Friday, October 30, 2009

A Moratorium on Mail

Now is probably a good time to stop sending us things in the mail. With about a month left there is no guarantee that it will make it before we leave. Anything that arrives after our departure will be kindly bequeathed to Volunteers still in country.

— Sara

31; Let Me Explain

In all his excitement to blog about our impending departure, Cale failed to provide the details.

On Wednesday we turned in our slips of paper stating that the school year ends on 27 November 2009 and we would like to depart Samoa that Monday 30 November 2009. Our country director gave us the A.O.K. We talked to the lovely ladies in administration and they are hard at work rounding up our cash in lieu for our flight home. We also have a rough draft of our DOS (description of service) in the hands of our APCD and we are working on our resumes.

We are taking the cash in lieu because we would like to layover in LA for two days (Meghan, I will email you details soon, but maybe we will fly out on Wednesday?) to visit friends there (Kenny, Gal? We're talking to you). After that is is back to Indy.

I am going to spend the month of December studying for an early January GRE and then cross my fingers that the IU SPAEA likes me and the RPCV Fellows program accepts me. Cale's going to get a job of some sort (hopefully) so that we aren't spending our 1/3 readjustment allowance while we wait for the other 2/3 to arrive.

Come February we should see our other 2/3 check (fingers crossed) and we can head out to Southeast Asia and start the long delayed trip around that area. Kick around there a couple of months and then its back to the States where in July Cale would like to become a certified sea captain. Ok, it's really a sailboat captain, but I think sea captain has a better ring to it. This is in the hopes of better preparing us for an eventual sail around the world. Granted, the first goal is to sail around Lake Erie, but we are working up to this world thing.

Right now the blog is called Cale and Sara Join the Peace Corps. When we were going to go home via Southeast Asia, I was gonna change the name to Cale and Sara Take the Long Way Home. However, now that we have this pit stop in the States, I am not sure what to name it for now. The suggestion box is now open.

— Sara

32: It's a Date

For those of you interested, the Reeves will be conducting an epicurean tour of the US! The tour kicks off with a mexican food dinner in LA on or about Dec 1st! Avoid the rush, get your tickets soon!

Tour Dates
11/30 Apia - Italiano's. It's obligatory.
12/1 LA - Mexican joint TDB
12/2 LA - matinee show - Late breakfast joint TBD
12/3 LA - Airport Burger king breakfast - (contractual obligation)
12/4 Indy - Home cooked meal?Anyone? Cornbread? Mashed taters?
12/5 Indy - Limited engagement, Internet pizza delivery & Movie TBD
12/6 Indy - Mexican Reprise, Location TBD
12/7 Indy - Experimental show: Do we still like sushi?
12/8 Indy - Anonymous Ribs Joint: Closed-up gas station? Smoker? Two racks please!
12/9 Indy - Yatz. We need splatz.
12/11 Indy - What's new and tasty? (the big closing)
12/12 Indy - After show: Cracker Barrel Breakfast: Biscuits and Gravy Till our Eyes Bleed

More Dates To Come! Stay Tuned!

Feel free to offer tour date suggestions. Be adventurous. Greek? Yes please. Italian? Better not be Olive Garden. On second thought, sure Olive Garden. 

— Cale & Sara

Thursday, October 29, 2009

46-33: Thirty-three is the new forty-six.

Forty-six days sucked. So we changed it. Expect us in December. I'll make another blogit tomorrow with more information, but for now just remember: 33.
Like Scottie Pippen.
Like Rolling Rock.
Like the largest positive integer that cannot be expressed as a sum of different triangular numbers.
Like LPs.
Or Masonic illuminati.
Or Dante's cantos taken in groups.
Or two lowercase m's stacked on top of each other and turned sideways.
Yay 33. 
m
m


-cale

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

47: Bizarre Foods

Sea

Apparently there is this show on the Travel Channel. Some bald guy travels around the world eating weird stuff (I bet I have you confused, Anthony Bourdain isn't bald you are saying. Ha! It's another guy) and some time last year or so he decided to eat weird stuff in Samoa.

Thanks to Dylan we now have a copy of this hilarity in country. The guy is like a total putz and his advance team or research team or whatever couldn't even be troubled to find out how to properly pronounce many Samoan words.

The show starts off with a visit to the
Maketi Fou (mah-ket-ee foh [foh as in fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an englishman]), which our esteem host pronounces mah-ket-ee foo [foo as in girl, mama didn't raise no foo]. Eh, minor pronunciation mistake.

The true hilarity comes when he has a
keke pua'a (kay-kay pooh-ah-ah [the word keke coming from the English word cake]). I have mentioned these food items before. In my experience they are pork pieces and gravy tucked inside a dough ball and then boiled. The ones at the market are apparently deep fried. Fancy.

Anyway our friend, the host, announces for all the world, "Samoan's call these ka-ka pua
* (pooh-ah)." This might not seem like a big mistake, except Cale has shown this video to his students (they loved it) and they all agree that he just called that food pig shit. Except he pronounced pig wrong. Apparently ca-ca is ca-ca no matter what language you are speaking.
*They even have it spelled that way on their web site.

Later in the show he asks a Samoan environmental scientist to dig him up some grubs to eat. Then he asks the guy, "How do you usually eat them?" You can tell by the guy's face he is thinking this, "We don't usually eat them you crazy, crazy man. Who the hell usually eats grubs?
*" However, he just recommends that the host roast them first.
*Please don't get on me. I know there are people who normally eat grubs. But I have never, ever seen a Samoan eat a grub.

Anyway, yada, yada, yada, crazy man eats weird things in Samoa. Sara, can you please talk about what is going on in that Coke bottle at the top of the post.

