Saturday, April 30, 2011

Food and Guests

Since the last two entries have featured stuff that happened on Friday, I figured I might as well tell you about the rest of the day at school on Friday.
Other than spending a couple of hours teaching Years 7 & 8, I spent my day in the office, typing and copying. I watched the eye exams and was served food and drink.
There are only two reasons that I’m served food in the classroom or office. It happens if a parent brings food for the teachers. That only happens about once a month. Frequently, it’s koko Samoa. Nothing like a hot mug of cocoa on a steaming day. Really, I’m not being sarcastic. You get the sugar/caffeine jolt, plus the hot liquid makes you sweat even more, so the breeze feels delightfully cool. Unless there’s no breeze, which means you’re just a sweaty, caffeinated mess on a sugar high.
The other reason that we are served food is that there are “guests” in the building. I love when that happens. It is fa’a Samoa that when someone visits you, whether at home or office, you serve them refreshments. My mother had the same view, although her idea was of a slightly lighter/smaller view of snacks than the Samoan norm.
When I was in the training village, if another trainee stopped by for a couple of minutes, usually to whine about tense markers or other aspects of Samoan language, my host sister came up with snacks. It didn’t matter if there was not a lick of food in the house. She would sneak out to the neighbors or the closest faleoloa and bring something back for us. Even when I begged her not to.
It’s the same at school. The teachers are responsible for buying/preparing food for visitors. Out of their own pockets. Fascinating to watch how it happens and how the money is tracked and collected. I tried to chip in, but that didn’t pan out. They know I’m a volunteer, so they don’t want to take my money. To make up for it, I bring a huge amount of food for their morning tea a couple of times a month.
On Friday, we had the nurses here for the eye exams. That involved cracker and butter sandwiches and the Samoan version of instant coffee. For the nurses it also meant ramen, which is the “go to” meal of choice in Samoa.
At interval, I didn’t join the other teachers as usual, because I was busy typing the Year 7 exam and copying/collating 110 copies of the 10 page Year 8 exam. I had to make enough copies for the whole district.
Interval is when we normally have “tea”. The other teachers usually have ramen (called seimini here) while I try to bring something a bit healthier. I admit, I’m not as good about that as I should be. Friday, though, I was prepared. I had an egg sandwich and a small knock-off version of Pringles in my lunch bag. Yeah, not significantly healthier than ramen, but at least a change of pace.
Because I’d had the cracker and butter sandwiches and tea earlier, I didn’t plan to eat during interval. I kept working and wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on outside, although on one trip to the door to get some air and a view of the ocean I noticed a group of men talking downstairs. Ah, the school committee.
Shortly after interval started, the School Committee came into the office, along with our Pule/Principal. It’s not a large room and since the copies had to be finished, I couldn’t excuse myself to another space. No problem, they just ignored me and sat at the table at the other end of the room for their meeting.
A few minutes after they arrived, in came some of the girls, carrying food. Two groups of visitors in one morning means two “snacks”. It’s a sign of how busy the teachers are that this impromptu snack was really just that – some cookies and soda from my family’s faleoloa.
Each teacher and guest was given a plate of about 10 cookies, along with a can of soda. I thanked the Year 6 girl who tried to deliver my snack but turned it down. She wasn’t sure what to do. Who turns down free soda and cookies?
I don’t have a classroom of my own, so move from room to room. When I’m not teaching, I’m in the office. I change rooms about 5 times a day, hauling my junk with me. It took me awhile to realize that the kid assigned to deliver food to me sometimes has to wander the school looking for me, carrying whatever food has been made for the special occasion.
When visitors are scheduled, meals are planned and shopped for in advance. The amount and quality of food seems to vary depending on the status of the guests and the duration of the stay. The food is prepared in the Year 2 classroom. If it’s a big deal, the children from Year 2 are sent to spend the day with Year 3. Older girls are used to help prepare/serve the food and do the dishes. Boys are used to take money to the store next door to fetch necessary items.
The most elaborate meal I’ve seen prepared was for the group here to teach soccer. I’m not sure who sponsors it, but assume its FIFA. They are well-organized and seem to have a ton of money. Their own vehicles, staff, matching uniforms and lots of equipment. Impressive.
The training for the teachers who’d be leading the soccer in their schools was held in my school, for two days. Meals our teachers prepared involved rice, tinned fish, ramen noodles and canned corn beef (pisupo). I made 3 trips to my house to bring my hotplate and various pans.
Like the rest of the teachers, I love a free cup of koko Samoa. It’s an unexpected treat. I’m glad, though, that we don’t have visitors and snacks often. Bad for my diet and a major disruption. Teaching stops to accommodate the guests.
One more word about food at school. Traditionally teachers were served full meals every day during interval. I experienced that in Safata during our teaching practicum during training. Parents take turns cooking and delivering meals for all the teachers. Some schools, like ours, stopped it. I’ve heard that it was stopped because it put too much pressure on the families of the children. It can become a kind of competition among the parents over who can provide the biggest and best meal.
I know that during practicum we had a good meal every day. Some days, though, it was fresh fruit, taro and fish. One day, it was that plus lobster, palusami and more. Not all the families have the resources, both human and monetary, to provide that kind of largesse.
One of the teachers at my school was doing a lesson on meals. He laughed and said that Americans eat so much – “They eat three meals a day. Samoans only eat two meals a day. Lunch and dinner.”
After the lesson we were chatting and I pointed out that Samoans eat before school, at interval, lunch after school and dinner. His response? The “snacks” before and during school do not count. They are not meals served in the home.
Tell that to my waistline.

