Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t feel like it at all. It’s weird not to be celebrating it today while all of America is. We’re back in Apia for the holiday, but we aren’t celebrating it until tomorrow. The American embassy got eight turkeys flown in, and we’ll all be celebrating at the charge’s house. We’re expected to have a big feast since the other PCVs are expected to be making food as well.
I guess it’s been a while since I last wrote. So since then, I went to go shadow a fellow Volunteer at Samoa College (one of the best schools in Samoa) here in Apia. I really wanted them to send me to shadow someone outside of “town” so that I could get to see more of Samoa. But it’s okay, I got to see a Samoan school and how classes were taught. I would have liked to shadow a Volunteer who is teaching Computers since that’s what I’ll be teaching, but I got to see how Science classes were conducted and taught.
After that, we got to stay in Apia for Halloween. There was a Halloween party at one of the bars a bit outside of Apia in Vailima called Zodiac. Our group planned on dressing up all together as a football team with each of us wearing a jersey from where we are from. But Matt decided he wanted to be a mosquito, and then Phil and I changed our minds last minute as well. So we bought a XXL grey T-shirt for like six tala and we each used it to each cut out a spoon and taped it on to a plain black T-shirt. So we went as spoons. I was the little spoon, representing the smallest one in our group and he was the big spoon, being the tallest one in our group. Zodiac was fun. We drank the black beer (beer with loads of food coloring). It made us all happy.
We headed back to Fausaga, our village, then next day, but a couple of days later we got to come back into Apia. It was Election Day. We had class in the morning, then after lunch with our families we went to Apia. There was a party at the American embassy, where they had CNN. So everyone was excited to see Obama be selected as our next president. When he gave his speech, there was definitely tears of happiness going down many people’s face. The embassy provided us with food, beer, and wine. After a while the bottles of wine turned to box wine, so I introduced calimocho (half wine/half coke) to some of the other PCVs (yes, I thought of you guys, my amigos in Spain, and our botellons). Anyways, the celebration continued after at a bar called On the Rocks on Beach Road (the main road in Apia).
Other than that, there’s not that much more to report. We are still attending classes everyday from 8-5. When we head back to Fausaga on Saturday, we’ll only have two and a half weeks away left of training and from officially swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My typical day is still the same, class, lunch, class, hang out for an hour before going home to pray, pray, dinner, then either walk up and down the road, watch the Filipino soap operas that Samoas love, play cards, or sit outside our house on the grave (yeah, that’s normal here).
Life in the village is not so bad. Everyone in our little village knows us. During my two minute walk to/from my house to the training center, I get about thirty mālō’s, or hi’s, and kids yelling my name. We’re still going to our Catholic church twice a day. One week, I did not attend the morning service because I was doing the umu (the Samoan oven used for making food) for the to’ona’I (the special meals on Sundays). We killed a size two pig by drowning it. Samoans rank their pigs from size 1-10. The bigger they are the less tasty they are apparently. We gutted it, and then stuffed the entire body with leaves and then threw it on the umu. Then prepared the palusami, which is coconut cream wrapped in leaves, then cooked on the umu, breadfruit, taro, etc. We did attend the afternoon service though. Another week we didn’t go to church because our car broke down so we couldn’t go to the service that was being held in another village. The Catholic church has also had several fundraising dances, where we were the stars of the show. There’s actually another one this Saturday.
And I forgot to mention that PC has told me where I’ll be posted for the next two years. It’s on Savai’I island in a village called Vailoa. I’ll be teaching IT at a school called Palauli College. I got to meet the principal, and they had Computer Studies there in the past but haven’t had it for two years. So he doesn’t know what conditions the ten computers we have there are in since they haven’t been used for two years. But we’ll see, I guess. But I’m excited to be going to Savai’i. I have not been there yet, but have heard that it’s more beautiful than ‘Upolu. I’ll be using my Samoan there more because they apparently speak less English. We leave the village on December 15th, and then back to Apia for three days, and then head to Savai’I on the 18th with four other guys from group who will also be working in Savai’i.
Nothing really more to report… Looking forward to finishing these last two weeks up. We go back to the village this Saturday. Sunday to’ona’I and church. Monday we’ll start our Model School for the week, where we’ll have to teach. And Monday is also the continuation of one of my family’s favorite Filipino soaps, Isey. We are also learning a Samoan dance and a skit for our going-away Fiafia (party) for the village. So we’ll be busy. Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Adjusting to Samoan Life

