Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bits and Pieces of a 5 Popo Week

 It's feeling a lot like home.  The quilt was a gift from a woman in the village I adore. BTW, you're looking at all my furniture except for a green plastic chair.
Did you think you’d really escape another house update?  Insert evil laugh here.  Don’t worry, this one is all good news.  I’ve been in the house for two weeks now and it feels like home.  It’s close to the school, which is very convenient.  It’s close to a beautiful beach, which is amazing.  It gives me space to be alone and a kitchen where I can cook whatever my heart desires.  Well, as long as my heart desires the fairly limited number of ingredients that I can get here.
In retrospect, I think spending time in a small room with no kitchen access and a bathroom shared with up to a dozen people helps me appreciate the place I have now.  I don’t notice the faults, because I’m still thrilled to have a refrigerator and a sink.  I don’t think I needed three months to get that perspective, but water under the bridge.  Bottom line, the house is great and I’m very happy here.  It’s been a five popo week and you’d have to pry me out of here with a crowbar.
On to some things I’ve noticed…
An older man was getting off the bus and I noticed his unusual wristband.  It was a beer coozy with the bottom cut out.  Decorative or functional?  No idea.
Samoans seem to like bright colors and sparkly things.  Two of my school puletasi’s have some type of glitter in the fabric.  A puletasi that was a gift was hand painted with glitter paint.  I’ve never been one for sparkly attire, but kind of like the tiny flecks of glitter left behind on my skin.  Like I’ve been out at a club for the day instead of in school.
Samoans have asked if I’ll wear puletasis after I go home.  When I say “Probably not.” Some seem offended.  One was a woman who lives in New Zealand.  I asked if she wore puletasis there.  “No!” she laughed.  “Can you imagine how people would stare if you wore one to the mall?”  My point exactly.  I will bring my favorites home and will wear them to a few gatherings with friends, just so they can see what my daily attire here is like.
As I type this, I’m listening to a conch horn.  I assume it’s the signal that it’s time to be inside for evening prayer or lotu.  Most of the churches ring a bell or something similar to a bell (like an old oxygen tank) that makes noise.
In the training village when AOG rang the bell, it was as if it was inside my head because it was so close.  It was more annoying than inspiring.  In my current house, it’s just far enough away to be sort of soothing and reassuring.  Except at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings.  That one is still just kind of annoying.
I’d heard that fruit bats were extinct here.  That is not true.  I saw them in the training village.  Big suckers and I’d hate to get dive bombed by one, not that that is likely to happen.  In Savaii, in both my first place and my current house, I hear them at night.  I can hear the wings flapping but mostly I hear what sound like fruit bat fights.  Or maybe it’s fruit bat sex.  I don’t know and don’t really care, but it’s really loud and a bit similar to a cat fight.  Or cat’s having sex.  Except higher pitched and doesn’t usually last as long.  Thank goodness.
Did you know that when pigs are hungry and know that it’s about dinner time they make a lot of noise?  It sounds as if they’re being slaughtered.  Or having sex.  It lasts as long as it takes whoever is preparing the food to start shoveling it out to them.
Speaking of which, the primary food for pigs in Samoa is popo - coconut.  Which means a lot of work.  The coconuts have to be taken down off the trees.  They have to have the husk removed, which is physically challenging.  Then you have to whack the bejeebers out of the coconut with the dull side of a machete.  Then you use the sharp side to score and scrape out chunks of coconut.  I’ve tried from three different families to get a popo per pig ratio of how much they eat.  The response in all three cases was “The right amount.”  Yes, but what is that?  20 popo per pig?  10? 50?  In one case, I was told it was enough to fill two buckets.  That’s the cut up popo.  I’m guessing it takes about 15 popo per pig, twice a day. 
All that popo results in a lot of poop.  I use a flashlight to walk through the yard in the morning to avoid pig, dog, chicken, horse and now bull poop.  I don’t have to walk through a muddy plantation, though, so now my foot issue is the sand I track in, rather than the mud.  So far, I prefer sand.
The other day I was walking to the office on the second floor of the school when I noticed one of the boys waving at me.  Not unusual, except he was looking down at me.  From the flag pole he’d shimmied up.  There’s been a problem with the ropes to hoist the flag and some boys were sent to fix it.  They did. 
I had a chance to be interviewed on camera the other day.  Yup, Monday morning, there I was, looking my sweaty best.  At least I assume I was.  I know I was glowing.  Not sure if I looked my best due to that no mirror thing.  So when a couple of guys showed up with what looked a lot like a TV camera, I hid.  No need to trot out the palagi for an interview.  Unfortunately, they found me.  One of the guys explained it was just to document the research on the use of multi-media in Samoan primary schools and hardly anyone would see it.
I felt better about doing the short interview, right up until the end when he said.  “That’s it for us, Samoa, thanks for watching!”  Please, God, let him be joking and I will not be on national television in Samoa.  Looking like I had just finished a rough session of Hokie Pokie on a really humid day.
I went for a walk last night.  Because I’m in a new neighborhood, I’m getting to interact with folks I haven’t met before.  I’m enjoying my status as a D list celebrity.   Not to brag, but if Kathy Griffin and I strolled down the street together, there would be more people yelling “Nancy!” than “Kathy”.  Granted, most of my fans are under the age of 12 and can’t help me make a living, but still.
As I walked, I could hear the kids alerting kids in the next yard over that I was coming.  The older kids generally tried to play it cool, with just a wave or nod.  Many used the greetings that we’d just practiced, instead of greeting me in Samoan.  Or just asking me for money in Samoan, which is all I got when I first arrived.
The little kids, many of whom have older siblings in school, didn’t hold back.  They lined up on the side of the road.  Some jumping up and down, others squatting, waiting for me to walk by like a 1 person Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.   And the entire walk, kids and some adults, were calling out my name.  It seems to be like a human vocal version of honking when you pass someone you know.
The kids do it at school.  If I walk by a classroom, even if they’re in the middle of a lesson, some of the kids will turn and yell “Nancy!” as I walk by.  They don’t want me to stop.  Just want to let me know they see me.  I wonder if this will last for two years.  If it does, I wonder if I can live without the attention when I leave.
On my walk the other night, I saw one of the Year 6 boys in the ocean with his younger siblings.  His youngest brother was a hoot.  I’m guessing he was about 4.  Wiry and strong, with attitude.  For no particular reason, other than the little kids at school love it, I started yelling “Bear!” then doing a grizzly imitation while chasing him into the water.  He and his sisters loved it.  Their mom and I were laughing out loud as they tripped over each other trying to escape from me.  The boy started playing “Bear” back at me and I acted terrified.  Great fun.
Then he started trying to sing the Bingo song.  At first I didn’t get it because the tune was totally not there, but I heard “NGO” and realized.  I started singing and he and his sisters sang along.  After a couple of times, the little sisters opted to go back in the water.  “Bear Boy”, though, couldn’t seem to get enough.  We’d finish and he’d yell “Toe fai!”  “Again!”  I almost lost my voice but smiled all the way home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Life is going well. The girl with the broken arm was taken to the hospital, eventually and they transferred her to the hospital in Apia. She's home and doing well. The kids are behaving, we had a major rainstorm and my house didn't leak and all right in my world. Hope you enjoy the photos!

