Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Boil Watch 2008

Monday, 22 December: Small, tender lump in right armpit. Sara manages to scare Cale by having her back to him with arm up in air and asking him to come feel this lump. He recommends women never assume the breast cancer check pose and ask their husbands to feel a lump unless they actually have a lump in their breast. He requests verbal preparation while male party is still in the other room for any group lump detection activities. A simple, "Hey, look at my armpit" or "What's this in my armpit?" would suffice.

Tuesday, 23 December: Lump is now red and visible. Two other infected hair follicles visible on the same arm. Call Medical Officer to make appointment for next day. Apply warm compress with microwave wash cloth in zip-lock bag. Is not cutting it.

Wednesday, 24 December: Lump is obviously a boil. See medical officer and get to experience traffic in Apia on Christmas Eve (outrageous, all rental cars in the country are out, this is not exaggeration, it is verified fact) while driving to chemist to pick up Bactroban and hot water bottle. Go home, apply warm compress and Bactroban. Discover it is very tricky to apply warm compress to armpit. Much easier when boils are on butt, can simply sit on hot water bottle. Sara takes her last shower for several days. Armpit is now so swollen arm must be held up in air at all times.

Thursday, 25 December: Armpit is now extremely swollen and extremely painful. Sara will not be able to put her arm down at her side again for the foreseeable future. Elaborate arm propping and warm compress applying towel, pillow and stuffed "footy" (football) towers are constructed to keep arm elevated and boil warm. Benefits of keeping horrible, painful, ugly boils warm are questioned. Medical science is questioned. Only locatable course of action for boils is warm compress. What the heck is warm compress? Doctors can do heart transplants and make monkeys move mechanical arms with their minds, cannot offer any solution to boils other than keep it nice and warm, maybe knit it a sweater. 

Friday, 26 December: Sara sits in a chair and cries. Shoulder hurts from keeping arm up. Bicep hurts from keeping arm up. Hips and back hurt from fitful sleeping on piss-poor mattress in uncomfortable position because she cannot put arm down at side or in other useful positions. Oh, and hideous, red angry boil hurts a great deal as well. Unable to stand it anymore, boil is poked with sterilized safety pin. Green and brown gooey pus pumps out of hole like someone turned a faucet on. It is incredibly disgusting and incredibly awesome. Sara experiences limited relief as pressure decreases. Sara and Cale switch bedrooms in housesitting house to one with firmer mattress. Sara sort of sleeps. Begin boil drainage every four hours.

Saturday, 27 December: Boil continues to pump out goo. Sara feels "better" (not really better, but better in comparison). Cale goes out with friends. Sara feels nauseated and briefly has low-grad fever (maybe, these one time plastic thermometers in medical kit are confusing. Diagram explaining how to read results requires degree in rocket science). Sara eats, nausea goes away as does fever. Feels better enough to spend night toning pictures from Cale's mom's visit. Cale returns from night out with friends. Brings friends with him. Friend insists all will be healed if Sara tapes piece of salted bread to armpit. Skeptical Sara does not tape salted bread to armpit. Instead goes to bed. Wakes up to discover piece of salted bread left on kitchen counter over night.

Sunday, 28 December: Goo levels decrease, but boil is still swollen and obviously full. Sara convinced that access to scalpel would significantly help the boil goo removal process. Sara also mentioned chopping off entire arm as reasonable solution. Sara continually states her lack of credentials to be good prisoner of war. Would tell captors anything they want to know as long as they don't make her deal with pain for indeterminate amounts of time. Sara texts medical officer to share her scalpel idea (and apologizes for bothering her on Sunday). Medical officer has Sara come to office. Looks at boil. Recommends Sara see doctor on Monday to have it excised with use of local anesthetic. Sara is given antibiotics. Sara loves antibiotics. Sara showers for first time since Wednesday.

