Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I had a couch surfer last night.  If you haven’t heard, Couch Surfing has been around for several years.  I signed up years ago and have hosted several “surfers” but have never been brave enough to surf myself.

The concept is that rather than staying in hotels when traveling to a foreign country, you connect with a local who lets you “surf” their couch (or guestroom, floor, whatever) and you help them see a more authentic side of your village/city/country than all the tourist stuff.  I’ve hosted men and women from Germany, Japan, Italy and the US in my Florida home.

I connected with this surfer through another PVC in Upolo.  They said she was good people so I told her she was welcome.  She arrived at my school yesterday (she’s a teacher) with a large backpack and a ton of food.  She’s the first surfer to arrive with food and it was greatly appreciated. 

She is originally from Germany but has lived in Australia for the last several years.  Her English is flawless, although she denies that.  She has a great sense of humor, is easy-going and curious.  All good traits.  She helped me teach a couple of classes, then we headed for the bank.  Seems some of my money was “misplaced”.  That’s a whole other post, but my boss was kind enough to give us to a ride to Salelologa to the bank.

We hit the store after (yes, more canned tomatoes!) and took a taxi home.  The driver offered a significant discount.  I discovered that it wasn’t a discount because he thought I taught/lived at the Catholic school in Fusi.  That’s the second time in two weeks someone has been absolutely sure that that’s where I teach.  What the heck?  I totally get that I’ve been living like a nun for the past 17 months, but really.  A PCV used to teach there, but why the confusion now?

We got back to my place and chilled/chatted for a bit.  Let’s face it.  I’m starved for conversation and talked her ear off.  Then we headed to the beach fales for a swim.  The minute we arrived, we heard thunder.  Since I have no desire to prove the statistics about a woman my age getting married versus being struck by lightning, I opted not to go into the water.  Instead, we sat in the beach fale, talking and enjoying the breeze and view.

The rest of the evening was quiet and enjoyable.  Speaking English, comparing travel notes, talking about dreams and men.  We slept with the sound of waves and rain as the backdrop.  The rains have come again and my furry ceiling, covered with mold, is proof.

She joined me at school in the morning.  It’s fun for me to share my world in Samoa with a relative stranger here.  She was shocked at the badinage at my school with a virtual stranger.  We ran into one of my favorite teachers at school last night and after watching her give me a very big hug was surprised to receive one herself.  She loved seeing the pigs wandering around my fale.  I laughingly told her to use all the hot water she wanted in the shower and for a second she thought I was serious. 

Like me, she loved the energy and enthusiasm of the kids.  This year I have a fairly homogeneous group together for an hour a day and it is gratifying to see their progress.  They don’t have to sit quietly while the “smart” kids shout the answers.  They can learn at a bit slower pace and be proud of what they accomplish.   Kids who couldn’t speak a sentence in English last year, beyond what they’d memorized “I am a boy.  I am 12 years old.”  are now writing about what they see.  “I see green grass.  I see a boy running.  I see girls talking.”  Not rocket science, but progress.  And the fact that they are creating mayhem for a chance to be heard speaking English is music to my ears.

I talked to my surfer about some of the societal issues here.  It’s too easy for me to go to the dark side.  I also tried to explain the strengths and beauty here.  Samoa is a complex place.  It is multi-layered and, like everywhere else, there is both good and bad.

One of the teachers told my surfer that they don’t want me to leave.  And that I don’t want to leave, either.  In many ways, that’s true.  For all of the stuff that makes me angry and crazy here, there are equally as many things that I delight in and love.  Just like America.  I suspect I’ll cry the first few hours of the flight back to America when I leave.

My surfer is traveling on to Fiji, Hawaii and the USA before hitting Latin America.  She asked about American men.  I told her to go for it.

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