Friday, October 26, 2012

A Little This and That About Utulaelae

I went for a short ride one evening with the man in charge of training to discuss some possible adjustments to the training. We passed a fale with a thatched roof. A kerosene lamp lit the night as the man in the fale watched the biggest flat screen tv I've ever seen.

 It was chilly in the training village. My BFF, a PCV who lives in a nearby village has said for two years that she just about freezes to death every night. I've told her repeatedly that it's not cold it's just because she has 0% body fat. Well, I am eating those words because I have a smidgen of body fat and I got cold several nights. The trainees, bless their hearts, were complaining about how hot it is at night. Don't tell them this may be the coolest they ever are in Samoa.

The first day of training we realized there was no table in the fale. We needed one for our laptops, printer, etc. At 7:00 a.m. we reminded the patriarch of the family of our need. By 8:00 a.m. a couple of his sons/son-in-laws had built a table. That's one thing about Samoans. If they want something to happen, it happens!

 Many of the trainees attended church prior to coming to Samoa. Many did not. They are getting a full dose now. Some are attending 5:00 a.m. prayer service along with daily evening prayers and twice a day church on Sundays.

 I was raised a Methodist, but there isn't a Methodist church in my village. I was happy to have a chance to attend two in the training village.At one point in both services, everyone kneeled. But rather than kneeling facing forward, toward the altar, they knelt facing the pew they had just vacated. Hard on the knees on the cement floor for a twenty minute prayer but provided a much-needed stretch for my back which has been acting up the last couple of months.

With the help of several trainees, I taught a group of kids to play Duck, Duck, Goose during a break in training. They continued to play over the two weeks. My last day there, one trainee reported that several of the little kids were playing in the adjoining village of Utulaelae where most of the trainees are staying. Some older guys - in their teens and twenties joined the little kids. They would walk around the circle, tapping heads and saying duck, duck, goose and then run around the whole village, with the "goose" in hot pursuit. Whatever works.

 Several of us played Uno after class on Friday, my last night in the village. Half Samoan staff and half palagi trainees/me, we had a lot of laughs. The fun ended for one trainee when her host mom arrived before 7 p.m. to take her home for dinner. She got a scolding for staying out so late.

Welcome to life in Samoa, where it is most appropriate to be home before sunset on a Friday night in time for prayer and dinner. A big change from life in the USA for a 29 year old.

 I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the village with the new group. They're enthusiastic, smart and picking up the language quickly (damn them!) The host family is great and it was fun to run into one of my new "sisters" today while shopping in Apia. I'm ready to head home to Savaii, but it was a great way to spend a couple of weeks at the close of my service.

More Training Village Photos

Photo 2 - typical class for the culture sessions, which I helped facilitate.  Not enough chairs and no table.  This is Peace Corps training, baby. Photo 3 - These are two of the kids who live in the compound where the training takes place and where I stayed for two weeks.  Loved them.  We walked to the nearby resort one evening and along the way they showed me where a house used to stand before the 2010 tsunami.  Notice that the ocean is only barely visible in the background.  This area was NOT the hardest hit.  Photo 4 - Tilt your head and check out the food the family hosting Josh and Alisa sent for them.  They won't go hungry.  Photo 5 - At the resort, I treated the kids to a Coke (we shared a large bottle) and taught them to say "Cheers!".  Photo 6 - Then they discovered the slides!  Photo 7 - Training is exhausting.  These are three more family members of the main host family, relaxing in the space where training had just ended.  Photo 1 - not just the trainees were working hard.  This chicken laid an egg every afternoon.  Once on a chair, once in the duffle bag of a trainer, and several times on the table.
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More Pictures

Kate and Brad preparing for training.  Note the bandages wrapped on Brad's ankles with duct tape?  Mosquito bites.  They are better and the bandages are off now.  In the second photo - learning language! Third photo - Lu and Angelina, whose families gave them clothes and dressed them up.Photo 4 - the studying never stops.  Nor, seemingly, do my problems with Blogspot.  Sometimes paragraphs and captions work, sometimes they don't.  I swear I'll fix it when I have free internet in the USA.Photo 5 - Masi, a Talking Chief and Language trainer keeps the group entertained on breaks.Photo 6 - Millie got a cooler for her lunch! And fried chicken! Photo 7  Group 84 all dressed up in puletasis and ie lavalavas, going to church.  On the left, in blue, is Tuila - Peace Corps Medical Officer and the new best friend of the trainees.  Some aren't in the photo because three of us went to the Methodist church where their families go.
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More Group 84 Training Photos

FYI - I'm still having technical issues with Blogspot.  Anyway - it's not all touch for the new PC Samoa trainees.  This was the Friday night Fiafia (party) that my group hosted for them before the left for the village the following morning.  What's more fun than a fire dancer by the pool?