Eye Exams

I mentioned recently that a “doctor” had been at the school checking the eyes of the Years 7 &8 students.  I was told it was because of the round of eye infections the school had been having.  The “doctor” (who is actually a very nice nurse) was back today, along with a male counterpart to test the eyes of Year 6.  Seems this is an annual event to check all the kids’ eyes and is funded by someone in Australia.  I’m not sure if funding comes from the government there or an NGO.  No one here seems to know or care where the funding comes from.
Fridays are a light teaching day for me and it was a good thing today, since I was finalizing the Year 8 English exam, which I’d helped author and typed as well as writing/typing the Year 7 English exam.  These exams are a huge deal – about 80% of the term grade, from what I can tell.  They are 9-10 pages long and include comprehension, grammar, vocabulary and writing.
Since the eye exams were taking place in the office where I do my typing/copying, I got to observe.  Kids would come in in pairs or groups of three.  First, one would sit on the bench for a typical eye chart exam.  Next would come a more detailed exam, for some kids.  You know when the optometrist has you look through the machine and switches lenses, saying “Better?  Worse?”  It was like that, except that instead of a machine with a myriad of lens combinations, the nurse had two pairs of old, beat up glasses.  I couldn’t tell if the lenses were just covered in fingerprints or spider-cracks, but I’m impressed that the kids could see through them.
 She’d have the kids use both pairs of glasses, while testing which helped their vision most.  She made notes on the results.  The kids were then sent to the male nurse, who wore a headlamp that was strikingly similar to the one my mom used to use when doing fine work in her jewelry making.  He appeared to be looking for disease in the eyes.  He’d look in the eyes, pull the lids up and down while having the kids look left and right, up and down.  He’d make notes and then send the kids on their way.
One of the teachers came in to make a few copies and do the obligatory match-making.  My Samoan still stinks but I know enough to know that her greeting to him was along the lines of “So, how do ya like the old broad?  She needs a boyfriend.”  I interjected, in English, that I neither wanted nor needed a boyfriend, thank you very much, even though he was a very handsome man.  While she made her copies, the joking continued, as he assured me that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  I called him a liar, in Samoan, which got a laugh from even the kids in the room.
Did I mention that this kind of banter happens in front of the kids?  Not the really raunchy stuff, but the “let’s find Nancy a boyfriend” humor isn’t restricted to adults only gatherings.
After the teacher finished her copies and kissed me goodbye, the male nurse continued telling me that he would be a good boyfriend for me.  I dismissed him as too young.  “How old are you?” he asked.  “50?  I’m 50, too.” 
“No, I’m older.”
“60?  I’m 60!  We’re the same age!” 
Actually, the guy was about 35.  I wouldn’t have cared if he was born on the same day in the same year, however, since he ruined any chance of romance when he slapped a kid.  Because the kid didn’t scoot forward on the bench fast enough.  The boy seemed resigned and unsurprised.
The second boy he slapped took it in stride and they both laughed about it.
At about 9:30, some kids delivered morning breakfast (which comes before morning tea, which is served at 10:45).  For the nurses it was “tea” which can be tea (rarely), koko Samoa or in this case, instant coffee that is so watered down and filled with milk it is a dirty white color.  It is also filled with enough sugar to make your teeth ache.  Along with the tea, the nurses received crackers with butter and cups of ramen.
 I received 3 butter/cracker sandwiches and a mug of “tea”.  Personally, I’ll take Samoan ‘tea’ over Starbucks any day.
There happened to be five kids in the room, lined up for their exams, when the breakfast arrived.  I kept working, sipping as I went.  The nurses stopped for 20 minutes for their food/tea while the kids sat on the floor silently, waiting. 
The kids seemed to enjoy the deviation from routine that the eye exams afforded.  I remember enjoying eye exams in school, too. You got out of class, the exams didn’t hurt and it was something different.


