Friday, October 31, 2008

Group 81 Fiafia

Group 81 Fiafia

It's only been a week since the Group 81 Fiafia, I think. Has it been two weeks? Either way, it is just me being timely again.

The Group 81 Fiafia was very much like a fiafia. There was the getting to know the current volunteers slideshow. There were dances. Laura made extreme faces while MCing the event. Dylan acted a fool. Ben made scary faces and later wore a jaunty hat. You know, your typical fiafia activities.

Then there was food. Things were a little heavy on the desert side, we need to get a more equal distribution of entree to desert in the future. Cale and I made three double batches of bagels (some plain, some poppy seed and some cheese). Max contributed the cream cheese and our location lent us the toaster. With the exception of the fact that the toaster did not toast, only warmed, we had delicious bagels.

Afterwards everyone headed out to On the Rocks and an attempt was made to go dancing at the Blue Lagoon. However, it was so crowded my eye hurt just looking at all the people. I turned into a pumpkin sometime around midnight, but my understanding is that the fun continued on into the night.

— Sara

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Zombie Invasions

"If there is ever zombie shit and we haven't been bitten yet....(I
say yet because you always get bitten. I mean, have you seen zombie
movies?) and there's that guy that just comes back from fighting with
the zombies and is like 'Whooo that was rough but i am ok,' shoot him
in the head. He is not ok."

Life lessons by Cale Reeves

— Sara

Monday, October 27, 2008

Extreme Bussing

Extreme Bussing

I have been trying to get Cale to write something up about this for the blog, but failure.

After our visit to New Zealand, where everything is EXTREME! and involves being thrown from things while attached to rubber bands, Cale came up with this excellent new sport.

— Sara

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Switzerland Is Lovely This Time of Year

Cale and I went to Switzerland last night. We are becoming quite the world travelers.

We had a gathering of the Samoa Mac Users' Group (SMUG) at Marco and Maria Inez's plantation. Marco is the Swiss consulate in Samoa and his land is officially Swiss soil. Marco, of course, is Swiss and his wife is Chilean. They met when Marco was in Santiago before going on a scientific expedition to the South Pole to look at penguins. Doesn't their life sound exciting?

Their house is lovely. They have been working on the garden for five years. It has a wide variety of plants, including all the cactus that grows natively in Samoa. Who knew Samoa had cactus?

We spent the night geeking out, swapping movies and music and video game emulators. Cale worked on Marco's old MacBook Pro that was broken and got it up and working again. I got the computer textbook Dave has been working on and Ryan's teaching resources for the Peace Corps Computer Studies Textbook Committee.

Unfortunately, we had not made return taxi plans ahead of time. I started asking about getting taxi home around 8pm. Around 9pm we started to try to track one down nearby. When that failed, Maria Inez called a taxi driver she trusted, who then found a friend with a taxi van (there were so many of us and two bikes). By the time our ride finally came it was 11pm. Way past Sara's bed time. I turn into a pumpkin at 10pm these days.

— Sara

Friday, October 17, 2008

Methodist Board of Education Computer Seminar Series 2008

Computer Seminar

That is a long blog title huh? That is what I have been calling what has been, up until now, my failed proposal to have computer troubleshooting workshops for teachers and students. The idea being that the teachers would be able to fix many basic computer problems on their own and students might take an interest in the field. I first proposed the workshops in May. We finally had one last week.

Cale and I traveled to our sister school in Savaii. The pule  and the computer teacher there were very interested in having one of these workshops at their school and so we ended up having the first one there.

It went really well. The computer teacher, the school secretary, the school science teacher and one other teacher were in attendance. Which was a good class size for our first try. The teachers were really interested and by the end of the day we had them inside the computers, diagnosing problems and fixing them.

I started the seminar with a brief introduction to all the things in the tower for those people that were not familiar. Then Cale took one tower completely apart (even the CPU off the motherboard) and put it back together so they could see how everything connected. Next I talked about the common computer problems that we can fix. This included bad connection with the RAM (solution: jiggle the RAM...or move it to another slot...fixes computers ALL THE TIME!), video card on the motherboard is bad (solution: put a new one in an expansion slot...also fixes computers constantly), etc. The main focus was to figure out what the bad part was and replace it with a working one. Next Cale created problems in computers for us to troubleshoot. The fun part of that was we would be fiddling with it for quite awhile and I would have to ask Cale what he had done to it and he would tell us that we had already fixed what he had done to it purposefully, now we were dealing with a new, unknown problem. So we would just keep fiddling around until it worked. Which is basically what I do anyway. I also talked about common software issues that could be making the computer slow and showed them the disk utilities and talked about anti-virus programs.

I think that it was pretty successful and the school secretary has already requested we come back because she wants to learn more. They will have their own Peace Corps next year, so maybe I can coordinate with them instead.

After the seminar, the pule gave us a lift out to Max's village where we stayed for two nights. Max is pretty lucky. He can see the ocean from his house and a resort with a nice sandy beach is just a short walk away. We also got to check out is school and his computer lab where he has all sorts of cool things going on.