Before fire dancing we had a potluck dinner and a show, performed by Group 83.  I danced.  Badly, but I danced.

Let the show begin!  What a lovely smile - matches her sweet temperament.  She hasn't let the heat, humidity, bugs or language training get to her yet.  This was taken at fiafia night.

"Oh, no you didn't!"  This is in class at the training fale in the village.

No, she isn't paying me to publish her photos. 

Ali seems to be the language star so far.  I'd say her language is on a par with mine.  I've been here two years.  She's been here three weeks.  Youth sucks.

Chatting over lunch in the training fale.He's wearing a t-shirt and lavalava which is everyday wear.

Group 84 Photos

This is The house in front is where one of Group 84 will be living.  It is tiny but right on the water and has an indoor shower/toilet and tiny kitchen.  Their boss' house is the pink one just behind it.  I took this photo from the bus as we passed.The second photo is of Millie, the eldest of Group 84 and the other women in the group when we enjoyed Women's Night together.
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The women in this group are never at a loss for words.  Here are Lu and Alisa.    , enjoying conversation and niu (young coconut)The house, btw, belongs to a PC staffer, NOT a volunteer

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Two more of the ladies of Group 84 - Kiri, on the left and Angelina on the right.They enjoyed dressing as palagis at women's night - no spaghetti straps in the village.Below is the inside of the faleo'o where I slept for the two weeks in the training village.  The trainees faleo'os are similar but about 1/2 the size.  Mine is all indoors, with no "porch".  Theirs have a tiny bedroom and an open porch for hanging out and catching a sea breeze.

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Holy Crap, I'm Going Home!

I’ve been conscious that the time is coming to head back to the United States. Now, I feel like I just let go of the rail at the top of a very steep water slide and I’m picking up speed and getting a wedgie as I head toward the big splash

I think it really hit Saturday, when I realized I’d be sitting in my new apartment with old friends just three weeks from that moment. I’m looking forward to it. I’m also dreading leaving. Like any life change there are pros and cons. It will be bittersweet. I’m already having repeated dreams that any amateur psychologist worth his salt would tell you means I’m dealing with separation anxiety and issues related to the unknown life I’m going to.

 I’m certainly not unhappy about the uncertainty. It’s exciting. I’m lucky enough to be in a position to have a variety of options without having huge financial pressures to immediately start money rolling in again. Of course, after I have a sit down with my financial manager, I may be singing a different tune.

 My current plan is to spend the last half of November and all of December relaxing, visiting with friends and starting the readjustment process. In January, I plan to start the real search for work, while still staying in the rented place on the beach in Florida. I’ll start February by attending a wedding in Michigan.

Might I point out how much I love the bride to be? Because if I didn’t I would not be hauling my South Pacific feels-like-the-surface-of-the-sun ass to colder-than-a well-digger’s-ass Michigan. Heck, I’m already worried about the cold Florida winter I’m headed to.

After the wedding, I’ll be heading overseas to live inexpensively, continue job hunting online and enjoy another adventure. Currently, India, Thailand, Uruguay and Guatemala top the list but there are many others in contention.

 I’ve heard from my legion of fans (ok, my two best friends) that they’ll miss my blog. Don’t despair – I can still bore you silly, since I plan to continue writing. I’ll keep you posted on my readjustment process (translation: more whining) and also post many of the videos and photos of Samoa that I haven’t been able to from here. I also plan to do a little processing of my experience in Samoa by continuing to blog about some stories of Samoa I haven’t shared yet. Or that I haven’t shared fully. Some funny, some not.

 In any case, I hope you’ll hang with me.

Food in the Training Village

As with clothes and housing, the families are vying for the honor of feeding their trainee the best and the most food. One family is hosting two volunteers and bought them teach an insulated small lunch container. I never bought one because they are so expensive.

 I have memories of eating a lot of boiled green bananas in training, with ramen noodles as a treat. This group is dining on fried chicken, fish, M&Ms (really!), catered burgers and fries from Apia and imported apples and oranges.

