Wednesday, April 29, 2009

As We All Know, White Girls Can't Dance

Culture Day is fast approaching at my school. It is next Wednesday. Unlike many other schools that have been practising for their culture day for weeks ahead of time, my school just started practising on Monday.

The programme for the big event was posted on the corkboard in the teachers' room last week and we were informed what houses would be doing what. My house was assigned the siva atunu'u [see-vah ah-two-new-ooh]. This directly translates to "country dance," but what it is meant to be is siva isi atunu'u or another country's dance. During tea one interval several of the teachers formed this united front around Nao (the JICA volunteer) and I and asked that we teach the siva atunu'u. They wanted an American dance and a Japanese dance. Seeing as how I had failed to participate in the Easter Spectacular preparations in anyway, I felt compelled and reluctantly agreed.

Thanks to some helpful (and not so helpful) suggestions off the facebook, I went to school on Monday armed with the Electric Slide. I didn't really remember the dance, but it didn't take more than a couple of seconds with some YouTube videos (well, first about an hour to down load those couple of seconds) to get up to speed. However, I still don't remember the song that everyone was dancing too. I swear the Electric Slide song I am used to is not this Electric Boogie thing.

Anyway, the Electric Slide went over like a lead balloon. As it turns out, it is too short, too boring and it doesn't have enough movements. Oh...and the music is stupid. So after about 10 minutes of teaching a room of about 50 to 80 students how to Electric Slide it was decided we needed something else. I said I would come back the next day with some other American dances.

Yesterday I brought the Macarena (yeah, I know, it's Spanish, shut up) and the Boot Scootin' Boogie (which I do not know, but I found a YouTub tutorial for). I was also going to bring a square dance, but it took me almost three hours just to download the first two and I had to leave for school.

These were also failures. However, I slowly started to learn that they were failures for more than the simple reason that they aren't very exciting dances and I am a horrible dancer.

I have gathered that siva atunuu typically means a dance from another Pacific country, Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii...something like that. Basically, it means do the exact same dance you usually do and set it to music that sounds just like what you dance to here, but call it by a different name.

The students kept asking me if I had any music for a hula or Indian music, which I don't. So then we resorted to me playing clips of all the world music on Cale's iPod to see if there was anything they liked. Let me just tell you Clanned's Gaelic sounds were not popular. In fact, nothing was popular until I played Daddy Yankee's Gasolina, which is a song they already play on the radio here occasionally. 

So, instead of a dance from another country, the boys will play Gasolina and choreograph their own "hip-hop" dance (hip-hop is in quotes because it is less hip-hop and more High School Musical) and the girls will bring in a CD today with a song to which they can hula dance.

At this point, I am not sure if my role in culture day is now over or if I am in some way still responsible for the dance practise that will be going on for the next week.

— Sara

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ma'i Pua'a

So this swine flu thing appears to be taking over the world? My inbox was full of Peace Corps emails about it. What ever happened to the good old avian flu?

— Sara

Saturday, April 25, 2009

There is No Santa Claus..And Other Horrifying Facts

So it is no secret that Survivor is shooting in Samoa soon. You can learn more at this site.

All of us who live here are having a hard time imagining where they could shoot a show that claims to isolate people from the world. No where in Samoa is really that far away from anything, they are tiny islands. Also rumor has it they are shooting near Aggie Grey's Resort. Sounds like these cast members will have a real rough time. Sounds like being in Survivor is like being in the Peace Corps, but nicer.

Anyway, I promised to provide you with a horrifying fact. Survivor has something they call the Dream Team. These are body doubles for the people on the show. If someone on the show is ever too sick or something to compete in one of the challenges, they have the body double step in and do the competition for them. Now, I never considered reality TV to be that real, but stunt doubles? Isn't that totally contrary to the point of the show?

Anyway, thought  I would share.

— Sara

Friday, April 24, 2009

Skimpy School Year

The Samoan school year is very short. I am not sure if there is an official requirement for the number of teaching days a school must have. I know that in Indiana it was 180 or so. My school calendar calls for 127 teaching days for senior students. This does not include the mid-year exam week or the final exam week or the three weeks of school that come after the final exams and are used for revisions before the national and international exams. If I include those it is 152.

So even optimistically, the Samoan school year has about 30 less school days than the one in Indiana and about 20 of those are not teaching days anyway.

