Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Dad has posted some of his Samoa pictures. They are awesome. Check them out

— Sara

Tofa Soifua

Fa Erin

The rapidly dwindling Group 78 sent another successful volunteer home last night (well, early this morning). Erin packed her bag (and what a large bag it was), ate Chinese food, headed to the airport and left for America (we are all a little jealous) where she can finally be just Erin again (and not Girl Erin, to help distinguish between all the Aarons and Erins). She will be missed, but she has promised to eat all the broccoli she can find in our honor.

Tofa Soifua Erin

Fa Erin

— Sara

Monday, June 29, 2009

Year 12 CAT #3

I've talked about these CATs (Common Assessment Task) before. For computers, it means MESC (for Year 12) or the SPBEA (for Year 13) writes a practical assignments the students must complete on a certain day in a certain amount of time.

MESC and the SPBEA take these very seriously; something I have first-hand experience with from my great CAT debacle last year. For the Year 12 CATS, they are to be delivered to the schools the morning they are to be sat by 9 am. Our have never arrived until after 9am, but that is still ok. The teacher is then supposed to sit as many students as possible in one go. If you have too many students to sit at once, you are to leave as little gap between the groups as possible. The students are not allowed to leave the room with the assignment sheet and all the students must sit the CAT on the assigned day.

However, from my experience last year, I have learned that the teachers do not necessarily take it as seriously. Teachers have a week to finish marking the CAT before turning it in and at many schools the teacher will sit the CAT any time during that week. That was how I got into the trouble of the great CAT debacle last year. The other teachers at my school just told me to sit my CAT on a different day because we were not in school on the assigned day of the CAT.

Friday's CAT arrived at a quarter to 10 am. I immediately sat down to do the CAT to make sure there were no surprises. While having the students practise with last year's CAT, we discovered that one of the steps required the students to do something that can only be done in MS Excel 2003 and our computers only have 2000. I wanted to check for anything like that before handing the CAT out to the students so I could instruct them on what they should do instead. Thankfully, there were no surprises. In fact, the CAT was sort of off the hook easy. In all previous years the students had been required to make a graph as part of the spreadsheet CAT, but not this year.

We started sitting the 12.1 class at a little after 10 am. They were finished by 11 am. Unfortunately, interval was on and we were having a hard time informing and rounding up the 12.2 students to come sit the CAT. We had almost all of them by 11:30, with one girl showing up closer to noon. Most of them were finished by 12:30 pm and we brought in the 12.3 and 12.4 students, the last group to sit the CAT. 

And then it happened.

At just after 1 pm, the power went out. I was sitting at a computer when the lights flickered violently and I looked up, the words "SAVE NOW!" coming out of my mouth without my even having to think about it. Unfortunately it was too late. Seconds after the light flicker, the power was gone and the four students who were still working on their CATs lost all their work.

I grabbed my raincoat and braved the downpour to run over to Cale's school. Maybe he still had power, maybe we could finish the CAT there. No such luck. Later, his principal called to inform us that the power was out on this whole west side of Apia.

Next I got the cell phone and called MESC to talk to those in charge of the CAT about what options I had. If we had to sit the CAT today, I was going to have to take these kids to another school. After I was transferred and put on hold repeatedly, I ran out of credit with no answer from MESC.

I run up to see the secretary, "Does the phone still work if there is no power?"
"No," she says.

I explain the situation to her and she tells me that she has the phone plugged into the internet phone line and it is working. I wonder why the answer to my question had been no a minute before, but I decided not to worry about it.

I call MESC, I am transferred, put on hold and disconnected repeatedly. No one that I need to talk to appears to be in the office and no one knows what to do about it. The secretary tries for me, requesting in Samoan the cell phone numbers of the people we want to reach, no such luck.

Finally, we decided these four kids will come back on Saturday to do the CAT. They are not happy about it. I send them home. I go home. I am home for 15 minutes when the power comes back. Crap. The kids are already gone. If we had just waited another 15 minutes they could have sat it now.

Saturday all four kids show up (which actually surprised me a little). They sit the CAT, I mark them. Hooray! Everything is finished.

More more CAT for the Year 12s in about a month and the BIG CAT for the Year 13s in August. Cross your fingers the power stays on.

— Sara

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Name This Plant: Biriba (Rollinia)

Name This Plant

This strange edible is not sold in the market in Apia. Instead, it was gifted to us by our friends Marco and Marie Ines, who have a plantation in the mountains. So this is growing in Samoa, but possibly only on their plantation.

