Tuesday, October 18, 2005

'O a mai oe? (How are you)

Things have been busy, but fun. On Sunday we had the day at the beach (Cultural Awareness Day). All previous volunteers say that it was their favorite day of training. We swam, snorkelled... It was fun, but you could tell it was still a little wild. There was this one type of fish called a trigger fish and it was very territorial. It would swim in the same area, and if you came near, it bit you! Almost everyone got bit. And it was mean, never swam away if you tried to thrash at it or anything. I got attacked by three at the same time. Let me make it very clear however that they are very small and beautiful, so they trick you. :) It was a very beautiful beach (everything here is). It's the beach where all the palagi's (white people) go. One Samoan guy there taught us how to climb a coconut tree and get them down. We learned awhile ago how to crack them open already. We ate some sashimi. (Mom, you'd love this). It's raw yellowfin tuna cut into small pieces and then you dip it into a soy sauce/wasabi mix with a TON of wasabi!

Saturday night we had the Fiafia. Where the most recent group of volunteers (group 74) put on a traditional samoan feast/dance for us. [Side note: We are group 75. The oldest group which leaves when we swear in is Group 71. They come in every 6 months or so.] Anyways, they sand, did a few dances. One was the slap dance where the guys run around in their lavalava's (wraparound skirts) and slap themselves. Another was the virgin princess dance. A woman dressed up in the traditional chieftan princess garb and she spun a sowrd. But I think that the best part was the Samoan fire dancer. They hired the international fire dancer champion, and he came and did 2 dances where he spun around sticks lit on fire. One part he shook one of the traineers hands while on fire. It was pretty awesome. You'd have to see it. Maybe I'll take it up as a hobby. :) Then we ate a TON of food prepared by the current volunteers. Some was traditional Samoan food: Octopus, sashimi, a lot of coconut related products, taro (which I am not a fan of), breadfruit (a tastless starchy fruit also not a fan of)... But the best were the desserts. Samoan's love sweets. Everything has coconut in it or cacoa.

So far, I am definatly glad that I joined the Peace Corps. They say that teh 10 weeks of training are tough, but also easy because we take a lot of classes and do a lot of studying. I liken it to being Freshmen in college. We are still in the dorm, most things are done for us. :)

We leave for the village on Friday. Our village where we will be living and training for awhile is called Falevao. It is on this island ('Uplolu). The name either means big grassy house, or toilet. Most Samoan words have double meanings. And EVERY word, if you miss pronounce it, is a swear word. Every word. We have heard many stories of volunteers who have made these mistakes and have been told we will make some embarassing ones ourselves. So we have to be really efficient in our language. Falevao is a little inland from the coast, and is on a river. I am excited and anxious about living in the village. We will be living with Samoan families in the tradional style houses, open air fales. Which are usually one big room. And we sleep in the corner on the floor. Some have rooms. It will take some getting used to the no privacy aspect of it. We will be there until October 30th. Then back in the hotel for a little while longer. We find out where we will be placed October 29th. So during the time in the village communication is pretty limited, actually non-existent. I will update my site again when I return from the first village stay.

I am having my birthday 3 days after we arrive in the village, that will be interesting and I think a little hard since my family has always been into birthdays.

Until next time: Fa'afetai. Tofa.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

In the thick of training

Here is a nice picture of the group in the airport right before we boarded the plane. Oh, the internet cafe is closing, more later.

In back (american then Samoan name): Charles (Siale), John (Sione), Marques (Matusi),
Next row: Ryan (Lani), Holly ('Oli), Candace (Tise), Andrew (Aneteru), Bob (Ropati).
Middle: Diane (Tiana), Me (Tala), Sara (Salai), Josh (Iosua).
Front: Mari (Mari), Bryan (Ropeti)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In Apia, Samoa

Hey everyone. Just letting you know I am here and fine. There are 14 of us. And I think 20+ volunteers currently in country.

Training in LA was okay. We just basically went over the handbook and discussed what made PCV's (Peace Corps Volunteers) sucessful. It was nice to get people to get to know each other. We did fun exercises with colored pens. Check out Mari's website (http://marisamoa.blogspot.com) for pictures of the group and when we arrived in Samoa at 2:45 am. I will upload a few pictures later, but I forgot my camera card this trip.