 I have no complaints about the food I’ve been eating for the last week in the village. Just the opposite, I’m dining on fine Samoan meals, three times a day. I’m being fed, along with the Samoan staff, by the family of the ali’i. For breakfast we have piles of egg sandwiches and sausages and tea or Koko Samoa. Or, supo esi (soup made with papaya, coconut cream and tapioca) and rice. Or pankeke and papaya.

For lunch (known here as tea) we have a feast with a variety of meats (fish: raw and cooked; chicken and sausage) and a variety of starchy vegetables – taro, banana and breadfruit. The food is plentiful and well-prepared but for the first three days, other than the starchy vegetables, there were no fruits or vegetables. There was, however gallons of coconut cream which is delicious but not helpful in maintaining my girlish figure. I pointed out to the lead trainer that the other volunteers who will be coming to take my place next week are vegetarian so diet could be a problem. That’s when the papaya showed up for breakfast.

Since then, they’ve also added a bit of bok choy to the menu. Some of the trainers have gone to Apia and kindly brought back avocado, mango and pineapple, all of which is in season now. On Saturday, since the Samoan trainers were all going home for the weekend, they prepared a to’ona’i for us. That means making the oven (umu), roasting a small pig and also adding a variety of other kinds of meat and starchy vegetables. Along with cold niu to drink.

Sunday is the traditional day for to’ona’i, so we had another feast, complete with another roasted pig and all the rest. Very tasty and I’m working hard on restraint and filling up on raw fish and other more healthy options, although they are limited.

So far the trainees seem happy with the food. Some are getting tired of the fact that Samoan foods tend to be bland and soft and may be greasy and salty. One of the group doesn’t like coconut cream, which is a shame since it is used in so many Samoan dishes.

Samoans in the village keeping asking which foods I’ll miss most when I go back to America. I’ll really miss oka (ota) which is raw fish (reef here in the village, tuna in town) with onion, tomato, cucumber, coconut cream and lime juice); poke, which is another version of raw tuna, not found in the training village; and many of the fruits, including vi. Vi won’t be in season before I leave so won’t be having the delicious, tart/sweet/rich grated vi salad which is mixed with coconut cream and topped with crushed peanuts.

I will NOT miss simini – ramen noodles nor canned corned beef. I also won’t miss getting a mouthful of pig bristles or fat when dining on roasted pig.

The best thing I’ve eaten/drunk in the past week? Hands down it was the chilled drink I was served as a snack yesterday. Grated ripe pineapple (and juice) mixed with a bit of coconut cream. If they’d added a bit of rum it would have been the best tropical drink ever. As it was, it was the best, most refreshing drink/snack I’ve had in Samoa.

What's Peace Corps Samoa Training Like?

A one-word answer to describe PC training is “intense”.  I struggled with training in 2010.  The amount of new information combined with a completely new environment as well as having no personal time to be able to process what was going on made it daunting.  This group seems to be handling it a bit better but is still feeling the intensity. 

Group 84 spent one week in Apia, getting the basics and meeting staff.  They arrived in the villages on Saturday, October 13.  They were welcomed with an ava ceremony by the matais (chiefs) of the village and were introduced to their new families.

On Monday, one of my group helped two PC staff member conduct the Water Safety Training.  Tuesday morning started with a Safety and Security session designed to inform them of local laws.  Then came language training, followed by their first cultural training.

During the rest of the week, the trainees arrived at the training fale by 8:00 a.m.  Most were dressed in new clothes (puletasis for the women, lavalavas for the guys) and jewelry when they arrived.  Samoans are competitive and the host families are sewing and buying things like crazy for “their” trainee to make sure they are the best dressed.  They also “help” the women with their hair to make sure they are the best groomed, by Samoan standards.  Braids and buns are everywhere.

Each morning starts with check-in, just to see if anyone has questioned or anything new has come up.  We also let them know the schedule for the day.  After check-in comes language until morning tea at 10:00 a.m.   Language continues from 10:30 to noon, when we break for lunch.  The families either send lunch in the morning with their trainee or deliver it around noon.

At 1:00 p.m. each day we have cultural training for two hours.  That’s what I’m here to help with.  I’m working with the lead trainer on staff to combine theory and the ideal of fa’asamoa with the current reality of what they’ll be experiencing in their sites. 

I’m trying to help keep the sessions varied, interesting and helpful and so far informal feedback has been good, but the evaluations will tell the tale.  It does feel good to be back doing the kind of professional work that I did for years before coming to Peace Corps.

We’ve done sessions on cultural values and compared things that Americans typically value to things Samoans value, and how that impacts behaviors. We talked about specific examples of things the trainees have seen and experienced so far as well as things the Samoans have observed from the Americans and how the behaviors might be interpreted.

