Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Excerpts from Cale's Letter to Rob

hey man!
aaah winter....

i miss winter..... (park)
you know - that place in florida with all the good restaurants and thenice weather and the delivery and all that other [stuff]......?

one of the things i left for was to see what i would miss. i can safely say, it was the following: you all. my friends. its not too much harder to call y'all, but it is seriously difficult to hop in the car and drive up.

shows. we used to go out twice a week in florida.

delivery. pizza. steak. wings. chinese. any thing, as long as i dont have to get up off the couch to get it... which brings me to...

couches. padded places where i can sit next to my wife and watch a ....

tv that isnt my laptop computer. it doesnt have to be real broadcast tv, as long as it isnt in my lap.

anyway - later man.
you all take care out there....

— Cale

School is On

Let me start out my new school-themed posts a break down of the first day of school.

6 am: Wake up, exercise, print yearly plans, shower

7:30: Arrive at school (the time teachers are supposed to be at school) and discover it is just me, the pule and the school secretary. 

8 am: Me and five other teachers are here now. The number of parents waiting to speak to the pule greatly out numbers the teachers who were supposed to be here at 7:30

8:30 am: We have a teachers meeting with the pule. There are probably 15 of us or so. Then we go to the hall and pray and the pule reads out all the class lists of all the students for 13 classes. I am baby sitting 12.1, as their form teacher is not here. We go to the class room. I make them sweep the floor and set up all the desks. Then they must choose their options. All senior students must take English, Maths and Samoan. There are two sets of Options and they must choose one class from each set. Computers are in Option 2. Of the 21 students in the room, 16 sign up for computers. This is when I realize we are going to have trouble. There are three Year 12 classes and we can only have a total of 35 students take computer (as we only  have 35 computers). This takes until just before 9am.

9 am: Sit around until noon

12 pm: The director comes and speaks in Samoan. I only understand the English words they include: science lab, bathroom facilities, job description, sports facilities, sports gears, resources, resource room, science chemicals, and responsibility. Then the pule talks all in Samoan. He switches to to English long enough to say that the Year 13s will have a project this year, a magazine (which means Yearbook) and I am in charge.

1:30 pm: School ends

4 - 8 pm: Cale and I go back to the school to try to set up / fix the old, slow, sad computers in the senior lab. This fills my soul with anger and we head home when I can no longer take it.

Tune in next time to learn about Day Two!

— Sara

You Cannot Embezzle a Person

This weekend we were in Faofao for our Mid-Service Conference. That is right people, we officially passed the mid-way point on our two year service on December 13. 

The conference covered updates from office staff on our living allowance, what to do if we are thinking of extending (ha!), remembering to have our mid-service medical check-up completed and a review of safety and security issues in the previous year. We also discussed counterparts and sustainability, thought about our assignment focuses for 2009, learned about a new Peace Corps worldwide volunteer reporting form we will have to start filling out soon and met the Peace Corps Regional Security Advisor, who lives in Fiji and made friends with us by giving out candy. However, we proved ourselves to be poorly educated on relatively current events and Peace Corps history and he had to settle on giving out the candy he had intended as prizes for correct answers to his questions.

There were a lot of interesting things that came out of this conference, but the most interesting one to me at this time can be summed up in a quote from our APCD.

"What I would prefer is human resources because you cannot embezzle a person."

Beautiful. Brilliant.

We were talking a lot about how many of us take issue with raising funds for our schools. Many of us work for parochial schools. Many of us can see that the church itself has a lot of money, but we can also see that the priorities on what this money is spent on rarely includes the school. It makes it hard to go out in search of monetary donations or grants in a situation like this. You wonder to yourself, "Why should I ask for free money when there is money here, they just don't want to spend it on this, they want to get it for free?"

There are a lot of aide organizations in Samoa and they are handing out a lot of free money. Free money with very little accountability. And I cannot blame Samoa entirely for its dependence on foreign aide. If someone was constantly offering you free money or you knew you could get someone else to pay for this thing you want, would you pay for it yourself?

