Honestly, where did it go? What can I say; once again it has been awhile and I am sorry for not updating earlier. A lot has happened and I emailed a few of you, but I want to fill everyone in on the last month or so of my life.
On Monday January 22nd, I got up and got myself ready to go to our Methodist In-service Meetings. They are meetings for 2 days during the week before school where we try and coordinate lesson plans between the Methodist schools, and just get prepared to think about teaching in general. It was already a rough day because there was a possible cyclone moving into the area – which never came thankfully, but nonetheless everyone was a little nervous. I got to the meeting and it was so great to see everyone that I had missed from school. But as the meetings were starting up I noticed I hadn’t seen Laupama. She is the lady I consider family on the compound. Her whole family has been so great to me this last year. I asked around and found out her daughter Paepae was sick and in the hospital. A few minutes later Laupama showed up crying. Paepae had passed away from Rheumatic Fever earlier that day. She was 5. I consider that family mine here in this country so it was really rough to hear this. But, we still had to go on with the meetings. Laupama left. I found out later that Paepae had been sick with strep throat for awhile but never said anything. She is a very headstrong little girl. It kept getting worse and the dad was out of the country. By the time Paepae was really sick and admitted to being really sick it was pretty much too late. It was really hard on everyone since we are in a sense our own little community on that compound. Everyone is close to each other like family.
The funeral was later that week. This is the second funeral I have been to in this country. The first one was during training and it was my sick old grandma in my family, so it didn’t really mean much to me personally. I want to go into detail about the funeral because of the experience of funerals here, but also just to convey what it was like for me. On the day of, all of us on the compound dressed in white (yes white) with little black tassels and a pin in memory of Paepae. We all piled into the school bus to head out to the village of the funeral. On the way out we sang songs from the church song book, so I knew a lot of them. It was really surreal. Our school bus was a part of a long procession of cars that were all heading together to the funeral, one of which was Viliamu (the dad) and his daughter. Usually during a funeral the first car carries the casket and everyone involved travels behind with hazard lights blinking. By the time we got there (it was a ways away) we had quite a line piled behind us. At one point another PC sent me a text message saying he was in a bus going back to his village a few cars back from us. I think you aren’t supposed to pass a funeral procession if you get stuck behind one here, but I could be wrong.
When we got there, the casket was up front with pictures of her. We brought plastic flowers and placed them in front. During the service my school (all the little kids and teachers that live there) had prepared a song to sing during the funeral. I won’t go into too much detail, but it was hard. We had a rough time getting through it all. It basically said bye bye Paepae don’t forget about us, we won’t forget about you, and have a good trip. Our pastor from our village spoke and sang a song she used to sing all the time called, “My God loves me.”
After the funeral we all piled back into the school bus and headed to Laupama’s families house for the actual burial and ceremonial things of funerals here. They sang a few songs, and then everyone threw flowers onto the casket. Then they opened the casket and people lined up to take pictures of her and to give her kisses. The other teachers lined me up too. People kissed her, caressed her hair… I did too. It was hard, but good in a way I think. It’s more final and comforting in a way I think. I put a little pink stuffed bunny rabbit in the coffin with her. Then they passed out the food and the boxes of eleni and pisupo and we were on our way back to the compound.
That night was also a going away party for one of the families on the compound that was transferring to our sister school on the other island. I really like them too, so it was overall a busy and sad and strange day. Grieving in Samoa is different in the states and I felt like I couldn’t truly grieve like I would back home, but the mom and I have talked a lot about Paepae and other things and it has been good. I think for both of us. I like to think of Laupama as my older sister. Sometimes I feel like I don’t always understand everything culturally since I am still an outsider, but it has been helpful chatting with her. I also made them a video of pictures and videos from my camera that I had of Paepae set to one of Laupama’s favorite songs, “After the Music Fades” by Shaun Groves. They love the video and the youngest daughter is always asking mom to play it again. On one of the short videos I had on it, I had gotten Paepae singing My God loves me. They love that. So, it’s been hard, but I am so thankful that they are my family here. I didn’t realize that when I joined the PC some of the people I would have the hardest time saying goodbye to would be the families and not other PC volunteers.
