Friday, November 28, 2008

I promise to write soon

Um, so...November has and continues to be this crazy busy month full of all sorts of activities (that all lead to us spending money and then being completely broke with two weeks still left in the month and more activities that require money yet to come...oh and did I mention that the civil unrest in Thailand means that our paychecks cannot be shipped from the bank in Bangkok?)

How was that for a sentence?

Anywho, there was the election and the lack of electricity and the good-bye to Group 77 in Tafatafa and the good-bye to Group 77 at Cocktails and it was my school's Prize-Giving and it is Cale's school's Prize-Giving and Thanksgiving tomorrow and the All-Volunteer Conference is Saturday and Cale's mom arrives on Wednesday and the International Volunteer Day I have been helping plan is on the 6th and and and. Jeez it is busy and I promise to write all about it someday. Really. I do.

— Sara

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jerks

Group 77 goes home

Who told these asshats they could go home to America and leave me here all alone? And by all alone, I mean with the other 50 or so volunteers still in country and of course, you know, all of the Samoans that happen to live in Samoa. Oh...and Cale too. Cale is still here. So let me rephrase this all alone thing. What I really meant is how could they go home and leave me here without hot showers or couches or remote controls or delivery? Jerks

— Sara

(I think maybe a little bit what she means is bye guys....  we miss you) 
— Cale

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Technical Textbooks

A couple of people have commented on my post about Picture Day. In it I mentioned that the library at Cale's school is small and poorly supplied. I received a couple of comments on that and was asked how people can help.

It is something that Cale and I want to look into on a larger scale next school year. We were thinking about contacting technical institutes and TAFEs in other countries about donations of textbooks that were going to be discarded otherwise. I also was looking up publishing houses that publish technical textbooks to ask about donations.

However, if you are interested in helping, you are welcome. At Cale's school they teach woodworking (construction and carpentry), fine arts (painting, carving, drawing), welding, plumbing, sewing, cooking, electrical, automotive and computers. Every student also takes Maths and Communications (English). If you have any textbooks on any of these subjects or any books of any kind that might be helpful (art coffee table books, woodworking coffee table books) they would be welcome in his school library. Posters or other educational materials on the subjects would also be welcome. Diagrams, technical manuals also welcome. However, keep in mind, if something is so outdated it is useless in the States, it will probably be the same here and then instead of being trash in the States, it will be trash in Samoa.

There is no diplomatic pouch. You can simply send things to Cale at:

Cale Reeves, PCV
Peace Corps
Private Mail Bag
Apia, Samoa (Western Samoa, Independent Samoa)
South Pacific

If you would prefer to send things directly to the school, contact me on the blog and I will set you up with an address. 

If you are interested in helping in other ways or organizing a large-scale shipment of books (there is another PCV here who had an entire shipping container of books sent to her primary school), contact me on the blog and I will help you with that as well.

— Sara

PSSC Exam

Well, my students are uma the PSSC exam. Now there is nothing to be done but wait for the middle of January to see how they did. 

Personally, I am worried. It was a hard test. Very hard. The hardest part for my students (I think, I haven't had a chance to ask them about it yet) has to be the English. Many of my students have excellent practical computer skills and passable computer theory knowledge. However, their English is pretty poor and the exam is not only in English, it is in native-English-speaker, complex-sentence structure, big-words English. There are concepts on that test that I know that my students know and understand. However, I am not sure if they will understand what is being asked for because the question is a paragraph-long story problem.

Paoa (pow-ah which apparently is like Samoan for that's life).

— Sara

Monday, November 17, 2008

University of the South Pacific Field Trip

University of the South Pacific Field Trip

This was weeks ago now, but I was a chaperone on a field trip. You know the one thing that will make you feel like the grownup? Being a field trip chaperone.

The year 13 students went to the University of the South Pacific. There are branches of the USP in several South Pacific countries. The one in Samoa is an agricultural focus, so we went up to see the farm area and the livestock. One of the cutest things that has happened so far is one of my students was extra excited to see the livestock. He kept confirming with me that we would go up to see the farm. Why you ask? Well, he had never seen a goat before and he was told there were goats and he really wanted to see one. After he finally got to see his first baby goat he shared this insight, "I didn't know they were so cute miss." I told him it was only the baby ones.


