Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunami Update

Check out Erica's first hand account here.

— Sara

Tsunami: Relief Efforts

We were on the south side all day helping with the relief effort and I will blog details ASAP.

— Sara

Tsunami Update

I just spoke with my neighbors (they have a TV, we do not). They say the confirmed dead in Samoa (not American Samoa) is 89 so far.

Also, check
this link to the Samoalive News for photographs.

— Sara

To The Media

I have received several requests from the media to repurpose my blog entries.

Please do not copy, publish or broadcast the information found in this blog or the pictures found on the blog or the flickr account with out specific permission from Sara or Cale Reeves.

If you are from the media and have a request, please contact us through the comments portion of the blog and leave an email address.

Thank you

Sara Reeves

Tsunami Update

An Australian paper posted this about the second tsunami warning that I wrote about in my last post:

A fresh alert has been issued in Samoa, with police urging people to seek higher ground, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has not issued an alert and the US Geological Survey has not not detected a new major earthquake in the area.

At this time, that alert was several hours ago and all appears to be fine.

— Sara

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tsunami Update

Apparently the tsunami warning bells are ringing in Apia again and the neighbors have turned the news up to top volume. We called our Safety and Security Officer and he says we do not have to evacuate. Not sure what this second warning is about.

— Sara

Tsunami Update

At 6:48 this morning I was already up. I hadn't written a blog entry the night before and I am trying to blog everyday I wanted to get it done before I got ready for school. I was typing something witty about Northern Exposure when the house started to shake. This was the most dramatic shaking I had every experienced. When it didn't end after several seconds Cale and I left the house to stand in the back lawn. We could hear things rattling on the shelves and the house creaking. It was the first time I experienced both the jarring and undulating earthquake waves at the same time.

Immediately after it was over, Cale hit the internet and discovered a preliminary size of 7.9 only 200km south of Apia. Cale had me start packing the backpacks with our essentials (laptops, hard drives, cameras, you know...the important stuff). Obviously we called our Safety and Security Officer. He told us there was a tsunami warning in effect and we were to head uta (inland). The second Cale got off the phone with him we received the text message our Safety Officer must have just sent informing us of the warning. While Cale finished packing, I ran next door to tell the neighbors the situation and that we were evacuating. They were listening to the radio waiting for the news.

During this time we experienced at least one after shock that we later learned was a second earthquake. There would be six more earthquakes in the Samoa islands before the days end (at least one several hours later). According to the
USGS web site, there were several more listed in Tonga, the Cook Islands and Japan. The Ring of Fire is just hopping today.

What I did next will be a source of ridicule by Cale for years to come, I am sure. I put on deodorant and then I pulled my hair back in a bandana while he waited impatiently to leave the house. If I had been the volunteer on the south side of the island whose home was washed away, we'd both be dead. The turn around from earthquake to water rushing up over the road was less than 15 minutes.

On the road outside our house a passing cab honked and waved. It was Dani, our favorite cab driver. We flagged him down. "Uta," we exclaimed. "Faleula-uta?" he asked. No, we needed more uta than that, the Faleata Sports Complex, please.

Heading uta.

We were in his cab headed up hill when the first warnings went out on the radio urging all people in low-lying areas to head inland immediately. The Peace Corps warning had been quicker than the one for the general public. We were passing school children walking down the hill to school. They were going the wrong way.

On the way uta Cale received a phone call from his mother, she had heard the news (rather quickly). However, before he could say more than, "we are heading up the mountain now," there was a call from the country director on the other line. "Got to go," he said to his mom, hanging up on her and most likely causing her a little distress.

Other evacuees.

Once we got to the sports complex we found an open faleoloa and bought a phone card to call Annette back. There were some people entering the complex and we asked the lady at the store what was going on. She said there was a weight-lifting event. However, we soon learned we weren't the only people that considered the sports complex an excellent evacuation point in case of a tsunami. The people were here because it was higher ground. From our vantage point we could see the road going up the mountain and streams of people heading even more uta. However, we felt that any tsunami that could reach us this high up the hill (that was coming from the other side of the mountain anyway) was not one we were going to escape regardless of how high we walked.

People headed up the mountain.

We experienced another quake and were joined by a Tokelauan rugby player from Australian. I think he was comforted by the palagi faces since he mentioned several times that the people here thought he was Samoan and he wasn't. This kid was only 17 years old here on a one week trip to play in a rugby tournament on Friday. He seemed a little freaked out by the whole situation that Cale and I were brushing off as another false alarm. Tokelau's elevation above sea level is practically nothing, but I cannot locate any information on the internet about any damage there.

Eventually the sun sent Cale and I around the back of the natatorium searching out shade (where we discovered an outdoor pool and a kiddie pool, who knew?). Later employees of the natatorium shooed us away from the edges off the pool where people had gathered in the shade to one of the three Samoan fale nearby.

When the tsunami "warning" was finally over at 11:19 am, Cale had read an entire book (lucky him for thinking to pack one) and I had listened to three This
American Lifes from the mid-90s on my iPod. We started our walk down the mountain, eventually catching a bus into Apia (a Faleula bus even, how weird). We arrived at the Peace Corps office around noon thinking it had all been a false alarm and wondering my our Security Officers last text telling us we could return home also told us to watch out for any debris.

It was only once we were in the office that we learned there might be debris around because a tsunami had hit the south side of the islands. The south east side of Upolu received the most damage with reports indicating that Lalomanu, Aleipata, FaoFao, Poutasi, Iliili, Salani, Sinalei, and Coconuts were all devastated by the waters. It is safe to assume that any low-lying coastal areas near these were also affected.

This is also when we learned that the home of a volunteer living on the south side of the island had been destroyed. Volunteers already in the office who had been in contact with her shared the details gleaned from text messaging. She was awoken by the quake, noticed the tide receding abnormally and had ran to higher ground, literally chased by the sudden incoming tide. Also, her dog was missing. Peace Corps were on their way to pick her up. We also learned that another volunteer on the south side had lost a Year 5 student who was swept out to sea and drowned.

Eventually, the volunteer whose home was lost arrived at the office and shared her tale. The quake had awakened her. She was texting another volunteer about severity of the quake when our Medical Officer called her to tell her about the warning. She now credits the Medical Officer with saving her life. She went outside to assess the situation, grabbing her trash to take to the bin on the way. As she walked down the road to the bin she noticed something was wrong with the ocean. She could see things above the waves that she had never seen before, not even at the lowest tides. This made her uneasy. Next the tide came back in. The water was up over the coastal road and she and the other people in her village were running to higher ground. All she had with her was a small back that contained her camera, passport and some other papers. Once up the hill, she could hear the sound of the water surging up a river close by, ripping down trees in its path. As the water receded, some villagers ventured back. Word returned that her home was gone. She, too, headed back and saw the destruction of her home, which had been completely lifted from its foundation. A family in the village was already clearing out a room for her to live in when the Peace Corps arrive to take her to the office. Someone handed her a picture. It was a photograph of her father as a child. The one thing they had rescued from the wreckage of her home.