Monday, 29 December: Most awesome day ever. Sara filled with giddy sense of accomplishment and joy. Early morning goo drain reveals solid lump in boil. Sara yanks it out with tweezers. It is large. Three times larger than anything Cale pulled out of previous butt boils. Removal is painful. However, relief after removal is instantaneous and joyous. Sara calls medical officer to cancel doctor appointment. Spends rest of day fondly remembering giant solid goo removal and feels like person again. Does things people do. Lowers arm to something closer to side. Eats lunch with friend. Not cry all day. People things.

Tuesday, 30 December: With effort, can lower arm to side. However, left to its own devices, arm does not want to go all the way to side. Sara sleeps through night (with exception of early morning rooster that needs to die) for first time since Tuesday. Boil no longer gives off any goo and has been down graded from gauze taped to armpit, to simple covering of two Band-Aids. Sara does one armed-exercises in morning, considers doing other things than lay around house all day. This causes Cale great joy.

— Sara

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cale's Mom is Here: Week Three

Jane's in Manase, Samoa Tiny Planet

On the 15th we finally headed out for Savai'i. Rosie and Dylan spent the night and we all left the house around 6:30 am. As we waited by the side of the road to hail a taxi van to take us all the the office, Dylan glanced at his watch, "You'll never make the 8 o'clock boat." Cale and I were in agreement with him, we expected to make the 10 am boat. Little did we know.

By the time we hailed a taxi from the office, it was after 7 am. Then we had the taxi driver stop at Daphne's, a restaurant that was for some strange reason filled to the brim with pool floaties and inflatable swimming pools. We bought a pool lounge for the beach. Next stop was the ATM for some cash. Then we finally left town and headed to the wharf.

We are making good time heading to the wharf and at a little after 7:30 Cale looks at me and says in surprise, "I think we might make the 8 o'clock boat." I make sure to say loudly that it doesn't matter if we take the 10 am boat, so the cabbie doesn't think we are putting any pressure on him. Ten minutes out the cabbie switches on his four-ways (which means get out the way, I am in a hurry. If you have a string of two or three cars all with their flashers on and horns blowing you know that one of them contains a person that needs to get to the hospital) and floors it. We make it to the wharf by 7:58 and Cale tips the driver an extra $10.

Of course we were unprepared to actually make the 8 am boat and hadn't taken our seasickness medicine an hour before travel. Instead we take it immediately before getting on the boat. However, Cale and I manage to sleep through the journey and Annette appeared none the worse for wear.

Driving around Savai'i

Once in Savai'i we rented a car so we could drive around the island and see some of the things mentioned in the travel guides. I drove the car. For the first time in over a year, I drove a car. (In Peace Corps Samoa, you can drive a rental car if you are on a pre-approved vacation day, which I was). It was very empowering.

At the Tia Seu Ancient Mound

First stop was the Tia Seu Ancient Mound (aka the Pulemelei Mound). According to the brochure produced by the Samoan Tourism Authority:

"This stone 'pyramid' is the largest ancient structure in Polynesia, and stands more than 12m tall."

And that is all the information the brochure has on it. I think that is more information than the guy who took our money to see it has on it. I plan on making a future post on my thoughts on the state of the tourism industry in Samoan, but it is sufficient to say that I was greatly disappointed in all the tourist attractions we saw on our drive around the island. Basically, the way tourism works here is a the family that owns the land that the thing is on sets up a faleo'o (according to the dictionary this means ordinary dwelling house, but in my experience it means smaller, round fale with thatched roofs and wooden floors) by the road or entrance to the thing. Then several men lay in the fale all day playing suipi (I know I mentioned this card game earlier). When a palagi shows up, they collect the fee from you ($5-$10 tala or so) and point. End of service, end of information.

So anyway, we go to this mound. We pay our fee. We drive down a long, rutted, unpaved track in the jungle. We park in the "car park" (slightly larger track in the jungle off to the side and in the mud). Then we walk up the indicated path. The path is uphill and rocky. As it turns out the mound is also uphill and rocky, so that as I am walking up the path, I look up and realize, "Oh, this is the mound."

