ridiculously long hot shower (I shaved my legs! all of them!), we headed directly across the street to the Dunkin Donuts. We bought a half dozen (three glazed, one sugared, one chocolate frosted and one chocolate glazed). We realized we had forgotten something in the room and went upstairs to retrieve it. By the time we reached the room (literally across the street and five floors up from Dunkin Donuts) we were each on our last doughnut.

Next we walked to the Auckland Museum. Our walk took us past at least three universities in the city and through a park with nice walking paths. The museum is located in the middle of the park.

The first exhibit we saw was displays of ornamentation, musical instruments, tools, weapons, clothes, etc from peoples all over the Pacific region. There was very little there to represent Samoa, maybe five items in the room of hundreds. I am not sure why this is. We did discover there is a New Ireland, which I had never heard of before.

The Maori area was of course impressive and extensive. The Maori are known for their woodwork and carvings. And it was truly amazing to see the scope and detail of the works in person. The replica Maori meeting house was indescribable. The ornamentation was outrageous. We also saw a pataka, which at first glance is like a Maori doll house, a miniature version of the full-sized meeting house or store room. However, these served a much different purpose. These small houses were built on stilts or platforms. Each family had one and stored choice foods and precious goods (such as birds feathers) in them. They served as a public display of status. The more elaborately decorated your pataka, with more coveted goods inside, the higher the family's status.

Auckland Museum

I was most interested in the Hei Tiki. These are representations of the god Tiki (who I had recently read more about in Kon-Tiki) usually done in jade. There were at least a hundred of these pendants is a variety of sizes all showing a human shape, head tilted to one side and most likely the tongue sticking out. According to the postcard we got, "...hei tiki are the most characteristic and most highly valued of all Maori personal ornaments. They are passed down through the generations as family heirlooms, worn by both men and women. The mana or prestige of the hei tiki derives from its close contact with those great ancestors who have worn it in the past."

Auckland Museum

Cale spent a great deal of the time analyzing the similarities between the Maori and Samoan languages. When you take into the consideration that the Maori wh sounds like an f and postulate that the Maori k is the glottal stop in Samoan, you have a lot of Maori words beginning with whaka, very similar to the Samoan fa'a. There were also many Maori words that were identical to Samoan words, except the Maori used an r where the Samoan would use an l. There was a map and flow chart that showed the evolution of the Pacific languages. It indicated that Maori broke off from the mother language about two steps before Samoan did, so they do share a common background.

Each of the island groups also had a small display area. The Samoan area had a fine mat on display (obviously) and other items that were familiar to us. Interestingly, most of the island groups had a traditional type of fan on display. The type of fan on display in the Tongan area was identical to the fans available in the flea market in Apia today and the once used by everyone all over the islands. However, the fan on display in the Samoan area was different then the ones we see there now. I also saw a historical president for a modern trend. Necklaces made of many small, red plastic chili peppers are very popular. I always thought it to be a strange Mexican/cheap Chinese manufacture that had for some reason become popular. However, in the Samoan display there was a necklace made of pointed, red pandanus fruit. It did indeed look just like the red chili pepper necklaces. So there you go.

After the museum we walked back to town and had a kebab on pita at one of the dozens and dozens of Turkish kebab places on Queen Street. It was delicious, though the NZ cheese did throw it off a little (I recently learned that legally, all milk in NZ must be pasteurized, so they apparently have a hard time making too many varieties of cheese there. That is why you see Tasty, Mild and Colby and that is about it. I think this cheese was Tasty). We also had Ginger Beer, which I did not like.

Next we dropped the camera off at a shop to have the sensor cleaned and had some internets time at the hostel while we waited for our dentist appointments.