We took 2 days to drive around Savaii.  You could do it in a day, although it would be a long drive.  It's a beautiful island.  I'm biased, but am happy to be where I am.  Beautiful lagoon and a great swimming beach, plus only 45 minutes from the wharf, post office and groceries.  I have the best of all worlds, living in the "suburbs" of a rural island. I hope these photos make up for all the whining I've done.  I'm a lucky, lucky woman.

Hope you enjoy the photos...
The road trip crew - Pat, PCV; John RPCV who had the car; me; Lilly PCV who we joined for lunch and Chelsea, PCV and my BFF and former roommate
BFF in the lava fields

BFF swimming with the sea turtles.  She smiled the whole time. $5 for the experience, BTW.

Guess how many times I hit my head going into my room at Vai Moana (stellar place!)  My butt is not that big.  It's a shadow.  I swear.

Outdoor shower at Vai Moana.  Instead of shower head, water came out of holes in overhead bamboo.  Waves were about 2 feet past the far wall.  Did I enjoy my late night shower there?  You bet.

Pat's fale - remote and rustic.  I'd be happy with the fale but would hate no indoor running water.

Western side of the island.  No sheltering lagoon.

"Lover's leap" 

The honeymoon suite at a resort on the west side.  Can't remember the name but when I find out I'll let you know.  We had lunch there and it was great.  Room is $85 tala a night.  About $40 USD.

Blow holes.  My personal favorite stop.  I'll be posting video of a coconut being shot hundreds of feet into the air.  You can hear me screaming with glee in the background.  

What's a tropical island without a waterfall?  That's my BFF

Sexual Harassment

There was a dance performance during mass on Easter.  Despite the holiday and a joint service with a neighboring church, the crowds were light.
Imagine being at work and having co-workers grabbing and touching you, while making lewd comments, laughing and pointing. A nightmare? An opportunity to sue your co-workers and employers for enough tupe to allow you to retire?

In Samoa, just some good natured fun. The sexual teasing here is non-stop. I know it bothers some of the younger volunteers. Personal questions – “Who did you sleep with last night?” “Do you want to have sex with him/me?” are daily occurrences. They don’t just do it to the Palagi – they also tease each other in the same way.
We were told about it in training and we all got our fair share every time we got in a cab. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Can I be your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?” We were advised to laugh along and dish it right back.

I have, from day one. Luckily for me, my humor leans toward the raunchy side anyway, so I don’t find it offensive. Surprising in its frankness, sometimes, but not offended. Also amused by the junior high nature of what we find amusing. There’s a snack product here called “Pee Wee”. That name alone was worth one day’s jokes and laughs.