The mound is completely surrounded by jungle and also completely covered by jungle, but you can kind of make out that it is a roughly square two-level pile of rocks. The bottom level is larger than the top level. When you get to the top you have a decent view of the ocean.
According to the Lonely Planet:

"This large pyramid, measuring 61m by 50m at its base and rising in two tiers to a height of more than 12m, is almost squarely oriented with the compass directions ... standing on top of it, you can see south all the way to the ocean in one direction, while in the opposite direction trees are wrapped in enormous vines and other jungle foliage ... Samoan oral traditions imply that all ancient Polynesian monuments were used for pigeon snaring. However, given its similarity to religious structures in Central America ... archaeologists have difficulty believing this. The complexity of its design and the effort expended in its construction leads them to believe that it may have had a religious purpose, perhaps even a strategic one considering the sight-line of the coast."

On our drive back to Apia on Friday, we were lucky enough to catch a ride with a Peace Corps driver who told Cale's mom that it might have been used for human sacrifice. We are all pretty sure that he was just messing with her.

At the Afu Aau Falls

After the mound, we went to see the Afu Aau Falls, which according to the brochure:

"...this dramatic jungle waterfall crashes from the rainforest into a deep natural swimming pool."

According to the Lonely Planet, your admission to the falls is also for the mound as well. However, we had to pay separately for each. Rumor has it there is a dispute between the family whose land one is on and the family the other is on. The guides make it seem like you need a 4WD to get to the falls, but they must have made a new, easy path when the divided the two attractions because it was very easy to get the the falls. In fact, too easy. Our waterfall hike in Faleaseela was so satisfying party because we did all the work to see the waterfalls. For this one, we just drove the car right up to the edge of the pool, got out and where like, "Yep, that's a waterfall."

Apparently, you can swim in the crystal-clear, cool pool at the base of the falls. However, we did not. On the other hand, I did break out the bar of anti-bacterial soap we bought and wash my tattoo, as I was still trying to wash and massage it every two or three hours if I could (which I couldn't).

After this we continued our journey west on the south side of the island. Annette was reacting to the seasickness medication and being attacked by what Cale is calling violent fits of sleep. She was incapable of keeping her eyes open no matter how hard she tried. She will later claim we drugged her and then dragged her around the island. We did, but not in a malicious way.

We stopped at a resort along the way for lunch where we were charged $15 tala for a can of tuna and three slices of cheese.

At the Canopy Walk in the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve

Next it was on to the Canopy Walk, which thanks to the incredibly unuseful map in the toursim brochure we got lost trying to find, twice. Eventually we looked at the map in the Lonely Planet, which was more helpful and we were successful in locating it. The Canopy Walk is located in the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve. Falealupo is the western-most village in Savai'i and therefore the western-most piece of land before the International Dateline. The people of Falealupo see the last sunset of the day, everyday.

Anyway, according to the brochure, the Preserve is:

"A low-lying tropical forest in the northwest, the preserve is a beautiful spot with a tree-top canopy walkway that weaves among giant banyan trees. There are breathtaking views towards the summits of Savai'i and walking trails for visitors to enjoy."

This is sort of a lie. Here is a more accurate description:

"A low-lying tropical forest in the northwest, the preserve is a spot with a tree covered in a haphazard wooden structure connected to a self-standing, slightly-leaning wooden structure only 5 meters away by a fishnet, aluminum ladder and wooden plank 'bridge' that is only occasionally open to the public due to safety concerns. There are views and rumors of walking trails."

According to the Lonely Planet, the Canopy Walk is a prime attraction and for an additional $50 tala per person you can spend the night on the platform up the banyon tree. They claim you will be given a mattress and mosquito nets and the fee includes breakfast and dinner. It was our original plan to spend the night in the tree (something Annette was initially very excited about but at this point too doped up and sleepy to care). However, when we asked the old men sitting aimlessly in the faleo'o out front (who collected our entrance fee) about it, they all seemed to have no idea what we were talking about and eventually, we gave up.



