Friday, June 30, 2006

Pictures of hiking with Derek and Erin

Some of the kids that Erin and I played soccer with. They stop by my house everyday now when it's time to play and ask me to join them.

Derek on our hike to the lake

Me hugging and smelling a pine tree...

Erin and I on the top of the mound. It was a good hike and an amazing view

The lake when we first arrived there had a cool fog on it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hiking and Visitors

Friday, June 23rd
Friday I headed into Apia for a few PC meetings and to go hiking. There was not a lot of other PC in town. I ended up making dinner with a couple of other volunteers that night and then headed to a free concert in the center of Apia. 2 big name Samoan bands were playing: Mr T and Zipso as well as a few other semi big-named bands in Australia. I thought that it would be fun to hear live the bands that I hear on the buses every day. It wasn’t the best sound quality or display, so I ended up leaving early and hanging out with a couple of other volunteers that were in town. We had way more fun than I ever would have had at the concert.

Saturday June 24th
My alarm went off at 7am to get up and get ready to go hiking with Derek. After hitting my alarm a couple of times, I thought maybe it would be better to go to the meetings first and then go hiking in the afternoon… at the hottest time of the day.

The meetings ended around noon and Derek and I started getting ready for the hike. We wanted to hike to Lake Lanoto’o or Goldfish Lake. In Lonely Planet it talked about the lake being a decent hike and a little-known spot. It is known for the wild goldfish, yes wild, that gather around the shore. We decided on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because then we could also feed the goldfish some bread when we got there.

We caught a cab to the middle of the dirt road that the trail started on because we weren’t sure exactly where it started. After walking up the wrong hillside, as we were looking out over the other hills, we realized it was the next one over. So we walked back down again and started out about an hour later. The hike was amazing. There were so many parts of it that at times it seemed like we were walking though Botanical Gardens and not in Samoa at all. There were pine trees, which I just had to smell. I want to go back there and just sit underneath them for awhile. At one point Derek said it felt like he was hiking through Vermont. The trail was red clay and the hiking was muddy. But, it was a blast.

When we finally got to the lake it was a lot bigger than I was expecting and beautiful. There was an eerie mist over it. If you have ever seen the movie It, the lake reminded me of that lake in the movie, although nothing scary ever happened. We waded into the water when we first got there and felt something on our feet. When we looked down we saw tons of goldfish that looked a little like sucker fish swimming around our legs and feet. They were hungry. So, we climbed out and sat on a log over the water and threw bread crumbs to them. It was nuts. There were a ton of them! Hundreds of them! :) We sat there and fed them for awhile, and eventually broke out the sandwiches and cookies.

Eventually it was time to go back. We hadn’t arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the end of the trail head, so we started to walk down the dirt road hoping to catch a ride when we met up with the main road. There were so many dogs! Let me say that dogs in Samoa are not like in the states. People do not keep them as pets; they keep them as guard dogs. Generally, in Samoa if a dog starts coming up to me, I pick up a rock. Chances are they are not just curious. At one point there were 6 dogs surrounding us. I had a few rocks in my hand and Derek had a big stick. We walked slowly out of that one. They just kept coming. I remember once we were walking and Derek told me not to look down a driveway because there were 5 dogs standing there looking at us, 3 in the hedge next to us, 2 in the road in front of us and we could see far enough down the road to see at least 3 more houses with a few dogs in front. My adrenaline was definitely running. We were so lucky though. A van pulled up and asked us if we wanted a ride into town. It was a Mormon family living in Apia. They have been here for a few years and are getting ready to go back home soon. Although it was fun to chat with them, we were so tired. I think I pretty much passed out walking to dinner that night I was so tired.

Sunday, June 25th
Sunday morning I headed back to Savai'i on the last boat with Ethan and Sara. I was starting to feel sick and did not really want to go back, but I knew a girl named Erin, who is friends with one of the newbie’s and is here studying gender roles in Samoa, was coming over that evening for a few days.

