Saturday, December 30, 2006

Detailed account of my Christmas on "the Other Side"

I arrived back in country early this morning and so far it is the longest day of my life (thanks to the International Date Line). :) I thought since now I have a slow internet connection again and have time to sit down and type out a few things, I thought I owed everyone a more detailed account of what Sydney was like and everything I got to do and experience. Sorry for the novel, but there's really no other way. Read it in intervals if you must... :)

Day 1 (21 and 22 of December)
So, on the plane ride to Sydney I ended up being on the same flight with a few familiar faces. Robin, another PC was flying to Melbourne, Alex, a current Australian volunteer was going home for a visit during Christmas, and one of my Year 11 students was on the plane. It turns out that thankfully the plane was pretty empty, so Alex ended up moving next to me. My student ended up in the same row across the aisle from me. No matter where you go, in Samoa you will always be known. The plane ride was extremely dry. Both Alex and I thought all of the moisture was being sucked from our bodies. I couldn't seem to put enough eye drops in and I wasn't even wearing my contacts. Especially coming from such a humid country, I have never experienced a dryness like that before. On the plane Alex and I passed the time watching tv shows on his computer and talking about Australia. He is from Melbourne and wanted Clair and me to head down for a few days and visit.

I had no trouble in customs. I had brought some cocoa samoa with me and thought that it would be a problem bringing it through, but I was waved without a second glance. Alex was randomized and Robin and I ended up waiting for him for awhile. Clair shared with me a funny story that when she returned home, she had to open her bag because she was carrying an ava bowl and a cockroach ran out. She was so freaked that her whole bag would be confiscated, but the customs man commented that they were universal and let he through like he sees that kind of thing every day.

Clair was there waiting for me like promised. It was so great to see her face. I didn't realize how much I missed her. It's funny because when Peace Corps say goodbye to each other they like to say, "See you on the other side." Well, I was seeing her on the other side. :) We walked out to her car and the first thing I did was try and get in the driver's seat. I had forgotten that they drive on the left side of the road. The whole time I visited Clair was great and drove us everywhere. It only took a little while to get used to it, but every now and then I saw a car coming on the right side and had a little panick in my heart that we were going to get hit. I had to phsyically stop myself from sucking in air or pressing the imaginary break on the passenger side of the car. :) The turnabouts were the hardest for me to orient myself to. At least I wasn't doing the driving. I think I might have wandered over to the other side a few times... I never really had a problem seeing all the huge buildings wiz past, but everything did seem large to me in comparison.

The first place we headed was to a beach. Coronulla I think is what it was called. It was great to walk around after sitting for so long. Clair and I had a chance to chat and catch up on a few things. We just walked along a boardwalk catching up on the latest faitala. I was a little shocked to see how people were dressed. After living in a relatively conservative country for the last year, it was hard to see people walking around in bikinis. I kept thinking how scandalous they were dressed. After the wind picked up and the temperature reached about 65 degrees (18 for those of you still on the other side) I decided I was cold and wanted to head somewhere. We walked to a nearby cafe and I had my first latte in a very long time. Carmel Machiatto. I forgot how much I love sitting in little cafes with friends sipping coffee and chatting. Eventually we decided to head back to Clair's parents place.