At Jane's in Manase

After the disappointing tree experience, we decided to make haste to Jane's, the beach fales in Manase where we would spend the rest of the week. Within five minutes of arriving at Jane's we were already in better spirits. We proceeded to spend the next four days (with the exception of the drive back to the wharf on Tuesday to return the rental car) lazing about on the beach, reading books, taking naps, collecting all the shells in the ocean (that was Annette) and generally having a good time doing nothing.

The food wasn't quite as good this time as the last time. They are trying to cook more palagi foods, but unfortunately are under the impression that palagi love Spam. I think we only had two meals that did not include Spam. Other palagi attempts included the burrito that was made of a crepe with beef stir-fry inside and the omelette pregnant with Spam.

Friday was the day of travel. We started our wait for a bus outside Jane's at 9:15 am thinking there might be one at 9:30 for the 12 pm boat. There wasn't. So we waited until about 11:30 am. We arrived in town around 1 pm. Annette asked if that was a pretty full bus. Sure, there were people sitting on laps (I was sitting on Cale's) and there were two guys hanging out in the doorway of the bus rather than find a seat and the front of the bus was full of luggage and the aisle of the bus did contain rolled up mats and other luggage. However, we would have to call that bus only 3/4 full. Jim, who happened to be on the bus as well, concurred. He doesn't consider a bus full until someone is sitting on his lap or he has to stand in the aisle for the entire trip (palagi get special treatment on buses and things have to be pretty full before they cannot get a seat all to themselves).

Saturday Annette finished up her souvenir shopping.

In the Training Village

Sunday we went to the training village. We had previously arranged with the host family to have them pick us up in Apia on Sunday morning and drive us back to the village with them. However, when Cale called Sunday morning, they were already in the village. Instead we rented a car and because my vacation request had ended, Annette drove us out. We visited with the host family for about three hours. We were fed fish and breadfruit and turkey neck soup and herring mixed with coconut cream. Annette loved it all.

Turtle Pool

After we left the village we drove to see the turtle pond on Beach Road and then up the mountain to see the Baha'i Temple, one of only seven in the world (with an eighth already planned for Chile).

Baha'i Temple

Monday we tried to do as little as possible before we took Annette to the airport. We arrived at the airport at 9:50 pm, ten minutes before the ticket counter even opened. Annette was checked in by 10:10 pm, but her flight wasn't until 11:59 pm. We had plenty of waiting to do. We were not alone. Dylan and Sally of group 77 were going home for good, the last of their group. Several other people were also heading home for the holidays and were on the same flight.

After we saw Annette off we headed home with Lissa and Rosie (who also came to see everyone off).

And there you have it. Cale's Mom is Here, Uma.

— Sara

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Surreal

Now that Davey-Dave is gone, Cale is the only Mac troubleshooter in Samoa (that we know of). Whenever anyone with a Mac has a problem, they give Cale a call.

Last week Marco, the Swiss consulate, called. We met Marco through SMUG (Samoa Mac Users' Group) and have been out to his place for a meeting before. Marco was having email troubles and was hoping Cale could come out and take a look. He and his wife, Maria Ines, offered to shout us (Kiwi slang) dinner in exchange for Cale's services.

Marco picked up us at the place we are house-sitting and drove us out to his home in Fasitoo-uta (very, very uta. uta means inland or away from the water). He took the scenic route along Aleisa road, which was really nice. It gave Annette a chance to see new parts of Upolu and had some excellent scenic views. Marco is a fount of information on Samoa and was pointing out all sorts of details and telling all sorts of stories. We drove through one district where that district's representative of Parliament has pledged to use extra money paid to him for being a committee minister to pay for the school fees of all the students in his village. Pretty awesome huh? Apparently this move has not made some of the other members of Parliament too happy, as their villages want to know why they don't do the same thing.

