Monday, July 23, 2012

Random fun

I haven't had a chance to post about my father and my last few days in Samoa yet, which you can guess if you have been checking my blog since my last post. I promise to get to it before I leave for Young Life camp this weekend.

In the meantime, I thought I would post my favorite picture I ever took in Samoa just to hold you over. It's part of the Satupaitea peninsula. The picture was taken near Papa.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Visit Back to Samoa - Part Two

March 30 (Friday)
My first visit back to Uesiliana since I left October, 2007. Driving up the road to the school I was nervous. Since it's been over 4 years since I left, the only class at the school that remembers me is the current Year 13. They were Year 9 my last year there. As dad and I were walking through the halls, I could tell who the Year 13 students were versus the other students. The Year 13 yelled out, "Hello Julya!" as we walked by and the rest of the students yelled out, "Hello palagi!"

The principal, Paseto, (who was vice principal when I taught there) was out of town for the day. The other teachers were surprised and happy to see me. We chatted a bit and then dad and I toured the school.

A former student is teaching computers. The head of the computer department is a JICA. I chatted with him awhile about the computer lab. He said that when he started all of the computers didn't work. I wasn't surprised even though I left them all working. The air conditioner in the room was broken, which wasn't helpful. Dad and I loved seeing the shelf with all of the computer parts, since he helped me carry that shelf up from my house to the lab. It was fun. The JICA lives in my old house. He told me that my dog, Dog, went to live in Japan with the former JICA that taught at Uesiliana. Yay, Dog is still alive. The house next to mine is now the staff room for the Technical School.

We didn't stay long. They wanted us to come back again before we left Savai'i so they could throw us a proper welcoming lunch. So we agreed to come back on Tuesday.

Above are some Year 13 students that remembered me and wanted pictures taken of them working hard in the Library.

After we left the school we headed to Lusias Lagoon. It was a hangout we loved as volunteers. It is close to the boat wharf and seemed hidden in a little lagoon away from everything. When I was there it was owned by two Philippino brothers. Now it is locally owned. The most exciting part about staying the night there, was that dad and I met up with Clair and her friend Adrian. For the first year that I was a volunteer Clair was a Volunteer from Australia a couple of villages away. She used to bike over with another volunteer and we had girls nights together. While dad and I were back for this trip, she was also taking a vacation at the same time in Samoa... we met each other half way. It was SO fun to see her again and catch up. It was like no time had passed. This trip was Adrian's first visit to Samoa, but he seemed to be rolling with everything fine. Dad liked this part of the trip because he got to sleep in an air conditioned room, and I slept in a little hut over the water.

My "fale" over the water above. While we were visiting at Lusias, we swam in the "pool", which was a fresh well spring sectioned off with concrete. There was a turtle swimming in the pool with us, and fish that liked to nibble at Clair's feet. We ate Vi that Laupama's family had given us for our trip, and we drank cocktails on the dock. One of my old students was working at Lusia's. She was learning about tourism, and was training to take over the tourist department and outreach part for the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, I was speaking in Samoa to the gentleman at the front desk and a couple of staff came out to chat. They asked how I knew Samoan and I said Peace Corps and that I had taught at Uesiliana. One of the staff ran into the back to get her because they knew she went to that school. She instantly recognized me. It was so fun running into students around the islands.

March 31 (Saturday)
After breakfast Dad and I continued our drive around the island to Saleaula to visit one of the old teachers, Aufata, when I was at the school. He used to be the principal of the Technical school and the wood-shop teacher. When dad visited me, the two of them hit it off. They are close in age and had a lot in common. I used to love playing with Aufata's kids so I was eager to see how big they had gotten and if his daughter was still the tomboy I remembered her being.

On the way to Aufata's village was a village a volunteer was living in. Dad still reads all of the blogs of the current volunteers in Samoa, and he had been particularly interested in visiting this volunteer. She is retired, in her 60s, and joined the Peace Corps. Her experiences as a retired volunteer are similar to what my dad would experience I think if he was to ever join. So, we visited her and chatted with her for a few hours. In true Peace Corps spirit, she asked me if I could mail a large fine mat home to a volunteer who had left the PC recently and hadn't had the chance to bring her mat with her. We would have to bring it home with us and then mail it from home. It was such an awkwardly large mat, and in my opinion not the best looking fine mat, but I would have wanted someone to do it for me, so we agreed and from then on carried that thing in the car with us.

