Saturday, September 15, 2012

Talofa lava, Group 84

Malo! (Hi!) O a mai oe? (How are you?) It's Sunday morning here in Samoa and Group 83 members are all either home in our villages, or heading home today. School starts tomorrow and lesson plans are waiting.

 I've been stalking your FB page and am enjoying your excitement. It really does feel like time has flown since I was in your shoes in 2010. Thought I'd share a few additional thoughts about PC Samoa.

About packing. Absolutely bring a bag with wheels. I have dragged mine on and off the ferry more times than I can count. It's usually loaded with books, clothes and groceries and weighs a ton. The supokakos (bus helpers) are used to it now but I remember carrying my bag to the bus and when he grabbed it and realized how heavy it was he commented "Malosi lo'omatua oe!" You're a strong old lady!

A small back pack is also very handy. I use mine for grocery shopping. I also brought a tote bag that I use to carry crap to school every day. I can't understate how much stuff you will be lugging around everywhere you go here. Remember that you won't be able to drive and will be depending on buses, walking and hitchhiking to get where you're going.

What will you be carrying? For me, it's always water, a fan and an umbrella. The umbrella is for rain, sun and hitting dogs. Plus my purse. Some carry an extra lavalava everywhere - we use them for everything and when you get soda dumped on you or a kid pees on you or or other mishaps on the bus (happens all the time), it's nice to have a clean lavalava.

About language. My Samoan still stinks, so I should be the last one giving advice, but I listened to the flash cards you created on quizlet (Great tool BTW. Wish I had internet at school and computers to use it with the kids). Samoan pronunciation is similar to Spanish when it comes to vowels. E is pronounced "eh" for example. A is "ah". I is "eee" O fea (where?) is pronounced OH FAYAH. Don't stress too much about the language. You'll have weeks of language training and lots of opportunities to practice.

On a serious note...think about why you're coming. Consider why you spent the last year leaping through hoops during the application process. I am incredibly glad I came to Samoa. I've enjoyed my Peace Corps experience so much that I'm considering applying for another two years in a different country. Having said that, I've cried more in the last two years than I have in the last 20. Samoa is a beautiful place with friendly people.

 But it's not America. We don't have the physical comforts and amenities of home but that's the easy part. Living in another culture, as a representative of the United States can be a burden. There are a million ways to offend and be culturally insensitive. I know because I think I've done them all. Constantly trying to be sensitive and get things done is wearing.

It's also a challenge and an adventure. The children here are amazing and they have been the best part of my years here. But they are children. If you aren't truly committed to working with them, helping them, loving them, then your days will drag.

I hope you come to Samoa. I hope you love your experience here. But if you're doing it because you can't find a job. If you're doing it because you aren't sure what else to do. If you're doing it because it'll be good on your resume. If you're doing it to postpone paying your student loans. If you're doing it to postpone being a grown up. If you're doing it to postpone getting a real job. Then it's going to be hard and you might not make it through the two years.

All the reasons I just wrote are valid. But you need a deeper, more fundamental reason for coming. The reason that will sustain you at your lowest times. Our group had three volunteers leave early. One woman didn't get on the plane in L.A. She decided she couldn't leave her boyfriend. Two other left after time in Samoa.

Peace Corps isn't for everyone. Leaving early isn't a bad thing if you've given it serious thought and decided it just isn't for you. But leaving early is hard on you, the other volunteers and especially on your village. It is better to not come at all. I don't want to discourage you. I just want you to be sure why you're coming. Because you will absolutely have moments when you have to dig deep and remember why you're here. It's the only thing that will keep you from packing your bags.


  1. beatifully said nancy! i've loved following your blog ..i will miss reading it ...alofa atu ia oe! ia manuia lou malaga i Amerika!!! you've blessed my grandparents birthplace and my roots!!! god bless you nancy! you're an amazing lady!

  2. Fa'afetai lou susuga! Thanks so much for your kind words. I hope you'll keep reading. The third goal of Peace Corps service is to let Americans know about our country of service, so I plan to continue writing about my challenges as I go back home and about how I tell people about Samoa.

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