Her parents weren't expecting us to come home for dinner, so there wasn't any meal food in the house. Her mom did offer me grapes and I think I had a small faint. Grapes? Real grapes? And I can eat them? She had a bowl with grapes, cherries, plums, apricots and peaches. I felt like i was being spoiled. I could have sat there and eaten the whole bowl if Clair didn't insist we eat something "real." Now, before I came to Australia Clair asked me what the one thing I really wanted to eat was when I came. A HUGE deli sandwich will all the fixings and more. So we headed to Subway. In order to enter the Subway we had to walk through a grocery store. It overwhellmed me. I think it was just seeing so much stuff. There were so many choices my eyes couldn't focus on anything. To see 8 different brands of 8 different versions of orange juice was just more than I think my eyes could focus on or take in. Since Clair was also a volunteer in Samoa she understood this overload and quickly rushed me to the Subway. It took me awhile to decide what kind of sandwich I wanted. You mean I can have any type of meat I want? But I finally settled on something and thought the decision making process was over. I told the lady the type of sub I wanted and she asked what type of bread. What type of bread?! I looked at the unendless choices it seems and I think my brain froze because I really couldn't decide. It all looked good. I turned to Clair and asked her what i should get. She chose and I stuck with that decision. Toppings were easy: everything. I thought we were through again, but no! The lady behind the counter then asked me what type of dressing I wanted. Dressing? There were too many choices. Once again I couldn't decide. I looked over and Clair was being helped by the next person, so I looked at the choices again. I soon realized I could be looking at these choices forever and so I chose the one closest to me, Ranch. Sounded good. We paid for the sandwhiches and quickly hurried back to Clair's house. I was exhausted. After a nice long bath, I passed out.

Day 2 (23 of December)
Because the sun rises in Samoa change only by 1 hour throughout the year and because I have to get up around the same time everyday for school, I have for the most part woken up every day for the last year around 6am. This is 4am in Australia. Obviously no one was up yet and I could not for the life of me fall back asleep. So I got up and wandered around the house. Eventually the rest of the world woke up too and I decided I needed to stay up extra late a few nights in a row to compensate for the early waking. The first thing I noticed when I woke was how much my scalp itched. Because Samoa is so humid, my skin had gotten used to it. It was like my skin didn't seem to remember how to produce it's own oil. My entire body was dry. I couldn't seem to put enough lotion on. Even my lips got extremely chapped. They were cracked and peeling and bleeding even. No amount of chapstick seemed to do the trick (now that I am back, it's back to normal).

Today Clair and I headed into the city. She lives in a subburb outside of Sydney. We drove to a tram area and took the tram into the city. We walked all over. When we got out of the tram area we were smack dab in the middle of the mall. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was interested in seeing all of the things that are for sale and that people buy. There was a store for everything. The first thing we did in the city was head up the tower to see the city from high up. It was great to see the layout of the city and to get an idea of where everything was.

Then we walked into the heart of town. The first thing I wanted to see was the Opera House. It was just as amazing to see as the pictures. It started raining right as we were arriving so the mass of people had cleared out a bit and we got to wander around relatively alone. We saw a wedding outside the Opera House, took lots of pictures and then started walking around the rest of the city. We ended up taking a boat out to Manly Beach, so I saw the city from the harbor. It was fun, but really cold (relatively). We walked up and down the beach and stopped to watch a Beach Volleyball competition. People were all dressed up in costume. The funniest one was guys in womens swim suits with bathing caps on. A little different than what I am used to seeing.

We stopped in a little Italian cafe and I ordered amazing food. I just kept thinking how great it was to be eating this tastey food. In fact, I thought that so much during the week that even though I might have been full I never wanted to stop eating since I wouldn't be eating it again for another year or so. I might have gained a few pounds on the trip but it was worth every bite!

We were in town the whole evening. We wanted to see the Harbor Bridge and Opera House lit up at night so we passed the evening by going to see a movie. The lights were great at night. I bet New Years eve would be fun to see in Sydney. This time I was so tired I passed out in the tram and the car ride home...

Day 3 (24 of December)
And yet I still managed to wake up before the rest of the world. In fact, I continued to struggle with this the whole trip. Even though the bed was nothing short of amazing and I managed to stay up late every night, I still could not for the life of me sleep in. Clair's dad referred to me as the girl that never sleeps. Christmas Eve morning Clair and I took a road trip down the coast. It was the coldest day yet and it was pouring rain. Her family kept telling me this never happened in Sydney, but I felt right at home with the rain and the cold weather. We drove down the coast and stopped in a little town called Stanwell and had tea in a cute little tea house that had just had its grand opening that day. In fact Clair and I were their first customers. They were great. The waitress offered to refill our pots of tea without extra charge, we had scones... it was fun.