Let me introduce you to
sea. That's sea (say-ah) not sea (see).

These are the innards of a
sea cucumber oh so lovingly pickled in sea water. It is so disgusting looking that for the longest time I refused to believe that it was a food item and had deluded myself into believing it was used as bait in fishing. That, unfortunately, is a lie.

Apparently, sea cucumber is a common food around the world. However, the
pictures I can find on the internet lead me to believe the rest of the world is eating a different part of the cucumber.

I watched the show with my Year 9 friend who is sickly and cannot go to classes held on the second floor of the school (why her computer class is on the top floor I don't know). We got to the part of the show where he eats the sea in the market and my little friend gets all excited.

"Oh. That's my favourite! I love that."

"Really?" I am incredulous.

Nope, as it turns out, she honest to goodness loves eating sea slug intestine. Well, good on her.

— Sara

PS. Interested in more info on Samoan foods? Check out this missionary's
post. Or this here.

PPS. If you would like to read something that is completely full of lies about Samoan foods, try
this.

PPPS. Want more pictures of this guy's stupid show in Samoa, check them out
here.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest.....

If Cale writes a blog entry and fails to sign it, will anyone know? The answer is no.

Sorry guys, that last blog entry was from Cale. I am not doing anything so cool. Cale on the other hand is training one of his students to take over for him and hopefully this student will be on the school payroll next year. Keep your fingers crossed. We are worried because the school board requested a JICA volunteer to take over Cale's job and if they get a free teacher, they might not hire the student.

— Sara

48: I did NOT write a test.

Today one of my students (who I am training to replace me when I leave) wrote an exam. That is awesome in and of itself, but check this out. After he wrote it, he went through and answered all the questions. At one point he asked me if a question made sense. Then (at my direction) he translated all the questions into Samoan as well as English.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one valid test.
Written by one soon to be teacher.
Yay my class!

— Cale

Sunday, October 25, 2009

49: Palagi

According to my Samoan dictionary, palagi (pah-lahng-ee) is the name given to a certain species of fish. It doesn't specify which species. The word I am actually looking for it papalagi:

n. European, white man

When referring to white people, Samoan's use the world
palagi. The first pa is almost always dropped. I am not sure why.

Anyway, back to my point.

I am a palagi. I use the word myself frequently to refer to foods I eat or the house I stay in. Samoan's do as well. They differentiate between fale Samoa (traditional, open-air living structures) and fale palagi (closed-in, four-walled brick houses).

However, I have conflicted emotions about the word.

It comes up most frequently when Cale and I ride our bikes or go for a walk. From the side of the road, often hidden by trees or even from inside homes far away, we will hear voices call out:

"Fa, palagi."

"Bye-bye, palagi"

or simply

"Palagi."

Often times they are innocent enough, just the voices of small children. But sometimes they seem more aggressive, more menacing. Frequently these voices will continue to call out repeatedly, unsatisfied with a wave or a head nod or even a breathless "fa" as I bike past. Screaming "fa" and "palagi" after me until I am out of earshot.

The other day I was walking up the mountain to pick up an ad for the magazine and a truck passed me. "Hey white girl," a man yelled from the car as he drove past. And it finally occurred to me that is what everyone has been yelling at me for two years. I had understood that is what it meant, but I had never made the emotional connection before. Small children on the side of the road are yelling "white girl" at me as I bike past. Grown men in front of shops are yelling "white girl" at me as I walk by.

This is very strange and unsettling for me.

I am not sure I understand the compulsion to yell out my physical difference as I pass by, especially because I do not feel like my presence is all that novel. I am, obviously, a minority and rare, but rare enough that my existence must be announced for the world?

— Sara

Fiafia Pictures

I finally finished uploading fiafia pictures. You can find the here.

— Sara

Saturday, October 24, 2009

50: Further Proof Samoa is Still a Developing Nation

Sometimes the internet just doesn't work all day.

— Sara

PS. Alternate title for this blog: Excuses For Why I Didn't Blog.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

52: Like a Purse...

So puletasi do not typically have pockets (the faletua mumu does, but that is beside the point).

So here are the women of Samoa running around all day with out any pockets. They need some place to keep their odds and ends and since purses can be a cumbersome nuisances, why not just use the one garment you are wearing that is already like a purse?

That's right, I am talking about your bra.

Items that are typically found in bras include scraps of paper with notes written on them, money and cell phones. In fact, if you don't wear your cellphone on a string around your neck, then you probably have it tucked in your bra.

Of course the guys don't have pockets in their ie either. Cale has taken to sort of rolling his wallet up in the waist of his lavalava. However, must guys are all wearing shorts under the ie, so they just use the pockets in the shorts and pull back the flap or hike up the ie to access the pocket-stored items.

I have seen ladies with shorts on under their puletasi skirt as well. One woman was leaving the ATM, pulled back the flap of her skirt to reveal the shorts underneath and pocketed the money.

Today after school I sat down to discuss a student's final exam questions. Before we started I reached into my shirt and pulled out a flash drive and two AA batteries. The flash driver went by unnoticed, but she did seem a little surprised to see the batteries. I had been expecting to take department and house pictures after school today, so I had the camera in hand and wanted to have the extra batteries nearby. WIth no pockets in sight, I simply tucked them in my bra. It was only natural.

— Sara

53: Getting Ahead of Myself

At some point in the last couple of days I just dropped two days from the countdown on the blog. You may notice that several past entries have a slash through the original number and the correct number added in. So if you wonder why you are seeing Day 53 again...that is why.

Does this have significant meaning? Does it show some sort of anxiousness to speed the count down up? Probably not, it just means that I got confused one day and then it snowballed.

