Monday, April 30, 2007

Quick update

Only a day or so now until my parents arrive.

I had a few errands I had planned today to get ready for them, but my plans were deterred since I can't really manage walking right now. Being the clutz that I am, this morning as I was walking around the Resource Room of the PC office, I stumbled into the couch and broke my little toe. I know, I know. You are all probably rolling your eyes at me. It's amazing how my ability to injure myself spans the globe. It's splinted up, but as everyone has mentioned to me throughout the day, there isn't really anything one can do. It is starting to feel a little better and I promise not to whine anymore today...

Some fun news. Last May I flew to Mexico to Mary's wedding and ran into a guy from Sweden along the way. He was flying home after 3 months in country and had a day layover in LA. It turns out he stayed in the same village I live in, small world, and we never did meet up. While in LA my dad got him a room at our hotel and he puttered around with us that whole day. Turns out he was back in country for awhile studying some more (Archeology major) and is leaving on the plane my parents are coming in on. I might in fact be riding to the airport with him. I think it's funny that a year later to the day, my parents get to see him yet again, though for only a few minutes this time.

Alright, enough ramblings for now. I eagerly await all of the goodies my parents are carrying with them... oh yeah, and them as well. :) Until next time.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Computers, Computers and yes! More Computers

Judging by the heading of this blog title, I am sure you can tell that this entry is about how computers have invaded my life, my sleep, my mind...

First and foremost there is a virus (worm actually) going around almost all computers in Samoa. We think it entered the country through a CD sent from the people in Fiji that send us updates about Year 13 classes. This worm is EASILY spread through jump/flash drives and is hard to recognize at first. Since it is a really new virus (I think created March 2007), most of our Antivirus software didn't recognize it at first. Therefore, I think unknowingly us PC are responsible as well for getting it so wide spread here. There are 2 versions going around. The older version is easy to remove in Safe Mode. The newer version is hard to remove. You have to go into DOS to do it. I got this virus on all my computers in the lab, and my laptop. My lab computers have the old worm, my laptop has the new one. Since I don't know how to remove it in DOS (instructions just said to do it, not step-by-step how to) I am taking my computer to another more experienced computer volunteer tomorrow... So, with this worm comes a LOT of time in the lab trying to remove it all.

Just at this most inopportune time, my secretaries computer decided to crash as well. (I know the computers get together and plan this kind of stuff out...) I have yet to be able to fix it. With the help of Marques, we are trying everything we know, but everytime we get something working, something else crashes. (Fixing her computer is on hold until I get a small break from the rest of the computer stuff) Around the same time i was trying to get the "new" computers up and running. However, I kept coming across things like: a few of them came without harddrives, or video cards that only have the capacity for 16 colors, or one of the harddrives came with a BootSector virus. The warning kept flashing while I was trying to instal the O/S. Until this happened, I didn't even know what BootSector meant. :)

We also had our Mid-Term exams due today. I offered to type up a few for some of the teachers and have been on my computer for the last 4 days straight typing up these tests, as well as trying to get all 6 of mine typed out. (I'm hiding out at the PC Savaii office today and letting the secretary finish up for those that put theirs off until the last minute). I was up until 1:30 this morning with another teacher, typing hers out.

The up side of being so busy, is I am learning A LOT about computers. Because I had to go online to look up instructions on the worm itself and how to remove it, I have learned a lot more about computer systems. I am getting better at fixing them (something I knew very little about before coming here and still something I am not too fond of doing). I feel really confident pulling them apart and piecing everything back together. It's been good. I feel like everyday I learn a ton of new things about computers. I have also tried to pass some of this information to my new counterpart as well. Even a few of the students have shown an interest in this side of computers. Most of them are comfortable with only knowing the software, but a few of them really want to get into hardware and troubleshooting.

Health wise, I am still a little sick. There is a nasty flu going around the country that I caught. And my bronchitis is still lingering a little. With the flu, my ears have been plugged for a couple weeks and they finally unplugged yesterday. I was so happy (and maybe a bit delirious) that I made a song about it... for your own well-being I will save you from typing it here. :)

So things are good, just busy. It's making these last few weeks just fly by. My parents come next week and I have been desperatly trying to get my house cleaned. Termintes seem to invade everything here and make a lot of messes. A few students have offered to help me clean as well as some of the teachers... I might take them up on that offer. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it's my parents... I don't want them to see a dirty house. :)

And last, but definitely not least: I received a phone call from my brother this weekend who informed me that he is in fact coming to visit! And soon. He might even be flying in when the new group of volunteers comes in early June. So many visitors; I feel blessed.

Until next time!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Easter Updateroo

Just to fill everyone in on the lastest in my life here. I guess the biggest and most recent event was Easter. Easter was a blast.