Marie Ines calls it a rollenya, which originally led us to believe the name was Spanish. However, she said it was not and she was correct. However, it is most typically grown in South American countries.

After much research, I discovered a genus of plant called Rollinia. The rollinia genus is inside a family of plants called Annonaceae, which includes the soursop (which we covered in an earlier Name this Plant post) and the sugar apple. Wannabe Farmer thought our plant was an Atemoya, which happens to be a man-made hybrid that includes the sugar apple. So as you can see, many people were in the right family, but didn't hit the nail on the head.

The biriba was described by Cale, Dan and Paul (who ate it) as having the texture and taste of sweet gravy. I cannot even imagine what that means.

According to Purdue University's Horticulture web site, the fruit is regarded as refrigerant, analeptic and antiscorbutic. The powdered seeds are said to be a remedy for enterocolitis. 

This inside:

Name This Plant: Biriba (Rollinia)

— Sara

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Name This Plant

It's been a while.

Name This Plant

— Sara

Triple Threat

I imagine it is rare in the States to find a professional rugby team that is full of big, burly men...

Tongan Rugby Team

...who have a traditional war dance for intimidation...

Tongan Rugby Team

...and also happen to be quite the accomplished a cappella choir...

Tongan Rugby Team

— Sara

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cale is Doing Something Cool.

This post started because Cale was talking about his day. This is what he was saying:

"I had such a good day today. I am so impressed with how professionally my kids handled themselves. So, even when some kids came over to be interviewed that weren't taking it quite as seriously; they all had a good laugh. But here's the thing, they marked the kid down for laughing. Some of the kids were looking to see how respectful a candidate was and they marked the kid down for making a joke of it.

I really think these kids are kind of cool.

They really impressed me."

So... what is he talking about?

Well, Cale has turned his class into the Real World ... except like the real world and not like some stupid, silly, posh house full of horny 20-somethings.

He has hired three managers from the class. These managers will be paid in points which accumulate and effect a person's grade for the class. Today, these managers had to interview others students to hire an assistant manager. All the students in the class had already turned in cover letters and CVs and references (that was partially how Cale picked his three managers). Cale spent the past couple of days working with the manager students to help them determine what it is they were looking for in an employee and how they would determine if a candidate has those traits (from the CV, from the references, from the interview).  The managers created rubrics of the qualities they wanted in an assistant and then assigned points for each quality based on the CV, references and the interview.

Next the managers will be making offers to the candidate they want as their assistant. The managers have the points at their disposal and will tell the candidate how many points they are willing to pay them a week and so forth.

Next the managers and their assistants will be interviewing the other kids in the class in order to hire their team of students. From then on the managers will be give projects (assignments) from Cale that they will have to farm out to their team to complete. Cale will pay the manager in points based on the quality, quantity and timeliness of the team's work. The manager will then distribute the points to the team.

Maybe, if you are lucky, I can get Cale to write about this some day.

— Sara

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chickens Are Cannibals

Chickens are Cannibals

The chickens out back love chicken! They eat leftover eggs when I throw them out the back door, which I thought was a little odd. However, the ultimate sign of their cannibalism is the fight that took place over two pieces of fried chicken. The chickens were loving it.

— Sara

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Barb & Tom Were Here: Days Seven, Eight and Nine

Janes in Manase

Days seven, eight and nine were spent on the beach in Manase. There was swimming and snorkeling and lazing around and book reading and suipi playing. It was heaven.

Mom and Dad swam (well, Dad walked, the water is not very deep in the lagoon) out the the reef and looked around at things with snorkel masks. The first time mom went out there I was scared shitless. I kept picturing a rip current picking her up and carrying her away. How was I supposed to explain that one? Teresa, Marian, we lost mom. She is probably halfway to Hawaii by now.

Anywho, Wednesday we bought some traditional Samoan BBQ from a roadside stand. Chicken, boiled banana and curry. I don't think mom and dad were too impressed and they refrained from eating to much of it. However, everyone ate some. Why I was the only one to get sick is anyone's guess. But sick I got.

I spent Wednesday night lying in the fale wishing I could throw up, while my body violently fought off all efforts to throw up. I thought I was better Thursday morning but then I got up to go to the bathroom and barely made it. By the time I got there I was drenched in sweat and dry heaving.

