Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Kiwis and Americans Use Different Sizes, But This is Ridiculous

I would like to draw attention to a listing on the sidebar. I have indicated that I would like tank tops. I am not pointing this out to try to get you to send them to me. I am pointing it out so you can make note of the size. I wear an XS in American sizes.

After the training weight-loss, I knew I was no longer an American size 7 in pants, but I wasn't really sure what size I was. We were in Auckland in August and I bought a pair of jeans. They were Kiwi size 7. A quick internet search led me to believe that this is American size 5. However, I was gifted several pairs of shorts from Target for Christmas in American size 5 and most of them are too large. I am most likely an American size 4 now.

Where am I going with all this, you might be asking? Don't worry, I am getting there, it is just the scenic route.

Thursday we were told there was no school on Friday for a sports day. We had track and field events all day on Friday. I was one of the official timers. I stood by the finish line with a stop watch. It was very exciting. Aside from all the students who kept collapsing from heat stroke meets dehydration, it was a fun day. In the future, I am going to recommend that instead of having students bring cups of water out to the teachers who are just standing around doing nothing, instead we have large containers of water at the finish line for all the students that just ran around the track in the hot sun with no water or food in their systems and are now lying limp on the ground or flopping around limply as they are "helped" (dragged) to the shade. Just a thought.

Anywho. Cale and I left right after the high jump. Apparently, after the high jump some sort of announcement was made about the Independence Day celebrations on Monday. I don't know what was said. I wasn't there.

Later, Cale and I were in town when a teacher at my school flagged me down from her car. There is a uniform for Independence Day, she has the fabric. The school is paying for the fabric since the uniform was announced on such short notice. I can sew my own puletasi for Monday, but she is sewing all the puletasi for the ladies anyway, so she will just do mine for me. She will come by my house tonight to measure me.


She didn't come by.

Saturday she calls to say that she has daughters and she can tell what size I am just by looking and that she will bring the puletasi by later today. So Saturday evening she and the school secretary come by and ask my to try on the puletasi.

The wrap around skirt wraps around me twice. The top falls off my shoulders and exposes my back all the way to below my sports bra. It is generally agreed that this puletasi might be a little too big for me.

Remember earlier when I mentioned the sizes I wear? Well listen closely now.

The school secretary says, "Oh, that is the problem. She is not a 14, she is a 12."

A 12! A size 12!

I ask, "In Kiwi sizes?"


"Um...I wear a size 7 in Kiwi pants."

I get a look like I had just spoken in Greek. I am not sure if size 7 exists here. At least not for grown women.

Anyway, they leave with the too large puletasi and one of my existing puletasi that fits me and promise to come back on Sunday.

Before they leave I am told I owe $50 to the seamstress for sewing the puletasi and I have to pay it now. I explain we have no money in the house and scrounge up $20 in two tala bills as a "down payment."

— Sara

Six Years Ago Today

Five Years Ago Today

Well, it went and happened again. Cale and I have been married for six years today. That's a really long time.

Plans for the day include a bike into town, doing the laundry and making Mexican food. Not too exciting. We will probably end up watch an ungodly number of West Wing episodes while lying in the bed.

— Sara

Barb & Tom Were Here: Day Five

Umu smoke over Apia on Sunday

Sunday was a chill day. Sort of.

We started out waking up extremely early. The plan was to pick up John and go to the fish market with him. Unfortunately, John called to say he was feeling under the weather. So we went to the fish market without him. Mom and Dad got to see all the exciting undersea creatures for sale. Squids and eels and muscles and clams and whatnot. Cale bought two nice pieces of yellow fin tuna for a ridiculously low price when converted to USD.

Afterwards, we went back home so Cale could cut up the fish and put it in the freezer. He saved out some nice pieces for sashimi for lunch (which mom and dad did not try) and stir-fry for dinner.

We were still early, so we rested around the house for a little while and then headed back into down to return the rental car. We walked from the rental place to church at the Catholic Cathedral in Apia. It as just occurred to me that I do not know the name of the cathedral. I bet the internets knows. Let me check. Apparently it is just called the Mulivai Catholic Cathedral. Mulivai being the village it is located in.

After church we went home and spent the rest of the day veging out.

— Sara

Friday, May 29, 2009

Barb & Tom Were Here: Day Four...Again

Papase'ea Sliding Rocks

Saturday we slept in. I think that means Dad didn't get up until 6:30 am. I took mom and dad over to see my school, though everything was locked up, while Cale waited for Marco and Maria Ines, who were dropping of a basket of fruit for us.

