Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things I Learned Hanging Out With My Sisters

I believe it is our friend Josh who has a theory that you cannot have an extended conversation with a group of Americans before poop is brought up. I am not sure if this holds true for the rest of America, but it is a proven fact with my family. During Christmas Cale suggested we needed some sort of poo counter to keep track of all the times it was a topic of conversation at my house.

A week or two ago I was out with my sisters. The conversation started out innocently enough but started to veer into the strange when my sisters tried to explain to me this device they had been each gifted by my mom. Apparently, it is some sort of teapot that you use to force hot salt water into one nostril and out the other.

Image courtesy of
The Modern Materialist

Apparently one of my sisters has had trouble with said device and usually ends up dripping the snotty salt water out her mouth rather than her other nostril. Either way both of them rave about its ability to clear all the crud out of your sinuses. Personally, I don't find my sinuses cruddy enough to warrant something as strange as this. I will continue to simply blow my nose.

I took a quick bathroom break and returned to announce that I had still not found a restroom in America where I was not willing to sit down to pee. I have even peed in a gas station bathroom by now and nothing is as intimidating as some of the toilets I was confronted with in Samoa. Obviously, this conversation starter was going to veer into the world of fecal matter and it didn't take long.

Personally, I don't like to poo in public restrooms; however, sometimes it is absolutely necessary. When it is required, I will usually flush the toilet simultaneously with the pooping to mask any noises. That way no one else knows what is going on. Both my sister and I will also time our poo to coincide with another person's flushing. Another excellent way to mask the sounds. To some, these may seem like extreme measures to hide the existence of a perfectly natural bodily function in the room that was specifically constructed for it to occur in. However, these are nothing compared to the "poop hammock."

That's right, one of my sisters is so concerned about letting tell-tale sounds give away her public pooping that she created what she has dubbed the "poop hammock." She uses a long sheet of toilet paper to cradle the falling poo before it can even reach the bowl and reveal itself by splashing. She then silently lowers the offending item into the water. Anyone eavesdropping on my sister's bathroom activities would believe that she never poops in public restrooms. Though why anyone would be eavesdropping on my sister in a public restroom, I cannot tell you.

— Sara

PS. Mom is going to be totally mortified by this post and I am sure to hear about it when she gets home tonight. "Sara! I raised you to be more lady-like and not talk about poop on your blog."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Family Fun

Christmas Eve

The last several days have been a holiday family fest and we haven't finished yet.

Thursday, Christmas Eve, was spent at my parents' house with my sisters, their respective significant others and Cale's mom too. The day before Cale and I baked pies and that day mom made turkey and stuffing and accessories. We did presents that night our typical organized fashion. One present for everyone, everyone opens and then another present for everyone. Oohing and ahhing are mandatory.

Friday we saw
Avatar is 3D at the IMAX with my mom, sisters and Teresa's boyfriend Mike. Personally, I didn't think that the 3D really added too much to the film. It wasn't the sort of 3D where things are popping of the screen at you. Instead it was just a little added depth. I am also obviously not alone in my comparison of Avatar to Ferngully. Don't act like you don't know what I am talking about. You all remember and love Ferngully too.

Saturday it was down to Spencer to visit with Cale's grandmother, great-aunt and mom. His aunt and uncle stopped by for a brief visit as well.

Sunday we were in Carmel to visit Cale's cousins and Aunt Rita. His cousin Cindy and her husband had been in the Peace Corps in Africa (Mali), so there was lots of Peace Corps talk.

The visiting isn't complete yet. We are on our way to West Virginia this weekend. I will see my grandmother and Cale will continue on to Virginia to visit friends. Hopefully some time in the next month we will see my grandparents in Bristol and Cale's dad.

More later

Created with flickr slideshow

— Sara

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Readjustment: Hair

Boat Trip

For the last two years I have lived in an environment where the temperature and humidity rarely drop below 80. During the day they rarely drop below 90. Before that I was in Florida for two years, another location known for it's heat and humidity. I had grown accustomed to curly hair. In fact, I had forgotten entirely that late in my junior year of high school I had cut all my hair off and it had grown back in "straight" (you know the straight that doesn't curl anymore, but isn't straight either, it is just a frizzy mess) and that I had suffered through years of "what do I do with this hair."

All of that had been solved for me by a little humidity. What do I do? Well I just tame it under a bandana while it is still wet to keep the curl from getting out of control and let the air do the rest. When it was mostly dry I could take the bandana off and have curly hair for the rest of the day. The only draw back to curly hair is wind. If I got on a bus to go into town and forgot to tie my hair down again, but the time I arrived it wasn't curly, it wasn't straight, it was an unmanageable mess.

Imagine my shock when I returned to the cold, arid land that is Indiana in the winter. I was worried about staying hydrated in Samoa, shit that is nothing compared to trying to stay hydrated here. The air literally sucks the moisture from my body and the curl from my hair.

Surprise, you have straight hair!

Surprise! Straight Hair.

At first I tried my typical technique. I showered, tied the hair under a bandana and waited for it to curl. And waited. And waited. And realized it was dry and limp and no curls were going to come. It tried sans bandana, no luck. I tried coaxing out the curls with finger scrunching and low heat from a hair dryer. They refused to cooperate. Slowly I have come to accept that I do not have curly hair anymore. It will most likely return when we touch down in Thailand, probably springing up instantly on the tarmac. However, in the mean time I must embrace my new sleek look. 

My hair appears to be even straighter than it was the last time it was straight. I used to spend upwards of 40 minutes with a hair dryer taming the frizz. Granted, I had significantly longer hair then, but now all I need is about five minutes with a hair dryer to stop the frizz.

For the next few months, this will be the new Sara. Expect to see the old Sara return in Southeast Asia.

— Sara

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WTF Tazo Teas?

Photo courtesy of

This is nothing but unsubstantiated rumor at this time, but:

Cale stopped in at the local Starbucks to pick up another box of Tazo Chai for me. I love the stuff and now that I can easily warm milk (microwaves! brilliant) it means it is even tastier than when I was doing it with only hot water. Anyway, the girl behind the counter tells Cale that Starbucks has phased out the tea bags and will only be selling the loose leaf tea now (presumably to force you to buy the apparatus to steep said tea). This has me worried, as Starbucks owns Tazo, does this mean they are phasing out the bagged tea entirely or only for sale at the Starbucks? Can I still get bagged Tazo teas at other retailers? I haven't checked around and I cannot find any mention of this online or on the unnecessarily complex Tazo web site (anyone whose site opens entirely in a pop-up window has taken the Flash and dash a little too far).

It won't be too difficult for me to find a new chai to buy. I have had some other tasty varieties in the past. I always went with Tazo because it was relatively inexpensive, delicious and ubiquitous. However, if Tazo does switch to only loose teas you can be sure that my brand loyalty will wane. Bagged teas are significantly more convenient then loose, especially when you are traveling, as I intend to be rather soon.

— Sara

Live, From Samoa

Last Meal at Italiano's

Diplomatt tells us that less than a month after Cale showed his rebel side and signed an Italiano's outdoor post (not the traditional indoor wall) they have repainted the exterior of the restaurant. Cover-up? We'll let you decide.

Photo courtesy of Diplomatt

— Sara

I Apologize

I put the wrong answer to the following GRE question up in yesterday's blog entry:

If the average of two numbers is 3y and one of the numbers is y-z, what is the other number, in terms of y and z?

The correct answer is

I was looking at a different problem. Sorry ya'll.