We headed back and got ready for part 1 of 2 with the Fitzgerald family gatherings. Her whole entire family was there. 2 sisters and their respective others, their kids, her brother and his wife, their newborn baby. We had a light meal outside (once again I was bundled up) and then headed inside to open a few presents. One of her sisters couldn't join the family tomorrow so they openeded their presents and their kids presents. One of their girls (baby Lili) got glitter shoes, a new pink purse, fairy wings... and she pranced around in all of it the rest of the night. Clair and I watched a few episodes of the Sopranos and then most of the family headed to midnight mass since Clair's family is Catholic. The music was beautiful. I enjoyed sharing that with Clair's family.

Day 4 (Christmas Day)
It was a late rising for everyone but me since we were up so late with Mass. Everyone came over around 1pm and the first thing we did was sit down to eat. Clair's mom got the Christmas pudding down from the ceiling (to let it dry). There was so much food. Once again I couldn't seem to stop eating it. We had a lot of food and great wine. Then Clair's mom brought out the Christmas pudding. Her dad poured alcohol on it and they lit it on fire. The pudding was served with custard.

After dinner we started to open presents. I had brought a few for Clair and her family. Some Samoans Own chili sauce, Cocoa Samoa, coconut oil, earrings for the women in the family... things like that. But, I was not expecting presents for myself. I was so surprised when Clair's dad read off my name on a present from them! I ended up getting a few presents that evening; I felt so blessed. It really did make me feel like a part of the family. I loved it.

After the presents started the games. We started off with Trivial Pursuit. Clair and I were a team. One question we loved was about the Sopranos. Eventually we decided no one had won a piece of pie in awhile and we were for the most part all tied at 3 pieces each. So we called it a draw. Then we started a card game that Clair's sister in law knew. (What is the name of that game Clair?) We all agreed that whoever won would win, but not take home a silver cup that was given to the family as a Christmas present. Clair's sister in law won and her husband came in second. It was a very spirited game of cards and i had a blast. Eventually the evening started winding down around midnight and everyone headed home or got ready to stay the night.

Day 5 (26 of December)
For some insane reason I had decided and Clair had agreed that we needed to experience the rush of shopping madness that takes place on Boxing Day. So we left relatively early (not as early as I have been waking up) and headed back into the city. The main place we wanted to stop at was Meyer (like a Bon Marche or Meir and Frank in the states). I wanted some pants, a few tanks, and some gifts for PC back home. When we got to the store there were huge mobs outside. We managed to push our way to the front (thanks to having to push your way to the line to buy tickets at the boat to Savaii) and found out they were letting people into the store in small spurts. We waited not too long and managed to make it in. I can't remember ever seeing so many people in one place. Surpisingly I didn't feel too overwhellmed. Samoa has small personal spaces so I never felt claustrophobic. And I am used to waiting a long time for things in Samoa as well, so the long lines and waiting never really got to me. Overall I think we were crazy for heading in so early and it wasn't really worth the insanity, but it was an experience and it is fun to say you did it.

After the shopping we needed a much needed break and headed to Darling Harbor to chill for awhile. We sat and relaxed and then called another Aussie volunteer I knew from Samoa. He met up with us in China Town and we had some of the best food I had had in country yet. Once again I couldn't decided on anything at the restaurant. He ended up ordering for us. After lunch we walked around the entire city... and I mean entire city. John knew everything about the buildings and history of Sydney. Even Clair learned a few things. It wasnt too tiring and I felt the need to exercise after so much amazing food. I don't know, but I doubt there are parts of the city we didn't walk to... We finished the night up with a Korean meal. By the time we arrived back at Clair's house it was almost midnight.