Over, you should never get your hopes up. So far this year we didn't have school on the first day, it was cleaning day (which was better than last year's cleaning week). However, the rest of the first week was half days so that cleaning could be done after schools. We cancelled class for house sports day and we shortened classes for three weeks for preparation for Easter. The week before Easter we had only one, half-day of classes. The other days were Easter practise or the Easter Spectacular. Every Wednesday and Thursday we have shortened periods due to sports. If we do not have shortened periods on Fridays, then half of my students are missing because they went to a sporting event. The week before our term break, we will have no classes. Instead we will have two days of Culture and Sports. We will also shorten classes the week beforehand to practise for Culture and Sports. 

Those are official canceling. We also have unofficial canceling of classes. Birthday teas, faamavae, the Tongan rugby team is using our field. These are all reasons to cancel most if not all of the classes in a day.

It is a wonder we are able to teach the students even half of the required material on the prescriptions. That is why by the end of the second term all teachers are having Saturday classes and classes over school holidays and term breaks. Just to try to pack all the learning in that doesn't fit into the school year.

— Sara

Now, You Have No Excuse

No excuses
If you can purchase this the other way around, you have no excuse not to come visit us. That is $688 USD (plus Samoan taxes = $825 USD round trip).

— Sara

PS I don't suppose there is any way for my parents, who have already purchased their tickets, to get a refund?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Remember the Animaniacs?

We Cale and I were just the other day. We even remember most of the song. We taper off after "Slappy slaps them with her purse."

Anyway, if you happen to have the shows and wanted to send them our way, that would be cool.

— Sara

Oh, I Am Sorry. I Didn't See You There.

We took a taxi home from Craig and Allison's last night. We had the taxi driver drop us off at the gates to my school. As he pulled into the drive, his headlights illuminated a group of ten to fifteen men lying in front of the gate of the school. I believe they were sleeping there. Cale believes they were simply hanging out (hanging out by lying on the ground). Either way, it was really weird.

— Sara

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Should Not Be Allowed Outside My Classroom

I have this on going problem where one of the fuses or circuits or something in my classroom is blowing. It is not blowing in such as way that I can fix it. When I look at the fuse box, everything looks ok. The electricians from Cale's school have to come over to fix it. 
When it is blown, I have no air-conditioning (in a sealed room, so I cannot open the windows) and half the computers don't work. This happened during 5th period today, half-way through my 13.1 class. I managed to just shuffle students around to working computers and finish the class as the room slowly warmed up.

However, 6th period was 13.2 and they were supposed to be working on a project that was saved to their assigned computer...half of which were not working. So, we are unable to do what we need to do and the room is slowly turning into an oven. Sounds like a great time to go outside and play.

After the students attempted to organize a race failed (why they want to run in the sun, I don't know...oh wait, they didn't). I had a bright idea. Red Rover. Two teams of five and I sent the kids running across the field at each other. At least until on girl managed to not break through the line in an extravagant fashion that involved landing face first into the opposing team's hands. She looked like it seriously hurt and she managed to put her teeth into her inside upper lip and was bleeding. I ran home and got her some ice to put inside her lip. I also put an end to Red Rover.

By the time I got back with the ice all four of the boys in my class had disappeared. The girl students wanted me to tell them a story, which I found strange and hard to do. If they were little kids, I could have thought of some nursery rhyme or legend or fairy tale or something. But what story exactly am I supposed to tell a group of 18-year-old girls.

Somehow we ended up talking about why I didn't have any children. I said I wasn't really that interested in having them right now or ever, we'll see. 

"But children are a gift from God. Don't you want God's gift?"

"Not really."

"Don't you believe in God?"

Oh crap. Religion is not the conversation I want to be having right now. Thankfully the conversation veered away from me and on to another PC volunteer. One of my students had been at his school last year and she claimed that he did not believe in God. I know for a fact that isn't true and I was explaining that he is Jewish, so he just doesn't believe in your God.

So today I managed to organize a game that gave a student a bloody lip and give my students the impression I am a child-hating heathen. Whoo Hoo.

— Sara

New Alarm Clocks

So the rugby team is staying next door until the term break. So that is another three weeks. They aren't so bad at night. They are pretty quiet after 10pm. However, they wake up around 4 in the morning and the guitar playing starts around 5 am. To add to that, they started weed whacking the lawn this morning at 6 am. I was up, but Cale was hoping to scratch out another half hour of sleep.