When I finally got back to my house she was there. We stayed up awhile chatting and headed to bed early. She said she was looking forward to staying here because she really wanted a few days of just chilling. With her running around Samoa doing work, she hadn’t had a lot of relaxing days yet.

Monday – Wednesday June 26th to June 28th
These last couple days have really flown by. Monday was Bob’s birthday. I baked him Oatmeal white chocolate chip cookies. A few other volunteers, Amos and John, came out to visit with a bag of ava and chicken to cook up. Moto stopped by with some Sake and a gift for Bob. And then we watched the movie he requested my father to send, Don’t tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. Overall I think that he had a great birthday. Erin and I went to the beach that is near our house that day and spent the afternoon swimming in the surf. It was nice to do something other than the usual. I have really been feeling the need to get out more and go hiking more.

That next day Bob, Erin and I headed out to the waterfall that is near our house. It hasn’t rained here in awhile so there was no water flowing at the fall, but the lake was full and beautiful because it is filled with a fresh water spring. We swam around for awhile and then decided to feed the crayfish in the lake some stale crackers we brought. They were huge! Some of them I tried to catch with my hands, but I am not quite the natural hunter I thought I was. At one point I was dropping a lot of crumbs into one hole because I thought I saw a huge crayfish down there. After a little while I saw a head poke out, but it was an eel! It was huge. We saw it come out and chase one of the crawfish. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was interesting to see the fresh water eel.

When we got back to our house that evening, there was a game of soccer that some of the younger kids were playing. Erin played soccer in college and I like it, so we decided to go join the game. We had a blast. We ran around for an hour with those kids.

The next day, Wednesday, we really wanted to go for a good hike, so Erin and I headed back out to the waterfall area, but hiked up to the mound there. Pulemelei mound is Polynesia’s largest structure and one of the oldest. It is a massive pile of rocks that you can hike to the top of. It is a pyramid that measures 61 to 50 meters at the base and is 12 meters high. It was fun. I have tried to go there before, but took the wrong path when the trails veer. We sat on top for awhile and had some masipopo and peanut butter. It was a nice hike.

When we got back to my house there was a knock at the door inviting Erin and I to play soccer again that evening. Once again it was a blast and a lot more kids joined in this game.

So, now you are caught up with my long and yet fun week. This coming week I have no school. I want to go visit Sara at least one last time before she leaves her village, maybe do something fun on the 4th of July, or maybe to head to my training village for a few days. It will be yet another fun and fast week, but I am enjoying the change of pace. I was getting tired of the same routine every week. I definitely want to get out more and hike. I have already planned one in town with Erin before she leaves and a couple more with Derek and John. It will be nice to get out and explore more. I sure do miss backpacking in the states in the mountains; this will be nice to get back into while I am here.

Until next time…

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Going Away parties and biking

Hey everyone. I wanted to do a quick update on my last few weeks and weekend activities. These last few days have really flown by when I look back; sometimes it’s nice to be busy.On Wednesday (June 7th), since we had a holiday off from school on Thursday, I decided to bike up and visit Sara. She is getting ready to leave in about a month, done with her Peace Corps service, and I want to get in as many visits with her as I can before she leaves. So, I biked up after school got out on Wednesday. That day at school was very busy. My year 12 students had one of their many Internal Computer Assessments. This one was on Word Processors, i.e. MSWord. It was a task given in class in which they had to type a given paragraph and change formatting and fonts and insert tables, things like that. I had an after school class that a few came to the day before so it was nice to see some of them do better than they might have done because I gave them more one on one attention. It is so hard with big classes to give them individual attention. So, after classes I needed a break and I biked the hour and 14 minute bike ride to Sara’s house. We hung out with a family in the village. They had family from American Samoa visiting so we sat and chatted in Samoan for awhile. It was a nice break. We didn’t do very much actually.

