Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pictures of Clair's Faamavae & Funnel Cakes

The Volunteers helping out at the Avanoa Tutusa booth.

Derek sitting on Clair's lap.

Clair and I on her last night in country.

Nick making the funnel cakes while Mari waits to add the sugar powder.

Bob and Clair at the restaurant.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The sicky that I am

I will start out my update by saying that once again I am sick. :) I think my body has just shut down for the time being. It will check back in in a few weeks, but until then I have strep throat. Yeah. I know, I know. Some of you are probably thinking, “But Julya, how can you get strep throat without tonsils?” Well, you can; it just goes into the back of your throat. It isn’t that bad this time around because I actually took it easy and rested in my house. I didn’t even go for a long bike ride or anything.

So, this last week has been a lot of fighting off ailments and various sicknesses. In my last blog entry I mentioned that I had taken the day off on Monday to get one last day of rest before the week. It was needed because Monday’s are my busiest days with the most classes.

Tuesday I gave my last CAT and they are all finally over for the year. No more trying to figure out when I am going to be able to give them, what time periods will work, asking teachers to switch classes… at least until next year. Now we are getting ready for finals and the exams that Year 12 and 13 take to go to the next level. For Year 12 that is qualifying to take the classes they want as year 13; for the year 13 students that means qualifying to get into a university, namely NUS (National University of Samoa) where a few other PC teachers teach. I am still busy in my year 13 class because I saved all the IA’s (Internal Assessments) until the last minute. Next year I will spread them out over the year to make my last term a little less stressful. I still have 3 more of them, but they are less work on me and more on my students. It is crunch time for them. I never thought that I would be looking forward to the school break as much as the students, but it’s true, teachers look forward to it just as much.

On Wednesday, my main computer in my lab stopped working. I was doing work on it Tuesday night and it started beeping at me and shut down. It hasn’t turned on since. I called another fellow PC for suggestions on what I should try since I have never been the best at hardware troubleshooting, and he suggested it was the video card. The problem with that is that it’s internal and not really replaceable here. So, since within the last week a few other of my computers have also died I searched them to see if maybe they had external video cards and maybe I could just install one of them and hope that it worked. None of my 4 other broken computers had one. That means that I have to transfer all of the data from my hard drive on my computer to another computer. Since the computer I use was also the one that past PC computer teachers have kept the last 3 years worth of pictures from my school on it, I want to save the information. I am a little nervous to poke around in this computer just because it’s my school and work computer, but this week I will have to give it a shot. I am getting a little more familiar and comfortable with hardware and figuring out what I need to do, so hopefully I will get this fixed. I also have to re-install the Operating system on 2 of my computers. I don’t know what happened this week, but it wasn’t a good week for computers either. Sometimes there are bad power surges on Savai'i and even with a UPS it can affect the computers. It might have been one of those power surges.

On Wednesday evening one of my fellow teachers stopped by to chat. We ended up sitting outside on my porch type area and talked about a lot of things: faith, families, traveling, singing, we even sang a few songs. He wanted to hear some music that I liked to listen to back home so I sang a few choruses to some of them. Then he brought me a blank CD the next day and wanted to know if I could burn some of the songs I sang for him onto the CD. :) It was fun to get to know another one of my teachers a little better. I don’t always get the chance to chat outside of school with the teachers who don’t live on the compound with me.

This weekend I had a ton of plans. I was going to go to the wharf and make some photocopies at the library for school (it was closed). I have to make copies at the library because our school photocopier is temporarily down again. I wanted to sew up a whole in one of my puletasi’s, I wanted to sew a skirt, and I had to type up my tests for my classes since they were due last weekend (I successfully typed up one of them). BUT, Friday night I was sitting by myself in my house watching a movie and I felt absolutely freezing. I had on socks, a long sleeve shirt, long pants and I was wrapped in a big blanket (thankfully I have one here). I thought maybe being so cold in this country was wrong, so I took my temperature and go figure I had a fever. I decided to go to bed early and see how I felt in the morning. Once again I woke up in the morning feeling rocked. My throat was hurting very similar to what strep feels like. After a phone call to my PC doctor, she figured the same thing. So, when I thought I was getting over one thing, I ended up getting another.

