Friday, November 30, 2007

Faamavaega at School

Wednesday I had my final going away at my school. I stayed up crazy late burning CDs for my students of all the pictures I have ever taken of them. Despite the fact that I stayed up so late, I still woke up earlier than usual, I think it was stress related. Around 6am I wandered up to my lab to drop off some last minute things and some of my students were behind the school building BBQing some food for a feast with me later. They were listening to Christmas music, dancing and having a blast. I sat and chatted and watched them for awhile then went back to my house to finish packing.

Around 9:30 the teachers called me into the staff room and sat me down at the head of the table next to the principal. He gave a speech about how happy they are to have had me there and all of that jazz. Said I have left 2 very good computer teachers in my wake. I gave a short speech in English about thinking of them like family and now have 2 famililies around the world. I started to tear up at the end. :) They gave me some money gift and i gave them some CDs I burned of their families around the compound.

Then we moved into the big hall. Amosa sat me up on the stage and said now was the time for my Samoan speech. I stood up and it started pouring. I tried to yell, but I don't think that any of my students heard a word I said. :) Then he called up my Year 13 class. The head boy came forward and said a few words about our class and me as their teacher. I didn't hear it well, I was starting to tear up again. Then each student in my class came forward one at a time and gave me a gift. I started bawling. All I remember was hugging and kissing each of my students telling them I love them and will miss them. After that my principal asked if any other students had gifts for me. One of the Tech 1 students came forward. He is by far and away the cheekiest kid in my class. All the kids were laughing by the time he came to the front of the stage. He gave me a massive hug and handed my a gift the entire class had put together. The Tech class had made me an ava bowl. It is beautiful. Then it was time to dance. I stood up and danced by myself traditional Samoan style. One with my students and one with my teachers. When it was time for the teachers to dance with me, one came up and pretended to cry like he couldn't really continue on. I went over to "comfort him" and he grabbed me and gave me a crazy long bear hug.

Afterwards I signed all of my students t-shirts that my dad had brought for them. Then they headed out on the buses and were gone. I had a student help me carry all of my stuff with me to my house, including a fine mat from Laupama, and I started trying to figure out how to pack it all. After an hour or so, Laupama and her daughters came down to the house to chat with me and keep me company. Jackie and Tapu arrived around 2:30 and we were off...

Its strange knowing I wont be back to my house... or see some of my students again. Most of the compound is coming to the airport to say goodbye to me. It will be a tad crazy. Now, I am in Apia trying to wrap up forms, paperwork and last minute things... It is flying by and I can't stop it now. So, instead of being sad I am enjoying what time i have left and hanging out with the other volunteers...

Here are a few pics from my party...

My Yr 13 students preparing the BBQ

The Yr 13 class prepared gifts for all of the faifeau teachers. Here they are presenting them... They gave t-shirts and embroidered ties to the pastors.

My Head boy, Isaia in line.

Me dancing

I look a little nervous a little sad....

Me, Lesa, Seti and Laupama...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Winding Down

As most of you know, I have about a week left in Samoa. I want to try and describe what it is like to leave the developing country you have called home for 2 years... I think the word "twisted up gut" is a good one. In some ways, I am so ready to go and yet, on the other hand I feel like it's not yet time. With my new lab, there are still so many things I know I still could do. But I have a great new counterpart and I need to let it go. It may sustain itself for a few years, it may last only a few months, but there is nothing I can do to change that now. I just have to dwell on my students and what i have passed off to them.

I wish I could be around to see the lab successful and my counterparts fixing computers left and right, but I can't. I have my ticket to Japan and Korea and then I am finally heading back to the states. I can't wait to see my family. But, its hard because there are also people here that I now consider just as close as family and don't want to say good-bye to them (Laupama, Meaalofa, other Peace Corps). I have my routine and life here in Samoa, a job, a set group of friends...when I return back to the states, it will be different, I know what to expect, but everyone back home has changed too, so it will be different too. Adjustment to Samoa was very difficult but re-adjustment to America might be just as if not, even more difficult. There is just so much to think about. Even as I write this my stomach is in knots. I'm sure it will pass as soon as I get on my plane to go, but good-byes are tough as are new starts. I really wanted to write this so that everyone back in the states knows that while I am excited to see you all again, I am anxious. It will be hard to re-adjust and it will take time. Be patient with me...