So it’s been almost three weeks now that I’ve been in Samoa, so I’ll update everyone on what’s been going on.
I met my the other 12 kids going to Samoa in LA at the hotel we held staging at. There are 13 of us from all over the US – NY, MN, CA, NJ, MA, AZ, GA, TX, & PA. There are 4 girls and 9 guys.We took an overnight flight on Oct. 7th, and arrived the next morning at 5 AM Samoan time. When the plane doors opened, a blast of humid air hit us, and the sun hadn’t even come up yet.
Went through immigration/customs and were then greeted by some PC members. Right after we arrived at the hotel, we were taken to a fale where an ava ceremony was held for us. We learned the Samoan phrase, Lau ava lea le atua, which one is suppose to say before drinking the ava (cava). That was pretty cool, but it didn’t really effect me. We went back to the hotel where we began classes on Samoan culture, life and work, language, etc. We were also given lava lavas to wear. So it was pretty strange to be wearing a dress, but have gotten accustomed to it (being that we wear it pretty much every day). So that first week I pretty much got adjusted to the time difference, got to know the “city,” met other PCVs, and got shingles. Yeah, that was pretty crappy. It started off as a rash looking thing like the third day here, but it wasn’t, it was shingles. It really hurt, but it’s now gotten a lot better after taking medicine for the blisters and the nerve pain.
So during the first/second week, we got to go to a matafaga, or beach, which was amazing. It was on the south side of the main island of Upolu. And also had our water safety lesson on a boat where we got to go snorkling. It was pretty awesome. I’ve been eating awesome food… the oka, or raw fish in coconut cream is awesome, the poke, or raw fish in a sesame dressing, the taro, breadfruit, the bananas. There is a McDonalds here, which seems to be the point of reference to get anywhere in Apia. And there’s pizza and burger places, and the raw fish, food which I thought I wouldn’t be eating for two years.
I got to celebrate my birthday here. The day before my birthday, October 14th, the group paid for my dinner at one of the local pizza places here. On my actual birthday, the group surprised me with a chocolate cake, which I shared with one of the guys whose birthday it was on the 19th.
Two Saturdays ago, October 18th, we left Apia for our host village, Fausaga, which I located on the southern part of Upolu island (the main island). When we arrived, we had another ava cermony with the village. My Samoan grandpa is actually the matai precided (sp?) over the cermony. I had ava again, and this time my tongue went numb for like a minute. My Samoa family is quite big. I live with three brothers, a sister, two nephews, grandma, grandpa, mom, and dad. And there are always people going in and out of the house, so it’s kind of hard to keep track of who’s who. They gave me my own room with a mosquito net which is necessary. In addition to the roosters in the morning, the heat, and the pigs oinking, my family gets up at 6 in the morning, which is typical for Samoa. So it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep. But as you all know, I love my sleep, so I stay in bed for as long as I can, ‘till I actually have to get up. And word’s gotten about my sleep pattern, so the whole town speaks about it. That seems to be the trend, as the whole town knows about each and every one of us Piskoa’s, as we’re refered to.
My shower situation is better than other volunteers. I have a pipe from which I can get water, but sometimes there’s no running water so I have to do the bucket shower. There is no hot water though, and the shower is outside the house. The food’s been good like I have mentioned. The strange thing is that I eat with grandma and grandpa, and then everyone else eats after we do. So I have been feeling bad about eating too much. But some of the funny things I have been eating are…cold spaghetti sandwichs, ramen for breakfast, eel, just to name a few things.
We’ve have just been going to class every day from 8AM to 5PM. In between we have two tea breaks and lunch at home. And aside from that, just living life in a small Samoan village in which everyone knows my name and knows all about my business. I have been promised to go to the plantation, to ride on a horse, and even go to a funeral in Savai’i in two weekends. Which reminds me that I went to a Samoan funeral last Saturday, which is quite different than what we’re used to. It was a six-hour ordeal, and it was my grandpa, one of the speaking matais, prepared a speech. It started off with two fales, one with the body and mourners, and the other with other people. We were in the one with other people and they served us food. Then people offered food, including a cow and canned goods to the family, and money. Then the ceremony moved to the church. Then the body was moved to the grave and buried. And then we ate again. Food and money was returned back to the extended family who collected money,which was brought back to our house, and divided among six smaller families.
We left Fausaga this morning and are now back in Apia where we will spend the night. Tomorrow we’ll go and stay with one of the PCVs to observe and see what it’s like at post. This Friday we’ll be attending a Halloween party with other PCVs here in Apia before going back to Fausaga on Saturday.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goodbye America

San Diego, CA

It's the day before I leave the States for Western Samoa. Yesterday, after saying my last goodbyes and staying up all night packing, I caught my flight out to California. Julia came to get me at LAX airport, and we drove down to San Diego. Today I got to see San Diego and its beaches. Tomorrow, I fly back up to LA in the morning, go to through an all-day orientation with the Peace Corps, and at 11 PM, catch my 10-hour flight to Apia, Samoa.