A friend admitted she didn't know how bananas grew.  Here's a photo.
Occasionally we have special treats at tea time.  This is vaisalo.  Fabulous stuff, made of just the water from a niu (young coconut), some stuff like tapioca and boiled down until it thickens.  I'll be making this.  Low cal, healthy and delicious.
 The stickers you've sent are very popular.  These are on a math notebook.


I haven't seen a doll since I got to Samoa, so thought it was finny to see this tiny doll's arm near the beach fale.

This is for the Orlando firefighter whose wedding I'll miss.  These guys are the firefighters in Savaii.  Playing volleyball and chillin'.

Samoans are great at flower arranging, most with no training.  Arrangements like these are made by church members every week.  This lady sells hers in the market in Apia.  It would cost about $30 USD.

Hotel where I stayed one night in Apia.  About $50 USD.  No mattress, just box springs.  One sheet and mattress cover.  Sheets are sold here individually and I've never stayed in a home where I was given more than a bottom sheet. This is the hotel where I had to press the button to keep the water on while I showered.

Rare luxury to have an oven here, so people are creative.  They sell these deep fried cinnamon buns at school for about 20 cents US.  Delicious!  I try to avoid them.
  We (the kids) decorated because a meeting was being held at our school.  Nice, eh?

View from "my" beach.  5 minute walk from my new, wonderful house.

The "snack" that was served at morning tea at a teacher's meeting I attended.  coconut, papaya, avocado, a banana, 2 hard boiled eggs, crackers, sausages and fish sandwiches.

The lunch that was served 1 1/2 hours later.  Clockwise, from the whole fish in the right corner: lobster, octopus, limu, egg fu yung, fried checken, sausage, taro and half an orange.

My new kitchen and Anna, the woman whose family owns the home.

View from the back corner to the front door.  They laid new "carpet".

The new bathroom they added for me.
More photos to come!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shopping Details

I went to the market in Salelologa this morning. Saturday and Sunday mornings are best for fish shopping. I’m broke, since I had to front the money for my refrigerator and it will take a month or so for PC to reimburse me, so I was just window shopping.

There were lots of fe’e – octopus and several pusi – eels. A ton of reef fish of varying sizes and colors. Two items impressed me most. One was a huge yellow fin tuna that was going for $180. That’s about $75 USD for enough freshly caught tuna to feed a small army. Fresh enough for sushi, or in Samoa, oka, which is the raw tuna, onion, lemon juice and coconut cream concoction I love. The other was the lobster. I pointed at the largest one, about a 2-3 pounder, and was told $50. That's about $20 USD Then she explained that was for all of them, about 10. The big guy alone was $20 or about $8 USD. I’ll be back next week after we get our monthly stipend.

I always buy something from one woman. She appears to be elderly, but could be fifty. Hard to tell. She’s the grandmother (or mother?) of one of the boys in my school. She always greets me with a huge smile. We’ve now graduated to a hug/kiss on the cheek that is traditional here. I asked to buy a bunch of small ripe bananas for $3. She tossed in a second bunch (a total of about 2 dozen bananas) and five oranges. Which are bright green, but ripe. They just came into season and I’m looking forward to trying them.

I also bought a head of cabbage for $5, which was a steal. It’s been really expensive, as in $20 for a small head. I scored a bag of carrots for $5, a ready-to-eat serving of palusami (baked taro leaves and coconut cream) and some pankeke balls. I feel like they’re healthier when I think of them as pankeke instead of the donuts they actually are.

I bought chicken last night at my family’s faleoloa. $2.20 for three large chicken leg/thighs. Chicken is the biggest bargain and I don’t understand it. On the bus today a guy got on with two cases of the frozen chicken legs. Tyson. From the USA. How can they import chicken so cheaply but tp is really pricey?

Anyway, now you know what I’ll be dining on for the week. I’ll share the bananas with my family and the teachers.

Random Stuff

Good news. I found a work-around for my hardware issue and solved the software problem so I'll be uploading photos next week. Few words, lots of pix.

This is just a series of random thoughts and observations. I expect things to settle down soon, which will give me more time to be a bit more organized with posts. Also, I’m hoping to get a landline and internet in my new casa sometime in the next month. Here we go:

I told you in yesterday’s post about the girl with a broken arm. I forget to mention the young boy whose eye is swollen completely shut. I noticed it the other day and it seems to be getting worse. He says he scratched it with his finger in his sleep. It looks like his eye has been replaced by a tennis ball. He does not complain about it.

We had a professional development session this week. We observed traditional meeting protocol, which means that the presenter talks while everyone else continues chatting, texting and talking on cell phones. At first I tried to concentrate on the speaker, who speaks very softly, which is the custom here. Hard for me to hear and harder still to mentally translate. With the distraction of the other conversations, which were louder than the presenter, it was difficult and frustrating. I gave up and wrote ideas for this entry instead.

Corporal punishment is traditional here and although it’s been outlawed in the schools, it still happens. Thankfully, not so much in my school, although one teacher is known as a hitter. She led the assembly yesterday and called one boy over and sent him running into a classroom. He came back with a 3 foot stick, about 2 inches thick. She used it to hit him and a couple of other boys on the behind, hard. Seems they were fighting after school yesterday.

Have I mentioned I don’t have a mirror? They’re expensive and I found one that was “only” $25 tala, but it wasn’t actually a mirror, just a reflective surface and smudges couldn’t be wiped off. So, no mirror. I haven’t seen a full-length mirror since I got to Samoa. I just shower, dry my hair, get dressed and go. I feel beautiful, so I’m going with the theory that that’s how I look.
I wear lipstick, by the way. One of the teacher’s likes the color, so she frequently uses it. We share a lot here.