Last weekend I had a bit of homesickness hit me. It doesn’t come as much as it used to. In fact, sometimes I think of going home and want to stay here. I miss aspects of home, like friends and family, but there are aspects of here that I will miss and I am definitely not ready to leave yet… good thing I have another year left. :) Anyways, I was sitting at my computer listening to some of my music. A song came on that I used to listen to a lot before I left Vashon. I remember listenging to it as I drove to one of the many houses I used to housesit for before I left, singing the song in my car at the top of my lungs and I missed that feeling. I thought of driving in my car and heading home to sit in front of the heater at my parents house. Walking upstairs to my bedroom freezing cold because the window is open for the cats to come in and out and crawling into a ton of warm covers with my cat sitting on top of my legs. It was a nice thought of home and I missed it for a bit. I am sure when I am back home I will have thoughts of missing things about here as well.

Now I am in Apia for a few appointments I have to take care of and a few people are leaving that I really want to say goodbye to. But to my friends back home that worry about me, I promise to not go out every night. :)

Until next time…

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Families, Funnel Cakes and Goodbyes

I was looking at my own blog the other day and realized that it has been a significant amount of time since I last posted a blog update. I think it’s time to let everyone know what I have been up to these last 3 weeks or more.

The week of August 26 – September 2
The Saturday of August 26, I decided to do something that I have not done since the first day of 2006; I headed to my training village. I took an early morning boat from Savai'i to Upolu, and then a bus straight out to Falevao. I had not mentioned to anyone that I would be going. Sometimes other volunteers in my group visit their families and when our own families ask if we are coming, we can pass messages on to them that we are. I had not told anyone. I think mostly because I wasn’t sure if I was in fact going to go. I really missed my brothers and sister from my family, but training was tough and I don’t always have good memories because we were still learning and struggling with the culture.

But, I headed out. When my mom saw me, she cried. My brother Jason was the happiest to see me I think. It was a blast. My Samoan had improved so I was able to communicate with my family a little easier. In fact, my sister’s husband and I had some great talks; I hadn’t ever really talked to him before because his English is broken and I was still at the basics of Samoan when I was in training. So, it was cool to be able to communicate a lot better and just relax with the family. I played a lot of cards. My brother Jason’s favorite card game is speed and we played a lot of it. He cheats during it and I let him because then we have fun yelling at each other at the end of the games and throw the cards at each other. I played a few games of Sweapie with my sister (a great card game almost everyone in Samoa plays). I even played my mom a few games and won one round. It was nice because I started to feel a little bit like one of the family again by the time I left. Once my parents went out for food and my sister and I did the dishes together. It was tough when I left because it has been so long since I had been back, but I think I will try and make it a more regular occurrence. It’s just difficult getting there when I live on Savai'i. The boat, bus and school schedule make it a challenge to visit regularly.

On Monday, I rode on the bus with my Aunt, sister Folole and her baby to Rosa’s village a few villages away. After a little confusion and traveling back and forth between the villages a few times, I finally made it to Rosa’s house. It was a fun visit. I like seeing where other volunteers live and what their families and living situations are like. On Monday and Tuesday nights I went to Library night with her. She gathers with a bunch of little kids a few nights a week and reads to them and lets them pick out books to read and take home for a few nights. She is training another boy in the village to take over as the librarian when she leaves. I think it is a great thing. The kids and the future librarian love it. They love being trusted with the books and they try and take good care of them when they have them. It was fun.

The week of September 3 – September 10
On Monday the 4th, Bob and my school performed at Teuila Festival. I have asked a few people what exactly Teuila Festival is celebrating and I think the best answer I can get is that it is a week celebrating culture. Villages and schools get together and perform and compete for best traditional dances, sasa’s (like a slap, clap, dance-thing) and slap dances. There are food booths, crafts, and a ton of tourists come to see the festivities. It is very similar to many local festivals back in the states. For those of you from Vashon, it’s similar to the Strawberry Festival. Since my school had won the sasa competition last year, they were asked to start off the festivities with a 10 minute long sasa. They have been practicing it after school every day for the last 2 months. It was amazing. Tons of people were coming up to me and telling me it was one of the more original sasa’s they have ever seen. Bob and I were a small part of it as well. I stood in the back and held one end of a traditional fine mat with my counterpart Meaalofa and Bob held coconuts on a stick. It was fun. Throughout the week villages continued to compete in the traditional dances. There were even a few other volunteers in the sasa’s or songs; Dane sang with his village and I think Jordan did too, some of the new volunteers.