The session on non-verbal communication was funny and eye-opening, I think.  We did it as a competition, with teams having to interpret non-verbals that  the language trainers demonstrated.  We went through about 30 different non-verbals.  The group started asking “Really?  How many different ways are there to say you want to have sex with us?”  It’s a Christian country, but they love to laugh and flirt and some of the flirting is very direct.  I got to demonstrate how to turn down an advance, non-verbally.

After two hours of culture training, we have another 30 minute break, followed by language training until 5:00.  By then, the trainees are hot, sweaty and mentally exhausted.  Many, however, stay for another optional hour of tutoring. 

Then, they usually fill up their water bottles and head toward their fales.  Frequently members of their families arrive to walk them home. 

The trainees have homework each night and also are anxious to interact with their families.  Plus, most have a need to take a walk or go for a swim to try to get their bodies as tired as their brains.  Many families have the nightly traditional “lotu” or prayer for half an hour at sunset, followed by dinner and time to work on the homework.  Then, early to bed because some volunteers attend 5:00 a.m. prayer with their families.

The trainees are healthy (except for the minor bug bites, infections, etc.); happy (except for the occasional moments of feeling overwhelmed or homesick) and very, very busy.  It didn’t take them long to realize that “Beach Corps” just means they happen to live on the beach.

What's the Training Village Like?

The training village is actually two villages that are so close together that they seem like one.  Located on the southeastern coast of Upolu, the villages are small and well-kept.  One of the villages is on the water.  It looks as if all of the houses and structures are new, because they are.  The village was essentially wiped out during the 2010 tsunami and was rebuilt “uta”, away from the sea.  That’s the second village that is hosting the training.

The “tai” (close to the sea) village was rebuilt to host the trainees.  This is the fourth time the village has hosted Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) and they are justifiably proud of that record.  They are paid to feed and house the PCTs but the money doesn’t come close to covering the actual expenses, let alone the inconvenience and disruption caused by hosting 13 PCTs, several PCVs who are helping with training and Samoan PC staff.

Each PCT (or couple, since there is one married couple) has been assigned a host family.  Some families built accommodations from scratch, just to house their trainee.  My favorites are the traditional faleo’os (also called fale Samoa) that are small, cozy and have sea views.   Each has a small enclosed room which can be locked and is large enough to hold a mattress and small table and a suitcase, and a covered porch that is just a bit larger than the bedroom.  Each has an overhead light, just beneath the thatched roof.  There are no electrical outlets.  The faleo-os have colorful lavalavas (pieces of cloth used for sarongs and a variety of other uses) covering the thatched ceilings to minimize insects, mice and natural debris from falling into the fale.

The fale’s also have mulit-colored curtains, although the cotton is thin and doesn’t provide much privacy.  The mattress is on the floor.  The entire floor, both in the bedroom and on the porch are covered with mats – some of the mats are plastic woven mats made in China, while others are the traditional handmade falas (mats) made by the women in the family.

For someone like me, who was in college during Woodstock, the fales are a flower child’s dream come true.  The PCTs, most of whom weren’t alive in the 60’s (there is a 71 year old woman), may not have the nostalgic appreciation (I used cheap Indian bedspreads back then, but the effect was the same) but they seem happy with their tiny new houses.

Volunteers who aren’t in the traditional fales have been given a room in a family’s palagi fale – a western style house.  While several of the volunteers are living in the “tai” village, close to the sea, there aren’t enough families there to host all volunteers.  Others are in the other village “uta” about a ten minute walk away.   They’re in either a traditional fale or a palagi fale as well.  One volunteer’s palagi house has been dubbed a “palace” by her fellow volunteers, because of the tile floors and other amenities.

Most volunteers have both outdoor showers and toilets, usually connected to each other.  Imagine an outhouse that has a toilet side and a shower side, separated by a shoulder-high inner wall.  It’s a flush toilet and generally a cement shower with PVC pipe, sans a shower head.  When I’m dreading stepping under a cold shower, I distract myself by considering that I am a PCV, taking a shower under a PVC pipe.   My humor has not become more sophisticated here.   I also find pig farts laugh-out-loud funny.
The large fale tali malo where we’re doing the training is “uta” and no more than a ten minute walk from the furthest volunteer.  I’m housed there, along with the Samoan PC staff/trainers.  When the family (headed by the ali’i – highest chief in the village) found out that an older female PCV would be here for two weeks to help with the training they “built” a faleo’o for me to use.  I discovered last night that they didn’t actually build it, but moved it from a house not far away.  New or used, it’s comfortable and about twice the size of the small faleo’os built for the trainees.  I’ve been alone part of the time, but shared it with one of my favorite PC staff members.  She and I also shared it with chickens.  After the big meal on Sunday we were napping on our mattresses and a chicken came in the front door, walked over Teuila’s mattress and then flew out the “wall”, which is open air.  Scared the beejebbers out of her and gave me a good laugh.