University of the South Pacific Field Trip

— Sara

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Teacher Appreciation / Sports Day

Teacher Appreciation / Sports Day

So there was an official Teacher Recognition Day. I don't remember when. Some other schools celebrated it with special events for teachers. After it happened the teachers at my school were questioning why we didn't do anything for it at our school. So a committee was formed. A sports day was organized. And teachers were gifted with lavalava and cleaning detergent.

Sports day started with an assembly where all the students brought forward the gifts they had brought for the teachers and placed them on mats on the stage. The student body was divided into four houses. My house colors were yellow. I don't own anything yellow so I wore a slightly yellow headband and khaki pants and a beige shirt.

Anyway, the other houses were blue, green and red. The students competed against each other in volleyball, boys rugby, girls touch rugby and tug-o-war. Some of the teachers participated. I competed in the all-teacher tug-o-war.

Other highlights included the music that was blared across the school compound for the event. Music, is music, is music in Samoa. So incredibily indecent rap songs are just as appropriate at a school event as is chruch choir music, we got a little of both. Though the music was mostly weighted towards rap meets dance songs.

Also, we rolled up some of the grass into sod so that it could be delivered to the Apia Sports Complex. Apparently, schools had been promised sports equippment in return for their grass.

The most exciting part of the day was the very end when all the points were tallied and my house had won! Go team!

After all the kids went home, there was a lunch for the teachers. It was typical Samoan food. I was also gifted an entire chicken to take home with me. It was handed to me and I was told, "Here, this is for your soup." Ah, the covetted soup chicken. All of the gifts were also divided up and handed out. I got three lavalava, a Celtics vs. Knicks t-shirt and clothes cleaning detergent.

Then I headed home for the day to take pictures of the chicken, because when was the last time you were gifted with an entire chicken? That's what I thought.

The soup chicken

— Sara

Two whole days of electricity

Well, that pretty much says it all.

- Sara

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First Annual Laumua o Punaoa Picture Day

Picture Day

First of all I would like to point out that I am aware that  I cannot say "First" Annual Picture Day, as that is not allowed. However, I don't work for newspapers anymore, so I can say whatever I want and I can put my, commas wherever I want and I can add hyphens-whenever I want and I can write run on sentences for as long as I want. So there.

Monday we went over to Cale's school and rocked their world. Ok, maybe not that cool, but it was pretty cool.

We converted the "library" (I am putting library in quotes because it happens to be a room with some shelves maybe five books in it, so I don't know if I am allowed to call it a library [which as an aside, within my aside, we need to work on ways to get this school more books]) into a photo studio. Students hung fala (mats) on the walls as the back drop. We set up some desks and chairs and tada, Picture Day.

Cale recruited his school's prefects to help with the organizing. Since the Year Two prefects are graduating, they were in charge of people wrangling. Since the Year One prefects will be here next year, Cale had them practicing all the jobs. Some took orders, some kept records of names and pictures, some gave receipts, one worked with me and took some of the pictures. The hope is that we can train students to do most of the work for next year.

Our initial attempts at organization failed completely. What we wanted to do was call one class at a time, take each students' and the teacher's individual pictures and then the entire classes group picture. Then we would send them off and call another class. Well it didn't work that way. We ended up taking most if not all of the teachers' individuals first and then started taken group shots of classes as then randomly appeared, intermixed with more individual teacher shots. Finally, we got through all the class shots. Then the pule sent all the students over to wait in a line outside our room and we went through all the individual shots. I think we started around 10 am or so and weren't done until 1 pm. So we basically interrupted the entire school day. In my mind, school could have gone on as usual around picture day, but apparently it was too exciting and too much of a novelty for that to work.

I spent that entire time kneeling on the ground in order to get the shots and Tuesday my knees and quads were killing me.

I cannot officially call Picture Day a success yet. We had anticipated, in the project proposal, selling pictures to 20 percent of the student body (of about 100 kids). Right now we have sold pictures to six kids. They have until Friday to place an order, so hopefully more people get interested.

We were going to deliver the pictures at Prize-Giving. However, in order to encourage more orders, Cale had me print out the pictures of the six kids that ordered and we are giving them theirs today. Hopefully the other kids will see them and want their own.

— Sara

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Finally, Some News on the Electricity Issue

Granted, I am still on my news hiatus. Which means that I try to avoid the newspaper and TV news (easy to do, no TV) as much as possible. But I have had my eye out for news on the Samoa Observer's web site on the rolling blackout situation (i.e. Why is this happening? Is there a schedule to the blackouts? When is it going to end?). They finally had something to say on the matter here. They also had something to say on the drought here

The good news is that if the article is correct and nothing unusual happens (hmmm...this is Samoa) we might have power again on Wednesday.

