Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm Home!

Well, I'm sorta home. I'm staying in a nice rental at the beach about half an hour from my home in Florida. At the last minute the tenant renting my home for the last two years decided not to renew the lease for another year. I'm now trying to decide whether to move into my own house or not. I hope to be writing more soon, as well as posting a lot of photos. Having free WIFI is terrific! I've been busy since coming home less than two weeks ago. Initially, I just wanted to hole up in my own place, cook and watch tv and surf the net. I read, slept, got over jet lag and then was ready to greet a friend who flew in to welcome me home. The last several days, she and some local friends have had a fun and busy time - dining out, getting manicures and pedicures and doing a bit of shopping. They also helped me pick out my new glasses. Mine gave up the ghost the week I left Samoa and my old pair weren't helping much. I picked up the new glasses today and am happy to be able to see again. Do I miss Samoa? Yes, but I've been so wrapped up in being home, it hasn't had time to sink in that this isn't just a vacation and I'm not going back soon. Some things I've noticed since I got is EVERYWHERE. As are mirrors. And food. I've been to the mall and been surprised at some of the new fashions. So far, being back is great. I'll keep you posted as time goes on.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Leaving for the airport in about 30 minutes. The blog will continue when I get home - in about 31 hours, although I may need a nap first. If you're thinking about joining Peace Corps...go for it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Yes, I'm food obsessed. Have been since I was a child. I've learned to embrace the obsession and the girth that comes with it.

Thought I'd share a bit about food I've had recently.

I was invited for to'ona'i with my family Sunday to celebrate my leaving and more importantly, Julius' first birthday. The food was delicious. We had fried chicken, boiled chicken, roasted pig and roasted breadfruit. Samoa is not easy for vegetarians.

Last night in Apia I had dinner with two Peace Corps friends at Visions, the restaurant that is part of the Australian culinary program. It was a bargain and tasty. I had tuna to start - served in three spoons, one bite each, with a tiny salad on the side.

My main was lamb with a beet reduction and wonderful mashed potatoes. Also steamed pea pods and bok choy. The lamb was well done and I prefer very rare but it was still lovely.

Dessert was New York style cheesecake. While it was tasty, it bore no resemblance to any cheesecake I've ever had, especially in New York. And who puts raisins in cheesecake?? Still, it was good.

We ordered a bottle of wine with dinner and our server, who did an admirable job all evening, did an outstanding job of making a production of opening the wine and providing a bit to taste before serving ladies first. The funny part? It was a twist off cap.

A delightful evening in which there was air conditioning and I did not have to fan bugs off my food.


SeconAnd once again the caption feature isn't working. Sorry.

First is a shot of where the teachers were marinating the chicken in a bucket. Soy sauce, a little onion and a little sugar is how we barbeque chicken in Samoa. Oh, the white stuff in the jar? Salt, because soy isn't salty enough.

Second photo shows Pila and Julius. They're cousins. This was taken in my front yard.

Third shows Pila, Julius and Esther with Koki 2. Koki was a rooster, raised by hand who died last Sunday at 14. The new Koki is being raised by hand to take his place as the family pet.

Fourth shows what happened when I brought a couple large bags of clothes in to give the teachers. It was like a half off sale at Salvation Army. The funniest part is that some of them chose to wear new items over their puletasis for the rest of the day. Since they always wear tshirts and shorts under their puletasis anyway, that means three layers of clothes. Have I mentioned how hot it is in Samoa?

Buggy Trifecta

Written Tuesday, November 13,2012

 As usual, this evening before taking my cold shower, I sorted laundry and tossed “close enough” colors into the bucket. Close enough used to mean whites with whites, etc. Now, pretty much anything goes, although I did resist tossing my very sweaty new white PC t-shirt in with my orange mu’umu’u.

 I scooped the detergent and noticed that not only did I get soap, I got the bonus in the bottom of the box. A large, dead cockroach. We call them Palmetto bugs in Florida. They fly but this one was well past his flying days so I just picked him out of the soap and tossed him in the toilet.

 A few minutes later I picked up the toilet paper roll as I usually do, by inserting my thumb in the tube. I’m looking forward to having toilet paper that is attached to a wall, rather than roaming free range around my bathroom.

 Unfortunately a spider roughly the size of the palm of my hand was curled up in the tp tube, napping. I woke him/her up and it scared the bejeebers out of both of us. After a quick break to step topless (ok, I clutched aforementioned sweaty t-shirt to my bosom) into the main room of my house to fetch the spider killing spray (Mortein), I stepped into the shower.

 I was facing sideways – turning on the tap (there’s only one since there’s only cold water) and closing the very nice shower curtain when the third piece of the trifecta fell into place. Literally, a large lizard flew off the curtain and landed on my chest. I did not scream and believe I should receive Peace Corps bonus points for that.

 In another entry I’ll explain my own personal game of Peace Corps in which points are awarded or deducted for wimpy or really bonehead moves. For example, the time I was asked to dance for the matais at school last year. I lost 100 points because I bowed to the school, which had my back to the chiefs. I started dancing to the majority of people and one of the teachers kindly came up to turn me around. Bonehead.

 Note: Yes, I know that lizards are reptiles and not insects but I just preferred the buggy title.  

Don't Bother The Trainees

(Written Saturday, Nov. 11, 2012)

I was in Salelologa this morning to meet up with one of my group. It would be our last chance to see each other in Samoa. On the way, I stopped to buy a birthday gift for my baby Julius. He turns one tomorrow.