All her belongings.

Cale and I stuck around the office for a while awaiting word that volunteers were needed at the hospital. When no word came we biked home (we had left our bikes in the office on Saturday) and I wrote this blog entry.

My friend Clifton who is in disaster prepardness and relief with the Red Cross in American has informed me he is sending teams from three states to Samoa. A RPCV also posted this comment to the blog:

Started a facebook page called the Samoa Tsunami Relief Effort. Please update your blog so I can post it there. Also, NZ Red Cross is taking donations specifically for the Samoa Red Cross. Please post on your blog if you can. Thanks for posting-many former pisikoa are paying close attention. Thoughts and prayers with everyone on the islands.

Vic, group 69

I will let you know when I know more.

— Sara

Tsunami Update

Here is what I know:

1. The volunteer whose home was destroyed on the south side is safe in Apia now.

2. FaoFao, the beach fales we go to all the time, was destroyed.

3. Reports are also listing Lalomanu, Salani and Manono island as devastated.

4. Death reports vary from 40 to hundreds. We believe there are at least 30 deaths in the Lalomanu area.

5. The north side of the islands were not affected

We are waiting for word on any way we can help with the situation.

- Sara

75: Tsunami

I will have details later. Let me just say:

1. We are ok

2. There was a big
quake this morning

3. There was a small tsunami

4. There was damage and death associated with both

5. One volunteer may have lost her home.

More TK

— Sara

Monday, September 28, 2009

76: Dilemma

When you blog in the Peace Corps you walk a delicate line. You want what you share to be real, but you don't want it to be too real.

We have a disclaimer we have to put on our blogs to indicate that nothing we say is representative of the U.S. government. We have to refrain from offering location specifics for ourselves or other volunteers. You may notice that I never really say exactly where I live. I rarely even post the name of my school. I have never posted exterior shots of my home (there are some on the flickr, but they are available to friends and family only). The PC staffers on our country desk in Washington are reading our blogs and some of us have even been "reprimanded" for offering too much detail about the location of another volunteers home.

I also try to be respectful with my blogging. I know that host country nationals (including Cale's pule) are reading the blog and I don't want to seem too critical of Samoa or accidentally say something that could offend. On the other hand, I don't want to post only happy blogs and give a one-sided representation of my time here.

Most of the time, if I have a delicate issue or something I think is questionable, I run it by Cale before I publish it. Also, many of you are on my email list of "director's cut" messages, things that I didn't not want to post for all the world to see.

I think that overall I have done a good job of striking this delicate balance. However, recently it has all come into question.

As I was typing up the cashew post my inbox pinged and an email told me that I had a comment on
this entry. The commenter claims to be a student of mine who had a free period on the day I spent all day taking pictures.

To be honest, I had never really thought about my students reading my blog. It just wasn't something that occurred to me (which, in retrospect, is very silly). I didn't get the impression that they had regular access to the internet. I also am not overly worried about the students reading blog entries about my life outside of school. I am a person and I have a life. However, I am concerned about blog entries about school. The entry with this comment is one of the first times I have ever actually named a student in my blog and now I wonder if I should refrain from doing that. I also made what could be considered a derogatory remark about a student's work, which I would not want my students to be reading.

I cannot say for sure this comment was from a student. According to my site tracker this comment was made by a site visitor logging onto the internet from a city outside Brisbane, Australia. This makes it a little less likely it is a student, but doesn't eliminate the possibility entirely, as students visit family overseas often.

This will definitely make me think not just twice, but three times about school-related topics before I post them to the blog.

— Sara

Name This Plant: Cashew

Name This Plant: Cashew

Once again an anonymous reader has successfully named our mystery plant, the cashew/cashew apple.

This installment of name this plant was actually very interesting for me. Our anonymous reader is Samoan and gave the Samoan word for this plant as
nonu. I had never heard this word before, but I was familiar with noni (which, unfortunately, cannot be a name this plant now that I have already named it).

I looked up
nonu in my trusty Samoan dictionary and learned it is a noun meaning "shurb or small tree" or "the Malay apple." So I looked up the Malay apple. According to the Purdue horticulture web site, the malay apple has many names, including: "cashew, or French cashew (Guyana) or Otaheite cashew (India) because of its resemblance to the cashew apple, the pseudofruit or swollen fruit-stalk of the cashew nut."

Now the plot thickens. While Googling the Malay apple, I came across this photograph:

This, apparently, is the Malay apple rose.

I had recently stumbled across some very similar looking "flowers" while at the To Sua Trench and had taken a picture of them:
Name this Plant: Malay apple rose?
There were none on the tree, only on the ground.

I was so intrigued by these flowers, because several years ago I had taken a picture of a similar strange flower in Winter Park, Florida:
One weird plant

I wonder if they are related. The tree the ones from the To Sua Trench were growing on looks nothing like the tree in Florida.

Anyway, you guys are probably wondering why I have veered so far off course from our original name this plant. Sara, you say, can we get back to how this thing that looks like a yellow pepper is a cashew. Aren't cashews nuts?

And you would be right. The part that grabs most of your attention, the yellow pepper-like thing is a pseudo-fruit. That's right a false fruit.

According to the
Purdue Horticulture web site, "This pseudofruit (or "false fruit") is a by-product of the cashew nut industry...The true fruit of the tree is the cashew nut...An interesting feature of the cashew is that the nut develops first and when it is full-grown but not yet ripe, its peduncle...fills out, becomes plump, fleshy, pear-shaped...with waxy, yellow, red, or red-and-yellow skin and spongy, fibrous, very juicy, astringent, acid to subacid, yellow pulp. Thus is formed the conspicuous, so-called cashew apple."

These cashews were growing in the garden behind Giordano's. There were two different colors, yellow and red. We expressed such interest in the strange plant that the owner insisted that we try them, cutting down two of them herself and providing a knife and plate.

Name this Plant: Cashew

Thanks to one Peace Corps Volunteers unfortunate experience, I know that you
cannot eat raw cashew nuts. I didn't want to risk discovering this extended the pseudo-fruit as well, so I did not try them. However, Hanna and John did. Apparently it is very fibrous and slightly sweet.

