Friday, February 24, 2006

Chilling and Working on Savai'i

I haven’t sent out an update in a little while. I just wanted to let everyone know how it is going. I am well. I am just hanging out on Savai’i, not trying to stay busy, just trying to enjoy each day. Last weekend I headed to another village to hang out with another PCV, Sarah. It was a blast. She lives next to the women’s committee house and we had dinner with them both nights I was there. I really practiced my Samoan. Sarah is really good at her Samoan. She also lives near some great blowholes. We went down on Saturday and they were really going that day. The tides were great and the blowholes were really putting up a lot of force. She knows most villagers in her village and we stopped down there to chat with the ladies on duty there. It was fun seeing how other volunteers live. What their houses are like, their living situations, the sites around their place… It was a lot of fun.

I headed back to work Monday morning and it was an adventure. Uesiliana has a school bus, but it doesn’t go all the way to Sarah’s village. So I had to take a regular bus full of students, people going to work, venders going to the market…It was PACKED. People were sitting on each other’s laps, hanging out the doors, and standing in the aisles. (This is actually normal for buses.) The bus was running late because one of our ferries is down. The big ferry broke a rudder; they sent it to Fiji to get it fixed. So it will be awhile until we are back to a normal boat/bus schedule again. The buses usually go with the boat schedule. So, the bus was late. I missed the meeting place when those coming from farther away wait for the school bus to pick them up. I was with another teacher and we sat at the intersection of the main road and the side road my school is located on. We were going to wait for another bus, but it was late as well because of the ferries. So, instead of getting into too much trouble for being really late, we caught a cab to school. It wasn’t that bad, we ended up getting there just after 1st period started.

School is going well. I love my classes. I am really enjoying the kids. Teaching is so different here than it is in the states. I can say that because I have taught a few lab classes in college, and I helped out with a few Spanish classes in high school a few years ago. So, I do have some teaching experience, thought not much. But it is so different here. Not good or bad, just different learning styles. I am not a netball coach after all, nor is Bob a rugby coach. I think we convinced them we didn’t know the sports well enough. They already had a few other coaches, so it wasn’t like we would have been the only ones. I did play volleyball with a few of the faletua’s (pastor’s wives) and a few of the students last night. It was a blast. They are really good. They play most nights. And the guys usually play rugby most nights.

Last night Bob got to do some welding. They are building another building for our Tech School on the compound and something broke. Bob was excited because he hasn’t really been able to use the tools a lot yet. In classes they aren’t to the using part yet, and he hasn’t really had a project. So, he was in his element yesterday. It was fun to see him get all into it. I wandered down there to see what they were doing because my lights were flickering from all the electricity they were using. In my class, I have most of my computers working. I have a bad UPS, so one of the computers is down. And I have a bad outlet to another UPS. I should just switch the 2 until I can get a new one so I only have 1 computer down. All of my classes have gotten onto the computers by now. We switch on and off between practical and notes. The Yr 13 class is aimed at a specific test they all have to take around the South Pacific, so I have to make sure they learn it, and I teach it according to the schedule, so they are ready for the practicum’s throughout the year.

Today I went to bike to La La’s house and ran into Claire, the Australian volunteer, so she, La La, Bob and I headed to that nice beach hidden away near our compound for a nice swim in the ocean. It was a hot day today, but the tide was in. So we looked for shells and played in the tide a little bit. The waves were big today. I loved it. Some of the things I like to do to release stress or just chill are bike and swim. I am lucky; not all volunteers have easy access to the ocean. You would think otherwise since we live on an island and all, but it isn’t true. And most of us are busy doing other things, so it is nice to have a quiet beach so close and accessible to our house.

I will be heading into Apia next weekend for a goodbye bash for a PC office staff member. I think it’s nice to get into Apia every now and then. It’s just nice to be able to go in and watch a movie and eat at a restaurant, and chat with people. I have to spoil myself every now and then. So, I will be going in next week. It will be fun to see all the PCV’s again, see a few people I haven’t seen in awhile. I have some pictures I want to post, not sure if I can this time around. They are of Bob and me after a very long, nice and muddy trail riding day. And there are a few from the blowholes. I will try and post them soon. Until next time…

Monday, February 13, 2006

Savai'i Party

Monte, just before smelling his feet. :)

Claire and Sarah with bottle caps on the forehead

La La (Laura) and Kevin

John and Ethan eating spagetti with chopsticks

The morning after waiting for the bus.