I think my friend Donna is having an affair with the guy in the post office in her town. Why else would she send me packages so often? She’s been wonderful about sending stuff I ask for along with some cool stuff she thinks I might enjoy.
Like the small packages of salami, pepperoni and jerky. I’d never even thought about it, but what a treat! Plus, small and packable. She remembered that I love peanut butter and salami sandwiches with grape jelly. Have I mentioned I have a weight issue? I also love peanut butter and avocado sandwiches. I introduced my former family to those, since avocados are cheap and plentiful in season here. Sadly, the season is about over.

Donna sent me a package of Tic Tacs. I offered some to one of the teachers. Shook a couple out into her hand and she looked at them. Then she looked at me. Then she looked at them. I popped mine in my mouth, so she did too. She was very surprised at the taste. I had the same experience with other teachers and one of the kids. The boy was clearly leery about putting them in his mouth but thrilled when he tasted it. Candy! I wonder what the reaction would be if I gave them Altoids?

I’m having shoe issues again. Two pairs I brought from the States have given up the ghost. Now a third pair is getting ready to die. Very sad, but I have found a couple of places in Samoa where I can get cheap sandals (not thongs) that I can wear. Just frustrating, but says something about how much I walk.

I was doing dishes last night and gazing out the window over the sink. Have I mentioned what a luxury it is to have an indoor kitchen after five months of not having one? I’m used to seeing the couple of big pigs and flock of chickens rooting around under the trees, so didn’t think anything of it when I noticed a pig. Wait, that’s a HUGE pig. No, it’s too big for a pig. It was a bull. I saw my “brother” moving it to a new place to graze this morning, so I guess we own a bull. I also discovered a horse tethered in the front yard.

I really like the people I work with. We chat before school, during recess and after school while they wait for the bus. Mostly they speak to me in Samoan and I answer in English. Sometimes they switch to English when we get stuck. I use as much Samoan as I know. I’m getting better but still light years away from fluent. Mostly we talk about sex. Specifically, we talk about my sex life. It is actually non-existent, but if you heard the conversations, you’d think I’m the village slut. They find it wildly amusing so every morning when they ask who I slept with the night before I make up wild stories. We laugh a lot. When I told them I thought I might be pregnant with the principal’s baby, I thought they’d hurt themselves laughing.

I sing hymns, on demand. Yesterday I sang Amazing Grace to 200+ kids in an effort to teach them. They’re good singers and learn quickly. We’ll be singing it again in assembly on Monday. I was given 5 minutes notice, by the way, that I’d be teaching an English hymn.

Flexibility. That’s the key to life in the Peace Corps.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What a Week!

Hard to give this week a popo rating. Guess it averages out to a 3. Highlights are the new house. I'm feeling very comfortable there and it makes such a difference.

I went snorkeling after school yesterday. Not a bad way to relax after a hot day of teaching.

The downside was this morning at school. A year 5 girl came in and one of the teachers and the former principal were talking to/about her. I glanced over and realized her arm was broken. A compound fracture of the forearm. She wasn't crying. They were questioning how she broke it and why she was playing rugby with the year 8 boys. I was thinking that the kid had to be in incredible pain.

I thought I understood them say they'd send her home (walking) so her mom could massage the arm. That's the most common treatment for bone breaks here. I asked if they were taking her to the hospital. They seemed to consider that and the teacher took her away.

I walked out to see what was happening and was told they were taking her to her mother, who would do the massage. They did suggest the hospital to her. I asked if it was lack of money that kept her from going to the hospital. Yes, along with the belief that massage is a great alternative.

When I was in the training village, I saw a man of about 20. Handsome and strong with a pronounced limp, caused by a broken bone that wasn't correctly set. The result of massage instead of a cast.

On a different note, I can still tell who voted in the election a few weeks ago. They all look like they got their right thumb caught in a car door. Black at the base of the nail. Seems it is the indelible ink used when they voted. Apparently a lot of people voted.

I'm glad it's Friday and looking forward to some lesson planning/preparation and snorkeling this weekend.

Differences in Samoa

It’s been almost a week in the new house now and it’s starting to feel like home.  I hung curtains.  Well, I stapled pieces of fabric, which is similar in a low budget kind of way.

One of the huge differences here is how open everything is.  Although palagi (western style) houses are becoming more popular, most folks still live in open fales, which means no walls.  If you’re taking a nap in the middle of the day and you live on the main road, everybody driving by will see you.

Whatever you own is on display.  Whatever you’re doing is right out there.  Completely different and hard to adjust to for me.  I grew up with my own room.  For the last umpteen years I’ve lived in my own house.  The house I’ve lived in for the last sixteen years or so not only has walls, it has a wall around the yard in back so even my pool is completely private.

My Florida house is close to my neighbors but because we have walls and window coverings and a culture that’s big on privacy, I don’t see my neighbors that often.  They were friendly and we’d wave and say hello as we saw each other pulling in and out of our garages.  We’d chat during morning or evening walks but we didn’t know the daily routines of each other’s lives.

That is very different here.  I now live on a compound that is composed of several houses.  I’m still not sure how many or who lives here.  Sound odd?  It’s because houses aren’t set in a row like a sub-division.  They’re sort of scattered, in fairly close proximity.  There’s a house at the front of our property, closest to the road.  I believe it is abandoned, but am not sure.

Behind that is a faleoloa (store) which is hugely popular with the school kids, since the school is next door.  The back of the faleoloa has living quarters but I’m not sure if anyone actually lives there or if they just hang out during business hours and use it as a TV room.

Next to the faleoloa, in front of my house, is a faleo’o, the traditional open fale with thatched roof.  I was told only one 17 year old sleeps there, but I’ve seen several family members napping there during the day and hanging out there until late into the evening.

Next to my house is the “big house”, which is more western, but windows on all sides and just one very large room on the inside.  I was told that “everyone” sleeps there, except the 18 year old.  That would be mom, dad, a first grader, and a brother who’ll be going back to the university next term.  There are two other brothers who live in Apia while attending University.

Behind the “big house” is the kuka or kitchen.  It’s a roof over an area where they make the cook fire, which is how they make food for each meal.  Next to the kuka is the toilet and next to that is the shower.  The shower is about 2 steps away from my back door.  It is not covered and given the proximity I can tell you every time someone takes a shower.

As far as I know, the only people using the kuka, toilet and shower are my immediate family. 

