Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Computer Lab

Well I am back on Savai'i. This last week has been absolutely crazy. First and foremost I have a new lab… not something I was expecting when I headed back to school. I knew that a new lab was being built as well as a new teacher’s lounge and office area, but I was told it would be completed sometime in November, which to me meant towards the end of the year. Apparently they did a lot of work over the school break.

I first arrived back at school one week after the new term had started. I knew I would miss a week, but I didn’t know that week would be so busy. On Monday morning I got a ride to my site with all of my stuff from Peace Corps. (I had things I didn’t want stolen stored in the PC office). After a quick shower and change I walked up to my lab… only to find nothing there! Nothing. The room was empty and torn all up. I asked one of the teachers where all of my computers were and he said since I had missed so much school they gave them all away. No, seriously, where were they.

So I started looking around. The new building that was being built when I left was just a teacher’s lounge and office. There was no computer lab anywhere. Until finally Laupama told me over the break they started and completed an entirely new and different building (my lab). She pointed the way and I stumbled into a room they were trying to call a computer lab. I couldn’t ask my principal any questions concerning the lab because he had just left for Australia with 2 boys from our school who made the international under 19s rugby team. Let me paint a picture for you of what I saw: The room has open windows that cannot shut or seal entirely, my computers were either on a pile on the floor, or stuck (literally glued) to the wood counters that were not dry when the computers were placed upon them, glue, tar and paint all over the floor, no a/c and a few computers that had broken because they were turned on in this heat and humidity without even a fan or airflow. To top it all off, this week final tests were to be submitted and printed and the few computers of mine that were up and running had a new virus on them contracted from my secretaries “new” computer, that came with 5 different viruses on it. Whew! My jaw dropped and I think maybe a tear.

Also, I was told that the Director of the Methodist Board of Education had FINALLY delivered the printer I had been asking for for the last 2 years, HOWEVER my secretary took it as her own since she said and I quote “needed a new once since hers was out of ink.” Alright, first task on that list was to get my printer back. The Vice Principal didn’t know or believe me that the printer was mine, but after a brief phone call to the Director, we now have a printer. However, since finals were due and the secretaries printer is out of ink, that meant everyone now came to our room to use it and print things out… which means my counterparts and I were also asked to type out all of the test too…

Next step on my list last week was to remove the viruses from all our computers. A few had antivirus software so it wasn’t hard, a few I had to install the software, and on the secretaries computer the viruses were so bad I couldn’t even install the antivirus program. After 2 nights, 4 hours straight each time, I finally got everything cleaned up and working, though I still have a few kinks to work out.

Next order of business was to get the lab into decent shape. This last Saturday, my 2 counterparts and I headed into the lab in the morning to get down on our hands and knees and scrub the floor. With knives, water and kerosene, 8 hours later, the floor actually looked like it was in a new building and all paint, glue and tar has been removed. Yeah! It’s finally starting to feel like a real classroom. We also had the air-conditioned from the old lab installed into the new one. To further protect the computers from the crazy humidity in this country, I am also going to cover the windows with cardboard.

Whew. This week has already been a little less hectic. I pulled a muscle in my arm from all the scrubbing (typing is hurting it now), but other than that it is really coming along. Everyone is required to leave their shoes at the door when they come in, yes even the pastors (who don’t like that new rule, but I didn’t pull a muscle in my arm for no reason). I am actually pretty proud of this new lab and it’s good to see it will be passed into good hands…

I am trying to really enjoy the time I have left and not get too stressed at what is being thrown at me these last few months. After talking with another volunteer on the phone yesterday, we were trying to figure out when I could make it out to their village for a visit and I realized, I only have so few weekends left and they are full until I pretty much head out. These next 11 weeks are going to fly by. Everything from now until then I want to do, but it will make it go by fast.