Around noon or so we headed out to the Robert Louis Stevenson House/Museum. As you may know Robert Louie, as we like to call him, wrote Treasure Island (and some other stuff). He lived in Samoa for four years and died here. Apparently, ole Rob had poor health (of an unspecified nature) and he traveled to the South Pacific to find a climate better suited to his mystery illness. While in Hawai'i, the king recommended Samoa. So Rob came here with is mother, wife and his wife's two kids. The rest of the family left Samoa not long after his death. He is buried at the top of the hill by his house in Vailima. It was raining when we went to the museum, so we didn't make the hike to the tomb.

Fun fact, Rob apparently introduced pineapples to Samoa (bringing them with him from Hawaii).

Afterwards we went home for lunch.

Then we headed back out to the Papase'ea Sliding Rocks. The rocks are a natural formation in a riverbed just outside of Apia. The water as worn the rocks into smooth, slippery troughs. They make excellent water slides. It is possible that we didn't explore the area entirely because internet descriptions refer to a 16-foot waterfall you can slide down. I didn't see anything I could safely slide down that was that tall, but we did slide down some slightly smaller waterfalls. There is one small slide that empties into a small naturally created pool, like a deep, round bathtub. From that one you climb out the other side and are looking down a much longer drop into a larger, deeper pool. This is the one that looks treacherous from the top. I had to work up a lot of guts before I was willing to slide down. Once you are at the bottom looking up though, you can see it isn't that long, or that treacherous.

On my first trip down, I didn't hold my nose. Bad idea. I ended up with a brain full of river water in my sinuses. After climbing out, I managed to loose my balance while I was standing up coughing out the river and fall flat on my back. Completely threw myself out of alignment and mom was fixing me most days for the rest of the trip.

I completely recommend the Sliding Rocks, they are more than worth the $2 tala entry fee.

After the rocks, we went home and hung out for the rest of the night.


Bye Bye

Bye Bye Shane

I am late in wishing a fond farewell to Jacob and Shane who left us on Monday night.

Bye Bye Jacob

Jacob is on his way of China for an extended year of Peace Corps service.

Shane is on his way home to have is troublesome toe removed, well, not really.

— Sara

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Barb & Tom Were Here: Day Three...Again

Friday started out overcast, which had me all worried. We were planning on renting a car that day and driving around the island to see the sights. However, it is hard to see the sights if they are shrouded in clouds. In particular I wanted my parents to see the Mafa Pass, which I think is an amazing view, but which is invisible when there are clouds on the mountain.

We decided we would rent the car and go see the host family first. They do not live in our training village anymore, instead they live near Apia. If the rain persisted after that we would do indoor things that day before going to Lalotalie, where we had the waterfall hike scheduled.

The visit with the host family was a little awkward because it was actually just a visit with the host mom. I hadn't even thought about it, but all the kids were at school or at work or in New Zealand (the oldest daughter and her three kids and husband had just moved to New Zealand). So Mom and Dad only got to meet our host mom. It was more like a presenting of gifts. My parents brought toys for all the kids and sewing patterns and fabric for the host mom and a t-shirt and hat for the host dad.

The Mafa Pass

When we left the clouds had started to burn off in places and we figured it was safe to head across the island via the Mafa Pass. So over the mountain we went, stopping to take pictures along the way. We also encountered several tour busses full of palagi. There was a new cruise ship in the harbor that morning.

We went down around the southeast tip of the island. Initially we stopped at Lalomanu. We thought we would hop out of the car and sit on the beach to eat the lunch we had packed with us. Not so much. The people at Lalomanu wanted $30 tala (I didn't determine if it was per person, but prices usually are at beach fale here) for us to just sit on the beach and eat. We weren't having any of that, so we continued on to FaoFao. We made our peanut butter (and in some instances, jelly) sandwiches and sat on the beach for a while. Unfortunately, there rain following us and we had to move out before we got all wet.

To Sua Sea Trench

Next we stopped at the To Sua Trench. According to the Samoa Tourism web site, to sua translates to big hole, which I actually don't believe. According to my dictionary, to [toe] can mean sink or subside of the ground or earth and sua [sue-ah] means contain water or a substance in the ground full of water. These sound pretty appropriate for a big hole in the ground full of water. The tourism web site also says that the water is 30 meters deep. I am assuming that is the hole itself, because I could see the bottom of the water and it didn't look 30 meters.

