Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Medical Update

I know some of you have been talking with my parents and have heard that I am having some medical problems over here. It is nothing serious, but I thought I should post an update since I am getting a lot of questions about it. :)

Since moving out to my site in December I have had a sort of facial rash. It isn't anything too bad and most people can't tell I have it. It just itches like crazy and looks a little like zits. We can't figure out what it is or what is causing it. At first we thought it was bed bugs, hence the bed bugs clip that a lot of you saw from my video home. It is not bed bugs. It is not any type of bug. It is not acne, shingles, chiggers... It could be linked to stress, mold, humidity or hormonal. When I went to Mexico it all but disappeared. As soon as I arrived back in country, it came back full force somewhat worse than before. I do have a lot of mold at my house and it is stressful living here (although I love it!) and it is humid. So, we are trying to figure it out. There isn't a great dermitology department here, so that is part of the problem figuring it out. My PC medical officer has been great trying to help me figure it out. The next step is sending pictures to DC to see if they can figure it out. It wouldn't bother me so much, but it itches which is hard and makes me worry about scaring. Like I said, you look at pictures of me and can't see anything, it's more something I notice because it's my body.

Also, I have been to see the doctors a few times for other problems as well. I have had some blood work done lately because my body has low hormonal and nutritional levels. Like I said, it is nothing too serious. It's just stuff we are trying to figure out that are taking awhile. I have been lucky. Usually volunteers struggle with things like giardia, but I am doing well.

I am still in Apia. I am ready to head back to Savai'i. I like Apia, but it's so busy and it's not my home. So, I feel like I am living out of a bag while I am here and I am ready to head back home and sleep in my own bed and cook my own food again. Plus, I still have lessons to plan and tests to grade. Last night La La's sisters were in town and leaving on the late plane and I got the chance to meet them and hang out. It was fun. We went to a really nice restaurant that is a ways out of town but REALLY nice, Apaula Heights. It isn't too expensive, it's just inconvenient for us volunteers without cars to get there. Her sisters had rented a car and so we finally got the chance to check it out. Amazing food. I will definatly take anyone there that visits.

Until next time...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

HILT and SAF pictures

Sara and me dolled up for the awards ... Holly and I dancing at our HILT

The view from my beach fale ... Marques and Holly relaxing by dancing at our HILT

An example of the Fashion Show. One of the models.

HILT week and SAF Fashion Awards

This last week has been pretty busy. Monday through Friday was Group 75’s week long conference, the HILT (High Intensity Language Training). It was very nice and laid back. It was at a place on the other side of the island called Boomerang’s. I must say that it was not a hotel as I had previously typed. It was in open air beach fales right along the ocean. The guy that owns is was super nice and the food was AMAZING. Now I am not sure if I am saying that because we have been eating our own cooking for so long or just because it was great.

Language training was helpful. We went to a few sessions and could choose the topics that we wanted to do some review on. It was all mostly review, but often I found myself just practicing my Samoan with the trainers and learning new words. We had a few other sessions on health and safety and security measures. It was nice for me to come in and spend time with others in my group that live on the main island. It is just Bob and I now that live on Savai'i from our group, so I enjoyed seeing everyone else and just hanging out without worrying about getting back to grade papers or where I was going to eat that day. Although, about half of our group was there because the conference fell at the beginning of our 2 week school break, some of us were not done with school yet and others had left for vacation time. It was still relaxing and much needed at the time in your service where you start to get frustrated and tired. The first term of school is the longest and everyone is always read for a nice break.

We got back on Friday afternoon. My friend Sara from Group72 was getting ready for the fashion awards that SAF (Samoan AIDS Foundation) was putting on Saturday night. She has been helping them get ready to host this HUGE show and so I thought I would offer my help since I was not all that busy Friday or Saturday. If you want more information about the Fashion Awards or SAF in general, follow the link on my side bar to Sara’s blog. So, I showed up on Friday afternoon and they put me right to work. We were so busy that night, everyone decided to go home fairly early and get some sleep for the huge day ahead.

The day of, I headed to the office around 9am to help them out. I was printing, proofing, cutting, pasting, selling tickets, it was crazy in there. But, I enjoyed the familiarity of being busy at an office and working real hard. Around 1pm I remembered that I had a meeting with Avanoa Tutusa (an NGO in Samoa that works with building opportunities for youth). So, I took a break from working for one NGO to head to the other one. Avanoa Tutusa is an organization I want to become more involved with. They do things like throw Career Days; provide grants to schools; things like that.