Our APCD's point is that he prefers that aid organizations send people to help develop Samoa and not money. Which is what Peace Corps does. Peace Corps volunteers do not come with money. However, many of our host country sponsors don't know that since the JICA and the Aussies do. They expect us to have money and when we don't we often find ourselves in the role of grant writers or donation procurers. 

I find myself in a similar situation. Do I want new computers for my school? Yes. Do I want to ask someone to give them to my school for free? No. Would I take the free ones if someone offered? I think the answer is going to have to be yes to that one. Cause I know that is probably the only way we are going to get them.

— Sara

Cale is Very Successful

Since it is unlikely that Cale will ever post anything on this, I would just like to point out that four of the six students that Cale had last year are going on to NUS (National University of Samoa) to the Faculty of Education this year.

— Sara

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Product Endorsement of the Week: The Slaver Video Game Controller

Product Endorsement of the Week: The Slaver Game Controller

I am not even sure how to write a funny sales pitch for this one. The game controller on this video game is called the "Slaver." Of course, the game itself is called the "Game Player." Very original.

— Sara

Words of the Week: 'Aiga and 'Āiga

'Aiga {eyeng-ah}
n. 1. Meal 2. Feast

'Āiga {ah-eeng-ah}
n. 1. Elementary family  2. Extended family  3. Lineage  4. Kin, relatives  5. Home  6. Consummation of a union
v. 1. Be related, kin

Can you use them in a sentence?
Both the 'aiga and the 'āiga are important in Samoa.

Frequently, Samoan words are written out in books, letters and on signs with out the fa'amamafas and komalilius that tell us palagi when to hold a letter for a longer time or emphasize it and when to truncate a letter or have a glottal stop. Our trainers said that Samoan's don't need the fa'amamafas and komalilius, they just know what the word is supposed to be. Kind of like we just know to pronounce enough and through differently even though they both have the ough.

This is why I thought that 'aiga and 'āiga were the same word with two meanings. I thought it was interesting that the same word meant both family and feast. Unfortunately, I was wrong. That one little line over the a makes those two different words, with slightly different pronunciations.

If I haven't mentioned before, the fa'amamafa is the line above a letter that indicates the letter should be held longer and have the emphasis in the word. The komaliliu is the apostrophe that means to cut the letter short and insert a glottal stop.

I guess this means that I had been pronouncing fale'aiga wrong all this time. In Savai'i there is a restaurant named Fale'aiga. It means meal house, which is the Samoan word for restaurant. So this restaurant is named restaurant. You have to love that. I could see having a Samoan restaurant in another country and naming it Fale'aiga. But this is like me opening a restaurant in the States and naming it Restaurant.

— Sara

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In-Service 2009

Monday, 19 January 2009
5 am: Wake up

6:30 am: Ride to the wharf arrives

8 am: Ferry to Savai'i

10:20 am: Arrive at Uesiliana 

10:30 am: Welcome, opening prayer, singing, more prayer, Methodist Church President's speech, Palagi-specific English welcome from President, welcome continues in Samaon, a selection of speeches from pules

11:20 am: Ava ceremony and gifting of fine mats, pigs, tinned fish and fabric

12:30 pm: Ava cermemony and fish exchange end, matai eat, everyone else waits

1:00 pm: Begin School In-Service programme, break into subject groups to create yearly plans (which is what I had done in the previous two weeks)

2:30 pm: Lunch

3:00 pm: Back to groups to make yearly plans

4:30 pm: Begin reporting. Each subject sends a representative to tell everyone else about their subject's year plans. This is when we are told there are only three things we need to know about teaching: language and literacy.

6 pm: Reporting concludes. Given information on end of day schedule. Dinner at 7:30 and then we shower. Amused that everyone's shower has been scheduled. Start at 6:30 am tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009
3 am: On other side of planet Barack Obama becomes first African-American President of United States. Sleep through what is probably most historic moment of lifetime. Fingers now crossed for discovery of intelligent life on nearby planet and rise of intergalactic space travel. Or second coming.