Aufata's village is in the lava fields. The area is completely covered over by lava fields and it is a very hot and dry part of the island. Most villages have water access fairly easily, but this village uses a well that is drilled down 60 feet or so through the lava into a spring. The water is fresh and ok to drink, but the well is turned off every night.

It was so fun visiting Aufata and his family. I wish we could have stayed with them longer. When we first got there Fua (the daughter) was so excited to see me. We went walking together through the village. She showed me all of her favorite spots. She taught me some new Samoan words, introduced me to some of her friends, and we ended up playing a game of volleyball with the neighborhood kids. She is such a tomboy. Often her mom would yell at her for not doing her chores. Instead she was always out running around the yard kicking some ball around or exploring some area. I love that girl. She has a spirit similar to mine. I suspect that if I had grown up in Samoa I would have been yelled at a lot too for similar things.

That evening the kids had singing practice to prepare for White Sunday service, the next day. So dad and I wandered over and spent a good chunk of the evening watching the kids practice for church the next morning.

April 1 (Sunday) - White Sunday
We went to church with Aufata and his family in the morning. Aufata is the pastor of the Methodist church in the village. So, he preached and dad and I sat in the pews. It was crazy hot in the morning. We sat with Fua and her brother. It was fun being back in church in Samoa. I remember when I used to attend really missing my church back in the states. When I finished Peace Corps and was back in the states, I really missed church in Samoa. The singing in churches in Samoa is beautiful. I missed that so much. Everyone sings loudly and sings wonderfully. They are not ashamed to sing loud. The kids there haven't quite got the harmony down yet, but they always sing the loudest. I missed that so much back in the state. I feel like people sing in muted voices stateside.

It was White Sunday so the kids put on a lot of skits and songs. Dad and I were each given palm branches to carry into church with us. Fua took ours with her when she went to the front to perform her songs. It was so fun watching the kids sing together. The really little kids didn't really know what they were doing and they wandered around a bit, but they looked so cute through it all! After performances, dad and I took communion with them like I used to do when I was a volunteer.

After church I was starting to feel sick. We had planned on staying the entire evening, but we decided to leave when they headed to second church service in the late afternoon. During the afternoon we hung out, I helped them fix their computer, and installed a typing tutor program on it. They started having competitions against each other right away to see who could type the fastest. I think the mom is going to win that one, actually. After they left for church, dad and I headed up to a well known beach resort type area nearby to stay.

Clair was there were with Adrian, so we spent the evening together swimming, telling stories, eating great food and drinking tea. It was a great night together and what we thought would be our last night in Samoa together.

April 2 (Monday)
We visited Meaalofa today. Meaalofa was one of my best friends in Samoa. When I first arrived at my school I was teaching way more classes than I could handle. I told the principal of the school that they needed to find me a counterpart or Peace Corps would move me to a different school. (Looking back, I highly doubt that they would have, but I would not have lasted and most likely would've quit if I had to keep that old schedule from the beginning). But, luckily I had a wonderful principal and he found me Meaalofa. She lived with her father in the village nearby. She had graduated recently from the technical university in the Capitol and knew a little about computers. I ended up teaching her as much as I knew about computers and she took over half of my classes. We became great friends. I like to think that we knew each other well enough to understand culturally where the other was coming from, but also we just got each other. She was honest with me. She told me what I needed to hear sometimes, but she teased me a lot too. I like to think that her and Laupama were my best friends in country.