Day 6 (27 of December)
And we got up about 4 hours later. During the course of the week, Clair and I decided that it would be fun to fly down to Melbourne for the day and visit a few friends. We had checked online earlier and flights were fairly cheap, but really booked. We had to book 2 different airlines there and back. Since our flight left today at 7am, we had to be up and out by 5am... Once again I was back at the airport and heading somewhere else. The plane was fairly packed, but we passed out for most of the ride. When we got to Melbourne we met up with Alex (the guy I sat next to on the plane). Him and his girlfriend Kat were there to hang out and chill with us for the day. We went to a fun little cafe for breakfast (couldn't seem to get enough while i was in the country). As always good food. Alex had some errands to run, so Kat took us on the trolley that circled the city. We were able to get a good perspective on the layout of the city and where we were. Melbourne reminded me a lot of a European city. Large streets with trees down the middle, a mix of new modern buildings with old ones next to them. Once again they tried to get me to decide what I wanted to do, but I really didn't know what I wanted. I told them to decide and i would walk and follow them everywhere.

After the trolley we crossed a massive park in the middle of the city and stopped by Alex's place to figure out where to go next. We had planned to meet up with another old Aussie Samoa volunteer later that day as well. We decided to head up the tower in the middle of the city and get a great birds eye view. After that we walked to the main square and met up with Nicole. Then the 5 of us went out for a light meal and wine and just caught up with each other. It is so much fun chatting with others that have gone through the same experience. We all understood where each one was coming from.

We ended up parting ways a little later than planned and Clair and I had to run to make the bus back to the airport. As it turned out, we read the schedule wrong and had a lot of time... better safe than sorry. By the time we made it home it was late.

Day 7 (28th of December)
Last full day in Australia. I tried to sleep in, didn't succeed and got up early and spent time online. Posting wonderful pictures. Clair and I left realtively early and drove out to the country to see the Blue Mountains. It took us awhile to get there and the day had heated up for the first time since I had been in country. It was hot when we arrived. We tried to smother ourselves in sunblock, but we still got fried. We walked around a bit, hiked down to the 3 sisters (rock formation) and just enjoyed getting a little exercise.

On the way back we stopped at a little National park at the base of the Blue Mountains. Earlier in the day Clair had asked an information desk guy where we could see wild kangaroos. Earlier in the trip I mentioned to Clair that I wanted to see kangaroos and koalas in the wild. She said kangaroos were fairly easy, but koalas would most likely be in a zoo. For most of the week I was in country, whenever we drove through undeveloped land I would joke about how I was watching for kangaroos and koalas. I would look into the tree tops for most of a card ride or search the fields for any sign of the kangaroos. At one point I thought I saw a kangaroo, but it was most likely a dirt pile. It was an outstanding joke between us (along with the pronounciation of batteries and mom/mum). Even in the city we joked about being on the lookout for the animals. So, she stopped and asked a guy where we could see some and he told us about the park. But he said to head there around dusk when they came out to eat and drink water. We saw them! A ton of them (kangaroos, not koalas). I took a ton of pictures and was happy.

That night as we were heading home, Clair's dad called and said we were having a BBQ at Clair's brother's house and to stop by the supermarket and pick up a few supplies... oh oh. I had to brave it sooner or later since I needed a few things. We walked in and I felt that overwhellming sense again. I just started to wander. I had a small idea of what I needed so Clair helped me in that general direction. One thing I needed was face wipes so I could still wash my face when the water is out on Savaii. I stopped and stared at the un-ending amount of choices. Which one to choose? I was probably there a good 10 minutes staring until I picked one up with a brand name that seemed most familiar. The longer I was there, the more used to it I became. I even picked up some bagels and cream cheese! Oh how i missed bagels.

We headed to the BBQ and it was great. Clair's dad had BBQ steak waiting for us. We watched them finish up a little yard work and then had the best last dinner in Australia. After dinner Clair and I tried to stay up and watch the Big Lebowski, but we both passed out.

Last Day (29 of December)
Believe it or not, I actually managed to sleep in this morning until about 6am. The first thing I did was take my last bath. Clair even hooked up this great spa bubbly thing in the bottom. We had a leisure morning, packing up and last minute indulges. I said goodby to her parents and then we headed into town.