Cale and Max and I were out on the road on Saturday waiting for a bus into town when a Peace Corps truck with the outgoing APCD, the new APCD and our Country Desk rep inside. So we caught a ride into town with them. Max got off to do his White Sunday shopping, but Cale and I continued on with our free ride on the ferry (well, we paid for our own ferry tickets) and to our house. Sweet deal.

— Sara

How to Improve Your Quality of Life

Cale: "I feel like one of the things we have learned from our Peace Corps experience, even because we started this before we came here, is to watch less TV and read more books."

— Sara

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Monkey Shirt

The Monkey Shirt

Cale sewed himself a shirt out of some of the fabric is mom and grandmother sent us. I had a puletasi made (picture to come) and Cale is trying to teach me how to sew, so I am working on another. However, the learning to sew is not going so well. I think that Cale is just going to take over.

— Sara

I'd Love to Do Some Dishes

But they've turned the water off. Well, I don't know if the water is off right now because it was purposefully turned off or if there is a failure in the pipes somewhere.

They (and I don't know who the they is) have taken to turning off the water sometime in the middle of the night. I don't know when it goes off, but I can tell you that it doesn't come back on until 6:30 in the morning. Now, keep in mind, this doesn't happen every morning. It is like those experiments with lab rats, random reinforcement. However, Cale and I are apparently not as smart as lab rats, as we have yet to learn to fill a bucket with water every night before we go to bed, just in case.

Not that it would have done us any good tonight, as the water mysteriously turned off around 7pm, while we were in the middle of making bagels. Thankfully, we were all set on the water for the cooking. Just don't ask me how we are going to clean up or do the dishes.

The strange thing about this water situation is that rumor has it there is a water shortage in Samoa. It is now the tail end of the dry season - beginning of the wet season and a lot of the inland rivers are bone dry. However, if you have ever been in a Samoa house, you will know there is always a tap running some where. In our host family house the water in the shower was left on at all times. I would turn it off, and someone else would come and turn it on. Even now, during the "shortage" water is left running all the time. Maybe turning it off at the source in the night is the only way to force people to conserve.

The other issue is that it appears the entire water structure of Samoa was run with 1/2" PCV pipe. I am constantly seeing broken connections running over ditches or by someone's house where two pipes were fitted together and have now pulled apart. Water is usually pouring out of them. So maybe turning the water off at night is the only way to stop the constant flow from the broken places in the system.

...

I have a small tea cup full of water from our filtered drinking-water bucket. I am pouring tiny bits over my hands in attempts to get the bagel dough off. Cale looks over. "Save that," he says of the half cup. "We might need to wash something."

...

I mention we haven't had an paper towels for a while and they sure would come in handy.

Cale: "As long as we are complaining about things we don't have, I would like to insert water somewhere on the list."

...

From the bathroom, where I am wringing out some soapy clothes I set to soak earlier in the day:
"Shit, I forgot."
"Water."
"It's going to make rinsing these pretty difficult."
"Nigh impossible. You could use the potato water*."
"No thank you."

* The potato water was used to boil potatoes for mashed potatoes and to boil the bagels

— Sara


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The New Kids Are Here

Group 81 Welcome Ava Ceremony

Welcome to Peace Corps Samoa Group 81.

This is the first ICT group since we arrived a year ago. Finally, we are the old, wise group with new fresh-faced, doe-eyed kids to look up to us and marvel at our skills. Well, I don't actually know about any of that. One, we are not so old (though we do tend older than the new group which are all under 27 apparently). Two, I would not go so far as to call any of us wise, we might take offense. Three, have you seen these new kids? Fresh-faced and doe-eyed my ass. These new IT boys have not spent their formative years in a basement rebuilding an Atari. They were outside, getting fresh air, playing brutal contact sports and wrestling cattle by the looks of them (granted, one of them is a physical education teacher and some of them must be vocational instructors...they are not all computer nerds). These are big, burly men. They tower over your average IT nerd and threaten to steal is pocket protector.

Anyway. The new kids are here. They flew in on the red-eye and then were dragged up to USP (University of the South Pacific) for their welcoming ava ceremony. They stayed awake through the entire thing like pros.

I ran around like a crazy person the entire time taking more pictures than is really humanly possible. Apparently, I also had some of the new girls questioning the rules they had heard about what is proper Samoan lady dress. I was wearing that sassy puletasi Cale made for me. They were asking Laura about my practically exposed knees and definitely exposed shoulders.

In addition to the new group we also welcomed a new APCD (Assistant Peace Corps Director), Kellye McKenzie (whose name I have been spelling wrong in all my picture captions). I will write more about her later. Shelley (whose last name I do not know and whose first name I may also be spelling wrong) from our Country Desk in Washington DC also joined us in Samoa for a short trip. This is her first time in the area, as she served in the Ukraine.

Anywho, new kids, new APCD, country desk representative, ava, speeches, etc. You know, the usual.

— Sara

Sunday, October 12, 2008

All by myself

I fixed a computer problem all by myself. Over text message even.
Granted, the problem was that some one had the number lock button turned on and their laptop keyboard was only typing numbers for some letters. But I solved the problem.