Anyway, we visited with her. I love her even more after this visit. She is such a strong willed, amazing woman. She is currently teaching computers at a primary school. We picked her up after school and drove her home. They live on a plantation. This was the first time I had visited anyone on a plantation. Once as a volunteer I visited the plantation that another volunteers family owned. Driving up to Meaalofa's house, dad and I parked the car and then had to walk a bit down the road to get to the house. Their plantation had bananas, cows, coconut trees, taro, cacao plants, orange trees, etc... it was pretty amazing. They had two dogs. One was big and one was about 3 months old. He was cute, but kept trying to chew on my shoes and run away with them. Every time he barked it sounded like a little kids toy. We gave them the gifts we brought. The oldest son, Andrew loved the chocolate. He kept trying to steal it away from his mom. I wish now that I had brought some pictures of us when we worked together for her to hang up around the house. We sat and chatted, looked at pictures together on our phones and around her house, ate some amazingly sweet oranges they gave us, drank coco Samoa, and just hung out. I wish I could have stayed for hours, but she had a lot to do around the house and she had to work the next day. She gave us a big bag of oranges to take with us, which we told her we wouldn't be able to eat all of them. When we got back to where we were staying, we shared them with the staff and they said they were the sweetest oranges they had eaten.

We gave Meaalofa a ride to her pastors church, she's the Sunday School teacher and had practice that evening. Turns out the pastor of her village is another teacher from the school I taught at. So, we stopped and hung out with him for awhile. His son was in my class (very smart kid, but didn't like to study) and was graduating from the University that weekend. They had pictures of their kids all over the house and a few pictures of their son were pictures I had taken! That was fun to see. We didn't stay very long, but long enough to chat about American politics and the influence of America in Samoa. I was slightly uncomfortable when we left, but it was still good to see him.

That evening dad and I were staying at Vaimoana Beach Fales, which literally means blue water beach houses. The place was gorgeous. It was not there when I was a volunteer. The owner of the place gave us a discount however, because I had been a Peace Corps volunteer. It was so nice of him. His daughter Ruby was adorable and kept running around with us keeping us company. The place was beautiful. One of the staff was currently a student at Uesiliana. She obviously did not remember me, but she said the teachers still talked about me. That was fun to hear. I chatted with some of the staff for awhile after we dropped off the oranges. They knew who Meaalofa was. They told us the owner often bought his oranges from her family because they were known to have the sweetest oranges in town.

If we had the chance to stay on Savai'i longer, we would have stayed here. It was not expensive, it was gorgeous, they had tons of options for beach houses (air conditioned, fans, open over the water, fans and open over the water, etc), they had a swimming beach, kayaks, fishing trips, etc. We went swimming for a little bit. Dad can tell you more about that.

April 3 (Tuesday)
I woke up really early in the morning, like 4am. I couldn't sleep. I had a headache, took some Excedrin and then my heart started racing. The next time I come back to Samoa, I will definitely try to stay at Vaimoana Beach Fales.

Laupama had asked us while we were on Savai'i, to stop in Sagone and visit her daughter's grave. I am so glad I know Samoan. This next paragraph of interactions took place entirely in Samoan. I could not remember where the grave-site was. As we were driving through Sagone, I stopped a woman on the street and asked her where the grave of the daughter of Laupama was. (I had to look up the word for grave, not a word I used often). She got in the car with us and directed us (dad was driving) to the women's committee house. Laupama's mom was at the Women's Committee house. She walked out and introduced herself to us. She said her daughter and grand-kids talked of me often so she was happy to finally meet me. She got in the car. She directed us left, right, up a driveway and we finally stopped in front of a house. Paepae's grave was next to Laupama's dad's grave. We stood around, chatted for awhile, then she asked if she could get a ride back. I asked her if I could take a picture of her for Laupama and then we all hoped back in the car (fine mat is still in the back taking up most of the back half of the car). We dropped her off, gave her some of Meaalofa's oranges and headed on our way to Uesiliana.

Our second visit back to Uesiliana was not what we were expecting. We arrived just as the afternoon break was occurring and... nothing. So, we walked around for awhile. Said hi to some of the teachers that were not there when we stopped by the last time, and then headed on our way. I have a pretty strong theory as to why, but will not post about it on this public of a forum.