Name this Plant: Cashew


Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Flash Drives for the Flash Drive Drive

Phil just came back from America and he brought three flash drives his parents are donating to the Flash Drive Drive. A big thank you goes out to the Owens Family.

Thank You!

— Sara

77: Name This Plant

Eh, it's a cop out, but it is popular and it is how I can blog everyday.

Name This Plant

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

Saturday, September 26, 2009

78: Don't I Have Classes I Should Be Teaching?

1.2 Class Photo

So, yeah, school magazine (read: yearbook). I mentioned earlier that my approach to advising the magazine is sort of like herding cats. I am calling it "Zen and the Art of Student Journalism Advising." Instead of having meetings (or even a regular class), I just sort of speak out loud about the magazine when I notice that more than one student working on the magazine is in the room. Instead of having deadlines, I just make broad suggestions, like eventually, we will need to have all these things.

In some ways I am complete failure. For a group of kids who have never done anything like this before, I have provided very little concrete guidance. On the other hand, by directing with suggestion instead of instruction I have let the kids take the lead and sometimes that turns out surprisingly well.

When nothing seemed to be happening with the layout of the magazine, I just started doing it myself. I created a couple of cover ideas and shopped them around to the kids. It got them thinking and they decided they wanted the Year 13 students to spell out a WC (Wesley College) on the school field and put that on the cover. Clever idea and I had nothing to do with it. 

The girl who seems to have taken the lead as designer (there is another girl who was supposed to be designer and then never did anything and now there appears to be competing designing going on) has taken to the crap-tastic program that is Scribus (open source, piss-poor excuse for PageMaker, not even Quark or InDesign). I offer helpful hints like, "Let's try to put pictures that go together on the same page," or "Try to make one picture on the page bigger than all the others. More than five pictures on one page might be too many," and "We will want to put words with each picture to tell who is in them and what they are doing." She of course, promptly ignores all my suggestions and goes back to making the horror-show photo collage she was working on. But it at least is the students' work and not mine.

One student, Lui, is in charge of photography. Basically, it means that he is doing all the grunt work, while the other students just grab the school camera whenever and run around and take pictures of themselves making gang signs. Lui was supposed to organize class pictures and sports teams picture days. Basically, I told him he had to get the pule's permission to take the pictures at school one day and he had to tell everyone about it ahead of time so they came to school that day looking nice. Outside of that, I pretty much left the planning to him. And by planning, I mean no planning. He did decide to have a large siapo (tapa) cloth as the back drop and it was eventually delivered to the school around interval the day we were supposed to be taking the pictures. However, he hadn't thought about how we would organize the students (I sent out for chairs to have layers, some standing on chairs, some sitting, etc). He hadn't thought about when we would take what pictures (I had us do Year 13 during their English class, because all Year 13s must take English, so they would all be in the same room at the same time).

In the States, the complete lacking of organization would have thrown everyone into chaotic turmoil. However, here everyone just took it for granted when they were told tomorrow is class picture day and then on that day we just randomly went around and grabbed classes of students out of their room and tracked down their form teacher to take their pictures. Completely disrupt all the classes on Wednesday, no problem.

The students did a great job though. All I did that day was stand around and supervise. The prefects on the magazine staff organized the students, instructed them in their poses, wrote down all the names in order and took the pictures. They also gathered all the classes. Lui, who should have been taking the pictures, some how lost his job and ended up running all over the school finding the form teachers. I guess sometimes when you are in charge you have to take on the shit job that no one else wants.

We didn't finish all the classes Wednesday. We had to do the Year 11s and the sports teams on Thursday. Lui came up to me concerned, "Um, Miss? I need to go to my classes tomorrow."

It is true. Thanks to taking pictures all day, I hadn't taught any of my classes, but I hadn't really checked to see if the students helping with the photo shoots were doing it during free periods or were skipping class to be there. Answer, skipping class. I reassured Lui that he did not need to be present for all picture-taking the next day, that he only needed to send me the magazine committee members (read: yearbook staff) who had a free period at that time. What ended up happening is I shot pictures all day on Thursday with intermittent help from students. I actually recieved the most help from Lofisa, one of the teachers and also the pule's wife. She is rock-tastic and I basically did all my organizing by turning to her and saying, "What would you do?"

Fourth Grade Boys Rugby Team

I tried to make it a little more organized on Thursday by distributing a schedule of sports teams to be shot that day during form period that morning. Things were still complete chaos. I spent the entire day standing in the sun taking pictures of sports teams (with a break to teach my one class) and burned the tiny bits of my skin visible in my puletasi.

Wesley College Staff

Friday was teacher picture day. We shot all the teachers together and then attempted to do departments, but many teachers started to wander off, so we still have to finish departments. I have also been informed that we must take house photos at some time. This will involve getting 1/4 of the student body at a time organized and in one place and fitting them all into a picture. It should be fun.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine.

Friday, September 25, 2009

79: Sometimes my kids rock

Hi. Its cale. I dont say much on here, bu tI thought I would interject for a moment.
My kids, you see, sometimes they ROCK.
I have two official classes. Year one and year two.
Year one is still doing the management thing that i am sure has been mentioned earlier. They are completing assignments in record time (if i had records to compare against) and in record numbers. What I had hoped would happen has happened - students are taking responsibility for the learning of their peers.
It is awesome to watch. I wander aroung and help out here and there, but my students wander more and help more.
My year two class is supposed to be at 'work experience' now. Things got very confusing and as of today only two of them have gone to work. So I gave them a project: make a prize giving brochure. They are almost finished. To be clear, I don't have anything to do with it. I made them choose a director, suggested they choose a designer, and introduced them to 'decision by committee' - then I put my hands in my pockets. They made a bunch of decisions, and now they have (almost) a finished product. They rock.
And then I have two sort of other classes...
I teach one student how to teach (not that I know) and I teach another student how to be a network administrator (also, not that I know).
My Network Administrator kid is super smart. The other day I told him to build a server as an assignment, and he said halfway though "It is easier for me if there is a step by step instructions for how to build a server."
I replied "Ok. write them."
He did.
He has written comprehensive instructions for building a server and installing squirrelmail webmail interface so far - we have more how-to's planned.
He rocks.
I have another student that I am training to replace me, so I am trying to teach him teaching. In the past wek he has taken the stuff that I wrote as a programme plan, and written an entire two years worth of weekly plans. He asked me questions about things being very difficult and taking too long, while other things could be covered more quickly.
He Plans!
Anyway - sometimes my kids rock, and that makes me feel like I dont suck.
Yay Kids!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

80: This One Goes Out to All My Homies Who Have Gone Before Me

The New Lucky Foodtown

When Group 79 arrived in country almost two years ago, Farmer Joe's had just opened. All the other volunteers were so excited for Apia's first "real" grocery store. Personally, I was a little frightened by it when we went there on White Sunday to buy uso for the people who would host us for to'ona'i. It looked like Indy's ghetto supermarket LoBill Foods (with the o in Lo, always lower on the sign) mixed with Sam's Club. It had that warehouse sort of feel. Over time, Farmer Joe's has come to grow on me. It is possible I have lowered my grocery store expectations, but I know it is also all the impressive improvements The Farmer has made. They introduced a whole produce and deli department and a special wine and liquor room.