— Sara

Happy Anniversary

Staging in L.A.

Dear Group 79,

 Congratulations on your first year in Samoa. Remember when we first arrived 10 October 2007? Remember how different and foreign everything seemed? Remember how smart Group 77 seemed? I thought those guys really know what was going on and had it all sorted out. Of course, now I know they were just faking it. Now it is our turn to pretend that we know what is going on and that we have it all sorted out with Group 81.
 Ah traditions.

 This has been an adventurous year. We've lived through boils, giardia and extreme food allergies. We learned to dance, speak Samoa and kill a pig (some of us had a more intimate experience with that last one than others). We've made friends and family. We've worked hard and partied just as hard.

Congratulations to Group 79 for making through our first year. I look forward to all the exciting things we will accomplish in our next year.

Love,
Sara

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

11 months, 3 weeks and 2.5 days

How long the $100 frames from the eye doctors last in Samoa. I am now wearing my back up glasses. Which I like less.

— Sara

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It's War. And We Are Losing


The ants continue to win

We are at war with ants in our house. They had already won the battles for the inside of the walls. We conceded that early on, thinking they might be happy to rule there. However, they have stepped up their efforts to dominate new territory inside the house, in the living space. And they are winning.

One would think that we are so much bigger and smarter than the ants, that this would be an easy war to win. Well, one would be wrong. These ants are crafty and wily. They have us in numbers and the willingness to sacrifice hundreds of their own for the millions more that are waiting to settle these new, fertile lands.

Nothing phases them. Not stomping, not water, not Mortien. Nothing. One day we will come home from school and discover that we have lost the house. Maybe if we fly a white flag they will throw some of our clothes out the window for us and we can set up camp in the back yard.

— Sara

Word of the Week: Le iloa

Lē iloa {lay ē-low-ah}
v. 1. Be unaware, not conscious  2. Not be able to do something  3. Lose, be lost

(we were taught in training this means "Don't know")

Can you use it in a sentence?
I le iloa how to fix a computer

Yeah. I don't know how to fix computers. And that is kind of a problem. You see, being sent to Samoa as a computer teacher means that I am constantly presented with broken computers. The computers at school are constantly broken. The computers at the Methodist School Board are constantly broken. The computers of my neighbors and colleagues are constantly broken. I am supposed to be able to fix them. Admitting that I have no idea what I am doing or how to fix them is not the best option, as then people start to doubt my ability to do what it was that I was sent here to do. Of course, sometimes I doubt my ability to do what it was I was sent here to do, but that is another story.

My typical solution to broken computers at school is to restart, jiggle the RAM and then put a sign on it that says BROKEN. Then I wait for the end of the school day and get Cale to come over and figure out what is wrong. My typical solution for broken computers at the Board is to restart, jiggle the RAM and then tell them I need to go look something up, find Cale and have him figure out what is wrong. Do you see a trend here?

Recently the new pule of my school received the shipping container with his belongings from New Zealand. He set up his computer in his office at school and asked me to connect him to the internet. After a lot of leg work (tracking down the phone number to call the local internet supplier's server for dial up service), I sat in his office for hours trying to sort it out. First I discovered the network cable on the back of the computer was plugged into a router that was plugged into the phone line, but the router was for DSL and we have regular old phone line here. That took me a while to figure out. Then I was about to say that we will have to buy a USB modem (like the secretary has) because most new computers don't come with modems. But then, lo and behold, there was a phone jack on the back of his computer. So I plugged into that. The internet was still not working. Then it occurred to me that we have to dial 9 to get out, so I changed the number we were calling to include the 9. Etc. Etc. I kept this up for a long time before Cale showed up to figure out where I was. He was the one that pointed out I had the phone line for the modem plugged into the phone jack instead of the line jack on the back of the computer. He also told me I had to have a comma between the 9 and the phone number for it to dial correctly. We finally got it to connect to the internet, but the phone line sounded horrible and staticy (all the phones in the school do, it is hard to call anyone because you cannot hear them). When we connected, we could only stay connected for seconds or only at 7 kb/s, which is a lot less than the 46 kb/s it should be at. Our next adventure was tracing the phone lines through the building to try to figure out why they were so staticy. We discovered (and by we, I mean Cale) line connections being made outside the building with exposed wires sort of twisted together in the middle of a birds' nest. The end result being that with the materials we have, we cannot successfully connect the computer to the internet at this time. By the time we left it was the pule and Cale discussing the best way to get his computer connected to the internet and the materials he will need to do so. I just kinda stand nearby and act like I know what is going on.

Anyway, my point being that I have no idea how to do most of these things myself and I always have to find Cale to help with them. If Cale wasn't here, my school would still only have the six working computers that we had when I arrived in December. It was Cale that got the number up to 35 by fixing broken ones and rehabbing ancient ones from his school to run Linux at my school.

If you are being sent somewhere as a Peace Corps to teach computers and you don't know how to troubleshoot or fix broken computers, learn how. The place you are going will have the expectation that you can fix computers and it will make your life so much easier.

— Sara