Thursday, December 16, 2010


Darwin had a theory. Only those who can adapt to their surroundings survive. With my new life in Samoa I couldn’t find this theory to be truer. The part I didn’t realize was how much adapting I am and continually doing. One of the first things and biggest aspects is the environment. For example, the weather here in Samoa. Hot all the time and no air conditioning. Luckily, my body is taking care of this one so I don’t have to consciously think of it. Then of course there are the apparent aspects that I’m adjusting to like: food, people and culture. These take longer than most and require both a conscious and unconscious effort. However, there is a type of adaptation that I have not really come across until coming here. This is adapting to things that you yourself have already said you would never be able to do. First thing that comes to mind…bugs! I have bedded with cockroaches, showered with spiders the size of fists, and allowed lizards control of my room. All of which would have sent chills down my back before, now just seem like second nature. In the beginning I wanted every one of those creatures killed, and killed by anyone else but me. Now two months later. I’ll either leave them be, or kill them myself. Then there are things like your skin. My skin back home was properly taken care of. Pampered with expensive soaps, clean H2O, and lathered with lotions and medicated with moisturizers. Here my skin has taken an unfamiliar hit for the worst. I have not used any of which I did before, including the clean water. My skin has developed painful unusual bumps, rashes, and a new state which includes a high level of sweat, dirt and unsanitary water. And even though I find it annoying, its not debilitating. Talking to other PCV’s who have been here longer confirm this by telling and showing their run-ins with skin infections, and boils. But as one volunteer stated, “you get used to it.” In other words you adapt. In order to survive in a new environment you must adapt quickly. It’s no coincidence that volunteers who leave usually leave within the first 3 months of their service. Because whatever the case, adaptation was not successful in areas that were mental, physical, or environmental. Obviously there are certain things that are easier to adapt to then others. The areas I find the most difficult is not the food, my new house, the bugs or new illnesses. For me, its letting go of my old life, and habits to realize and embrace my new life to form new habits. Breaking old habits takes a conscious effort. This is obviously difficult to do. However, with each day I find myself working a little less hard, and consciously thinking a little less. Lesson I’m learning… it’s amazing what one can adapt to.

A person’s lap is an official seat for another

Most common form of transportation…buses. However like many other things, Samoan buses are unlike anything I have ever experienced. Imagine a city bus where you live. Okay now take that bus and minimize it by ¼. Turn the bus into wood including the seats. Now put a person in every seat. Then take that same amount of people and add it again to the bus. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “well where are thos people going to go?” Well on the laps of the people sitting in the seats of course! Literally strangers are sitting on one another’s laps. Then add about another 20 people who stand in the aisle. And of course the bus can’t be complete without blaring, and I do mean blaring hip hop remixed with Samoan twist music. There you have it ladies and gentleman, a typical Samoan bus ride. Where the max person capacity is 32 people and you have managed to squeeze in over 70. However I will say that this madness comes with a certain unwritten system of cultural do’s and don’ts So much so that the Peace Corps dedicated a whole session on how to ride the bus properly, without doing anything taboo. For example, men sit in the back of the bus, women up front. (That’s a major one) Try not to keep your bags in your lap because essentially that’s a seat. Men sit on men’s laps, while women sit on other women’s laps. (I usually try to get a kid to sit on me because its much more comfortable then having a full grown person sitting on you. If a women who is older than you gets on the bus, you give up your seat. Seats in the very front are offered for elderly and or men who are chiefs in their villages. Its taboo for a woman to sit on a mans lap, and vise versa. However, I have seen it on more than one occasion. Which leads me to believe you only sit with the opposite sex if there really is no other room. Also another thing I should mention is there is no bus schedule and there are no real bus stops. Which, just makes things more chaotic for a foreigner like me!  Another fascinating thing about riding the buses is that nowhere is it written how much it costs to get from point A to point B. its all just kind of known by the locals. You would think that a person could lie to the driver and pay less than you really owe, but somehow the driver is all knowing and he knows exactly how much each passenger should be paying. I have yet to figure out how they do this. Basically riding the buses here is an adventure all in its own. It can be an enjoyable, or it can leave you with sore legs, bruises, and a headache. Nevertheless I have come to realize that the bus system in Samoa is as much a part of the culture as the food, language, and music.