Ming and Hanna's had also just opened when we arrived in country. I think it was like our second day at Apia Central (Group 82, you will not know the wonder that is Apia Central, as you will be staying at the Pasifika Inn) when Koli took us to the maketi and then on to Ming and Hanna's, where we were excited to see things like Cheerios and Starbucks coffee (as long as you were willing to drop fat cash).

Those who had been in country longer told us newbies that we were living the easy life. That we just didn't know what it was like to live in Apia when Chan Mow (scary, scary, scary) was really your only choice for shopping.

Well, it is my turn to be that crotchety old guy. The new Lucky Foodtown opened today and it is a real, honest-to-goodness grocery store. Cale and I wandered around in amazement. I took pictures! We ran into one of the teachers from my school and her daughter. They just moved back to Samoa from New Zealand last year. They too were just touring the grocery store as if it was a theme park, "We came to see if they had any new things from New Zealand."

The New Lucky Foodtown

These new kids are gonna be living the easy life. They just won't know what it was like to live in Apia when the old Lucky's and Farmer Joe were the only choices for shopping. These checkout lanes have numbered lights for crying out loud. This is not a developing nation Group 82 is coming to. Maybe rural Missouri or something. But a rural that is very close to the suburbs.

— Sara

PS. The Way Back Machine

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

81: COS (Part IV: Food, Folks and Fun)

We All Wear Cale's Sunglasses, Which are HUGE We All Wear Cale's Sunglasses, Which are HUGE We All Wear Cale's Sunglasses, Which are HUGE 
We All Wear Cale's Sunglasses, Which are HUGE We All Wear Cale's Sunglasses, Which are HUGE We All Wear Cale's Sunglasses, Which are HUGE

Our COS conference wasn't all sessions and hot showers. We also had a good time. It was nice to spend a good two days together. When you go through two months of training with such a small group of people, you get to know everyone very well. In Samoa we have the benefit of all living relatively close to each other (in the grand scheme of things) so we still see each other quite frequently. However, we are rarely all together at the same time. It takes an
EST (early service training) or a MSC (mid-service conference) to get back together.

Right away when we arrived we had lunch. We discovered that government rules will not allow government employees to charge a meal to Big Brother unless the employee has been away from home for 12 hours. So our APCD was going to have to pay for his own lunch. I took up a collection from the group, so we could shout him his meal. We were having some sort of tomato-based mussel and other creepy sea creatures soup and tuna fish sandwiches. If figure, we can get soup and a sandwich in town for like $15 tala, I will collect $40 since this is a fancy place. Boy was I wrong! That soup and sandwich meal was $72 tala! Outrageous.

We were a little complainy about the food for the entire conference. Not because it was bad, it was fine (not, you know, awesome or anything) but because the portions were so small and we were given no choices. After living in Samoa for two years, we are used to Samoan-sized portions. I think the ones we were served were fat-camp-sized. Maybe someone decided we all needed to be on a diet.

Thursday night most of the group gathered on our porch and talked into the night. I had to give up and fell asleep on the couch with a National Geographic before the evening came to an end.

There was a bit of controversy the next morning. We were staying at Coconuts on some sort of special, pre-arranged deal. We were not entitled to all the Coconuts freebies (like the kayaks or the drinks that come with the meal plan). However, we were all told repeatedly when we were shown to our rooms that the beverages in the mini-fridges were free. Incredulous, many of us asked again. In the Cale and my case, the man who showed us the room, went to so far as to show us the laminated instructions on what to do with the rubbish from the free beverages in the mini-fridge when you are done.

Let's be honest, we are at a resort and someone has put a carafe of free wine and two free beers in all of our fridges? Of course we drank them. The shocker came the next day when the resort insisted they were not free for us. Seeing has how they charge $6.30 for what is usually a $4 tala small beer in town, we didn't even want to imagine what they were charging for the box wine in the carafe. None of us were willing to pay, but we didn't want to cause a scene for the Peace Corps, so PC staff talked to the front desk about the situation. The resort agreed not to charge for the drinks since we were all told repeatedly they were free.

I once again felt childish for running to the office to deal with the situation for me. As a grown person, I could have handled it myself. It would have gone a little like this, "I was told this is free, I am not paying for it. End of story." However, I am representing the Peace Corps and my credit card is not on the bill, the office's card is, so I couldn't really make that decision.

COS fun

I got a chance to hang out in the pool two or three times and expose my mid-section (and because I forgot my shorts) my upper thighs to the sun. I try to avoid wearing my bikini without shorts. Since I lost all the weight, the bottoms hang off me now and Cale has pointed out that if I am not careful, I can give the world a peep show. So I keep the shorts on.

Overall, we are not a very rowdy group, so it was mostly chill on the porch or at the (much, much cheaper) bar next door. And a good time was had by all.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine.

PPS. Check more pictures

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Limited Wardrobes

Cale and I are looking at a picture Ben posted:

"You know, you really get to know everyone's shirts."

— Sara

82: COS (Part III: Accommodations)

COS: Our Villa

As you already know, we spend our COS conference at
Coconuts Resort. As Cale has been fond of saying lately, we have never stayed anywhere this nice and we will never pay to stay any where this nice again.

We stayed in Villa Pule of the
Royal Beach Villas. Our villa was just one of a complex of two identical villas and one giant, massive two-story "villa" of wonder and joy (with a spiral staircase even!) that comprise the "Presidential Suite". According to the book we found in our villa, when creating the Presidential Suite, the people of Coconuts assumed a president would have an entourage and need lots of space. We, obviously, were not in the two-story wonder and joy. We were in the smaller villa to the right of the two-story wonder and joy.

Things on the Coconuts web site that made Cale decide we would really never stay there again:

1. The price. $399 USD per night.
2. Minimum of three-night stay.
3. Pre-booking suggestions that indicates that check-in time is 2pm and if you have an early morning flight, why not just drop another $400 USD on a room you are not going to use for the night so it will be ready for you when you arrive in the morning.
4. Complimentary bus tickets to Apia. Tickets! Tickets for a bus! Ah, we had a good long laugh about that one.