Flood, Superbowl Weekend

Bob and some of our faletua's (pastors wives)

Flooding in Apia

Floods in Apia

Me at the Superbowl

This is my Tech2 class

Savai'i Friends

So, volunteers that live in Apia have more of an opportunity to run into each other throughout the week than those that live on Savai’i. Most of us on Savai’i live in our villages and maybe go into Salelologa (the town at the wharf) once a week or so. We don’t usually see each other throughout the week or month even. Maybe we will run into one or two people at the PC office in Salelologa. Not always though. We see those we live near often, but usually not the rest of us out here. So, one of the volunteers on the island decided that we needed to have a Savai’i get together.

This last weekend those of us that live on the island and were not currently in Apia, got together for the weekend. We hung out, ate food, chatted and all spent the night at one of the volunteers’ houses on Savai’i. It was a blast. They have an open air fale in their front yard and we all sat out there that night and just really had fun hanging out with each other. It wasn’t just PCV’s either. There was an Australian volunteer there and 6 Jica (Japanese Volunteers) there as well. We ate sashimi (a great raw fish meal here), spaghetti, I made lemon bars… It was a lot of fun. It is nice to be able to see the other Savai’i volunteers. This isn’t to say that we don’t see each other ever, we do all head into Apia every now and then and run into each other there as well, but it was nice to hang out and not worry about catching a boat back, or what time the buses stop running or where we were going to stay that night. We all stayed the night there, and then caught our own buses home that next morning or headed into Salelologa for the day.

Things are going well. I am just working and fitting into the day to day life of living out here. It is nice to chat with other volunteers that live it on a day to day life too. When I get frustrated and head into Apia, 90% of the time I love it, but sometimes it doesn’t help. There are times I find myself missing things that are available to Apia volunteers that are not to me. That isn’t a good attitude to have either because every volunteer has good and bad parts about where they are staying and what jobs they are working on. For me, I think it helps to stay out in my village. I get used to what I have and the people that live out here. Once the rain lets up, I will go on a lot more bike rides to other volunteers’ villages. Sarah lives pretty close; about an hour bike ride away. And La La and Josh are the closest. Bob and I are getting along great. We are just getting into the groove of working and living on the compound.

The rain has been letting up a little bit. I think we saw the sun for a brief period of time yesterday. It is sure getting muddy everywhere. My feet are constantly muddy. I am starting to get used to the rain, I am from Seattle after all. Although I really am starting to miss the sun and the heat, being able to bike everywhere as well as clothes drying on lines outside. To add to the mold and ants, I now have bed bugs. I have them in the pillow that I love, which I brought with me from the states. I don’t want to get rid of it, but I am starting to get some serious bites on my face from the bed bugs and it itches like crazy. I guess it’s either my face or my pillow. But it’s such a great pillow… :)
So, things are well. School ends around 1:30 each day. If we don’t have an assembly afterwards (which happens often), it is nice to have a good chunk of the day left over to head to town and shop, or get some chores done around the house. I also work on my lesson plans every night. Sometimes I think it is funny that I am a teacher. I know the material because it is pretty basic, but there are a few lessons I have to teach where I feel like I don’t know anything about it at all. I laugh. Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I am doing at all, other times I feel really over prepared and confident. The previous volunteer at my school, Travis, left me with a lot of material and homework assignments. I feel pretty well prepared to teach these kids, just sometimes I laugh at myself. Sometimes I think it’s funny that I joined the PC and am here. Who would have thought? Years ago, if you told me I would join the PC and live in Samoa, I would think you were crazy. And yet, here I am, living it and loving it. It’s amazing where the Lord will lead you.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The mold is in control

I must let you all know that I have a new temporary focus living here in Samoa right now. Like many of my fellow PCV’s, I too have started the war against mold. I know that in Samoa, there is a fair share of it, but I feel like since it has been raining now for weeks on end, the mold is starting to breed to new levels. Sometimes I think I have a hold on it, but then I pick something up and it literally is covered in mold. My walls have started to get these brown streaks down the side of them. It looks like muddy water, but I know it is yet another form of mold. I tried to wipe it off with bleach water and a sponge, but it is a stucco-like wall surface and so it was eating through my sponges.