The week before school started for me (and the week it started for everyone else), my group had its Mid-service Conference. It’s the conference a group has when they have been here for a year. Well, it’s been over a year for us now, but with everyone on vacations, we wanted to wait until everyone was back. Though Ryan wasn’t able to make it since he was still visiting back home. Everyone else was able to make it unlike our Early Service when half of our group was stuck at their jobs. It is a weekend long and they take us to a nice beach resort area. We went to Satuiatua Beach Resorts on Savai'i. It was fun. It was what we all needed. We had a great time with each other, and even a few other volunteers from other groups showed up. Actually one from each of the other groups came: 2 from 74, one from 76 and even one from group 77. Apparently we are the most beloved group; they can’t stay away from us. :) It rained for a lot of the time, but there were still a few hours of sun and swimming. On the second day all we did was read, swim, sleep and we had a few sessions with our PC Director. They talked a lot about the volunteers’ mental life cycle, if any of us wanted to extend to start thinking about it… things like that. It was really hard to have to leave. I felt like our group was having a great time being just with each other. No one understands you better than those who went through training with you… Since it was on Savai'i I didn’t have to go too far to get home. :) The van with everyone in it picked me up and dropped me off at my house. I didn’t have to do any traveling really at all. It was a nice change from the 6 hour trip to Apia I usually take.
School started up again with a bang. There was some confusion with my counterpart at the beginning of the year, but she’s teaching again. She has the bulk of the classes this year. I am only teaching Year 13 and Tech 1. I wanted to teach the teachers and focus more on working with people around the compound. I just didn’t have time to do this last year with Year 12 and Year 13, both prescription classes. I am really excited for my year 13 class this year. I had almost all of them last year and they all did really well on the exams (School C tests) at the end that determine if they can go on to Year 13. They all passed my School C computer test. I guess that’s pretty amazing. It was the first year for a prescription for computers for year 12, so it was fun to see good results. Already we are tackling a few hard things. I have a lot of hope for them this year. My Tech 1 class has a few returning students in it from the college from last year. Their English is good and their base knowledge of computers is fairly good too, so I am also encouraged from that class as well.
Health wise, I have been struggling again. Right after the conference I came down with yet another sinus infection. In the middle of it I developed mild bronchitis. It has been frustrating to have my body just not listen to me and fall apart. This time I am on some pretty good meds, so hopefully everything gets cleared up and stays cleared up for awhile this time. I was joking with the secretary today that I wanted to call my PC doctor and ask her if she had any extra bodies lying around that I could switch with. If not, any sinuses or lungs would also be fine. She laughed and then told me to pray about it. So now even all the teachers here are praying for my good health. Hopefully it works; most times I feel great for the most part, but sometimes I feel like my body is in a constant rebellion against me. :)
Work wise, I have also been more involved in side projects this year. Having less classes has freed me up to do things I have wanted to do for awhile. I started tutoring a few of the little kids on the compound in computers, like teaching them typing and mouse skills. I helped another teacher set up his new computer (Aufata – Travis) and installed a whole bunch of reading games his family sent from overseas. He has a pretty nice set up; his kids are lucky. I have also been working on lesson plans for another volunteer who works in a village, a Village Based Development (VBD) volunteer. He has a computer in his village and wants to teach some of the women in the women’s committee how to use it. I put together some lesson plans for him. I have also been working on getting these lessons translated into Samoan with the help of a PC staff member so that when the volunteer leaves he can pass those lessons on. A few other volunteers have asked for a copy of it, so apparently it’s a good thing. It’s encouraging to do something so useful for the volunteers and I enjoy doing it.
These next few weeks will be full of getting things ready for the upcoming Career Days. I am on the board for Avanoa Tutusa (an NGO here in Samoa) and we hold Career Day every year. We have one on both islands and we invite year 12 and 13 from every school. It’s a lot of work and I keep having to head to town (not Apia thankfully – I was there too long) to get things arranged and planned out. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun. Although, I will be happy when it is over and we can focus more on the smaller projects.
I didn’t head in this last weekend for Super bowl. I felt that since after last year when my home team was in it, even though we lost, this year couldn’t have been better than last. Plus, I was in the Apia area for entirely too much time last month and I need to spend some good solid weeks in my village. I am sure there was a good representation at the Super bowl from the PC community. It was nice to spend Sunday with Laupama and to recover a little bit.
The family that finally moved into Bob’s old house next to me has 6 kids! That’s right, 6! The oldest is 11, I think and the youngest is a 3 month old. They aren’t that noisy really. The kids are relatively quiet and the mom is always sending me food. I think if I wasn’t still feeling sick I would hang out over there a little more and maybe bake one of my chocolate cakes. I do have a whole year still… :) I think I was spoiled last year living next to Bob. We got along well and he was relatively quiet, apart from the Johnny Cash blaring from the radio occasionally… I’m kidding. I actually have grown to like Johnny Cash a lot and Bob never played it loud.
So, in a nutshell after this long update, I am still struggling health wise, but getting a lot better. School is going smoothly so far and my counterpart is doing a great job in her year 12 class (the hardest because it has a set prescription). The family next to me is nice; I am looking forward to getting to know them better. I feel more involved with fun projects and I am doing things I enjoy doing. Once my health clears up I can’t wait to go biking again, even if it’s pouring down rain – it has been entirely too long.
So, until next time…