To Sua Sea Trench

Unfortunately, in typical Samoan tourism attraction fashion, there is no information at the site. Or as far as I can tell, anywhere else. So I don't really know how the trench was formed or how long it has been there or if it is has a history. There is a ladder and you can climb down to the water and swim if you want. Mom was brave enough to make the journey down, but I took one look from the top of the ladder and knew there was no way I was making it down there.

To Sua Sea Trench

If the only thing at the site had been the trench, I would have been a little disappointed over paying the $10 tala entry fee. However, there was also a short hike that led to a lava rock coastline we could scrabble over and some blow holes. They were pretty weak blow holes compared to the ones on Savaii, but blow holes none the less. Thankfully it was overcast and misting a little while we were out on the lava. Had the sun been out that day we would have been cooked on those black rocks.

We we were finished we all piled back in the car to head to the Togitogiga Waterfall. At some point we ended up behind the world's slowest tour bus that insisted in driving in the middle of the road, a road that is barely wide enough for two cars as it is and a road that curves frequently, so there was no way to pass. It is possible we were all so focused on the slow tour bus and trying to pass it that we missed out turn. All I know is that we started to move farther and farther away from the coast and get higher and higher up in the mountains. Finally, I tapped Cale on the shoulder, "I think we are back on the Mafa Pass." And, in fact, we were. Some how we had failed to continue straight along the pass and had turned right and headed back up the island. We were on our way back to Apia! We had gone so far we decided to just go back to Apia and head to Lalotalie via the Cross Island Road instead.

Once we were back in Apia, mom declared that there was some reason we had taken the wrong route and that we were meant to be back in Apia. Boy was she ever right.

Olson called from Lalotalie to say that it had been raining for three days and the river was over its banks. If it stopped raining soon and didn't rain for the rest of the day or night, we could probably still do the waterfall hike the next morning. However, if it continued to rain, there was no way to do the hike. We discussed it and decided not to risk it. But now we were in a tricky situation. Hanna was supposed to take a bus to Lalotalie after work to meet us there and go on the hike with us the next morning. We tried desperately to call her and could not reach her. Thankfully, when we drove over to her house, we found her on her way to the bus stop. 

Instead Hanna piled into the car with us and we went to the Bahai Temple. At this point, I was so beat that I stayed in the back of the car, sleeping. It started to rain on them when they were at the temple and mom, dad, cale and hanna all piled into the car all wet.

Dinner with Hanna

Next it was an impromptu massive shopping trip where Cale stocked up on food for seven meals without any preparation. Usually, he likes to plan the menu ahead of time and make a grocery list. Then we all went back to our place where Cale made pasta puttanesca and we made plans to go to the Papaseea Sliding Rocks with Hanna the next day.

— Sara

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barb & Tom Were Here: Day Two...Again

Piula Cave Pools

Thursday Cale's pule, Pasili, picked us up and took us to the Piula Cave Pools.

Pasili came over with is wife and their four-year-old son. His plan was for my parents to join them up front in the extended cab of the truck and for Cale and I to ride in the bed of the truck. This is a perfectly normal form of transportation in Samoa. Unfortunately, Peace Corps rules forbid us from riding in the beds of trucks unless there are seats with seat belts. 

So instead Pasili and his son sat in the back and we stopped and switched to a taxi van run by the family on the way to the pools.

Also on the way there we passed a HUGE cruise ship in the harbor. I have never seen a cruise ship this large in person. It seemed to dwarf all of Apia and explained all the palagi we had seen walking around town.

The pools are located at the Piula Theological College which is where Pasili went to school to become a Methodist minister. In fact, it is where all the men in our village went to school, since they are all Methodist ministers.

The cruise ship had been sending her passengers out by the busload on tours and several of those buses were at the cave pools, so it was actually surprisingly busy. Thankfully, one busload was leaving as we arrived, but there were still quite a few people there. And you will never guess who we saw. JIM! I don't think he noticed us and he wasn't there for very long, so I don't have an new details on Jim to share (sorry Patty).

We stayed at the pools for several hours. The water is incredibly clear and cool and you can see fish swimming around inside. The water in the pool is freshwater, but is is some how affected by the ocean tides because the pool has a high and low tide. We were there during high tide. The cave pools is actually part of an underground water system that has two openings near each other. The main pool is in the larger opening and is great for swimming. Just around the corner from this pool there is another pool that had a low water level even though it was high tide. These two pools are connected inside the cave underwater and you can swim between the two. Apparently, it is only a short distance that the cave ceiling is underwater, but no one was brave enough to test it while I was there.