We had a view of the ocean from our king-sized bed. The bathroom was the size of any two rooms in our house in Faleula. I managed to take four hot showers on Friday alone. Cale only took three and he regrets it.

Any way, what I am saying is that things were posh.

Photo Tour

COS: Our VIlla
Standing in the door of our villa you can see the living room couch to the left. To the right and behind the couch is the door to the bathroom. On the far right is the king-sized bed. Behind the bed is the not-so-wet bar (no sink) with mini-fridge.

COS: View from the Bed
View from the bed. It is blown out in the picture, but you can see the ocean from the bed.

COS: The Bathroom
Looking into the bathroom.

COS: The Bathroom
The waterfall shower.

More on the food, folks and fun of COS to come.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

Monday, September 21, 2009

83: COS (Part II: The Sessions)

COS session

For some it might seem a little strange that we are having our Close of Service conference so early, when we still have three months left to go in our service. The COS conference is more than just a Close of Service conference (it was explained to us) but also a Continuation of Service conference. It is a time to not only talk about the details associated with leaving the country, but al the details associated with finishing up our work in in country and preparing to meet Peace Corps third goal ( strengthen Americans' understanding about the world and its peoples") when we return to America.

Cale and I spent the night at Erik's place, so we wouldn't have to wake up so early to get to the Peace Corps office by 8am (which was when I had in my mind for the beginning of the conference). That night Cale, Erik, Max and I went to see
District 9. It is a pretty good movie and I recommend it. It gets a little melodramatic at the end, but still something new.

Thursday morning comes and Cale and I stop at McDonald's for breakfast. Our agenda for the conference claims breakfast from 8:30 am to 9:00 am, but we would rather take the opportunity to have an egg McMuffin. We are lucky we did, when we arrive at the Peace Corps office we discover breakfast had been cancelled, though we had not been informed. Some people had not eaten yet and Lissa ran next door for some oranges and masi popo (coconut biscuits) because she is that sort of super nice person.

We thought we would start in the conference room, but that area is currently occupied by the new language trainers the office is getting ready for the new group who arrives Oct. 7. Until last year, the office kept four language trainers on staff, full-time, year-round. However, with budgetary cutbacks and the switch from one intake group a year instead of two, three of the trainers had to be let go. The hope was that they could return part time each year for the new groups, but I am sure the office knew that it wasn't going to be possible for everyone. Unfortunately, none of the old trainers could return, so the office is training a new group.

The sessions were supposed to start at 9am, but since everyone was already there and breakfast was cancelled, we started at 8:30am. Fata (our APCD) did a little welcoming speech and then we moved into Fono's (Safety and Security Officer) presentation, where he asked us to provide feedback on how to improve things for the next group. Teuila (Medical Officer) was next. She covered our close of service medical requirements, which includes a mandatory HIV test, and our options for Corps Care (health insurance) that is available to us short-term upon our return to the states. She also reminded us to fill her in on any issues so they can be recorded and so she can give us referral sheets if necessary. Our final session in the office was from Sena (interim Administrative Officer). Sena is from our country desk in DC. She is filling in as AO until the new AO can arrive in about four weeks. You may remember me mentioning that our former AO, Ana retired. Sena talked to us about money. Cale and I are going to try to meet with her later to figure out the best way to get our 2/3 check in a reasonable amount of time. We learned it was supposed to take a max of 60 days (even that is sort of outside our time frame for our trip), but we know RPCV who have taken even longer (five months or more).

Next we all piled into vehicles and headed to Coconuts. We got there early and our rooms weren't ready yet. So we had lunch and waited for the rooms.

Our first session at the resort was "Reviewing Your Peace Corps Experiences." We all wrote down our accomplishments and lessons learned on newsprint and talked about them. When you join the Peace Corps, you must be prepared to do a lot of writing on newsprint. Next came "Future Opportunities (Resume Writing, Networking & Interviews Techniques, Graduate School)." This session was more broad overviews and hand outs of useful web sites and job search engines. RPCV have access to a lot of fee-based sites for free and that is really nice. The main point appeared to be, it is not what you know, but who you know.

On Friday we had a session on "Providing Feedback to Post," which was mainly what to change for the new groups. Mainly we were against the constant playing of icebreaker games in training. We also talked a lot about emphasizing professionalism from the beginning with training. Many of us felt that PST starts a cycle of volunteer dependency by treating it like summer camp and the trainees like children. Even after PST ends, many volunteers continue to look at their service as an extended vacation and to the office as surrogate parents. We encouraged putting the smack down on that from the beginning. We also talked about increasing the accountability of the host country agencies for which we work. We all seem to agree that we were seen as free labor and nothing more, which agencies not committing much to the development process.

Our next session was on writing our DOS (description of service). This document is the only official record of all our work in the Peace Corps. It must be less than four pages, written entirely in the third-person and use lots of action words and concrete number. You need your DOS to get the non-competitive benefit of government jobs later or to apply for Peace Corps fellowships with grad schools. Some jobs specifically hiring RPCVs might ask to see it as well. It is a good idea to keep meticulous notes, journal or blog through out your service so you have something to look back on when writing this document.

After lunch we had "Readjusting to Life in the USA," where I was surprised to discover some of our group are very nervous about going home. I don't know why, the it hasn't really been worrying me. I know that I will be poor as hell (or broke as a joke, both my and Cale's answers to the fill in the blank question "In regards to money, when I return to America I will be .......), but we have friends and family and we will get jobs before we try to go back to school in August.

In the evening on Friday I also sat my end of service LPI (language proficiency interview). Seeing as how I don't speak a lick of Samoan anymore, it didn't go very well. The interviewer started asking me questions that I could not even begin to comprehend and eventually resorting to prompting me to recite the days of the week and asking me what color things were (I could say red, mumu, but I could not do black). Finally, we both agreed he was able to assess my complete lack of language skills. You may remember the first time I took an LPI, at the end of training, I failed. However, not because my language skills were so poor, but because of this.

According to the agenda there was supposed to be a Group 79 slideshow at dinner that night, but no one in the Group or on staff had any idea what that was about.

Saturday morning we talked about survival techniques to pass on to the new groups, which eventually went into a long conversation about living situations. The general consensus seems to be that volunteers need to be placed with a family to help facilitate integration into the community. However, the volunteer should not live inside the family home, but instead in their own fale on the family compound to help facilitate volunteer sanity. We also talked a lot about how hosting a volunteer can be a big burden on a family. For volunteers who live in Women's Committee fales or on school compounds, entire villages take turns caring for them. However, when you are living with a specific family, no one else in the village feels the need to pitch in and help. It is a stress on the family and extremely costly for the volunteer, who does not want to burden the family. So we recommended this should be addressed as well.