Today I don't have any over arching theme for the blog entry or anything new to blog about (which is also why this blog is clocking in at 2 hours and 58 minutes too late to actually be for Day 53, but if you don't tell anyone. I wont.)

Last week my senior students started their final exams on Wednesday. They were supposed to start Monday the week before, but were postponed due to the tsunami.

Tuesday this week the students finished their final exams. That made today (well yesterday at the time of typing...shhhhh) the first day at school after final exams for the senior students. In the States, if there was still school after finals, I imagine that the day after finals would be a day off school or some sort of fun, relax blow off steam day. We like to do things a little differently here, so today was a work day for the senior students. They were sent out to the patch of land across the street from the school that is the home of the new agricultural science plantation to plant taro and weed and stuff. Congratulations, you finished your final exams (and the more important SSC and PSSC exams are still to come), go do some manual labour.

I kept the students on the magazine committee back so they could get some work done. There was a lot of goofing around, of course, they are high school students. However, a lot of work got done. My designer finished converting all the photographs to black and white. The editor-in-chief edited the class photograph captions and class reports. The School Work editor wrote captions for all her pictures. The Events editor wrote some captions. The assistant Sports editor tracked down info for the sports pages.

At the end of the day when all the students went home, the editor-in-chief and the photography editor and I sat down to figure out how to get everything in the magazine without adding more pages. We cut some things so we could add another page for advertisements. The dilemma of the ads is we need to sell more to pay for the magazine, but we have cut content from the magazine to make room for the ads. We made space for the house pictures the principal requested (think Harry Potter houses) and a page for the Head Girl and Head Boy and school prefects (I think it is no coincidence that the Head Girl is my editor-in-chief and the Head Boy is my photography editor).

Next I went into town to delivered the finished ad to one of the banks that is advertising in the magazine and to pick up the check from another company that bought a half-page ad. Then I walked to the office where I was hoping to finish the edits to the magazine so I could print another draft there, but I didn't so I will have to print it at school.

I have been getting a lot of walking in. Yesterday I took a bus to the new Bluebird Lumbar in Vaitele. They bought an ad and I had to shoot pictures of the store to put in the ad. I also had to pick up the ad and check from Uncle Johnny's Ice Cream. I was told on the phone that Uncle Johnny's is on the road just opposite the BOC (which is just down the road from the Bluebird). So, after shooting the pictures, I walked to BOC and looked for Uncle Johnny's.

An inquiry at the Frankie's told me that Uncle Johnny was just up the road. So I started walking inland up the road. On the way I saw an Uncle Johnny's truck pull onto the road ahead of me and travel up the hill. I got worried.

After a while, I stopped to ask if I was heading the right way. I was and I was told it was not far. After another while, I stopped in shop to ask once again and once again I was told it was not far. So I kept trudging. Finally, at the top of the hill I found Uncle Johnny's. I was hot and sweaty and thirsty and the man I had come to see wasn't in. I sort of insisted that the woman working call him, as I was not going to make this walk up the hill again. After the call they said they would email me the logo for the ad and scrounged together the cash to pay for it.

Then I trudged back down the hill. Caught a bus. Showed an ad to a bank. Shot pictures of Ace Hardware for another ad. Met Cale at an internet cafe. Went home. Worked on ads. Slept. Rinse. Repeat.

— Sara

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

52 54: Putting the "Rest" in Restroom

The other day we were at CV (I have taken to employing the Cale-method of time reference, so the other day can refer to yesterday or two months ago or just about any day that is other than today). It's a little bar/restaurant thing situated at the bottom of the five-story building that happens to house the US embassy on the top floor.

CV does not have a restroom. However, there is one on the bottom floor of the "high"rise building and the doors are left open into the night for the public. It is understood that the women's restroom never has toilet paper. I know this. I resign myself to this every time I pee there. Sometimes I have a napkin from a food order or that they tried to set my drink on (but I secreted away before they could ruin the napkin with my damp drink). These days are lucky days.

On this same day, not many hours after I peed at CV (with no napkin) we stopped at McDonald's and I peed again. I remember distinctly the thought I had when I entered the McDonald's restroom

"Ah. A restroom where I can both use toilet paper and sit down to pee."

For me, that is exciting.

In the States, in general, I was a public restroom hoverer. I would sit on my own toilet at home and on the toilets of my friends and family. In general, I would sit to pee at work. But other than that, I would hover.

Being here has dramatically changed my standards of where I am willing and unwilling to sit down.

The outhouse behind the car rental place on Savaii with crumpled newspapers on either side as toilet paper (arranged in such a manner that it was hard to determine which side was the used side), not a sit down place.

The public restroom in Aggie Grey's hotel, which in retrospect was no nicer than your average gas station restroom in the States (places I did not sit to pee), is a sit down place.

I sit at On the Rocks, but not at Italiano's. I sit at Giordano's, but not at school.

I never sat in the training village.

I can easily tell walking in whether a restroom is sit acceptable. It has something to do with the amount of discoloration on the toilet seat, the size of the gaps between the floor and the walls, how "outside" or out in the open I feel while in the restroom, etc. It is a delicate balance and a restroom may be a sit down place one day and a hover place the next.

Anyway, just another sign of how less uptight I am than I was before.

— Sara

Monday, October 19, 2009

53 55: Quick, Like Ninja



So I am at the Central Bank of Samoa today checking up on the letter we delivered asking the bank to sponsor our school magazine* when there was an earthquake.

The quake lasted a couple of seconds, maybe five. I had a hard time figuring out when the quake actually ended because everyone in the building was pounding down the stairs to evacuate.

I was on the first floor talking to a bank employee who also happens to be an alumnus of my school. When the quake lasted long enough for me to say, "Hey, it's an earthquake," he had vaulted the counter between us and was running for the door. It was impressive. I followed.