On a related note, Cale was telling that some one from the power company was out at his school the other day to work on something and was all asking questioningly,"Is the power out?" and they were all like, "Huh, no shit Sherlock, it has been out for nine hours every day this week. You're the people turning it off, don't you guys know what is going on? Cause we sure as hell don't."

— Sara


Sunday, November 9, 2008

So, what are you doing these days anyway?

I have had some people point out that I have said that school is finished, yet school isn't finished until November 29th. How is that possible? What does that mean? What am I doing anyway?

It is true. School is over, but not over. I teach Year 13. School finals for seniors (Year 12 and 13) were the week of October 6 and all of my marks for the PSSC were due to the SPBEA in Fiji by October 10. So for all intents and purposes, I had to be finished will all teaching the week before October 6. However, the last day of school isn't until November 29th. What is good gracious were we supposed to do with all of October and November?

Well, the senior exams administered by the School C and PSSC did not start until November 3. For the three weeks between the finals and the start of those exams my students and I did revisions (Kiwi for review). Basically it was three weeks of drilling all the theory that is going to be on the test into their heads. Three weeks might seem like a long time for that, but throw in some random days off, a sports day and all-day field trip to the University of the South Pacific and you start to run out of revisions time really fast.

Ok, Sara so you have accounted for three of the seven or so weeks we are talking about. What else are you doing?

Well, on November 3 my students started sitting their PSSC exams. The exams last for two weeks. There are never more than two exams in a day and most exams last for three hours. Computer studies is Wednesday, November 12. But what have I been doing? To be honest? A whole lot of nothing. In addition to having no classes to teach and few-to-no exams to help proctor, the power has been out almost all day all week. I have been attempting to create prescriptions for Years 9, 10 and 11, since they do not currently exist. I have been trying to work on the computer studies textbook I am writing. I have been trying to do a lot of things. But in general I have been doing a lot of nothing. I have been sitting in the hot, windless teachers' room, nibbling on the exam food (anyone care for a piece of toast that was toasted yesterday or a cold sausage covered in some ramen?) and helping the junior teachers mark their final exams. The juniors were having their exams this week.

So what happens next week? The juniors will be done with their exams, but the seniors will still be taking theirs. And what if there is still no power? If my understanding is correct, the juniors will spend next week practicing for Prize-Giving and I will sit in the same hot, windless room bored out of my brains.

At least Monday is a reprieve. Cale and I have organized a picture day at his school. We are taking all the kids and teachers and classes' pictures. We created order forms for the packages so the kids can order their pictures. You know, just like they do ever school year in the States, but it is a novelty here. Monday is the day for all the picture taking. So that will be fun.

Um, Sara. After this up coming week of Prize-Giving practice, you still have two more weeks of school? What will you be doing?

Well, I can only imagine another week of Prize-Giving practice with the seniors who will finally be done with their exams. Then my school has its Prize-Giving (think graduation, but all the students are ranked and given strange, donated gifts based on their rank) on Wednesday, November 26. The next day is supposed to be an event organized by the outgoing Year 13. In the past it has been a dance or social. I have no idea what my school will be doing on Friday, but Cale's school will be having his Prize-Giving, so hopefully I will go to that.

And there you have it, what I have been up to.

— Sara

Word of the Week: Fa'alogo

Fa'alogo {fah-ah lōngō}
v. 1. Hear  2. Listen  3. Pay Attention  4. Obey  5. Feel
Can you use it in a sentence?
Fa'alogo. Was that the bell?

Until I sat down with the dictionary to write this entry, I knew that fa'alogo meant listen, but I also thought it meant bell. According to the dictionary,
logo means a bell used to call people to church (or I suppose to signal the beginning and end of classes). And I sort of knew that. However, when ever the bell would go at school and I would not hear it, I would have students in my class saying, "Fa'alogo." I assumed they were saying, "That's the bell." However, now I am pretty sure they were just saying, "Listen" or "Pay attention." Anyway, the idea came across either way. 

There are bells all day during school, of course, to signal the start/stop of classes (there is no passing period). There are two bells at night one to signify the coming of sa and to end outdoor sports. The other for sa, the time of prayer before dinner. There are also random morning bells. This morning was at 6:15 am. 

