Thursday, February 26, 2009

Name this Plant: Mangosteen

Congratulations to William Couch, formerly of the Orlando Sentinel (like myself), for correctly naming this plant the mangosteen.

Name this Plant: Two

The mangosteen, according to Wikipedia, can be described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavor and texture. That isn't what I have experienced. It is like a tiny orange inside the thick rind (segmented) but tastes like a raspberry. They are pretty awesome. The picture from Wikipedia below shows the inside.

— Sara

Open Lab

I think the thing that makes me happiest right now is when I have a computer lab full of students after school. I really enjoy knowing that these students get to use computers for fun when they wouldn't normally be able to.

Some times I wonder if I should be a hard ass and make the ones that haven't finished their work do the work, but whatever, they're using computers and they can suffer other consequences for not managing their time.

Yesterday I had nine students and one teacher in the lab after school one of them wasn't even one of my students. It was a Year 10 student and that's cool with me.

The only problem is I have to worry about resources. The new laser printer they bought for the lab at my request is almost at its starter toner cartridge limit of 700 pages already. Partly, that is my fault. I printed out about 200 pages because I needed to give my students their textbooks and I couldn't get the copies in time. However, other teachers now use the printer often and the students accidentally print (in one case, 32 pages on Ronald Reagan. Why, I don't know).

I don't want the ink to run out since my argument for the printer in the first place was that toner lasts longer than inkjet cartridges and will be cheaper in the long run. I don't want to be a liar.

— Sara

Food Pyramid

"I think I need to get some vitamins or eat more fruits and vegetables."


"I am pretty sure the recommended servings are daily, not weekly. The last time I had a vegetable was Sunday and I cannot remember the last time I had a fruit, probably the Sunday before that when I had that thing Nao brought over."

— Sara

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Name this Plant

The return of everyone's favorite interactive blog feature, name this plant:

Name this Plant: Two

— Sara

One Good Thing and One Bad Thing

Good Thing
According to my pule, the Computer Studies PSSC results of Wesley College were above average for other Samoan schools, as were the results for several other subjects including Accounting and Economics.

Bad Thing
I don't see a lot of hitting at my school, but when I do it really makes me angry. I believe that I reacted inappropriately today to seeing a teacher slap a kid. Let me rephrase that. I think that my reaction was complete appropriate. I just don't think it made me any friends.

— Sara

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lucky Hairs

So, if you have a mole and it grows hair, you are lucky. That's your lucky hair. Don't ever cut it.

Many Samoans have incredibly long hairs growing from moles on their faces and necks. From my limited experience, it doesn't have to be hair growing from a mole. I notice it more in women who have one or two particularly long hairs growing from their chins or cheeks.

To be honest, I do not know a great deal about this practice other than these are lucky hairs and cutting them would bring you bad luck.

I cannot find any information on this phenomena on the Internets. So this is all your gonna get for now.

— Sara


Cale's First Faitala
Cale took over as editor of Faitala, our post newsletter. Before Cale, Aaron was the editor. His Faitala was more like the Samoan version of the Onion. Which was funny and cool. However, Cale really wanted to see the newsletter be more useful, so we revamped it. 

Most of the work for this issue actually fell to me since in order to revamp it we had to redesign it, which was my job. Part of redesigning is deciding what is going in the magazine and what goes where. So I had a lot of input on that. 

However, I told Cale if he was going to be the editor, he was going to have to do most of the work. The reason I didn't volunteer to do it is I knew it would make me all stressed out. So after this issue Cale should be taking over most of the work. Though I have somehow already committed myself to two stories in the next issue.

Oh well. I think it is great.
That's Matt from our group on the cover. He had weekly computer classes with the teachers of his school last year. So Cale interviewed him on that. We also have Cale's eggplant parmesan recipe and a feature called "Good Idea / Bad Idea" where you can share something you did that worked out well or something you did that was a complete failure. We have a "fireside" chat with Dale, a calendar and stories on recent volunteer events (New Years for this issue). Lissa told us how to save money, Ben told us how to join a fantasy baseball league and I wrote a story about getting my tattoo. Fun was had by all.
More pictures below.