— Sara

Name This Plant: Opo Squash?

Name this Plant

We have two votes on this being an opo squash, but do we all agree? Wikipedia has no separate entry for opo squash. When searching for it, you are directed to the Calabash. Many of the images of the calabash look nothing like this, but at least one does.

You might be excited to learn that "the calabash was one of the first cultivated plants in the world grown not for food but as a container."

This squash also helped me learn once again just how small a world it is. One of our esteemed plant namers is cousin to RPCV Amanda's husband Lafi. 

— Sara

Friday, April 17, 2009

One of these Men is French

Cale is reading a book on the Panama Canal. He turns to me, shows me a page and says, "One of these men is French."

One of these is French

— Sara

Foot Fetish

Shower shoes

The official shoe of Samoa is the flipflop. The jandal if you will. If you are not wearing a flipflop, more often than not, you are barefoot. Under these circumstances, one would think that I would have become used to having slightly soiled feet  most of the time. And my feet are indeed often dirty. 

However, since moving to Samoa, I have become increasingly OCD about my feet. I don't worry to much if they are dirty. What gets me is when they are, for lack of a better word, dusty. I can no longer stand to stand. When I am walking around and there are crumbs or dust or other forms of feelable dirt on the floor, I know. Oh, do I know. It is very common for me to suddenly stop doing whatever it is I am doing in the kitchen and walk into the living room so I can wipe my feet on the "rug." (I have put rug in quote marks because it is not a rug, it is woven plastic, hard to explain).

At times, I can no longer stand to let my feet touch the floor. This is when I seek out Cale's flipflops and tramp around the house in them. I usually leave them somewhere unexpected and Cale is perpetually asking me what I have done with his shoes.

This foot OCD has branched out from simply hating the floor. I also cannot stand on the shower floor. I have chosen to stand on what you see in the the above pictures, obviously moldy shoes. I, for reasons I cannot comprehend, would rather put my feet on these visibly gross flipflops than on the tiled shower floor, which I mop once a week and scrub once every other week (and once a week, I mean every time I think about it and by once every other week, I mean once every other time I think about it...the point I am trying to make is the floor has got to be cleaner than these shoes.)

I am not sure why I have suddenly become so weird about my feet, but it is very unfortunate to live in Samoa and be anal retentive about not walking on dirty floors. All the floors are dirty, all the time.

— Sara

Name This Plant

Name this Plant

We are entering new territory with name this plant, as I do not actually know the name of this plant myself. We can all learn together.

From Summer Camp to a Slumber Party

Boys' Rugby

For reasons that have never been adequately (or ever) explained to me, the entire boys' rugby team has moved in with our next door neighbor. They have all been sleeping in the fale behind the palagi house since Sunday.

For a group of twenty or so 18-year-old boys, they have been surprisingly quiet and well-behaved. Well, they have been...

Last night the the summer camp atmosphere turned into a slumber party, with the entire group up into the night giggling and playing guitar. This morning they were up with the 4 am Friday bell (oh, how I hate the 4 am Friday bell) and the giggling and talking and guitar playing started up again. It was a little irritating.

As I speak someone is in the plantation behind our house whacking things with a machete. As I speak, the entire rugby team is in the plantation behind our house ripping up all the plants and felling banana and papaya trees. This is not a morning for sleeping in. This is not a morning for even sleeping until the alarm goes off. This is a morning for being up since 4 am.


— Sara

PS Full disclosure, that is not a picture of the rugby team sleeping next door. Those are members of one of the junior rugby squads. Next door I have the members of the 1st Fifteens, which I am not 100% sure what that means. I just know that they are the senior squad with the best players. I chose the picture because I thought it had a summer camp or slumber party feel.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Wesley Easter Spectacular

Have you crucified a Christ today? My school crucified four (possibly five or six) on Thursday.

Thursday was Wesley's Easter Spectacular. Classes were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday for practise and had been shortened to 40 minutes for the previous three weeks to give the houses time to prepare for the show.

The school is divided into four houses (each named after a legendary Samoan woman apparently, I will get more details on this soon). The houses competed against each other in four categories: drama, choral singing, songs with movements, and singing and dancing.

All four houses chose to do a dramatic presentation on the crucifixion and resurrection, so we got to watch Jesus be beaten several times. There were at least four Jesusi (I am not sure how to plural Jesus). One house seems to have had multiple Jesuses (maybe this way it the right plural) and we had a separate Jesus crucified at the end when it was all over.