We stopped at the market in Salelologa to check out the new location and look around for some presents for friends back home. As we were walking around this woman came up to me and started chatting in Samoan and asked if it was my dad that was with me visiting. I was confused and wasn't sure what she meant by visiting. I asked her, and she said, I am the Peace Corps volunteer that lives in Satupaitea (the village my school was in) and was that my dad who I was with visiting me. I was shocked. I said, yes, I am that volunteer, but I do not live there anymore. I returned back to the states about 4 years ago. We talked for awhile after that and then moved on. I couldn't believe that she remembered me. I didn't live in the village, I lived on a compound, but I did bike all over the village and walked around and taught kids from the village. I loved that she remembered me and thought that I still lived there! She was very surprised I still remembered Samoan after leaving 4 years ago. I was really happy that I did remember it as well as I had.

Our last night on Savai'i we stayed at Lusia's again. I cupcaked out and stayed in the big air-conditioned room with dad. The trip was starting to wear on me. Mentally I was exhausted. It was hard staying with friends most of the trip. The next time I, we, whoever comes back with me, most of the trip I think will be spent staying at places like Lusia's and Vaimoana's.

There is a lot for me to write about in our adventures over the next three days. It must happen in another post. Until next time...

Friday, July 06, 2012

Visit back to Samoa - Part One

A bit late, but finally my update from my trip back to Samoa since I left Peace Corps December 2007.

March 23 (Friday)
Flight to Samoa - I was looking forward to going back, but also really nervous. It is a hard thing to describe to people who have not been in the Peace Corps before. But the trip was not going to be a vacation. It was a visit, a visit to friends and family. I felt like there was a lot of expectations on my part. I tried to study up on my Samoan in preparation for the visit. It's hard when I felt like I still knew Samoan, but haven't heard it spoken in 4 years really. Other than a few words here and there by fellow volunteers. I was however, really looking forward to going back.

My father and I were traveling back to Samoa together for my first visit back since I left Peace Corps. My dad had been to Samoa twice before to visit me, so nothing would be new to him, but I was still hoping he enjoyed the trip. I didn't want to only have visits with family, but also have a chance to fit in some touring and site seeing. I wished my husband was able to come with me, too. This place shaped me. It's a big part of who I am now. But I think maybe the first trip back it was better to visit with my dad who was familiar with the culture.

I was looking forward to a few things I thought I would never miss: the kids singing loudly during church (miss that so much), breadfruit, taro, palusami, etc.

March 24 (Saturday)
There were so many things I wanted to do, but everything was closed becaue it was Saturday. I should have known. Dad was really tired from all the traveling. He went to bed at 6pm before the dinner bell even rang.

First experience in the country. We arrived in Samoa. We were sitting on the shuttle at the airport to take us to our hotel. The airport is not close to the Capitol. If you can take the Aggie Greys Hotel shuttle it is so much cheaper than taking a taxi. Anyway, I was looking back at the airport and saw someone I thought I knew. I was right. I was Tasi. When I taught at Uesiliana College, he was a teacher there. So I went over to talk to him (in Samoan). He remembered me. He told me, he and his wife had actually just left the school and got a pastoralship in a village on the main island. (later in the week after talking to other teachers I found out he was teasing me. He is now the Vice Principal of the school).

For lunch I really wanted to eat at Gourmet Seafood. I always remember the fish burgers there as being THE. BEST. FISH. BURGERS. EVER. they ended up being okay. They weren't AMAZING, but they were good.

For some reason I felt nervous at first speaking Samoan. I think it must be what the Apia based volunteers felt like. Like, well everyone speaks English anyways, so it's no big deal. I felt however like I needed to force myself to be bold and speak it. The women at the front desk liked that I practiced it with them and were really helpful getting me to rememember words. The Lord did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power.

There are little things I forgot about. The rain. The rain is so loud and heavy in Samoa it overpowers your mind and soul. The ants. The ants are crazy tiny you can barely see them. They got into my toiletry bag within an hour of arriving at the hotel. The mo'os, or geckos. They make a loud chirping noise and they are all over. I had to keep reminding myself that chirping noise was the geckos. The smell of stale air in an air conditioned room. The dirt on your feet in Apia. That dryness on your hair and skin after moving from outside to an air conditioned room. How uncomfortable I always felt. I think I was uncomfortable the first entire year I was in the Peace Corps. Lots of little things like that I missed and had forgotten.