Finally we talked about what we could or planned to do upon returning to the states to meet the third goal and what are all the things we still have to complete in country before we can leave.

That in a nutshell, a large nutshell, were our conference sessions. More on accommodations and having fun to come later.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Flash Drive Drive Update

Another big thank you needs to go out to Ed Steyh, the father of former Samoa volunteer Julya Steyh. Julya was in group 75 and finished her service at our sister school in Savaii just as we were finishing training. You can find Julya
here. Ed donated five flash drives to our drive, bringing the total to eight. 


— Sara

84: COS (Part I)

I promise to write more about our COS conference very soon. However, I will just start with a picture.

Group 79 at COS:

Samoa Group 79 COS Conference

Group 79 just before Swear In:

Group shot on FiaFia night

Group 79 at Staging:

Staging in L.A.

I also thought I would take this moment to remember those who have gone home before us:
Gal, Aaron and Mike. I never posted when Mike left us. His departure was for personal reasons and unexpected. He never said goodbye and no one has been able to contact him since. I held off blogging about it in the hopes we would hear from him.

Toe Feiloa'i Gal Aaron's Last Meal: At Italiano's Of Course Mid-Service Conference

— Sara

Name This Plant: Pomelo

Name This Plant

I would like to congratulate the anonymous reader who correctly named this plant the pomelo.

We were first introduced to pomelos while visiting Max in his village. Cale and Max had gone for a walk and returned with a huge one. According to Max, they are very popular in Israel. I find them to be a sweeter version of grapefruit and like them more than either grapefruits or oranges.

According to
Wikipedia, it is the largest citrus fruit and is one half of the tangelo hybrid (half pomelo, half tangerine).

— Sara

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 86. I suspect I may be clean.

I am writing this in advance, so there is no way to know for sure. But I may, by the time you are reading this, have showered twice in twelve hours. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Samoa record. Warm showers. Warm showers are the only ones that count. Never count the tiny deaths that are cold showers. Two warms showers in twelve hours. Soap. Shampoo. It will have been wonderful.
I'll post a picture of that skin just behind and below my ankle. You'll see. It may be clean.
This is of course all speculative.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

87: Close of Service Conference

Today we start our COS (close of service...and apparently continuation of service conference). I am actually typing this from the conference. It started early, so I was on the computer when we started. My posts for these next few days will be short and/or non-existant. I will see what I can do.

We are all heading out to Coconuts resort for the next two days of conference.


PS. The Way Back Machine

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You Are Now Entering the Twilight Zone

If you haven't wandered over to Matt's recently, I need you to head over there and read these two stories:

This one
And this one

I had already read these when Cale and I walked past the John Williams Building last night. So I knew why such a huge crowd had gathered, I knew why the TV news was there and I knew why I was almost hit by a taxi.

However, I still don't understand. I have never understood these things. I can understand miracles and I can even get behind people with visions or whatever. But I have a hard time believing that whatever god there is goes around appearing in
grilled cheese sandwiches, metal baking sheets, a dry cleaner's press pad, a tree stump, a cider bottle, pancakes and toast, a kit-kat bar, a baby's ultrasound, or apparently the gutter stains on the side of a building. And that was just a quick google search.

Anyway, here's hoping god appears to you in your omelet this morning.

— Sara

88: A Woman Without A State

I feel so set adrift. I have no mooring, no place to call home.

Ok, that's a little melodramatic. But I am sort of in limbo.

In September 2007, Cale and I packed everything we owned into the bed of a pickup truck and drove out of Florida. We took the long way "home" to Indiana. I have lived in Indiana for a total of 20 of my 28 years of life. I will always be a Hoosier. Indiana was more than just home in our heart, it was our address of record with the Peace Corps (we used my parents in Indy).

Which state to now claim as my own didn't really occur to me until I was already in Samoa and trying to apply for an absentee ballot. Florida, my last state of residents refused to claim me.

"But I have a Florida driver's license," I implored.

"Do you live in Florida?" Florida asked.

"Well, no. Not now. But it was the last place I lived in America," I explained.

Florida was having none of it.

"Do you work in Florida?" Florida pried?

"I used to work in Florida," I tried.

"Do you own property in Florida?" Florida asked in exasperation.

"Never," I said and hung my head in shame.

Indiana, my address of record, also refused to claim me.

"So, you don't live here?" Indiana asked.

"No," I replied sheepishly.

"And you don't have any utilities in your name or a drivers license or anything?" Indiana offered hopefully?

"No," I said. "Just this address of record thing."

Indiana looked askance and shunned me for the rest of the evening.

So I didn't get an absentee ballot, which upset me until I saw Obama take both Florida (yay) and Indiana (wtf). Not to get all political here for a moment, I personally wasn't for or against Obama, but I was certainly frightened of Sarah Palin. Oh if only McCain could have won the primary against Bush in 2000, what a different world it would be (she said wistfully remembering the days before McCain became a crazy person).

*Note to people joining the Peace Corps: Get the absentee ballot before you move or anything.

I went back to being obliviously unconcerned with my lack of a state. And then I decided to apply for grad school. The application wants to know if I am an Indiana resident. And I have no idea. I am not an anything resident. My Florida drivers license doesn't expire until 2011, but they have already told me they don't want me. My address of record is Indiana, but IU wants you to have lived in Indiana for 12 months prior to the start of school (for reasons other than academic) and I will only be living in Indiana for about six months before school begins in August.

I imagine that Americans sell everything they own and move overseas all the time (right?) What do you do when you haven't lived in America for an extended period of time and you don't own any property? Are you just a non-entity? Surely you can still lay claim to one of the states as your own?

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

89: So I Need A Blog for Today

And as I sit at the computer, I have no idea what it is going to be. I give Matt the major props for blogging everyday. That shit is difficult.

I think ya'll are just gonna have to settle for what I did today.

6 am: Alarm

6:05 am: Snooze button alarm

6:05-6:50 am: Waste time on internet when I should be doing my exercises. Eat bagel we made last weekend. Drink cup of chai tea (thanks Paul's mom). Work on week's lesson plans.

6:50 am: Ice cold shower

7:20 am: Leave for school

7:30 am: Wander around school wondering if we are going to have Monday morning teacher computer class. Check timetable to see if other computer classes are scheduled for upstairs computer lab during my Year 13 classes in hope I can use room. Write message on Year 13 Form Room chalkboards that we will have class upstairs.

7:50 am: Realize that we are definitely not having teacher computer class.