The next morning I biked back with Sara. On the way back we decided to stop in a village between ours because we had heard that there were computers donated there and we wanted to see what the situation was. We biked to the Women’s committee house and asked them if they knew about the new computers. They told us yes, they were at the pastor’s house and we could go talk to him after they fed us. I don’t know if I would have stopped in to chat with them without Sara. Her Samoan is so much better than mine; I would have felt intimidated. But, we ate and chatted with them for awhile and then headed off to see the setup that the faifeau (pastor) had. It was nice! They are all in a computer type room and they even have like a resource center set up. They have the projects and the desire; they just need help with the business skills and organization skills. This is where PC comes in. I think it would be a great setup for one of the new volunteers coming in. We will see. Plus, they would be close to me… After getting back to my house Sara and I had another relaxing afternoon, since there was no school for a National Holiday. She eventually had to bike back home again. But, Thursday nights are girls’ night with La La and Clair. They biked over and we made dinner, a nice stir fry with flour tortillas that La La showed me how to make, and watched a few episodes of The Sopranos. That is my new favorite show. We watch 2 episodes a week. Girls’ night makes Thursday nights something to look forward to.

Friday (June 16th now) we had no classes, but we had our Tausala which is a huge fund raiser for schools. It is where all the parents come and the students do dances and parents can go up and dance with their kids, teachers can too, and donate money. The night before Laupama made me a puletasi to wear to the Tausala. It is not what I would usually like, but it was a special event. Right before it started another PC volunteer, Derek showed up. It was a little strange to see another volunteer at our school while it was in session, but one of his brothers in the village is a teacher. He brought his brothers’ pig. (Teachers had to give either money or food to the event.) Derek is one of the guys I was planning on going hiking with later that day or the next. He stayed to watch the dancing with us. I got up twice to dance and the kids went nuts! They loved it! They were laughing. I am glad that I got up. Then Derek told me that there had been a death in his extended family in the village recently and he wouldn’t be able to make it that weekend. I was planning on still heading into Apia that day, but we kept missing busses and the last bus never showed up, so Derek stayed over with Bob and we all had dinner and watched a movie.

The next morning I headed out on the first bus at 7am to catch the 8am boat. I did not make it into Apia in time to still go hiking with the other volunteer, but I did make it in time for the going away party of a few volunteers. They are done with their 2 years and left this last Monday. People will be leaving often over these next 2 months since group 72 is done with their service and they don’t all leave at the same time. I will be heading in for a few more of these. So, a whole bunch of us got together and played ultimate Frisbee and had a BBQ on the water and just hung out and had fun. It went late, ending at a dance club in Apia.

Sunday afternoon I headed back to Savai'i. This week has gone by fast. On Tuesday Sara showed up at the school and wanted to use my computer to type up her college applications while I was in class. After school ended and she finished up I decided to bike back with her to her village that afternoon. It was a little wet during the ride because it has been raining non-stop here for a few days. Her school needed me to look at their computer because the monitor wasn’t working. I tried, but it is a little bit beyond my knowledge; time to call Marques for that one. :) We hung out with one of her friends in the village. The lady has 2 kids and the boy is about 6 years old. I was playing with him as he pulled me around in his make-shift car pretending that he was a bus driver. It was fun. We spoke only in Samoan. That is one reason I like visiting Sara, we usually end up speaking mostly in Samoan so I get a lot of practice, and some of the ladies are very helpful and patient with me.

I have a fun story a little off the subject, but not really. Everyone that knows me knows that I talk in my sleep. I don’t just mumble I speak full on sentences. When I woke up Wednesday morning at Sara’s house she told me that I talked in my sleep the night before. No surprise. However, she said that I was speaking in Samoan. :) That’s cool.