I have included a few pictures of our new lab and the building. Enjoy.
The lab from the outside. Notice the slatted windows
Looking from the back of the computer lab towards the front. (This is pre-cleaned floor). The teacher's computer is in the front (far left corner).
From the front looking towards the back. Laupama joined me for a "chat," but notice she's on the phone; I think she just wanted to enjoy the airconditioned room.
My monitors, computers and computer parts piled on the floor in front. (At least the smaller things were put in boxes)
Lailing on the floor cleaning it. Notice how the floor is starting to look better! (And yes, that is a vacuum on the floor. Instead of sweeping all the dust around which would just fall back onto the computers, we tried vacuuming it up with Lailings vacuum...)
Meaalofa and Lailing cleaning... (8 hours of hard work) Notice the knife in her hand...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ants, Humidity and a day ago

Sadly, my travels for now have come to an end. Once again I am back in Samoa (arrived on a Friday even tho I left on a Saturday). When we stepped off of the plane it was a lot more humid than I remembered it being when I left... Sally and I parted ways sadly; you spend so much time with someone for 2 weeks its hard to let go. :)

I made my way back to the Peace Corps hostel and started to get ready for bed. The ants part comes in here. In my carry on I had some candy I bought in the terminal that I hadn't finished. I put my bag down in the room and left to brush my teeth. I swear I wasn't gone for 2 minutes and my bag had a trail from the corner of my room to the bag with the candy. I swear those ants must have had signs up pointing to the sugary goodness because there were millions of them trying to get a taste. So different New Zealand and Samoa. I threw out the rest of the candy and quickly covered or put away anything else they might find out in the night... those sneaky pests.

So, now I am back, though not on my island yet. I am heading back on Monday. School started a week ago for me (tho this Monday for everyone else). Right back into the swing of things. It's really winding down now for me though. My students are wrapping up their projects and then it's just getting ready for tests. Someone pointed out recently that I only have 2 1/2 months left... is that it? Guess I better live it up...

Below are a few more pictures from the trip that I didn't get around to posting before.
A fun restaurant we had pizza at in Motueka. Notice the Samoan prints above the arched window.
Our favorite pit stop. It was the writing on the bathroom door that made us smile so.
Another Pancake Rocks shot.

Ice on the glacier.
Purple hues on the glacier.
Mt Cook behind a nice setting.

Um... Another mountain? Yeah. I think that's right.
Me at the top of one of the passes... yeah snow!

A paraglider over the Remarkables in Queenstown. One of the many things that town is famous for.

On one of the beautiful roads in New Zealands South Island

Yet another shot of the amazing Milford Sound

Mountains, clouds and a waterfall

Sally lounging in the sun on the top of Keys Summit

The color of this lake astounds me. Brillian blue like the color of Glacier Ice Koolaide.

Mt Cook.

The road to Mount Cook.
And Finally, a picture from the North Island:
Craters of the Moon Geothermal Area just outside of Lake Taupo.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Warm on the North

So, Sally and i have made it safe back to the North Island. We are currently chilling in Taupo. Yes, for those of you who read we were heading to Rotorua, you read that right: Lake Taupo. It is only an hour from Rotorua. Here is the story:

Sally and I were in the airport in Christchurch ready to fly into Auckland and then get a bus to Rotorua. I was looking in the travel book about Rotorua and could not find the name of the hostel we had pre-booked to stay at. I asked her for the printout from our hostel reservations. She started reading it to me and then read directions from the Taupo bus stop... that caught my attention. Taupo? Did you say? Yes. Why would it give us directions from the Taupo bus stop when we are in fact staying in Rotorua? Upon closer inspection of the address of the hostel, it said that Taupo was the city it was located in and NOT in fact Rotorua... Guess we were headed to Taupo then.

It is a really beautiful town, what we have seen so far. And it is very similar to Rotorua, except without all the crowds, so it's not bad. Yesterday we hiked all over the area. There are a lot of thermal springs in this area. Yesterday we hiked all along the river where thermal pools and falls were everywhere. The river itself is used as a major electricity source and had some pretty impressive water flow through it. At one point we crossed the river and headed up the road to a goethermal area called Craters of the Moon. It reminded me of Yellowstone on a VERY small scale. THere were mud pools, craters, steam and lots of rotten egg smell. After hiking around that area for a good hour or so, we finally made our way back to the hostel. Overall we were hiking/ walking from 10am to 4pm when we got back. My legs are sore! Thankfully, this is a hotsprings area, so today we head to the springs! We are going to soak out the walking and cold and be spoiled for a little while before heading back to Samoa.