Samoa’s Dual Lives

There are two ways of living in Samoa. There is Apia life, and village life. I have  experienced both. Apia life is as close as anyone is going to get to an American life. Apia is Samoa’s capital as well as the only big town on the island of Upolu. When living in Apia people tend to dress more western. Women wear tank tops, shorter dresses, and shorts that show their knees. Men are wearing sunglasses, listening to American music, and wearing the latest clothes. English is also a lot more common in Apia. Anything that a person might need that can’t be made or grown is bought in Apia. The night life is similar to that of the States. There are a couple dance bars, your local lounges for casual drinks, one movie theatre, and a variety of restaraunts. Also, another aspect of Apia is the fact that it is a common port for cruise ships to stop at. Therefore, “pulangi’s” or “white people,” are common to see in  Apia.
Then there is village life. Basically you take Apia, think of the complete opposite and there you have it. Village life comes with waking up to the old fashion clock…roosters. When the roosters start crowing the day has officially started. I keep trying to explain to my host family that 4 a.m. is not the day its still night, but they don’t quite agree. Nevertheless, people wake. Your gender, age, and role in the family tells the person what their duties are everyday. Some men wake up and go straight to work at the plantation. The younger men might tend to the pigs, horses and cows. The women usually look after the house, the younger girls usually do the cooking and cleaning, and the children usually pick up the rubbish around the house and help with miscellaneous chores. No matter what, each person has their role to play and each aspect is vital for daily life and the family to function properly. Villagers are not accustomed to pulangis and are fascinated when they do see one that’s outside of Apia. If you were to take a walk around a village you would mostly see pigs roaming around freely, horses on the side of the road, chickens everywhere, and people working and walking around their fales.  You will probably be asked about 20 different times where you are going and about 100 hellos and goodbyes. Most people who live in the rural villages get their food from their plantation, or trees (breadfruit, coconuts, bananas, mangos etc.) They get their eggs from their chickens and most times the chickens will become their dinner. Women dress very modestly while living in the village; nothing past the knees, no tank tops, and no midriff showing. Its very common for people to shower outside or even bathe in the ocean. The word ta’ele means to shower, bath and swim in the ocean because essentially it’s all the same to the Samoan people. Sunday is a very important day in the village. Life stops during this day. No working, no cleaning, no nothing. Sunday is meant for church, prayer, eating, and sleeping. Some Samoans do each of these things twice over. There is no night life in the village except for…Bingo. Yes, Bingo it’s a huge hit here in Samoa and is taken very seriously. Some Peace Corps volunteers have gone to practice their numbers in Samoan and said it was very tense and stressful because they go so fast and people get frustrated if you go to slow.  Like I said, it is taken very seriously. I haven’t gone yet, but I’m sure I will go at some point. So basically after experiencing both aspects of Samoan life I have likes and dislikes to each. I myself live in a rural village and will live there for the next two years. But when I need to get away, relax whatever Apia is only a bus ride away. ( a perk with living on an island… you can only go so far) Whichever Samoan life I’m in at the time, one thing is for sure my life now, is nothing like my life back home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

busy busy bee

Posts are coming, but here are some random pics! Enjoy!
 My friend Jenny and I at the hotel in Apia. One of the last nights in Apia before we were heading out to our villages. Love this girl.
My host family. There are two more kids but they weren't there at the time.

Just one of the many views from where I live. :)
My bedroom for the past 7 weeks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Low point

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
So today was a rough day as well as an okay day. I’m still not fully comfortable with my host family and I really struggle with trying to find a happy medium between hanging out with them, having alone time, and hanging out with other PCV’s. Hopefully as time goes by I will be able to find that medium. Furthermore, another issued I’m having is with the food. The food is good…there’s just sooo much of it! It’s life a 4 course meal for every meal! I just can’t eat all that. My running is definitely going to be on an increase. Language class is going okay for the most part. The hard part is it being for 8 hours a day. I find that during class I am able to follow well, but retaining it and applying it is a whole different story. I would have to say my background in Spanish is helping. I miss a lot of people from my group, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them on Thursday and Friday. Also I talked to Natalie and Rachael today and they helped break down the schedule for me to help me not feel so overwhelmed. It def gave me things to look forward to so that seven weeks doesn’t feel like an eternity.