We hung out in the parking lot for a minute just to see what was going on. The fire alarm for the building went off and I figured it was a good time for me to walk uta (inland)/towards the Peace Corps office. Since Cale had the cell phone on him, I would not recieve any text messages letting me know what was going on.

I made to the office where I learned there weren't any tsunami warnings associated with this quake.

Since it was 12 pm at this time and businesses would be on their lunch break, I decided to hang out at the office until 1 pm and then continue my begging for money.

*This magazine is the bane of my existance. I had no idea when I was assigned the project at the beginning of the school year that I would also be responsible for raising the funds to print it as well. If I had known that, I would have started raising the funds way before September, which was when I sent out the letters asking for advertisers and sponsors. According to the last Peace Corps volunteer who did a magazine at my school (I got an email from her after the tsunami) the funds came from the school canteen and the Methodist Prining Press gave them a deal on the printing costs. This time around there is no money from the school and the Methodist Press is giving me no deal. The cost to print 750 copies (the principal wants one for every student) of a 60-page magazine in BW with a colour cover will be $8,000 tala including the VAGST (tax). I have $1,350 in ads and sponsorships so far. The senior class was supposed to raise $50 tala for each student during the first term. Had they collected that money at that time we would have had about $4,000 tala (as there were almost 90 students at the time). However, the money was not collected, the number of students has dropped dramatically and they have about $350 tala collected. So of our $8,000 we have $1,700. Only $6,300 more to go in the next four days. Some how I don't think it is going to happen.

- Sara

5456: Going Out as I Came In

I have blogged previously about my weight loss in Samoa. I came to Samoa at about 130 pounds. At 5 foot 3 and 3/4 (ah, lets just call it 5'4), that wasn't a bad weight. It was a little more than I wanted to weigh and I had put most of it on in the last year or so.

By the end of our two months in training I was down to 110, which was a little less than I was interested in weighing. I can thank three things for my training weight loss.

1. I wasn't eating much more than rice

2. I was religiously doing my morning exercises for fear of my back going out while so far away from a physical therapist.

3. I was sick with boils and bronchitis and other things that just didn't make eating sound like too much fun sometimes.

Our medical officer, Teuila, was less than excited about my weight. Even after we had been out of training for several months and I had put four or five pounds back on, she was insisting that I eat a hamburger. Though, to be fair she saw me at EST, when I had the flu and looked terrible. I followed doctor's orders and even though I was eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted (and we all know what a great cook Cale is), I was holding steady at around 114-115 for more than a year.

There were some fluctuations. I gained five pounds while we were in New Zealand, but then promptly lost it. I gained five pounds with Cale's mom came to visit and lost those too.

However, sometime around my parents' visit I gained a little weight and I didn't lose it. The scale has been creepy slowly upwards ever since. Last check I was around 119 and climbing. If I keep this up, I can return to America the same weight I came in as, like I hadn't even been gone.

My real fear is that when I get back to the States the weight gain will just continue as I eat my way through the country, enjoying all the specialty foods and foreign foods that I have not had in such a long time. One of Cale and my daydreams about returning to America is sitting on a couch together (oh, a couch, to have a couch) watching TV (oh a screen bigger than 14") and ordering food and....are you ready for this...they deliver it to the front door! Craziness I tell you, complete craziness.

However, if this is the biggest worry I have about our return to America, then I probably shouldn't be complaining.

— Sara

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flash Drive Drive Update


A big thank you (THANK YOU!) goes out to Brian McAdoo, an associate professor in Earth Sciences and Geography at Vassar College. Brian was recently in American Samoa and Samoa offering his tsunami expertise and brought along nine flash drives he collected from colleagues at Vassar. This brings our total up to 20.

In addition Brian also brought with him two packages of Starbucks coffee for Cale, who practically weeped with joy. Samoa has been with out drinkable coffee grounds for more than a month. Cale was resorting to instant coffee. He was not a happy camper.

We were introduced to Brian by RPCV Jordan Jobe who say his lecture "Tsunamis: Planning for Low-Probability, Catastrophic Risks" at Yale University. Thanks for the introduction Jordan.

— Sara

Saturday, October 17, 2009

57: FiaFia

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia

Last night we welcomed Group 82 with a traditional Peace Corps Samoa FiaFia. It was also Group 79's farewell fiafia. This is the last one before we start heading home in the next couple months.

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia

This year's fiafia was particularly special for the girls of Group 79. Our own Rosie danced the Taupo. She was beautiful and her dance was amazing. She was desperately ill with a cold and sporting a fever, but that can't stop Rosie.

Lissa, Hanna and I were supposed to help dress Rosie for her big day, but seeing as we are all city girls with limited Samoan culture in our tool belts, Rosie enlisted the assistance of one of the hotel staff to help her dress in the siapo, fusi and headdress. My main job was errand running, fetching Chris's lipstick, finding safety pins in the office. Lissa fanned Rosie in the hot hotel room to keep her fever down.

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia

In the end it was a little like helping her get ready for her wedding day. Instead of something old and something new, she had something from her village (the saipo and headdress) and something from each of us (Lissa's bracelet, my necklace).

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia

The fiafia consisted of all the typical items. There was the siva teine, a sasa, the boys' slap dance and the Manu Samoa haka. I missed most of the dances. We were back in a trainee hotel room readying Rosie for her performance.

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia

I have to give props to Blakey who organized this event. This was the first fiafia with a fire dancer since our welcome fiafia two years ago and that was a special event for the 40th anniversary of Peace Corps in Samoa. Blakey didn't get one, or two, but three fire dancers for last night. And they came with their own backup percussionists. According to Blakey she had thought she had simply hired one of Lissa's students to dance fire for $100 tala. He brought along the extra help and it was a spectacular performance.