I hope you have enjoyed my random ramblings and imputs. Sally and I have had a blast travelling all around this gorgeous country. I would love to come back someday and see the things I couldn't afford on this trip or just couldn't get around to it. So, for those of you who want a visit here someday yourself, I offer myself as your travel buddy. :)

I probably will not post on this trip again. Auckland will be busy and quick and then we head back. So, until I cross that International Date Line again...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fjiordlands and Backpacking and Pics

Our trip has been just amazing. Since my last post I think Sally and I have hiked all over the south and fjiordlands. After talking to the owner of Milford Sound Lodge, we decided that for $60 it was just too expensive to hike part of the Milford Track. While I wish that I could say I have been on the track, it just isn't going to be on this trip. With limited funds, we have to chose our adventures carefully. So, we opted to do the longest hike that was open this time of year and according to the lodge owner, the best: Keys Summit. It started on another "Great" track, Routeburn and turned off to the ridge overlooking an amazing valley, gorges and more amazing peaks.

The rest of the day we spent driving to other shorter hikes, but just as fun. We saw a chasm, a waterfall and numerous rivers. It was a good day. We are back in Queenstown again walked all over the lake area. Sally is running right now and we are going out for Ferg burgers again tonight. Once you find something cheap and amazing, you stick with it.

It started raining in the sound today and snowing on the passes, so we are glad to be back in the Adventure Capital of the World: Queenstown. I vow to come back when I have the money for the adventures, but we did have a nice walk around the area today.

Ok. I am cold, someone left the door open to the lounge and my fingers hurt. I will cut this short today and write more in a few.

Enjoy the pictures below from Queenstown, Milford Sound, the roads between the 2, and our hikes.

The view from our hike to Keys Summit.

A small lake at the top of the Keys Summit hike.

Another lake view from the summit.

One of the rivers we hiked across on our hiking day.

Sunset at Milford Sound

Yet another amazing mountain view on the drive towards Milford Sound

Sheep love to pose for pictures every chance they get. These ones suggested that the mountain would make a nice backdrop for their cameos.

Mountains perfectly reflected in a lake.

Mitre peak in Milford Sound on a clear day (very rare).

Overcast, but still beautiful: Milford Sound

Mt Cook reflected from Lake Matheson.

A mountain range on the drive down towards Queenstown.

The View of the Remarkables Range and Queenstown looking down from the gondola

The Remarkables

Yet another shot of the Remarkables. I liked this range. Queenstown was purty.

Mitre Peak at Sunset.

Moutains reflected in the aptly named Mirrow Pond.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

South of the 45th Parallel

Sally and I arrived in Milford Sound earlier today, but since you are not up to date from my last blog, I shall fill you in from leaving Fox Glacier to Milford Sound. Unfortunatly, there isn't a card reader at this place, so I will not be posting pictures today or tomorrow.

We left Fox Glacier early in the morning because one of the locals had told us that Lake Matheson was absolutely brilliant (a word Kiwi's use often and Sally said she really liked) in the early morning and the sky was clear and water reflective. So, 6am wakeup time and we checked out of the hostel and hit the road again. Though we didn't have very far to go, it was only a few kilometers from town. The hike around the lake is usually a good 2 hours, but Sally said I was walking my "I am cold" walk which is more like a jog. Lake Matheson is known for its gorgeous reflections of Mt Cook and another peak. At sunrise it was amazing. Sally and I walked all around the lake, took many perfectly reflected pictures of the sunrise and mountain peaks, saw some geese and ducks and had a good wake-up walk. We finished just in time for the tour buses to arrive.