Luckily or unfortunately for me, depending on who your asking, I never did throw up.

Instead we sat in a fale by the side of the road to wait for a bus to take us back to the wharf. I think we started waiting around 10 am. We were told the bus usually comes at 10:30 am. However, I remembered not catching the bus with Annette until 11:30. Anyway, there was a Samoan woman who works at Jane's waiting with us, so it lead us to believe that a bus would eventually come.

Around 11 am Dad was getting antsy and wanting to hire a taxi, but then a little after 11 a bus miraculously appeared and we road into Saleologa at top speed. We arrived just in time to eat some banana chips and catch the ferry home.

We ran into Nick on the ferry and he and mom chatted the who way back. In order to avoid seasickness (in addition to regular sickness) I stuck my earbuds in and focused all my attention on what Ira Glass had to say. Dad apparently spent the entire time focusing intently on the horizon in an effort to stave off nausea. 

I spent most of the rest of the day in bed. So I am not sure what adventures Cale and my parents had without me.

— Sara

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Still a Mystery

So, unless you have short-term memory loss, you may remember my earlier post about a mysterious electronic device a former student was asking me about. She said it was like a laptop and wanted my help in setting the date. I asked her to bring it by.

I would like you to meet what I am calling Scuttle, Scuttle Bug.

It's Still a Mystery

It's Still a Mystery

When you press a button on his back, his wings slowly open and his head turns.

It's Still a Mystery


It's Still a Mystery

See, it's just like a laptop!

As far as I can tell it is a calculator, a clock, a calendar and you can set reminders. The problem is Scuttle thinks it is still 2000. He also isn't so hot at telling time. Cale and I were unable to discover a way in any of the menus to change the date or time. I recommended removing all the batteries, under the impression that it would force it to reset everything and might ask us to give the date and time when we turned it back on again.

Small problem. You have to be able to turn it back on again. 

After removing all the batteries, Scuttle appears to have died. He has gone from a slightly unwieldy calculator to a decorative paperweight.

— Sara

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's a Mystery

One of my students from last year stopped by the house.

"Sara, can you help me?"

"Sure, whatcha need?"

"You know that thing that's like a laptop? I need to know how to set the date."

"A thing that's like a laptop? What does it do?"

"It has a keyboard and a screen."

"But it's not a laptop?"

"Yeah, it has a place for AM and FM and speakers."

"What does it do? What do you use it for."

"I need to change the date, it says it is 2001."

"Um, can you bring it to me?"



So tomorrow I will see the not-laptop thing with a keyboard, a screen, a clock or calendar and a radio apparently. Should be interesting.

— Sara

Winter Chill

When we woke up yesterday morning it was so cold I wrapped a blanket around myself as I wandered around boiling water for coffee and tea.

Freezing cold I tell you.

The thermostat said 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit

Ice cold.

— Sara

I got a new tattoo

There is now a giant octopus on my back. I am sure you can see the pictures below or elsewhere. I am also confident that you will get a full report from sara soon enough. For now though, let me tell you some things that will not make it into her report. LEt me begin by answering a few common questions.
1. Yes.
2. A lot.
3. Pretty much all over, with the exception of a pice near my spine and a little bit on the back of my arm.
4. Really - A lot. Incredible a lot. Its almost all on top of bone - there is no muscle there for padding. Each time the pins jam into skin there is an almost magical explosion of pain - and as soon as the pins are out the pain is gone. Just in time for them to go back in again.
5. I am fine now, it just itches a lot, and the antiseptic I used the first day gave me a rash.
6. I don't have a favorite leg. Those of you with multiple children - do you have a favorite kid?

A word on the design:
When sara got her tattoo on her arm, as I watched the pattern go on and wrap around I was overcome with the desire to see the patterns just keep going - wandering aimlessly around. I thought first of her tattoo as the sleeve of a sweater, and what I wanted to see was that sweater unravelling. Thanks Weezer. Then I had an idea of a knot, almost a ball of yarn really, with threads coming out all over the place. Then I thought that might kind of look like an octopus. I like octopi. So I doodled a bit and even photoshopped it onto my back in a picture in order to get an idea of the scale. Then I showed that to Junior with a few words of explanation - essentially that I like the head idea, the wandering tentacles idea, and the sucker things. Then he gave me an awesome tattoo over the course of two days.