At night we share the fale with pigs and dogs, since they both like to sleep under the fale.  The first night, when I was alone, I woke up and heard breathing and thought for a second someone was in the fale with me.  Then I realized a pig was softly snoring directly under my head, about a foot away.  

I’ve heard some funny stories from the new group about their first couple of weeks here, but will let them share those.  Let’s just say they have discovered that there is no such thing as alone time in Samoa – even when you’re taking a shower or using the toilet. 

Leaving for the Group 84 Training Village

On Monday, October 15, I was in Apia. The plan was for the Language and Culture trainers and I to head to the training village at noon. Group 84 PCTs had gone to the village the previous Saturday and on Monday, although it was a holiday in Samoa, they were having water safety training.

 I got a call around 11:00 a.m. saying that our departure would be delayed, until about 2:30 (we actually left around 5:30 p.m.) I used the time to stroll down to the sea wall to chat with passengers from the Holland America cruise ship that was in port. I talked to two different couples who were on the ship – they weren’t travelling together – and one of each couple was an RPCV.

There are only 195,000 returned PCVs, so I thought it ironic that I met two of them in the tiny country of Samoa. The woman I met had served in Venezuela. The man served in Liberia. Both served in the 80’s. There’s a non-profit that provides support to RPCVs, as well as providing opportunities to continue serving in some way. They’re trying to find all 195,000 RPCVs. They could just hire me for six months to wander around and find them all.

Training Village - Group 84

I returned yesterday (Friday, October 26, 2012) from the training village in Upolu where the newest group of Peace Corps Trainees are being tortured...oops, sorry, make that trained.

During my two weeks with the group I took photos and wrote some stuff that I'll be trying to post today.

Just in case, if someone you love is in the Group, know that they are doing well and working hard.  More to come!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Ok, now I can't make paragraphs or get the "add caption" to work.  Anyway, the first photo is me and the three boys we've been fundraising for.  The plan is for them to come to Michigan with their former teacher and RPCV Kyle.  This was taken in downtown Apia. Saturday morning.  The kids, their families, Kyle and I were selling vaisalo and koko arisa (types of soups) and niu as well as raffle tickets.  It was fun, hot and exhausting.
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In the second photo I'm with Ed Mulitalo, a former NFL player (Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens) who now lives in Apia.  I'm almost six feet tall, btw.  And speaking of coincidences, Ed was born in Daly City CA where I used to work.  He played at the University of Arizona, which is in my home town.  and he played for the Detroit Lions.  I lived in Detroit for 13 years.  I met Ed at a trvia night fundraiser last week and he won the raffle.

What Are The Odds?

There's a cruise ship in town.  It's the Oosterdam from Holland America.  I strolled toward the ship in my puletasi and talked to some locals and some tourists from the boat.

The first woman I spoke with is a former PCV (RPCV) who served many years ago in Venezuela. 

The next person I spoke with was an RPCV from my hometown of Tucson, who served in Liberia in the 80's and has a good friend who is an RPCV from Samoa.

Just to further the string of coincidences, I sailed across the Pacific on the sister ship to the Oosterdam, the Rotterdam. 

What are the odds?
This is me, looking down at my feet in front of my door.  That is Odie, my family's dog who likes to stand between my legs.  I love him but it makes it hard to walk.
I cooked for Women's night with the new group.  Salad (lettuce, bok choy, mango, crab and avocado), vegetarian and meat lasagnas, garlic bread and mini cheesecakes.  They won't see food like this again for a long time.
Niu (young coconut) was the beverage of choice for the ladies.  Our DMO generously let us use her house for the event.

More Photos

The new house in Pu'apu'a where one of the new group will live.  The pink house in the back is on stilts over the ocean.  That's where the principal lives.  I took the photo from the bus as we drove by. 
Year 8 boy, dressed as a girl.  The boys had a Miss Samoa contest.  Having men dress as women is really funny here.
This is Year 3.  Lofi, in the front is only 3 and the daughter of a teacher and my best friend.  She was terrified of me when I arrived but now spends most of her day following me around.
I'm in the back - we were preparing to march through the village in the early morning.  Singing and asking the village to give money to the teachers in honor of Teachers' Day.
Fundraising for the teachers continued with each class doing a tausala - dancing for money.  Parents and others gave us enough for $120 for each teacher and $200 each for the SRO and principal.  These two kids are Year 1.  Sooooo adorable.