6 am: Wake up, realize that on the other side of the planet Barack Obama is now the first African-American President of United States. Slept through what is probably most historic moment of lifetime. Fingers now crossed for discovery of intelligent life on nearby planet and rise of intergalactic space travel. Or second coming. (I had the wrong time for the swear-in before)

6:50 am: Arrive at meeting hall, discover faifeau and faletua get fried eggs for breakfast, everyone else? buttered crackers

7 am: Resume praying and singing

7:30 am: Break into groups again to continue work on yearly plans

8:45 am: Begin fine mat, roast pig and tinned fish exchange. Thanks is yelled across the compound

9:10 am: Thanks-yelling completed, being wandering around aimlessly

9:20 am: Leave early to catch 10 am ferry, pick up Soupy on the way

10 am: Arrive at wharf just as 10 am ferry is leaving. It is Tuesday, only half ferry schedule. Next ferry not until 2 pm. Sit in tiny Savai'i Peace Corps office with Cale, Dan, Paul, Soupy and AJ for next three and a half hours.

1:30 pm: Get on ferry to Upolu, same ferry as everyone else who stayed at the in-service and didn't leave early like we did

2:10 pm: Ferry leaves

3:45 pm: Catch school-chartered bus home

— Sara

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

There are Only Three Things You Need to Know About Teaching...

Language and Literacy.

This and other exciting quotes from our recent pre-school in-service in Savai'i to come.

- Sara

Things Sara Likes

This one is for Dylan, who didn't believe there were any.
  1. Cale
  2. Casino Royale
  3. Mashed potatoes
  4. Burritos
  5. Chaco flip flops and sandals
  6. Underpants that fit (especially the ones with the hippos on them)
  7. The Chevy Nomad
  8. Wurther’s Originals
  9. Chocolate martinis
  10. New sheets
  11. Washing machines
  12. Pretzels and sour cream
  13. Goat cheese
  14. Her Nikon D40
  15. New Macs
  16. Fight Club
  17. The Bourne movies
  18. The Dune series
  19. The Gunslinger series (except for the last ones, cause they are crap)
  20. Bill Bryson books
  21. River kayaking
  22. The banana flavored-beer at Galbraith’s in New Zealand
  23. Sashimi
  24. Kittens
  25. Organizing things
  26. Spell check
  27. The internets
  28. Banana bread
  29. Making lists and crossing things off
  30. Clean feet
  31. New paper
  32. Back to school supplies
  33. This one kind of mechanical pencil, but I cannot tell what kind because I rubbed the name off the side from using it so much
  34. Post-apocalyptic movies and books
  35. National Geographic
  36. Popping bubble wrap
  37. Trivial Pursuit
  38. Really nice typography
  39. Warm climates
  40. Sleeping in
  41. The Faleaseela waterfall hike
  42. The beaches in Manase
  43. Dwell
  44. Target (the store)
  45. The lowercase g
  46. Shweta’s chai
  47. Jack White (The White Stripes and the Raconteurs)
  48. NPR podcasts
  49. Squids (not for eating)
  50. Adobe’s products
— Sara

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Word of the Week: Drown

I am writing my word of the week entry a little differently this time, because I came across this word differently.

I have mentioned I am trying to learn Samoan again. I have been working on assignments, translating sentences from our Language Manual. One of them was:

If your brother had not been alert when the little girl fell in the swimming pool, she would have drowned.

So I had to look up the word drowned in the dictionary. This is what I found:

v. (~ oneself): malemo; (~a kitten, etc): fa'amalemo; lelemo; (be ~ed in, i.e. overlaid by): tanumia

Do you see what caught my eye? Exactly, a dictionary entry for the word to use to talk about drowning kittens. Good to know. I am sure I will find myself needing that one often. 

Why is there a separate word in Samoan to talk about drowning kittens, etc?