Anyway, as we are driving along we pass the sign advertising the home of the Magic Circus of Samoa. Marco goes way back with Bruno the owner and ringmaster of the circus. He asks if we don't mind a side trip for a visit. Of course we don't.

We turn off the road at the sign advertising the circus. Immediately to our left an area of jungle is being cleared for construction. We will later learn this is where the one-third sized house for the circus's two little-people performers is being built. On our right a in-ground swimming pool is under construction. We pass a row of three to four identical stone cottages and pull in to a small grassy parking area in front of an airy looking home at the top of a small hill. A guard schnoodle barks furiously at us. Somehow, after becoming accustomed to Samoan dogs, we are not intimidated.

Marco strolls up the hill in his signature easy, self-confidant gait calling out "Bruno." A large man with an immense protruding belly and completely bald head steps out from the house. He is stripped from the waist up and his torso is covered with tattoos. The top of the traditional Samoan man tattoo (the pe'a) shows over the waistband of his pants. An ornate golden crucifix hangs from a large, heavy gold chain around his neck. "Benvenuto!"

Marco and Bruno hug, kiss air and proceed to converse in rapid Italian. After learning we are American, Bruno greets us in Spanish, jokingly asking if they still speak English in the States.

For the next half hours the conversation switched from Italian to Spanish to French to English to Samoan with Marco making some brief comments in German after we were shown the Austrian bells that will be part of the Circus's show this year.

It was a little mind boggling, to sit on a porch in Samoa while the Swiss consulate and the Italian-born, American-raised, Samoan-matai ringmaster of a circus conversed in upwards of four languages.

Bruno showed us around the practice grounds and talked about his plans for the show this year. The circus will be in Apia in April instead of January and then will go on a French-speaking islands world tour afterwards. We also learned that when his parents were performers with the Ringling Circus in the States when he was a kid he used to go with them to Indiana to buy horses from the Amish. Apparently, the Amish have the best horses for circus bareback riders.

Eventually, we left the circus behind and continued on to Marco's plantation, where once again, we were one Swiss soil. Marco's better half Maria Ines provided us with a simply wonderful meal of salad, pasta and fish. After considerable effort, Cale fixed Marco's email trouble and while Annette and I admired Maria Ines's turtle collection (not live turtles, course).

So that was my recent surreal experience in Samoa.

— Sara

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cale's Mom is Here: Week Two

Mailelani

Cale' mom makes goat-milk soap. There is a local couple with a small business making coconut-milk soap in Samoa. On Wednesday we went to see their operations. The soap is named Mailelani, which means from heaven. That was news to me. I thought that heaven was lagi, so I thought it would be mailagi to say from heaven. But that shows how poor my language skills have become. Seeing the soap place wasn't too exciting, as no one was actually making any soap at the time. But Annette talked with the owner for a bit about his soaps and she bought a selection.

In Switzerland

Thursday was a completely surreal day that included visiting the home of the Magic Circus of Samoa and Switzerland. I have every intention of writing about this in greater detail, but I want to leave you in suspense for now.

Friday I got my tattoo and I am going to leave you in suspense here as well, as I intend to write an entire blog entry on that as well. I will say that it was a long day. We arrived to wait for our 8:30 am appointment at 8 am and didn't leave the village where the tattooing was done until 4:45 pm.

Saturday Cale's mom went to the market by herself again and did a great deal of souvenir shopping. She and Cale also went to lunch together. I lounged around the house all day. My arm didn't feel too bad after the tattoo, I figured it would be good to rest. That night we went out to dinner with a group of Peace Corps (Shane, Casey, Dylan, Rosie and Erik).

Sunday was the day of nothing and Monday we leave for Savai'i, so you won't hear from me for a while.

— Sara

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Language Lessons

My language skills are abysmal. When I came out of training a year ago, I had a decent foundation to achieve conversational skills in Samoan. Granted, I failed my first LPI (Language Proficiency Interview), but everyone agreed that was because I was sick. When I retook it I achieved an Intermediate and we only needed an Intermediate Low to pass. Since then, my ability to speak and understand Samoan has all but disappeared.