I had some last minute shopping i still needed to do.We went straight to the mall and nothing phased me. We walked in and out of grocery stores (still a slight uneasiness) and I managed to get gifts for everyone promised one. Before the airport we stopped off for one last meal. I had a carmel bar, a plate of nachos and bought a few Krispy Kremes for the road. :)

While I was waiting in line in the airport to check in and Clair was parking the car, I had a funny experience. I was standing there and the people behind me were speaking in Samoa (naturally since the plane was going to Apia). I think I must have turned around and looked because then in Samoan I heard one mention the palagi that turned around. Then they started talking about my tatoo. One said they wondered if I got it in Samoa. I think I must have snickered because the other one asked me, "malamalama" (understand). I nodded and they were laughing. They thought it was so funny I could understand them. Turns out one of them actually lives in my village, but not near the school. Small world.

It was hard to say goodbye to Clair. I didn't want to leave all the fun and the niceties of living in a developed country. But, Samoa is my home (the good and the not so good parts) and it's where I belong. I promised her I would visit again (with Bryan this time), and that she had to come and visit me on our 30th birthdays (only 18 days apart). So, Clair, thanks for the fun and the friendship. I will miss you! It was great visiting with you on the other side and I will see you there again (no it's not like prison).

So, overall great vacation. I cannot wait to go back. Now I am back in Samoa and getting ready for the New Years festivities. I will continue to keep everyone updated a little more frequently I hope. Until next time...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Blue Mountains

The last full day I was here Clair and I drove out to the country and up into the Blue Mountains. There were a lot of tourists around, but it was a lot of fun hiking around and seeing the area. It was really hot and sunny that day. We lathered ourselves up with sunscreen, but still we got pretty burned. I forget that Australia has a huge hole in the ozone above it. But we hiked around and had a great workout.

The Blue Mountains in the distance ... ... Cliff face and the mountains

Blue Mountains ... ... The Three Sisters Towers.
Another shot of the kangaroos taken from the park near the Blue Mountains villages. Read my entry below about the kangaroos.

Visiting Melbourne for the Day

I know, some of you may be thinking, "You crazy palagi's. You flew down to Melbourne for just a day?" Well, we did and it was a blast. We were a little tired since Clair and I had stayed up pretty late the night before and had done a lot of walking around Sydney as well. We took a 7am flight down and a 7pm flight back. We met up with a current Aussie Samoa volunteer and his girlfriend took us around the city to see the sights. It was so much fun. Next time I will have to visit for longer than 12 hours...

The skyline of Melbourne ... The view of the city from the Sky Tower. The tall building in the background is the tallest office building in the southern hemisphere.

The Samoa volunteers: Nicole (same group as Clair), Clair, Alex (been in Samoa 6 months, has another 6 months to go), and me. ... ... The pictures of the kangaroos are not from Melbourne. They were taken on my trip with Clair into the Blue Mountains. I wanted to see kangaroos in the wild, not at a zoo, so we went to a camping ground on the way back where a guide said kangaroos frequent during the evening hours. Aren't they cute?
Me with the kangaroos in the background. Like I mentioned above, they were not in Melbourne but in a campground near the Blue Mountains. I still haven't seen any koalas in the wild yet. But I did see a gang of cockatoos.

More Christmas Pictures

I promise once again that when I return back to Samoa and my internet connection is about 1/16 the speed it is here, I will post a long written update. Until then, I am posting sort of a pictures blog. Documenting my week long Christmas fun with pictures. Enjoy.

Clair's brother and his newborn on Christmas ... Clair's mom taking down the Christmas pudding. Every year they light it on fire. When I asked why, they answered, "Because it's tradition." I don't know if my family has Christmas pudding...

Me playing with the newborn, Mathew. For those that know me well, that was a big step. :) ... Now I know this last picture isn't on Christmas, but I wanted to point out that I have had a beer that is not Vailima and it is good. Notice the very dark coloration on my beer. :)

Christmas Day Pictures

Clair and I on Christmas ... Clair and me on Christmas eve meal.