— Sara

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Product of the Year: Akira Fan

Product of the Year: Akira Fan

Unlike other Samoan fans this exciting product from Akira comes with projected life span of over one year. No longer suffer through the monthly task of locating and purchasing a new fan. This fan will outlast the competition.

Complete with three speeds and an oscillating head, the Akira meets all your fanning needs. 

Gorilla tape required to hold the head of the fan to the base once it has completely fallen off sold separately.

— Sara

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Name this Plant: Rambutan

We have a winner! Justin has successfully named this plant. Justing had an unfair advantage. What with having eaten them while he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa.

Name this Plant: One
The rambutan, according to Wikipedia, is native to Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Rambutan in Indonesian or Malay literally means hairy (so my mom was pretty right on in wanting to name it Harry). The exterior of the fruit is like the shell on a nut. It breaks open easily and reveals what Cale calls a Martian grape. I call it just like an eyeball. I cannot eat them because of their creepiness. However, they are supposed to be delicious.
This picture from Wikipedia shows one cut open. However, you would never cut it open. You would just peel the shell off.

— Sara

Put Your Hands in the Air and Wave Them Like You Just Don't Care

My kids don't know how to raise their hands. At first I thought this was a cultural thing. But now I am wondering if it's just that no one ever taught them.

Today I handed out the assignment sheet to my Year 12s. I discovered rather quickly that I had not made enough copies. I asked all the students who did not have the assignment sheet to raise their hands. I got like two hands. I knew it was more than that. I tried again. I got like three hands (and not the same two hands as before). I had to resort to pointing and individual students and asking if they had an assignment sheet. No? Why didn't you raise your hand?

I finally managed to get a large group of kids in the middle of the room to raise their hands (I had started passing them out from either side), but smack in the middle of the kids with their hands up was a kid with his hand down. How in the heck could he have a sheet and no one around him have one? 

So I asked him directly, "Do you have the assignment sheet." 
"Yes," he insisted.
"Show me," I demanded.

Then he looked around sheepishly and pulled out his backpack and started to rummage through it. I had literally handed these sheets out 1 minute ago, how could he have gotten one and lost it in his bag?

So he finally admits he doesn't have one. Then why doesn't he have his hand up?

During this exchange, I lost the hands of the other kids. So I had to get them to raise them again. 

Then I tell them that I am counting them so I can make extra copies. I point to the first kid and say one, I point to the second kid and say two. Before I can make it to kid three all the hands start going down.

"I am counting you! Keep your hands up! How am I supposed to know how many copies to make?"

I get maybe, most of the hands as before. I count. I round up an extra two or three, just in case. I go make copies. I return. I distribute the copies until they are all gone.....and I still have kids coming up to me and telling me they didn't get an assignment sheet! 


I think tomorrow if we have time we will have a lesson on how to raise our hands. Of course we won't have time. But it is a nice thought.

— Sara

PS. Today one of my Year 13 students found me in the lab during a free period. He had a math brain teaser. Could I help him? It was a series of math problems where all the numbers had been replaced with wingding symbols. You know a check mark, a mailbox, a heart, a hand with a pen, things like that. Each symbol represented one number 0-9. You know, like a code. You were supposed to figure out what symbol was what number. At first, this thing totally blew my mind and I was stumped. We sat there for like 15 minutes trying all sorts of things that weren't working out. But eventually, I was able to look at it logically. In one of the problems - Y a. So the heart had to be 0. That is the only way to subtract and still have the same number. Once we got that one, things started to fall in to place and in about 20 minutes we had it all sorted. It was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Class of 1999

This is the year of our 10-year high school reunion. I am not even sure if that is something people celebrate. I got to thinking about it after watching Zack and Miri Make a Porno the other night.The first Kevin Smith movie to not suck in quite a while. (Don't worry moms and dads, it is not actually a pornography, but it is definitely an movie for a "mature" audience. I am using mature in quotes, as it is actually a movie for an immature audience, humor-wise that is. Anywho, this parenthetical is way to long now).