8:15 am: Discover Year 9 students filing into upstairs computer lab. Discover I looked at Day 5 schedule and today is Day 4. Run into student from last year who needs help with JAVA lessons in University. Tell him I know nothing about JAVA. Invite him to come by tomorrow morning to use the internet with me to learn things. Walk past Year 13.1 room where they are still having form class (homeroom) and tell them the message on the board is a lie and we are downstairs.

8:20 am: Finally begin Year 13 class ten minutes late. Discover that no students have completed the project assigned eight days ago. Chastise students. Give students the rest of the period to finish the assignment.

9:00 am: Free period. Monitor open lab as students play games and work on assignments. Work on lesson plans.

9:50 am: 13.2 class. Send one student to remind other students that class is in downstairs lab. Discover one student has done project. Since only three students were present the day project was assigned, decide to abandon project (bonus marks for that student) and move into lecture on (drum roll please) bus lines and the elements of a graphical user interface. Plan was to show students a terminal and nano on Linux machines upstairs, but since we are downstairs, must settle for Command Prompt window in Windows.

10:40 am: Interval begins. Find vice principal (since principal is still in New Zealand). Ask if we can use the school truck to drive students around town to deliver letters requesting businesses and people sponsor or take ads out in the school magazine (read: yearbook) so that we can afford to print it. Told by vice-principal to wait for principal's return on Wednesday. Look at "broken" computer in secretary's office. I put this computer in the office in maybe May at the latest. No one has used it since. I have turned it on twice since then (once less than a month ago), but now it is not working. Push button. Yep. Nothing. Must be power supply. Will try to locate extra power supply. Find Magazine Business Manager and tell her what is up with letter delivery. Find Yearbook Editor and tell her vice-principal has requested a list of students on the Yearbook Committee (read: yearbook staff). Go back to lab to monitor students in lab during interval.

11:20 am: Free period. Monitor open lab. Help Magazine Designer with questions.

12:10 pm: Free period. Go to upstairs lab where I have told two students who were absent on Friday when we sat the Keyboarding IA (internal assessment) they can sit the IA. Set students up. They use KTouch on Ubuntu operating system to type preloaded text. Must reach at least 20 WPM with no mistakes for full marks. Must reach 50 NPM (numbers per minute) as well. Watch as other computer teacher holds his 12.2 class in the same room (the class I taught for two weeks while he was doing rugby). Class consists of students reading out loud from copied pages of textbook and both teacher and students mumbling at each other in inaudible tones. Maybe it is better since he is speaking in Samoan, but I tried to make my classes more dynamic and well...less sleepy. Try to keep group of Year 13 students with school camera (thanks moms and dad) from interrupting his class while they take each others' pictures behind upright white board.

1:00 pm: Free period. Meet with group of Magazine students in downstairs lab. Talk about who to give sponsorship letters too. Make a list and print it out. Also finish writing all lesson plans for the week. Print lesson plans for Thursday and Friday and handout to give to students. Ask other computer teacher if she (or the other teacher) can take my classes on Thursday and Friday...AS I WILL BE AT MY COS CONFERENCE, BITCHES! Not that I am excited or anything. Show student how to download pictures from camera. Ask student who is supposed to be in the class in the room (I was meeting the Magazine in the back while a class was going on) what video he is watching on the computer. Turns out to be a man dancing in his underpants. Ask him if he would watch this video if the principal was standing behind him. Answer is no. Tell him that he should not watch it at school and delete it from the computer (this video is no where near as bad as the actual porn I have deleted from the computers).

1:50 pm: School ends. Now just 10 minutes of final form room. Cale come to walk me home (or at least steal laptop from me if it looks like I am going to be a while). Walk around computer lab putting chairs back, fixing keyboards and mice and turning computers off. Leave student working on pictures for Magazine, Business Studies teacher typing an exam and teacher's two children in lab. Ask teacher to lock room and turn off lights and air-con when she leaves.

2:10 pm: Home, checking emails and wasting time on internets. Reluctantly respond to email request for interview for post newsletter. Post newsletter is now competitor to Volunteer newsletter (Faitala) that Cale edited and I designed...until recently. Have turned over the reigns to
the Liz.

2:40 pm: Cale kicks me off computer. Do dishes. Start laundry (in a bucket). Make tuna sandwiches of wonder and joy with lettuce. Feed leftovers to Cleveland and Detroit (cats).

Rest of evening as of 7 pm: Read book, begin graduate school application, waste time on internet, write blog entry, avoid working on textbook project.

Update: After 7pm: Eat canned chili on spaghetti with cheese and onion (chili four-ways? Sara argues that chili is just chili and you must add one thing to make it chili one-way so this should only be chili three-ways. Cale argues that the chili alone is chili one-way and when you add a thing it becomes two-ways). Watch Breaking Bad on computer. Sleep.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

Monday, September 14, 2009

90: Eighty, Eighty-Two, Where Are You?

They're coming. We can hear the rumblings off in the distance like a train approaching.

Rumors abound. There are 24 of them and 19 are females. The male Peace Corps population of Samoa rejoices. Wait! One of those females is married to one of the males. The rejoicing decreases by 1/19th.

Two Group 82ers have made me a friend on the facebook and Matt has at least three (damn him and his better blog).

Peace Corps Journals web site has picked up a link to an 82er's blog, Elisa the Anthropologista (with this link, I would like to take credit for all increases in her blog hits from now on, can I do that?).

As long as I have their attention, I would like to take this opportunity to offer some packing advice. First a link to our previous packing advice.