I should have known better bringing the leather journal that Mark the worm guy gave me back home. It is a beautiful journal and I use it as my scrap book. Today, I saw it lying on my shelf and it was a light green color. I quickly reached for a paper towel and wiped it down with a good dose of bleach. Many clothes I have washed and then re-washed and then soaked in bleach water. It finally gets the smell out for awhile, although I do have many clothes items that are spotted with light patches now from all the bleach.

Even my bag got wet when I was in Apia and I had to soak it in bleach as well. Read Mari’s entry on the stuff and you will understand how frustrating a war it is. I haven’t given up on my war against ants either. That still ensues, but it helps that to prevent the mold I wipe everything in bleach: ants don’t like bleach.

So, my day to day life consists of teaching, fighting the bugs and trying to make a dent in this war against mold. Mortein (bug killer) and bleach are the 2 things I could not live without right now. I think starting the dry season and even next years wet season won’t be as bad. It hasn’t rained this much in a long time in Samoa. So hopefully soon we can go back to drying our clothes on lines outside. Until then, they are drying on lines inside in air that isn’t moving all that well. The house is falling apart from underneath me. How do I stop termites? How do I stop the mold? How do I stop the ants? I am trying. I will let everyone know when I find a way to permanently eradicate them all from my house…

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Superbowl Weekend and last week

Okay, so by now everyone knows that my team lost the Super bowl. I must say I was sad to see them lose, but I was stoked that they even made it. Everyone met at a sports bar in town, JT’s also called Hennies. I am surprised at how many other Americans or palagi (meaning white non-Samoans; pronounced paw-long-ee) were there other than PC, the bar was packed. Almost everyone other than me and 2 Fijians behind me were rooting for the Stealers. There was a Samoan on each team. One of the other PCV’s decided he wanted to cheer for the Seahawks too only because they were behind and he likes comebacks. There was also a PCV there, Nella, who is from Pittsburg, so both sides got not even but fairly adequate cheering. Everyone from my group got a blast out of the tee-shirt I had made. They said they were all glad that the Stealers won, but felt sorry for me the Seahawks had lost. Like I said though, I was just stoked my own home team made it. Few of my fellow PCV’s thought that they would make it this far to begin with. Although I would have LOVED to watch the Seahawks play in the game in Seattle, win or lose it would have been a blast to cheer with my home town. I am also glad that all the rivalries that sprung up during the Super bowl are finally over. :) For example, Marques and I had a little rivalry going, all in good fun.

The other day was a fun evening. So, I came over to Apia Friday after school and when I arrived at Holly’s, Bryan (a PCV in our group) called and said that Josh was over too and that we should all go out for a few drinks that evening. Holly and I tried to organize a whole group 75 evening, but not everyone could make it. Holly and I were thinking about heading out around 9ish. There is a young man that lives besides her house named Edi. He is the nephew of the family that lives in the house right behind Holly. He has never really come into the house before and that night, he needed to use the phone and we sat and chatted for awhile. He asked what our plans were for the evening and we mentioned we were going to town to meet up with friends. He suggested that his friend, who drove a cab had the evening off and they were going to head into town themselves, and asked if we wanted to wait and go with them. We agreed and he said that his friend was on his way. An hour later his friend showed up. Holly jokingly asked him if he pushed the cab here. So we started heading to town at the speed of lightning, without seatbelt buckles in the car. Holly and I were holding each others seatbelts for some kind of protection. Then he made a stop so Edi could get his cell phone. Then we drove about 2 miles an hour until we got to a gas station and had to fill up…long story short, we got to the bar about and hour and a half before it closed. It was still a blast. It was defiantly an evening I will never forget, and Holly and I had a few fun, yet a little scared laughs between us. They ended up hanging out with us that evening and we got a ride back with them at the end of the evening.

