Sunday, September 25, 2011

What Time Is It??

Samoa “sprang forward” Friday night, as part of the adoption of Daily Savings Time.  The country only began DST 2 years ago and it seems there are still some wrinkles to work out.

I’m used to the US, where the time changes at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Which Sunday morning is communicated everywhere.  Here, not so much.  I don’t get the newspaper and don’t have a television.  I heard from my family on Saturday morning that the switch happened the night before.  Instead of 7:00 a.m., it was 8:00 a.m.

I wondered why my cell phone time hadn’t changed.  It still showed 7:00 a.m.  I watched as the ferry, Lady Samoa III pulled out of the Salelologa wharf at 8:00 a.m.  Not the former 7:00 a.m., but the time my cell phone and watch still showed – pre-“springing”.  Did we really change time or was my family misinformed?

In the middle of the afternoon I looked at my phone and voila…the time had changed.  I went ahead and changed my watch and the one clock I have. 

This morning I went to church based on the new DST.  Other people were out and about so I wasn’t the only one who’d changed her watch.  But church, instead of starting at 9:00 a.m. started at 10:00.  Which used to be 9:00 a.m., if you’re following me.

Last week we were told that school start time is changing starting tomorrow.  Instead of starting at 7:45 a.m., we’ll start at 8:45 a.m.,  I was bummed about the later hours but now realize that we’re actually starting at the same time we always have, just the clocks are different.  Which negates the benefits of DST, doesn’t it?

I thought I was all set until I started putting dinner on to cook.  As usual, I was listening to the radio as I cooked.  They started listing the times in a variety of cities around the world.  Imagine my surprise when they announced it was 5:15 p.m.  No!  According to my cell phone and clocks it is 6:15 p.m.  Did China not get the memo?

One thing I’ve learned is that things will start when they start.  I may be early.  I may be late.  No matter what, I don’t understand life here well enough to be on time, so DST or not, it doesn’t really matter.  Tomorrow, when the sun is up and kids are rolling down the road in front of my house, I’ll know it’s time to head to school.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More Photos

The tallest building in Savaii.  Lusia's Resort Lagoon, where HB spent her first couple of nights.

Just some of the food I was served during the going away fiafia.  Chicken, palusami, pork, taro, potato salad, chop suey.  A couple minutes later they brought another plate of food.  The good news:  palagis are not expected to eat everything on their plate(s) and no food goes to waste.

This is where you can swim with the sea turtles.  The little girl gave cut up papaya for us to feed to the turtles.  She spoke English and Samoan...a lot!  She was adorable.  

This sign is at Vai Moana resort in Asau.  No kidding, falling coconuts are dangerous.  Someone at the resort apparently got beaned with one.  Ouch.

Clear, cool water at the beach in Faleolupo, western Savaii.

This was taken during the Samoan Indpendence Day celebration.  Imagine my surprise when I recently found out that these tattooed "warriors" are actually teachers and friends of some of my teachers.


So far this morning I washed my sheets in a bucket, took a bus to the market, where I bought 2 avocados and a whole tuna (for $10, USD), walked 1 1/2 miles to the store to buy bread.  Walked home to get money, then back to the store to pay what I owed since I didn't have enough money on my first visit and now I'm resting before doing my lesson plans.

As a result, I'm too pooped to write.  Instead, I hope you'll enjoy these photos...

Sunset in Asau, Savaii

There was a lot of emotion when we said goodbye to the Year 7 teacher moving to New Zealand.  I'm going to be a teary mess when it's my turn to say goodbye.

All the kids brought going away gifts.  They included cash, lava lavas (sarongs) and most often, laundry detergent and bars of soap.

These are two of the top Year 8 students - both great kids.  The girl dragged the boy onto the dance floor and got down.  The crowd loved it.  That's my buddy Meripa, Year 5 teacher, in the background.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Even More Photos

Ok, here's the deal:  because I'm uploading with dial-up, I have to do it in a series of posts.  Sorry!  More photos from HB.

We had a nice lunch at Le Lagoto, a resort near Manase.

We were next door neighbors with over-the-rocks bungalows until high tide, when the small waves broke over the rocks under our beds.  So nice.  So relaxing.  This is at Vai Moana in Asau.  A bargain and the best food in Savaii, in my opinion.  For the fale, dinner (which included a lobster and chicken) and breakfast - about $80 USD.

Have I mentioned we have some decent beaches on Savaii?  This one is in Faleolupo.

On the west coast of Savaii are some spectacular cliffs.  This is near "lover's leap" where there's a famous legend about a daughter and mother who jumped to their death.  

Another scenic spot for lunch.  They brought us our meal while we sat at the picnic table.  You can rent the room on stilts on the beach.  Only drawback - the shared bath facilities are up the steps off the beach.  This place is in the village of Sagone.

We spent our last night in ocean front rooms at The Savaiian, a lovely resort in a village very close to mine.  Nice grounds, eh?  Our dinner there that night was sashimi, poke (raw fish with a spicy marinade) and oka (raw fish in coconut cream).  It was an extravaganza of raw fish!

More Photos

Here are some more of HB's photos:

The beach across the street from my house.  I know, tough life.