It’s a standing joke that one of the two male teachers is my boyfriend and the other is my husband. The men joke along. The teachers joke that I might be pregnant. I assure them I’m still just fat, but hoping to have (insert name here)’s baby soon. Name of potential father depends on who’s in the room.

Yesterday the joking went to a new level. After assembly, which usually features Christian education, bible reading, prayer and hymns , followed by administrative announcements and public floggings (ok, slappings), I was chatting with one of the female teachers as we walked toward the building. As usual, she was making sexual jokes/comments about me/my love life. And, as usual, I was dishing it back, letting her know that every man alive would prefer my sexy sixty year old self rather than her poor, pathetic 28 year old body.

She referred to a couple of body parts in the way you would in a dirty joke. I’ve heard the women talk about these “parts” before. Since I’m here to teach English, I felt compelled to correct the use of some terms. “No, only women have those. Men’s are called _________or ______________.” By then, the other women teachers had joined us. We were at the foot of the staircase leading to the second floor classrooms.

As the women asked me to confirm the street names of body parts, they started touching and grabbing at mine to make sure I knew to whence they were referring. It very quickly became a grab fest. It lasted about 30 seconds. I was slapping hands away and chastising, reminding them of the respect I deserved in fa’a Samoa as a lo’omatua (old woman) and palagi. We were all laughing hard. I was considering mooning them from the stairs when I saw one of the male teachers. Lucky for the ladies, or they would have seen the back of my bloomers.

Sexual harassment or just fun? Some would argue I was being harassed. If I thought for a second that the goal was mean-spirited or the intent was to make me uncomfortable, I would agree. But it felt a lot more like “end of term, Friday, let’s cut loose and have some laughs” behavior.

Every teacher in the school has been kind to me. They treat me with respect (other than the sexual joking) and have told/shown me they’re glad I’m there. I can only think of a couple of other teams of people I’ve worked with over the years that I’ve felt this comfortable with. If playing grab ass is one of their ways of interacting, count me in.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What a Week

As usual, I'm typing this as fast as I can so I can get on a bus home before they stop running. I have the added incentive of having a very long document with a complicated format to type tonight for my pule and SRO. They've been working on it for several weeks. They told me five minutes before I left school that they needed to have it typed by the time school starts tomorrow. I'd complain that that's PC life for you, but actually, it's life anywhere you have a job, in my experience.

Here's a quick synopsis of the last week. I'll be adding more entries and some great photos as soon as I can. No, I don't have a phone yet, or internet at home. I applied for the land line 3 weeks ago today but no word. I'm hopeful but not optimistic that I'll have it next week.

Ok, I heard about my friend's death on Thursday afternoon. On Friday I decided I wasn't up for hosting a housewarming and postponed it. Good thing, since on Saturday I got food poisoning. I was sick as a dog for a few days. Happily, I have an indoor bathroom, with running water.

Not to worry that I was sick alone. My family came to check on me. My SRO came to check on me and my pule came to check on me. After being out of school Monday and Tuesday, I went back on Wednesday. Weak as a kitten, but back. Figured I'd get some food in me and I'd been drinking as much water as I could but started feeling worse instead of better. Stomach was now fine, just "puny".

3 friends arrived on Maunday Thursday for the start of our "grand tour of Savaii" weekend. I was determined I was going, puny or not.

Woke up Friday with a badly infected toe. It had been slightly infected and I'd been soaking it in hot water and using antibiotic cream. Clearly not enough.

Hated to do it, but started the trip off with a trip to the hospital. It's close to me and across the street from the "good" store in Tuisivi, so they dropped me off and went to the store. Here's my experience at the hospital:

Walked in to outpatient and was asked to register, down the hall. Did that. Took approximately 2 minutes. Went back to outpatient and was asked to have a seat in the clean/air-conditioned room. Waited less than 10 minutes to see a charming doc. While I waited I was hugged by two different nurses.