These last weeks here have just been ugly weather wise. I have heard it is one of the rainiest wet seasons we have had since 1981. There was one cyclone watch midway through January. Then, these last few weeks we have been watching another tropical depression off of the south coast of Samoa, but for awhile now it has just been a massive horrible wind and rain storm coming from the north. I know back home, I have heard the weather has been pretty much the same there too; heavy wind and rains. I wouldn’t mind the rain too much; it is a little like being back home (the rain is cold), but I miss being able to go on bike rides. The ferry boat ride I took in to Apia on Friday was the one of the worst boat rides I have ever been on. The picture of the boat in one of my recent entries is the bigger of our 2 boats. The smaller one is a lot rougher to ride on. That big one you sit upstairs in an enclosed area. So the rocking feels worse, but on the smaller one you are sitting on the deck with the cars and not a lot of protection from wind and rain and the waves come up over the sides. I rode over this weekend on the big one. The boats have been down all last week. The big one even made me sick Friday when I headed over. At one point the boat tipped so far over to one side that the waves came up and hit the window on the upstairs deck. I was pretty sick. It is a good thing the rainy season is really only for a few months. On the boat ride back to Savai’i on Tuesday, it was still pretty rough, but the TV was on and they were playing Scrooge McDuck and Goofy. I was stoked. It took my mind off of the roughness.

I was supposed to have a doctor’s appointment in Apia on Monday, but therein lies one of my most interesting days so far. It had rained all night long that night. I had my appointment at 9am, but I had to be there by 8:30. Holly said the last time she needed to go into Apia and it had been raining all night long it took her a good hour and a half to make it in on a bus ride that usually takes only a half hour at the most. I left the house at 7am and did not get into Apia until 9am. Let me tell you why it took me a good 2 hours to get there. It had rained so much that night that all of Apia was flooded in about a good few feet of water. The traffic became stop and go a long ways away from Apia. At one point I figured it would be faster to just get out of the bus and walk to Apia, but then I would be waist high in water so it wouldn’t be faster. Our bus finally reached Apia and turned down the major intersection. I got out because I didn’t want to go all the way to the bus stop which was at the fish market. The buses were not stopping at the usual stop at the vegetable market. The thought of trudging around in water sitting over the market area isn’t a pleasant one. So I got out and attempted to walk to the PC office. I was walking through knee high water at the very least. A few places it was waist high. The water was murky and so I couldn’t really see where I was stepping or what on. If it was like this the whole way to the office I would have stopped right where I was and try to figure out how to get home. But, the road rises a little before it reaches the water, so it wasn’t that bad of a walk along the road on the beach, Beach Road. I made it into the office and was promptly told that the PC had issued a stay at sight warning for all volunteers. A few of Group 74 was at the office too because they had headed in for a group meeting that was also cancelled for the day. We were told to stay put in the office until one of the office staff could drive us back to our sites. Josh and I were not allowed to head back to Savai’i until further notice. My appointment was obviously cancelled for the day. So I headed back to Holly’s house with a few other volunteers and watched movies and chatted the rest of the evening. Tuesday morning we were called and told that while we were still on watch, the rain had let up so if we wanted to head home and back to school we were allowed to that day. I headed in for the doctors appointment that was yet again cancelled, and will be for awhile since I am back on Savai’i now, picked up my package with the Seahawks tee-shirt in it and headed back home.

Finally looking forward to getting home, I sat down in my house with Bob to chat and fill him in on the latest stories. He told me his newest news that apparently we are coaches. Amosa, my pule (principal) told Bob that he was going to be one of the rugby coaches and I one of the netball coaches. Netball is like basketball only way different. Neither Bob nor I know anything about either sport. I do not think I want to coach. I will have to say something next time they bring it up in front of me.

While I was missing school, my pule supposedly taught my classes for me. I gave him some lecture notes on proper environmental conditions for up keeping computers. I think it will be awhile before I head back to ‘Upolu. I think I mentioned that before, but it is always such a hassle to come over and go back. Especially now that school started, it will be harder. I am starting to really love the women that I work and live with out here. They are funny and love it when you joke with them. There are still days when I really struggle out here, but I am hoping that it will get a little easier once I get used to everything. It was nice coming in and hanging out with Holly for a few days again. She told me I am now a roommate when I come, so I get to do chores like dishes because I know things like which sponge she uses for cleaning depending on what one is doing. I like having a place I can call home on both islands. And it is nice because Holly has a phone, so I can get the occasional call from friends (Thank you Mary, Christi and Miranda!) and chat with my parents.
So, here I am now, back on Savai’i and planning on being here for awhile. We will see how long it lasts until I have to head back. The weather is still pretty bad: windy, rainy, and stormy. We even had a landslide on ‘Upolu out in Apia area around Mototua where some other PCV’s live. So, until I get more settled in school… I will let everyone know how I am doing every now and then, especially if we have a cyclone scare or another weather warning. I can see my daily life calming down a lot since school is starting up. I imagine school and lesson planning will take up most of my time and daily activities. But, I will still try and keep you entertained with fun stories I come across out here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

First week of school pictures... and some more

This picture is my first day of school

These 2 pictures are of the cove I biked to last week

Students picking up and cleaning the classrooms on the first day

What the weather system has been like in Samoa. We are the 2 outlined islands to the left of the screen around the 2 block from the right and 2nd block down from the top.