Ever seen a church filled with lava?  The church was there first.  The volcano erupted in 1905.  

We saw sea turtles.  We also enjoyed the 8 year old girl who cut up a papaya to feed the turtles.  She talked non-stop in English and Samoan.  One of the few people who talks more than me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Here are some photos HB took.  Enjoy...
We were the only ones at the blowholes.  Love 'em.

Our assembly hall is still under construction, so we had the ceremony to announce grades and say goodbye to a teacher moving to New Zealand in a classroom.  A bit crowded with teachers, kids and parents.  Notice the kids with fingers to their lips.  It's to remind them to be quiet.  Also notice the bare feet - about half the kids don't wear shoes to school.

After the ceremony, each class dances.  Parents and teachers put money into a box on the floor to show their appreciation.  The money was a gift to the departing teacher.  Since there's nothing more entertaining than a dancing palagi, I danced with every class.

After the kids and parents left we had a feast...and more dancing.  That's me dancing with Fono - the teacher moving to New Zealand.  I'm wearing one of my work puletasis.  Polyester.  You try teaching primary school in a tropical climate with no air conditioning and a floor length skirt.  BTW - I'm 5'10".

Fale, sweet fale.  I love my house, which is next door to the school.  The door in the back leads to the bathroom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Update and Some Small Things

During the two week school break I spent the first week in Apia in training.  Most of us brought a Samoan counterpart and the goal was to work on our project plan.  I worked with another teacher, who’s also a friend.  Our goal is to get some new computers and get them networked to access the internet router that a local company just installed.  They’re doing a program that provides free internet access to primary schools.  We just need to find funds for the computers, and then I’ll train other teachers and students to use them.

Training was challenging – both because it was delivered in Samoan and because I was sick.  By the end of training last Friday I was sick enough that PC kept me in a hotel in Apia for a few days.  If you’re thinking elegant, with room service and a Jacuzzi, you have not seen the PC budget for Samoa.   

The best thing about the training was the humor and excitement of the Samoans present.  They were enthusiastic and brought the same bawdy humor to the class that I’ve experienced with the teachers at my school.

This week I rested.  The rest and medicine worked and now I just have sniffles and a slight cough.  I’m ready to go back to school.

Also ready to get internet back at home.  My phone has been “temporarily disconnected” and I have to visit the office in Salelologa.  I’ve paid the bill, so that’s not it.  As slow as my dial up was, I miss it.

Now, on to some more interesting things.  It’s the small things that I enjoy noticing.  Little differences between home and here.

I was on the bus recently and had but my hand on the back of the seat across the aisle to brace myself.   The seats on the bus are narrow and some Samoans and I are wide.  Usually, it’s a 1 cheek ride and the curves can get tricky. 

A little girl, about 7 years old was sitting cattycorner and watching me.  When we made eye contact I smiled.  She looked away.  A few minutes later I felt something touching my thumb.  It was the little girl.  She was gently rubbing my polished thumbnail.  She was looking at it with a serious look.  I just smiled at her.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a Samoan woman here cross her legs.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor, yes, but just sitting with legs crossed, no.  This morning I sat with two Kiwi’s at my church who are staying at the nearby resort.  We three palagi women had our legs crossed for most of the service.  Looking around, I noticed none of the Samoan women did.  I’ve noticed it before. 

I also noticed after about 30 minutes, the Kiwis started fidgeting a bit.  Understandable, since we were sitting on a wooden pew and the service was all in Samoan.  I’m used to it now. 

BTW, the Kiwis gave me an email address and said they’d send me the names of a few Mexican restaurants in Auckland.   I have to keep my expectations low and not expect the Arizona/New Mexico style of food I love. 

In a fight between a chicken and a 4 month old puppy, I’ve learned to bet on the chicken.

Why do the pigs like to sleep outside my window?  The window next to my bed?  I can understand that they get hungry at 3 a.m., but do they need to argue with the dogs about it?  There is no food outside my house. 

The woman who owns the Tuisivi store told me she found someone from New Zealand who’s living in the area and is going to start baking whole wheat and multi-grain bread as soon as they can get the supplies.  Cheese and multi-grain bread?  Hot diggity!  There was also some Malaysian cream of mushroom soup.  I’ve discovered I really like the Guatemalan cheese balls they sell at the store.  I’ve noticed several Guatemalan imports.  How does that happen?

If acknowledgements as I walk down the street or ride a bus is any indication of my level of integration in the community I’m doing well.   On the way to and from church this morning about 80% of the people I passed honked, waved or yelled.  Even the two Kiwis who came to church said they knew my name because several people had pointed me out earlier in the week.  When HB was here she laughed about how I’ll have to get used to being a “nobody” again when I come home, after my village fame.  No kidding.  People hardly ever waved at me in the parking lot at Albertsons.

I saw a little boy on the bus, drinking from a small can.  He was sucking on it as if it was a juice box, but it was small and round.  I realized a few minutes later he’d been drinking the juice from Vienna Sausages.  Then he opened the can and shared them with his grandmother.  I’ll stick with Kool-Aid.