Ok, I know there isn't. I know that what they are distinguishing between here is the act of someone drowning and the act of drowning something (or I suppose someone). If I am drowning it is malemo, but if I am drowning something else (so this sentence has a direct object) then it is fa'amalemo. Which makes sense. I learned that adding fa'a to a verb can change the verb. For example, moe means to sleep and fa'amoe means to make sleep. So, malemo means to drown and fa'amalemo means to make drown.

What amuses me that it was completely natural for in the dictionary the thing we are going to be drowning is kittens.

— Sara

Product Endorsement of the Week: Surface-to-Air Candy Launcher

Product Endorsement of the Week: Surface-to-Air Candy Launcher

What could possibly more appropriate for a young, impressionable child than a toy surface-to-air, truck-mounted imitation nuclear warhead launcher? Nothing, exactly. But where to go to find something like that?

Ah, Samoa! You have everything.

Though most likely Chinese-made, this fun and educational candy dispenser has a decidedly Soviet feel to it. It is equipped with realistic rocket movement, for better aiming at enemy aircraft. The candy launcher is also self propelled, just pull the string in back and watch it go!

Nuclear air-strikes are so much fun, just look at the faces of the soldiers responsible:

Product Endorsement of the Week: Surface-to-Air Candy Launcher

— Sara

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Finally, Thanksgiving Pictures

Just a few notes on Thanksgiving, since it happened over a month ago.

1. The Charge d'Affairs house is wonderful. I really appreciate Robin inviting us into her home for the holiday. It was just like being in the US for a couple of hours. Her house had real flooring and baseboards! The walls went all the way to the ceilings! The kitchen had a real countertop and appliances!

2. I ate so much mashed potatoes, so quickly that I had to go lie down for an hour in one of the bedrooms because I didn't have enough room in my stomach for them all. Sitting and standing put pressure on my innards. Being the learner that I am, when I finally felt good enough to sit up and walk around again, I visited the dessert table. I didn't get any of my pumpkin pies, but I did eat several delicious snicker-doodle cookies.

— Sara

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Prize-Giving Part 2

Cale's Prize-Giving

I cannot have a Part 1, with out a Part 2. However, at this point it is ridiculous to post about Cale's Prize-Giving that was over a month ago. 

Suffice to say, Cale's Prize-Giving was nice and on the same day as our Thanksgiving Celebration. Something I have not posted about either. HA!

— Sara

PS. The pictures of Cale's Prize-Giving are now on the flickr.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cale is a Carpenter

And he is allergic to the local wood. Just thought I would throw that out there. You should see him after he has used the table saw.

— Sara

Pe'a Pictures

I am very sorry that the links to images of the pe'a in my Tatau post do not work as intended. I am including some here so you can see the pe'a and the malu.

— Sara

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When we ride bikes in Samoa

we pass a lot of people. We pass a gaggle of people about every 50 meters. This is a culture that is extremely fond of greetings. Add all that up and you get a much more vocal form of bike-riding than I am used to. This is what it sounds like.

10 meters out:
"bye-bye palagi" (the greeting-in-passing here, fa, also means goodbye)

5  meters out:
"bye-bye" "fa" "bye-bye palagi" (a chorus of greetings)
I respond with a wave.

I respond with an out of breath "phaaahgh (fa)."

5 meters past:
"fa palagi, byebye"

10 meters past:

I ride in front of Sara usually, and to most Samoans that is all I will ever be.

The out of breath guy with the lame wave that clears the way for Sara.

(I thought since it has been a year, I'd go ahead and write another blog entry)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cale on Language

"If languages were PhotoShop brushes, English would be a very small brush with very hard edges. Samoan would be a giant brush with the softest edge possible."

— Sara

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cale's Mom's Visit

Finally all the pictures are up  on the flickr. Find them here.

— Sara

More Christmas Boil

Christmas Boil

Dad requested pictures of the angry boil in all it's oozing glory. So I put some up on the flickr.

— Sara


Sara and Erik's Tattoo Day

I promised a post on my tattoo three weeks ago. I suppose I should make good on my promise. 