Group 82 Welcome Fiafia

I also have to give props to Matt who made the traditional fiafia slideshow, which shows the names and pictures of all the current volunteers. If I could post it, I would, but I can't. He managed to do things with PowerPoint that I didn't even know where possible. Then again, Matt will always wow the crowd with is PowerPoint, Paint and Excel skills.

I am slowly uploading all the pictures to the
flickr. So check back there. I apologize for the small quantity and the poor quality of the pictures this year. First, I was helping Rosie most of the time (I got pics of that). Second, I was in a lot of pictures, which means I wasn't taking any. Third, the lighting was really poor at this venue, strange florescent stuff. Fourth, I have no excuses, I just sort of failed to take good pictures this year.

— Sara

Friday, October 16, 2009

Triumph!

My principal's computer was broken in a new and intriguing way. It started up perfectly normally and we could log in perfectly normally. However, after logging in, only desktop image. Nothing else. No icons, no task bar, no start menu, no right click functionality. The only thing working was the Ctrl+Alt+Delete Task Manager.

I googled that bitch, I returned the next day and...drum roll please...I fixed it! All by myself. With no help. I didn't even ask Cale to come over and look at it.

Probably the first time this year I have not looked like a complete moron in the face a computer problem.

Go me, it's my birthday.

— Sara

58: Lucia's

Lucia's on Savaii

The Savaii volunteers talk about
Lucia's all the time. It is the spot in Salelologa for Peace Corps. I heard rumor of the Cinco de Mayo celebration. It must have been quite the party, as Lucia's staff are still talking about it five months later.

Yet Cale and I have only ever been to Lucia's once. We had lunch there when we arrived on Savaii with my parents. It was pricey. That was the extent of my Lucia's knowledge.

Well, now we have stayed there and I can tell you that it is wonderful. It is like this secret refuge from the heat and dust and cars and crowds of Salelologa. You enter the gates and I swear the temperature immediately drops five degrees.

Lucia's has no beach. It is set right up against the shores of a lagoon and there is a two-tiered dock that reaches out into the water. Not long after arrival, Cale and I were flinging ourselves off the end and into the water.

Our fale was only $65 tala per night (Before you get to excited about the price, that does not include dinner like most fale, only breakfast. Buying dinner there will up the price to $90 or more tala per night). When we first arrived they asked us to wait while they prepared our room. Cale and I grabbed a beer and walked the shady, tree-lined path and over the wooden bridge to the dock. On the way we passed an adorable wooden house on stilts right up against the water. "Check out that awesome tree-house," I said.

That awesome tree-house turned out to be our room. Inside was spacious and there was an honest-to-goodness mattress on the floor, not just a piece of foam. There was a small porch built off the back and over the water of the lagoon. It was so breezy and cool and calm. After the
ferry ride insanity, I was in heaven.

We got in the water, lounged in the bed and ate dinner. Then more lounging. The only dark spot on the fabulousness of the place was the bar or club that could be heard across the water from the other side of the lagoon late into the night. Well, that and my constant earthquake hallucinations.

Sure, Lucia's doesn't have a beach, but it makes up for that by being only a short walk away from the wharf. Cale and I were talking. We think we have one last Savaii trip in us before we leave Samoa. It will have to be to Max's village so we can pick up some locally made siapo from the artisans, but we will definitely stay at Lucia's at least one more night.

— Sara

Thursday, October 15, 2009

59: Convalescing

Tuesday morning started out normal, but by the end of the day I had neck pain of indescribable proportions and no logical reason for it. From 2 pm I was in bed, lying flat. Wednesday was an entire day of lying in the bed, which, in case you were curious, can get just a tiny bit boring after a while. I think I worked my way through dozens of This American Lifes from the late 90s.

Mom, the physical therapist (physio therapist for you Kiwis and Aussies out there), sent instructions via email on how to help the problem. Cale manipulated positional released my head three times last night and it is starting to improve. It still hurts, but I can sit up, so that is a good start.

What does this mean to you? Well it means you get a boring short blog entry about the pain in my neck.

— Sara

PS. The rains have started! After more than a month with out rain it began last night and has been going for hours. It is officially the hot, humid, wet season now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obviously It's All In My Head



Despite my recent phantom earthquake sensations, I failed to feel anything this morning. It took an email from Davey-Dave for me to know there was a quake.

— Sara

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

60: Do Not Attempt Travel on White Sunday Weekend

Ferry Ride to Savaii
In the hold.

It's Friday. This Sunday is White Sunday, quite possibly the biggest holiday in Samoa. We would like to travel to Savaii. So would the rest of the people on Upolu.

Cale and I traveled to Savaii with our couchsurfer, Lindsey. We were going to catch the 2pm boat after school ended early for a rugby tournament. On my way out of school I mentioned to a student I was going to Savaii. A student-teacher from NUS overheard the conversation. She too was going to Savaii, a taxi was on the way to pick her up and take her to the wharf. In halting and strangely formal English told me, "It would be my pleasure to share my taxi with you."

This was our lucky day! This cab ride would get us to the wharf in time for the 12 pm ferry. So we get to the wharf and it is 11:50 am. There is no boat. This is strange. We go over to the little shops and have a cup of noodles.

We wait.

12:10 pm. No boat

12:30 pm. No boat

1:00 pm. No boat.

Filling the waiting room of the wharf in a cramped, haphazard complete lack of organization that is a line in Samoa is the holiday rush of people for two ferries, the 12 pm and the 2 pm.

The small boat arrives. We all look around. We calculate how many of the hundreds of people in these rooms can possibly fit on this small ferry. We look outside at the ever-growing line of cars waiting to also board this ferry. We get anxious.