As we were riding the bus in for my first appointment, I had an idea of the final image - and it was accurate and that was odd. Here is why. I do not know many Samoan motifs. I could not possibly think of the EXACT image because there would certainly be motifs in there that I could not imagine. Also the traditional tools preclude doing any tight turns - they are not made for it. An octopus has very busy arms, - visually busy because they are all windy and tangled up and whatnot. These arms can not be busy in that sense because they cannot turn tightly, they can however be visually busy because of the patterns inside the arms. So the only way I could think of it was to imagine it with straightish arms and then put the closest western idea I know of to traditional busy Samoan motifs inside the arms. And that idea was: Paisley. As soon as I imagined it with different paisley patterns, I could mentally translate the western paisley idea into Samoan-type themes. Kind of a strange algebraic cancel on both sides of the equation thing happened and I was rewarded with this awesome flash of exactly what the IDEA would look like.
So - it is exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I expected, even though I was unable to express the exactness of it at anytime before it was actually on my back. This happened primarily because Junior is an AWESOME artist and was able to take the skeletal idea that I WAS able to express and own it so completely that we were both thinking the same thought, but in different ways.
And that is my favorite part.
And this is why I don't write many blog entries.

Tiny Dancers


She was only three feet tall, maybe six years old and she was twirling a knife. Did I mention this knife was on fire?

Last year Cale and I attended the 7th International Siva Afi Competition (follow the link to get the details) finals. Last year we only saw the older competitors in the junior division. The younger kids had been eliminated the night before. They may have had amazing skills for their age — but the division includes much older, more experienced dancers who went on to the finals.

This year we went to all three nights of the competition. On the second night we were there for the semi-finals for the junior division. We got to watch these tiny performers show off their impressive skills.

The first night of competition was the senior preliminaries. More than a dozen dancers strutted their stuff; twirling, throwing and occasionally dropping large, sharp, flaming knives.

I thought I recognized one of the dancers and when the top five competitors were announced, I found I was correct. One of the semi-finalists graduated from my school the year before. He had performed at our Prize-Giving.

We went back the second night with someone to root for. Unfortunately, my student didn't make it to the final three. The finals night came down to a dancer from Disneyland Hong Kong, a dancer from the Maliu Mai bar and restaurant and a dancer from Savai'i.

The eventual champion was Hong Kong. Though he dropped his knives a few times, he was doing moves far more complex than the others, including some sort of back round-off meets hand-spring thing while twirling flaming knives.

I thought the Maliu Mai guy's performance deserved second place, but he only came in third. The dancer from Savai'i was very good, but the Maliu Mai guy had amazing stage presence and was equally as good.

Once again, the siva afi competition was spectacular, the intermission performances were fun, the MCs jokes were quirky and we discovered that Laumei Faiaga has delicious fries and spring rolls. All in all, an awesome experience.

— Sara

More pictures on the flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/seereeves

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cale Got a Rocktastic Tattoo

Cale's Tattoo Day 2

I will do what I can to get Cale to post something about this.

For now, I will say it took two days. Three hours each day. Junior Sulu'ape did an amazing job. It truly is a work of art.

— Sara

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mania Lou Afa Pe'a

Cale's Tattoo Day 1

Cale started his tattoo today. It will take two sessions, so he will be back there tomorrow. Today's session was three hours and I will write more about it later.

— Sara

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Barb & Tom Were Here: Day Six

Janes at Manase

Monday morning we got up and headed to Savai'i. I would like to start this post by pointing out that Cale and I have never successfully caught the boat we intended to catch when going to Savaii.

So, we are out by the side of the road around 7:30 thinking we would wait a while to catch a bus that can take us to the 10 am boat. When lo and behold a Manono bus comes right by after we have waited for like five minutes. Cale and I have always waited forever to catch a bus the wharf.

We arrive at the wharf ridiculously quickly as well. It is like a quarter past eight when we arrive. So now we have almost two hours to kill until the boat....or do we.

Near 10 am, a small boat arrive from Savaii and some people get off. However, there are few to no buses arriving at the wharf. This does not seem like a good sign to me. There are very few people in the waiting room and there are no buses. The rest of Samoa seems to know something we do not know about the boat. I wander up to the signs posted on the ticket window. Oh...look....there is no 10 am boat on Mondays. There is on Fridays, the day Cale and I usually catch a boat to Savaii. I bet those darn Savaii kids knew that. They all know all the boat details. They have a boat sixth sense.