I don't have any other tattoos. If I am to get something permanent on my body, it must be something absolutely perfect and I must be absolutely sure. So it is a little strange that for my Samoan tattoo the extent of my input on the design was to tell the artist I wanted something from "here to here" (shoulder to elbow) and I wanted it to be with traditional Samoan motifs (there's that traditional word again).

I would say most Peace Corps get tattooed while serving in Samoa. Our training manager, HP, calls it the "tag and release program." It makes sense that the ideal memento of our time in Samoa, the longest continuously practicing tattoo culture (the missionaries never succeeded in stamping it out here), would be a tattoo.

According to the Samoan Sensation web site:

"There are not many Polynesian words that have entered the English language, but perhaps the most widely used is tattoo. Exactly where and when the word "tattoo" originated is open to debate, but it is certain that it was a corruption of the polynesian word tatau, picked up by the early European sailors exploring the Southern Ocean.

The presence of "britches" upon Samoan males, was commented upon in many ships logs of the early explorers, and were sketched by many of the artists that were taken along on these voyages of discovery. Where the Samoans aquired this skill is not known, but there is a folk tale that explains that it was brought to Samoa by two Fijian women. Unfortunately during the course of their journey they made a mistake in the song they were singing. Rather than singing 'Tattoo the women and not the men' they started singing 'Tattoo the men and not the women.' 

There is another story which explains that originally tattoos were painted upon the skin, but a Samoan adventurer, who travelled to the kingdom of the spirits, learnt the art of true tattooing. He was treated very well by its inhabitants but they found his painted body decorations a pale immitation of their own tattoos. He learnt the art of tattooing and when he returned to Samoa he introduced the use of hammers and sharpened bone or teeth for tattooing.

The "britches" the sailors were referring to is the pe'a. The pe'a is the traditional (I give up, I will just use that word) Samoan male tattoo. It is an impressive work that covers the man's body from rib cage to knees.

According to PBS's Skin Stories:

"The pe'a covers the thighs, butt, and lower back, with a final "locking" piece applied just around the navel. The pe'a as a whole is a representation of a bat, its wings wrapping around the legs of the man. In ancient times, the pe'a was a sign to the village and larger community that a young man was committed to serving his aiga, or extended family. In fact, getting the pe'a was a prerequisite for a man to receive a matai (chief's) title. In general, a young man with a pe'a was deemed to be more attractive to women because he had shown his dedication and bravery by undergoing the very painful process of the pe'a."

You can see diagrams of the pe'a here

Below are images of the pe'a and the malu, the female tattoo.

Once again, according to PBS's Skin Stories:

"In Samoa, the women were not excluded from tatau; in fact the tattooing of women was considered to be more sacred in some ways than tattooing the men. There were separate styles for the women, including designs on the hand and the malu on the thighs. The malu, applied only to a woman's thighs, was far less extensive than the male pe'a and more of a lace web than solid patterning. The malu is sometimes flashed when Samoan women dance the traditional siva."

I knew that if I was going to get a tattoo in Samoa it wasn't going to be with a gun. The only reason to get the tattoo would be to have it done traditionally, with the combs. I could get a tattoo with a gun anywhere, I could only get this type of tattoo here (well, not only here, I think that they use the same methods for traditional tattoos in New Zealand and else where, but you get what I mean. If it wasn't with the combs, there was no point).

Erik's Tattoo

The combs used in the tattooing were once made with bone or tusk and consisted of a row of sharpened teeth that were first dipped into ink (most often made with charcoal) and then tapped into the skin. The combs came in a variety of sizes, each for a specific purpose (to draw long lines, to fill in large dark areas, to make small details, etc) and each with a different name. I won't bore you with all those details, they are available on the internets, here, if you are interested.

Sara and Erik's Tattoo Day

Things have been slightly modernized. The tools used for my tattoo were wooden handles with a plastic attachment to hold stainless steel teeth. They were first sterilized in some sort of fancy device and the ink was tattoo ink and not charcoal. However, I still had sharp, pointed teeth hammered into my arm.