That being said, I wanted to post a little update on the last few days and my plans for my last week in Samoa. I have been on Savaii now for a week or so and it has been crazy. I haven't gone to bed earlier than midnight everynight. With the lab not being finished, I really wanted to leave it in the best possible shape I could. This means, finishing installing O/S on all the computers, fixing some of the computers that have been lying around broken for the last year, organize everything, make backup copies of our programs, cover the windows with cardboard to try and keep at least a bit of the humidity and heat out of the room, un-glue all remaining computers from the counters, finishing writing a Guide to Easy Troublshooting for my counterparts when I leave... You get the idea. I have also been working on gifts for a few people on the compound, slide shows for the families and CDs of pictures for my year 13 students. I also had my farewell tea for the teachers on Friday. I baked 3 chocolate cakes (from scratch), with chocolate frosting and one with vanilla. The teachers really liked them and Amosa asked me what they were called in America... Um, chocolate cake. :) All of the women wanted the recipe and Amosa wanted it for his wife.

This last week hasn't been all busy though. I also went on a bike ride with Jan out to Gataivai. That stretch is probably my favorite in Samoa and I wanted to stop and see a few places I hadn't gotten around to. We finally visited a waterfall out that way and did a few side trips. I got to take a few pictures of my favorite places and we stopped and visited Jacob, a new volunteer in Gataivai. Then Jan came over and we hung out and chatted awhile before she headed off. Sunday was my last day at church. Nothing special for me, but they did have Prizegiving (graduation) for the Sunday School classes. La'i, the son of one of the families on the compound, won best in his age group. Tuesday is Prizegiving for our school. I will really miss the Year 13 students. I think they will be the hardest to say goodbye to... And then Wednesday we are having my farewell function in the morning, and I head out that afternoon into Apia. I leave the country 1 week from today. It has been so busy. With all the stuff mentioned above and trying to pack up and figure out what to take or leave behind, who to hand all my stuff off to, and what to do with all the gifts the families keep bringing me... it's been busy.

Before I get to the pictures, let me leave you with one funny story from this weekend. As I was cleaning the lab I noticed a few students had stollen mouse balls (nothing drives me more nuts then when they steal mouse balls), some had written on the computers (eg, I love Julya, Faleuli Yr12 2007, or even I love the Song Beautiful Girl)... but one made me laugh harder than anything and I didn't even notice it at first. I was signing into a computer with the Admin password and the letters looked wrong on the keyboard, then I noticed it... A student had popped out all of the keys from the keyboard and then put them back re-arranged in alphabetical order. So, where QWERTY was, he had put ABCDEF... Very ingenious.

And with that, I am still not ready to go, but its coming... :) Here are a few pictures from my last week, enjoy.

On the bike ride I took with Jan. In Papa. A few villages after mine.

On the road to Gataivai just past Papa.

My village. Looking at the bus garage from just past my school.

Lai. He won the best student in the class at the Prizegiving (graduation) for his Sunday school group. The necklaces (ula's) are all candy.

Jacinta's baby... Very cute and smiles all the time.

Lai, waving the Samoan flag.

Togipau and Tofa on Sports Day. There were a few girls who started up a game of rugby. I have always wanted to get a girls rugby team! I am too late. :)

The 3 cakes I baked for my farewell tea for the staff. All chocolate cake, one has vanilla frosting.

The Tech 2 girls who helped me serve the cake.

Jan on our bike ride. (Notice she has her helmet on, she's such a good volunteer)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A fun weekend in town

After the Thanksgiving festivities and feasts, there were a lot of us in town. So, we decided to go out for dinner with a few of the trainees in town and then head to the dance floor. I decided to dress up since it is something I rarely do in this country and will actually look forward to doing back in the states...

I don't usually like to head to the dance club, even tho I love dancing, because of the high cover charge. But I am glad that we all ended up there. It was really fun and a bit of a workout. They play everything there from classics to Samoan rap to Techno. It really was a fun evening... only one more weekend in Apia to go and then I am outta here...

Once again I have provided some fun pictures from the evening:

A self taken shot by Ms Sarah Swanson


Tim and Dylan... such close friends they even hold hands. :)

Dylan and Christian dancing.

All of us dancing to Celebration. I am on the far left.

Dylan, Tim and me. We tried to pose as funny as we could. I really will miss these guys...

Volunteer Thanksgiving Day

Last year I missed the Volunteer Thanksgiving. It is usually held the weekend before the actual day at the American Embassy in Samoa. The building isn't lived in and is rarely used except in events such as these. It is a potluck type event, all volunteers attending must bring food. (I made a green bean casserole). There are usually around 9 or 10 turkeys a few of which are baked in an umu (earthen oven). The umu'ed turkeys are by far and away the best turkeys i have ever eaten. This year my group, 75, was on the serving committee. Dianne and I were the only ones from my group who attended the event, so lots of volunteers pitched in to help us out.