In the movie, Zack and Miri attend their 10-year high school reunion, which had me a little worried, as I felt like Zack and Miri were much older than me. I was relived to discover that Miri is played by Elizabeth Banks, who is seven years older than me. Zack on the other hand, played by Seth Rogen (what movies isn't he in right now?), is a year younger than me.

Anyway, as I was saying, they attended their 10-year reunion and then ended up making a porno as the title foreshadows. Luckily, the question of whether or not I might end up making a porno after attending my 10-year high school reunion is a moot point, as it is physically impossible for me to attend, if there is one. I am on the other side of the planet.

I have been contemplating if I could go to such a thing if there was one and I was in the right hemisphere. My answer is no. To be honest, there are very few people I graduated with in 1999 who I have lost touch with and anticipate finding at the reunion. I know where most of the people I want to know are and I don't anticipate the others showing up at the reunion. However, I had a very small circle of friends.

Cale on the other hand managed to be both a super freak and super popular. Whenever he is looking over my shoulder while I facebook (something he refuses to do, even though some of his old friends have tracked him down through my facebook), he sees people from Pike that he remembers. I always have to admit not knowing that person. I cannot decide if it was because I was really that not cool or if I can blame it on a terrible memory.

Cale says that if he was in America and if there was a high school reunion, he would go. Which seems like the antithesis of the sort of thing the sort of person Cale was in high school would do. Does the guy with bleached-blond dreadlocks, giant combat boots and ducktape pants really attend his 10-year reunion? Not in the movies. He's way too cool for that shit.

However, Cale says the answer is yes. "Once every 10 years is often enough to check to see if the people I have been interested in talking to in the last 10 years have shown up."

All this talk about having been out of high school for 10 years is making me feel old. Which is just silly. Being in the Peace Corps also makes me feel old. Which is also silly. I have constructed in my mind this impression that most of my fellow volunteers are all whipper-snappers at 23 years old (you know, a whopping four and a half years younger than me). That isn't really true. Cale, Matt, John, Hanna, Mike, Jenny, Karin, Chris, etc. We are all over the age of 26. Which is some sort of mystical threshold in my mind when you leave whipper-snapperness behind. Maybe part of me likes feeling old. Maybe I am constructing this delusional self image of myself as some how wiser and more mature. Some sort of experienced sage. We all know that is just silly.

So I have started to babble, which is unfortunate. However, it is something you are going to have to learn to put up with as I attempt to blog more frequently.

— Sara

P.S. After school today, I had nine kids stay for over an hour just, you know, using computers. AND I helped to kids use the library! To find a book! For a History class assignment! And this was after they had attempted to find what they needed on their own using the SOS Wikipedia I had installed on the computers. I will compose an ode to the SOS Wikipedia sometime in the future.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Than One Thing

I can remember a time when I would get up, clean the house or do some laundry or exercise (though the exercise was rare, it was more likely I would watch too many mythtved episodes of ER). Then I would shower and dress and possibly run some errands, to the grocery store or the library or the bank. I would drive 20 minutes south and teach a two-hour computer class at a community center. Then I would drive 15 minutes back north to go to work, stopping to pickup lunch/dinner on the way. Then I would work for eight to ten hours and possibly meet up with Cale and friends afterwards for drinks or darts or a show.

That was a busy day.

One weekends we would drive out to the beach for a couple of hours and still make it home in time to do some work around the house or buy groceries or go out with friends. Or we might make a day-trip to go kayaking. Then we still had another weekend day to do things in.

Those were busy weekends.