I went to Sulu'ape Tatau. In addition to doing amazing work and being internationally recognized, they are the only artists approved by the Peace Corps Medical Officer. Our PCMO would prefer we not get tattooed, but she knows we are going to and she knows that Sulu'ape Tatau uses medical-grade sterilization equipment and sterile procedures. Peter (Petelo) Sulu'ape and his son do the traditional work for their business. You can get gun tattoos in their shop in Apia, but if you want a traditional tattoo you have to travel to the Sulu'ape home in Faleasiu.

Erik made an appointment for both of us for 8:30 am on Friday the 12th. We were to meet at the shop in Apia and then taxi out to the village. Ever eager Cale, Annette and I were outside the shop by 8 am. We ended up waiting quite a long time for the shop to open, which is not unusual with the way time works in here. However, as we later learned, our wait was so long because somehow, Sulu'ape had not been informed about our appointments. Apparently, we were lost in the shuffle and confused with Dylan's appointment for the next day.

So for an appointment at 8:30, we finally started our tattoos around noon. It wasn't a bad wait though. Once we arrived in the village we got to watch the last hour or so of a man having one of his pe'a sessions done. Getting a full pe'a is a long process that can take up to two weeks to complete.

Because there were two of us to be tattooed, Erik's tattoo was done by the older Sulu'ape and I had his son. 

For a significant portion of the process I did not experience a great deal of pain. Wait, that isn't right. I mean it hurt. It can't not hurt. But it didn't hurt too much, or as much as I expected. Up until this point everyone, including Sulu'ape, had responded to my declaration that I wanted a sleeve with an incredulous look and an indication that I was not only a girl, but a small girl and they didn't think I could handle it. I guess I did pretty well, I heard the son's wife comment something to the effect of "See, I told you girls are tough."

Sara and Erik's Tattoo Day

However, once the tattooing made its way to my shoulder area where there was nothing between the skin and the bone, things started to hurt. I am incredibly thankful that Peter kept that part for last. Once it was complete, I couldn't have done anymore. I was 'uma on tattooing.

My tattoo took about three hours to complete. Erik's took another hour and a half. We finally left Faleasiu just before 5 pm. It was a long day.

Day 2

Once the tattoo is complete, it doesn't mean that the pain is over. With a traditional tattoo, you need to massage out the excess ink that was driven into the skin. If you don't do this the excess ink will start to bleed out of the design causing clouding and smearing the design. Personally, I found massaging the ink out more painful than a lot of the actually tattooing. I had a really nice bruise forming on my arm and it was hard to submit myself to having Cale abuse a place that was already so bruised. Unfortunately, we didn't do a good enough job with the massage (my fault, after a couple of Cale massages, I refused his help anymore and did it myself). On the underside of my arm near the elbow, where the worst of the bruising was, I have ink clouding. I couldn't tell the clouding was occurring because of the bruise. In fact, it took about a week to conclude that it was in fact clouding and not still the fading bruise. So that portion of my arm looks permanently bruised; however, the tattoo itself did not blur or smudge. I just have a bluish tint to my skin there. Cale thinks it will fade with exposure to sun, which I have not allowed for the tattoo yet.

So there you go, the story of Sara's tattoo.

I just want to say how immensely pleased I am with the tattoo. The Sulu'apes are truly impressive artists and the work that was done on my arm is beautiful.

— Sara

P.S. I almost forgot this great quote from the PBS Skin Stories:

"However, the art is also evolving to suit the needs and tastes of a younger, often urban transplanted generation. Ironically, the most predominant style of tattooing, the armband, was originally developed as a "souvenir" for American Peace Corps workers returning to the United States. The band started on the wrist or ankle and eventually migrated to other parts of the body. Today, the band is most often found on the bicep and features not only traditional geometric motifs but also images of Samoan cultural artifacts, namely the tanoa ('ava bowl), the to'oto'o (orator's staff) and the fue (fly whisk). Due to the intricacy of the latter designs, much of the armband work, especially in diasporic communities, is done with the tattooing machine."

Sara and Erik's Tattoo Day