Then the big boat arrives too. We look around. We calculate how many of the hundreds of people in these rooms can possibly fit on both ferries. We look outside at the ever-growing line of cars waiting. Our anxiety is not abated. In addition, we know that with both ferries here now, there will be no 4 pm boat as usual (as the round trip to Savaii is three hours). The 4pm boat is usually the last boat of the day. We are determined to get to Savaii today.

We are in the waiting room that leads to the ferries. In this room there is a double door way that is opened onto the dock. Leading away from the doors is a metal guard rail that creates a short corral like in an amusement park that is supposed to indicate how to form the line and keep people from mad-rushing the doors. People are laying on the floor inside the guard rail. Surprisingly, an actual line has sort of formed behind them outside the guard rail. However, this line quickly disintegrates into a room amassed with bodies.

The police arrive. We are told to that if you do not have a seat on a waiting room bench, you must move to the back of the room. A mad dash is made for all miniscule or imagined space left on the waiting room benches. However, the people without seats do not budge and the cops must slowly walk the standing crowd to the back of the room, away from the door.

It appears that all people currently in the guard rail area and the sort of line will be allowed to board the boat. Everyone else is to sit tight. The doors are opened, the people rush forward. Every time the cop turns his back someone who is not in the line slips forward and rushes in. Eventually everyone is through and they shut the doors.

We are now told that everyone on the four benches closest to the line should stand and move to the line. The people in the next four benches will move forward and take the first benches. The people in the last benches will move to take the middle benches. The people waiting in the back must now find a seat in the open benches in the back.

It doesn't even seem like a good plan in theory. The minute the people in the second row of benches get up they don't stop at the first row and sit calmly. Instead they surge forward trying to join those who were allowed into the line. This causes a domino-effect and all the groups surge forward ignoring the elaborate sitting/movement instructions.

The cops yell out for everyone to sit and that those without seats will be sent to the back. Like a giant, disturbing game of musical chairs, there is a mad scramble for butt space on a bench.

The process is repeated. The doors are opened. The line is moved on to the ferry. The people in the seats are all told to move forward one. Instead everyone surges forward in a mad panic. The cops yell. And we all play musical chairs.

Somehow, though we had been at the wharf since noon and had managed to find a seat at every game of musical chairs, we found ourselves in the last group of people waiting for the boat. I think we just had too much of our American adherence to proper line etiquette to surge forward or to disobey the cops instructions. When we were told to move forward one bench, we moved forward one bench while everyone around us ran desperately for the door.

It was taking an unusually long time for them to open the door for our group. We watched as they loaded all the cars into the belly of the ferry. Typically the cars are emptied of passengers, who walk onto the ferry and up to the passenger area. The driver parks the car and also leaves the vehicle and goes to the passenger area. These cars were being loaded filled to capacity with people. Flat-bed trucks over filled with people and luggage.

We started to worry that they weren't going to let us on this boat. We started to wonder if we even wanted to get on this boat.

Ferry Ride to Savaii
In the hold

Finally the doors were opened and we were instructed to find space between the parked cars in the belly of the ferry. We road to Savaii sitting on the ground between a maroon sedan and a large white van.

Ferry Ride to Savaii
"Passengers are strictly prohibited in the vehicle deck."

More on our time on Savaii tomorrow.

— Sara

Tsunami Update: Checking on Friends and Family

I have not forgotten you.

Here is an update on where we stand.

Remember to check the
original page for all updates and old information.

Taufua Beach Fales in Lalomanu
Many people who stayed there in the past are interested in helping the family that was devastated by the tsunami. AJ tells us on the blog we can "Try emailing Monique Faleafa who is a colleage of the daughter of a friend of mine and knows Ben Taufua, she can give you an account number to put money into if you want, also they were filling a container with donated goods but I think it's already sailed.
monique.faleafa@leva.co.nz"

FaoFao Beach Fales in Saleapaga
Is in the process of rebuilding. John and Don Bosco are building them a new bar and they hope to have it open this weekend. Next goal, beach fales. If you want to help with the recovery efforts here, just let me know and I can pass information along.

Satitoa
We are looking for a contact phone number for the Te'o family. We have already confirmed they are safe and the house is standing.

— Sara

61: I Am Afraid of the Ocean

Lately, the world has been shaking, most of the time. At least it is in my head. It is debatable if this is just a heightened sensitivity to actual tremors previously too faint to be detected or even to other causes such as the traffic on the road outside or if it is honestly all in my head and not a true physical phenomena. Cale is experiencing this as well and other volunteers I have mentioned it to have commented on being hyper-sensitive to things such as a large truck rumbling by their building.

Is it possible to have post traumatic stress disorder when you didn't actually experience the trauma? Do we all have a mild case of that?

I experience these shaking sensations more at night. I find myself awake convinced the bed was just shaking or is still shaking but then unable to detect the movement I was so sure of only a second ago. In general this possible hallucination has not been a problem.

However, Friday night we slept at Lucia's Lagoon Chalets in Salelologa (details TK). Our fale was really like a tree house, but on stilts with part of the base jutting into the water. Now my night tremors became a problem. Now I was hallucinating earthquakes and sleeping next to the sea, the sea that rises up in a deadly wall of water after an earthquake. I lay awake planning evacuation routes inland.

Intellectually, I knew that if there were real vibrations I was feeling it was because the fale is up in the air on stilts and half in the water. The tide, the breeze, anything could cause the building to shake a little and the shakes I thought I was feeling were so slight they were practically undetectable.