However, my least favorite bell is the 4 am Friday morning bell. Every Friday morning at four Cale's pule rings a bell for 15 minutes straight. It is supposed to wake the ministers for a 5 am prayer meeting and some of them complained they didn't hear it, so he rings the bell for 15 minutes straight. At 4 am. On Fridays. Every Friday.

— Sara

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On Religion

"You know, the neighbors haven't really screamed prayers at us recently."

"By that, do you mean everyday?"

"Oh, you know what it is? We haven't been here for prayer screaming time in a while."

— Sara

P.S. Remember when I wrote that romantic post in training about how Samoa is made of music because all the families in the village sang prayer before eating at the same time. Well, we've been here a year now. Can you tell?

Friday, November 7, 2008

I love you this much

"Where did you go?"

"The store."

"What did you get?"

"Some samini."

"Oh? Are we ever going to eat today?"

"I thought you already ate your oatmeal."

"That's all I ever ate today, one bowl of oatmeal."

"I thought you wouldn't be hungry cause you had your oatmeal and you were asleep. Are you hungry now?"

"Yes."

"I can make some food."

"I can make some food ... You can make some edible food ... Eat your samini. I will just mash up all the potatoes."

"I will eat my samini and when I'm done maybe I will eat some of your mashed potatoes."

"Why you always got to be eating my mashed potatoes?"

"You just put aside whatever amount you can bear to part with."

"You know in my soul that is no mashed potatoes, right?"

"That's what being married is about."

"Every time I share my mashed potatoes with you it is the greatest sacrifice a girl could ever make."

"When you share your mashed potatoes with me, I know that you love me."

— Sara

New development on the rolling blackout front

The power has been out for 9 hours a day for the past two days. It just went out at 8:30 am today and will probably stay out until 6 pm. Rumor has it the problem is not only caused by drought, but also a broken generator. Rumor as has it that the replacement generator has been shipped and should arrive next week.

— Sara

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween

Halloween

I am on the International Volunteer Day Committee. It is a day recognized by the UN, so the UN in Samoa is sort of hosting the organization of it. As part of putting together the events for actual IVD in December, we also organized an All Volunteers in Samoa get together. I was the one who suggested a Halloween party after the end of October was recommended as a good time to have it.

All volunteers in Samoa were invited, so not just Peace Corps, but Australian volunteers (there are several different kinds in country including the Youth Ambassadors and the VIDA), the Japanese volunteers (there are also at least two groups of them, the JICA and the JOVC), the UN volunteers and Samoan volunteers through an organization called SUNGO.

Of course, being the party animals that we are and being one of the largest volunteer groups in country, the Peace Corps totally out numbered everyone else.

The event was held at the Zodiac, a club up the hill on the cross island road. It is owned by the leader of the Australian volunteers. It was wonderful of Karin to volunteer her establishment for the event. And she had specials on drink prices.

Cale, Casey, Spencer and I showed up early (but still late) to help decorate. Jamie, an Australian volunteer, and Henrik, a UN volunteer, were already there. We carved pumpkins, hung crepe paper and Cale cut some bats and cats and whatnot out of cardboard that we painted black.

The party itself started around 6 pm and was a huge success.

As you can see from the pictures, Cale went as a zombie robot (he had an old Pentium chip he would stick in his mouth and say "UUUUHHHHH, processors"). I was pregnant Angelina Jolie. We walked all over Apia earlier in the day trying to find a wig. There are several stores with mannequins in the windows that are wearing wigs. We asked all the stores if I could hire one for the night or buy one. Only one store was willing to sell and they wanted $80, so that was a no go.

It was something around this point that Cale realized he had left his costume at home. So he caught a cab back to the village to pick up his costume. On the way there, he happened upon a short dark wig at a store in the NIa Mall and they lent it to him for $20. I wanted a long wig, but you cannot be picky in Samoa.

Cale and Shane had also put themselves in charge of the games for the night. Cale had made a paper mache pinata of Slimer from Ghostbusters that totally rocked and was totally indistructible. The attention to detail was awesome, even the eyes were attached with red strings so they would pop out and flop around. There was also apple bobbing and something that involved a rubber centipede. Good times were had by all.

