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.