We then continued south on our trip towards Queenstown. Ever since seeing a few pictures a previous volunteer had posted last year of his trip to Queenstown, I have wanted to go. Mountains run right up to a perfect blue lake. THe town is known for it's outdoor activities and is often called the activity capital of NZ. We are a little short on cash, so no bungy jumping or sky diving for us. The road took us past a few ski resorts and lifts and over a nice and snowy pass. We stopped to take a few picts and the drive down into the valley where Queenstown and the mountains are is just amazing. I wish I could post a few of my pictures for you. First thing Sally and I did in town after taking entirely too many pictures of mountains and water, was head up the gondola lift. It provided an amazing view of yet more mountains and water and clouds and goodness, but also had something special... the luge! For just a small amount of cash you too can experience the thrill of the luge. Instead of ice, it was concrete and had wheels, but it was as close to the real thing as was possible. It was so much fun! We had 3 runs and it was entirely not enough. In the words of Derek, "I can't quit you luge!"

That evening a local pointed us to a cheap restaurant with amazingly LARGE hamburgers. It was crowded and took us forever to get our orders, but it was so worth it. Sitting outside under the heaters (Sally has found out my likeness to cats- I need heaters and sunlight), we gorged ourselves on those burgers and it was amazing, as is most food we find ourselves eating. At one point we were walking around the shops and saw a sign in a sweets window that said, "Free fudge samples" and I think both of us must have scarred a few small children in our bee-line towards that shop. And yes, we treated ourselves and bought some of that fudge... oh the things that are available for purchase. I think we even found ourselves wandering around a drug store for a good hour or so just staring at everything available. We met some really fun characters in Queenstown, namely the guys running the All Blacks store who I think were just desperate to talk to people since he was still talking to us as we were walking out the door, but they were funny and gave us free stuff...

Today we got up fairly early and started the drive towards Milford Sound. For longer than I can remember, I have wanted to visit Milford Sound. Maybe I saw a picture of it somewhere, I dont know. If you have never heard of it, shame on you... just kidding, Sally had never heard of it either. It's on the south west coast in the fjiordlands of New Zealand. Often called the 8th wonder of the world, it's just breathtaking. The entire drive down to it was amazing, yet more mountains and water and sky... my perfection. If we stopped the car and got out to take pictures every time we wanted to, I think we'd still be making our way to the sound. It was a gorgeously sunny day, and we heard these were rare in this area of the island so we wanted to get to the sound and take advantage. However, Sally tells me that she has good luck, so maybe we'll be good the weekend we're here.

The lodge we are staying in is the only here, or withing a good 100 kilometers. It's full and cozy. When we got to the sound we booked ourselves a cruise on one of the boats that goes out into the sound and turns around when it hits the Tasman Sea. At first, I couldn't decide how far into the Sea I wanted to go, but in the end it doesn't make too much of a difference. We settled on one and proceeded to take about the same amount of pictures of our whole trip combined. It was beautiful. I can see why this would be a wonder of the world. If you have never seen pictures of this place, get out an encyclopedia and look it up... We went back this evening just around sunset and got a few more pictures of this just amazing place.

Tomorrow we are hiking around on more of the "Greatest Tracks" (see blog entry about Abel-Tasman). Milford Track is closed during the off season, but a few more are still open. We are sleeping in for a change and NOT driving anywhere except to the start of the Routeburn Track (which is supposed to be nicer than the Milford Track) and a few other smaller trail heads. It will be fun. We read about free food services at the only restaurant in town tomorrow afternoon, and we have already planned our hiking times around this event...

After Milford Sound, it's back to Queenstown for one more night (we couldn't get enough of this fun place) and then we start the trip back to Christchurch. I will try and post more pictures from Queenstown. Hope your travels are as crazy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Penguins and Palm Trees

So, Sally and I have had another crazy last few days. I wish I could detail them to you, but that would probably be just too much so let me sum up.

After we left Motueka, we headed south. It was a long drive, so we wanted to mix it up a bit. The driving was beautiful though the scenery very similar to the Northwest I might add... except for the occasional palm trees and penguin crossing signs. Honestly. What country has penguins and palm trees in the same place? New Zealand apparently. A few hours into the drive south, we passed by a sign stating that we were nearing New Zealands longest suspension bridge and for only $5 we could experience the amazing fun that entails walking across New Zealands longest suspension bridge. Well, I needed to pee and so we decided to stop. It was actually fairly cool. The bridge went over a very wide river and Sally kept stopping to take pictures on the bridge, making me nervous. After the crossing there was a long hike that we wandered around on and looked at a few interesting things, like an old mine shaft. It made for a nice break. Although we are not sure if the bridge was in fact New Zealands longest suspension bridge, or it's only one. It could also be the highest, lowest, widest, thinnest and shortest suspension bridge in the country as well!