Its a fun time to gather with our Peace Corps friends, eat semi-Thanksgiving food, and just hang out. Because I was on the serving committee I didn't get as much time to sit and eat and enjoy, but i did get my fair share of food and fun. It is always a bit of a melancholy day for me though since I love Thanksgiving back home and i always miss the crazy things my family does on that day: Bunko, yelling and turning tables over; the best Pecan Pie EVER; and just seeing my family. The actual day of Thanksgiving here comes and goes like any other day since it is usually spent in the village, so this is as close as we get, the PC is really like a family here...

Below are a few of my favorite picts taken:

Dylan carving a turkey.

Ray put on a skit about Thanksgiving. He narrated it while Vik and Christian acted it out. It was hilarious. Ray used to be a part of an acting group back home so it was well scripted and played.

Teuila (in red, our nurse) and her daughters enjoying the skit.

Ray and Jan are like family to me here: fellow Savaiians, and the closest volunteers.

Everyone eating and having a fun time.

All Volunteer Conference

Once again it was time for the annual All Volunteer Conference. This was my third and final one to attend. It was very similar to the last few years', tho it was strange being the group on their way out. I am just starting to get to know a few of the people in group 78 really well and it's sad to realize we are heading out and I wont get to know them like I have the other groups... Guess that's a part of PC really tho. This year Kim (our Country Director) gave me a small gift of appreciation for being the only member of my group on Savaii (really the only one not in Apia) and for therefor attending all of the Volunteer Action Committee meetings (every group must have one representative from each island attend... hence it was just me).

The night of the conference we had a birthday party for another volunteer (Todd - Gp77) and the theme was dress as something that starts with an A and a T. I went as Absent Tim since he wasn't at the party...

Below are a few fun pictures of the day and night of this topic.

People highly engaged in Teuila's Medical Report.

Christian and Mark in Group 78. We are always serious here.

Me dressed as Tim. See last picture to confirm this is indeed what Tim looks like...

Justin dressed as an "Amputated Thumb" we were comparing our nubbins...

Dylan and Tim the next morning at the hostel.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Faamavaega on Savaii

Faamavaega means literally going away gathering. This last weekend I had the first of hopefully a few. This one was specifically for all of my Savaii friends. Not that I have something against the other islands, it's just that Savaii people rarely get the opportunity to just chill together. Usually when we see each other, it's in Apia and we are busy with meetings, doctors appointments or other Peace Corps related gatherings. So, I thought it would be fun to head up to some of the beach fales on Savaii near Manase (north east side of the island), and spend a few nights.
All in all, it was fun. There were a few things that weren't so fun and a few changes in plans, but for the most part i had a blast and I am glad that we planned it. Below are a few pictures from the fun event:

Jan chilling in the beach fale

Amos getting ready for spear fishing... he never caught anything, the line broke on him after 2 attempts.

Ray, smoking away on his pipe as usual.

Tim chilling in the fale.

Me, Tim and Dylan on one of our last nights hanging out.

Vik, his usual self, un-censored and unabrigded

Dylan and Sarah chatting together on day 2

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dad's Visit Pics

Ok, so here is a small sampling of dad's visit here. It was for 2 weeks, but this time we didn't tour around the islands, he wanted to experience the Peace Corps life. We took buses everywhere, some of which were insanely crowded and few that made more errands than I thought possible, and chilled a good amount of time on the compound. He arrived on my birthday, baked me a fairly ugly but yummy cake, went to the Halloween Party, and then did church and everything else with me.
Below are some pictures that best represent his time here. Enjoy:

The cake dad baked for me. He sent the box and frosting over early, but he wasn't prepared for how hot and humid this country is. The top half of the cake broke, so he tried to fill in the gap with frosting, which made it start to slide off to the side, so he stuck toothpicks into the sides to hold it all in place. Then he put icing on it, which started to melt down the side. Then he lit the candles which melted all over the top, coating it in a nice fine layer of wax... but it tasted AMAZING. :) Nice job dad.