— Sara

Monday, December 21, 2009

Readjustment: Driving

Gotta Use one of These Again

In the previous two years I drove three times. The first time was after more than a year of not driving. I took a vacation day and we rented a car on Savaii when Cale's mom was visiting. I think I did a pretty good job, though at around 40 miles per hour Cale thought I was going way to fast. The second time was six months later when my parents came to visit. This was before the road switch, but the van we rented already had the wheel on the other side. That was a little disconcerting. When we rented a car again six months later the road had already been switched. However, I was more comfortable that time around because the car we rented still had the wheel on the side I was used to. I work better with the wrong side of the road then I do with the wrong side of the car.

During the entire two years Cale did absolutely no driving. Why you might ask? Well, it what seemed like a good idea at the time, Cale had thrown away his driver's license. He had decided he didn't like to drive and didn't want it anymore. How handy.

So after two years of being almost always a passenger (granted in taxis driving by crazy people who go way to fast and occasionally fall asleep at the wheel or on buses that have a habit of participating in bus drag races) it was a little intimidating to return to driving. Especially since my first driving experience would be in LA. Hooray for the 405.

First of all, WHY IS EVERYONE GOING SO FAST?! You are all making me nervous with your crazed speeds of 40 or 45 miles per hour on regular roads. HOLY SHIT! THE PEOPLE ON THE HIGHWAY ARE DRIVING 70 MILES PER HOUR! And I am expected to keep up with traffic. I think I was able to finally convince myself to go 60. I don't think I ever got up to 70. What I didn't realize yet was that as scary as driving was for me (with all these giant metal death machines just flying by me) it was even more terrifying for Cale. As the passenger he had both the fear I was feeling, plus the added bonus of not having the sensation of being in control of the car. I got to fully understand that feeling when my family picked us up in the airport. My sister Teresa drove us home, AT SPEEDS UP TO 70 MILES PER HOURS! I was freaking out. She took an exit ramp (that was quite curvy) at like 30 mph and I commented that it felt like a roller coaster...because it did.

However, driving is like riding a bike. It doesn't take long to pick it up again. The nervousness and confusion go away quickly. Cale got himself a new driver's license and is back behind the wheel like he never left. Though, he says he hates it.

— Sara

PS. I totally forgot to give the answer to the last GRE question. It is in fact 5x+y.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Very Carusillo Christmas

Decorating the Christmas Tree

In an apparent Christmas miracle we were able to get both the younger Carusillo girls (my sisters) in a room together with out an ensuing brawl. The nuclear family gathered at my parents' house last night to decorate the Christmas tree. Marian had returned from Purdue Friday night, so we were all in the same city together for the first time, well, since they picked us up at the airport, but before that since October 2007.

Teresa and Marian are currently nurturing a low-level feud (mainly over uncomplimentary comments they had to say about the other's respective boyfriend) that I was told ruined Christmas last year. Mom went so far as to send out a letter before this Christmas asking everyone to be civil. It appears to have been a success.

We all had dinner together before the decorating. Cale made stir-fry with broccoli, red peppers, onion and chicken. It was delicious. I was befuddled by the rice, which came in a box (not a bag) and apparently can be cooked in a microwave. I asked mom where the normal rice was and she looked at me in a confused fashion. "This is normal rice." Cale suggested that perhaps the rice that I was thinking of as normal rice for the last two years, was in fact the abnormal rice and microwavable rice in a box is perfectly normal elsewhere in the world.

Dinner went off without a hitch. We managed to make it through the entire meal without Teresa saying "crotch" until someone pointed out during her expose on lactation that she hadn't said anything about crotches yet at this meal and we all got to enjoy what has become a family get-together tradition, Teresa talking about crotches in some manner.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Next came the tree decorating. Mom and Dad have a smaller tree this year than previous years and not all the Christmas ornaments were going to fit on. Dad appointed himself arbitrator of what ornaments were in and what ornaments were out. I am not sure what led up to the following events, but before you know it Dad is miming the sexy times with two stuffed bears that were put in the "not going on the tree" pile and everyone is finding it hilarious. Later in the evening he also had some string doll ornaments getting it on.

Finally the tree was decorated and nothing horrific had happened. Teresa went home with her boyfriend Mike to a bottle of vodka; Cale left to visit with his best friend and a bottle of scotch; and Dad, Mom, Marian and I stayed home to watch everyone's favorite Christmas movie, Pulp Fiction.

Created with flickr slideshow

— Sara

Ua Uma

The last of the Samoan related sidebars and blog elements have been removed. If you were using my sidebar links to find other Peace Corps Samoa blogs please direct yourself to the Peace Corps Journals web site from now on.

— Sara

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Significant Portion of the Books We Read

These are not all the books. Cale was reading and returning them to the Peace Corps library faster than I could record them. Also, occasionally, I forgot to write some I read down. In retrospect, it would have been good to keep track of all the movies and TV we watched in the previous two years as well. You know you are hard up for good television when you find yourself commenting that Stargate Atlantis is soooo much better than regular Stargate. So very sad.
  1. The Tipping Point
  2. My Samoan Chief
  3. Love in the Time of Cholera
  4. How to Be a Jewish Mother
  5. Progress Without Punishment
  6. Positive Peer Culture
  7. 4:50 from Paddington
  8. Methods for Teaching
  9. Villa Incognito
  10. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
  11. Citizen Soldiers
  12. The Funnies
  13. A Twist in the Tale
  14. A Child Called It
  15. The Elephant Vanishes
  16. Shopgirl
  17. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
  18. Alpha 3
  19. Fortress of Solitude
  20. Saturday
  21. The Foundation Trilogy
  22. 21: Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas For Millions
  23. Shakespeare: The World as Stage
  24. Nine Stories
  25. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  26. The Stranger
  27. Black
  28. A Wild Sheep Chase
  29. The Sweet Hereafter
  30. History's Worst Decisions and the People Who Made Them
  31. All Souls Rising
  32. Best Science Fiction for 1972
  33. The Motorcycle Diaries
  34. Off the Rails in Phnom Penh
  35. Ghostwritten
  36. Things Fall Apart
  37. A Picture of Dorian Grey
  38. Leaves of the Banyan Tree
  39. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
  40. Crypto-nomicon
  41. Collapse (after a valiant effort, Sara gave up 3/4 of the way through)
  42. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
  43. Midnight's Children
  44. Postcards from the Edge
  45. Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates
  46. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
  47. The Night Inspector
  48. The Sex Lives of Cannibals
  49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  50. The Historian
  51. Chronopolis
  52. American Gods
  53. The Last Temptation of Christ
  54. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  55. The Road
  56. Island
  57. How to Survive a Robot Uprising
  58. Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
  59. Less than Zero
  60. Hell's Angels
  61. Email to the Universe
  62. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
  63. One for the Road
  64. Fahrenheit 451
  65. "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feyman!"
  66. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  67. A Brief History of Nearly Everything
  68. The Sot-Weed Factor
  69. Bitter Grounds
  70. Lord of Light
  71. Cell
  72. Executive Orders
  73. Rant
  74. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
  75. The Worthing Saga
  76. The Kalahari Typing School for Men
  77. Carrying the Faith: Methodism in Samoa
  78. When You are Engulfed in Flames
  79. Avoiding Prison and other Noble Vacation Goals
  80. Gai-Jin
  81. Atlantis Rising
  82. Kon-Tiki
  83. Hocus Pocus
  84. Three Cups of Tea
  85. My Name Is Red
  86. Wizard and Glass
  87. Drawing of the Three
  88. Microserfs
  89. Out of Sight
  90. In a Sunburned Country
  91. I'm a Stranger Here Myself
  92. The Family
  93. Less Than Zero
  94. Angela's Ashes
  95. Infidel
  96. I Will Fear No Evil
  97. The Alternate Asimovs
  98. War Trash
  99. The Hipster Handbook
  100. Hrolf Kraki's Saga
  101. Hitchhikers Guide the the Galaxy
  102. Brainiac
  103. The Cardinal of the Kremlin
  104. Bandits
  105. The Alchemist
  106. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  107. Splinter Cell
  108. Rainbow Mars
  109. Lisey's Story
  110. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
  111. Black Elk Speaks
  112. Sex, Drugs and Coco Puffs
  113. This Much I Know Is True
  114. Freakanomics
  115. The Best Science Fiction Stories of Clifford D. Simak
  116. Me Talk Pretty One Day
  117. Foundation
  118. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
  119. The Hugo Winners Vol. 1
  120. Papillon
  121. Praying for Sheetrock
  122. The Innocent Man
  123. The Kite Runner
  124. Bored of the Rings
  125. The Bluest Eye
  126. Holidays on Ice
  127. The Stand
  128. As I Lay Dying
  129. If Chins Could Kill
  130. Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things
  131. Expedition to Earth
  132. The Life of Pi
  133. Devil in the White City
  134. Going Solo
  135. Shogun
  136. Catch 22
  137. Freedomland
  138. Icy Sparks
  139. What is the What?
  140. The Wastelands
  141. The Gunslinger
  142. The Handmaid's Tale
  143. The Tao of Pooh
— Sara