Our dentist appointments were at 6pm at a dentist's office that is open until 8pm every night. How strange. I thoroughly enjoyed the cleaning (he used a water pick instead of just scrapping my teeth with the metal pick like the dentist in the States always did to me) and it was a true joy to have clean teeth when it was all over. The dentist was a young guy from Brazil who moved to NZ after being robbed at gun point in his home country. The hygienist was a middle-aged woman from South Africa who moved because all the security measures required to be safe in that country were keeping her kids from playing outside or growing up secure. She and her husband had actually applied for US citizenship (or visas, I am not sure) three times, but were turned down. Her husband had been working in Arkansas and they would have moved there, but instead are now in NZ. Cale and I stuck around an extra 30 minutes or so talking to the dentist and hygienist about the safety of Auckland (very safe), the image of Americans abroad (not so hot) and the treatment of indigenous peoples (we have differing opinions from them). Talk about an unusual way to spend your Friday night.

After that it was back to the hostel where the hostel bar was boasting free beer (and alco-pops) until the $1,000 tab ran out. Cale and I each got a pint of Tui, but the place was very crowded and not very interesting, so we decided to bail. Our goal for the evening was to see a rock 'n roll show. However, we had been having a hard time finding any on the internets. Cale had seen a flyer for a CD release party, so we decided to give that a try. However, after a long tramp down K'Street and still no club in sight, we decided we were too hungry and tired to keep looking. On the way home we stopped for Korean BBQ at a buffet where you cooked your own meat at the table. Back at the hostel, we discovered we had gone the wrong way on K'Street when looking for the club, but at that point, I just wanted to relax. Maybe we will try again tomorrow.

Food Watch: Day Two
Cheerios
Dunkin Donuts
Lattes
Kabob on pita with the works
Ginger Beer
Korean BBQ
Vending machine cookie
Tui
Lion Red

Weather Watch: Day Two
Auckland: 55 degrees
Samoa: 88 degrees

— Sara

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Zealand Day One: We're in the future!


Thanks to the International Date Line, Cale and I are now in the future. We left Samoa at 2 am on Wednesday morning and after a four-hour flight we arrived in New Zealand at 5 am Thursday. By the time we made it to our hostel (X Base's Auckland Central Backpacker) around 8 am local time we had been up for over 24 hours and were exhausted. We checked in and went to sleep.

My first goal after we woke up was to locate pants. Since moving to Samoa I had shrunk out of the one pair of jeans and one pair of cargo pants I had brought with me. I only owned skirts, lavalava and shorts. This wouldn't have been a problem, but we had decided to visit New Zealand at the end of its winter. Even if the crazy Kiwis felt comfortable walking around in shorts and skirts the 18-degree-Celsius weather (64 Fahrenheit), I was going to need some jeans. Thankfully there was a Recycle Boutique (think Plato's Closest) literally across the street from the hostel where I found some jeans. They were a size 7, which leads me to believe that New Zealand and the states have different sizes, as the jeans I had shrunk out of in Samoa were also a size 7. If the internets are correct, these jeans are probably about a size 5 in the states.

Next we had lunch at an Irish pub around the corner. Cale had is first Guinness in almost a year. Then it was a walk up Queen Street to see what there was to see.

Two major observations about Auckland:
1. It is a very young city. I feel like a disproportionate number of the people we were seeing were in the 18 to 35 age range. All of them trendily dressed in tight jeans and other revival-punk fashions. I have known for some time that I had officially crossed one of the universal borders between being young and cool and being old and fogey, but living in Samoa had allowed me to remain oblivious to this fact. Auckland has been actively throwing it in my face. It comes down to this: These kids these days and their jeans. I have reached that point in life where you no longer adapt to new fashions as they come, but instead look for the ones that you are comfortable with (the ones from late high school through college). I don't want a pair of these skinny jeans that manage to make everyone look horrible no matter how skinny they are. I want the boot-cuts of my youth, damn it! I think this means I am just a step away from mom jeans. Oh the horror.

2. It is very ethnically diverse. Auckland appears to have a huge Asian population. There are Turkish kebab shops every few feet on Queen Street. I have seen more Sikhs here in the past day then I have in my life.

That evening we had an early dinner at a Japanese sake bar and restaurant. The food was delicious. Then we headed over to the bar affiliated with our hostel, Global Bar. We had a couple of beers (Tui) and some of the free pizza that came around 9 pm. Ironically, the free pizza? Dominoes.