I really want to work to improve my language, but I just couldn't willingly add another layer of stress to my daily life while school was on. However, now that it is school break I am determined to focus on it.

They say that the best way to learn something it to teach it, so I am teaching Annette Samoan while she is here visiting. I am using the book we used in training and I am slowly regaining simple skills. "How are you?" "Where are you going?" "I am from America" These area all phrases I have in my vocabulary again. Plus I think that it is fun for Annette as well.

Cale keeps threatening to switch to speaking Samoan around the house to help improve my skills and I know it is a good idea. However, I also know that then my conversations with my husband would be limited to talking about the weather and what foods I do or do not like. I think he already know all the answers to the other questions I can answer (How old are you? Are you married? Where do you work?). I guess if I can only communicate with Cale in Samoan I will have to figure out how to get across more complex ideas than I do not like tinned corned beef, it is too salty. With the new tattoo (post on that is forthcoming) the most important thing I need to know in Samoan right now is "Cale, can you help me wrap myself in Saran Wrap?"

— Sara

Traditional?

I hate the word "traditional." What does that mean? Who got to decide what things are traditional. As far as I can tell, traditional just means old from an arbitrarily selected point in time. Who got to decide that wooden shoes are something the Dutch traditionally wore? Just because at some random point in time they started wearing wooden shoes? What sort of footwear did they have before wooden shoes? Why aren't those traditional?

I know, I am just nit-picking semantics. And usually I wouldn't mention it, but it was something that came up since Cale's mom has been visiting. With a guest in town, the word "traditional" kept coming up and it was starting to drive me mad. The main reason I went over the edge was that I am not even certain myself why I have such a hard time with the concept. I haven't been able to develop this idea enough to even explain it to myself.

What is traditionally Samoan? At what point in Samoan history, as fashion and methods changed and evolved, did a new thing stop being potentially traditional and start being simply old or old-fashioned? (This doesn't have to be for just Samoan culture, it just happens to be where I am now). Where is the cut-off point in history where things beforehand are forgotten and the things after are new, but the things at that exact point are traditional? Just because this is what Samoans were wearing, eating and living in at some point in time, how did those things become traditional? There had to be a point in time before when they were wearing, eating and living in different things, but those are not traditional. And as time went on they started to wear, eat and live in different things, also not traditional.

Am I just being ridiculous about this?

Annette says that for her traditional is what was being done before any outside cultures interfered, most specifically missionaries. And I can understand that. In Samoan, the things that are considered traditionally Samoan frequently differ greatly from their European counterpart. The traditional Samoan fale is an round open structure with a thatched roof and the European houses are enclosed square with windows. The traditional Samoan dress for men is a wrap-around piece of cloth and for Europeans it is pants. However, if we go back far enough in European histories, we will find people living in round structures with thatched roofs and men wearing skirts. 

And what about these European societies, which have been interacting with other cultures since as far back as we can remember. How did we decide which things were traditional for them?

Ick. My head hurts just thinking about it. To keep me from having to think to much, we came up with a semantic solution. We stopped calling things traditional and started to call them "culturally unique." 

Now I feel so much better.

— Sara


Made-to-Order

When you are in Apia it isn't possible to avoid the throngs of children vendors. Typically they are younger children between the ages of six and 12 with cardboard boxes filled with an odd collection of goods (typical offerings are Q-tips, called ear twirls, bandaids, matches and playing cards) or with plastic bags filled with lavalavas.

Usually we just give them a "Leai, fa'afetai" and continue on. However, a week or so ago one of the lavalava boys struck up a conversation with us. He is from a village just past ours on the way to the airport and knows that we often ride his village bus to town or home. We didn't have any need for any lavalava that day, but he was now in our minds as the kid to buy from if we did.