Recounting the Injuries and Illnesses

I am slowly ridding the blog of the old vestiges of a Peace Corps Samoa blog and converting it a regular old normal people blog. I thought I would give you a little walk down memory lane of our Peace Corps injuries and illnesses before I delete that sidebar. These are in order starting with the most recent.

1. One "hamburger" thumb caused from sticking it in a fan. This is what happens when you remove all safety protection from the fans to nurse them along and keep them working. You have spinning death blades that you must avoid in the middle of the night in the dark.

2. Fire-ball-singed hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. Next time remember that if the gas broiler you think is lit is not in fact lit, the gas has been running the entire time anyway and you should not attempt to light it while looking into the broiler.

3. One sprained foot that looks like it has the mumps. Cale has trouble walking.

4. All-day nausea and diarrhea.

5. One small, mysterious bug bite resulting in a mysterious rash

6. Minus a large chunk of yet another big toe nail. Very easy to do in jandals.

7. Two days of nausea

8. One dog bite. Almost all volunteers get attacked by a dog in country eventually. I got off scott free, but Cale got bit by a dog outside Erik's flat.

9. Two sunburns. I imagine there might have been more of these if it was ever possible to get to the beach. Cale feels he had one sunburn around his neck that laster for two years.

10. A touch of eczema

11. One cat bite. Never, ever touch Cleveland's belly.

12. Fingers sliced in the blades of a fan. Not even the same fan. Cale removed the protective covering from both fans.

13. Possible boil or cyst on an ear. Turned out to be that eczema

14. Heart burn

15. Protein-powder-fueled insane gastrointestinal distress. I don't know how K8 eats that stuff.

16. MInus most of one pinky toe's toenail.

17. One armpit boil. Miserable, miserable armpit boil. Late November through December is boil time in Samoa for Sara.

18. One ear making strange bubbling noises. Another ear with a strange fiber in it.

19. Minus a chunk of one big toe's toenail

20. Possible allergies

21. Two colds

22. One infected tongue. Every small scrap or cut in my mouth was getting infected during this time.

23. Two small puncture wounds from sharp stones. (One flying stone, one resting peacefully until stepped on). This was during the waterfall hike.

24. Two painful, swollen, itchy bites from large black ants. Also during the waterfall hike.

25. Suspected ant bites all over face and arms. From sleeping on Gal's floor.

26. Two suspected cases of the flu

27. Several sunburns. Ah, here are some more sun burns. We must have made it to the beach.

28. One twisted ankle

29. One slightly swollen and tender tear duct and I wasn't even wearing my contacts.

30. Mysterious armpit rashes

31. A multitude of mysterious (non-mosquitoe) bug bites

32. One continuing ring-worm-like leg fungus

33. One mysterious bug bite that could have been a centipede

34. A grand total of 11 boils so far. We'll add that armpit boil to this number later.

35. Many colds

36. Two or three cases of diarrhea (really, whose counting anymore?)

37. One rocking case of seasickness

38. Two suspected cases of bronchitis

39. One case of laryngitis

40. One mysterious body rash

41. Two large hideous butt boils

42. Two infected hair follicles

43. Two centipede bites

Notice how so many items were mysterious? You never know what it is but you wait a couple of days and it goes away.

— Sara

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Readjustment: Clothes

Pile of ie

It wasn't too long ago that this pile of ie and some t-shirts could be Cale and my entire wardrobes. Though to be honest, I never got into wearing lavalava. I just wasn't a fan of an article of clothing that most people were wearing pants under anyway and had to be constantly adjusted to keep from falling down. Give me a skirt with a waistband any day. Hell, give me pants! Yay for pants.

We don't own a lot of clothes. Before we left for the Peace Corps we sold just about everything we owned and just about everything we had in the world fit in three large bags of approximately 40 pound each that came to Samoa with us. We returned from Samoa with three bags of approximately 50 pounds each (and a kirikiti bat wrapped in two fala). I was anticipating not having a lot of weather appropriate wear when we returned, but I am discovering that we do not have a lot of appropriate wear, period. Weather or not.

The other day I pulled on a long-sleeve t-shirt that had stayed with me through our time in Samoa. As I stood in front of the mirror brushing my teeth, I noticed the hole in the right armpit. I raised my left arm and saw the hole in the other armpit. I considered it for a moment and decided that maybe I was back in a place that visible holes were less acceptable professional wear and more a sign of homelessness. I changed shirts.

Cale got a call about a job interview and pulled on a "nice" outfit for my approval to be worn at the interview the next day. I shook my head. His Goodwill pants and bulky knit sweater were not cutting it for me. He went to our bags and pulled out the one nice outfit that had stayed with him from Samoa. It was his Express black dress shirt and dress pants. Standing in America, looking down at the pants in not-florescent lights, he realized something. "These pants have seen better days. They aren't actually very nice anymore at all." So we had to make a Target run.

For Christmas, my parents are getting me a suit and dress coat to wear for things like my campus visit. It took mom and me two days and 10 stores before we finally found a suit that fit me. I thought that not finding clothes to fit me was just a Samoa thing. I am a small person (5'4" if I stand on my tiptoes) and Samoans in general are bigger than me. Most stores over there didn't stock sizes smaller than a medium, which left me in a tricky spot. However, the suit shopping on this side of the planet has led me to believe that it is not only a Samoa problem. It appears that once again they have gone and changed the sizes. How I have managed to go from 7-8 to a 2-4 without dramatically changing my weight (sure I lost 20 pounds, but I gained it all back) is a mystery to me. The first stores we visited didn't seem to stock anything smaller than a 6 even in the petites. I am still confused as to why I am a 6 at H&M, but a 2 at The Limited. Granted, I am small, I get this. But I know lots of people that are smaller than me. Where are they shopping if the sizes keep getting bigger?

— Sara

Here are your answers to the last GRE questions:


And here is a new GRE question for your enjoyment:

If the average of two numbers is 3y and one of the numbers is y-z, what is the other number, in terms of y and z?

Friday, December 11, 2009

On the GRE

So my dad has an excellent point.

"Why do you need this GRE thing? You graduated from college, doesn't that demonstrate your preparedness for grad school?"

Yes, shouldn't my successful undergraduate degree be sufficient proof that I am capable doing the school? Well, apparently not. And so, more than a decade after my last math class in high school, here I am trying to remember all the rules for special, right triangles and discovering that my vocabulary is desperately limited.

I took my online diagnostic quiz last week and scored a whopping 59%. I just took one today and a week of studying has bumped me up to 66%. This is poor even on a Samoan scale where 50% is passing.