The night before the Halloween party I was working on my costume which was to be the Wheel of Morality from the cartoon Animaniacs. However, the day of the party the other Savaiians came to me and asked me to be part of their Spartans... The Queen of Sparta.
Meghan dressed as something... and me the Queen of Sparta.
My entire Yr 13 class. I will miss you! From left to right: Togipau, Pua, Lagia, Fiaavae, Isaia, Afele, Fale, Sam, Vaoloa, Naifoua, Heseti. And in front: Ivapene, Siteka and Florence. Those i will miss the most when I head outta here.
Me teaching class. My counterpart Lailing is sitting right in front of the camera.
The day dad gave the students the t-shirts with their names and Year 13 Computer Class on the backs of it. They loved it. Something they will always have to remember their senior year of school.

Me and Dog.

Dad, Nick, Jan and I went for a bike ride... I think I was getting a little impatient waiting. :)

Lauapama and her 2 daughters Lesa and Seti (little one) at church. Laupama is the closest thing to a sister I have here.

Laupama, me and dad after church.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Miss and Dont Miss

As most of you know dad has been here for the last 2 weeks. I will post pictures and an update of that when I have more time online, but for now i have some fun stuff instead...

Since I have been in this country I have kept an ongoing list of what I will and will not miss about both the States and Samoa. It consists of 2 large pieces of paper that I add to whenever something makes me feel sentimental or makes me frustrated. I started it as a reminder to myself that no place is perfect and also as sort of a way to help me transition back into the states. If I ever over reminisce about one place or the other I can just look at the list and remember that there where hardships as well as good stuff.

Just as a fun thing for you all back home, I thought it would be fun to post that list. However, because I don’t really want to offend anyone from Samoa or the states, I am just posting the things I will miss from both countries. The things I will not miss are better left un-published on a public website. :) The items below are listed in no particular order…

Miss About the States:
*Skim Milk
*A variety of cereals (although with the new store, the food items are easier to come by now)
*Good available medicines
*Friends weddings and friends having babies
*Margaritas with Richenda
*Actually making some $
*Cold mornings
*Hot water
*Hot showers
*Shower heads
*Being able to exercise
*Coffee breaks with Christi
*Washing machines and DRYERS
*Bubble baths
*Driving = “freedom”
*Trail biking with Brian and Mike
*24 hour Convenience stores
*Nights at El T with Mary and Bruce
*Nice, non-faded clothes
*Random evenings with Miranda
*99c menus
*Fishing, snowboarding, hiking, backpacking
*Being inconspicuous (no bye byes)
*Being able to call whomever whenever
*Less tropical diseases
*Mexican food… really any food with lots of spices
*Food can be left out and there are no ants (meaning everything doesn’t have to go into the fridge)
*Real towels
*My parents, Bryan and family
*Lunch breaks with Jenny and Laura
*Bible Study
*Community at church
*The drive out to and the visit with Matt and Grace
*My cat and the family dogs
*Grandma Steyh, Grandpa Lloyd and Aunt Audrey

Will Miss About Samoa:
*Crazy loud rain
*Other Peace Corps volunteers
*How friendly most Samoans are
*Hearing the waves on the reef from my house
*The scenery
*Lunch at Lusia’s Lagoon
*Beautiful and VERY eventful bus rides
*No emphasis on time
*Frangipani (pua) trees
*Dog - ie. Timbo (pronounced Team-bow)
*The faletua (pastor’s wives I live with) and some faifeau (pastors)
*My students and other teachers
*The ava circle on the balcony of the 3rd floor lounge
*My bus driver
*Cocoa Samoa
*Traveling on the boat chatting with other volunteers
*Random t-shirts. Ex. NOS – Nitrous Oxide System, or ones from your hometown on some random person
*My view (My village is the best)
*Peace Corps Friendships: The 4 T’s and Girls Nights
*The bike ride down my village
*The dog that howls along to the 5:30am bell every morning
*Fa’apeacecorps (Peace Corps way)
*Rain louder than you can think
*The waterfalls, ocean and rainforests
*Student hugs
*My superkako (guy that helps the bus driver)
*Looking at pictures with students
*Laupama, Meaalofa, Paepae, Lesa and Seti
*Smokey fields Sunday mornings from the umu’s (earthen ovens)
*Zone bus rides
*Samoa’s Own Chilli Sauce (yes, spelled with 2 l’s)
*Breadfruit and palosami (food)
*Hibiscus flowers
*Random things that only happen in Samoa (TIS – This Is Samoa)
*Visiting other volunteers in their village
*Heading into Apia for a night after spending a month in the village
*Trips to Salelologa (main town on Savai'i)
*Throwing Fiafia’s for the new group
*Weeding with my neighbors and students
*Late nights with some of the volunteers
*Teasing Meaalofa and her teasing right back (She’s really the Samoan equivalent of me)