Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pictures of Weekend at Johns

John's Dad with the giant taro on the plantation

The plantation. It is a little more natural looking than plantations back home.

John climbing the coconut tree... Girls can't climb them or else they will curse the tree and the tree will stop producing coconuts.

John after climbing the tree. His brother is starting to climb it in the background.

The fale at the entrance to the plantation where we sat and drank nui's after a hard day of work.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Weekend at John's

Since New Years I have been holed up at another house doing a little house-sitting. Since school doesn’t start again until January 29th and there isn’t really anyone living on the compound until school starts, the PC told me they would feel better if I didn’t live by myself on the compound. So, I have been holed up for this last week or so at a PC staff’s house. It’s not bad, but it is pretty boring. It isn’t my own house so I don’t have all the things I usually do when I am trying to pass the time, like sew or work on school stuff. It is a little bit of an inconvenience because without being at home I can’t go through my lab and install all of my 20 new computers or fix the remaining 10 I have left. I won’t be moving back to my school until the day before the new school year starts. So, other than being a little unprepared and swamped when school starts up again, I am really looking forward to the year beginning.

That being said, until then, I really don’t have too much to do. I am living on the main island a little ways from Apia. There isn’t much to do here but watch movies. But just having a hot shower and being able to watch tv makes me feel spoiled for a little while. They even have a microwave! And plush chairs! I love the good life. :) But since I haven’t really had a chance to do what I want to do, I have been so bored.

The other day I was in town running a few errands and I ran into John who had recently arrived back from America. We hung out for the day. He was heading back out to his village on Savai'i and offered me to come out and visit him for the weekend. I jumped on the chance. It was one of the best weekends I have had in Samoa in awhile.

We left Upolu on Friday. On the relatively uneventful boat ride (meaning waves weren’t too bad and we didn’t get soaked) Johns Samoan mom sent him a text message on the ever increasingly useful but not always reliable digicel cell phones letting us know she was waiting in the car for us. Once we arrived in his village and ate, it was a pretty chill evening. We read a lot and pretty much just rested. My sinus infection was kicking back up again and so I wasn’t really ready to be very social or stay up too late, so it worked out.

The next morning when I wore up, John asked me if I wanted to go to the plantation with him, his father and brothers. In Falevao, my training father never wanted to take me to the plantation because he said it was too rough for a girl to get there, so I jumped on the chance to go with John and his male family members. Usually it is only the males that get to go, but they were making an exception because I was a visitor. The ride was long and bumpy. It went up into the mountains on a very long unpaved road splattered with roots and flat out holes. The truck got us there in one piece, though it might have been shorter to just walk. His family has a fairly large plantation. Now, when I say plantation I am sure most of you are picturing rolling fields in the mountains with rows of something that you picture taro to look like. Nice dirt rows and plants lined up. Samoan plantations look nothing like this. There is more undergrowth than actual plants. Some families use pesticides some try and weed, though it’s really impossible to keep up. It is after all a jungle. It is more like a jungle with a few patches without trees and edible food spattered among it. And there is a lot of food. Acres of taro and ‘ava (kava elsewhere in the world). Most places just have taro. We spent most of the morning and early afternoon there. Johns dad looked after the taro, his brothers cleared away new areas with machetes and John climbed a tree. :) He also helped his brother plant more taro and showed me what ‘ava bushes looked like and took me to all their new plantings of the stuff.

After a hard days of work, one of his brothers showed John how to climb a coconut tree and get down nui (baby coconut for drinking). We refreshed ourselves, drank some hydrating coconuts and rested a little while until it was time to head back. The jolting car ride really did a number over on my still slightly injured back. When we got back to John’s house we ate a lot of food and rested awhile.

Later in the afternoon John took me out to where the village had a few computers set up. For $1 tala and hour a person can use the computer. They are fairly nice and relatively new computers donated to a few villages around Savai'i. John’s village had a nice setup for them. The area has a/c. He has been donating a lot of his time to teaching the kids in his village how to use the computers. When I arrived I was in for a shock. He had networked the computers and installed Rise of Nations on them. 5 kids, ages 6-13 were playing Rise of Nations against each other! It was great. Few kids here ever get this kind of experience. Networked computers playing computers games; it was a regular old computer party. Most kids who actually get a chance to use computers only have access to games on typing tutors or pre-installed games like Solitaire. They were playing well too. I am encouraged. I want to try the same thing or install another game. It is an opportunity to become very familiar with the mouse and critical thinking that few other activities we do throughout the year offer. It gives the kids confidence on computers as well. It was very refreshing.

After one of the kids won, we closed up shop and headed back to John’s house. (Not too long of a walk since he is literally right next door to the school). We ate once again (I love Samoan food. Man will I miss it next year) and then did one of the most fun activities I have done yet in country… we played with Lego’s! One of the gifts that John brought back with him was a bucket of Lego’s. I built a house and fashioned furniture as well. John’s brothers joined us. They built a boat and a dinosaur. I made lego sheep… it was so soothing almost. To be able to sit down with the family and built and create and play with toys that are so comforting and remind me of home was refreshing. We ended up staying up fairly late playing and then reading.

The next morning I got up and had to start getting ready for church. Like me at my site, John’s Samoan family is Methodist. The Methodist church is in fact next door; church on one side school on the other. After church was a great to’ona’i. Then most of the family piled into their car and they all escorted me to the wharf. There are a few buses running on Sunday’s, but they are crowded and his mom offered to drive. On the ‘Upolu side I ran into a student of mine of the boat and his father gave me a ride back to the house I am house-sitting at. So I made it back relatively in one piece.

This week I might be heading to my training village, but we will see. I have a few projects I am juggling and trying to keep myself busy with since I can’t focus on school right now. Until then, this last weekend was great and I hope this week goes by fast and well.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Years

New Years Eve in Falealupo. Since Samoa is the last country on the right side of the international date line, we are the last place on earth to see the sun set of the old year. The next time zone over is a day ahead (over the date line) and therefore the next day. So, knowing this, a bunch of volunteers decided to head to Falealupo for New Years. It is the most Western point in the country and therefore technically the last place to see the sun set. There is an island in Alaska that is technically closer to the date line, but this time of year it is all darkness. There is no sunset this time of year. It was fun. Below is a picture of the last sunset of the year. It was a pretty chill evening. There were about 25 volunteers there.

Me and Laura.

Vik dancing during the fiafia that the fales put on for us.

Tim mixing one of the 4 buckets of ava that we all drank that afternoon.