March 25 (Sunday)
It rained really hard over the night. There were rivers running in front of the hotel rooms. I also heard a dogfight in the middle of the night. I remember in Peace Corps how miserable those made me my first year because I was not able to sleep through them and they were so loud and so often. I also will never forgot the morning my neighbor asked me if I heard the dogfight in the middle of the night and I realized I had NOT! I had slept through it! My first night back in country, I was not able to sleep through it. There was something familiar about it though.

I was glad that dad had brought his coffee press with him on our trip because one thing I did not miss from my volunteer time was Nescafe. The breakfast was amazing. Panikeke, papaya, chocolate rice, and my absolute favorite Samoan food, vi! For those of you who have never had it, Vi is like a mix between a pear and an apple. And the core is spikey.

One of my students works at Aggies. Epati. I think he was my year 10 and 11 while I was there. I handed that class off to my counterpart so I didn't get to know that class as well as the year 12 and 13. He was a server at the hotel. He remembered me. I recognized him at first and then asked him if he remembered me. I was so excited to see one of my students working at a great restaurant.

We went to church our first Sunday in country. We went to Peace Chapel. When I was a volunteer I was fairly sick often. I was very good friends with the Peace Corps nurse. She attends that church. Whenever I was sick and had to stay the night in the Capitol, I would attend that church with her and a couple other volunteers. So, I had a good group of friends I knew that went there. Some of them were still there. It was so fun seeing them. The pastor remembered me.

During the day since everything was closed we drove over the cross-island road to see the waterfall. Last time my parents were visiting the weather was too foggy and we couldn't see it. The weather wasn't that great on the top of the mountain, but we could still see the waterfall running strongly. Then we continued over to the other side. I was amazed at how little damage was still evident from the tsunami. The country rebuilt very well.

We ate dinner at Italianos. I remembered it not being the best pizza, but cheap and a fun spot. My memory was correct. :-) But, I had my first Vailima since leaving country. It really is a decent beer. It was a cold evening. I ended up having to wear my jeans, t-shirt and long sleeve shirt.

March 26 (Monday)
We had lunch with Teuila. She told me I am not the sickest volunteer anymore. Still the only one to get malaria. But there are fewer volunteers now. There are currently only 16 volunteers in the country. There were like 60 when I was there. They only have 1 group a year come in, and there was not a group last year. They only teach in the primary schools now (which are like elementary schools).

We had dinner with an old student of mine, Togipau. She works at one of the banks in the Capitol. While we were having dinner we noticed another one of my students working at Aggies. After dinner with Togipau, I drove her home. She was staying with a former teacher I taught with, Feao. Feao left halfway thru my first year in country. I missed her so much. It was so wonderful to see her, chat in Samoan, see how huge her children had gotten, and meet her mom.

March 27 (Tuesday)
We finally got to meet up with Laupama. When I was a volunteer she was my family. She is 10 years older than me, but like a sister to me. Her family was my family. We drove around the village asking in Samoan where her house was. We stopped and asked students and asked a teacher, eventually we found her house. When we got there, we sat down with her and her kids and gave them our presents from the states. They were so happy to see us. Seti, the youngest daughter kept calling me her palagi (foreign or white) aunt.

Something happened to me today. It is hard to describe, but it is like my brain opened up and handed me my memory of the Samoan language. Dad and I were sitting in the car and words I never thought I remembered were coming back to me. For the rest of the trip speaking in Samoan wasn't a problem, until the end of the trip when I started getting tired and words stopped coming to my brain.

Laupama asked if I wanted to help her and the other pastors wives weed today. When I was a volunteer I used to love sitting with the women, weeding, chatting and being social. So I walked what seemed like 5 miles in the heat with her and a few other women, but in reality was probably only 5 or 6 blocks. We didn't weed at first. We were sweeping up the grass clippings from the mowed lawn. I had a broom. I was being stubborn and trying to keep up with the rest of the women. They kept telling me to rest. After about 15 minutes I had heat exhaustion. They were making fun of me. Rightly so. I ended up quitting and sitting with the kids who were practicing their singing. They kept teasing me the rest of the evening. Calling me stubborn. Saying I wasn't used to the Samoan sun. Which was true.