and Here

Now I would like to make some comments on those posts.
  • We have now been here two years, not just the three months we thought made us experts before.
  • Chacos, chacos, chacos, chacos. Both Cale and I are on our second pair of chaco flips. I still have my strappy sandals. Cale's were eaten by a dog. Since I posted I have hiked in dense jungle and I wore my strappy chacos. The boys went barefoot. Showoffs. I have worn my New Zealand...and that one week I though I would take up jumping rope for exercise.
  • Don't pack clothes for two years. That is silly. They will all be ruined in six months. Just accept that.
  • Don't pack clothes for two years. That is silly. You will most likely loose or gain a dramatic amount of weight. I lost 20 pounds. Another volunteer lost more than 40 pounds.
  • I want to reiterate the importance for girls underwear. Bring lots. Bring it in one size smaller and one size bigger. Understand you will still end up having people send it from home. 
  • Cute clothes. Ladies, you are gonna want to come into Apia sometimes and look cute. Bring clothes you can feel both cute and not whorish in.
  • Originally, I was all modest at the beach in my shorts and t-shirts and stuff. However, I have just taken to wearing my bikini with shorts on the tourist beaches now. However, when you are out in a village (where you are all supposed to be sent) having a rash guard and board shorts will come in handy.
Now I would like to say entirely new things about what to pack.
  • Pack some sanity. For me it was the laptop and the camera equipment. I can tone pictures till my hearts content to relieve stress. For Cale it was his tools (saws and chisels). Between our two sanities, we had like 60 or 70 of our total 160 pounds (there are two of us and we both got 80 pounds).
  • Bring a laptop. No...seriously, bring a laptop. It will be your main source of entertainment.
  • Buy an external hard drive. Do it. Right now. They are cheap. Now fill it with new TV shows and your favorite/new movies. You have just made best friends with more than 40 Peace Corps volunteers and helped with your future sanity. If you want, I can send you a list of all the TV we already have in the office so you don't duplicate. For the love of god, someone bring the 4th season of Lost with them! We have 1-3 and 5.
  • Pack a box of things you won't need during training and mail it to yourself. If you like to cook, send a good knife (hard to find in country) and a quality pot and frying pan. Cale wishes he had brought a wok. We had a cheese grater sent from America because we could not find a good one here. I have yet to locate a usable vegetable peeler.
  • Drink coffee? Cannot live without it? Bring a french press, it will help you get through training and life beyond. Cale also brought like 30 packs of vacuum packed puerto rican coffee. He was sad to see it go. Plunger coffee is expensive here. Most people drink instant coffee of horror.
  • Don't bother bringing more than a travel amount of bathroom supplies (shampoo, etc) unless you are super picky (in which case, get over it) or have prescription stuff (though that sounds a little strange). You can buy all that stuff here. Note to the ladies (boys, avert your eyes): it is rare to find tampons with an applicator in this country. Personally, I have no idea why tampons without applicators were invented, but that is beside the point. If you like tampons with applicators, bring them with and have them sent.
  • Look at the list of things to send in a package on the other volunteers blogs to understand what you will be missing once you get here.
  • Bring me flash drives for my Flash Drive Drive. I will like you.
And now I will shut up because this is a long post. Don't forget to contact people already in country if you have questions. There is a list of blogs in the sidebar.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

Sunday, September 13, 2009

91: I Was Wondering What I Would Look Like With Bangs Anyway

Nao, everyone's favorite JICA volunteer, who teaches Agricultural Science at my school, goes home to Japan soon. His last day at school is this Friday. Cale, Tetsuya (the JICA volunteer at Cale's school) and I planned to host him for dinner before he left. Originally it was going to be Monday or Tuesday, but things came up for Nao and it ended up being today.

This was the morning of the Methodist Board of Education final exam moderation. Having been to three exam moderations before, I have some experience with them. What is supposed to happen is the Upolu schools and Savaii schools share exams. A person at one school writes the exam and the person at the other school has an opportunity to see it and comment during the moderation. At least for my department, what happens is that I write my exams, no one else writes their exams and then we sit around for several hours doing nothing. That is a little tot harsh. Last time, I wrote my exam, another teacher from my school wrote his exam and the teacher from Savaii wrote her exam. Unfortunately, we couldn't share them, because we were not following the same timetable and were not teaching the same things.

I could not bring myself to go to the moderation again. I just didn't want to get up at 7 am so I could sit around a do nothing for several hours.

Cale had to go into Apia to provide some emergency help at a friend's Internet cafe. He is in Africa and while he was away Cale is tech support for the lab. The cache proxy went down and Cale built a new one using Squid (some complicated Linux thing I do not understand). Anywho, he was to go in and set it up early in the morning before they opened at 8 am.

So instead, I got up at 6 am, went into town with Cale and sat around and did nothing for several hours.

Unfortunately, there was an unexpected hiccup in installing the new cache box and at 10 am, Cale finally had to give up, reconfigure all the client computers so they could open for the day and promise to return once the glitch was sorted out. Next time he will try to install it after they close for the night and not before the open in the morning.

Anywho, next we did our shopping. We had to purchase snacky, lunchy foods for an outing planned with Hanna, John and a visiting English vet tomorrow and the food for Nao's going away dinner later today. Cale called Dani our favourite taxi driver and we made stops at Lucky Foodtown and Farmer Joe's.

Once back at home we ran into Paul and Dan (Peace Corps teachers at our sister school in Savaii) who had just finished with the moderation. Apparently this moderation had been quite eventful and had ended with at least one principal in tears! Also, the Peace Corps had recently sent out a note to the school board in response to my recent incidents with
corporal punishment requesting the boards advice on how volunteers should respond in these situations. The subject was mentioned and everyone was reminded not to beat the students.

Dan left for Apia immediately by bike. Paul hung around for a while chatting and then he was able to catch a bus (miracle of miracles!) into Apia. Catching a bus at 3 pm on a Saturday is rare to start with, but with the great bus dearth, catching one today was just mad luck.

Not long after that Nao and Tetsuya arrived and I began preparing the garlic bread appetizer. For those of you wondering what this post has to do with bangs, this is where that comes in. The proceeding sentence was an example of foreshadowing.

Anyway, I chop garlic and butter slices of French bread. I turn the broiler on the gas stove (foreshadowing: I see the flames light and the broiler turn on) and while it warms up, I chop garlic and butter more slices of French bread. Then I put the bread on the broiler tray and slide it into the boiler. Next, I chop some more garlic and butter more slices of bread. Then I bend down and look in the broiler to check on the first batch of bread. Oh, my, the broiler appears to have gone out. So while still looking in the broiler I reach up and press the starter button that will ignite the broiler.

I think now would be an excellent time to pause in our narrative and do a little leap of logic about what is going to happen next. So several garlic chopping and French-bread butterings ago, I turned on the gas for the broiler. Just because the flame has since gone out, does not mean the gas has gone out. So the gas has been building up inside the broiler this entire time.

We will now rejoin our heroine as a ball of flame explodes inside the broiler and rushes out into her face.

I shriek, grab my face and turn away. Cale is immediately up and at my side. It takes me a second to take a mental stock of my injuries and to conclude that I have none. However, when I uncover my face, Cale recommends I take a look in the bathroom mirror. It appears I have singed my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. None of my hair is burnt enough to notice really. My eyebrows are still intact. In fact, my eyelashes seem to have taken the brunt of the blow (luckily I was wearing glasses at the time) and have become significantly shorter and crispier and curled on the edges.

Returning to the party, I point out that the smell of burnt hair is the same smell as when someone is getting a perm. Hmmmm....

So in the end, my brush with a fireball was anti-climactic, though I was not allowed to help with anymore cooking that involved the stove for the night.

— Sara

The Way Back Machine

PPS. Congratulations to Jason and Zaira who went and got married today.