Typically Sara can drink two beers and then she gets tired and goes to sleep. However, I somehow managed to drink like four or five that night. At some point the party was too loud and I felt too gross, so I went out and sat in the parking lot. After drinking a mess of water, we got in to a taxi to go home. I have never hated a taxi ride more in my life. But by 11:30 or so, I was safely in bed.

When I woke up the next morning I realized that I had left my glasses in my backpack in the Peace Corps office and I had thrown my contacts away when I got home from the party. Cale and I took the bus into the office for the VAC (Volunteer Action Committee) meeting. The entire bus ride and walk to the office, I felt totally fine. However, when I got to the office and put on my glasses, I discovered that I might feel a little gross. I fixed it with water and Cheese Mania cheese balls from the shop next door.

And that was my Halloween.


—Sara

Cale dictates a blog entry, sort of

So I am totally not much of a blog writer, but if I was this is what I would write:

"So earlier in the day our neighbors were watching the elections at top volume and now they are watching the rugby game because they are both entertaining."

Cale walks around computer, sees that Sara has typed what he just said into blog.

"Damn you."

— Cale

We hit a dog

Well, we didn't hit a dog. The taxi driver of the taxi we were in hit a dog.

I could totally see it happening and knew there was nothing to be done about it. Then there was the stomach turning thump and the sad dog noises. The hardest part was we didn't stop. No one stops. What would we do if we stopped? It's not like we could call someone. You just hit the dog and keep on going.

Live Lessons by Sara Reeves

— Sara

I didn't get to vote, but I got to watch the results

The US Embassy in Samoa hosted US citizens this afternoon to watch the election returns. In case you were curious, if you get a roomful of Peace Corps volunteers together, you also get a roomful of Democrats together.

I was honestly surprised at the speed with which the results came back. I was not anticipating a result until late into our night if at all today. I anticipated a much closer race. Apparently the popular vote was closer, but Obama wiped the floor in the electoral college.

I would posted pictures, but we were not allowed any electronic equipment in the Embassy. Apparently, I could have used my camera, but only under supervision and that seemed like too much hassle.

I was moved by the historic moment, but not nearly as moved as many of my fellow Americans in the room who were in tears when the results were announced. I guess this isn't the sort of thing that I get emotional about.

Congratulations America on your election and congratulations to our new President-Elect Barack Obama.

— Sara

PS. So the reason why I didn't get to vote, was I was unable to convince Florida to give me an absentee ballot

P.P.S. Obama took Indiana. I was claiming we hadn't voted for a Democrat since Kennedy, but apparently we voted for LBJ too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rolling Blackouts

I mentioned the water problems we have been experiencing due to the drought. A new development is the rolling blackouts. Approximately 40 percent of Upolu's power comes from hydroelectric sources. With most of the rivers we pass on a trip into Apia still bone dry, I don't think we can anticipate an end to these blackouts until we see some significant rainfall.

I would provide you with more details on the situation, but I cannot locate any news coverage of the blackouts on the Samoa Observer's web site. What I do know is that the power goes out just about everyday for about four hours. There is no guarantee when the power is going to go out or when it is going to come back on. It seems to be sometime around 10 am or noon-ish when it goes out and some time around 4 pm when it comes back on. Though we have also experienced it going out in the middle of the night. I only notice because the fan in the bedroom turns off and with this being the hot season, I start to sweat.

Since the power has been going out, the water has not been out as much. I guess it is a trade off, power or water. You choose.

Things were even more dire at the office this weekend, where there was no water all weekend and the power was off on Sunday.

— Sara

P.S. A post on Halloween is forth coming, I promise.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New APCD

Group 81 Welcome Ava Ceremony

I promised some time ago to write about our new APCD, Kellye.

Kelley is the new Associate Peace Corps Director for the Village Based Development program. So she is not my APCD. I am in the Capacity Building project.

Kelley comes to us most recently from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors in Washington DC. She was a Peace
Corps Volunteer herself in 1999-2001 in Jamaica as an HIV/AIDS Health Educator. She went to university in New York, Georgia and South Africa. She is also fluent in German.

Doesn't she sound all awesome and worldly?

Cale and I got the opportunity to talk with her quite a bit when we caught a ride with her, Shelley and Mark from Max's place in Savaii to the wharf. She has a lot of excellent ideas and I think that she can do a lot to improve the VBD program. Also, with the proposed changes to our post (more on that later), including a new focus on health issues, she is sure to have a lot of experience to share.

So, welcome to Kellye.

— Sara