The first evening we ate dinner with Viliamu, Laupamas husband. I used to eat with the entire family. Dad said something about not treating us as guests, but family and after that we ate as a family together.

March 28 (Wednesday)
We walked over to the school. This school is the sister school to where I used to teach. I toured their computer lab. It looked great. They had two computer labs, flat screens in one of the labs, three computer teachers and one Japanese Volunteer helping teach (the Japanese Volunteers are called JICA in Samoa). One of my students was teaching at the school now! My last year in Samoa, he had received the highest marks on the international computer test out of all of the south pacific countries. He is now teaching Economics at this school, is married and has an adorable new baby boy. It was really fun to see him again, meet his wife, hear about his wedding, and catch up.

Dad and I watched Laupama coach Netball. For those of you who don't know what Netball is, it's like basketball without all the things we love about basketball. There is no dribbling, no guarding really, no contact, no backboard, etc. Dad even played a little with them, but he couldn't get over the whole no backboard thing.

That evening after dad and I helped Laupama get the evening church service space ready for church, we made Easter eggs. I had brought an egg coloring kit with me as one of my gifts. When I was a volunteer one of the activities I had done with the girls was color eggs on Easter. They loved it. They didn't want to eat the eggs and brought them to school the next day. Since Easter was soon after I would leave country, I thought the coloring kit was an appropriate gift. All day long, while we were visiting, Seti kept asking when we could color them. The oldest girl, Lesa, is an amazing artist and she was really being articulate with the eggs. I hadn't seen such detail in a long time. We made a mess and decorated every egg Laupama had in her house. It was one of my favorite evenings in country.

March 29 (Thursday)
Dad and I got up early to take the boat over to Savai'i. Laupama packed us a lunch for the trip. It was chicken and it was amazing. We kept telling her, at her own prodding, that she should open up her own restaurant.

I was really excited while the boat docked into Salelologa on Savai'i. It was a trip I had taken so often while in Peace Corps and it still felt so familiar. The coast line of Salelologa had changed, but it hadn't changed. There was a new building. One building was a different color. The side road I used to bike down was now the main road, but it was still undeveloped except the outdoor market had moved there. The market has a nice parking lot and bus area.

As we drove to Gataivai where we were staying for the night, it was similar. The church that was under construction my entire 2 years of service was still under construction, abandoned now really. The pasture of cows were still there. I remember Lesa teaching me the Samoan word for cows at that pasture, Povi. Palauli had a new police station and a very large new church, but for the most part, nothing had really changed. And I liked that.

We briefly took the side rode through Satupaitea on our way to Gataivai. School was getting out. I missed that view of the crater and the bay.

Our first night on Savai'i, we stayed in Gataivai with the pastor of the village, who had been the principal of my school when I was there. It was a nice house. He wasn't home yet when we arrived so we drove up to the blowholes in Taga for the afternoon. The last time my father was visiting we went to the blowholes, but they were not going. They were really going this time. When you first get to the road down to the blowholes one of the elders of the village gets in the car with you to accompany you down there. That threw dad off a bit, but he rolled with it. This elder remembered me. I used to visit the volunteer that lived in Taga often. I would ride my bike up, stay a night or two and ride back. Once I got in trouble with the male teachers at my school for riding my bike back from her village early in the morning in the dark... in the rain... without a flashlight. I never did that again. Anyway, this man remembered me and he definitely remembered her. She still stays in touch with members of her village. Dad and I got some great shots of the water and coconuts shooting up hundreds of feet in the air.