The doc diagnosed a rare disorder. It's an unusual kind of fungal infection that you can only get in Samoa. Ok, that's a load of crap. It's an infected ingrown toenail on my big toe. She prescribed antibiotics and told me to have the script filled across the hall. A nurse cleaned up and bandaged my toe and hugged me goodbye.

While I was waiting for the prescription, my friends came back from the store, so timing was perfect. All told, it took less than 30 minutes and cost less than $30 US.

We headed out for the tour. We started by heading north. We saw lava fields. Some of us swam with turtles while others took photos. I would have been in the water but figured my toe deserved a break. Sesa didn't stop smiling during the entire turtle experience. It cost $5 tala per person. A bargain.

Next we headed to the spot I wanted to see - Seki A Pizza. Reputed to be the best pizza in Samoa. It was. And not overly pricey. Ironically, it's only an hour from me but because of bus schedules, I may not get pizza there again for quite awhile.

Because we're gluttons and I wanted to see Le Lagota, a fancy resort, we went there next for dessert. Banana tart with coconut ice cream and chocolate drizzle. OMG. While sitting overlooking a long, wide beach with only a few people. I really am working hard in the PC and have lots of deprivations, but this was just one of the moments over the holiday that I felt like "beach corps".

After gorging ourselves, we hopped (ok, slouched) back in the RAV-4 and headed off. We headed toward the Dwarf Caves and a crater and ended up on a very bad, hilly road in BFE. Never did find the crater, but laughed our heads off and generally had an enjoyable time.

Back on the main road we headed to the bat cave. No, really, it's a cave right by the main road with lots of bats. The batmobile stayed outside.

Next we went to Asau where we rudely dropped in on another volunteer. He was gracious, even though he was busy working on the same project I'll be typing tonight. We spent the night at a fabulous resort called Vai Moana. Reasonable prices (about $40, USD, per person and included dinner and full breakfast) and the food was extraordinary.

I realize I'm beginning to sound like I'm writing for Bon Appetit, but hey, I didn't eat for almost a week. I was hungry. I'll give details later but discovered if you shred vi (known as the Samoan apple) and smother it in coconut cream, it is amazing. Then dip hot buttered toast in it and you have the breakfast of ...fat people. But happy fat people.

After a relaxing Saturday morning we headed off for...lunch! We connected with another volunteer who joined us at another stellar resort. I want to stay there sometime. $85 tala for an over-the-waves private apartment. Meals included. That's about $40 US.

Then we became real tourists. We stopped at the blowholes. Aside from the food, watching a guy throw coconuts into a hole so they ocean could blow them a couple of hundred feet in the air had me laughing and clapping. Video to come. Stellar. I was also feeling more human by then.

We stopped at some waterfalls, where only Sesa was willing to change into her swim attire in the car. Got some great photos of her. Not changing, you perverts, but under the waterfall.

Did some shopping in Salelologa and headed home. We spent Sat/Sunday nights at my house. Went to mass on Sunday. Ate, slept and mostly, talked.

I was back in school today and life is back to normal. I feel human. The kids are being end-of-term wild, but controllable, and I'm definitely part of the community. Of course I still don't know when someone calls me by name and says hello if it's because they know me or just have heard of me, so I commit social gaffes on a regular basis. On the bus coming to town this afternoon a woman acted as if she knew me, so I acted like I knew her.

You know that game you play at cocktail parties when you think you should know someone but can't for the life of you remember who the heck they are? Of course then she pointed out that she'd never met me but knew about me because she knows Lissa who used to be a volunteer and heard that I once visited Lissa's house. Yes, I did. October, 2010.

At the market a woman said "Did you go to school today?" "Yes, I teach in Faga." "I know, you teach my son." Oh, crap. Missed that one. So when the lady outside the Post Office called me by name and said hello, I just said hello and kept moving.

There's no question the people here think I'm a bit slow. They could be right. BTW, I came into town specifically for mail. I'm hoping a couple of packages arrive soon since they were shipped over a month ago. Mail is delivered every Tuesday and today is Tuesday. is the Tuesday after a holiday Monday, so there will be no mail until tomorrow. The earliest I can get back to check mail is next Monday. Oh, well.