I spent an extra $20 bucks to buy the Kaplan GRE prep book that had the words "LIVE ONLINE" in a big yellow arrow on the cover. I mean, a big yellow arrow has to be $20 more bucks worth of GRE prep, right? Actually, it indicated to me that there would be "NEW! LIVE ONLINE EVENT" which seemed like a good idea. Real people I could ask questions of. However, I discovered after registering online that all the LIVE ONLINE EVENTS are over. Had I turned to page 14 of the book before purchase I would have discovered that my extra $20 would only be useful in September and October of 2009 when the LIVE ONLINE EVENTS were taking place. I feel a little like I was lied to.

In fact, as far as I can tell, the LIVE ONLINE 2010 version of the Kaplan GRE book is about the same as the 2008 version of the book I was using from the Peace Corps office back in Samoa. They added in some new information about some experimental questions we might see in the 2010 exam, but other than that, identical. One problem with slipping new paragraphs into an existing book is you really have to check your jumps. Most of my copy-editing skills have atrophied over the years (I find myself asking Cale if I want to use affect or effect, don't tell any of my journalism friends) but without even trying I am noting mistakes all over the place in this book. Mostly little things like a reference to something as being on the "previous page" when it is in fact, on that page. Or a diagram that is sitting all by itself at the bottom of a page and the words that go with it at the top of the next page (which would be sort of ok if they were facing pages, but you have to turn the page to see the words).

However, despite these nit-picky problems, it is helpful. Some of the tips are no-brainers, but some of them are seriously helpful. Plus my online thingy does have some quizzes and practice stuff that will be useful. Though the outside of the book declares "5 PRACTCE TESTS," I can locate one in the book and am not sure where the other four, secret tests must be hiding in the online syllabus. Unless the monthly quizzes are in fact the test, in which case I am angry, as the quizzes are not full-length tests.

My biggest downfalls are the antonyms in the verbal section and the quantitative (read math) section entirely. I am also doing surprisingly poorly on reading comprehension. I read! I comprehend! Everyday I read and comprehend. These are trick questions, I swear.

The antonyms really are the bane of my existence. The biggest problem for me is that I am presented with word I don't know and usually don't know at least one if not all of the possible answers. I am discovering that I don't know a lot of words. Lots and lots of words.

Cale with his high school Latin and my mother with her medical background are all like, "Oh, well that word must mean something like...blah, blah, blah" because they know all the Latin roots. I do not. At least my mom has forgotten all the math too. That makes me feel a little better. Cale on the other hand remembers all the math too. If he was sitting the GRE he wouldn't even have to study. Jerk.

Anyway, here is a little GRE fun for you.

You must choose the antonym (opposite) for the word in capital letters from the multiple choice list. No cheating using the internets or a dictionary.

a. magnanimous
b. ebullient
c. finicky
d. unnatural
e. impoverished

a. effulgent
b. stationary
c. uneven
d. narrow-minded
e. unpraiseworthy

— Sara

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Readjustment: Shoes

I Need to Put These on These

After two years of freedom it is time to imprison our feet again.

I kept these tennis shoes for two years, wearing them for 10 days in New Zealand and the three or four times I jumped rope in Samoa. My feet have definitely gotten used to being sans shoe. After attempting to wear my shoes on the plane to LA, I reverted to my flip-flops for the first day we were back in America. It was chilly on my feet, but it was preferable to the confinement. In the afternoon of the second day my feet were too cold and I had to surrender.

I quickly discovered that my feet appear to have grown. Most people complain of their feet spreading out (getting wider) after not being confined to shoes for so long. I didn't notice that problem. What I was experiencing instead was the sensation that my feet were too long for my shoes. Like I needed one size larger. By the end of the day, my feet were killing me.

I went four days before I started lacing my shoes. Before that, I let the laces hang to give my feet more breathing room. However, after it snowed, I had to lace them up to keep the laces from dragging in the snow and getting all wet.

Now I am wearing shoes like a champ, though they are still not my favourite. I haven't resorted to barefoot or jandals again. I am wearing my new slippers most of the time instead.

— Sara

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Readjustment: Weather

Mother F&$%*#@ Snow

In Samoa our temperature options were hot and unbearably hot. It didn't take long for us to adjust to the two temperatures, what with us coming from Florida anyway. Unbearably hot quickly downgraded to uncomfortably hot. On several occasions the temperature went as low as 72 F (that's 22C for my Kiwi, Aussie and Samoan friends) and Cale and I broke out a blanket at night we were so chilly.

The weather back home in Indy is decidedly different. Currently, our options are cold and unbearably cold. I imagine given enough time I will adjust and downgrade it to uncomfortably cold. However, for now it is still unbearable. I am looking at a temperature of 32 F right now and I am used to a temperature of 32 C.

I thought LA was chilly and it was in the 60s there. When we got off the plane in Indy, I could see my breath walking down the connecty thing between the plane and the terminal (I am pretty sure there is a word for that, but heck if I know what it is). However, the weather wasn't satisfied with just freezing us, it had to add insult to injury. That's right people, it snowed.

We left Sunday morning and went to Ramsey with Cale's mom. She was lending us her Jeep while we are waiting to leave for Thailand. When we woke up Monday morning there was snow on the ground. A good inch or so. SNOW! That is just cruel. What was Mother Nature thinking? Cale and Sara aren't cold enough? I really need to highlight the extent of their climate change with this visual representation?

As I type this blog it is snowing outside again. I was sitting at the kitchen counter studying for the GRE in a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, jeans, socks, slippers and gloves and I am still freezing. I checked the thermostat for the temperature in the house. My parents usually keep the house in the 60s in the winter, but they have jacked it all the way up to 70 for our benefit and I am still huddled around a space heater for warmth.

— Sara

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It took two years and two months, but we are finally back in Indy. After an our layover in Milwaukee we finally arrived in Indianapolis about 9 pm on Friday. We were immediately surrounded by insanity. My family isn't too large, but it sure is noisy. Cale and I had been up for an indeterminate number of hours (we still aren't sure how long the flight was, went through several time zones and all our clocks were still on Samoa time) and were walking zombies. As we were leaving the airport Dad pointed out that we had flown into a completely different airport then we had flown out of. While we were away, Indy had gone and built a new airport.

Welcome Home Party

Saturday we slept in until about noon Indy time. At 4 pm friends started to arrive for the welcome home party my parents had arranged for us. We treated our friends to some Vailima that we had brought back with us and some choice Samoan tunes (gotta love those slow jams). Eventually Cale mixed up some ava. The general consensus was it tasted like the ground.

Welcome Home Party

At the end of the evening we went over to Rob and April's new house to see our cat, Smack. We hadn't seen Smack in two years. The reunion was a little bittersweet. Rob and April say Smack was acting pretty strange, like he knew that something was up, maybe because he vaguely remembered the smell of us. However, he was incredibly skittish and steered clear of us all night.


By the time we went to bed I was exhausted.

The next morning we were up early and headed down to Ramsey with Cale's mom. More on that next time.

— Sara

Monday, December 7, 2009

Meghan's Half-Way House

Meghan's Half-Way House

When we arrived in LA we were greeted by Meghan (a volunteer from Group 77 who left last year). She had a brand new razor and berries for us and we had a Vailima for her. It wasn't long before I was shaving my legs in a hot shower and she was drinking warm, bad beer.

Spending a couple of days with Meghan was just what the doctor ordered. We told her all our crazy stories and she totally understood. She also understood all the little things that no one else would understand, like the significance of Cale and I holding hands on the street (something we hadn't done in two years).

Meghan's Half-Way House

She fed us burritos and bagels and bbq and drank all the beers with us. Everyone should have a Meghan when they come home.


In addition to hanging out with Meghan, we drove out to Santa Monica to find Gal.
Gal was an original member of Group 79, but went home early after his post was poop. He is working with a start-up now and loving it.