According to Pasili many years ago, when the college was first started the ministers used the caves as storage for cold foods. During low tide they could reach caves farther back and under ground. These caves were cool year-round and they would hang meat and what not up in the cave above the level of high tide.

Pasili's wife brought peanuts and Samoan oranges (they look like limes until you open them up) for us all to share and then we headed back to town. We had a late lunch/early dinner at Seafood Gourmet. Dad discovered that when you order a burger here you have to specify beef, chicken or fish. Burger on the menu is Samoa is indicating that it will be on a burger bun and come with stuff like lettuce and tomato and what not. It does not mean that it will be a hamburger. It is up to you what meat you put on the burger.

Dinner at Giordano's

After the pools we all crashed. However, after much texting back and forth, it was decided we would meet Matt and his parents at Giordano's for a late dinner that night. Matt's parents had arrived on Friday before my parents, which was actually two days late. They were supposed to arrive on Wednesday, but a late flight made them miss their connection and they ended up in New Zealand for a day before making it to Samoa. Matt's mom, Patty, brought me some Tazo Chai tea because she is pretty awesome.

— Sara

Terminator Salvation

is a terrible, terrible movie.

— Sara

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Barb & Tom Were Here: Day One...Again

Aggie Grey's Culture Show

So about those details I promised.

As I mentioned before, Mom and Dad arrived early in the morning Wednesday. Cale and I remembered how we felt when we landed in Samoa — exhausted — so the only solid thing we had planned for Wednesday was napping. They were real troopers, returning the rental car, walking around Apia, breakfasting at McDonalds, but in the end we all had a nice nap.

That evening we all went to the Culture Show and Buffet at Aggie Grey's Hotel in downtown Apia (not the resort that Survivor has booked out for the month of June on). In the past Cale and I have gone to the show at Laumea Faiaga and that is where we took Annette when she was visiting. However, Aggie's show fit better into the timetable of my parents stay, so I thought we would check it out.

We arrived at the hotel maybe an hour or so early, so we sat at a table by the pool and chatted over the sounds of an extremely loud American at a nearby table. Usually the palagi around have Aussie of Kiwi or even European accents. It is rare to hear an American accent from a stranger in Samoa, so they always stand out to me. This guy also stood out because he was so damn loud.

During our wait we also met Jim.

As we were sitting there a man walked by wearing a large name tag that proclaimed him to be "JIM." I was in the process of fighting the urge to say, "Hi Jim," just because the name tag made it possible, when he wandered over uninvited and began a lengthy conversation... ultimately with only my mom.

Jim is originally from England, but he has lived in New Zealand for over 20 years. He and his wife live on the South Island and have a business hosting weddings in the garden at their home. They didn't start out in this business, it just sort of happened that their garden was so nice that people started asking to be married in it. The wedding season is pretty much wrapped up in New Zealand, but their son is at home handling the last wedding while they are on vacation here in Samoa. 

Oh...I am sorry. Do you already know more about Jim then you ever wanted to know?

Right now, my mom is reading this blog entry and saying, "Sara!" in that exasperated tone of voice she uses for these sorts of situations. You see, mom is incredibly friendly. She claims this is a wonderful trait bestowed on her because she is from Pennsylvania where everyone is friendly. Unfortunately, she raised her kids in Indiana where everyone is apparently too reserved and has a fear of strangers. The end result is that mom is always making friends while my sisters, father and I are always waiting impatiently for these weird friendly people to go away so we can make fun of them for being so friendly.

Anyway, Jim eventually left and the Culture show began.

The show at Aggie's was good, if the stage area is a little too small and the fire dancing requires the audience to move out to the pool area. The show also included many elements that were Polynesian, but not Samoan (from my understanding). I think Mom and Dad really enjoyed it and that is the important part. However, I prefer the show at Laumea Faiaga of the two. You get to eat while watching the show (at Aggies, the food happened after the show), the show is longer, includes more elements of Samoan culture and has a much larger stage area.

Aggie Grey's can be forgiven for their shortcomings for two reasons: turkey and ham. That is right, on the dinner buffet there was real turkey and real ham and it was really delicious. Mom and Dad also got to try some palusami and taro (apparently the official Samoan food to put on buffets for palagi), which mom thought was pretty good. Cale and I noted the palagi food on the buffet for the palagi and the Chinese food on the buffet for the Samoans.