Wesley Easter Spectacular
Events of note. There was a strange interpretive dance routine that involved someone in a black rain poncho. I believe that was the devil. There were dancers wearing one glove with the fingers cut out. However, with gloves hard to come by in Samoa, they were latex gloves. Half way through the show it started to storm so badly that half of the audience got up and moved to the other side of the fale to avoid the water. You can see Jesus below waiting out of the rain for his cue.

Wesley Easter Spectacular

I hope your Easter was just as surreal as mine.

Wesley Easter Spectacular

— Sara

Tetris Life-Lessons

You just got to play the brick you got.

— Sara

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stuck in the Middle

Cruise Ship in the Harbor

To be honest, the impetus for this post is that I like this picture and I wanted to put it up on the blog.

As you can see, there was a cruise ship docked in the marina the other day. Cruise ships bring palagi (foreigners). Palagi bring my feelings of superiority.

To be honest, I don't like it when there are lots of other white people running around town. I don't want to be confused with them and looked at as a thoughtless tourist. They wear unseemly short skirts (or in the case of a recent busload of tourists at Farmer Joe's, bathing suits!) in public, they have silly hats, they drop ungodly amounts of money on things that should be cheap and in general bumble around.

Living here for more than a year doesn't necessarily make me better than these tourists in anyway, but I don't want to be confused with them. I guess I feel like I have gained all this Samoan insight that makes me cooler in someway...or should at least afford me the local price on taxi fares and not the jacked up price the tourists get charged.

On the other hand, it only takes a simple compliment of my tattoo for me to come crashing back to earth. I have no idea what the symbols on my tattoo mean. The women at our internet provider were commenting on my tattoo the other day. They talked about how they can tell the difference between the father and son's work. How my tattoo doesn't contain any of the fish design typically found in the elder Sulu'ape's work. 

What do I know about Samoan culture? I cannot even speak the language poorly anymore. Yet here I am wandering around with this tattoo on my arm. At times I feel like a complete poser.

Living in a village with a family for two months (well, five weeks, actually) and living in Samoa for more than a year, has provided me some insight into the country that those palagi off the boat don't have. However, I shouldn't go around looking down my nose at them. For someone who was born and raised in Samoa and calls this country their home, my short stay is only slightly longer than the tourists quick day excursion.

— Sara

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

On Tuesday my Year 12 students sat the first of four CATs (Common Assessment Tasks). These are practical tests written by MESC (Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture) that are supposed to assess the students on a particular computer skill. This first one was file management. 

I prepared my students with several days of practise of the previous three years' CATs. These previous three CATs have been basically identical, but they all have their little quirks that make it tricky for the students. Despite the quirks, most of my students seemed to have all the concepts the CAT tested down: making folders, making sub-folders, saving files into the correct folder, copying files, moving files and renaming files. My 12.1 students were kicking ass and taking names and my 12.3/12.4 students were doing well too.

The day of the CAT we planned to start sitting the CAT during 2nd period, which was the normally scheduled time for 12.1 computers. We would follow with 12.2 and 12.3/12.4. However, 2nd period started and we had not received the CAT from MESC yet. Granted, the CAT was supposed to be delivered before 9 am and 2nd period began at 8:50 am (since all classes had been shortened to 40 minutes for Easter practise for the previous two weeks).

The CAT arrived about 20 minutes later and after reading it over quickly, I took it downstairs and had my 12.1 kids get started. Once again, the CAT covered the same topics. There were only two problems that I could see from watching my 12.1 kids sitting the CAT. This CAT told the students to create folders "under" other folders. In all the previous CATs and in all my classes the students were told to put folders inside other folders or to create sub-folders. Some students were confused by the word "under," which is an unusual word to describe where to put a sub-folder, and literally created the new folder underneath the first folder on the desktop. The other problem was that it asked the students to "replace" CAT5 with Major_Project. What it wanted them to do was delete the words CAT5 in a file and type in the words Major_Project instead. But I saw several students struggling with the find & replace option.

Overall, 13 of my 30 students got 15 out of 15 marks on the CAT. Well, I gave them 15 out of 15 marks based on the marking criteria. However, I have to send my marks and my students' work into MESC who will moderate. 