When we arrived back at the pastors house I helped him (or tried) to fix a few computers and electronics. Two teachers from my school were staying there that evening because the village was having a huge wedding the next day and the teachers were building a bed as a gift for the couple from the pastor. It was so fun to see them. One was married with a daughter. He has been to Japan since I left and stayed with the japanese volunteer that lived at the school the same time I did. The other teacher was still single and they teased him often about looking for a wife. A former student from my school stopped by to say hi, too. I didn't teach him, but he remembered me. He is learning the piano and writing his own songs. He was really good.

That evening dad and I wandered over to the singing practice that was taking place next to the pastors house. Dad loves listening to Samoans sing. They are so harmonized. While we were sitting there watching the singing some of the men of the village were sitting behind us drinking 'ava. I noticed people motioning for them to offer some to dad, so I let him know it was coming. I told him to drink the cup all at once and not to sip it. He did. The kids watching loved it! The men offered him a second cup and he drank that as well. The kids were dying. They offered him a third cup and he declined politely. He was so happy they offered him 'ava. First time for him.

I heard one of my students is training to be a pastor. I am so proud of my students. Seeing them working different jobs around the country has been awesome.

I could hear the waves from the house. I missed that. Hearing the waves every night crashing on the reef. Very loud, close, but in the distance.

More tomorrow on the rest of the trip. Until then... Hope you are staying cool. God bless air con.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Return Visit to Samoa

I just wanted to let people know that I was going to be writing an update about my first visit back to Samoa since I left it and the Peace Corps 4 1/2 years ago.

Stay tuned for pictures and stories.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year & 12th Night

It has been awhile (as always since I last posted) so instead of dwelling on this fact, I thought I would just get into the grits it.

As our past year has ended and the new one recently began, I started to pause a bit and think about the past few months. Jim and I still are a bit in shock that we have been married for a little over a year. We finally sent out Christmas cards this year. At first I really wanted to hand write each one, but as Christmas was fast approaching and I had only written around 10, and I still had around 100 more to write, I finally caved in and included the little insert on the year in review. Why had I never thought of this earlier?!? It's quick, easy and I can fit a crazy amount of details in anything ever written by hand. Now, I admit it was my first go at it, so they were really rough around the edges and not so pleasing on the eye. Next years' will be awesome!

Right after New Years we had some visitors come out. When I was in Samoa I lived on the school compound with another volunteer from Japan. In fact, when I finished my service, I visited him and his family in Japan. Well, he came out for a visit with his new wife. We had such a blast taking them around Annapolis. We introduced them to the Maryland Blue Crab in the form of crab cakes. They fell in love with Maryland crab cakes and cream of crab soup. His wife tried some local raw oysters and loved them as well. They enjoyed sitting in a local coffee shop drinking coffee and eating biscotti, and wandering around the town with it's brick roads and history.

One of the things we did when they were visiting was tour the Naval Academy. I had never toured the academy before their visit. If you have never been, it is amazing. There are so many amazing facts about the academy I never knew. Example, all the midshipmen live in the same dorm building which is the second largest dorm building in the world. The largest is in Russia. Our friends really enjoyed the tour as it was something quite unique to the US and Japan does not have military academies like the United States. After the official tour we wandered around the campus and found our way into the Naval Museum. As a history major I must recommend this museum to anyone ever visiting the academy. It displayed the naval history of the US from the beginning of the country until current day. It is a very well layer out museum. My friends enjoyed that museum very much. It was such a blessing having them visit. It even gave us an excuse to finish the bathroom in our basement. (which they referred to as a hotel.)

Tonight is 12th night. Also known as Epiphany. It is supposedly the night that the Wise men reached the baby Jesus. I can't tell you if it's historically accurate or not, and to be truthful, I don't care. My family has been celebrating this since I was born. My grandparents on my dads side celebrated it. Maybe it was a family thing they brought with them from Germany, who knows. Either way, I love it. Traditionally my family gets together, eats stew, and has cake with 2 beans hidden inside of it. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the bean becomes the King or Queen of the family for the year. I never got the bean as a kid. I remember lamenting this fact to my grandma one year and that year I for the cake with the bean! Never mind there was a large hole where a finger most likely had inserted that bean. After the food has been eaten and king and queen determined, everyone cuts a branch from the Christmas tree and throws it into the fire while making a wish for the new year. Well, I have not been around my parents or my dads family in a long time, so my current version of 12th night has been somewhat modified. This year only my husband and I are celebrating. A cake seems somewhat ridiculous considering we know we would get the king and queen. So, no cake. Also, after Christmas my husband made turkey soup. It is amazing soup. Much better than most stews. Therefore, we are having the soup. And lastly, we have a fake tree. It is still up, but I had to go outside and cut twigs from our bush so we could throw them in the fire and make wishes for the new year. It was different, but it was special. And it's ours.