Living with a host family

Sunday, October 24, 2010
Day 1 with my host family, also Sunday in the village. Sunday’s in Samoa are spent eating, sleeping, and resting. All of which are unfamiliar territory for me when that’s all you do. I went to church with my family. We went to a Methodist church which was all in Samoan…interesting. My family woke me up bright and early for breakfast and services. This was tough within itself because the night before I didn’t sleep a wink. There was a horrible thunderstorm that woke me up. On top of that, the wild dogs were fighting, the pigs were screaming, and the roosters were crowing. I’m hoping tonight is a different story. I sleep under a mosquito net which is great because when the sun goes down, the creatures come out. I’m trying so hard to get used to the lizards, and bugs all over my walls. Living with a host family has always been my greatest fear of the whole Peace Corps experience, so now that it is here, I am struggling. I’m trying hard, but sometimes I just want to lock myself in my room, and not come out. Maybe that will change as time goes on, and maybe it won’t…who knows. During the weekdays I am in class from 8-430. I’m grateful for this because it allows me to be with people in my group and out of my house. I don’t mean that to sound bad, its just how I’m feeling at the moment. I was looking for comfort today and sought for it in a Cosmo magazine that I’ve been saving. Man, have I never felt farther away from America and its luxuries. I looked at the ads and models, and suddenly realized I haven’t seen what I look like in days-no mirrors. Which is probably a blessing disguise considering the following: The heat and humidity have me sweating more then I knew I could, the water I shower with has made my skin break out in rashes, I have bug bites all over, and my face probably looks like that of a middle schooler going through puberty. So seeing all those models in the magazine, and all the perfume/makeup ads made me realize what and where my life really is. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize I got myself here, and I am happy I did. But for now I feel like sulking. So I’m going to continue sulking, then when I’m done and over this emotion, I will move on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fa'a Samoa

2 week down. I have one more week left in Apia before heading out to my training village. I will be moving in with a host family whom I’ve never met before, and essentially our group will be split up and I will not have the comfort of familiar American faces around. Let the true test begin. I must say even though I’ve been here for two weeks I feel like I’ve been here a lot longer. For example, all my clothes are officially and forever stretched out, I’ve developed some sort of rash on both of my legs, and at this very moment there is a dead cockroach in my bathroom (that I’m refusing to pickup). Back home those things would have bothered me, but not so much here. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been things that have upset me. Which brings me into my next topic…the Samoan language, it’s a beautiful language that when spoken correctly and fluently is great. I, however, do not speak the language with either of those things-not even close.  The other day my group and I were sitting in the common room of the hotel have our language course. The topic for the day, the alphabet and its sounds, so here I am sitting there saying “ah, eh, ee, oh, uh” and all these Samoan people who are staying at the hotel come in and just sat there staring at us and laughing at us. This went on for about 30 minutes. People would come in and just watch us trying to sound out the Samoan alphabet and cracking jokes. Let me tell you, it was not fun. I already felt awkward and stupid as it was and these people were just not making it any better. I guess I have to get used to sounding silly and realize people will make fun of me. On a lighter language side I have probably said about 5 Samoan cusswords to my teacher without even knowing it. The thing about the Samoan language it has tons of glottal stops and stresses, and if you stress the wrong letter, or stop on the wrong vowel then whoops you end up asking the bar tender for a banana when what you really meant to say was napkin. Here are a few things mistakes I have innocently made: trying to say 27 and saying –pubic hair, trying to say apostrophe and saying-fu**, and trying to say tired and saying-in between my legs. No matter what, it always comes out as a bad word, or sexual. My teachers and people in town just think its hysterical so I just smile, nod my shoulders, and play the silly pulangi card. J

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

White Sunday/ Children's Day

Children’s Day/White Sunday
Today is a holiday here in Samoa. It’s called White Sunday, it’s a day dedicated to the children. The children are spoiled with treats, new clothes and attention. I went to one of my Samoan instructor’s church to see how this day is celebrated. It was a cool thing to experience. Most people wear all white, however its mostly important the children wear white, symbolizing purity. During the church service the children performed skits, dances, and songs for the people. They sang in Samoan, and English. I was astonished because at such a young age these kids can sing in such harmony. I don’t know what it is about Samoans but they are not only big people, but also amazing singers; almost like they are genetically predisposed. After the service there was refreshments and a little get together with all the people in the church. I loved celebrating this important holiday with them. It made me feel like I was taking one small step to becoming closer understanding and being a part of their culture.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guess what??? I went to paradise!

My first weekend in Samoa has been amazing! Today a bunch of us went to a beach on the south side of Samoa. The beach looked exactly like it could have been a picture that is on your desktop on a computer! It was the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my life. I swam in the Pacific with water around 70 degrees, and to top it all off there were little tike huts on the beach that we had to relax, play cards, and eat. The only bad part about the whole day was that I became a lobster within 10 minutes! I have never put so much sunscreen on in my life, and SPF 55 at that! Anyways the day was a perfect one and I couldn’t help but think about what I would have been doing if I was back home. I’ve decided I like my outcome here in Samoa A LOT better. J This past week I have met a lot of the volunteers that have either been here for one year or two. They have been extremely welcoming to us “newbies.” They answer all our silly questions and answer them with all seriousness even though I know in their heads their probably laughing at us. I am so happy right now but I know that as time goes by homesickness and loneliness will set in. That is why I’m trying to enjoy the time I have now being with my group, and being in Apia. I’m taking one day at a time.