Then I headed back to the SAF office to finish Sara with her errands. Around 5 we headed out to get dressed and dolled up for the function. I had been recruited to help escort people to their seats during the function. I forgot how much heals hurt my feet. The show was amazing. There were so many designers there that were Samoan but have worked around the world. The biggest one is named Lindah Lepou. We had a showcase of all her stuff and Selima (the PC) modeled 2 of her outfits. Marques got some amazing shots from the thing and I will put a few up when I get the chance.

So, now I have some down time for a little while. This week I have a few doctors’ appointments and then I am going to try and head back to my own island to get a few errands done before second term starts back up again. I still have tests to grade and lessons to plan. If I don’t head back soon I won’t make it at all I am afraid. This coming week is Samoa’s Independence Day on Thursday. There will be a ton of activities like boat racing, marching, parades, and horse races. But, since it is a holiday buses won’t be running and boats will be limited. I want to try and beat it all. Maybe next year I will be apart of it. For now, I am feeling a little unorganized with school and I want to get back on the ball again. Friday will be a holiday too. Then the week after that the new group comes in. It is just starting to fly by. I will try and post pictures sometime soon.

Until next time….

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Last bit of pictures & Leaving for Conference

Fire "buckets" on the boat. We are prepared for a fire...

Sara and I on the boat.

The great group of people we met that worked at the hotel in Cabo where Mary was staying...

Here are a few more pictures I wanted to post. I am leaving tomorrow for a week long conference with my group. I am definatly looking forward to some r&r. It is a nice time to relax and reflect on our last 6 months as a volunteer.

Mid-Year Exams are over. So, I have finished my first term of teaching. It was strange being back for such a short time before heading out again for this conference. And we didn't have usual class either. I wasn't writing lesson plans or teaching. I just sat in while my students were taking exams and made sure that they weren't cheating or anything like that. It is time for a break though. You can tell that the teachers and the students are ready for some time away from school.

So, I look forward to staying in a hotel here for the week. Until we get back...I will write more about it then.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A few random pictures

Beautiful sunrise outside my compound

Another shot of the sunrise. (Red sky at morning, sailors take warning)

Jorge and Mary

Pigs eating oysters in the bay outside our compound

The Faletua doing a dance at church on Aso sa o Tina (Mother's Day)

Mother's Day weekend

I think I am finally back into the swing of things. It was nice the day I arrived back at home on Savai'i, Saturday, it was nice and quiet around the compound. I traveled over with a few friends, so it made lugging my big bags around easier and the boat ride is always more fun with a friend.

So, Saturday was chill, but Sunday was Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a huge holiday in Samoa. So big in fact that we have that next day, Monday, off as well. I headed to church like usual that day only I was there for 5 hours. That is right. I was sitting in that church on those pews for 5 hours. In our village, they split the women into 4 groups and after the sermon, each group of women got up and sang a few songs, put on a few skits and sang a few more songs and danced. It was entertaining, so the time went by a little quicker.

It was nice because I realized that even though this may seem long to me, I won’t probably ever have this opportunity again to be apart of this aspect of the culture and experience this. So, I stayed the whole time and took pictures. It was fun to see some of the women I know act out some hilarious scenes and have a blast. Even my counterpart at school was in one and danced and sang. I got some great pictures. And then, afterwards, there was some great to’ona’i. That is the huge meal after churches on Sundays.

And then Monday was a day off, so I had the day to do a ton of errands… but I didn’t do them. There was a huge storm that rolled in Sunday night and didn’t go away until Tuesday morning. The thunder was so loud Sunday night that it woke me up a few times. When thunder wakes you up in the middle of the night it is sort of a start and you aren’t sure at first what it is that woke you, you just know it was a loud noise. I think one of the times it woke me I sat straight up and thought it was a tsunami before I realized it was just the thunder. The whole day it poured rain; and it was cold rain. I felt like I was back in Seattle…except it was still hot and humid and I was surrounded by palm trees, but other than that the same.

So, school started back up for me on Tuesday, but it is really chill because it is just finals this week. All I am doing is monitoring finals of my classes and helping a few other teachers monitor theirs. It is pretty easy. I am glad that I didn’t have to jump right back into teaching after being away for awhile. I got to ease into it slowly.