I feel busy in Samoa frequently. I even frequently find myself thinking things are too hectic and wondering how I will ever get everything done.

However, when I stop to think about it… that is insane.

When Cale’s mom was visiting we had a joke that wasn’t so much a joke. We couldn’t plan more than one thing for a day or that day started to become outrageously busy. If I started to list two or three things we wanted to do in one day, I would start to feel stressed out wondering how we would possibly accomplish so much. There was one day we drove to visit the host family. That took about three hours in the morning. We stopped to see the turtle pond and then visited the Baha’I temple. Probably another three hours. So we managed to fill six hours of a day and I was completely exhausted at the end of the day because it was so busy.

It is possible that my sense of time and time management has changed dramatically since I came to Samoa. It is true, more than one thing in a day it almost too much.

When school is on it is a little different. Going to school all day is one thing, but it is one BIG thing. Then I usually have too come home and do more school work (lesson planning for the next day, grading assignments). Or I have to go back to the school to work in the computer lab to try to fix broken computers or set up things for class the next day. So that is two things that are really like three or four. How could I possibly manage to do anything else? Yet some how in America, I managed to have a full-time job and a volunteer job and run errands and do other things.

I am not sure why the time is different here. Things happen at a slower pace and in their own time. This is true. But it is more than simply a polychromic versus monochromic mentality. I still want to do all the things and I still want to do them in reasonable time frames. I just find myself so overwhelmed, thinking of each thing as a massive, arduous task practically impossible to accomplish. You mean you want me to go to the bank AND get groceries? How could I possibly accomplish all of that in one day? It is so taxing. Yet, when I actually do these things, they aren’t. I can get on a bus, walk to the bank and walk to all the grocery stores and bus back home in a hour or two. That is not an all day task. There is still daylight left to accomplish other things.

What is it about being here that has given me the perception that everything is so difficult and time consuming and that I am so busy, when comparatively, they are not and I am not?

I first started thinking about this almost five months ago when we had volunteer visits. Matt and Kate came to visit and Matt mentioned later in his blog how it looked like volunteers had a lot of free time. And he was right. I wasn’t actively teaching new material at the time, the kids were doing review. I didn’t have many lessons to plan; I didn’t have many papers to mark. We sat and read books while they visited. And yet, at the time, I felt incredibly busy. At first read, I was almost offended by Matt’s comment that it looked like we had so much free time. Free time? When I am so busy? But he was right, he was only two months away from America where you could have two jobs and run errands and go out and still have time left in the day and not feel overwhelmed and stressed. Where that was normal.

I wonder what it will be like to go back to the States. To go back to doing more than one thing every day. It will be weird.

— Sara

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just Today

Up at 6 am. Did not sleep well. I think it was the protein powder added to the pasta sauce last night. Kate doesn't eat the animals and brought some to add to the food. My body is FILLED with gas.

Did not jump rope today. Jumped rope for a total of like five minutes yesterday morning and now I cannot walk. I think this is a sign that my calves had withered away to nothingness.

Went to school. No first period class. Spent the period fixing lesson plan for tomorrow. Upon second look, I realized I had forgotten to include a Year 12 topic for word-processing in my yearly plan and tomorrow was the ideal day for it to be added in.

Second, third, fourth and fifth periods. My classes are suspiciously small. Friday was cut off for paying school fees. Students who have not paid were sent home today. One class of 12 was down to five students. Some of them will come back. The questions is how long before they come back and how much will they have missed by the time they return?

Waited after school for the eight students who were late to class today (I give my students five minutes after the bell rings and then they are late) to show up for their punishment — help me clean the computer lab. Only one kid comes. He and I dust the computers and desks. The rest of them will have detentions tomorrow, which is handled by the vice-pule, not me and lasts a lot longer and is out in the hot sun wedding, not in the air-conditioned computer lab dusting. 

Went home and ate my fa'aSamoa lunch: bread and butter.