Today was the first day of the new term.  I had over 100 kids for the day.  Then I rode the bus for an hour, hit the market, went to the internet cafe where I couldn't mail a report to PC that was due, then I walked to the telephone company where I had a challenging conversation.  After an hour ride home, I realized I was supposed to be at volleyball.  I was hot, sweaty and just wanted to relax with a cool drink and my fan but changed out of my school puletasi and headed to voli.  It's a short walk and I was surprised to be attacked by 3 dogs on my way.  I'd never seen them before.  I yelled and tried to find rocks to throw at them.  They'd surrounded me and were aggressive. 

I'd just said hello to several of my neighbors as I passed and they heard the commotion.  They sent a teenager to throw rocks and get the dogs to leave me alone.  The dogs ran off, I thanked the teenager and kept walking to voli.   I heard hearty laughter as I walked away.  Samoan humor.


The Tourist Me

She arrived!  HB landed at Faleolo airport on time a couple weeks ago.  I’d met a lovely group of Kiwis on the ferry and they gave me a ride from the wharf to the airport.  Then they showed me a new restaurant on the grounds of the airport.  The time passed quickly as I waited for HB and the Kiwis waited to take her plane back to Auckland.

Everyone was excited about HB’s arrival.  There were big crowds, television cameras, police, sirens, music.  Or wait, was it for HB or because Samoa’s rugby team, Manu Samoa, was taking her plane back to Auckland for World Cup?  In any case it was a bit of a zoo and quite the event.  Best for me was that I got to watch the buff athletes mingle with the crowd, signing autographs and taking photos. 

I’ll be writing more details (you know me, why be brief when there are so many words available?) about our time together, but  will first give you a general overview and then work backwards.  Stick with me.

Wednesday night we just got settled.  Rented a car – I highly recommend Sina and the gang at Salufai Motor Rentals, tafatafa CCK.  $100 tala a day special for a car with air con.  I’d booked HB into the Savaiian but they’d come to me the previous day to say they’d double booked and she’d have to stay elsewhere.  They generously booked her at Lusias which is the weekend home of many of the Savaii PCVs and paid half her rate there.

Thursday and Friday she joined me at school.  Friday deserves a whole post since it was prize giving and a farewell fiafia for the Year 7 teacher leaving for New Zealand.  HB got to join an authentic Samoan experience that was filled with tears, laughter, dancing, singing and food.  And speeches, of course. 

Saturday HB picked me up at my beautiful house and we were off.  Headed toward sea turtles and lava fields.  I officially set aside my PC persona and was feeling very much the palagi tourist as we drove off in the air conditioned rental car.

Saturday night we stayed at Va i Moana.  I love it there and we had the perfect rooms.  Fales on stilts over the water.  At low tide we could see the rocks below the fales.  At high tide, which happened to be bedtime, the small waves were hitting the rocks and making a joyful noise.  There were fresh frangipani flowers on our pillows.  Dinner was included and since we were there on a Saturday night it was private tables on the beach, lit by torches and candles.  A couple played the guitar and softly sang Samoan music that blended with the sounds of the waves.  It was very romantic.  Yes, I love HB to death but admit it would have been nice to have been sharing the evening with a romantic partner.  Ah well, we laughed about it and enjoyed the dinner of lobster, palusami, taro, octopus in coconut cream and barbecued chicken.    All that, plus breakfast came to about $80 US each.  I’m talking room over the water and food.  Yeah, it doesn’t get any better.

Sunday we continued our tourist ways, since Vai Moana wasn’t able to let us keep our rooms a second night.  We went to Faleolupo to see the most western place this side of the International Dateline, or it will be until we hop to the other side of the dateline at the end of this year.

We had lunch on a beach and enjoyed feeding fries to a cat who ate them using his paws.  We had the blowholes to ourselves and got pictures, video and some good laughs.  We drove, we talked and I really felt like a tourist. 

HB is incredibly generous.  She brought toys, books, electronics and more for the kids and a bunch of stuff for me.  She funded my weekend as a tourist.  She gave me a weekend away from the stress and strain of being a PCV and reminded me that I live in paradise.  Thanks, H.  I’ll never be able to repay you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Visit Was Divine

I have 30 minutes before I have to be in training, here in Apia, so this will be brief.

HB arrived on schedule and she got the whole Samoan experience.  A fiafia at the school, sea tutles, sleeping in an over-the-water bungalow...the list goes on.

I was a bit under the weather when she arrived and have gotten worse.  Luckily since I'm in Apia and the PC doctor is here to do close of service physicals on the volunteers leaving over the next few months, I got to see him.  Got a bunch of drugs and a diagnosis of a cold and upper resperatory infection.  I also have what appears to be a pre-cancerous growth on my face so will see a specialist when I'm in Auckland at Christmas.

If it seems that I've been sick a lot, it's true.  Nothing major and nothing anyone who works with young children doesn't experience.  Snot happens.

Bottom line, it was great to see HB, who was an adventurous, cheerful and flexible guest.  She brought a ton of goodies for me and the school and the time with her as "Nancy, the Tourist" instead of "Nancy, the PCV" was a very welcome break.

I hope you can make it again before I leave, HB!