Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Unique Visit

It's official. Smart Beans "actually help you think." Now I can eat all of the candy I want and get smarter at the same time! Genius.

For those of you who occasionally look at my blog, I thought I would share a few fun stories with you and give an update on what I have been up to thus far. Quick reminder to everyone, cell phones came to Samoa half way through my service thanks to Digicel. They have been amazing in terms of keeping in touch and staying connected with my village and Samoan friends and family still in country. For example, text messages are amazing. For just 20 cene (about 15 cents USD) Samoans can send a text message to my phone here in the states. On at least a weekly basis I receive text messages from Laupama, Meaalofa or one of my students. I think it's wonderful. However, my most recent bit of fun didn't come from a text message it came from a phone call.

Around 12:45am a few weeks ago my cell phone rang. This is not uncommon. Most of my contacts in Samoa frequently send me text messages around this time, forgetting the time zones and time differences. I looked at the area code and it said 425 (local here). I didn't recognize the number, so I picked it up and said hello. On the other line I heard Samoan. Without even thinking about it, I instantly switched to Samoan and sort of woke up realizing I was talking to one of my students. Heseti Toloa. She was one of my Year 13 students last year. She had just graduated and since she was born in American Samoa, she has US Citizenship and cannot attend the local university in Samoa. So, her parents sent her to Kent, Washington of all places to live with family for a couple years, find a job and adapt to American life. Kent is not far from where I live; it's about a half hour away from the ferry dock.

Since I have been missing my students like crazy, I jumped on the chance to see her and catch up. We agreed to meet for lunch. When I arrived at her aunt's house, it was just like being back in Samoa. I was invited right in, offered food and spoken to in Samoan once they realized I spoke it. Since I was taking Heseti out for lunch, I passed on the chance to eat some Samoan food. While we were having lunch she asked if I could help her find a job and admitted the whole process was a little scary to her. We decided the best place to start looking was a temp agency since she knows Access, Excel and data entry. I love that I am still helping my students back in this country. It was good to get some new gossip, share some with her and just spend the day with one of my students getting to know her as more than the funny outspoken girl in my class.

Speaking of Samoan food, I have another strange tale to tell. Last month I was craving Samoan food … now before you crinkle your nose and start remembering I have never previously talked about liking the food, it was the simple things I missed. I missed breadfruit, mangos, vi, sasalapa, and yes taro. Knowing that Seattle and Tacoma have large Samoan populations I did a search online for Samoan stores. One came up in the Tacoma area, so the next weekend dad and I headed that way. The store was a little bigger than the one down from the compound in Satupaitea, but it sold all of the same things: canned corned beef and mackerel, keke saina, masi popo, koko samoa, and even Fanta (no Vailima though). I started talking to the store owner in Samoan (which she got a kick out of) and she told me they were having a BBQ the following weekend and did I want to buy a ticket? Of course I did! That following weekend when I walked in the door, the shop owner laughed and I heard her say to the gentleman standing next to her (in Samoan), don't say anything about that palagi (white person) because she understands it. I laughed. Well, unfortunately the BBQ was not a sit down thing. It was like any BBQ in Samoa, in plastic to-go boxes. So, dad and I each grabbed one and headed home. It included: boiled banana, taro, chop suey, eggs, sausage and canned corned beef. It was just as greasy as I remember it being.

Besides getting my fair share of Samoan things and friends, I have also had the chance to catch up with friends back home. I spent a very fun weekend with my friend Mary hiking and climbing around Bellingham (where I went to college), my grandpa had his 91st birthday, and I went to DC for a Peace Corps fair and visit with some PC Samoa friends. It has been fun to catch up with everyone again and really enjoy being back in the Northwest and developed countries in general. I forgot how much i loved hot showers, feeling clean and being ant free. I have added some pictures below from my last couple of months. Until something else warrants a posting… (Like a job)… enjoy.

View of the San Juan islands from Bellingham on the hike to the Bat Caves.

Cliffs at the bat caves... if it wasn't snowing and I had brought my climbing gear I would have loved to boulder around those rocks.

My grandpa blowing out his candles.