By the time the dinner was over, we were all exhausted, so we went home with sleep on the mind. Unfortunately, the rugby team still lives next door and at about 11 pm I went over to ask if they could keep it down since my parents had just arrived and were trying to sleep. I discovered the next morning that they had actually slept through the rugby team unawares.

Anywho, tune in next time for the Piula Cave Pools.

— Sara

Barb & Tom Are Here: Day Ten

I know, I have been a very bad blogger. What happened to days five through nine? They are coming; I promise.

Mom and Dad just left in the taxi for the airport. They are on their way to Auckland tonight.

— Sara

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Barb & Tom Are Here: Day Three and Four

I promise to write more on all these events later. But for now, here are the bare bones.

Friday morning we rented a car. The plan was to drive around the island, seeing the sights and end up in Faleaseela for the night. When we started the day it was raining and I was concerned that my parents wouldn't see anything when we took the Mafa Pass, so we decided to drop in on our host mom in Apia first. I had forgotten that all the kids would be in school, so we only got to visit with our host mom.

When we left the clouds had started to burn off, so we headed out across the Mafa Pass and down to the other side of the island to visit the To Sua Sea Trench (details on that TK). On the way to the trench we stopped and had lunch at FaoFao.

The plan after the trench was to continue on to the Togitogiga Falls, but some how we failed to make a left turn and found ourselves back on the Mafa Pass heading back to Apia.

Once we were in Apia we got a phone call from Jane and Olsen in Lalo Talie. Apparently it had been raining there for three days and the river was over its banks. Olsen said that if it didn't rain for the rest of the day or the next morning, it might be ok to do the hike, but at this time it was not safe. We decided to skip out on the hike. Hanna was supposed to be meeting us in Faleaseela. She was going to take a bus after work. We tried to call her but were unable to get ahold of her. When we called her work they told us she had left two hours ago. I was concerned she was already on a bus to Faleaseela and we had not way of getting ahold of her.

We drove by her place and as luck would have it, passed her on her way to the bus stop. So we averted a slight catastrophe.

Instead of a waterfall hike, we went up the hill to see the Bahai Temple and then home for a pasta dinner with Hanna.

Saturday I gave my parents a tour of my school and then we saw the Robert Louis Stevenson home. Maybe it was just me, but I thought the admission was a little pricey to simply walk around a house. However, our tour guide was very nice. We did not do the hike up the hill to the tomb, as it was raining.

After lunch and a nap we went to the Papase'ea Sliding Rocks, where we managed not to kill ourselves (more on this TK).

Next I screened two episodes of Flight of the Concords for my parents. They were not terribly amused.

As I type Cale is making dinner and that will probably be all for tonight.

— Sara

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Barb & Tom Are Here: Day One and Two

At the Airport

The day before my parents' arrival, Cale and I rented a van from our local trophy shop/internet cafe/car rental place. In my mind, I pictured one of the typical 15-passenger vans we see around Apia all the time. However, when we went to the shop to pick up the van, it turned out to be this two-tone brown space van. It only had seating for seven (exactly the number of people were planning on putting in this thing. Where would all the luggage go?

This van was not your average van. We were talking leather seats, CD and DVD player, motorized doors and windows and curtains. Swivel captain chairs, movable table and retractable foot rests. Quite the pimp ride.

We rented the van with Gore (Koa) whose parents were coming on the same flight as mine. The original plan was that Cale, Gore and I would be able to run a bunch of errands on Tuesday, use the car the rest of the day to hit up a beach and then pick up our parents on Wednesday morning.

As it turned out, Gore's host family did all his errands for him and he skipped out on the beach trip. So the van wasn't such a hot investment for him in the end.

Wednesday morning we were up at a quarter to four (in the freaking am people) to head for the airport. We stopped at Gore's around 4:30 am to pick him up and then continued on to Faleolo. We arrived at the airport at 5 am, but their flight wasn't expected until 5:30 am. With customs and baggage check, we were in for an hour or so wait.

After all the hugs were finished, we all piled into the space van and headed back to Apia. We dropped Gore and Co off at their hotel and then did a slow drive by of McDonalds (where they are having a two can dine for breakfast special of only $12 tala). Unfortunately, MickeyDs was not open. Instead we drove home and had Christmas in May.

Mom and Dad brought a lot of things for our schools and for our host family. However, the didn't forget us in the gift giving. Cheese-its, sunscreen, sandals, a t-shirt, candy, magazines, tea, theratubing, thumb drives etc. One highlight was a package of Italian cookies baked by grandma and shipped to my parents just before the left for Samoa. Delicious.