Bottom line, I'm healthy. We had a great trip and Easter was excellent, with great food, if I do say so myself. We splurged and bought a tiny canned ham and had a dinner that involved ham/fresh pineapple/edam, glazed carrots and mashed potatoes. And palusami and taro, courtesy of my family. It is Samoa, after all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It Went From 5 to 1

I've been having a five popo week, right up until 2 minutes ago, when I found out a friend died. He is the father of one of my closest friends. For about 12 years before coming to the Peace Corps I spent every Christmas with his family.

I wish I could be with be in Boston with them. For them, and for myself. This is by far the hardest moment since joining the Peace Corps. I feel very far from home and very alone.

To all the "Chicks"...please know my heart and prayers are with you as your celebrate Pete's life.

New Address

Please note that my address has changed. Long story, but has nothing to do with my new house. I appreciate all the cards, letters and packages!

Nancy Magsig
Peace Corps Volunteer
Salelologa Main Office
Savaii, Samoa

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time Flies

I have a brand new toilet. And thanks to the gap between wall and roof, plenty of fresh air.

I've been busy. That's my excuse for not posting more regularly. Yes, I've been busy with school. Yes, still settling into my wonderful new house. But it's an excuse.

Time seems to be flying by and I find it hard to believe that this week was my six month anniversary in Samoa.

This is just a quick update on my recent week (5 popo, by the way)so you don't think I disappeared into a banana plantation.

I showed up at school recently wearing one black sandal and one blue sandal. That was embarassing. It was worse, since they were both right shoes. It wasn't a big deal, since I frequently don't wear my shoes all day, but the kids found it amusing.

The funniest part, I thought, was the reaction of some of the teachers. One gently asked why I was wearing shoes like that. I had to explain that my light is on the opposite side of the house as the door, and my shoes. So I turn out the light, put on my shoes in the dark and head out. Didn't notice until it was too late to turn around. No, it wasn't a fashion statement.

Last night when I undressed I realized I'd worn my underwear inside out all day. I really have to start paying more attention.

A lone chicken was pecking around the playground the other day when a herd of little kids ran out at interval. Watching the chicken try to escape was a hoot. The squawking and flapping of wings was worthy of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Ever met a kid who'd never heard of Bugs Bunny? Or Mickey Mouse? I know a bunch of them.

I've started "sneaking" puzzles to the kids before school. Cross-words and word search. Kids are begging for them. I'm keeping them black market and unofficial to keep up the allure. I thought one of my slower students just wanted them for the paper until he showed me his collection. All complete and neatly stapled together. He wants to save them.

I've started slipping in challenging comprehension worksheets to some of the more advanced students. I call them puzzles. They stay after school with me to work on them.

My biggest challenge last week was getting the kids to leave at the end of the day. The highlight of the week was when every kid in year 7 did a role play - storekeeper and shopper. One sold, one bought, then they traded places. Every single kid did it...twice. In English. And they didn't want to stop because they realized they could make jokes. "How much is the cabbage?" "$100 tala." "How much is that big TV?" "One seine."

It was a good week. I'm in Apia tonight. I ate pizza yesterday. Indian for lunch. Got a hair cut. Met new friends and spent quality time with people I care a lot about. A very good weekend.

I have to go now. There's Chinese food waiting out there, somewhere.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Day In the Life

Free food! A delicious spaghetti sandwich I was served for lunch one day.
For those going through the pain of waiting for their invitation to serve. I know the frustration. You’ve been to the doctor, the dentist, you’ve submitted reams of paperwork. While you’re waiting to get a phone call with a D.C. area code, here’s something to keep you distracted: what a typical day is like in Peace Corps Samoa.

I woke up late, for me, this morning. About 7. The sun was coming up. I didn’t bother to shower, since I’d showered before bed last night. I said “Malo” to the kids who live in the fale very close to mine and who were screaming my name as soon as I opened the curtains. I did the morning “Dead Bug Hunt” and picked up 4 dead bugs. 1 large spider and 3 roaches. Picking up the dead bugs is important because they attract armies of ants. I feed them to the chickens in my yard.