Do it again tomorrow.

— Sara

Name this Plant

Thanks to a plethora of fruits I have never seen before in the maketi, I am starting a new blog feature. It's called "Name this Plant" and it is pretty self-explanatory.
So with out further ado, here is the first one. I consider this one relatively easy.

Name this Plant: One

— Sara

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fa Soifua

Dear Aaron,

Please don't forget to mail me that berry crumble.


Aaron's mat
Aaron on a swing

Saying Goodbye to Aaron

We lost another member of Group 79 to early termination last night. We saw Aaron off on the Aggie Grey shuttle after a dinner at Italiano's and a rousing game of Cluedo (that is not a misprint, that is what Clue is named here). I am sure he is surfing in Oregon by now.

— Sara

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Computer Problems You May Not Have in the States

Dead Lizard

One of my computers was failing to work. Since it did not even turn on, it was a pretty safe assumption, the problem was the power supply. Upon closer inspection it was even safer to assume the problem was the lizard that had gotten itself electrocuted in the power supply.

Dead Lizard

The computer next to it was making a horrible noise while it ran. Sounded like the fan or a motor was crunching through something. Most-likely these lizard remains. This computer also has the added bonus of smelling like poop. I don't mean that in the geeze, something stinks, it smells like poop. I mean it in the literal, when you put your face close to the computer too look for the source of the horrible noise (lizard bones) you discover a pervasive oder of fecal matter. Where that is coming from, I have yet to determine.

Also, when I first opened up my upstairs computer lab before school started, I discovered:

1. Cockroaches in the air-conditioner
2. Two partially drunk and now two-month-old rotting niu (coconuts) oozing their goo on the floor (most likely left over from when the prize-giving committee used my room as a storage space for the prizes and an all night party zone the night before prize-giving)
3. One dead bird (my personal belief is that if a bird can get in, the air-conditioning can probably get out)

— Sara

Someone Must Have Died

Dead Cow

And I am not referring to the cow.

Cale and I were making lunch, when the truck pulled up in the neighbors driveway and unloaded what appears to me most if not all of a dead cow. That either means funeral or wedding, and since all my fa'alavelave experience has been funerals so far, I am going with funeral.

The truck full of cow was immediately followed by a taxi full of tinned fish and several kilos of that was unloaded into the driveway as well. As were at least three fine mats. Must have been a big funeral.

I desperately wanted to take pictures, but I also didn't want the neighbors to see me gawking at them and taking pictures. So I took these from the house through the window.

Cale and I were pondering what was going to be done with this cow over our meal. 

"Do you suppose they get dead cow warning, like a phone call? Or does it just show up in the driveway?"

"What are they going to do with all the cow. There is no way they have
enough refrigeration for all of that."

(I wish you could see the cloud of flies on this thing)

"They are going to part it out and distribute it again of course."

And then Cale turns to me with a look of shear horror.

"For the love of God, shut the back door. The last thing we need is any cow parts."

— Sara

Dead cow

Friday, February 6, 2009

Baby Shower Update Update

We did not have a baby shower. Apparently, some of the ladies at the school will just carry all the soap over to the house of the one that had the baby...and then I suppose she can wash clothes non-stop until the next century with all the Cold Power she got.

— Sara

Now I Really Know I am not Getting Clean

"Can soap go bad?"

"You mean the one growing red spots?"


"Nah. It's just dirty."

"The soap is dirty?"

"Yeah. You should throw it away ... immediately."

— Sara

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Graciously Stepping Down

I think that it is pretty clear that I have lost my throne as reigning favorite Peace Corps Samoa blogger. I was told that many people like to read my blog because I was the most frequent updater of all of us in country. Well....there goes that.

Matt of Group 81 not only manages to update his blog EVERY FREAKING DAY (Is that human or possible? I think he has employed child labor in these efforts. That is where all the ula selling kids have gone.), but he also happens to be a really good writer, which is something that I never claimed to be. I mean, there is a reason why I went to Journalism school and came out a designer.