We made it an early evening because we were still very tired from the trip.

Food Watch: Day One
Chai latte
2 pub burgers with fries
Pint of Guinness
Pint of Speights
Sushi (the dinner box including sashimi, tempura, beef, salad, miso soup, sake, etc)
Stella
Tui
Dominos pizza

— Sara

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Peace Corps Cutting Back

According to an article in the Washington Post:

"The [Peace Corps], which has a budget of $330.8 million, is facing an anticipated shortfall of about $18 million this fiscal year and next, officials say. Much of the gap can be attributed to the declining value of the dollar overseas and the rising cost of energy and other commodities, officials said. That inflates expenses for overseas leases, volunteer living costs and salaries for staff abroad, most of whom are paid in local currencies.

Those factors 'have materially reduced our available resources and spending power,' Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter wrote. 'Tough budgetary decisions must be made now in order to ensure a financially healthy agency next fiscal year,' he added
."

— Sara

Monday, August 25, 2008

Waterfalls and Such

Faleaseela

Father's Day is celebrated in August here in Samoa. Mother's Day is held in May like in the States, but Father's Day comes the second Sunday in August. Father's Day means a three-day weekend because Monday is part of the holiday as well.

After a long period of failed vacations and extreme work stress, I was determined to find more ways for Cale and I to enjoy ourselves in Samoa and to see more of the island. Before we left the States, Cale and I were at the beach or in a kayak just about every weekend. Now, here we were living on an island in the South Pacific, finding it difficult to explore or travel or decompress. Even though we had attempted a mini-vacation just the weekend before at FaoFao and had a planned trip to New Zealand coming up at the end of the month, I jumped at the chance to join a group of volunteers on a trip to a small group of river-side fales and the possibility of seeing twelve waterfalls.

Faleaseela is a village on the south-west side of our island. It is near the Lefaga district, a area known for its beaches and home to the famous Return to Paradise Beach. However, unlike beach fales, Lalo Talie is not on the ocean. Instead, this group of four fales is nestled up against a river flowing down from Mount Tafua Upolu. Our taxi ride to the village took us up over this mountain and as we crested the southern side we could see the Pacific Ocean and the beaches of Lefaga spread out before us. However, just as we approached the seaside our driver took a right into the cool, dense forest and stopped beside a even cooler, clean river.

The owners of the fales, Jane and Olson, met us at the gate and welcomed us to their home. We sat, sipping lemonade and tea while the fales where prepared for our stay. Our group of seven were the on visitors this weekend and we took over three of the four fales. We were surprising tired upon our arrival late in the afternoon. Cale, Tim and I had met up with Sally, Aaron, Todd and Molly in Sally's village at noon earlier that day. The others had already been celebrating Father's Day Sally's host father since early morning and we had continued the festivities until our departure for Faleaseela. After a little exploration and wading in the river the group as a whole collapsed into our beds in exhaustion.

We were awakened later in the evening to a dinner that was truly a treat. Thick, soft palagi pancakes* with butter and syrup, bananas, tea, coffee. It was breakfast for dinner and it was delicious. That night I drifted off to the sounds of the river rushing by.

I was up earlier than I wanted to be the next morning. My body has become so used to the weekday schedule that has me up and at work by 7:30 am that I find myself awake by 6 am most days without the help of an alarm. However, I was able to doze for a while. Then Cale and I lay back listening to a Car Talk he had saved to his iPod. We filled up on the delicious breakfast spread and Olson told us the legend of the river we were about to explore.

As the story goes, there was a queen on the top of the mountain. The queen had two children. One day she sent these children to follow the river that ran down the north side of the mountain to the village below. The queen was hungry and she sent the children to bring her back food. The children came to the village just as the fishermen were pulling in their catch, but when the children asked for some food for the queen, the villagers said they did not have enough food to share. The children took this message back to the queen who was very upset. So now she sent the children down the south face of the mountain where there was no river. The children made the hard journey through the dense forest to the villages on the south side of the island. There there villagers were more than happy to share their food with the queen. The queen decided to punish those villagers who had refused to share with her and reward those that had fed her. So stopped the flow of the water down the north side of the mountain to the selfish village on that side and redirected the water down the south side to the generous village below. And that is why there is a dry river bed that runs down the north side of the mountain and a river on the south side.