On Friday before Easter (Good Friday) the country shut down like any old Sunday. Usually this wouldn't have phased me, but Sara (from my group) and her friend Janita were coming for a visit and I needed to make it to the wharf to greet them. Usually I would just tell people what bus to take, but lately my bus hasn't been saying my village name, or it hasn't been coming when the boats come in. However, since it was a holiday and like a Sunday (a day my bus only runs at the end of the day for those coming from Apia), I needed to get to Salelologa somehow before noon. I finally went to our bus station and got a ride on a bus going away from my village. We went through 3 villages not even close to my area and by some very round about ways and not usual routes (and 2 hours later) made it to the wharf. I thanked the driver for the trip and he didn't charge me anything since the bus was empty for most of the time. He was just running errands around the villages for family members. Fun trip for me, and I made it to the wharf on time.

Their visit was a blast. We hung out, watched movies, were fed by Laupama on her birthday (birthdays aren't a big thing here... sorry dad). They left Saturday afternoon. Saturday was a chill afternoon. I helped Laupama weed her garden, fixed a few computers in the lab, and did some laundry. In the afternoon Laupama's 2 girls stopped by and I showed them how to color Easter eggs. Dad had sent a kit over and I thought it would be fun to share that part of my Easter as a kid with them. Well, now Laupama tells me that her daughters won't eat them, they thought they were so pretty that the girls brought them to school for show and tell the next week. I keep telling them to eat them, and we will make more later, but they wont. I guess your first Easter egg is a big deal. I promised to send them the coloring kits every year once I go back. They didn't hide them or anything. I do love coloring eggs. So, I guess that's sustainability here, isnt it? :) Fun to share a little part of the fun stuff from Easter even if it doesn't reflect the true holiday at all.

Church service Sunday started like regular church. It lasted the usual time (2 1/2 to 3 hours) and right when church was released it started pouring rain. The church is a good 15 minute walk from my house so some of the faifeau offered to give me a ride home. I had the big to'ona'i (sunday meal) at Laupama and Viliamu's house with them. They had a lot of fish and palusami and taro. It was good. I think I ate 3 of the little fish. Don't know what kind, the ones with lots of bones, red color and good. :) For the next couple hours I napped at my place. Around 5pm Laumapa called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Talavo with her and the family. That is where all the church youth groups in the area (covering about 5-6 villages) get together and each put on a performance. I really wanted to go and it was a blast. It was a few villages over so I went in the car with them. It was really fun because I also got to see a lot of old students I haven't seen since last year. Students that transferred, graduated or just didn't make it to the next level. I exchanged cell numbers with a few of them (isn't technology amazing?) and then watched the rest of the show. Afterwards Laupama invited me back to her place for a late evening (since we didn't have school Monday - Day After Easter Holiday) of pancakes and cocoa samoa. It was fun. We watched Spiderman 2 and talked about my parents coming to visit.

I guess in other news, school has been a little on the frustrating side lately. About a month ago, one of my students brought his i-pod to class (the only student i have with one). He told me that it wasn't working so well and wanted me to check it on my computer. Since I haven't taught the viruses lesson yet, I was a little hestiant to put it on my laptop, so I put it on one of my school computers I rarely use to check it. Nothing seemed to be wrong and Norton didn't catch any viruses. I left the i-pod in the computer to charge it up a bit. That day the year 12 students had their Common Assessment Task (CAT). I didn't want them to use the computer I was charging it on, but one of our other computers froze up, so we had to put a student on it. After the task we went around and collected all of the tasks onto my jump drive (thereby unknowingly spreading the virus to most of my school computers). I then took my jump drive (still not knowing it had the virus) and put it into my laptop to read over and grade them... thus spreading the virus to my computer which I was trying to avoid doing in the first place. So, today I am online trying to figure out how to remove it from them and tomorrow I am teaching the virus lesson...

Right now my Year 13 students are working on Photoshop for their Internal Assessment and Systems Management for their upcoming practice CAT. My Tech 1 class is working on typing. I am also trying to get the "new" computers up and running. Some didn't come with any RAM (thanks to dad for buying me some in the states for cheap) and very old graphics cards which won't run Photoshop (the program they all are using right now). Also, the hard drives are 3 gigs so they won't run the programs I need plus Encarta which is a huge program. I like Encarta because it teaches students to use encyclopedias. In a culture that is traditionally an oral based culture, it is hard to get the students to want to go to the library and use the encylopedia's there, but to come to the computer classroom that is air conditioned... oh! They love that. :)

What else? I might be moving soon. I have had some issues with my place lately and I think I would really enjoying moving in with Laupama and her family. She is like family to me anyways and they feed me most meals and I hang out there every evening. So it wouldn't be that much of a move. I think for my last year here in country I would really enjoy living with her family.