I put on the socially acceptable t-shirt and long skirt and headed out to the bus. I waited. I waited some more. After about 20 minutes, a bus came by. Waiting isn’t bad, since I sit in the covered fale at the school with a beautiful view and pleasant breeze. The bus wasn’t crowded, which made it a pleasant ride to Salelologa.

I went straight to the market and stupidly headed first to the seafood. I should have waited to buy my fish so I didn’t have to carry it around, but was excited about buying some lobster. The lobster was limited, though, and too expensive. So I bought a small tuna for $10 tala.

I went into the market proper and shopped for vegetables and fruit. I spent about $30 tala on bananas, bok choy, carrots, avocado and some donuts. I gave one of the donuts to one of my students who helped me carry my stuff around the market.
It was raining and there were no busses leaving, so I paid $3 for a cab to the internet café. I know the guys there and it was nice to see them. I asked if it was ok to leave the fish outside because of the smell and they agreed, although suggested I work quickly, since sun and fish don’t mix.

After checking email, I headed out with my bags of food to wait for another bus to the village. I stood by the road for about 45 minutes before one came. After a 50 minute ride, I was home, ready to clean and fillet my fish.

After preparing some fish for dinner and some for the freezer, I ate the palusami that I’d bought at the market. The guy I usually buy from wasn’t’ there and this baked taro leaves with coconut cream wasn’t as good. Still tasty, though.
After a nap, I considered the lesson planning I needed to do. Decided to go for a swim instead. I walked the ten minutes to an empty beach. The water was refreshing but rough, with a strong wind and current. I swam for about an hour and got out to dry off and read. It was perfect. As I walked home, about 14 kids yelled to me.

Once I got home, I listened to a podcast of This American Life while showering and sweeping the floor, which is a twice a day activity to try to keep the sand under control. Then I made dinner. Sautéed tuna, some leftover coleslaw and avocado. Lovely.

I watched “Gladiator” on my laptop, then turned in early to read for a couple of hours.

A typical Monday starts at 6:00 a.m. when I get up and plug in the iron to spruce up my puletasi. While it’s heating up, I do the Dead Bug Hunt and put water on to boil for tea and oatmeal. I head into the shower and put on a t-shirt and lava lava to avoid the puletasi as long as possible.
I enjoy my oatmeal, usually with a banana, along with a cup of tea or koko Samoa. Once in awhile I indulge myself with one of the flavored cocoa packets from my friend Donna. I blow dry my hair until it’s almost dry and wipe on some lipstick. I climb into the uniform puletasi of the day and do one quick run through of the house, making sure the bed is made, floor is swept, dishes are done and everything is tidy.

I grab my computer bag, purse, bag of school supplies, lunch, bottle of filtered water and 2 liter bottle of frozen water for the other teachers. Looking like a Sherpa heading for the summit, I walk out to face an amazing sunrise over the lagoon. It’s a five minute walk to school and I usually run into kids as soon as I hit the road in front of my house.

Until 7:45, I chat with other teachers, prep for my first class and hang out with kids while they play on my computer. I teach Year 7 every day from 8-9. From 9-10 I have a planning period, which usually means I’m helping make copies, typing something for someone, or doing other chores, like fixing a laptop. I rarely have much actual planning time during school.
From 10:00 – 10:40 I teach a different class each day, from Year 1 on Mondays to Year 4 on Thursdays.

Interval is from 10:40 to 11:10, although it usually stretches a bit longer. During interval the kids play outside and eat snacks brought by their parents or purchased from one of the canteens. I usually have some leftovers from the night before with the other teachers while they share my leftovers and have ramen. I’ve learned to bring plenty of leftovers, since they are fascinated by what I cook and always want a taste.