Saturday night at Janes in Manase was much worse. The fale we stayed in swayed a bit in the wind and constantly thoughout the night I could be found sitting straight up in bed listening to the ocean. I had just felt another miniscule shake and was now straining my ears in the darkness for any change in the sound of the tide lapping the shores. At night, I would not be able to see the ocean run away from the land or the approaching wall of water. So I sat, listening.

We are back home now and my fear of the ocean has subsided. It just might be a while before I can again sleep soundly on the beach.

— Sara

Monday, October 12, 2009

62: Southern Exposure

This is the blog entry I was in the middle of typing the morning of the earthquake and tsunami. I thought I would post it for your enjoyment now.

Thanks to Matt, we've watching a lot of
Northern Exposure. He has the first three seasons on DVD and lent them to us. Cale and I like to refer to it as the funny pants show. Apparently there was a time period in the early 90s where pleated, ill-fitting pants were all the rage. Unfortunately, the DVD player on the computer won't let you take screen grabs and the internet didn't record these pants for posterity, so you only have my description to go on.

It appears it was very popular to wear pants:

1. At or above your belly button
2. In a waist size that is slightly too large
3. Without a belt to help with the fact that the waist size is slightly too large
4. That balloon out immediately below the waist with multiple, layered pleats that give you an amazingly attractive pooch out front
5. In a butt size that is also too large, giving you both a long (since your waist starts so high) and saggy ass
6. That taper to your ankles to better enhance the front pooch

While they were at it people apparently wore shirts at least four sizes too large so that the shoulder seams usually fell somewhere near the elbow.

The funny thing about watching
Northern Exposure is that it keeps making me think about my Peace Corps experience. It started with a quote in one of the first episodes. The main character is complaining about his lack of a working toilet by mentioning a friend who joined the Peace Corps out of school and went to the middle of nowhere in Africa and that guy still had a working toilet.

It continues every time they have a scene in the grocery store. It is just like a faleoloa. Sure you can walk in an browse the shelves (which some faleoloa have these days), but you still end up going up to the counter and asking the lady for whatever you need and she pulls it off a shelf behind her.

Apparently living in the middle of nowhere Alaska in the early 90s is like living in Samoa now.

Cale and I were lying in the bed watching the show when Chris in the Morning had this to say:

Chris: [to Joel] Well, you know the way I see it, if you're here for four more years or four more weeks, you're here right now. You know, and I think when you're somewhere you ought to be there, and because it's not about how long you stay in a place. It's about what you do while you're there, and when you go is that place any better for you having been there?
From
Wikiquote

Talk about a quote hitting home. I turned to Cale, "I'm not here anymore." And it is true. I don't know if it is the whole countdown or the senioritis or the the inevitable feelings associated with being two months out of leaving, but I am not here anymore. I am in Malaysia or Thailand or back in Indy or even back in school. But all of these things are still a ways off. One of them almost a year away. I need to get my head back in the game and be here for these last two months.

— Sara

Sunday, October 11, 2009

63: Happy Birthday Marian


The Carusillo Girls (like two years ago) Marian, Sara (what is happening with my hair) and Teresa.

Today I will simply be wishing my baby sister Marian a Happy 21st Birthday. I am afraid to even think about what is happening over there. Teresa, I hold you responsible!

— Sara

Friday, October 9, 2009

64: Two Years in Samoa

This should have posted on Saturday the 10th, but it did not. I am sorry of the tardiness.

Two years ago today Group 79 landed at the Faleolo Airport. A random picture retrospective:

Staging in L.A.
Staging in LA

Arrival in Samoa
Arrival in Samoa

The sites
Training VIllage

Swearing in
Swear In

Sara's School
My school

Cale's Students Working
Cale was a carpentry teacher first

At Lalotalie with Cale's Mom
Annette came to visit

Sara and Erik's Tattoo Day
I got a tattoo

Jane's at Manase
My parents came to visit

FaoFao Vacation
Cale got a tattoo

Samoa Group 79 COS Conference
We had our COS conference

Anywho, check the archives and the flickr to remember our two years in Samoa.

— Sara

Thursday, October 8, 2009

65: Why I am Slowly Going Bat-Shit Insane

It is like a never get anything done. I start the day with a list of things to do, I run around like a crazy person all day doing other things and I end the day with the same list of things to do.

So things I needed to do this week:

1. Teach my classes
2. Re-layout the entire school magazine because the one I already laid out was corrupted and the file doesn't work anymore.
3. Call a list of more than 50 businesses and ask them to advertise in our school magazine.
4. When that fails, figure out how else we are going to raise about $7,000 tala total.
5. Create some sort of awards certificate for the rugby tournament on Friday. Get it printed in color and framed in some manner.
6. Finish my PSSC marks, have the pule sign them and fax and email them to Fiji.
7. Attend the new group's ava ceremony (this one is more of a choice).
8. Pick up the cheques for the two places that agreed to advertise in the school magazine.
9. Shoot pictures for one of the ads for the magazine.
10. Design the ad I shot pictures for.
11. Get the students who have not finished all their PSSC work to finish it so I can do item number 6.
12. Work on/Finish the computer studies text book Ryan and are doing.
13. Re-deliver advertisement request letters to all the businesses that claimed they never received it in the first place when I called them.

Do this all with no car, no money and no phone credit.

What I actually accomplished this week:

1. Teach my classes
2. Teach the other teacher's classes

Me: "I had to teach my classes and the other teacher's classes today cause she never came to school."
Cale: "What are you talking about? I saw her in the teacher's room when I came over early in the day."
Me: "What? Well, she never came to the computer lab to teacher her classes. One would think that if you had classes you would come to the room to teach them, thus relieving the teacher currently trapped in the room with the students."