Nice to meet you Samoa

 Hello! I made it and I am well. After a long 10.5 hours I have landed on the island of Uplou in Samoa.  This place is gorgeous unlike anything I have ever seen. However before I get into my life so far in Samoa let me start by talking about the dreaded leave and goodbye of my home and family. So rewind to 3 days ago. My parents drove me to the airport. The whole way there my head was filled with emotions and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I was dreading saying goodbye to my family. When the time came I hugged my parents, cried, and for a split second wondered if I was making the right choice. The second passed, the hugs ended and I knew I need to take those steps towards my plane. Even though it hurt and I was sad I knew I was doing the right thing. I boarded the plane and headed for staging in L.A. Staging is when the Peace Corps group meets at a specific location to meet each other before heading towards their post, or country.  I spent the night in a hotel and the next day was bombarded with filing out paperwork and getting briefed on what to expect when we got there. Although the meetings were long and tedious I enjoyed staging because it allowed for me to become more familiar with the people in my group. Who, by the way, are all pretty cool. Then on Tuesday, October 5, 2010 my group of 20 boarded the plane to head towards Samoa. 10.5 hours later we were here. I was exhausted. I don’t know about you but I CANNOT sleep on a plane, and to top it all off we arrived around 6 am so I had to wait until that night to finally get some sleep. Therefore, I had been up for more than 30 hours. Nevertheless, I was enjoying myself. When we arrived at Peace Corps headquarters we had an Ava Ceremony. It was our welcome ceremony into the country. Other PC volunteers came in to welcome us as well. Afterwards I had information meeting one after another. That night me and a bunch of people from my group went out with some of the other PCV’s. I know I know I could have very well have gone to bed, but c’mon I couldn’t pass a Valima (Samoan beer) and a time to bond with the new people in my life! This all brings me to today. Today has been spent doing training. The weekend is coming up and I’m excited because I will get more of an opportunity to explore the town and get to hang out with the other PCV’s. I’ll try and make my postings pretty regular but training makes me sooo busy, so patience would be greatly appreciated. J

Group 83 just arrived to Samoa!!!

Primary school we passed on the way to Apia.

Some of Group 82 helping with the Ava Ceremony

Jo bringing the Ava

The delicious roasted pig we had during our Ulu. (A feast that was prepared for us the night we arrived.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tearful Goodbyes and Days Before the Big Day!

Tearful goodbyes is what consisted of this past weekend.  A bunch of my friends came into town to have one last night of  festivities before I leave. I had a blast, and it was so good to hang out with them. I couldn't ask for better friends. I'm really going to miss them, but it helps knowing that they support me fully. I have 4 days until I leave, and I think I have felt feelings about the situation that I didn't even know exsisted. Tomorrow I am going to continue packing (which by the way I am failing miserably at by procrastinating hugely) I am going out tomorrow night with a really good friend for drinks and dinner. (It will be our last time hanging out so another tearful goodbye here I come) Then the weekend will be filled with last minute errands and spending as much time with the family as possible. I can tell that me leaving is already taking a toll on my mom and I know that day at the airport is going to be really hard for her, which in turn, is going to make it really hard on me.
Not much else to say really...overwhelmed with emotion. It's weird... when I'm excited the days seem to go by soooo slowly, but in those moments of nervousness and anxiousness they couldn't go by quicker. Here are pics from my farewell night with my friends. :-)

                                                             Love these people!!!!!
                   Love these guys.... even though they drive me crazy sometimes. :-)

My crazy friends and roomates in college

Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Unknown"

"The Uknown," he's a scary demon that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. He tells me you don't know what you're getting yourself into, you won't know anyone or anything, and you most certainly don't know if you can hack it. Now in order to have balance in life there usually has to be an opposite side to everything. A yin to every yang, a positive to every negative, and an angel to every demon. With my demon being The Unknown, my angel is Ambition. Ambition, well, he's much kinder, and he fills me with desire for personal achievement, motivation, and determination to fulfill my lifelong dream.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher, and around the age of 15 I decided I not only wanted to teach, but teach abroad, specifically in a developing country. Therefore, it only made sense for me to apply for the peace corps proceeding graduation. Never once have I contemplated my desire to be a teacher, and never once have I questioned my dream of teaching abroad. However, I am sad to say my demon, The Unknown, is seriously weighing on me while he's sits there on my shoulder.  You see, he's the worst for me because I'm the type of person who likes to know whats coming next. I like to be prepared, and I like to know what is expected of me.  My biggest fear is not living up to my full potential. And how am I suppose to be my full potential when my future in the PC is about as clear as mud. That is why right now my demon is filling my head with thoughts and my angel is pushed into the back. Right now The Unknown is winning. 