That next morning I had to be back before school started. I started to bike back early in the morning. It was still dark and it was raining heavily. I had a head lamp, but that wasn’t working because it was just lighting up the rain in front of my eyes, so I had to hold it out in front of me. It kept going out. It was a little scary. I was looking hard for mean dogs, but there weren’t any. After I had gone a ways I saw a bus driving towards me. It was still very dark so I couldn’t see anything, but right at it was passing me I thought that it looked like our school bus. So I stopped biking and pointed my light at the bus. It slowed down and stopped as I biked towards it. It was my school bus! A very wet me hopped into the bus as a student put my bike in the center isle. The bus was just starting its rounds of pickups so the students got a kick out of me when they got on the bus and saw me there soaking wet.

So, this weekend I am heading in yet again to Apia. I think it will be the last time for awhile. I want to go on the hike, but one of the 2 guys I was going to go with can’t come in this weekend and I haven’t gotten a hold of the other one. Oh well; I have a few weeks off from school coming soon, maybe we will go then. I have to head in for a few meetings and to see our PC medical officer. Hopefully I won’t feel too burnt out this weekend. I think the hike would be good. Let’s see. Until next time…

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Pictures of new group fiafia and general

Our Sasa Dance at the fiafia

Me, La La and Rosa all dressed up for the fiafia

Me, Mari and Selima during the girls siva

John, Nick and a few of us playing Trivial Pursuit to stay awake while we waited for the new group to arrive

Sara, Naiomi and Falelua. Helping Sala get ready for the taupo dance at the fiafia

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Doctor's Appointments and the New Group

It has been awhile since I last updated my blog but things have been busy. I have traveled back and forth between the airport/wharf area and Apia 8 times in the last week.

On Monday the 5th of June school started back up again with the second term. After grading the mid-year exams, I decided that I needed to re-evaluate the lesson plans. There are a lot of activities that take place throughout the school year that take precedence over class time, and so I had to re-write the plans. I have a lot of leeway with my Tech classes and I really want them to get it instead of just passing through class. So, I decided to focus differently on what I would teach Tech 1 and Tech 2. They have to take both years and so I wanted to switch focus to more hardware and file management the first year and use the second year as software.

But, I was unable to start this new lesson planning since on Monday I received a call from the medical officer asking me if I could leave for a flight to Pago Pago the next day. I have been having problems with a tooth and there just aren’t the medical facilities here in Apia to really figure out what was making it hurt so much. So, Monday afternoon I hopped on the boat and headed back to Apia. My flight left early Tuesday morning. They weren’t sure exactly what was making it hurt so much, but they x-rayed it and there was no visible cavity. They thought that maybe my filling had a leak so they drilled it and found that there was no leak. When they had the filling out they saw a small cavity that wouldn’t be causing all the pain, but was still a cavity anyways. So, they filled that and told me to come back in one week if it still hurt. It did, but thankfully the pain has gone down. I am not sure what it was, but at least it isn’t hurting anymore.

I flew back to Samoa that same day I left and arrived in town too late to take the boat back to Savai’i that day. Since I was in town now on Tuesday night and the new group was arriving early in the morning on Wednesday morning, I decided to head with the volunteers to the airport to pick them up. We decided it would be fun to stay up all night while we waited for them to come. I don’t know why we thought that sounded like a good idea now, but we did it. We stayed up the whole night drinking Ava and playing Trivial Pursuit. We played so much Trivial Pursuit that we started making up our own rules to make it more competitive and last longer.

The group arrived at 5am, so those of us signed up to pick them up put on some nicer looking clothes and headed out to greet them. We gave them lei’s (called ula’s here) and took their luggage from them and got them back to the hotel. As I was getting my stuff in order to head back to Savai’i, I heard that they still needed a few volunteers to help out at the new group’s welcoming Ava ceremony. If you don’t remember from some of my first blog entries, the new groups are all welcomed in with an Ava ceremony. They sit there for awhile not understanding the Samoan and at the end they have to take a drink of the ava and say, “lau ‘ava lea le atua, soifua.” I remember when I first did it I had NO idea what was being said and we were sitting there for a long time cross-legged trying to sit up straight and remember what we were supposed to say. I know we didn’t say it right. So, it was really fun to go this time and watch a new group go through it. I understood the majority of what was being said at the ceremony, and it was fun watching them and remembering what I was thinking. I took pictures for the group and got a chance to talk to a few more of them.