We also got to hang out with Kenny. We have known Kenny since high school. The last time we saw him was when he was at Disney World on a family vacation before we left for Samoa. Now he is working in TV in LA. We spent part of Thursday night back stage at his show,
The Sing-Off. It is like American Idol for a cappella groups and will air on the WB leading up to Christmas. I even know the secret of who was eliminated in the first round and I am not telling. Make sure to check it out.

Friday morning we got up way to early to head to the airport thinking that we would have a lot of traffic to deal with. Instead we were three hours early for our flight. We got to spend some quality time in LAX before making the final legs of our journey home.

— Sara

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Air New Zealand

I am not an experienced world traveler. The only international carrier I have flown is Air New Zealand. However, I am still going to go out on a limb and say that Air New Zealand is super posh. I thought it was pretty fancy when we flew to Samoa two years ago and it has only gotten nicer. I am miserable on airplane seats. They are all built for someone taller than me, but I was able to get relatively comfortable on the Air New Zealand seats and sleep some on the way home. There was a TV in the back of the seat in front of me with movies, music, games, audio books. I tried to watch
Funny People (does not appear to be funny) and ended up watching He's Not That Into You. The food is also pretty amazing. I had oven roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and zucchini, plus a side salad and dessert. Breakfast was pancakes with blueberries! Berries!

There was quite a bit of turbulence on the trip, which I found a little unsettling. Visions of plummeting to the ocean danced in me head. Plummet, we did not. Instead we landed safely in America.


— Sara

Last Italiano's

Last Meal at Italiano's

So the pizza at Italiano's is bad and all the people we used to know there are gone (remember Jennifer? and Maria? nope, no more). So a last meal at Italiano's doesn't really have the meaning it once did. However, when we first arrived in country that was where all the volunteers were going on their last night (except the crazies that went to places like Bistro Tatau). We felt like a last night at Italiano's was tradition that we wanted to uphold. As Cale said, "I earned this hundred thousandth pizza."

We were there around 5 pm though we said we weren't starting until around 6 pm, mainly because we had ran out of things to do with ourselves. My energy levels were through the roof and I couldn't keep my hands occupied, so I kept doing this thing that Cale eventually started referring to as "hamster hands."

Last Meal at Italiano's

So many people were at our dinner. We took the entire front of Italiano's and then spilled into the doorway. Sorry other customers, you are gonna have to squeeze past the rowdy group.

Cale and I tried to play musical chairs throughout the night so we were just sitting next to the same people and could talk to everyone before we left. As the evening started to wind down the tequila shots came out. I am pretty sure that someone even did a Stuntman (Dylan knows what's up). I declined, which was very upsetting to Ryan who was really insistent that he buy me a drink before I go. I think he settled on a glass of water.

We had asked our taxi driver to pick us up at 8 pm. However, as 8 pm became 8:30 pm, we called and discovered he was still in Vaitele. So we walked to the office to gather together our luggage and he picked us up there. Erica, Casey and Erik walked back with us, so we said our final good-byes to them and hopped in the cab.

Our taxi driver had banana chips, taro chips and ie as gifts for us. He even called his wife in Savaii on the cell phone and had us talk to her until the credit ran out.

We had one last stop on the way to the airport. The teacher who started teaching computers in the second term at my school had called and wanted us to stop at her house to pick up a gift. We were supposed to have met up on Saturday to go over things in the computer lab, but it didn't work out. Then we were supposed to meet on Sunday, but she never got my text. So this was a last minute drive-by farewell. We had no credit on the cell phone, so we sent her a "Please Call Me" when we were in Vaitele and she went and waited by the side of the road for us in Puipa'a.

At the Airport

In the airport we greeted by one of Cale's students (the one setting up the Linux lab). He and a friend had come to the airport to see us off. We waited until the last minute to see if Cale's principal could make it. He said he would try since he was in a village nearby. However, he was in the village nearby because it was the funeral for his wife's father. He wasn't able to make it.

Before we knew it, we were on the Air New Zealand plane that would take us to America.

More later.

— Sara

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rehashing that Last Monday

Bare with me, this one is long.

Sunday night we slept at Hanna's place in Apia. Monday morning brought Cale phone calls from both of his star pupils. Cale joked that neither of them had figured out that school had ended and had shown up on Monday morning like usual.

However, it was a gold star ending to Cale's service. The one student who Cale trained in Linux (and who Cale hopes to help go to school overseas) took it upon himself to ask at a local internet cafe if there was any part-time work for him. It was the cafe that Cale had been watching over while the owner was out of the country in the previous few months. So the owner knew Cale and Cale had talked up the student and introduced the two of the previously. The student was calling because he had been offered work to set up a Linux lab for this cafe owner and wanted to get into the school computer lab to get the how-to book he and Cale's other star pupil had written together on setting up the computer lab.

Cale was bursting with pride over this kid, who in addition to being smart and well-trained, also showed the initiative and self-confidence to go out and get himself a job immediately.

Cale also had the opportunity to talk to the director of the school board on Sunday. The director specifically asked about the student he had trained to talk over teaching next year. So Cale is feeling slightly better about the possibility of the school board actually hiring this student. There is still some worry, since JICA is advertising for a computer volunteer to teach either at my school or Cale's. I am having a hard time with that. There are three computer teachers at my school and enough classes for three teachers. How can you ever find out if they can do the job themselves if you keep sending in volunteers to do it?

Monday we ran lots of little errands around Apia and visited with our host family one last time. Things are a little rocky for them now. The father of the family just returned the private van he was driving for the owners. It was costing him $300 talal a week for the use of the van and because it wasn't a licensed taxi, he couldn't really make that much money on the car. So now our host mom is supporting the entire family with help from the oldest daughter in Samoa, who has a job at a restaurant. Hopefully our host mother will still find time to finish the classes she was taking on scholarship in adult education at the National University. She is interested in teaching. We told her to keep an eye out for available Peace Corps trainer jobs in October of next year when the new group arrives.

We also had our exit interview with Dale. It's a pretty short debrief where the country director asks about your service. It was interesting to me because walking out of the interview, I know we had been very negative, yet we had still insisted we would do it all over again. A lot of things that we are negative about are hopefully things that will change in the new program that Group 82 is piloting. It's a waiting game to see how things turn out for them.

My two biggest complaints with my service was the lack of appraisals for volunteers and the lack of accountability for host country agencies. This is the first time I have had a job that doesn't have at minimum an annual appraisal when some one sits down with you to assess your work and offer constructive criticism. Especially as someone who has never taught before, it would have been nice to have someone look at what I was doing and let me know if it was ok or not.

My other issue is a school can say just about anything necessary to get a volunteer and then not be held accountable with following through with any of those things. For example, there is a school that knows the Peace Corps sends vocational instructors for trades, so they request those, knowing full well that they have no intention of using the volunteers in that way and instead have them teach Social Studies in the secondary school. Very few of the teacher volunteers in country have true counterparts. We are all trained in co-teaching and told this is something we will do and then none of us have anyone to co-teach with. There's no sustainability if you don't partner with someone in country while you are here.

Because this blog is so long, I am going to break it up. Tune in next time when Sara writes about their last meal at Italiano's and the trip to the airport.

— Sara

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lots of New Pics on the Flickr


— Sara

0: This Is It

Our last day in Samoa. At 11:58 pm tonight we will be on a plane to LA.

I thought I would catch you up a little on what has been going on, since we have been to busy and without internet.

Tuesday was Cale's faamavae lunch at his school that I mentioned before. I was invited as well. That night I was up until 1 am working on the textbook project.