Sounds fairly simple, right?  Well, here’s where I get confused.  On the other side of me, just a few steps from my house, is another faleo’o.  I believe this one is only used for hanging out, much like we’d use a porch.  There’s a house next to that, along with bathroom and kuka, but I couldn’t tell you who lives there, other than one of my Year 7 boys.  He’s a cousin of my current family. 

In front of that house is a large western style house that I believe an uncle from New Zealand lives in, when he’s on the island.  I’m basing that on the fact that his truck is parked there.

The confusing part is that because Samoans are social and have large families, it seems to be very common to hang out or sleep wherever.  At both houses where I lived previously, I’d either come home or awakened to someone I’d never seen before sleeping on the floor.  No introductions were ever made.  When I asked, the explanation was usually along the lines of “Oh, family, you know.  Visiting.”  Some visits lasted a few days, others weeks.  Sometimes they spoke to me, sometimes not.

About speaking to me.  One of the challenges here that several of us have encountered is the reluctance of men of any age to interact with a palagi woman.  There seem to be 3 categories of men. 

First, and most common, are those who will literally run if they think you’re about to speak to them (remember the bus driver who didn’t pick me up because he was afraid I’d speak to him in English?)  As I was settling in last Sunday, I was offered to’ona’i…the big Sunday meal.  It’s a time for serious chow and socializing.  I was given the option (I thought) of either joining the family or having them bring me food so I could eat on my own.

I was hot, sweaty and tired from moving all my junk but wanted to be social.  I said I’d love to join them, right after I washed my face.  The young man who made the invitation looked nervous.  I asked if it was best if I came or not.  He hastened to assure me that of course I’d be welcome.  But he said he should probably double check. 

He came back a minute later saying he was really sorry but that “the boys” were uncomfortable with the thought of eating with me.  I get it.  Language differences, the feeling that you have to be on your best behavior with the stranger, walking on egg shells because you might step on a cultural no-no.  I really do get it.  Ditto from my side of the fence.  They sent a lovely tray of food to me.

The second category is men who may or may not speak much English, but figure they know enough to ask if you want to fool around.  Or, get married.  As I’ve written, they may be 15 or 75, age and marital status don’t seem to be part of the criteria.

The third category are what I think of as Westernized Samoan men.  Many who have lived or studied abroad, usually in New Zealand, sometimes in Australia and a few in the U.S.  They are more comfortable interacting with palagis because they’ve had experience.  They aren’t ashamed of their English and seem happy to talk about their country and their life here and overseas.  Some have also used their language skills to take the Romeo route.  It’s been made very clear here that snagging a palagi wife or girlfriend is a coup.  We’re “beautiful”, because we look different, but mostly, we’re rich and don’t have our own huge families to support.

More on stuff I’ve noticed later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Last Housing Update, I Swear

I'm happy to report that I got a call from my new family on Sunday morning, telling me they'd worked all night and my house was ready to move into.  I was a bit leery, but checked out of the hotel and took my bags with me.  Cab was courtesy of a very nice woman from American Samoa.  We'd been chatting and since she was a teacher, too, wanted to pay my taxi to the new house.  Very generous!

When I arrived, the house looked great.  There were a few minor issues the first couple of days, but they've continued to work and things are wonderful.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m this morning and stepped out of bed.  Not off the floor, out of bed.  I went to the bathroom, without walking outside.  The bathroom is new and sparkling clean.

Last night I used my new kitchen to make a huge batch of pasta salad with tuna for the teachers I worked with.  They've asked me to cook everyday.  I can't afford either the time or money for that, but plan to provide lunch every couple of weeks or so.

Rather than bore you with details of the house, I'll work on getting photos uploaded.  Just know that I was not as calm and pleasant as my blog indicates.  I think hissy fit is the phrase I'm looking for.  Having privacy and close proximity will make life so much easier. 

Thanks for all your positive thoughts and comments.  Now I can start telling you about more interesting things.  Like, did you know that the gauges on busses here don't work?  At least not on any I've ridden in.  Not the gas gauge, speedometer, nothing.  

More to come soon, along with photos!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I just wrote a brilliant entry, filled with humor, pathos and deep insights.  Then the computer crashed.  That's been my last 48 hours.  So, here's the Reader's Digest version:

I shopped in the morning, very excited about moving.  After some delays we packed all my junk into the "old" family's pick up.  It filled the bed of the truck and part of the back seat.  When we arrived at the new house, they were still working on it.  We moved all my junk into an open fale.

After talking to PC and the homeowners, I am now in a hotel.  At least until Monday.  The family is working hard on the new house but there were issues.  The window frames were the wrong size.  The electicity was out yesterday.  Noone told me.

I'm frustrated.  I envisioned a dinner of green chiles, cheese and homemade tortillas in the privacy of my own home.  Instead I had a lovely dinner of fish and chips, looking out at the ocean.  Coincidentally, one of the employees is the dad of two of my students at the school.  Talking to him was a good reminder of why I'm here.

I saw a news report tonight about Japan.  It is tragic and helps put things in perspective.  I'm fine, safe and hope my stuff is, too.  If it's not, there's always other stuff.  Right now, there's a three year old trying to get my attention.  I sense some Hokey Pokey coming.

Tsunami and Housing

It's been a 2 popo week in Faga.  The week had it's normal ups and downs, as all weeks do.  Because I was anticipating the move, I had less patience with some of the stuff at home. 

On Thursday night I went to sleep at the usual 10:30.  When I was deep asleep, I got a text from PC warning about the earthquake in Japan and possible tsunami.  We were hold to stand fast, which means sit tight and stay tuned.  I went back to sleep.  Then got a call from the country director asking if I'd gotten his email.  Yup, holding fast here under the covers.

An hour later, I woke up when a lizard fell on me.  I really am starting to hate lizards.  A bit later someone knocked at the door.  "What?"  No response except another knock.  There's only one person who knocks on my door in the middle of the night.  Sometimes she does it just to ask if I'm awake.  I called her name as I struggled to disentangle myself from the mosquito net and get off the floor.  The only response was another knock.

I opened the door, and said, with more than a touch of exasperation "What do you want?"  "We're evacuating.  Leaving now."

Okay, "stand fast" might have meant be prudent and pack a bag in case of evacuation instead of rolling over to snore some more.  I washed my face, brushed my teeth and regretted not showering before bed.  I threw on some clothes and grabbed my backpack.  Imagine you have 2 minutes to pack.  Everything you leave behind may be lost forever.  What would you take?  At 2:30 a.m., still half asleep?