Then, even though I was extremely tired, I had to head back to Savai’i. On Friday my Year 13 class was taking one of its CATS (internal Assessment test) and I had to get prepared for it and give it. So, Wednesday afternoon I traveled on the boat back to Savai’i and taught classes Thursday and Friday. Since the new group’s fiafia was Saturday, I had to head back to Apia on Friday.

Friday night was fun. I met up with a few volunteers and we sat on the balcony chatting and drinking ava. It was a nice cool down from the crazy week I had had. We had heard that the world cup games were playing at JT’s Sports Bar, so we invited the trainees and headed down there to watch the game and eat some food. However, when we got there, there was a rugby game on that was playing on every screen. It took precedence over the soccer game. We sat around for a while chatting with the new group and finally headed out to hang out near the office. A few of us ended up staying up pretty much the whole night just chatting and having fun. The next day I was trying to remember as I struggled throughout the day why we had decided to almost pull another all nighter. It was fun though.

So, now it is Saturday the 10th. The whole day consisted mostly of getting ready for the fiafia that night. The volunteers cooked the food and put on the dances, so we ran around trying to find ingredients before the stores closed and getting last minute dance practices in. I ended up making something with La La. I made a peanut butter cookie crust, and La La made banana custard that we put on top. It was SO good. I ended up helping another volunteer too. He was making fajitas and needed floor tortillas. I know how to make them, so I made up a few tortillas for him.

The fiafia was fun. I danced in the girls’ Siva and the sasa. The boys had 2 dances, a few volunteers sang, and we got the fire dancing guy to come back and do a show for the trainees, like last year. It went well. I think they enjoyed themselves which is really what it is about. Then after the dancing and eating we hung out the rest of the night just chatting with them and getting to know them. There are 3 other volunteers from Seattle in the new group, so it was nice to chat with them and talk with them about places back home that I am missing.

Sunday morning I had to head back to Savai’i. I ended up taking the same boat back as Vena who was heading back to her village for the last time. Vena is done with her 2 years of service in a few days. It is interesting talking to Vena as she is getting ready to go and hearing what she is thinking and going through, while at the same time reflecting on my own experiences so far by watching the new group coming in and being reminded of things I was struggling with and going through.

So, this week is going along okay. Monday Maka came out to visit Bob and me and we had dinner and hung out. It is nice getting visitors out here. Apia people are so used to it, but I love it when someone comes out our way. We aren’t on the main road so we aren’t visited as much. My Year 12 class has one of their CAT’s tomorrow that they are probably not prepared for, but we will see how it goes. We don’t have class Thursday or Friday because of a holiday on Thursday and a parent-teacher’s conference on Friday. I will be heading back to Apia on Friday to go hiking with a few other volunteers and go to the going away party for Brian and Vena. It will be sad to see Group 72 go. I like them all a lot and have gotten to be pretty close with a fair number of them. But, soon Group 76 will be swearing in and we will be getting to know them better and I am sure some of them will become good friends.

So, I am staying busy. Almost too busy I am sure. I have been enjoying my time in Apia lately and I have been getting to know a few other current volunteers that I never really knew before, so that is fun. School is just trucking along. I am still amazed that in a few days I will have officially one and a half years left. It is hard often. There are times I really don’t want to be a teacher. There are times I get so frustrated with things, but the other volunteers here are going through a lot of the same things and I have some close Samoan friends that make it so nice to come to and share when it is really starting to get to me. It might be another week or so until I can update this again; I find it hard to update my blog when I am traveling so much back and forth between the islands, but I will try. I think not this weekend, but the next one will be the last time I head into Apia for awhile. I have to go for the Avanoa Tutusa meeting, but after that I am going to lay low on this island and try not to spend so much money.
Until next time… :)