I have an email coming about the last few weeks and the crazy weather system...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

First Week of School

School started this week. I started officially teaching on Thursday, even though I finally had kids in my class on Wednesday. Monday the students picked up all the classrooms and put chairs in them and swept them; things like that. Tuesday, they cleaned up the outside. The weeded places and swept up gravel and helped the lawn man mow. Wednesday, we had short periods and it was just a time for the students to meet the teachers. These last few days I have been working on my syllabi. I have a lot of classes, but it’s not bad. It will keep me busy. On Thursday, I finally got to teach the students. It wasn’t anything complicated. I just introduced hardware parts of the computer and what each component is and does, like input and output. I kind of went over the same things on Friday too, just more in depth.

Let me explain what kind of classes I do have. Now, when I say times a week that means I have them for 45 minute periods each time I meet with them that day. Our school has years 9-13. Year 9 is equivalent to 8th grade in the states. Year 13 is like a senior in high school. I will be teaching year 10 once a week. Year 11, 2 times a week. Year 12, 5 times a week and Year 13 I will teach 5 times a week. I will also be teaching our Tech classes. Tech is for students that want to learn a trade now to use in the work place. So, I will teach Tech 1 and 2 (we only have Tech 1 and 2) for 5 times a day each. That adds up to 23 hours a week. Which I said is a lot, but it will keep me nice and busy out here on Savai’i.

One thing that is cool is that my pule wants me to start doing an after school class where I teach the teachers computers. I was a little skeptical what with my busy schedule and all. But, then I realized that’s the goal of the PC: sustainability. Then I started talking with the other teachers and they are really excited to learn computers. So we were planning on starting second term so I get used to the class load and such, but we might start sooner. That is a big plus on my side. Yesterday after cleaning up my computer lab, some of the female teachers sat down in my lab with me and joked that I was to start teaching them now. We started talking and teasing each other. They kept asking me who my uo (boyfriend) was, and so I finally answered The Rock. They all know who he is since he is Samoan. It was funny. They got a huge kick out of it.

The other day was a nice day too. One day after class when it was raining, I had biked out to La La’s house to chat for awhile, then I started to bike back home again. I stopped at the store on the 3 corners and talked with the store owner for awhile. I want her to get to know me. Her name is Toe’ina. She is really nice. And when I started getting close to the school, I noticed I wasn’t ready to go home yet and Bob still wasn’t home, and so I kept going. La La had mentioned an old access road near my school that went down towards the water when the road starts to go back inland. I found it and rode my bike down it. It was great. It was the closest I have come to trail bike riding since I have been in Samoa. I like trail riding more than road biking. So I just kept following it and it ended on a very beautiful secluded beach. There were no houses around, no people around (that I know of). It was raining a little and so I stayed a little while and walked ankle deep in the water. It was very refreshing. Then I headed back home. I will defiantly have to revisit that place often when I need some down time. That’s where the pictures on the water were taken.

So that was briefly my first week. This weekend I am heading into Apia for the last time for awhile I think. It is just too hard going back and forth between them. With school started it just makes it harder to go back and forth as easily. Plus, I find I spend a lot more money in Apia than I want to. It is quieter at my place, more laid back. I like going into Apia to see other PC and buy things I can’t get on Savai’i, but then it’s so nice to go back home again where it’s quieter and slower paced. I can see myself going in a lot less soon. But, of course, I have to go in to watch the Super bowl. I can’t wait to wear the white shirt I made (if I don’t get dad’s shirt in time) that I wrote Seattle Seahawks on. I am stoked we made it to the Super bowl. Too bad I wasn’t in Seattle during all of this. Oh well. How many people get to say they watched a Super bowl in Samoa when their home team was playing? :)

Until next time…