The next day I met with another Peace Corps volunteer in town. He taught Year 12 last year and had experience with these CATs in the past. According to him, last year his students were given lower moderated marks than the ones he gave them. He said the only reason he could think that the students were marked down was because they had not spelled everything correctly or made all the capital letters the same.

Now I am concerned. Though I emphasized to my students they should name their folders exactly what they saw on the CAT task sheet when we did the practise, I didn't think that it was that big of a deal. Some of my students named the "Computing" folder "Computering." Some of my students typed "Major Project" instead of "Major_Project." I did not count off for any of these typos because the Marking Sheet does not indicate that you should mark out off for misspellings. However, now I am concerned that my students will be penalized for these mistakes.

All I can do is turn in the marks and wait to see what happens.

— Sara

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Product Endorsement of the Week: Jolly Pineapple

Product of the Week: Jolly Pineapple

Sick of eating food? Looking for something a little...unnatural? Well, do I have the product for you. Guaranteed not to contain anything from nature, Jolly Pineapple is the beverage of choice for the eco-friendly eater. Never kill another animal or plant in your quest of sustenance. 

Product of the Week: Jolly Pineapple

Jolly Pineapple. Brought to you by science.

— Sara

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

She's Growing on Me

A. is a tiny Year 9 student at my school. When she first started, it was announced in the the teachers' meeting that she could not participate in sports. Something due to her heart.

Apparently, her heart condition keeps her from participating in a lot more than sports. Every morning for 15 minutes, the entire student body assembles in the school hall for praying and singing and announcements. Everyone except A. Until about a month ago, A. was sitting in her form room all alone every morning. The day she poked her head into the computer lab and found me preparing for class she told me it was because she couldn't do all the standing up and sitting down they do at assembly or walk all the way over to the hall.

Since that day, she comes into the computer lab most mornings I am in there. To be honest, I found her a little annoying. She was constantly asking questions like whether or not I ate anything at tea yesterday and she managed to find a way to use four or five different computers in the course of that 15 minutes, switching from one to another.

Two weeks ago we started house practises (eek. i spell everything the kiwi way now) for the school Easter Spectacular. Classes were shortened to 40 minutes and the last hour of the school day was devoted to practise. Everyone, except A. Apparently, whatever it is that prevents her from playing sports or going to the assemblies also prevents her from sitting and singing or even sitting and watching other people sing. Instead, she comes and finds me in the computer lab.

Until recently, I mainly ignored her. I would go about my work and would let her play on a computer. I think it was because if I responded to her too much she would ask strange questions incessantly while I was trying to get work done. That was probably not very cool of me. Recently, I realized I was missing a golden opportunity. Instead of just letting this girl sit there and play typing games, I could be showing her how to use a computer. Especially, since I know that cannot possibly be happening in her once a week computer class of over 40 students.

Two days ago we started a project. She is using Word to write about her self. I showed her how to change fonts and sizes and colors and we are working on inserting clipart.

Yesterday this is what she wrote:

"My name is A. I am 14 years of age. My parents names are L. and K. My life is short because I am sick."

That caught me attention.

"What do you mean your life is short."

"I'm going to die."

"Well, we're all going to die. But you don't know when you are going to die. No one knows that."

"I am cancer and my heart." Then she made the finger across the throat gesture, which was pretty disconcerting.

"A. just because you have cancer, it doesn't mean you are going to die. Lots of people live long lives with cancer."

She was having none of it. And granted, I don't know any details about her illness or what she has been told. But I couldn't sit there and let this little girl tell me that she was gonna die soon. So I found Lance Armstrong in the SOS Wikipedia and I showed her the article on him.

"Look. He had cancer and not only is he still alive, but he also won seven Tour de France." which I explained was a famous bike race.

I am not sure if it did any good, but she seemed pretty interested and she read a bit of the article on him and his illness.

Pretty heavy stuff. Wonder if I handled it right.

— Sara

Monday, April 6, 2009

Good TV

Cale and I just finished watching the fourth season of The Wire. It is the best television I have seen in a long time. Granted, that doesn't sound like such a great compliment when you know that before we got all the seasons of The Wire from Matt, we were watching Stargate.  In comparison, just about anything would be the best television I have seen in a long time. However, the fourth season of The Wire really is amazing television. I recommend it to anyone (anyone who isn't offended by the sorts of things they can run on HBO that is). At the rate we are going we will be done with Season 5 by the end of this week and then we will have watched all five seasons of The Wire in about a month. I suppose when we are finished with that we will have to go back to Stargate. My heart hurts just thinking about it.