The other break on the trip came as a nice surprise. Sally had been stating earlier that she was really craving hot soup. After a few hours of driving after the bridge, we saw a cafe next to a tourist attraction. After taking a while to decide, we made a u-turn and headed back to the cafe. Well, the soup was expensive and didn't look like big proportions, so we went to see what the tourist attraction was. It was the pancake rocks and blow holes. They were pretty cool. The rocks were layered and looked like pancakes and the sea and rain had made the rocks form in a way that created blow holes. One spot in particular really reminded me of Devil's Punchbowl in Oregon.

Where we stayed last night (Hokitika) was mostly just a place to stay on our way to the glaciers, but one cool thing was the glow worms. Instead of paying a ton of money to have a guide take you through a night tour to see some worms glowing in a cave, the owner of the hostel told us there was a trail that led to a dell full of them. So, that night around sunset Sally and I drove out that way. After parking our car in the middle of no where and hiking up what looked like a rapists trail, we turned off the flashlights and saw a TON of glow worms everywhere. It was so cool. And we saw it for free.

As much fun as yesterday was, today was the highlight of our trip so far. We had booked a half day trip out onto Fox Glacier. In the morning we first stopped at Franz Josef Glacier, the more visited one and took a few pictures. We then arrived into Fox Glacier, checked into our hostel and wandered around to kill the time before the hike. Sally had never been to a glacier before, let alone seen one, so this was pretty huge for her. The hike to the glacier was beautiful. The Fox Glacier is actually growing. There was a picture in the lobby of it 20 years ago and now, and it's bigger now! Crazy. The hike was hard and long and not too cold since we were working hard. On the hike there, it started hailing on us! Heavily. Even the guides said it was pretty rare. We already had enough ice, but the sky thought we needed more. Right before the glacier, the guides split us up into 2 groups, we put on our cramptons and headed onto the glacier. It was a blast. Our guide told us gory stories, talked about working on the glacier and other funny things. Then it turned amazingly sunny for us, so we stopped for awhile just to enjoy it. As we started to head back down again, we heard a call from the other guide saying a lady in their group had fallen and cut her leg with a crampton so badly that she would need stitches. Since she wouldn't be able to get herself off of the glacier, she had to be helicoptered off. It was so fun to watch. Our time on the glacier started to increase as did our chill. Finally they got her lifted off and we headed back down.

Tonight we are staying here in Fox Glacier at a really nice hostel and tomorrow we are finally heading for Queenstown. I am so excited. For the trip, Sally and I have had a few fun little things that she wanted me to share with you. First, we have an ongoing disagreement. Before joining Peace Corps, she went on a road trip that took her and a few friends down the coast of California. Sally refers to this road as “Route 1.” I refer to it as “Highway 1.” I don't know. You be the judge and settle the argument. Though Sally will discredit all inputs from the west coast... Also, Sally's motion sickness is getting a little better now, but we had a quote that she wanted me to share with you. She said she might need me to pull over when we were driving up a pass and I said, “Sally, I'd pull over on a cliff face for you.”

And the quote of the trip so far that I will end this blog entry with, “We are only stopping the car for puke or pee.” Below are a few pictures of the glaciers and rest of the last 2 days. Enjoy.

Pictures of last Few days

These pictures are in no particular order... like our trip. Enjoy.

The view of the valley from the glacier.

Sally standing on the glacier.

From higher up on the glacier looking out towards the valley.

Me playing with the ice axe and a cool crevice behind me.

The suspension bridge.

The pancake rocks.

One of the blow holes in the pancake rocks.

Just a nice view on our drive out to the glaciers.

Another nice drive shot.

This is a picture of the Franz Josef glacier. Not as pretty as the Fox if you ask me, though we didn't get as close and personal to Franz as we did with Fox.