The next day, I helped at the Avanoa Tutusa booth. Avanoa Tutusa is an NGO that I have been helping out with. Our slogan is, “Raising awareness and developing initiatives related to youth, gender and development in Samoa.” Avanoa Tutusa means equal opportunity in Samoan. I am the Secretary. We decided that the Teuila Festival would be a good time to raise some money and awareness for our projects. A few projects we do is the Career Day for Year 13 students on both islands, we build playgrounds, provide schools with craft grants, are trying to host a youth camp… things like that. Last year Avanoa Tutusa had a booth at the festival and made funnel cakes, so we decided to stick to what works. It was a huge hit. Pancakes are pretty popular here in Samoa and the funnel cakes were a hit as the sweet pancake. People loved them. It was fun to work hard and meet a ton of people and make a few connections and work with companies to donate and sponsor things… It was good to get our name back out there and make some great relationships with a few of the businesses. We had all of our paper products donated as well as water. I think people were really excited about the NGO and even if they didn’t want to eat funnel cakes they were happy to see that money went to the children and youth of Samoa. Throughout the week, my students came by to say hi and chat for awhile. I got a kick talking to them outside of school and seeing them dressed up in Apia. Usually I see them in uniform. I ran into one of my year 13 students, Matu’u, in the middle of one of my errands as I was getting into a taxi and he came with me and helped me carry my bags. He stayed with me until I was finished with that errand and then went on his way. It was cool.

My job at the booth was to make all the funnel cake mix (which we mixed in 5 gallon buckets) and to run all of the errands throughout the day. I enjoyed it because I got to chat with a lot of different businesses and I got to spend time with one of the PC drivers for most of the day. Mixing 5 gallon buckets of batter can be a bit tricky and tiring, but by the end of the week, Holly and I were pros at it. I think we made about 13 buckets throughout the whole week, give or take a few.

Towards the end of the week, even though the festival wasn’t over, I needed a break, so I headed to another volunteer’s house, Julia’s, out towards the wharf. School was still on break, so I thought I would go and keep her company for the evening. It was fun, we stayed up late talking and watched some movies and ate pancakes in the morning.

That Saturday I headed back to Savai'i. I had been feeling sick for the last few weeks, but hadn’t really taken a break. I thought since school started back up on Monday, it would be good for me to get a full weekend of rest. That evening back at my house I really started to go downhill. My body felt rocked and I had a cough that would not go away. So the rest of the weekend I rested and didn’t do anything… except one afternoon I got bored and removed the sleeves from one of my puletasi, hemmed the arm holes back up, and then used the material from the sleeves to make a purse. I sewed it by hand too, since I don’t have a sewing machine. I was pretty proud of myself. :)

The week of September 11 – September 16
School started back up again on Monday, but we didn’t have any actual classes. It was a cleaning day. Kids weeded the school grounds, swept out all the classrooms, cleaned everything up and got ready for the next day. I felt even sicker and since the next few days I was heading back to Apia for some meetings concerning Year 12, the School Certificate (School C) stuff, I decided to head back to Apia that evening with another one of the teachers.

Tuesday afternoon I had what I thought was going to be a meeting about the status and progress of School C classes, since this is the first year that Year 12 is taking a School C computers prescription. There have been a lot of bumps along the way this first time around and I wanted to give my opinion and ask a few questions, but it turned out to be a training workshop for Photoshop and PageMaker, both programs that I am familiar with. So I headed back into town and had lunch with Marques and Sara from my group who also went to the meetings.