Wednesday the school magazine was finally delivered. It was successfully printed! I do take issue with the quality thought. I specifically asked them how they would be printing it and they said they were going to print it off the laser printer they showed me. However, they definitely photo-copied it. The also told me that they would trim the white edges off the cover so it would have full-bleed and they did not. Finally, there was the issue of the number that they printed. Originally they claimed it would be $25 tala per magazine. For our $3,800 that was about 150 magazines. Then they told one of the ministers at the school they would print for $9 tala each. That would be more than 400 magazines. Later then went back on that deal and said the price would be $25 each, but they would make a present of more. The more was never specified. Even later they told the principal they would print 300 for oru $3,800. However, when the finally arrived there were only 200. Whatever, it is done.

After school I went to visit with Ryan and work on the textbook more.

Wednesday night was the night before Prize-Giving at my school. Traditionally, the Prize-Giving committee stays at the school practically all night sorting and wrapping the prizes. I passed the grunt work of the prize-giving program off to the school secretary this year, but she still asked if I could be the person who was there that night to add in the sponsors, as she had to sew uniform puletasi for people to wear to the prize-giving the next morning. I told her to tell the committee to come get me from my house when they were ready. I knew if it was anything like last year, it was going to take all night to figure out what prizes were going where and last minute donations would arrive late in the night. I finally went over to the school at 9 pm to help wrap prizes and wait for the donor list. At 2 am I was still at the school trying to print out all the programs. A member of the prize-giving committee insisted I go home, even though I wasn't finished. She said that she would be in early in the morning with the school secretary and finishe printing and folding.

When I arrived at 7:30 am on Thursday the prize-giving committee member wasn't there. So the school secretary and I printed and folded until after 9 am. The Prize-Giving started at 8 am. So we missed the beginning. The prize-giving went off without a hitch. The DUX (what they calle the valedictorian here) was also my top computer studies student. I distributed letters of recommendation and flash drives to all my Year 13 students.

Thursday night our host family came to our house with food and we all ate together. That was nice.

Friday was Cale's Prize-Giving. However, I missed that because I spent the day holed up in my computer lab finishing the textbook project. While I was in the room I heard applause and singing and wandered outside to discover I missed the final school assembly of the year. Some students as they were leaving stopped into the computer lab and gave me some necklaces.

After school all the teachers were taken out by the principal. One of the teachers made a speech thanking me and they gifted me an envelope with $200 tala in it. Funny story about the lunch. I orginally had my exit interview for the Peace Corps scheduled at 3pm that day, but we didn't even leave for the lunch until 1 pm. Luckily Cale called to say that we were rescheduled for Monday. However, after we had been at the venue for a while with no food, the principal's wife decided to use my now rescheduled meeting (she knew it was rescheduled) to try to hurry along to food, saying that Sara has to leave soon. However, they only brought out food for the principal and me, which foiled her plan and put me in an awkward position of telling him that I didn't have to leave when he tried to give me a ride right after we finished eating.

That night we had dinner with John at the Yacht Club.

Saturday we came into Apia and shopped for souvenirs. Then at 3pm we went to the Charge's house for Thanksgiving. It was beautiful. I ate turkey and mashed potatoes and green beans, and stuffing and corn and pumpkin pie and apple pie. And I was stuffed. Afterwards Cale went out with some other volunteers but I was tired and overfull, so I hung around the peace corps office.

Sunday we packed up all our stuff and I met with my principal at the school to give him all the details on the computer labs. I made a couple of "how-to" sheets for the computers and saved it to the desktop of the server. Then we packed up everything that was left into a taxi and came into Apia. We spent the night at Hanna's.

Now it is Monday morning. We still have our exit interview and Cale is repacking all our bags for maximum efficiency. Tonight is dinner at Italiano's and then taxi to the airport where we will most likely be seen off by our principal's and the family of one of Cale's students.

See ya'll in America.

- Sara

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2: We Have No Internet

We don't have the internets at home anymore, so these entries will be short. I promise to write about Prize-Giving soon. Today is our thanksgiving celebration.

More later

- Sara

Friday, November 27, 2009

3: What the heck happened

So, you ever go to a store, and look around, and get distracted, and still just keep looking around. Looking, and looking, and looking for a long time and gettnig distracted over and over again, and then finally its time to leave the store because you sold somebodey else tat you would meet them. And so you leave, and you wonder to yourself as you walk towareds the door -
What was it again that I came here for?
Just asking.
Cause that never happens to me.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

4: ...And Then the Gas Ran Out

Cooking in the electric tea kettle

Wednesday Cale was making macaroni and cheese. Or should I say macarrones y queso (it's spanish here, I don't know why). But, man, that water just wasn't boiling. Oh! I see, the gas it out. Brillant. Five days to go and we cannot cook anymore.

Then I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. Put the noodles in the electric tea kettle and then just keep pressing the button to keep it boiling. Brilliant in theory, less brilliant in practise.

Other electric tea kettles have large openings and would work just like those little water-boiler things we had in college for making ramen. This one, however, was specifically designed to keep particles from getting out. It has a small opening to put the water in, a small opening for the water to pour out and screens over them to keep crap from getting in and out. Once we had the noodles in and boiled, we had a heck of a time getting them out.

— Sara

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

5: The Last Hump Day

Well this is it - hump day.  After this one, the rest of our service should just fly by. And don't tell anyone, but i think were are going to knock off early on friday so - even shorter!


p.s. - our internet access will get pretty spotty starting tomorrow - the time has come to sever our services

6: Last Tuesday

Today is it, I won't be seeing another Tuesday in Samoa. I better get all my Tuesday stuff in.

At the Host Family

Yesterday afternoon we went to visit our host family for what we thought was the last time. We took Cale's bike to give to them as a parting gift. Our host mom was pretty insistent we have a last dinner with them, so we will be back in to have dinner with them on Thursday after my Prize-Giving.

Final Group 79 Dinner

We also had our last dinner as Group 79. Well, sort of. Erik and Max weren't at the dinner, but we will see them at Thanksgiving on Saturday. This was the last time we will see Rosie in Samoa. She headed back to Savaii and won't be coming back in for Thanksgiving.

Cale's Faamavae Lunch

Tuesday Cale's school had a lunch for him and invited me. His pule gave a wonderful speech about how we will both be missed. There was food and Cale' students gave both of us some parting gifts. The sewing instructor also made us one last set of matching clothes, you cannot have too many matching outfits.

— Sara

PS. I finally got around to posting this after midnight, so this is really Day 5 now, but I won't tell if you won't tell.

Monday, November 23, 2009

7: Beautiful Samoa


Beautiful Samoa by Mr. Tee is a popular song and the unofficial national anthem of the country. Living in the suburbs of Apia, it is easy for one to forget just how beautiful Samoa is. Saturday Cale, Erik and I took a drive to check out some of those beautiful sights us Apia volunteers rarely see. Driving around, I found myself a little jealous of Group 82. They are all going to rural sites. They are spending their training in a village right next to this waterfall. One of them is posted to the village that has the view below.

Lovely Scenery

After we saw these beautiful things we went to FaoFao on the south side and saw something that was beautiful in a different way. Our friends at FaoFao are rebuilding as fast as they can. They are the only beach fales rebuilding on the south side right now and they hope to be up and running within two weeks. Va'a pointed out that it is easier for them because no one in their village died in the tsunami. The other fales and villages are having a harder time moving back to the sea and starting over. FaoFao on the other hand is determined to rise from the wreckage. They have had a lot of outside help. Cale and I dropped off a donation from Cale's mother and aunt. It will go towards rebuilding the hall or the bathroom facilities.

FaoFao Rebuilds

If you are planning a trip to Samoa, I highly recommend you work FaoFao into your trip. These guys need all the support they can get. When we were down there we met up with a couchsurfer who had emailed me earlier. His trip to Samoa for fishing and snorkeling was set before the tsunami and he didn't want to cancel. However, now he was interested in helping out. He hooked up with John the Welder and John directed him to FaoFao where he is staying and lending a helping hand in constructing new fale.