I could try to complete in someway, but he even makes graphics and charts, so I don't think I have anything in my bag o' tricks that even compares. Drat and double drat.

— Sara

Baby Shower Update

We did not have a baby shower at school today. Rumor has it tomorrow. However, we all turned in our "gifts" to the school secretary, who made note of who did and did not bring something. There is a LARGE pile of Cold Power on the table in her office. It looks like everyone really did bring soap.

— Sara

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

I am walking into school this morning. I see the vice principal. He reminds me that I have to bring something for garble garble garble tomorrow. The garbles being what I didn't understand. That is ok. I am used to this. Faamavae (going away), faalavelaves (supposedly any big life event like weddings and funerals, but always funerals in my experience). They all involved bringing in money. Usually $20 or $30 tala. So I ask how much.

That is when things start to fall apart. More garbles that lead me to believe that we are gifting a pregnant woman or a woman who recently had a baby with one of those tubs you wash babies in. This is not totally surprising to me, because I have seen said things in country. I am told I should bring soap. This is also not surprising to me, as I have frequently been gift with clothes soap.

At the beginning of 5th period a student comes around to all the teachers with a note that says teachers are reminded to bring some thing tomorrow for garble's vaita'ele. I am confused. Vaita'ele means pool. This must have something to do with the tub. I ask my counterpart, who I am standing with, what I should bring. "Soap," responds my counterpart and the student with the note.

It is the end of the day and everyone is preparing to leave. I am still trying to clarify this soap bringing thing. I ask another computer teacher what he is bringing. "Soap," he says. "Like Cold Power?" I ask. No. No. Soap for a baby. It is vaita'ele for a baby. "Doesn't vaita'ele mean pool?" I ask. And as I am asking this it hits me.

We are having a baby shower tomorrow! A BABY SHOWER! Soap! For a baby! Everyone is bringing soap to this baby shower. I wonder if we will actually be cleaning a baby tomorrow. I wonder just how much the concept of baby shower has been transferred. 

I will keep you updated on the developments. Right now I have to wander down to my local faleoloa and see if they have any soap. for a baby.

— Sara

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

From Kamuka to Komepiuta

Cale isn't teaching carpentry anymore. They made him a computer teacher at his school. I'll see if I can get him to comment on that.

— Sara

Today Failed to Suck

And that is awesome.

The pule adjusted the schedule, so now the Business Studies students can take both Economics and Accounting and still take Computer Studies with out me having to stay after school to offer computers to them.

My "counterpart" and I actually did some counterparty things. We now share the Year 12 classes. I will teach 12.1 at the same time he teaches 12.2. There are not enough computer students in 12.3 and 12.4 combined to make two separate classes, but we are both on the schedule to teach that class, so we get to share it. Today I taught my lesson while he hung out in the back of the class and watched. Next week he can teach lessons while I watch. How awesome is that?

My Year 13 class was divided into two classes of insanely reasonable sizes. I have one computer for each student! And they are typing letters to pen pals who are in a friend Jenny's math classes in the States.

I fixed a broken computer, talked to the new P.E. teacher and understood enough of a conversation Cale was having with a taxi driver to laugh in the right places, TWICE!

Other notes from today:

1. There are now currently 715 students at my school and about 30 teachers

2. Things said in English during the all-Samoan meeting to elect Year 13 prefects: straight away, we'll have a look at that, keep an eye on that

3. One of the teachers dropped his keys into this mysterious pit on either side of the back stairs that lead to the teachers room. He found a skinny student, had him squeeze between the stairs and the wall and end up in what turned out to be a large empty void under the stairs. Well, it would have been empty if it wasn't full of trash. The student found the keys and was pulled out of the hole, covered in cobwebs.

It is possible that things might fail to suck all year. I probably shouldn't base that on one day.

— Sara