Nevertheless, I will keep preparing for my journey, I will say goodbye to the comfort of familiarity, and I will get on that plane and head towards the unknown. I will face that demon straight on and tell him... to kiss it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Well its been awhile since I've posted something so I thought now was as good of time as any. I am starting to make my mini trips to see friends before I leave, and I catch myself saying and thinking things like, "This is the last time I will be visiting you in Chicago for two years!" or "This is the last time we are going to be able to go here together for two years!" It is verryyyy slowly ALL starting to sink in. I have exactly 4 weeks before I am boarding the plane to head to staging, and between now and then I have so many things to do. My mind is constantly running 24/7 whether its on which clothes I'm going to get the most use of, or how I'm ever going to manage to pack everything! Here is what I've been thinking about and doing currently and probably will until I leave:
 *visiting my friends in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Purdue
* Making my mom my power of attorney
* Trying to work out as much as possible in deep fear that I'm just going to gain it all back plus more when I move to Samoa
* Updating my address/phone book (which by the way is not as easy as it seems considering that my friends are all in the "in between  stage," of their lives where they are moving from college to the "real world" and don't have permanent addresses yet.)
* I have been meeting fellow Group 83'ers via email, and I'm so excited because they all seem great!
* Have a small obsession with reading all info on Samoa including others PCV's blogs and am considering therapy.
* Attempting to pack (which really means throwing my stuff in a corner and saying, "yeah I'll take that and make it fit later."
* Eating spaghetti like it's my job... I think my stomach knows it will be deprived of this wonderous food for a long time.
* Just bought an awesome backpack for the trip.
* Have been considering the irony in the fact that the two things that make me nervous, storms and dogs are the two things that are very common and fierce in Samoa. That should be fun to overcome!!! Not.
 * I will be missing my dads 60th birthday, my sisters 21st birthday, and 3 weddings. Not happy about this AT ALL. :-(
*Wondering where in the world I'm going to find a Samoan to English translation book!!!??? Any ideas anyone?

Alright well that's pretty much whats going on with me. 28 days and counting. :-)

L.   <3

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm going to Samoa!!

I found out yesterday that I am going to Samoa!! I was so excited to get that package that when I opened it I was ecstatic for about a second. Then before I knew it my mind started filling with all the paperwork, and plans I had to start making. First thing was first, today I needed to file for my no fee passport and get that sent out immediately! Most people have a longer period of time to work on there paperwork. However, I am literally leaving in six weeks and have no time whatsoever when it comes to filling out forms, and protocols. I had to go get a second copy of my birth certificate because my other copy is already mailed out with the application for my regular passport. Then I had to go get pictures taken for my passport. Then I went to the post office to spend about a good half hour with the mail carrier who went over EVERYTHING in detail before she would validate my application. Nevertheless, I got it all done and sent it out over night. Next on my to do list update my resume, write my aspiration statement and email it to the peace corps department. (which has to be done within the next five days.)

Here's what I have to do within the next 5 weeks:

1. Update resume and write my aspiration statement then email it.
2. Get a power of attorney
3. Make copies of everything and anything i.e.resumes, medical history, student loan deferment forms etc.
4. Buy supplies
5. Pack my life for the next two years while remembering to keep it under 80 lbs.
6. Cancel or transfer phone service
7. Say goodbye to friends and family

I know there is much more, but this is all I can think of off the top of my head.
Ready? Set. GO!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Patience is NOT a virtue of mine....

What I've learned through this Peace Corps process: Being patient, is NOT something I'm good at. Let me be more specific. When it comes to other people I have no problem with patience but when its me, I have none whatsoever. I have been through ups, downs, and hoops of fire trying to get all the requirements done for my application. It's been five long months and its finally done!! I am anxiously awaiting for my infamous
"blue envelope." The contents of that infamous blue envelope contain the where and when of my life for the next two years. I'm excited, I'm happy, I'm nervous and most definitely...I'm scared. I can't wait. ;-)