The walk to the first of the many waterfalls was relatively easy. We waded through the slow moving waters or walked along the bank dense with vegetation. It was after reaching this first fall that the trek became significantly more athletic. Tim and Aaron broke from the group and climbed the face of the waterfall, waiting for us up river. The rest of us followed Olson up a vertical hill face covered in loose dirt and rocks and tiny trees that offered deceptive hand holds that crumbled away when you brought your weight to bear. It was a vigorous workout and at times I was unsure if I would be able to find a hand hold or foot hold that would let me continue on. The dogs of course ran back and forth between us, mocking us with their ability to scrabble up and down the hill with ease.

Just before reaching the safety of the other side, I used my mutant powers to find an anthill home to hundreds of large, black, biting ants who immediately attacked my feet. Their sting is very painful and incredibly surprising. I let loose with a few in choice words and ripped off one of my sandals where several ants had worked their way under the straps. It was precarious position to be in. I was standing on one foot on the only flat, solid ground in the vicinity. Olson was encouraging me to move away from the swarm of ants I was sharing this piece of ground with, but with one of my shoes in my hand and the other hand grasping a tree trunk to keep myself from slipping away, I was finding that advice difficult to follow. After some indecision I was able to get my sandal back on and scurry/slide my way down the hill and away from the ants.

We continued on easier routes for quite a while, once again wading through the water or walking along the banks. It was a little nerve-wrecking for me to wade through the river. With ever step the rocks of the riverbed would shift beneath my feet and try to upset me. Since I had our camera slung over my shoulder, the last thing I wanted to do was go down in the water.

We reached another point where our only option was a brief climb up a vertical cliff face. It occurred to me that it was probably a sign of my city-girlness that I looked at it and thought, "Well that looks just like the climbing wall at Galyan's." I think the idea is for climbing walls to be like natural formations. I spent some time with one leg and one arms spread wide in an interesting contortion trying to figure out what to do with the other foot and hand. After much insistence that my legs were just too short, I was able to find the holds I needed and scramble up the wall.

We stopped for a rest on an out cropping of rock that overlooked the pool created by one waterfall directly across from us and was level with the pool created by another waterfall just short ways down the river. The boys climbed the face of this water fall and then jumped off into the pool below.

The final waterfall in our journey was large and beautiful. The pool too was large and deep in the middle. We played there until the chill of the mountain-fresh water caught up with us. Then we made our way home. The journey home was a much shorter trip along a plantation road that led along side a steep hillside. We were able to look down the hillside and see below the river that only an hour earlier we had been walking along. Back at the fales, Jane was waiting for us with sandwich makings and fresh tropical fruit smoothies.

It had taken us just over 3 hours to make the complete trip and in that time I had gotten more enjoyable exercise and had seen more new, beautiful sights than I think I have seen in the previous few months in Samoa. The trip to Faleaseela has been one of my favorite experiences in Samoa so far. Look forward to see more of these islands.

Faleaseela

— Sara

Samoa's Almost in the News

Bush is apparently going to be pushing through some legislation to protect the waters of three American islands, including American Samoa (which Cale would like to point out is called Samoan America here in Samoa).


"He's getting green in his old age," says Cale.


Read more here.


— Sara

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fa to Urima

Fa Urima

This is the long promised post about my pule (principal) moving to New Zealand.

During the Methodist conference in July it was decided that my pule, who is also a Methodist minister (like all the men that live in our area), would take over a parish in New Zealand. The minister currently at that parish would return to Samoa to be the pule at my school again (he was the pule in 2003 as well).

Several Fridays ago the school hosted a celebration to say farewell to Urima and his wife. The students all brought gifts that each class presented to to them. A representative from each class made a speech and the students lined up to bid their farewell with a kiss, hug, handshake and a gift of an ulu (necklace).