Next week is the beginning of a 2 week break; the end of Term 2. The school year in Samoa is from January to December. So, I get another break after I got back from my other one in Mexico. Maybe I will make it back to Falevao for the second time since I finished training to visit my family there.
Until next time…

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Trip to Mexico

Hey everyone.
I just arrived back in country this morning. It has been a great trip. I headed down to Cabo San Lucas in
Mexico for Mary and Bruce's wedding, but also to see my mom and just have a nice break from PC. I was really looking forward to seeing my mom. My dad told me that he would not be joining us in Mexico since it was a small wedding and since I spent so much time with him in Alaska without mom before I left. The flight to LA was LONG. It is a 10 hour flight. But there were some good movies, so I didn't go too crazy. I have never been able to sleep on airplanes. Anyways, I arrived in LA and finally made it through customs to see my mom waiting for me on the outside. I admit I got a little teary eyed when I saw her, but then she told me she had a surprise for me. I turned to look and saw my father walked out of the crowd. Well, I started crying. I had no idea he was coming down, so it was great. We spent the night in LA and ran a lot of errands and bought a few things I needed, but cannot find in Samoa.

Then dad said goodbye the next day and flew back to
Seattle while mom and I continued on to Cabo. It was so great seeing Mary and Bruce again. Mom, dad and Mary and Bruce are the first friends or family from home that I have seen since I left 7 months ago. The first couple of days were just hanging out at the hotel’s pool and getting to know a few of their friends better. It was a very small wedding and I knew a few of the people there already. Kim was the best man and I had previously hung out with him before. It was a very fun group of people. It was great seeing all of the places that Mary has told me about. We went to their favorite restraints, and just hung out. We got to know a few of the bartenders and waiters there. They are all really nice people. :) Wouldn’t you agree Mary? :)

The day of the wedding wasn’t a huge stress deal either. Mary, Bianca (Bruce’s daughter) and I got pedicures and manicures in the morning and then Mary had her hair and makeup done a little closer to the wedding time. For those of you that know, one of the small stresses we were worried about was me not possibly fitting into the dress. Before I left for Samoa I gave Mary my size and she ordered the dress. I couldn’t very well come back for a fitting, so it had to work. When I first arrived in Samoa, I was still getting used to the food differences. I gained a little bit of weight. There was no way the dress could be altered so I just had to get back down to size. In the end, it fit perfectly. There were no real problems, except for a minor strap issue with my dress, but nothing drastic.

The wedding was on a cliff overlooking the whole bay. You can see a few pictures from it below. The view was an amazing backdrop. It was a short and nice ceremony. They were married in Mexico, at an Italian restaurant by a British wedding coordinator was translating the minister. Then we all stayed at the restaurant and had dinner. We got a little cold, since it is the desert and we were all in nice dresses. So the waiters brought out shawls for all of us to stay warm.

After the wedding we did some more relaxing. Mary and I got a spa treatment. It was a nice gift from my mom to the 2 of us. The last night we were there, those of us that were left went to the hotel that Mary and Bruce usually stay at on the Pacific Ocean side of the bay area. It had a laid back, quiet, private feel to it. I enjoyed that. Then the next morning mom and I headed back to LA and then home. I was really only in Mexico for a little less than a week, but it was so what I needed. I think I was having Mary withdrawals. :) And I got to meet a lot of great people down there; some that lived there and some of Bruce’s friends.

Olive Juice to everyone that went and to everyone that we met. I have to go now I been here for hour.

Until next time…

Pictures of people at Cabo

Mary and Bruce

Spencer and Bruce

Carlos (one of the waiters), Me and Mary

Frank and Brenda were at the wedding

The main bar area at the hotel

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Wedding Pictures

Mary getting picked up ... Me and the best man, Kim

Mary and Kim dancing around the fire. Mary and Bianca with Samoan's own chilli sauce. They love it!

Mary and I at the wedding. Isn't she gorgeous?

Wedding and Cabo Pictures

The wedding setting was beautiful.... Mary on the boat

Wedding venue ... Window to the Pacific

Mary all dolled up.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A few pictures from Mexico


Out by lovers beach. This is a very beautiful area. Cabo is nice.

Me, Mary and Bianca in the background getting pedicures and manicures before the wedding.

I am SO cold. There is a tropical storm moving in and it is cold! This is me and Mary warming up with a candle.

The arch I guess this area is known for. We took a ride out to the point on one of the worst, choppiest days on the sea. :)