The next time we saw him was the day before Cale's mom arrived, so we decided to buy some lavalava for her. This kid is quite the salesman. First he started to display he wears. Then I mentioned that these lavalava were for Cale's mom. "Palagi or Samao?" he asked. When we answered palagi, he proceeded to show us his lavalavas that he thought were best for a palagi mother. Granted, there is no difference between a lavalava a palagi would wear and one a Samoan would wear, but it was a good sales technique.

We ran into this same kid when we were in Apia with Cale's mom. Annette wanted to buy lavalava with turtles on them. The kid had none with turtles, but being a good salesman, he takes orders. Annette requested five or six lavalava with turtles in a variety of colors. We were to meet him in town the on Monday to pick them up. It ended up only being three and they were all purple (I imagine that was the fabric the suisui he sells for had at the time), but it was still a pretty successful transaction.

He is definitely our favorite child street vendor. He has good English and he is quite the professional salesman. Unfortunately, where ever he goes, he is followed by an entourage of other less than likable child vendors. These kids don't know how to woo the palagi. Their sales technique is "Buy some lavalava? Please, please, please, please, please....." One of the kids was even trying to cut in on our kids territory. After Annette placed her order with him, the other kid tried to tell her that if he bought five from him the sixth would be free. I suppose that is a good sales technique, but also sort of rude to cut in on your friend's action.

Anyway, it was a unique experience. I imagine it is very rare to put in a custom order with one of the street kids.

— Sara

Cale's Mom is Here: Week One

In Apia with Annette

Cale's mom has been here for a week now and we have managed to drag her around aimlessly without having too much fun. Ah, the true Peace Corps experience.

Annette arrived at 5:30 am on Wednesday. Cale and I spent the night with another volunteer that lives closer to the airport. We figured if it came down to it and we couldn't catch a bus or taxi that early, we could always walk. I was happy when we finally caught the cab at 5:20, because we were way more than a 10 minute walk away from the airport.

We waited in the terminal for Annette for a long time. The flow of passengers, though never very heavy, had slowed to a non-existent trickle and Cale started to worry that his mom had in fact managed to miss the flight when she appeared. As it turned out, she had been in baggage dealing with her missing luggage. We all went back behind security (cause that is something that is easy to do here) and filled out the paper work. Then we caught a cab home.

We tried to give Annette a mini-Peace Corps experience by welcoming her with a little 'ava and exchanging gifts. We all stayed up for a while talking, but it wasn't long before we crashed and took a nap. Later that evening Aaron came over for burrito night before he caught a flight to Auckland to see his family and girlfriend.

Thursday was walk-around-Apia-in-the-blazing-sun-and-get-a-sunburn day (though only sunburns for Cale and Annette, strangely nothing for Sara). Annette got to see the Peace Corps office and eat on the $1 Floating Restaurant. We hit up the flea market so she could organize her plan of attack for gifts to bring home with her. Later we took a cab up the hill to the Zodiac. We planned on eating at the Curry House next door. However, when we went over we were told they could not serve any food until the boss arrived in maybe one or two hours. Granted their sign says they were open and there were plenty of employees, but apparently they couldn't do any work unless the boss was there. At this point I had become a whiny, tired monkey so we caught a cab home where Cale made nachos with the left over burrito fixins.

At Lalotalie with Cale's Mom

Friday we caught a cab out to Faleaseela to stay at the Lalotalie River Fales. Which you may remember from this blog post. We spent two days of complete relaxation in Faleaseela, reading books, taking naps, laying around. It was wonderful. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for the drought conditions, it rained the entire time we were there. We didn't see any waterfalls, but we did hang out with Jane and Olsen and the newest addition to their family, baby Koko. She is just adorable as can be.

Sunday it was back into town. We met up with a British couple who are were going away for a long holiday and enlisted us to house sit and feed/play with their cat. They took us out to lunch at Sydney Side Cafe, which was delicious and then dropped us off at home. 