I took my PC passport, safe in a ziplock; TP; a change of clothes; large bottle of water; Mr. Kindle; my headlamp; mosquito coils and mosquito repellant.  How'd I do, PC?

After packing like a wild woman, I raced to the main fale, where everyone was huddled around the TV.  The report was coming in from Japan with text scrolling to say there was a tsunami watch in effect for Samoa.  I knew that.  What had changed to make them want to evacuate now?  "Ou te le iloa"  "I don't know."

After half an hour, I quit watching TV and went back to bed, fully clothed.  What seemed like seconds later, in the middle of a lovely dream the phone rang.  It was PC, saying that Samoa wasn't advising that but it would be better to be safe than sorry, so evacuate.  This time it was my turn to wake everybody up.

After some confusion about who was going in which vehicle, much as if the 3 Stooges were facing a tsunami evacuation, we headed out in a 3 vehicle caravan.  I was with my buddy from New Zealand in the last truck. We headed inland up the auala galue, the road to the plantations.

We drove at about 5 MPH for 30 minutes or so.  We parked.  I tried to get in a comfortable position to grab a bit of shut eye.  Ten minutes later, we all drove on.  I have no idea why.  Neither did the driver.  We parked again, and I went back to trying to get comfy.  Another ten minutes later there were lights.  Seems some folks didn't believe the tsunami warning and were heading to work on the coast and we were blocking the road.  More vehicle maneuvering.  I tried again to get to sleep, with the radio from the next car blasting.

After an hour of sweltering in the truck with windows closed against mosquitos, we heard a yell.  "All clear.  Alu i le fale."  We're going home.   Excellent.  Home.  Bed.  When we got there I asked about school and was told there would be no school because of the discombobulation during the night.

I fell onto my floor/bed fully clothed and started snoring.  When someone knocked on the door 30 minutes later I was not happy.  And they kept knocking, but not acknowledging my shouts of "What?"  What I really meant was "WTF?" but that seemed harsh.

It was my "sister", asking why I wasn't ready for school.  "You said there was no school."  "Not for children.  Only for teachers."  Then I was informed I had ten minutes to shower and change.  Which I did.

I was surprised then to see lots of kids at school when we arrived.  About half the school was there.  I was there physically but mentally I was in the dream that the PC Director interrupted hours before.

The day ended with a shopping trip to buy a refrigerator for my new house.  It's lovely, with a small freezer.  And, I can lift it.  By myself.  Gives you an idea of how large the fridge is.

We took it to my new house.  We couldn't put it inside because the house wasn't ready but we were assured that it would be all set for my move in on Saturday.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just One of Those Days

Computer issues continue.  I apologize and promise that photos are on the way.
The house is still full of guests, so the minute I walked out of my room this morning, the conversation with me started.  I love that they like me and want to chat, but have I mentioned I prefer solitude in the morning.  On the way to school we stopped to pick up some kids.  Because of limited space, they were standing on my new computer and bag of school supplies.  I jumped out of the truck to rescue my stuff and landed ankle deep in a mud puddle.  So much for the clean feet and puletasi.

I tried to print some stuff at school, but the printer driver I downloaded for my other computer wouldn't work on my new computer.  So, here I am in Salelologa instead of at home doing laundry.  I had just finished typing a witty and insightful blog entry when the power went out.

Since it could happen again and I need to download the driver this is brief.  Life is busy with teacher's meetings and teaching.  The house is still being worked on.  The owner now says I can move this Saturday.  My fingers are crossed.  Getting up alone in the morning and having a cup of tea before I have to be social would be lovely.  It will be the first time in five months I'm not sharing living space.  It will be wonderful. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Elections, Mail and Housing

Yesterday was a big day in Samoa.  It was election day.  I haven't gotten into the politics here, and know little of the details.  I do know that the current party has been in power for 28 years.  While there was stronger opposition this year, the balance of power was unlikely to change.

Yesterday I got a surprise when my "sister" from New Zealand arrived.  No one knew she was coming so it was a treat.  She joined me in walking to the beach fale at the other end of the village.  I'd planned to go snorkeling and she wanted to take a nap.  Also, the owner of the fales, her cousin, was running for parliament, so she was excited to see how he did.

While she went into the house to hang with family and discuss the elections, I went snorkeling.  We'd been warned to steer clear of all election activties so as to not give the impression we were taking sides.   We spent the day with me going into the water occasionally and my sister going to and from the house to check on what was happening.

Polls closed at 3 p.m. and results were expected at 4.   I know it's a small country, but they use paper ballots.  How could that work?  Seems it wasn't really that fast but results started coming in then.  Cars, trucks and vans filled with men started arriving at the candidate's house.  I watched from the beach fale across the street.  It was very low key.  Lots of people, about 90% men, most wearing lava lavas.  About 4:30 a young girl came over with two styrofoam containers.  One had a note on it, saying "Enjoy your dinner.  Ruta" Seems the candidate was providing food for all the supporters and I got to share. 

The young girl and I enjoyed our dinner together on the beach and were just finishing when Ruta came out to give me the good news.  "Our" cousin was winning and the preliminary tally shows him as a new member of the Samoan parliament.  Even better, he lets me use his beach fale for free. 

Ruta stayed to enjoy the festivities, but I started to walk the few miles home.  No busses on election day.  I stopped by the new house to see what was up and was given the grand tour.  The bathroom is about done.  It's a good size with a toilet and shower stall.  There's still a hole in the wall between the toilet and the main room of the house. It was a window before they added on to the house, so they need to patch that.  Works fine for me but could be awkward if I have guests.  They were busy working on putting in a ceiling, so I won't have to worry about leaks from the tin roof.

I came in to Salelologa this morning to buy some stuff for the house, like silverware and another plate.  As a proud new homeowner, I might have company and thought it would be nice to have more than 1 fork and 1 plate, which is what I have now.

While checking email, I laughed out loud.  I got a letter from a dear friend in San Francisco.  She shipped a package to me months ago and kept anxiously asking if it had arrived.  No, it hadn't.  Then one day recently, she found it on her porch, looking like it had been around the world.  Not quite, but the USPS had sent it to South Africa instead of Samoa.

She repacked it and took it back to the PO.  Asking them to send it to me without her paying additional postage, which only seems fair.  Here's her description:

"The PO worker first used the excuse, "Well, it's our job to get the box to the country, then once it's in the other country, we can't do anything about it." My response was, "Yes, you see, that's the problem. Samoa isn't in Africa.""