Well, it looks like we will just spend another two hours in the waiting room. I should mention we haven't eaten yet today and the boat takes almost two hours, so we won't arrive in Saleologa to eat until around 2 pm. This is nothing new to me, I am used to not eating until 2 or 3 pm most school days, but I worry about starving my parents. They seem to be ok. We share a can of Pringles.

So...four hours in the boat waiting room. Mom and Dad went for a walk. Cale and I laid down on the benches listening to iPods. Small children surrounded us. They poked me. After I had auaed them and alu esed them repeatedly, the switched to just waving their hands in front of my face with out touching me. Eventually, we got up and moved to the other waiting room. I mentioned to Cale if I was a nicer, more child friendly-volunteer, I would have gathered those runny-nosed children together and we would have played some quaint, charming game from my childhood and it would have been filled with warm, fuzzy moments of laughter and joy. I just wanted them to stop touching me...or looking at me.

Finally, the boat. Thankfully, the weather was wonderful and the trip over was relatively nausea-free.

We arrived at in Saleologa and decided to make the five, maybe 10, minute walk to Lucia's where we had lunch.

At this point we had missed the buses waiting for the boat we arrived on and wanting to make it to Manase before dark, we hired a taxi to take us to Jane's.

We were at Jane's around 4:30 and were very quickly in the ocean. After dinner, we hung out at the Beach Bar teaching Mom and Dad to play suipi.

— Sara

Music to Someone's Ears

Cale was playing the Carmina Burana during an open computer lab at his school.

Student #1: Cale, do you like this music?

Cale: I wouldn't play it if I didn't like it.

A brief while later.

Student #2: Mister, could was have some different music? Please?

Cale switches to Melt Banana (a Japanese noise-rock band). Within seconds, the students are clamoring for the return of the Carmina Burana.

— Sara

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy 28th Birthday Me!

Thanks to the two-day Independence Day celebrations in Samoa, my birthday is a national holiday. In addition to not going to school, I lazed around the house reading two-month-old Time magazines, did some exercises (not too many), and some laundry in a bucket.

Later Ryan came by and we worked on the textbook project.

Cale made burritos while I tried to take the number of pictures in iPhoto down below 11,500 (and I am only keeping picture I took since staging in October 2007 in the iPhoto now. I need to be a better photo editor).

Later Katrin (a German couchsurfer) and Tetsuya (whose name I am sure I am spelling wrong) came over and we bored them with conversation about foods we wished we could eat and places Katrin should eat while she is in America. Katrin shared with us all her pictures from her travels in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Australia and Japan (she is on a round the world ticket).

Good times were had by all.

— Sara

Happy 47 and 1/2 Birthday Samoa!

Samoan Independence Day

Why and 1/2 do you ask? Well, Samoa gained independence on January 1, 1962. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good excuse for a national holiday on a day that was already a holiday, they moved Independence Day celebrations to June 1.

Apparently, my school was supposed to meet in Mulinuu at 5 am to wait in line for the marching that was to start at 7 am. I learned that the reason for this early start was so we could get a good place in the line. It must have worked, Wesley College was second in line. Unfortunately, I was not there with them.

I had no way to get to Mulinuu at 5 am, but Cale's school had offered me a ride with them at 8 am. His school was not participating in the march because they were performing immediately after the marching.

Samoan Independence Day

When we arrived at the Parliament fale around 9 am, there was still plenty of marching going on. All the schools, government ministries and many organizations in Samoa had all lined up in groups in matching uniforms and then marched on the parade grounds in front of the Head of State and Prime Minister and other dignitaries.

After the marching, Cale's school was the first to perform. They had been practising for two months and did an excellent job. Cale was able to get video with the new camera Mom and Dad brought for my school (which I traded with the one Annette brought for Cale's school, so we could get the video).

Samoan Independence Day

After the performance, Cale and I walked back to the Peace Corps office to see if we could find anything in the free box to change into because we forgot to bring a change of clothes.

Samoan Independence Day

Next we were off to find food and then to watch the fautasi (long boat) races. Unfortunately, the spot we picked to watch from near the finish line was actually a poor location. We now know for the Teuila Festival in September we should go out to the Yacht Club or Sails to watch the race.

At this point I was feeling pretty tired and we came home, had a nap and watched the West Wing for the rest of the day.

— Sara