Lately, I have just been getting ready for my parents to come. Thinking of what I would like them to bring (too bad they can't bring a Mexican restaurant with them) and what I would like them to take back with them. I am really looking forward to sharing my life here with them and giving them the chance to finally see what it is I am always talking about here. The only condition dad had was that my water was fixed by the time they come. It isn't permantly fixed, but it's good enough. He wants to live like I do right? :)

Until next time...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pictures of St Pratricks Day

Yes I called it St Pratricks Day. We had a spelling mishap we didn't notice on the t-shirts we made until we were done making the shirts. An extra r was added, but i think it goes along well with the whole night. Derek, Tim, Dane, Vik and I made t-shirts for those who wanted to be apart of St Pratricks Day. I was still a little sick from the dengue. It was fun to go and chat with everyone and see the green beer and green drinks. One lady tried to make her cola green but it ended up looking like seaweed. Ew!
All of us at the start of St Pratricks Day.

Vik outside of a bar after his name sake.

Towards the end of the evening and after a good 2 hours of dancing (not much for me, still sick): Derek on his phone, Dylan, me and Tim.

Molly and I posing for a fun shot. Her t-shirt is still pending.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tsunami Consolidation

I have a fairly fun story from this last week I thought I should share with everyone. It doesn’t sound fun, but the whole day and afternoon just kept getting more and more comical to us involved.

This week (April Fools Day to be exact) I got a text message from another volunteer saying that we have a tsunami warning, it wasn’t a joke and we should take the next action. In emergencies PC has an Emergency Action Plan that we are all acquainted with and it is often drilled into us. We all have places to go around our area that we are supposed to go to in case the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is put into effect.

So, I called the PC staff member on duty and asked if it was in fact a real thing and not just an April Fools day joke. It was real. There had been a fairly large (7.6) earthquake off the coast of the Solomon Islands and the Solomon Islands had already been hit with a tsunami. The PC told me to start the EAP. For my area of Savai'i I am in charge of calling all the volunteers near me and making sure everyone goes to the appropriate place.

Our consolidation place had changed recently to a village near me that is inland somewhat, but not very elevated. It is a Mormon church. I was the first to show up and there was no one around to let me into the church. Finally a few missionaries show up and when I explain the situation to them, they told me I wasn’t allowed into the church since I wasn’t Mormon. Well, PC had previously made an agreement with the bishop that we were allowed into the church in the emergencies. So, I tried to explain it to them, but the cell phone wasn’t working for the contact person at the church that I was supposed to call. Finally, the PC got on the phone with the groundskeeper of the church and we learned that we had made an agreement with the previous bishop of the church, but not the new one who knew nothing about it. He was in Apia and had the key and also didn’t have a phone to be reached at. So I sat outside the church for a good hour. A few of the missionaries tried to talk to me about Mormonism and converting and if I was married, but I was so tired and still so sick, I really wasn’t in the mood to talk.

Finally the PC told us to go to a different spot for consolidation, but it turned out to not be the best option. After a little more discussion and phone conversations we realized we wouldn’t be able to stay at the Mormon Church and so we headed to the place that used to be our consolidation spot, another school on higher ground.

When we got there, the brothers that lived at the school weren’t really prepared for us to show up, but they were gracious and let us sit outside on their porch during the whole thing. One of the brothers had internet at his place, so he printed up the story on the earthquake and the tsunami in the Solomon’s so we had an idea of what was going on. During most of the consolidation we sat around and chatted. We ate some peas, a few crackers and some peanut butter someone had packed in their emergency kit. I had packed some candy necklaces for fun, and it was nice to have the sugar seeing as how I am a sugar fiend.

The tsunami threat had been over for awhile before we were released back to our sites, but they made us stay for awhile in case of after shocks or flooding. My area in Savai'i is in a flood plain and very close to the water, a hundred feet maybe, so they were making sure everything was on the safe side until we were ready to go back.

This was on Palm Sunday (a fairly big Sunday in Samoa) so it was too bad we missed it, but I am glad that PC takes all precautions that they can when it comes to our safety. There were some hiccups I can’t really go into detail on the blog, but that’s always to be expected in such short notice emergencies.

In other news, Easter is a pretty big holiday here and I am looking forward to it. They don’t color eggs or hide baskets or have rabbits anywhere like we do back in the states, but they do have a pretty fun church service: lots of songs, skits and dancing. My counterpart is in one of the skits so I am looking forward to it. I only wish I still had my camera so I can take and post pictures of it later. Sara and her friend Janita are also coming over for a visit this weekend during Easter. It should be fun to have some friends visiting during the holiday. We are going to color eggs with an egg coloring kit mom sent over last year from the states and maybe hide a few for each other or some of the kids on the compound. It’s also Laupama’s birthday Saturday, so maybe I will give her a few of the colored eggs as well as another gift.

Hope this finds everyone well. Have a happy Easter, He is risen!
Until next time…

Pictures of Career Day on Upolu

The hall at the start of day. 1500 students.

One of the students being interviewed by the tv station.

Students gathering around the lawyers booth.

Students are eager to gather around

Students at the medical center learning about CPR.

Random Pictures

A nice picture of the beach near my place

A sunset near Lusia's Beach Fales (one of my favorite hang out places). Both sunset pictures are from there.

Derek dressed up for fun, and Dylan and Emilio having a heart-to-heart in the PC office...