More later.

— Sara

Sunday, November 22, 2009

8: A Death in the Family

Yesterday, Saturday 21 November, my PepPep Hoffman passed away in West Virginia. He had been ill for quite a while now and his health had been deteriorating rapidly in the last few days.

We are so close to the end of our Peace Corps service, but not close enough for me to be there for the funeral in Pennsylvania. It will most likely be the Saturday after Thanksgiving, two days before Cale and I fly to America.

Part of me is torn. I could get on plane tomorrow (the only flight to America between now and the flight we take on the 30th) and be home in time for the funeral, but what I would have to do to make that flight would be insane. Also, if I flew out tomorrow, I wouldn't be coming back to Samoa. Instead of an end of good-byes and planned events, I would do frenzied packing and make a made dash to a plane. I would miss my school's Prize-Giving and any opportunities to say good-bye to anyone here. I would leave work unfinished. My textbook wouldn't be done, the two school computer labs wouldn't be completely prepared for next year, I wouldn't know if the magazine was successfully printed.

My mom insists that staying in Samoa is the obvious choice. She was torn about even telling me, knowing that it would cause me more stress and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. I am glad that she told me though. She says that Grandma is busy with the funeral preparations today, but I can call her this week. I would have felt like such a jerk if I hadn't been told and never called Grandma during this time.

So once again, here I am on the other side of the world, helpless.

— Sara

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flash Drive Drive Update

A big thank you (THANK YOU) goes out to the following people. They either gave flash drives or money to my mother who then sent us a bulk package of 37 flash drives bringing the total to 57! It was a close call with the package arriving only a week before Prize-Giving.

Barb and Tom Carusillo
Chris Pitzer
Brenda Lear
Marilyn Sisil
Amanda Kutoloski
Jan Bryant
Marilyn O'Bannon
Anne Corcoran
Steve Anslinger
Greg and Cynthia Daniels
Sarah and Nick Klingler
John and Laura Noel
Kim Ort
Ellen Izzadore
Sean Izzadore
Kathy Johnson

— Sara

Thursday, November 19, 2009

11: Breaking Down and Buying Toothpaste

The toothpaste situation was actually pretty dire weeks ago. However, yesterday morning I had to cut the toothpaste tube open so I could swirl my brush around inside to gather a little paste together so I could clean my teeth.

Seriously, we need toothpaste.

When you are fast approaching the end, you don't really want to be making maintenance purchases. You wonder to yourself, it is only X more days, I can make it without right?

I ran out of deodorant two weeks ago and had to break down and buy more. We have no q-tips, we have no conditioner, my face wash is on it's last leg. Recently, Cale dug through the box of stuff we took into the office several weeks ago for tsunami victims and found the bar of soap our couch surfer had donated and brought it home. We had been out of soap for like a week. I had been using shampoo all over. I haven't shaved since September, no razor blades.

We never replaced our Mortien when it ran out months ago. We used to Mortien the house once a month. It did wonders at keeping the ants at bay. Our last Mortien was a long time ago and you can tell. The ants are waging war and they are winning. We fear they will carry us or the house away before we can leave. But who wants to spend $12 tala on a can of Mortien when we leave in 11 days?

The ant problem is really a compound problem. They are leaving their little piles everywhere. At first I tried to sweep them up every, but it wasn't just back the next day, it was back the next five minutes. So I stopped. But now the piles are growing out of control. I attack the publicly visible ones every couple of days or so, but there is one that is growing under the toilet bowl brush holder (peaking around the edges) which I am just ignoring. I don't know how long I can ignore it though, as the spiders have found it and have built all their webs around the area in hope of an ant meal.

Since I am already letting the ant piles go, why not just let everything go. I last mopped a month ago before our couch surfer arrived. I cannot remember the last time I scrubbed the bathroom. Since the couch surfer has been in the extra bedroom all this time, I am not even sure what is going on in there. She did put some water shoes and a blanket from the closet outside because she discovered they were swarming with ants in the process of moving eggs. We get that sometimes here, an insane swarm of ants moving eggs to start a new colony. Also good sign it is time to Mortien.

Can I make it another 11 days with out breaking down and buying the things we are out of or cleaning something? I think that I can.

— Sara

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

12: It's a Two-Way Street

There was a recent comment to Cale's M. Night Shallam a Llama post about our night terror with a twist. How could we be living in Samoa and not know there was a David Tua fight that night. That shit was HUGE!

They make an excellent point. This is my answer:

No TV. No radio. No Samoan friends. I have been in Samoa for two years and the Samoan I know the best might be our taxi driver and I don't even know him that well since I always sit in the back seat. Cale is the one that talks with him.

It is very easy to blame my lack of integration on external forces.

We live in a very unique situation. We live in
the headquarters of Samoan Methodism. It's like living in the Methodist Vatican. Samoan social society is divided along gendered lines and centered around groups of people who all share the same status. There are the matai men and the untitled men, there's the women's committees and the youth groups. When you fit into one of these groups there are always organized activities going on to participate in and a way to bond with the other people in the group. Cale and I don't fit into any groups in our village. Because we are married, we are no longer youths and are not in the youth group. However, all the married women in our village are the wives of Methodist ministers and their women's committee is church-centered. I am not the wife of a Methodist minister, so I don't fit. Cale fits even less by not being a Methodist minister, which all the married men in our village are.

Also our village is only a stone's throw from Apia, so it was easy for us to hop a bus into town and do our own thing rather than stay in the village and try to participate in village life.

However, it is not fair for me to place all the blame outside of myself. I have never been a particularly social person. It takes me a long time to get used to and warm up to new people. I usually spend the beginning hanging around awkwardly on the edges slowly becoming accustomed to the new people. It wasn't like I was going to come to Samoa and suddenly become a social butterfly.

Typically Peace Corps volunteers are single and remote and to save their sanity and stave off loneliness they must make friends locally. Cale and I are two and urban. I already had someone waiting for me everyday when I came home from work to talk to and a whole host of other Apia-based volunteers were a 15-minute bus ride away.

Also, the first year at my school was particularly difficult. Under the principal of my school that year (who is no longer the principal) the school had fallen in to disrepair and the general attitude was one of apathy and half-heartedness. In response to this I threw myself into my work, spending most (if not all) of my time in the school computer labs alone or with students. This meant that I never spent much time with the staff and never formed any friendships. Granted, the situation changed dramatically in the second year with a new principal and new staff members that I now know I could have been friends with. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it until it all seemed too late.

If I were to do Peace Corps again I would know better. I would demand a remote location. Close-by high-speed internet and easily accessible cheese be damned! I would also demand a host family. Even if I lived in my own housing, I would insist that the Peace Corps assign me a local family that would be willing to take me under their wing. Even if later I branched out to find and make my own friends and family, at least I would start out with someone I knew would be willing to invite me over for dinner sometimes.

— Sara

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

13: Pe'a (Flying-fox)


When we first came to Samoa I remember reading somewhere or being told that the flying-fox was the largest indigenous mammal on the islands when people arrived. In fact, bats are the only native mammals to the islands.

It is easy tell that it has a revered status in Samoan culture, this large fruit bat and the traditional male tattoo share the same name, pe'a. The tattoo is meant to look as if the bat has wrapped itself around the man's body, the two lines curving around the ribs represent the ears of the bat. Considering that the pe'a covers more than 60% of the body, those bats must have been huge back in the day.