Clair's dad (Brian) video taping the Christmas festivities ... Clair's entire family (minus her mom who is taking the picture) plus me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Pictures from Australia

Merry Christmas from Australia!
Here are a few fun pictures from Sydney and around the area for everyone. I will post a detailed update when I get back, but I thought pictures were fun and so easy here with broadband! I love fast connections. :) Really I am having a blast. Clair's family is great. Christmas eve was a riot with them all. I am heading to midnight mass with them tonight. Since I am not Catholic, that will be my first Midnight mass. Should be interesting. We have just had a blast driving up and down the south coast and exploring Sydney. It is great to do it with Clair because she knows all the fun little hideaways and the cheaper fun spots. I am freezing cold here and it's about 68 degrees. What has Samoa done to my body temperature tolerance? I guess living in 90 humid weather for a year straight will do that to you. Clair has lent me a lot of warm clothes, can't say I brought a lot with me, or even really own some.

I am most looking forward to Christmas tomorrow and the couple days after that. We might head down to Melbourne for the day. We will see if the tickets are cheap enough for us. There are a few other old volunteers from Samoa there that we would like to visit. I am still a little overwhellmed with the amount of stuff everywhere, grocery stores are daunting... It's been raining pretty heavily all day. Everyone here says it's unusual for the area this time of year, but being from the Seattle area I feel right at home! :)

Until next time, Have a Merry Christmas!

Me in Syndey by the bridge ... Clair at the south coast in Cronulla

Clair's parents Christmas tree .. I thought the shot from the plane on the way to Australia was nice. It is one of the islands in Fiji. If I can't go there and see it from the ground, at least I can see it from the air. :)

Me outside the Sydney Opera House, I thought my "Savai'i Girl" tee-shirt was appropriate that day. :)

Australia Pictures

The bridge at night ... The Opera House at night. (Aren't I a great photographer?) Just joking. :)

The entry to the Opera House ... Me eating some real food! It is a plate of feta pasta with all the fixings unavailable in Samoa. I sure feel spoiled with all the food Clair's family is feeding me. I never thought I would have missed things like grapes and spinach so much. :)

My favorite shot I took of the Opera House. I took quite a few so I thought I would spare everyone and post just the good ones.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

American Samoa

On Monday I had to go back to American Samoa for more dental work on the same tooth that I had gone in previously for.

I sat in the cold airconditioned waiting room for a good 3 hours before they finally called me in. When I finally laid down on the chair the dentist asked me which tooth hurt specifically. I couldn't point to a specific tooth, but I pointed to the area in general in which it was throbbing. He poked and prodded and it hurt a lot. Then he went to xray it and it showed no cavities! I have no cavities. He thinks it is related to all of the sinus problems I have been having these last few months. Hopefully with the all natural stuff I will be receiving in the mail soon it will get a little better. I am just tired of my sinuses and having everything be related to them. I will try and get a second opinion when I am in Australia. I'll keep everyone updated.

I leave for Australia tomorrow, so I will type out a nice long update when I get back. Have a great Christmas everyone! Merry Christmas. Until I get home again...

From the road going to Pago. (pronounced Pawn-go)

Just a nice mountain scape view.

The funny little buses in American Samoa.

The airport. It looks like a lot of little outside fales. I love it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The palagi on the boat

It tilts from side to side
I see your face turns shades of the palms
I watch as you try to walk
staggering around, you make me laugh.
No one notices
The eyes stare straight
Someone looks up from a nap
Lines from the seat impress upon their dark soft face.
You aren't going to make it.
I see that now.
Almost stumbling over that woman.
A large lump of material covers her, squarley in your way.
How can she sleep so soundly, you wonder.
The last thing your eyes focus on is sky and water as one.
Murky dark water and that crisp spotless sky.
A momentary relief until the cycle repeats itself.

More Pictures

I found a few extra pictures I wanted to add to this blog. I am getting ready to head out to Australia. But, first I am going to Pago Pago to get some work done on my tooth. The same tooth I have had problems with this whole time. Hopefully this visit will take care of it.

I will post a little more later, but until then pictures are always fun...