I just sent in my vote for both Presidential and Legislative candidates. If I can vote from a small island in the middle of a very large ocean, you can too. Please remind everyone. We are a free country, because we can vote. DO IT!


A new bus which can take me to Salelologa.
I don't get cell coverage in my house, so make all of my phone calls at the road.  These are some of the kids who live next door and keep me company.  The two younger boys scream "We love you, Nancy!" when they see me, thanks to their oldest sister (not shown).  It will be so hard to say goodbye.  


I'm heading to the training village today. Since it's a holiday (White Sunday Monday) we aren't leaving until 3:00 p.m. I'm using my time on the internet to post some photos. I hope you enjoy them.
We were sitting on the bus, waiting for it to take us to Salelologa.  We passed the time by taking photos.  She's a beauty.
Sunrise in front of my house.  This is the view as I walk to work. Not a bad commute, eh?
I always get to school early and these boys are usually already there.  The beautiful sunrise is behind us.
The boy on the left is Pula'a.  He's in Year 8.  He's always the first to arrive at school, to unlock the classroom and begin cleaning.  He's a smart, funny and amazing boy.  When I first arrived I occasionally called him pua'a instead of Pula'a.  Pua'a means pig.  He never held it against me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Random Stuff

I bought groceries yesterday because I knew restaurants would be closed today for White Sunday. One of my purchases was a bag of octopus flavored chips. I couldn't resist. Last night when I got into bed, I pulled up the sheet. It came up only as far as my waist. The nice lady who serviced my room had put the sheet on horizontally rather than vertically. Four of my Group left yesterday for Savaii. But they were here this morning when I got up. The van they'd arranged to the wharf didn't show up. They flagged another van but after they drove ten minutes the driver stopped and said they had to wait. Seems it wasn't actually his van and he had to wait for his wife to bring his van to exchange for the van he was driving. The delay caused them to miss the last boat. Very excited about going to the training village tomorrow but will miss the luxuries of hot water and air con that I've been enjoying in Apia.

Group 84 Training Village

It's White Sunday in Samoa and I'm in Apia. I regret that I'm not home in my village for one of the most special days of the year but am leaving tomorrow to join Group 84 in their training village. They left yesterday after their first week of training. I did a team building session with them Thursday, followed by an evening with the women of the group. They seem very happy, excited, scared, tired...all the emotions you might expect after a long flight followed by an intense week of training. Mostly they seem happy and enthusiastic. Friday night we had the traditional Peace Corps Samoa welcome fiafia. It started with food we each brought (I made a HUGE pan of tuna casserole) then moved on to introductions of the new group and a slide show of my group. Next was a fashion show to give them a taste of what they'll be wearing for two years. After the fashion show came the dancing. The men of Group 83 did the Manu Samoa haka, in which they were half naked and covered in coconut oil. Next, the women, including me, did a traditional Samoan dance. I didn't blow it too badly and had fun. Last was the sasa, which I didn't do but the rest of our group sat on the ground and slapped themselves silly in time to a drum. Great fun to watch. Last was the taupo dance in which one of our women, Rachel, dressed in fine mats and headdress danced. Gradually, our whole group and some audience members got up and danced with her. The evening finale was by the pool and was siva afi - fire dancing. It was awesome and done for free by a friend of one of our guys. We just had to chip in for his expenses to get there. He was handsome, talented and announced he wanted to meet a certain young lady from the new group after his performance. It was a fun evening. Several of the group came by yesterday where I was helping sell vaisalo, koko alisa, niu and raffle tickets. We're still working on raising money to bring three Samoan boys to the USA for a month-long cultural exchange program. We hope to make this an annual event, with new kids each year. I got to know the boys better and also work with their families, which was fun. Group 84 had a couple of free hours to prepare for heading to the training village for two months. They bought cold niu (young coconuts) and one brave guy tried the vaisalo which is a delicious and healthy soup made from the juice and inner lining of the young coconut, mixed with tapioca. I'll be heading to the village tomorrow and will be with them for two weeks. I'll add updates and photos as quickly as I can. Just know that they are healthy and happy and seem to be making many new friends.