From 11:30 to noon every day, I teach Year 8. From 12:30 – 1:30 I teach the two Year 6 classes. School is dismissed at 1:30.
I usually stay after school with some kids, playing computer games or talking until 2:00 or so. Then I head home. I either do laundry or go for a swim then. On Tuesdays, I head to Salelologa for a quick trip to the post office and the internet café. I usually also stop at Frankies/Malosis to see what the meat situation is. I’ve found decent hamburger there twice, in four months. By the way, I’m not sure of the name of the store. Some people call it Frankies. Some call it Malosis. There is no sign on the store. I just know it closes at 4 p.m. so I can’t dawdle at the post office or internet.

I’m usually home by 5. I sweep the floor again, do prep work for school, then cook dinner. I usually read or watch a movie during dinner. I got copies of all the TV/movies brought by other volunteers and will hate it when they run out soon. I’m hoping once I get internet, I’ll be able to download some PBS podcasts to keep the entertainment train rolling.

I typically take a walk in the evening, which is when most people are out on the main road, playing volleyball, rugby or just walking/hanging out. I’m back home before dark, which is before 8.

I wind down with soft music and candlelight, enjoying a quiet evening with Mr. Kindle. We usually turn out the light about 10.
It’s not a glamorous life, but I’m enjoying it. So far, there are enough breaks in the routine to keep it interesting. I have so much interaction with teachers and kids during the day that I’m ready for peace and quiet in the evening and don’t feel lonely. All in all, I couldn’t ask for more.

Dylan and Sawyer

 Palagi men in the house!

Dear Diary, I met a boy today.  Actually, I met two.  After another great day at school, I headed to the beach to see some fish and escape the heat.   At the beach fales, I noticed people in the water, which is unusual.  The woman who owns the beach fale was there and said they were University students.  I thought she said American, but then she told me which village they were from, so I was confused. Typical for me here.
I confess, I’m a bit of a tourist snob.  I live here and consider myself in a different category from those who fly in for a week (snobbish). But I was intrigued that they might be American.  I chatted with Sawyer and Dylan as they left the water.
I invited them for dinner to enjoy some “Mexicanesque” food.  We spent a lovely evening together.  I also invited Peter to come by.  He’s the 17 year old college student in my family.  He’s an avid reader, speaks better English than most Americans  I know and is interested in learning.  We chatted for a bit, but I confess, it felt a bit awkward.  Four strangers from two different cultures, feeling their way through the social waters.
Peter had to leave and we moved on to dinner.  I made a concoction of macaoroni, chili beans, onions, cheese, green chiles and for two of us, chicken.  Dylan is a lifelong vegetarian, so enjoyed his sans moa.  They guys seemed to enjoy the food.  We also enjoyed a cocktail, courtesy of the gracious guests.
One of the things I love about travel is meeting people.  It really is a small world.  For example, the director of their semester abroad program, who is American, served in the PC here 40 years ago, which is where she met her husband.  She’s lived here ever since.  The green chiles in the dinner were sent to me by a wonderfully generous RPCV, Kit, who also served in Samoa 40 years ago.  Suppose they know each other?  I’m sure they do and am looking forward to making the connection.
The evening involved good conversation ranging over an array of topics.  Beautiful music, provided by Sawyer, who surprised me with his talent.  When he started tuning up, I knew he wasn’t an amateur, but when he started singing, it was magic.
Hugs all around before they headed back to the beach fale.  I hope to see them again before they head back to the States in a couple of months, but realize it probably won’t happen.  I’m left with the impression of two smart, independent young men.  Describing them as “good” seems trite, but accurate.  My sense is I could trust them with my wallet or my daughter, assuming I had one.
Good job, parents of Dylan and Sawyer.  They were my first guests in my new home and I couldn’t have asked for better.
 P. S.  I deliberately left all the curtains open while the guys were here.  After they left, I closed them, turned out the lights, lit the candles and put on some music, which has become my evening routine.  About two minutes later, there was a knock at my door.  I was shocked, since no one has ever come to the house after dark.  It was Peter.  His father had sent him to see if the guys needed an escort to get them safely back to the beach fales.  I don’t know if the concern was their safety or my reputation, but either way it was a nice gesture.