 While I was shopping, I heard my name. It was Kiri, one of the new group. Ten members of Group 84 have been in Savaii for the last couple of days, meeting their new families and visiting the schools where they’ll be living. We were asked to leave them alone, allowing them to have the time to start getting to know their new families and villages. I tried. I didn’t go to the wharf to meet them when they arrived, which was disappointing for me.

 I was happy to see Kiri and invited her to join Pat and I at Burger Bill’s. She’d been up since 4:25 a.m. but the bus didn’t show and they missed the 8:00 a.m. boat. Plus, the 10:00 a.m. boat was cancelled, so she had time to kill. Welcome to Savaii!

 I was surprised when one of the group showed up on my doorstep on Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. She, of course, was not alone. Her new host parents brought her over. Not to worry, friends and loved ones of Angelina, she was fine. They just wanted to stop by because they know me and figured it would be nice for the new Pisi Koa to chat with the old Pisi Koa. They also wanted to show her my house and invite me to spend the afternoon and evening with them on Friday.

The plan was to take Lina to school on Friday, go shopping in Salelologa after school and pick me up about 3:00 p.m. Then, they’d drop Lina and me off at the beach at Lano so we could swim while they headed home to cook dinner. They’d pick us up again later and have dinner, then they’d drop me off at home in Faga, which is only about a 15 minute drive to Pu’apu’a.

The plan was fine except that when they were ready to pick me up I was still at the hospital. Because the infection has spread, I felt generally crappy and more like sleeping than hanging out at the beach, so I headed home instead.

 I was on the internet when they arrived close to 9:00 p.m. to drop off dinner. It was really thoughtful of them to bring me food, although one benefit of the infection is that my appetite is pretty much gone. It’s really hard for me to believe that by the time the new group moves to Savaii in December, I’ll have been home for almost a month. In some ways, I’m very jealous that they’re just starting their time here.

Doctor, Doctor

Written on Thursday, November 8, 2012

Before I left Apia a couple of weeks ago I had a weird physical experience. I wasn’t worried, since they’re happening more frequently as I age.

 In this case, I was minding my own business when my elbow blew up. As in, one minute it was perfectly normal and a few minutes later it was about double the size of the other one. It was tender but didn’t really hurt. I let the Peace Corps nurse know and we agreed to meet the following morning if it hadn’t improved. But it did. Overnight it reverted to being a normal elbow. Still a bit tender but since I was focused on the hellish bus ride to the wharf, my elbow was the least of my concerns.

 Fast forward a couple of weeks, past a nasty bout of something that invaded my digestive system and was not happy to be there to early this week. The damn elbow blew up again. I decided to ignore it. I chalked it up (along with the puking, diarrhea and every other ache and pain I’ve had lately) to the stress of leaving. It’s not unusual for me to get weird symptoms that magically disappear when the stress disappears.

 I was doing a fine job of ignoring it but the kids and teachers weren’t. It wasn’t that sore, and it’s really hard to see your elbow unless you try, so it was easy to ignore. Apparently, though, from other angles it was looking decidedly odd. Kids kept sneaking up and poking it because it was large, puffy and red.

 The teachers decided to use traditional medicine and my best buddy Meripa had one of the kids fetch some nonu leaves and gave my arm a gentle massage with the leaves. It helped in the same way it used to help when my mom stroked my back when I had a stomach ache or gently brushed my hair when I had a head ache. It didn’t make a physical difference but it did make me feel better.

By the end of day yesterday, I’d decided it was time to stop ignoring it because it was hurting like a bitch. To make it worse, this morning I woke up with what appeared to be filariasis. What I always thought was called elephantiasis. Where one part of your body swells to huge proportions and stays that way. From just above my wrist to the middle of my bicep (on my arms a bicep is actually more of a theory than a body part) my arm looked a bit like Popeye’s.

The actual elbow seemed to be a bit better and I could even bend my arm enough to brush my teeth right-handed today, which is more than I could do yesterday when I was in full denial. Bottom line, my arm is infected.

 Seems it started in the elbow where I had a tiny, tiny scratch – which never looked red or infected, by the way. Since I ignored it, it spread up and down my arm. I’m concerned that if it moves to my butt and it swells as much as my arm, they’ll have to buy me a first class seat for the flight home. Or I’ll have to spend 29 hours in the john.

 I’ve been to the hospital, where I spent two hours and $13.50 tala – or about $6.50 USD. I came home with two kinds of antibacterial/antibiotics, a little something to reduce the swollen joint and pain pills. With that many pills, I’m afraid they’ll make me declare them as food when I go through Customs. So many people have been asking what I wanted to take with me when I left Samoa. This was not it.

Last Dance

It's Thursday morning, November 15, 2012 and I'm in a hotel in Apia.  I'll be doing final interviews/medical with Peace Corps today and tomorrow, along with last minute errands.

Yesterday was my last day in the village.  It was good, it was sad and I cried a lot.  I hugged each of the 215 kids and all the teachers.  I hugged my family and took lots of photos.

Before I head to the airport tomorrow night with a van load of other volunteers, I'll try to post some entries I've written recently as well as some photos.

Just to get started, here's a picture of me yesterday, during prayer with all the kids.  First we fold our arms, then we close our eyes...

BTW, notice my delightful farmer's tan?