Kevin with a shirt that says Working Together to Help the Animals of Samoa. And a fish in a plastic baggie...

Lafi in the background and me at the lake.

Me and Julia just before she headed out... Miss you!

Me and Tofa. Not one of my computer students, but a great girl and a good friend here.

The hike through... pine trees? Great flora and fauna on this hike. Some of it was very unusual and not typical for Samoa. Sort of a feeling of comfort though to walk through the pine trees...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A few random pictures

Us at Lake Lanotoo

My Tech 2 students that graduated

Me in the middle of the fun hike

The whole Year 13 graduating class

My Year 13 computer students. Meaalofa (my counterpart) is in the middle. I will miss them!

December Update

I must start this blog entry by yet again apologizing for not being as regular of an updater as other volunteers here. Life is good. Life is boring. Life is fun. A lot has happened this last month. In fact, possibly too much stuff to sit down and type out a massively long entry on every detail of my life here. Instead, I have decided to first make a list of the top highlights from the previous month and then include a more detailed account.

● Bob has left the school and transferred to a school on Savai'i. I am staying, but no volunteer will be replacing him
● I got a cell phone
● The last day of school was November 30th.
● I cannot stay at my house during the break so I will be causing trouble on the main island for the month of January
● Jordan came over to visit me at my house followed by Sarah the next day. We ate great food and watched good movies
● I headed into Apia the weekend of the 2nd for a going away party for Julia and Mike. Both volunteers that I will miss. (See you on the other side)
● I had to head back out to Savai'i with Sara to spend a nice night at one of the Beach Fale Resorts on Savai'i.
● I headed back to Apia for the weekend of the 9th for the International Volunteers Day. Peace Corps and Avanoa Tutusa both had booths.
● I went hiking with 9 other volunteers to Lake Lanotoo again. It poured, it was MUDDY and we got disgustingly dirty. It was fun. Me being the graceful woman that I am fell at least 10 times each way, almost taking out another volunteer at one point.
● I went to the beach with Sarah – we wore bikinis
● There was a coup in Fiji
● I am not going to Fiji
● I am still going to Australia for Christmas to spend time with an old AYAD (Australian Youth Ambassadors) volunteer and her family
● Group 77 swears in on Wednesday

So, awhile ago Bob decided that he wasn’t really doing what he wanted to be doing at the school and he has transferred to an Art school doing something he loves and something he is passionate about. He will be teaching art instead of welding. The school is really excited to get him. I have no doubt that he will do well at his new assignment, but I will miss my brother. All pretences aside, he has turned into someone I think about like a brother. I will miss my neighbor. Our rants and raves, the buckets of ava, watching Veronica Mars (a show in which I now have all the PC males obsessed with), and eating food Bob made so spicy it burned me a few times.

My school had its prizegiving (graduation) on the 28th of November. It was a little sad realizing I was saying goodbye to a few of these students for the last time. During the last days between the prizegiving and the actual last day of school (which involved a talent show from each class), I had many visits from the students. Every night a few of the Year 13 students came by to hang out and just sit and chat awhile. I gave a few of the girls’ small gifts. One included my True Value hat. (Dad, can I get yet another one?) For the class I made a stamp for the skirts and ie’s they have to wear to school that says the school name on it. They loved it. More than half of the class put them on their clothes. Since it was the last day of school and they were not returning, it was okay. It was a blast those last few days getting to know some of them a little better. One of them (who actually never was a student of mine) even asked for my mailing address in the states so she can keep in touch when I return home. I realize that I will truly miss these kids when I head back home.

After the last day of school another volunteer and I biked out to a beach resort near me to visit one of my students that got a job there. We hung out at the beach for awhile until I biked out to meet Jordan who biked to my place. Sarah came out to visit the next day and both nights it was a fun time of just relaxing, chatting, cooking, watching movies and enjoying my girl time. Unlike almost every other post in PC, PC Samoa has more guys than girls, so lately girl time has been a valuable part of my life here.