Of course, it was still raining, which meant we couldn't do the laundry, as none of the clothes would dry on the line. We left the wet towels and stuff from Lalotalie to fester in a plastic bag.

Monday was another day of running around Apia, we went to the Peace Corps office, we bought Annette some lavalava, we managed to spend all day doing something, something that none of us can remember.


Laumei Faiaga

Tuesday we moved out to the house with the cat we will be house sitting. Then we went to visit our host mother in her Apia house. While we were there, we made plans to see them in the training village next week. That night we went to the dinner and show at Laumei Faiaga (Turtle Take it Easy), which you may remember is where we saw the International Siva Afi Finals. The intermission show I talk about in that blog post, is the show we saw Tuesday night.

So, there you have it. Our first week with Annette. We promise to have more fun in the coming days.

— Sara

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cale's Mom is Here!

And so is her luggage! Her bags took a short trip to Auckland without her.

We spend the weekend at Lalotalie, more details soon.

— Sara

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Prize-Giving Part 1

Prize Giving 2008 Part 1

During training we went to the Prize-Giving of the village elementary school. So I may have explained a little of what Prize-Giving is then. However, here is a refresher. At the end of the year, all the students are ranked in their class according to their overall marks. They are also ranked in their individual subjects and in the overall year level. Prizes are given to the top three students in each class and year level. Sometimes prizes are donated for the individual subjects as well. Prizes are also given out for Most Improved in each year level and Best All Around (or what my teachers all called Best All Rounder). For Year 13, the graduating seniors there are also prizes for Sportsman and woman, Leadership, etc. These prizes are all handed out at a ceremony on the last day of school.

Prize-Giving actually started a month before at my school, when the Prize-Giving Committee (which I was assigned to) drafted letters to send out to local businesses and big-wigs to request donations for the prizes. I helped type the letters and the other members of the committee delivered them. 

After the finish of the junior finals all the form teachers were supposed to create these complex matrixes of student marks called a composite sheet. The composite sheets are used to rank the students and determine who is getting prizes. Hopefully next year this can all be done on computer, as this year most of it was done by hand and that is time consuming. Also, it means you have to double check all the math. This was supposed to be completed on a certain day, which of course didn't happen.

I was in charge of creating the Prize-Giving Programme. To finish the programme I needed to know all the students receiving prizes before it could be printed. I also needed to know all the prizes, as that was supposed to be in programme as well. However, the prizes were slowly trickling in from donors. The day before the event, the committee took the money donated and went shopping for prizes.

Prizes for prize giving are strange. The committee bought mixing bowl sets and knife sets. Some donors gave coffee-makers and one gave a dented, particle-board TV stand (which was considered quite a nice prize). 

Anyway, the prizes continue to roll in during the evening before the event. I was at the school starting at 6pm when the committee got back from shopping adding prizes to the programme. After adding prizes and having it proofread by the committee chair and the pule twice, we started the printing of 100 copies. Cale (who is an angel and came to help) and I finally went home at 12:30 am.



The next morning the Prize-Giving began at 8:30 am. Speeches were made. Prizes were given, starting with Year 9 and moving to Year 13. The DUX of 2008 (which is the same as valedictorian), was also top in many subjects including computer studies. I have the thumbdrives my mom sent in the mail to the top three Year 13 computer studies students and two #2 and #3 in computer studies in Year 12 (the other computer teacher had purchased a trophy for the #1 in Year 12). I also handed out CDs I burned of all the pictures I had taken that year to all my students.

After the prizes were given out there was a fire dance by a Year 13 student and a tausala (dancing for donations). Then there was more speeching and reading out of all the money raised with the tausala. I cut out early with Stephen, the Aussie volunteer, so he could get some movies and programs off our hard drive before he headed home.

— Sara

Three Things

1. Cale's mom is in a plane on her way here as we speak!

2. Mike Berry is awesome and send us music in the mail.

3. While trying to find out if we had seen Season 3 of Battlestar Galatica (we haven't), I came across this movie. Best movie title ever.

— Sara