Perhaps instead of teaching English in Samoa, I should be teaching geography to Postal Service employees?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Housing and More Odds and Ends

Today is Tuesday March 1, 2011.  It's the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, although you couldn't tell it here in PC land.

I stopped by the new house after school to drop off the locks they need to use on the doors - dead bolts provided by the PC. I got a peek at what's been happening. 

I was told yesterday that I'd be able to move in on Thursday.  I don't think that's going to happen, but progress is underway.  The great news, instead of an outhouse, they're building a bathroom on to the house.  Indoor plumbing.  And a kitchen.  Yeah, life is going to be very good.

The bath, which will be toilet and shower in one room, has been framed in.  They still need to finish that, install windows, which shouldn't take long and install a new back door.  Would be silly to put deadbolts on a screen door, eh?

I'm excited about the move and when I couldn't sleep the other night was imagining how I'll decorate.  I'm thinking food color in water in plastic vodka bottles I've collected will work to hold candles and add charm.

Other stuff:

Mirrors are very expensive here.  I have a compact mirror in my purse.  There's a mirror over the bathroom sink in my current house, but I leave for school before sunrise, and there's no light at the mirror to I head out having no idea how I look.  It's kind of freeing and I recommend it.  I blow dry in the dark, just to get my hair dry, not for style.  Then, I slap on some lipstick.  That's it.  And the men are still hitting on me.

I'm at war with lizards.  I love my lizards in Florida.  The ones here are athletically challenged.  This morning another one fell on my head as I was walking out to school.  Yesterday I did laundry and forgot to shake out the clothes before I washed them.  So, dried lizard poop became wet lizard poop and I didn't realize it had smearing all over a skirt until I was hanging it to dry.  Didn't matter though, since about 5 minutes after I hung my clothes out a storm blew in and soaked them all.  Washed off the lizard poop.  Thank you, God.

I have ice about once a month when I go to Apia.  I drink something cold about once a week when I splurge for a soda at the faleoloa.  I drink water, almost exclusively.  Everytime I have water with Crystal Lite I say a silent "thank you" to Kia, Michael, Madonna and John who sent me a bunch.  I can't tell you what a huge difference a small luxury like that makes.

My mission to bring Mexican food to Samoans is working.  The family is now requesting my "Fa'amolemole Guacamole" and the Mexicanesque chicken/chile thing that I make.  Sadly, avocado season seems to have ended.  I haven't had one in a couple of week.

I took five bean salad to school for lunch today.  The teacher's eat ramen every day.  With salt added.  I bought a can of five bean salad in Apia and added some onion and cucumber.  It was tasty.  When the teachers all tried it, I was laughing my head off.  The first one made a horrific face, then smiled and thanked me.  "Did you like it?" I asked.  "Oh, yes, thank you."  She lied.  The next victim asked for a taste and had a similar reaction.  So did the third and fourth.  A fifth declined to taste it.

Beans are not common here.  I've yet to find a place to buy dried beans or lentils which is a drag.  I eat a ton of canned chili beans, though.  Would be so much cheaper to make them myself.  Also, the sweet/sour taste of bean salad was a bit too tangy for their taste.  Oh, well. 

I've promised to bring more palagi food samples once I move next door and have a good kitchen.  I'll keep you posted on what flies and what they think is just not edible.

Odds and Ends

Every day I notice stuff that I find amusing, amazing or just different. I often wish I could just shout out to you what I’m seeing. Maybe someday they’ll invent a way to do that. Oh, they did. It’s called Twitter.
Anyway, here’s some stuff that caught my eye:

• One of the people who sells snacks at school is a typical Samoan guy. Good looking and kinda burly, without being fat. I find it hilarious that he uses a child’s tiny teddy bear backpack to store his change.
• I realized that I haven’t used a drawer since I came to Samoa. Desks here are usually just tables and kitchens rarely have cabinets, let alone drawers. I realized it when I was fantasizing about my new house and where I’d put stuff. I was dreaming of a junk drawer when I realized I won’t have drawers. Or a closet.
• It is rare to cook for one person here. Living alone is very unusual. So I sort of understand the reaction of the butcher at Frankie’s, but it doesn’t make me like it any better when he rolls his eyes when I ask for one piece of chicken. Every time, he repeats “One?” and rolls his eyes. Then looks at me like I’m the most pathetic loser in Samoa as he hands it to me. When I get a fridge someday, I’m going to buy two pieces. Maybe that will make him happy.
• Last Sunday I was in a friend’s apartment in Apia. He started living there when he was in the PC. Not that I’m jealous but he lives in a palace, by PC standards. 2 bedrooms, ceiling fans, huge bathroom with hot water, built in shelves, a pantry and internet. Yes, I’m house obsessed. Anyway, he cranked up his computer to show me some photos of his life back in the U.S. Then turned on the internet and we started researching places we both want to visit. At one point we realized we’re on an island in the South Pacific. A place most people dream of visiting and we were busy planning where to go from here. That’s wanderlust for you.
• Yes, the apartment did belong to a man. Told you I was hot. Kidding. He’s a great guy and a friend, not a romance.
• You can hear the heat here. Literally. The house has a tin roof. As the sun heats it, it makes quite a lot of noise. My brother always wanted to live in a house with a tin roof so he could listen to the rain on it. I wish he was alive to tell about the noise the sun makes.
• I gave a pair of earrings to the teacher who sewed my school puletasis. When I handed them to her she asked how much I paid. Sort of like when my Samoan sister from training village told me what she’d paid for my birthday cake. Everyone talks about money openly here. When I explained PC doesn’t pay me, just gives me money for food, everyone wanted to know how much. Frank discussions about money are not considered rude here. Please excuse me when I come home and ask you how much you paid for your house, car, blouse, etc.
• There are a lot of rats here. I’ve seen two so far today and it’s only 2 p.m. I use three of the “edible drippings” recycled buckets to store all food stuff that rats could get into. They do keep the rats out. Unfortunately, they have a certain odor that becomes absorbed by the food. I realized that everything I’ve stored in them, from M&Ms to bread has a faint taste of “edible drippings bucket.” Not awful, but slightly off-putting.
• Speaking of M&Ms, two large bags that I was storing for a rainy day have disappeared. I don’t believe I ate them in my sleep one night. I now lock my door even when I go to the bathroom. Annoying, but my own fault. Not the first time that small things have disappeared from my room. I’ve been warned by several Samoan friends not to allow anyone under 30 in my new house or the temptation to walk away with palagi stuff could be too great. If you recall, someone walked away with my shoes one day during training, so I’m taking their advice seriously.
• I had my weekly meal with my host family today. It was a type of large eel. Quite tasty, although I preferred the pieces that had been cooked through. I asked where I could get a spear like the ones used by the local fisherman. I explained that while snorkeling I saw a number of fish and would like to learn to catch them. My host “mom” almost spit out her eel she was laughing so hard. Then she realized I was serious. I asked if they liked sea (pronounced “say-uh” - sea slug). I’d seen several and could bring them some. It’s really expensive at the market. Again, hysteria ensued. “ How could you find a sea slug?” “Diving with a mask.” “You’re old and a woman.” “Yes, I’m an old woman fisherman.”