I also want to give a shout out to Mark Dillman of Herff Jones Yearbooks. He sent me a stack of sample yearbooks to show my students and help in the school magazine project I will be working on this upcoming term.

After presents, we went back into town, returned the car, ate McDonalds and walked along the seawall.

We were just leaving the Peace Corps office where my mom had picked out some vacation reading material when we felt an earthquake

Later that evening my parents had their first bus ride when we came back into town for the Culture Show and dinner at Aggie Grey's Hotel (details on that TK).

When we arrived home after 9 pm, we all crashed.

The next morning we headed out to the Piula Theological College and Cave Pools with Cale's principal Pasili, his wife Pi'o and their son Collier. Pasili is a Methodist minister and graduated from that school. (Details on the pool to come).

After the pools we had dinner at Seafood Gourmet.

Mom and dad came home to crash. Looks like this evening we will be meeting Matt and his parents for dinner.

Barb and Tom in Samoa:

Sara and Tom


— Sara

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sara's Parents Are Here!

And right off the bat, there was excitement. Small earthquake. Cannot locate any news on it. We were sitting outside the Peace Corps Office when it happened. 

— Sara

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Name This Plant: Banana

Name This Plant

I am sure some of you are thinking, "Banana, what is so difficult about identifying bananas?"

Well, if you had never seen that crazy flower before, I doubt you would have guessed it was going to turn into a bunch of bananas.

Not that I spent a lot of time before coming to Samoa thinking about how bananas grow, but I had always assumed that bananas grew on trees...real trees. Large, woody, leafy trees. It blew me away to discover that they grow on overgrown weeds that fall down when there is a strong wind and that giant purple flowers magically turn into bunches of bananas.

According to Wikipedia, "As the banana plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy they are often mistaken for trees, but their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem (literally 'fake stem'). For some species this pseudostem can reach a height of up to 2–8 m, with leaves of up to 3.5 m in length. Each pseudostem can produce a bunch of yellow, green or even red bananas before dying and being replaced by another pseudostem." 

"Both skin and inner part can be eaten raw or cooked. Western cultures generally eat the inside raw and throw away the skin while some Asian cultures generally eat both the skin and inside cooked."

Here in Samoa bananas are typically eaten cooked. The bananas are boiled in coconut cream until they take on a very dense, floury consistency.

Those of you back in the States, bananas come in one variety (maybe a plantain too if you gots a Whole Foods or Wild Oats or something). But here in Samoa, bananas come in many varieties. There are tiny ones, regular ones, giant ones, green ones, orange ones, red ones, skinny ones, fat ones. It is crazy the banana variety.


Here is a banana flower turning into bananas, courtesy of Wikipedia. See the proto-bananas at the top?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Culture Day

Culture Day for the Methodist Board of Education was Wednesday. But it actually started the day before when they had students climb into a tree in front of the school and jump up and down on the limbs until they broke off. They used these limbs to begin construction on simple cooking fale, where all the traditional foods would be prepared the next day. Cale likes to point out that his school's cooking fale was the only one with a gabled roof and eaves.

They also hung this banner.

Culture Day

That is when I discovered there would be a beauty pageant in addition to all the singing and dancing I was prepared for. I had been in possession of a copy of the day's schedule for well over a week, but since it was entirely in Samoan, I really had little idea of what the day would include. Apparently, something listed later in the afternoon as Manaia was the beauty pageant.

Wednesday morning came normally, like any other morning. Though the schedule called for a 7:50 am start, I highly doubted it. However, I headed over to school at 7:30 am (my usual time) anyway. There was already a great deal of commotion on the school grounds. The primary students from George Brown Primary were already gathered under one of several large pavilions that had been erected during the night. Marching around the malae (school sports field, in this case) was scheduled for 8 am. However, by eight, we were still awaiting the arrival of Uesiliana (our sister school from Savaii). They had caught the 6 am ferry from their island.

A little after eight, the Uesiliana buses began to pull up. I was surprised to learn they had brought their school buses on the ferry with them. Though I suppose it made sense, I just didn't realize something that big could fit on the ferry.

Once everyone had assembled, the marching around the malae began. I was unable to take a picture that could convey the sheer number of students that had assembled at my school. All approximately 700 students from my school were there. All approximately 200 students from Cale's school were there (and, according to Cale, several students who didn't even go to his school anymore, but had in the past). Uesiliana brought between 50 and 100 students with them and I have no idea how many tiny people from George Brown were running around.