The next day I had a doctor’s appointment to find out what was wrong with my lungs. I hadn’t been able to stop coughing for a good couple of weeks and I started to have hot and cold chills. When I went to the doctor’s office I had a fever of 100°. He said I had a lower respiratory infection. That could mean walking pneumonia, bronchitis, anything that affects that area. Walking pneumonia is what you have before it becomes full-blown. I was ordered to stay in Apia for about a week and try and get as much rest as possible. It was hard because that week a lot of people were in town. La La got back from New Zealand and Clair was leaving the end of the week. I tried to rest, but I found myself out to dinner a lot with other volunteers for various occasions.

Clair’s faamavae (going away party) was Friday night. They had it at a fairly nice restaurant just outside of town. There were a ton of people there, Aussie’s and PC. I hung out until around 10pm and then my body told me it had had enough and I had to head back to sleep. It was hard to say goodbye to Clair. She lives so close to me on Savai'i that she is a huge part of my day to day life. It’s different than most of my friends here. I have a lot of close friends and people that I love hanging out with and purposely try to hang out with when I head to Apia, but I don’t see them on a weekly basis, only when I head into town. I saw Clair every week at girl’s night. Once a week I met with her and La La and we chatted and caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives, so it was hard to say goodbye to her. But, to take a saying from Sala and Ethan, “I will see her on the other side.” I will also be seeing her again in December since I am going to go visit her at her home in Australia for Christmas. That should be a blast and something fun to look forward to. Clair, you will be missed. (*Note: I will post pictures of Clair's faamavae the next time I am in Apia - weekend of the 29th).

The week of September 17 (now)
On Sunday I decided that I would be able to rest better in my own bed on Savai'i than in anything in Apia. So, I headed back on the last boat with Bob and Derek. It was a chill ride back and not that crowded. The boat ride wasn’t too bad; I only felt slightly sick for a few seconds. I love the boat rides. They are a time for me to retreat into my own world with my headphones on and a nice time to get caught up on my journaling.

Monday I decided not to go to school. My energy level is still pretty low and Monday’s at school are my busiest days. It wouldn’t be realistic for me to teach only half of a day. If I am there, I am there to teach. So I just stayed home. My counterpart came by a few times for questions and help, but it was nice to get a whole day of rest and let my body catch back up. I think it wasn’t too happy with me this last week. I watched a lot of movies and read all of my Newsweek’s. Newsweek is so great. It sends a free magazine for every volunteer to every PC post in the world and they’ve been doing that for years. Without a TV or radio, it’s nice to be able to still feel connected to the news of the rest of the world.

Tuesday I taught the majority of my classes, Year 11, 12 and 13 and gave my Year 12 class their last CAT (Common Assessment Task) on Databases. They did so well. It was so much easier than what they were prepared for; I think next year they will all do really well in Year 13. School wise, in Year 12 and 13 all that is left is their IA’s (Internal Assessments). That’s where I give them a task to do over a week or so and they are graded on their finished product at the end of the given time. Finals are coming up too, in November. This term is going to fly by. My Tech kids go to their on the job training next week for a month. It’s when they go to businesses around Samoa and work in the fields that they have been studying this last year. The Tech kids get to choose which vocations they want to study at the beginning of the year, but all Tech kids take computers. So I don’t think any students will be doing just computer job shadowing.

So there you go; I’m caught up for now. Sorry it took me so long to get it all typed up. I like to do it at my house on Savai'i and I just haven’t really been home for about 3 weeks. I think it’s time to spend some significant amount of time on the compound in my village and get back into the swing of things here. I missed the routines I have out here, like bike riding and evening chats with the faletua.

Until next time…

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pictures of Teuila Festival - My School

Bob and me at the festivities

Uesiliana getting ready to perform

The boys drumming during the sasa

Lining up before the parade walk

Meaalofa and the Satupaitea Rugby Team

More Falevao Pictures and Rosa's

Rosa at library

The view from Rosa's house

Johnny and my mom

My cousin Elia, brother Marloti, cousin Manase, brother Gaolo, cousin Atesa

Me and my cousin Herene

Pictures of Falevao

David Junior Bryan (named after my brother) and my brother Johnny in the background

My brother Jason and me

Jason and Metuli (my sister's husband) preparing the taro for the to'ona'i

My dad and brother Marloti waking up from afternoon rest

Jason and my sister Folole playing a game of speed