I don't want to offend anyone with the crudely drawn penis in this picture. However you can just make out the lines coming around the front near the ribs and the very top of the tattoo on the back, which is also the ears of the bat (and a canoe).
Photo credit 

I also know that bat is a delicacy here and photographs have informed me that it is still eaten. I am not sure how common it still is. It was once hunted to the verge of extinction.

My internet research (that's right folks, you too could be me with a little of the old Googles) on bats in Samoa led me to a story about the legendary Samoan woman warrior,
Nafanua, being saved by a giant flying fox. Nafanua just happens to be the name of my house at school. In a very progressive turn, my school has named all its houses after the women of Samoan legends.


I don't know if the bat you see in these pictures is a flying fox. I believe there are three different types of bats in Samoa. However, this is the first one I have seen one in person, so I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about them.

— Sara

Sunday, November 15, 2009

15: Last Trip to Savaii

Siapo Craftswoman

That's it. We will never see Savaii again unless we come back to visit Samoa. Two whole years and we still failed to see the blowholes.

We left for Savaii on Thursday morning and for the first time ever actually made the boat we were aiming for. It is nice not to spend an unexpected two hours (or more) at the wharf.

I would like to take this opportunity to tout the wonders of ginger. Up until now Cale and I had been taking motion-sickness medication for our boat trips to Savaii. At first we followed the instructions to take it one hour before travel, only to discover it left us practically incapacitated with drowsiness (just as Annette) and didn't so much alleviate the gross feelings as muffle them. Later we learned to take the medication the night before, which meant we slept like rocks that night and weren't as drowsiness the next day. However, we were still left with this underlying gross feeling and strange sensations of being out of it. Thanks to the recommendation of our friends Marco and Marie Ines, on this last trip to Savaii we abandoned the medication and replaced it with raw ginger. We simply cut up some tiny pieces of ginger and swallowed them whole. It worked amazingly well. On the boat ride to Savaii I experienced absolutely no nausea and felt just fine when we disembarked.

Ginger, it has the Reeves seal of approval.

We spent Thursday night at Lusia's. Once again it was lovely. They were all booked out of the lagoon fales, so they actually set us up in the open fale the sign claims is the spa. Apparently, all it takes to have a spa is a hut and some tables. Things have changed a little bit at Lusia's. The food prices continue to rise and the menu selection has changed for the worse. It used to be managed by a Filipino family and there were Filipino foods on the menu. Now the menu has switched back to your typical Samoan-restaurant-for-palagi fare: fish and chips, chicken and chips, burger, stir-fry, curry, the like.

Friday morning we got up and caught a bus to Max's. We were so close to having our own seats on the bus, but didn't quite make it. I ended up on Cale's lap as usual.

At Max's we spent the morning hanging out on the beach at the beach fales waiting for Max to return from proctoring an exam in Asau. Because there were so many older Samoan women around and we were not paying to stay the night at the fales, I didn't feel comfortable getting in the water, so I just lay in the sand listening to This American Lifes on the iPod.

There is something about Max's village that is like kryptonite for me. It always seem hotter and less breezy than anywhere else in Samoa (except our training village of course) and I always find myself lying, powerless against sleep in a pool of sweat.

After Max's return we went to his house while he went to a primary school to help a teacher out. It ended up taking longer than he anticipated and I continued to lie in a pool of sweat in his room for two hours. When he returned he was surprised he had stayed in his room that entire time.

"It's so hot in there," he said.

He was also surprised we hadn't asked his host family for the lime we said we would need for the guacamole we intended to make and had not given them the food we had brought as a gift. In fact, the entire time we waited in his room we had not interacted with his family, except to sneak across the dining room to the bathroom and when one of the children had brought us a plate of pineapple.

The trouble is that in our two years of living in the suburbs of Apia not really interacting with our neighbors, we have not developed any appropriate village coping skills. If we had village skills we would have laid in the open fale in front of the family's house to avoid the heat of Max's room. Or we would have gone out back to where the family was hanging out and talked to them. Or something. But instead, we hid, waiting for Max.

When Max returned we went on a walk to another village to meet the woman who was making a siapo for Erik. You see, the main goal of this trip to Savaii was siapo.

Erik's Siapo

Some of our friends and family received siapo from us as Christmas presents last year. In those gifts we included this explanation:
Painted cloth made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree. It is widely known as tapa cloth, though the word tapa is of Tahitian origin.

The patterns of Samoan tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contain geometrical patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants. A common theme is four stylized leaves forming a diagonal cross. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colors are also used.

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia
Rosie wears siapo as the taupo.

The cloth was once primarily used for clothing, but now cotton and other textiles have replaced it. Tapa cloth is not ideal for clothing because the tissue is similar to paper and loses its strength when wet and falls apart. Today tapa is still worn on formal occasions such as weddings. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often found as wall hangings.

...The mulberry trees are cut and stripped of bark. These strips are about a hand-length wide and 5-6 feet long. The bark consists of two layers. The outer bark is scraped or split off from the inner layer. The outer bark is discarded and the inner bark. This inner bark is then dried in the sun before being soaked. Next the bark is beaten on a wooden anvil using wooden mallets. In the beating the bark is made thinner and spread out to a width of about 25 cm. When the strips are thin enough, several strips are gathered together and beaten into a large sheet.
There is a lot of information about siapo to be found on the internet.

Siapo.com is an excellent source of information.

There is also
this site out of New Zealand that will donate $10 to the tsunami relief fund for every siapo sold.

This article from ABC Australia mentions the very village we went to with Max. This is the place where siapo is made in Samoa.

Strangely enough my alma mater, the University of Missouri, hosts
an informative page on siapo.

Cale wanted to ask an artisan to make him a siapo and then watch the process of making it. Unfortunately, we learned that this was something he should have planned months ago and that it wasn't something that could happen even in the several days we were willing to stay on Savaii. We will have to be happy with the siapo we know we will receive for our faamavae (farewell) or that we buy at the market before we leave.

That night Cale and I stole Max's bed. Since there was no reason to stay for siapo, the next morning we were up early to catch a bus to the wharf. Unfortunately, it was not early enough and we ended up waiting until close to 11 am for the next round of buses. Max had told us there was no noon boat on Saturdays, but we expected to catch the 2 pm boat. Since we were in Salelologa before noon, we headed over to Le Waterfront where we ran into AJ, Phil and Chris for some lunch.

Next we walked over to the wharf and looked around in confusion. It was 1:30 pm. By this time the boat coming from Upolu that would leave Savaii at 2 pm should not only be in sight, but at the dock. There was no boat to be seen. We walked over to the Savaii office where we found Briony. She had talked to Jenny who was supposed to be coming on the noon boat from Upolu. It apparently had not even left until 1 pm. So our 2 pm boat didn't leave until 3 pm.

The weather was pretty crappy outside, overcast, windy, slightly rainy. We knew this was not going to be a fun boat ride. We had just eaten lunch and I wasn't sure how a belly full of fish burger was going to go over. I had swallowed some ginger with lunch and crossed my fingers. About half way through the trip it was particularly choppy and Cale broke out the ginger and cut me off some more pieces. The other boat passengers looked at me strangely, but I don't care because not long after I began to feel less nauseous.

Marie Ines met us at the wharf and took us back to her and Marco's place for a fabulous dinner of tuna; basmati rice and pine nuts; tomato, celery and carrot salad; and taro and palusami. It was all delicious. When we said good-bye to them that night if felt like our first final good-bye. We don't know if we will be seeing them again before we leave in two weeks.

We are closing in on the end now that we are possibly seeing people for the last time. We we ran into the Liz in the office the other day she was heading back to Savaii.

"See you at Thanksgiving," she said. I realized there that this is it, we could accidentally be seeing people for the last time and not know it. What if we don't make it to Thanksgiving. Will we not see the Liz again before we leave Samoa? Cramming everything into the end hard work.

— Sara