Culture Day

The marching lead into speeches and prayers. Then the President of the Methodist Church was presented with traditional Samoan gifts of fine mats, pisupo (tinned corned beef) and niu (coconuts) with money tooth-picked to them.

Culture Day

After the meaalofa was distributed we moved into the ava ceremony. Students had been practising ahead of time to perform each role in the ceremony and it went on for quite some time.

Culture Day

While the ava ceremony was going on, so was the Samoan kuka (cooking). Students were husking and scraping coconuts for coconut cream. Pigs were killed, defurred, gutted, stuffed with hot rocks and put in the umu (hot rock oven fire thing). Chickens were mangled. Fish were braided up into banana leaves and thrown on the fire. Taro and breadfruit were baked.

Culture Day

Once the ava ceremony ended, we broke for breakfast of sorts. Cale and I met up with two couch surfers who I had told about culture day. They purchased some keke pua'a and pai from the canteen and then were fed by the school as if they were teachers themselves.

After breakfast came the dancing. Each school performed four dances and a skit. There was the sasa (a seated clapping and hand and body motion dance), the singing and dancing, the male slap dance and another dance that I don't know how it was different from the singing and dancing.

Culture Day

Culture Day

The skits were entirely in Samoan, so I cannot explain them to you. One of them involved paintings of a chicken on the beach and in a tree and another involved Braveheart-style face paint and dancing with an axe.

Culture Day

After the dancing (this is about 3pm) there was a lunch. I ate with Cale's school at his pule's house.

Then it was back to the festivities at 3:30 pm with the start of the beauty pageant. The boys went first. There was one representative from each school. It appears the reps were chosen from the kids with the highest place parents. Each boy modeled several outfits including a baffling casual wear show with two of the four boys in gangsta wear. Each boy also had to give a speech, demonstrate a talent and answer a question.

Culture Day

Culture Day Culture Day Culture Day Culture Day

Next came the girls. I made it through two girls' outfit changes and two of the four girls talents before I had to give up for the night. It was already 6:30 pm at this point and I had been culture daying for 11 hours. I was exhausted. I was literally falling asleep in my chair taking pictures. The events continued on without me until after 10 pm.

Culture Day

Culture Day Culture Day Culture Day Culture Day

Cale, Dan, Paul and I were all back at our place after enjoying Cale's delicious carbonara when the students gathered at the houses on either side of ours for the night. The girls at the house to the west, the boys at the house on the east.

The next day was sports day. However, I spent the day in my school computer lab trying to lure my Year 13 students in to finish their pen pal letters before we left on break and my Year 12 students to practise for the CAT (common assessment task) on word-processing, which was being held the next day.

— Sara

PS. Find a lot of culture day pictures on the flickr at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Diva Show

The DIva Show at the Zodiac

I have posted once previously on the phenomena of fa'afafine in Samoa. For those of you who don't want to read my long previous post, I will some it up by saying that fa'afafine are men with or who exhibit feminine characteristic and may dress as women. In Samoa it is considered a third gender.

The fa'afafine show (read: drag show) is relatively common in Samoa and last week we went to the weekly show at the Zodiac with Craig, Allison and Briony.

I am still not sure how I feel about it. A majority of the show was lip-syncing and dancing. I am pretty sure I wouldn't find a women dancing around and lip-syncing to be that entertaining. So am not sure why I was supposed to be entertained by men in women's clothing dancing around and lip-syncing. I got the impression we weren't supposed to be impressed with the skill per-se, but instead were supposed to marvel at the spectacle and find it hilarious and a little ridiculous. Which bothers me. Why a man lip-syncing a love song in a dress should by default be hilarious, I am not sure. There was also a decided sexual undercurrent to the whole thing with lots of jokes and gestures to the masked penises.

I guess I came away confused over whether or not the performers are sort of exploiting themselves for others entertainment. It could be another one of those times where I am being hyper-sensitive to something that doesn't relate to me on behalf of another person who might not actually care at all.

Some of the show was not lip-syncing. I enjoyed the display of Polynesian dancing and the hosting by the MC was rather good and entertaining. 

The DIva Show at the Zodiac

There was a special guest appearance that night by Cindy of Samoa. Cindy is actually rather famous outside of Samoa for having competed in the Kiwi show "Stars in their Eyes," which is a New Zealand "American Idol."

Overall, I am not sure if I would be inclined to another fa'af show, but I can say I have seen one.

