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…