They thought it was just funny until I pointed out that if I learn to fish they won’t have to buy as many fish at the market. Hmmmm. Perhaps there’s something in this idea of the old lady fishing.
• The subject of my housing came up today (Feb. 27) at lunch. My “dad” said they have all the supplies now and it should be built and I could move next month. I pointed out that next month starts next week. “Oh, not that soon. “ “Maybe April?” “Maybe.” Said with a shrug. Please let those who think it could be done next week be right.

Sex Ed, Men and Clothes

I’m hot.  I’m not talking about the weather, although it is a bit warm today; I’m talking about sex appeal.  I clearly have become hotter since I came to Samoa, based on the number of offers I’ve received.
Last week, while waiting for the ferry, a 52 year old widower introduced himself and we started chatting.  In 15 minutes I knew his life story, had a fairly clear idea of his financial assets and had received an invitation to spend time together so I could get to know his family before we got married. 
I thought a guy I dated briefly in the U.S. was a fast mover when he proposed after four dates.  He was a slow poke by Samoan standards.
Recently I was walking along, looking fetchingly sweaty in the afternoon heat, when I heard the sound that every woman who has been to Samoa knows.   It’s a kind of loud (and obnoxious) kissing noise that guys make to get your attention.  I looked over and there were two young soles (prounced so-lays and means guy/dude) sitting nearby.  One was smiling and waving.  I looked around to see which attractive young teine he was flirting with.  There was no one else around.  Really, kid?  I bet I’m twenty years older than your mother.  Still, flattering to have a guy with a six pack giving me the eye.  Speaking of eyes, I bet he could use glasses.
Another day recently I met a very charming, handsome man.  I’m guessing he was about my age.  Very distinguished looking and spoke excellent English.  We had a lovely conversation that included topics such as travel, religion, politics, Samoan food and our respective marital status.  He’s married and a minister.  I’m still single.  He suggested we get together privately, without telling anyone.  Then introduced me to his wife, who had been in another room.  I declined, by the way.
I assume I’m becoming more accepted and trusted based on the amount of gossip I’ve been told recently.  One tidbit was about a young single guy I know.  According to the gossip, he’s fathered six children in two years, all by different women.  Another piece of gossip was one woman telling me that another woman we both know is sleeping with her husband, which is why they are separated.
There’s a lot of joking about sex and hooking up outside marriage.  Friday while folks were sitting around the faleaoga waiting for donations, one woman asked me who my boyfriend was.  I know the drill now so I asked her husband’s name.  “Tui.”  “Yup” I replied.  “Tui’s my boyfriend.”  Big laughs all around, including the lady who asked the question.  She said “Just Tui?”  “Nooooo. I’m also sleeping with her husband and her husband and her husband.” I replied while pointing at women of all ages.  Everyone laughed and agreed that I’m a very funny palagi.  It wouldn’t have been so funny if there was any indication that I was stepping out with anyone, but I’m doing my best to dress and act conservatively so that there’s no question that I’m a “good girl.”
Speaking of dress, I have a bone to pick with the missionaries.  They came to Samoa bringing the word of God and a new dress code.  Out with wearing a few leaves and flowers and in with the puletasi.  The puletasi here is what the suit was to women in the 80’s in the States.  I wear one to school every day.  I wear them to church and for other special occasions.  I own six.  Four have a wrap-around skirt, two have zippered skirts.  They are all floor length.  The top is a fitted (aka really tight) tunic top that comes to mid-thigh.  Four of mine are made of polyester, which is the hottest fabric known to man.
The missionaries, who are now presumably enjoying eternity wearing just wings and comfy white robes, brought the puletasis to Samoa.  I’m guessing they never tried to play Duck, Duck, Goose in one.  They’re hot and not very comfortable.  Plus, my two skirts are too big, so they tend to droop and when I walk upstairs at school, which is about 20 times a day, I step on them and trip.   I’m not sure I could have embraced teaching topless, but it would have been cooler.
Another thing about clothes.  Men wear lava lavas which is just a piece of fabric wrapped around the waist and tied or tucked in.  When getting on/off busses, when it’s windy and at other random times, men place a hand or two around their package.  I don’t know if it’s a defense mechanism or if they’re concerned about a wardrobe malfunction, but there’s a lot of cupping going on.
Back to talking about sex.  Three high school students joined me at the beach fale one day.  One of the girls was raised in New Zealand and speaks fluently in both English and Samoan.  The subject they’re most interested in, of course, is boys.  We talked for awhile about whose boyfriend was cuter then they said they wanted to ask me about sex.  I asked if they received sex education at school.  No, not even the standard stuff we get in sixth grade about puberty.  Sex ed at home?  No.  Church?  Nope. 
I asked a few questions to get an idea of their current level of understanding.  Two had seen a movie (yes, it was from the USA) that showed a naked man plus they’re seen their little brothers so they know boys have a “thing”.  I explained the basics of biology and how intercourse works.  I also explained that it works best when the couple is in love and married.  Since they know I’ve never been married, they wanted to know how I knew about sex.  I told them I read it in a book.
Anyway, the conversation continued and they wanted to know about getting pregnant.  They were under the impression that touching (anywhere) and/or kissing caused pregnancy.  I asked if they knew what condoms were and they had seen them.  They didn’t know what to do with them.  They said they could get them at the hospital.  I can’t imagine a young Samoan girl strolling into the hospital and asking for a supply of condoms.
After our talk, they all agreed they are way too young (they’re 15) to even think about sex and babies.  I hope they keep thinking that way for awhile.

Week of February 21, 2011. A Five Popo Week.

Sorry, but with the change in computers I'm having some technical difficulties.  Imagine cute Samoan kids on a turquoise lagoon.  That's my life.