The gifts of woven handbags, ie (fabric), necklaces and other knick knacks started to pile up and I wondered how they were going to get all these to New Zealand. I found out the next day when I was gifted one of the handbags that they weren't necessarily taking it all with them.

In true Samoan fashion, there was singing and dancing performed in honor of the pule. What truly fascinated me about this was that the students had a single day to prepare. On Thursday they excused the Year 13 students, they all went to the hall and practices songs and dances. After that brief 2 or 3 hour preparation, they put on quite an impressive show the next day.

I wonder if the ability to sing and dance and act is inherit in the Samoan people. This ability to turn around a show in a matter of hours explains a lot about our trainers' frustrations with us while we were in training. We were going to have to do two dances and a skit for the farewell fiafia in our training village and were only give a week or two to prepare. We thought this was unreasonable and that there was no way we could possibly be ready. I thought the trainers weren't very understanding when we made mistakes or weren't perfect during practices. However, I suppose if you are used to turning around an entire show with multiple musical and dance numbers and a skit in just over 2 hours, I could see how you could be a bit impatient with our whining over only having a week.

After the show by the students, the teachers went back to the staff room for a lunch, followed by speeches...and more speeches...and then a couple of more speeches...and then to mix it up a little, more speeches!

Anywho, and that is the story about how my principal is moving to New Zealand. Maybe some day I will tell you about the new principal who started on Monday.

— Sara

P.S. Coming Soon: Our trip to the waterfall!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Condi Rice Came to Samoa

Condaleezza Rice's visit to Samoa

Though I didn't attend the event, the Secretary of State visited Samoa two weeks ago and Peace Corps volunteers were invited to have their picture taken with her.

Samoa is 'crown jewel' says Rice

APIA - In her only audible comments to the Samoan media, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told members of the US Embassy in Samoa, that they were fortunate to work here, and that Samoa was the "crown jewel," though she did not elaborate.

Read more here.

— Sara

SMUG (Samoan Mac Users Group)

There are so few Macs in Samoa that we can get them all together in the living room of Hanna's flat. Davey-Dave organized the group and we have had two meetings so far. So far it has been an excuse to get together a talk about movies and music and troubleshoot any computer problems. Dave showed off Leopard for us and gave tips on keep your Mac nice and shiny white.

The group was almost entirely Peace Corps, with the exception of Marco. Marco is the de facto Swiss consulate in Samoa. Born in Switzerland, married to a Chilean and a resident of Samoa, Marco is quite a worldly man. Cale and I talked with him about the Trans-Siberian railroad, a trip we are thinking about taking and a trip that Marco has take twice. I have a feeling he will be a handy person to know when it comes to getting travel advice.

— Sara

Rubbish Pick-up

Rubbish Pick-up

So the rubbish pick-up in Sally's village was only weeks ago at this point. I am sorry that I have become a bad correspondent.

Sally organized her village to participate in a village-wide rubbish clean-up. This included the area along the road, the beach and the road leading inland towards the mountains. The week before the clean-up environmental Peace Corps and JICAs (Japanese volunteers) came to the village to do some education on recycling and rubbish. Then on a Saturday Peace Corps and JICAs converged on the village. With the assistance of about a hundred or so primary school children we managed to pickup a dump truck full of trash AND to fill the new recycling bin to bursting with plastic bottles and tin cans.

Sally was incredibly prepared with gloves and trash bags. She organized us into teams and sent us out to our designated area. Cale immediately adopted (or was adopted by, I am not sure) two tiny kids as his helpers. The had to have been about four years old and they followed Cale every where he went. He would call out instructions in Samoan about where where to find the lapisi and then encourage them to run to the next spot. Quite adorable. Cale claims it was all part of a master plan that allowed him to simply carry the trash bag while he sent the kids out to do all the bending over and picking up of the trash. But I think he thought they were cute too. I have a picture of Cale walking next to his minions. The two small boys are holding hands (and so far everyone on Flickr seems to think it is just adorable). Apparently I just missed the scene where the boy on the left reached up and grabbed Cale's hand. Cale's first reaction was to jerk his hand away, which he immediately felt bad about, but there was nothing to be done about it after that.