The first weekend of the month, Julia and Mike headed back home. Over the last 6 months or so, Julia has become a close friend. I had a lot of fun going out to her place and eating GREAT food and playing very spirited games of Yahtzee. It has been a blast hanging out with her and getting to know Mike better (her housemate, much like Bob and me). On Monday I went out to her house to help her pack and get ready for the driver to pick her and Mike up and take them to the airport. We chatted and played one last game (Uno) for old time’s sake.

After they left I had to head back out to my place on Savai'i to get ready for Sara to come out and visit. I packed and the next day headed into Salelologa to meet her at the boat terminal. We got on a bus and headed out to the beach resort. The bus was crowded. It was so crowded that I had to sit on her lap the whole way there. It is a long bus ride. When we got there another volunteer that lives near the area biked out to meet us and the 3 of us hung out in the fale chatting and enjoying the quiet time. While the night was fun and I it was a blast seeing Sara since I don’t see here a lot, it wasn’t the chill quiet night we were expecting. The owners of the place were celebrating the birthday of one of the kids and there was a lot of dancing and loud music. Our fale was next to the place where everyone was hanging out. So, while it wasn’t a peaceful quiet evening, it was what I had needed: a time to chill with Sara away from Apia and my place.

The very next day (Saturday the 9th) I headed back into Apia. International Volunteers day was celebrated that day. A lot of the NGOs and other organizations in Samoa got together and had like a festival. There were booths, hotdogs, soda, flag football, inflated playhouses, and softball (I played and got a hit and made it to 1st base). Avanoa Tutusa had a table with craft supplies for the little kids there to draw and cut and paste. PC had a board with a picture of every volunteer in country with a map pointing to their states and a few facts about PC in general. It was a fun day. We all got free tee-shirts for being involved (always a plus with PC volunteers), and got to ride on a fire truck and run around playing games. That night we went out dancing for a going away party for a few more volunteers. (Skye and Cecilia I will miss you guys, too!) I have never had more fun and been more sweaty (it was a hot night) in my life.

The next day, one of the volunteers had organized a mass hike to Lake Lanotoo for anyone interested in going. I had been before and there wasn’t anything else going on that day. 10 of us piled into a taxi van and headed out that way. It was a fairly nice day as we all piled into the van. I had found my sunglasses and lathered myself in a lot of sunscreen. I swear the second we stepped out of the van it started POURING rain. The rainy season is upon us again and Samoa is a rainforest. We got absolutely poured on for awhile. The trail itself isn’t a nice dirt trail but a trail of red clay. Let me tell you, wet clay is hard to walk on. Especially when you sometimes have trouble on flat pavement like I sometimes do. I fell at least 10 times each way. At one point there was a pretty steep place and I slid down it and almost took out another volunteer who had slid. We were absolutely covered in mud by the time we made it to the lake. We swam around in the lake for awhile. Kevin caught a goldfish with his hands and then released it. When we got out of the water we found leeches on our bodies. When we finally headed back, the group got split into 2 parts and one group found a short cut back. Now that we are back we are finding that red clay is also hard to remove from clothes and shoes.

Tuesday Sarah and I wanted to take a break from all the meetings (me with Avanoa Tutusa) and work for the new groups’ swear in (Sarah). We put on our bathing suits, headed to Palolo deep to lie on the beach for awhile and an hour later we were rained out. It is nice to have a place to unwind so close to town.

Yeah, so travel plans. I am not going to go into too much detail here, but we all know there was a coup in Fiji. I have decided it would be in my best interest to not travel there at this time. I am hoping to push it towards January while school is still out, but I will wait. I am still planning on heading to Australia to visit Clair. I am SO excited. It will be nice to visit her family and spend Christmas with them. I have a couple of weeks until I leave.

So, I will try and keep things updated while I am in Australia and I will post some pictures soon. My batteries in my camera died recently and batteries here aren’t that great. In terms of pictures and blog updates, sorry I have been so sporadic lately. Things have calmed down and I am getting ready for a fun vacation.

Until next time…