I’m happy to report it’s been a 5 popo week here in Faga. Having the kids and structure of school has made a huge difference in my mood. It’s also a big help to have adults recognize that I’m a teacher and greet me and exchange a few words. Walking home from the beach yesterday was a great example of how things have changed.

For the first month I was here, I felt as if I was invisible. I was rarely greeted except by children who asked for money or said “bye bye, Palagi” as I walked by. Yesterday kids ran up to walk along and practice their English, parents called out from their homes and on the street people said hello and asked me what’s up. I’m no longer invisible and it’s good to feel like I’m becoming a part of the village.
School was good. It was my last day of “observing”. I used quotes with that because while I have observed, I’ve also been teaching. Thursday the Year 8 teacher was at a meeting for the day so I was the sub. I started working on phonics with the kids and they thought the games were fun and didn’t want to stop. I was happy that they were beginning to be able to differentiate between “ch” and “sh” sounds, and learning some new words.

Fridays continue to be a mystery. I was told that there would be school clean up for the first two hours so no teaching. The clean up actually was 45 minutes of girls weeding with butcher knives and boys using machetes to hack at shrubs and grass. One of my favorite Year 7 boys had to be taken to the hospital to have his hand bandaged after another boy hacked it by mistake. It wasn’t serious and he took it in stride.

After 45 minutes, the kids went to their classrooms, so I headed to the Year 7 room to observe. No teacher arrived, so I started a lesson. First on phonics, then practicing asking and answering questions. They drill a lot, responding as a group to questions from the teacher but rarely actually practice conversational English. They had fun with it and after just an hour and a half there was some improvement. A lot of what they need is the confidence to try to speak. I’ll be giving a sticker as a prize each week to the student who speaks the most English to me outside of class to encourage them. I’ll also be giving prizes each week for “Most Improved” and other things that every student, no matter their current level, have a shot at.

Notice that I taught for 1 ½ hours rather than observe? That’s because the teachers were hanging out together while kids hung out in the classrooms. I use downtime like this to grab any class and do an impromptu English lesson, sing songs or play games that involve words or phonics. Teachers don’t seem to mind and the kids eat it up.

The big downer for the week was the purchase of a new laptop. My old one (and it is a few years old) is no long useable. Computers are extraordinarily expensive here and I’m notoriously frugal. Ok, cheap. I researched going to American Samoa to get a better deal or buying a laptop online and having a friend ship it from the States, but opted for the speed and ease of buying the Toshiba that was on sale where I get my internet. So, the good news is I have a functioning laptop. The bad news is I had to spend a bunch of tupe out of my “at home” money.

I’ll be using the laptop at school next week. I’ve already given Year 7 & 8 a heads up that I’ll be interviewing them individually while filming them. They’ll get to see themselves on the laptop. I’m guessing most have never seen themselves on video. It should be fun. I want to have the tapes as a benchmark so at the end of the year we can do it again and they can see how much they’ve improved. With Year 7, we’ll also be able to do it again at the end of next year and they should see huge progress, knock on wood.

The highlight of the week was yesterday. I spent the day at a beach fale in Lu’ua, which is a subvillage of Faga. The beach fale near my current home is lovely but you have to climb over a lava boulder seawall to get to the water. I am a klutz and am afraid of breaking a leg or spraining an ankle which would be a huge problem here.

Lu’ua is a hike. It’s a couple of miles walk in tropical sun/heat. I kept thinking I was moving near there so was waiting until it was a shorter trek. I got tired of waiting so did it yesterday. I was lucky and hitched a ride there. It was a hot day, but in the shade by the water the temperature was perfect. The water temp was cool enough to be refreshing without being cold. I swam out about 50 yards and snorkeled over a huge bed of coral. Lots of small fish and beautiful to see. I wouldn’t say it was world-class snorkeling but it was comparable to most you’d do in the Caribbean and will be a 10 minute stroll from my new house. Thank you, God and Peace Corps for sending me to Samoa.

About the house. Something else that made this a 5 popo week was about my housing. The meeting with the parents was uncomfortable and difficult. It’s hard for me to concentrate on rapid Samoan that intently for so long. It felt like begging to have all the parents discuss how they can find me a place to live and come up with the money to do it.

The upside was the support they showed. That support continued. On Friday, two of the most outspoken people at the meeting were in charge of collecting money from each family. They spent several hours sitting in the faleaoga, accepting the donations. Along with them were several other parents, who spent the afternoon there to show their support. I was touched.

The meeting is also what got everyone into greeting me and being so much friendlier. The principal said the meeting should have been held before school started. Peace Corps assumed, I think, that the school committee would be communicating with the parents. That didn’t happen. If this meeting would have been held in October, when I first visited Faga, I would have had my own house in December and a very different first month here. I’ll be suggesting it to PC for the next group of volunteers.

I heard yesterday that they collected all the money they needed on Friday and took it to the hardware store to order the necessary supplies to build the outhouse. I was dreaming that it might be done this week and I could move in over the four-day weekend next week, but that’s not likely. At least I hope to see some progress.
I heard a story about a previous volunteer here who was in my boat. One day he got fed up and went to a plantation and started hacking down small trees with a machete. Someone asked him what he was doing and he said “Building my house.” Word spread and a group of men helped him build his house, in one day. It can be done, just need to get the momentum going.

The other big thing this week started out badly. I can’t go into details but after significant ugliness this week, someone I care about was able to move to a better situation.

I hope you had a 5 popo week, too.

Rating System

Life’s full of ups and downs and I thought I’d track how things are going for me on a weekly basis.  Sort of like in Diary of Bridget Jones.  Except instead of going by cigarettes smoked and pounds gained or lost, I’m going local, with coconuts.  Or, as we call ‘em here, popo.  Here’s the scale:
5 popo:  A stellar week.  All things large and small went well and you’d have to drag me out of Samoa by my thin white-girl hair.
4 popo:  A good week.  The big stuff is good and most of the little stuff went my way. 
3 popo:  Not a bad week, but not a good week either.  Average.  And I’m not a fan of average.  Think about it.  People complain that’s life’s a roller coaster, with dizzying ups and downs.  But would you pay to ride a roller coaster that was straight and level? 
2 popo:  A week that I wouldn’t want to relive.  Small things annoyingly bad and some big stuff not aligned.
1 popo:  Tell the renters living in my house that if I have a couple more weeks like this they better pack up, because I’ll be coming home.  A one popo week means things are seriously bad and I can’t find the humor in it.