— Sara

Aganoa and Togitogiga

Aganoa Beach

The thing about being a Peace Corps computer teacher on the north side of Upolu is your ability to travel to beaches or see other Samoan attractions is really limited.

Peace Corps cannot drive and taxis to the other side of the island where the beaches are located are about $70 tala one way, which is no small expense on our living allowance. That leaves us with the busses. However, they stop running after noon on Saturday and do not run at all on Sunday. For a teacher, that makes it very tricky to get to the beach on the weekend.

We have recently had a spate of fun in the sun though with help from our friends Craig and Allison. They came here on to work on contract and therefore can drive cars. In the past several weeks they have been making their grand farewell tour, doing all the fun things the island has to offer and shepherding Peace Corps around with them as they do. I already mentioned the boat trip several Saturday's ago.

Last Thursday I had no classes after fourth period and Cale's school is stopping early every day so the students can practise for their performance in the Independence Day celebrations in June. Instead we hopped in the back of Craig and Allison's Tracker and headed out to Aganoa Beach on the south side of the island.

Aganoa is advertised as black sands, but I would call it more darker sands. Strangely enough, the internet seems to think that Aganoa is in Savaii, so there must be two Aganoa Beaches in Samoa. This one is on the south side of Upolu. It is quite a trip off the main road to reach the coast. We probably bumped along the dirt road heading south for 30 minutes or more. However, it was more than worth it. For most of the time we were the only people on the beach. Briefly a boat puttered past and a group of very business like people came and stood on the beach in a very business-like, sort of scouting sort of way and we all decided they were with Survivor scouting locations.

This trip to the beach was the third time Cale and I have visited a beach in 2009.

Before we left for the beach Cale had prepared some rocktastic sandwiches for us to share. He found real sliced ham at Farmer Joes and packaged salami. For those of you who haven't been to Samoa, you cannot possibly begin to understand the excitement one can feel over lunch meat. These sandwiches were little pieces of heaven.

Togitogiga Waterfalls

After we had all applied sunscreen two or three times, Craig and Allison suggested we had out and see the Togitogiga Falls on our way home. The Falls are located in the National Forest Reserve and on entering the park it was the first time I have experienced something in Samoa that appears to be prepared for tourists. It had all the feel of a state park back in the states. There was one of those covered signboards with a map on it when we entered and they even have visitors' center (it was closed when we arrived). There are stairs built down to the falls (with hand rails!) and changing rooms for people to put on bathing suits.

According to Craig and Allison the water level was down significantly since the last time they were there. They went back several days later and discovered the falls were not running at all. Looks like we have entered the dry season.

By the time we reached the intersection to take the Cross-Island Road back to Apia, it was completely dark. However, we were not done for the day. After quick showers and a snack of chili four-ways (Cale wanted Cincinnati chili, or chili five-ways, but we didn't have any sour cream), we headed up the hill to the Zodiac for the weekly fa'afafine show...something I will save for my next post.

— Sara

Monday, May 4, 2009

Boat Trip

Boat Trip
Those of you who have been watching the Flickr know that we went on a boat trip recently.

Craig and Allison organized this trip. They leave Samoa tonight to go back to American and have been trying to get in as much Samoan fun as possible before they leave. 

They chartered the Samoa Adventure ship for five hours. We left Aggie Grey's resort around 10am and headed for Manono island, passing Apolima along the way. We anchored off Manono and some of us (not me) were led on some snorkeling. I just swam around in the water near the boat. Then we headed back to shore.

It was an awesome afternoon. Being able to do something like that can really help restore some of your sanity.

— Sara

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Official Dog Attack

Cale's Dog Bite

It finally happened. One of us was bit by a dog.

Cale and I biked into town this morning (well..afternoon), as we usually do on Sundays. We stopped at Erik's place to drop of some of the digital crack Aaron sent us from America (Battlestar Galactica Season 4!). 

Erik lives on the second floor and there is an outdoor stairwell and hallway that leads to his apartment. Cale and I were talking down the hallway. There was your typical brown Samoan dog lying just outside Erik's door.  As we approached to dog got up and did the typical please-don't-hit-me slink in our direction. However, just as he was passing Cale, he (she? I don't know) suddenly turned on him and latched on to his leg. It attack was very brief and the it did not break the skin. However, it did tear Cale's shorts and it is already forming into a nice bruise.

Up until now Cale and I have been very lucky. Many volunteers have experienced more vicious dog attacks and dogs are a constant threat. 

— Sara