Friday, September 28, 2012

Packing and Housing for Group 84

A few other Savaii volunteers came over for lunch last Saturday.  We have a great relationship.  I love to cook and they love to eat.  The Mexican food wasn’t my best effort but still, it was Mexican food.

I passed the leftovers on to my family.  The chicken in enchilada sauce got a so-so.  It was chicken, after all.   Refried beans…no way, Jose.  The Spanish rice?  They ate it, but would have preferred plain white rice.  Except my little buddy Prince Julius, who will eat anything.

An aside, btw – Julius, 11 months old, has been the strong, silent type up until now.  Now, he giggles, cackles and shrieks at a pitch that makes the dogs hold their ears.  I can hear him now from his fale, checking his volume control.  Laughing loudly, just because he can.  Is there a more delightful sound than a baby laughing? 

Back to the point…after the other Volunteers and I talked about ourselves and each other we started talking about Group 84.  Get used to it, trainees – it’s a small country and everybody will be talking about everything you say and do for the next two years.

We were discussing packing.  The guys said absolutely bring dry bags.  Heat and humidity are really tough on electronics.  So are ants and ants love to eat the innerds of computers  (also known as silicon, which is not to be confused with silicone.  The tatas are safe).  They also suggested silica packs (which are neither computer nor tata innerds).  Yes, it’s really, really humid here.  And clearly, when you spend this much time on a small island your already one- bubble- off -plumb sense of humor gets one bubble closer to the end of the level.

In addition to electronics, dry bags are good for your stuff.  It’s not unusual to have a walk of a mile or so to school.  It’s also not unusual to arrive soaking wet after walking through a tropical deluge.  Do you want your lesson materials to also be dripping wet?

A couple of the younger, thinner Volunteers said to be sure to bring bras.  They can be hard to find here unless you’re one of us full-figure types.   Those are also poor quality and expensive.   Also – athletic bras or athletic clothes of any kind are very expensive here.  And wicking is a beautiful thing.

A good camera is a bonus but remember cameras and other electronic stuff tends to walk away here.  Sometimes you get it back, sometimes you don’t, so don’t bring something that would break your heart to lose.

Flash drives and a hard drive are also really handy.  Especially if your hard drive is filled with movies, games, tv shows, etc.  You will have countless hours to while away in your fale.   I’ve also found that after a particularly frustrating, maddening or whatever day, a good dose of Modern Family gets my mood back where it belongs. 

Cards or portable games are good and a great way to break the ice with your family and others.  Regular cards, the addicting Monopoly Deal, Uno, etc.  All are great in the training village and will be handy with your families.

One of the things that my kids love me for is puzzles.  My friends have generously sent box load after box load of stuff, including kids’ word search and crossword puzzles.  Spot the difference is also good.  You can download a lot of that stuff for free while you’re still living in the land of free wireless.  Remember that pre-K and very low level is where many of the kids are here, even in the higher grades.  Connect the dots alphabet and number pictures are also outstanding.

The best gift I’ve received for the school was white board slates.  A friend just sent a bunch from the dollar store.  $1 apiece and they are awesome.  The kids have never seen anything like them and I use them frequently for small group work.  They love competition and the boards make it easy.  Huge smiles every time I pull them out.

About housing.  I saw the Pu’apu’a house.  The good news – it’s right on the water, as in you’ll be able to throw bread to the fish from your window.  It’s a nice little (about 10X12) house with an indoor bathroom.  They’re also putting in a kitchen sink.  Because it will be almost all windows and is on the water it should be pleasantly cool.

The downside?  It will be almost all windows and is very close to the main road.  You will have no privacy, but not to worry.  There is no privacy in Samoa.  It’s about a mile walk to school and the nearest store.  And, your house is being built by your new boss…literally in front of his house.  You’ll be able to say “Goodnight, Johnboy” every night.  Ask your parents about the quote, you’ve probably never heard of it, but bet they remember The Waltons.

I heard from an Upolu volunteer that she got to see the housing for the new volunteer near her village on the south side of Upolu.  It’s a room in a family’s house, but in a fale that you’ll be the only one living in, most of the time.  And, she described it as a mansion – it even has tile floors throughout.  That’s quite a luxury – most floors are bare concrete or linoleum laid out over bare concrete.  Just to keep your expectations in check, there are no mansions in Samoa as we think of them in the USA.

The famous Patamea house is also set.  It’s famous because it was the nicest house of any in our group.  The village not only built it from scratch on the school compound, they put tile on the floor, painted the walls and stocked it with dishes and everything else you could need.  I don’t know if all that stuff is still there.  The volunteer who lived there left early after months of service so it was left empty and the village may have taken some of the stuff out rather than just let it sit there.

I just got back from an impromptu visit to the hospital (to meet someone, not health related) and the Tuisivi store.  While I waited over an hour for the bus (too friggin’ hot and sunny to walk in mid-afternoon) home, I chatted with the owner.  Let me just say upfront that If I had known this before I decided not to extend, I might have changed my mind.

They are expanding the already best store in Savaii.  It will include “spare parts”.  I’m not sure what that means.  It is very close to the hospital and there are a lot of amputations due to diabetes here.  Could “spare parts” be arms, legs, toes, etc? 

There will also be more groceries, but chances are no more vegetables.  Really, who would want to buy them?  They’re also adding enough space to house a bank branch.  National Bank of Samoa just opened a tiny branch across the street so it’s not them.  Since she also said there would be an ATM, that means either ANZ or WestPac.  Cool beans for Savaii volunteers.

Not that I’m bitter or anything that all of this will happen after I leave, but crap, you might as well stay in Surprise, AZ.  You’ll have almost all the same amenities.  Just kidding.  It will still be a challenge on so many levels.

Just over a week to go before you begin a huge adventure.  Samoa’s waiting for you!

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate the advice, as always... but I just and to tell you that my grandma has been reading your blog religiously (matter of fact I think she read all the way back to your early days) since I showed it to her a few weeks ago. She's lovin' the perspective on where I'm headed and has been telling me about your updates (and your little shout out to the Zona!) before I've even had a chance to read them myself hahah =]

    Glad you're well, see you SO soon!

    Kiri =]