So, here's wishing everyone a very happy 12th night. Or epiphany if you will, and I trust that you will.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


When I think of Hackers I start thinking of Dante's Inferno and that last circle of hell reserved for only those who have committed crimes so heinous that they have their own place carved all out just for them. In my Senior English class my teacher had us read Dante's Inferno and create our own levels of hell with reasons for each level with those who inhabited them. Being a relatively easy person to get along with, at the time I couln't really think of something I thought really truly deserved it. The obvious answers came to mind like rapists and murders, but they can repent and be forgiven. I wanted someone truly ruthless, and I couldn't really think of anyone so unforgivable I could place there. Well, Mr Ferris, 12 years later I have finally found a group to place in the tenth circle and it is the hacker.

If you know me at all and are reading this, you know exactly what I am referring to. For a good 24 hours or so I was fighting against a hacker who had seized control of my hotmail account and sent emails out to my entire contacts saying I was in Africa and needed help. If you know me, your first thought would be, "why can't her parents or dad help her out?" Your second thought would be, "Either Julya suddenly lost all grammitcal senses or this is not her." Other than the feeling of loss or violation it really wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of identity theft, but I still felt the violation and was pissed off.

There was some good from it all though. In Samoa, the Methodist pastors were ready to rally together and send me some money. When they found out the person was not me they told this person to "Go to Hell." I felt a little honored they cared that much still about a volunteer who was only there for a short 2 years of their lives. Also, the pastor who was upset the most wasn't even the principal from my school. He is the principal of my sister school on a totally different island. In addition, when the email was first sent out, I must have had a good 20 phone calls every fifteen minutes from friends who were pretty sure I wasn't in Nigeria, but wanted to call just to be sure. Marques even got online and found the site I needed to report it.

So, thanks to everyone for your concerns and for the person who did it, enjoy that 10th level...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Life in General

Since the onset and popularity of Facebook, it has been difficult for me to continue to update here and there. I generally post lots of pictures from my day to day on Facebook instead of here. If you want a more detailed update, please find and befriend me. If you can't find me leave a comment here and I will find you!

Work is well, my church is great. God is great for bringing me to it. I have met some wonderful members of all ages, and even grafted myself into a family with a dog and everything. Below are a few pictures from random things over the last few months, like Dylan's visit (he was another PC Samoa volunteer who was on the same island as me), Valentines Day and a few from a weekend in California with Mary. Enjoy.

The Federal Reserve. Looks very foreboding.

Me in my Obama Inauguration hat with my Obama Inauguration water in front of the Whitehouse. Very patriotic I think...

The Vietnam Memorial reflected

Dylan at the WW2 Memorial pointing to the closest we have to our PC country, American Samoa and him in front of his favorite statue in the Smithsonian Sculpture Gardens, the thinking bunny... The original thinking man statue...

I just found out there is an Ice skating rink on the mall! Right in front of the National Archives next to the Smithsonian Sculpture Gardens. Crazy. I am going next year.

Dylan and I attempt to show our affection to the Capitol by being creative..

All dressed up for Valentine's Day. I bought that dress around 8 years ago and this was the first time I have ever worn it. Still fit! I think we look very classy. He took me to the Narrows, a really nice restaurant on the water of the Chesapeake Bay.

Me dressed up. Buena Vista Winery in California in Napa Valley.

Me and Ms Mary in Napa Valley

The vineyards were covered in yellow mustard flowers. The owners don't have them weeded out because they do not affect the taste or smell of the wine. I think they make the vineyards look beautiful.