We are living in Apia, Samoa (the capitol city of Samoa) right now. Everyone keeps referring to this first part of training as the honeymoon because most things are still done for us.

We will be intensly training for 10 weeks. They say if you last 10 weeks, you will make it in the PC. I am currently a PCT (Peace Corps trainee). I become a PCV at the swearing in on December 14th. On the 21st we leave for a week to live with families in a small town outside of the capital. We do that on and off for awhile. 1 week with the family, one week back, one week with the family, one week back, 3 weeks with the family, 2 days back, and then the swearing in, and then off to post.

I won't find out where I am going until probably the 29th of this month. I could go to one of 2 islands. 3 of the 14 volunteers are going to Savai'i. And the rest stay on 'Upolu.

We have learned a little language. But not the intensive part yet. I can say thank you. Fa'afatai. And your welcome: Fa'afatai fo'i. And I can even pronounce them correctly. :) Plus a few of the other basics.

While I am in the capital city, we have fairly regular access to the internet, otherwise, it won't be until I get back into the capital.

Let me say that the people here are super friendly and nowhere NEAR as large as everyone in the states assumes. I would say they are average. Smaller than a lot of Americans.

The climate is nice... for me who is always cold. In fact last night I needed a long sleeve shirt. Everyone else thought I was nuts. It's humid, but not too much yet. This is the beginning of the humid season. The country is beautiful, I promise to post pictures as soon as I get the chance. I will probably NOT be calling anyone because it is expensive for Samoa to call the states, but actually fairly cheap for the US to call here. And my email time is limited because of the slow computers, so I won't be responding very often to emails. Though once I am actually in service I will have more free time.

Until the next time...

Friday, October 07, 2005

2 days left

First, let me say I had a blast in Washington DC. I know, right after I arrived home from Alaska, a few days later I turned around and flew the other direction. A friend of mine lives in Arlington right near DC, where he works, and I went and visited him for 5 days. It was fun. I have never been to DC and I had not seen Brandon in a long time, so it seemed fitting to visit him and get to see all the fun sites right before I left. The weather was perfect, not typical DC weather; 80 degrees, not a cloud in sight, and no humidity. I loved walking around seeing all the monuments, my favorite was FDR's. I loved the National Archives. We saw the Constitution, the Declaration, one of the 4 original copies of the Magna Carta, and the Louisiana Purchase. But I would have to say my favorite part of the whole trip was the football game. Brandon had tickets to the Redskins football game and the best part? They were playing the Seattle Seahawks. I loved it. Seahawks lost in overtime, but it was a great game and just a fun experience.

So, I think it has hit me these last few days how little time I have left. I remember when I was still working at True Value, and one of my co-workers and I were counting down until I left and it was 191 days. I can't believe it's 2. 2 full days, since I leave early Sunday. In less than a week I will be in Samoa. We leave Tuesday evening for Samoa.

I think my stress level is what's getting to me now. Trying to pack; we are allowed 2 bags which cannot exceed 80 lbs combined and no one bag can be heavier than 50 lbs. It's hard to be sure what I will need. We can buy a lot of clothes in Samoa and even have them tailored for fairly cheap, but how long until we have that opportunity. I keep waking up in the middle of the night remembering things I want to bring. Then once I try and pre-pack, it exceeds 80 lbs. Trying to pack up my room; mom doesn't want a lot of things of mine lying around while I am gone. So we have a storage unit that I have been running back and forth between. And I think the thing that is the hardest for me is realizing that my grandpa (who is 101 years old for those of you who don't know) probably won't be alive when I return. I used to think without a doubt he would be. Until very recently he was still mentally and physically kicking. But he's getting worse, although he does have better and worse days. So that's been a little hard.

But I am excited. I was reading through my Welcome booklet and reading stories of other volunteers and that got me really ready to go. I've spent so much time getting ready to go, and now it's here. I promise to post my address the second I get it. And if I don't because we have a lot happening during the pre-training, my parents will have it and feel free to contact them and get it. And it won't change the whole time I am there, even though I might move, our mailing address is a box number at the PC office in Apia, regardless of what island I will be living on in the end.

So there it is. The next time I post might be awhile, and it will most certaintly be once I get to Samoa. I promise to continue to keep everyone updated, although right now I am not certain how often I will have that chance.

Tofa! ( That means goodbye)