— Sara

Saturday, April 4, 2009

See. I Told You We Were Fine.

Unless this storm decides to turn around, all we will see is rain from it.

— Sara

PS In case you don't know, the island marked Apia is me (Apia is the capital of Samoa)

PPS Oh and today is day six of rain

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Just Something

Some how several of my students have gotten their hands on a video file of horrible sporting accidents. There are divers landing face first on the diving board, gymnasts falling off the high bars and high jumpers ramming poles into their delicate bits. One particularly popular one is a cyclist who falls off his bike in a race and then a spectator jumps the dividers to beat him up.

This video file is being passed from flash drive to flash drive around my room and installed on computer after computer. During any given after school open lab, I will have two or three competing computers showing this video. I will also have upwards of five competing musics blaring from different machines. Add in the sound affects to the TuxPaint or Typer Shark game and things start to get a little noisy.

— Sara

Name This Plant: Soursop

Once again a smart RPCV was able to name this fruit the soursop.

Name This Plant: Five

According to Wikipedia, comparisons of the soursop's flavour range from strawberry and pineapple mixed together to sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy roundness of flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana. The fruit is somewhat difficult to eat, as the white interior pulp is studded with many large seeds, and pockets of soft flesh are bounded by fibrous membranes. The soursop is therefore usually juiced rather than eaten directly.

Let me just speak for a moment on the soursops "difficult" interior. If be difficult they mean gross, then they are right on. It is hard to describe how the soursop is both gelatinous and fibrous inside, but it is. Too bad I cannot put it in my mouth, because the flavor is really good.

Here is the inside thanks to Wikipedia again.

— Sara

Name this Plant

Name This Plant: Five

— Sara

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On the Weather

“So, have we given up on the laundry?”

“It won’t dry.”

“I’ve given up on it too.”

“It can’t dry if it won’t stop raining.”

“I’ve turned off the fan, it’s so cold.”

“That means you’ll have to kick start it later.”

— Sara

The Ambiguously Married Duo

The Samoan language is sans gender-specific pronouns. This has frequent spillovers when Samoans speak English. Even Samoans with impeccable English skills will refer to men as she or her and to women as he or his.

I had grown accustomed to this in conversations, though it means I am still sometimes confused about just who it is we are speaking about. Especially because Samoans rarely refer to others by name or introduce people by name, so I often don’t know who people are to start with.

Lately though I have been getting a lot of questions about my wife, which is sort of disconcerting. The Samoan language also has only one word that means spouse (toalua, which actually translates to "two people" [toa designates people and luameans two]). At first I would correct people, asking, “Do you mean my husband?” and they would immediately agree, “Yes, your husband.” However, I have stopped that because I realized I am doing something myself, that I have been complaining about since I got here. I am failing to make the helpful leap in the conversation that I obviously could be making. If I know enough to ask if they mean my husband, I should just accept that is what they mean and move on with the conversation.

I have frequently complained that people here are not sympathetic listeners to non-native speakers. Granted, mispronouncing a Samoan word means that you have actually said a completely different word, but I still feel like context could allow the listener to guess that you actually meant to say the words that is spelled exactly the same but pronounced slightly differently. However, that rarely happens. Mispronouncing Samoan words in a conversation leads the Samoan your talking to be completely baffled about what you could possibly be saying. “You went to the faleā’iga? What is this?”
Faleā’iga [fah-lay-ah-eeng-ah] is not a real Samoan word, but would translate to "family house," but fale’aiga [fah-lay-eyeng-ah] is a real Samoan word that means restaurant.

I think the biggest trouble is place names. I am not familiar enough with the local geography to know if there are many villages with names incredibly similar to the name of the village I am currently trying to say, but when I mispronounce it, no one knows what village I am talking about.

In my mind it is like meeting a person with a strong mid-western accent who says shee-cay-go instead of shih-cah-go for Chicago. I can still make that leap with the speaker and think, "Oh, this person is talking about Chicago." But I get the impression here, when I mispronounce a village name, the person I am speaking to is thinking, "What place could this palagi be talking about?"

It is possible I am just hypersensitive to these things, since I mispronounce just about everything all the time, especially the name of our training village, which apparently is a dirty word when said wrong.

— Sara