Rubbish Pick-up

In the last few weeks I have seen a lot of impressive use of the SPG recycling bins distributed around the island. Sally's was filled to busting after our trash pick-up. When we visited Gal in Aleipata, their bins were stuffed full of plastic bottles. His pule required that detention children pick up 50 plastic bottles and had the few tins cans shipped to another recycling bin so she could use both sides of her bin for plastic.

I am inspired to work on the recycling bin in front of my school. Right now it is barely full at all and is mostly full of inappropriate trash (non-recyclables and vegetation trash like leaves). Maybe when the new pule arrives I can talk about having detention students sort through that trash and remove the stuff that shouldn't be there and then make the class prefects in charge of making sure only cans and bottles go into it.

Oh, wait, you may be asking yourself, when the new pule comes? What happened to the old pule? Well, a post will be coming soon about my principal's move to New Zealand.

— Sara

I Am Having Trouble With The 'Employer' Part

College Students Rank Peace Corps as an Ideal Employer
Peace Corps Remains Highest Ranking Service Organization at #8

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 8, 2008 – The Peace Corps has been formally recognized by undergraduate college students as the #8 Most Ideal Employer to meet their career goals. The 2008 results are based upon a survey conducted by UNIVERSUM Communications, which gathered student’s perceptions of companies and expectations upon entering the working world. The feedback from 44,064 U.S. undergraduates was recently published in BusinessWeek.  Peace Corps ranked #8, just behind Google, Disney, Apple and U.S. Department of State.

See the story here.

Apparently college students rank the Peace Corps very high as an ideal employer. And it occurred to me that as a volunteer, I don't consider myself a Peace Corps employee. If I worked in a recruitment office or on a country desk or as a APCD or Director, then I would consider Peace Corps my employer. I have never taken the time to dissect my thoughts on volunteering versus having a job. But I do know that my first gut reaction to this piece indicates to me that I don't think of working for the Peace Corps in the same way as I saw my jobby jobs I had a newspapers back in the 'real world.'

I guess I will have to figure out what the difference is in my head.

— Sara

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On Getting a New Bra in the Mail

"I am trying to remember if all elastic used to be this elasticy or if this new bra just has particularly elasticy elastic."

"You know that tape we got from the school?"

"The one that doesn't have any sticky?"

"That is what Samoa does to things. Just being in Samoa took the elasticy out of our elastic."

— Sara

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Word of the Week: Feololo

Feoloolo {fey-oh-low-low}
v (& adj.). 1. Improve  2. (Be) better, preferable  3. (Be) fairly good, passable, not too bad
n. 1. Improvement


Can you use it in a sentence?
We finally had a vacation and it was feololo.

Choosing feololo as my word of the week taught me a couple of interesting things about the word. First, the word we were taught to use, feololo, is in the dictionary, but the entry for that word is to see feoloolo. That is why you see two spellings for the word. I suppose the extra O was dropped in the pronunciation and spelling at some point. Also, I have only ever used the word in the context of its third verb/adjective definition (fairly good, not too bad) and had never heard the other uses before.

Anyway, we finally had a vacation and it was feololo. We went to FaoFao for the weekend. One one hand it was a vacation because I was forced to nothing but relax. On the other hand, the weather did not cooperate and I came home to piles and piles of laundry and school work to complete. Right now, on the south side of the island the constant east wind is blowing very strongly and I was constantly covered in a fine film of sand.  Also, one of the quirks of Samoa's weather means that on Upolu it can be beautiful and sunny on the north side of the island where there are no beaches and constantly cloudy on the south side of the island where the beaches are. I think the mountains have something to do with trapping the clouds on the south side.

But I should not complain because I read books, listened to NPR podcasts and accomplished absolutely nothing for two days and that is an accomplishment in itself.

— Sara