3. Re-layout the school magazine
4. Attend the ava ceremony
5. Pick up one cheque
6. Shoot pictures
7. Get students to finish PSSC work
8. Evacuate for a tsunami
9. Fix a broken computer
10. Spend an entire day figuring out how to make a picture slideshow with music that can be played on a DVD player for the student whose sister died so she can give to New Zealand relatives who are leaving that night.
11. General mayhem
12. Have nervous breakdowns

Just once. Just one day. I would like to wake up with a nice, simple list of things to do and accomplish all of those things easily. None of them will involve me buying things for the school with the money I don't have (I would use the printing fee money that I collect from the students and then get reimbursed from the school, except a teacher as mysteriously "taken it home with him" for no know reason) or traveling all over town on foot or making numerous phone calls that I must make from the school office since I am not going to pay for the cell phone credit to do it from my phone.

Ick, Ick. Ick. Complain, complain, complain. I blew of my plans to work all this weekend on the textbook with Ryan because I just could not do it and hold on to my sanity. Instead I am going to Savaii. So there.

— Sara


P.S.
The Way Back Machine

66: They're Heeeeeere

Group 82 Ava Ceremony

When I got up at 6 am yesterday morning Group 82 had already been in Samoa for an hour. I remember that long flight here. Getting on the plane just before midnight in LA and arriving in Samoa just before sunrise 10 hours later. The planes must be getting faster. Group 82 arrived at 4:45 am. We didn't touch down until 5:30 am.

The Air New Zealand flight is kept at a comfortable meat-locker temperature, so getting off the plane in Samoa is a shocking experience. Even though it has been unseasonably cool here recently, the new group were still shocked by the heat and humidity. I remember when we first arrive the switch from the plane to outside caused my glasses and camera lens to fog up.

Cale and I took a painfully long bus ride into town around 7:00 in the morning. It is rush hour in Samoa and the only road is under construction.

I had first heard that the new group's welcome 'ava ceremony would be early in the morning. Some how I got 9 am in my head. Later it was adjusted to 10 am. I had made an appointment to shoot pictures at the Samoa Commercial Bank for an advertisement they are taking out in the school magazine for sometime after 10 am. When we got to the office we discovered the ceremony had been pushed back until 11 am. I called the bank and told them I would be late. It the time before the ceremony I called businesses asking if they wanted to advertise in the magazine. I sold another $200 tala ad. Only about $5,000 more tala to go!

I remembering being incredibly nervous and uptight about
our welcome 'ava ceremony. Unlike this group and Group 81, we did not received any information about the ceremony or the words we would have to say ahead of time. Instead not long after we arrived we were given an crash course in Samoan culture and the pronounciation of our lines, "Lau 'ava lea le atua. Soifua." (This 'ava is yours God. Cheers [or to life or health]).

I also remember been acutely aware of this being my very first opportunity to accidently offend an entire new culture of people.

Of course I did fine and so did Group 82. Like me they mangled the language beyond all recognition and the older volunteers, trainers and staff got a kick out of it.

After the ceremony the trainees had lunch and then jumped right into language lessons. I headed off to the bank to take photographs. When I returned Cale and I went to Seafood Gourmet. We ordered our food and were waiting when the voice on the radio told us there was a tsunami warning and we should evacuate.

"Cale do you hear that? There is a tsunami warning. Call Fono."

"It's not a warning, just a watch. We got a text message earlier."

He handed me the phone. Well, thanks for keeping me informed.

"No. Listen, the lady on the radio says it is a warning. This is the same announcement we heard on Tuesday."

We called Fono and he said that he had received no official information of a warning yet.

On the safe side we decided to ask for our food for take-away.

While I was standing at the counter, the tsunami warning siren went off. I asked the man to give me whatever was done (I could see my toasted cheese sandwich on the counter). He disappeared into the kitchen. When he did not return right away, Cale and I simply left.

We walked/ran to the office around the corner where we saw what we thought was the last PC vehicle pulling away. It was the red pickup truck and the back was filled to the brim with new trainees. I tried to flag it down, but they were too far gone. Fortunately, Kellye was loading up her car with our new Administrative Officer and the TESL trainer who had just arrived that day as well. Cale and I jumped in the trunk (it is like an SUV...so not a trunk, trunk).

Tsunami Warning Evacuation

The roads were one giant traffic jam and progress inland was slow. On the way up the hill we passed Blakey and Karin walking on the road from Matt's house. I jumped out of the car to flag them down, screaming at them to run and get in our car. Fortunately another PC vehicle was behind us and they got in that one.

Next we passed Matt, Koa, Casey, Spencer and John up by Leififi College. Kellye had Cale jump out and tell them to continue walking to higher ground.

We consolidated at Dale's house with one group of trainees, while another group consolidated at another point. Already prepared, the trainees broke out a card game. The warning was cancelled not long after our arrival, but we waited an additional 20 minutes for the traffic to calm down before heading back down the mountain.

Cale and I went back to Seafood Gourmet where they made us a new lunch. It was like the crazed, mad, paniced evacuation interruption had never happened.

Had the earthquakes in Vanuatu generated an actual tsunami of damaging size, Samoa would have been in trouble. With Vanuatu to the north west, the water would have been coming to the heavily populated north side and Apia.

Anyway, without further ado, here's Group 82 (sans one, who was ill and not at the ceremony):

Group 82 Ava Ceremony Group 82 Ava Ceremony Group 82 Ava Ceremony Group 82 Ava Ceremony Group 82 Ava Ceremony 82ava7 82ava8 82ava9 82ava10 82ava11 82ava12 82ava13 82ava14 82ava15 82ava16 82ava17 82ava18 82ava19 82ava21 82ava22 82ava23 82ava20 

There's a lot of them. Almost twice our group. They are the first of the new project. They will teach English in primary schools and do village development work as well.

— Sara