Friday, July 8, 2011

Doing the splits

I keep having these dreams. Dreams where I’m trying so hard to wake up and I can’t. I know that I’m dreaming and I am aware of my body, but I can’t move. It’s like something from my dreams is trying to pull me back in. I don’t know why I keep having these dreams, nor do I know what it means. All I know is that its like I’m in two alternate universes, trying to get to one or the other, but I’m paralyzed. The feeling of wanting to move, and not being able to, is the worse feeling in the world. No one around to give you a push no one even around who knows your in trouble. This morning I woke up put on a pot of coffee, did my stretches, and got ready for the day while listening to music. The same routine I’ve done for years. It comes natural to me. It’s what I do, who I am. This afternoon I taught my students, ate lunch with the fellow teachers and listened while they spoke in a different language. I wore my pulotasi and ate food I’ve never had until coming here. This is not what I usually do, nor is it who I am.  Nevertheless I do it all because here is where I am. This evening I watched a regular favorite movie of mine. While later talking to my Samoan neighbors, and washed my clothes in a bucket. I made my favorite pasta dish for dinner on a 2 burner hot plate. Not usually what I cook my food on, but it is now. Everyday of every moment I am between two worlds. One foot in the land of me, tradition, routines, familiarities, likes and dislikes. And the other foot in the circus land.  Confusion, unfamiliarity’s, and craziness.  In a place where I have no tradition and I must like everything (for appearances). One foot in each world. Worlds so different and so far away from each other it’s like I’m doing the splits. Tonight I’ll read my book and write in my journal. I’ll listen to Norah Jones or Michael Buble before going to sleep (because that’s what I always do.) But when I get into bed I’ll make sure my mosquito net is completely around the bed and I’ll go to sleep on my piece of foam. Every moment of every day. Two worlds. And now this has all caught up to me. These splits that I’m doing are now in my dreams as well the paralyzing feeling I have while trying to come from dream land to reality. It’s the same paralyzing feeling I feel each day. Wanting to go to my land of tradition, familiarity, and routines. While not being able to leave the confusion, and unfamiliarity.  Each one slightly pulling, but having the same amount of strength in a game of tug a war. Frankly, I don’t know what to do. I’ve thought about giving up one or the other. Leave Samoa and go home, or completely transform myself to anything but my old self. But the truth is I believe if I did that I would be unhappy. Feel like I quit and lost myself. So again, I don’t know what to do. All I do know  though is this. I’m paralyzed and I have an itch that I just can’t scratch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fairy Tales

As children we were all told fairy tales. Fairy tales filled with hopes and dreams coming true, and happy endings time after time. The shoe fits Cinderella. Snow White wakes up with a kiss. The frog turns into a prince. They all live happily ever after.  As a child you think this can and will be your life too. You think if Pinocchio can wish upon a star than so can I. So you wish upon your birthday cakes, throw coins into fountains, and wish on fallen eyelashes. Just hoping for your dreams to come true. That you will have your perfect happy ending. Then you grow up, and realize something… who ever came up with the saying, “Happily ever after,” should have his ass kicked-so so hard.
Because fairy tale stories are not reality. Because the reality is there are no magic mirrors, or fairy godmothers, and there is no prince on a big white horse coming to your rescue. Just us, alone.  In our stories we are both the hero and the villain. We can be the fairy godmother or the wicked witch of the west. What I am faced with right now is the constant battle of which side is going to out win. For the longest time I’ve been living in this fairy tale of what life could be like here. But now I am coming to the realization of what Samoan life actually is as to oppose of what I thought it would be.  I have been hit with reality, and reality hurts. So that is why I haven’t posted anything in awhile because like everything- things that go up, must come down. For the past 6 months I’ve been either on a high or coasting along. But this past month has been one of the harder months I’ve had in a long time. I don’t want to complain or use this blog to vent. (Or at least try not to) But the reality is that just because I’m living in a place with beaches and sunshine does not mean my life is all - beaches and sunshine. I think that it is important for me for you all to know that. That the weather and environment, and the excitement of my supposed “adventure” is not as its all cracked up to be. But anyways I just wanted to let everyone know why I haven’t been updating. I’ve been a pretty rough place lately and I didn’t want a bunch of negative postings.  So sorry for the absence.  When the shock of my reality becomes less painful, I will be back here to fill you all in.

A morning surprise

I woke up one morning and went into my kitchen to find brand newborn rat babies on my kitchen floor. (Killing rat babies was morally harder for me to do than full grown rats)




My Peace Corps House

The view from my backyard


The front of my house



living area and kitchen

my bedroom

Back view of my house
The faleo'o next to my house

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sports Day

In a previous post I wrote that this week is the last week of school for Term 1.  On Thursday we had Sports Day. From talking to other volunteers their schools are doing other type of events. Such as Culture Day, English Day, and Book Day. Most schools do all of the events throughout the year it just depends on the principal and teachers what day they want to do first. As for my school we decided on Sports Day. I arrived at school Thursday morning to find the students their bright and early and ready to go.  There were two teams, the red team and the white team. Each with players from grades 1-8.  There were many events. There was: the flag race, coconut gathering, eating contest, ball throw, ball roll, and tug of war.  The day was a huge success. Both teachers and students had a lot of fun. Some of the parents and older sibilings came to help out and watch all the races. It was a pretty good day.
The Red Team

The White Team

The Flag Race

Coconut Gathering Competition

Food Eating Contest

Ball Rolling Contest

Barefoot and playing

Tug A War Contest

Mother's Day in Samoa

Mother’s Day, a highly celebrated holiday here in Samoa. So much that everyone gets the following Monday off from school. For me, the forecast for this day started a week before. It all started when I was at the monthly meeting of Mother’s in the church congregation. No I am not a mother but this is just one of the many odd things I do to integrate myself into the community. Anyways, I was sitting in the meeting with all the elderly women of the church. They all talk while I pretend like I’m listening and understand what is going on. Finally the faletua, (Pastor’s wife), also the president of the committee looked over at me and told me that the group was going to be performing a dance during church next Sunday for Mother’s Day. She said that I too would perform the dance. Well you don’t argue with the faletua because then you would for sure be displeasing god, so I put on a smile and nodded my head complying with her. We were to have dance practice a few times that week prior to church on Sunday. I spent the next few days worrying myself about this dance. I knew that during that dance I would be the one everyone was staring at, even though there were going to be 12 other women up there. I called my host mother the night before the first dance practice to ask her what time I needed to be there. She said that I didn’t need to go because I was not  a mother. “Obviously I’m not a mother,” I thought to myself. I sighed with relief and was jumping up and down on the inside, but managed to keep cool while still on the phone with my host mom. Before we hung up she said that she wanted me to come over for measurements because she was making me a puletasi for Mother’s Day. Pulatasi’s are the standard wardrobe for women to wear. You wear them to church, work, any kind of professional/respectful place.  The next day I went over there to give her my measurements. She was making me an all white puletasi. White puletasi’s are always worn to church. No matter the congregation. Methodists, Catholics, EFKS, they all wear white. The women also wear these big white hats as well. They remind me of the hats women used to wear (or maybe still do) to the derby.  During the week I decided to get my host mother a gift for mother’s day. I went into Apia on Friday, and I was shocked at what I saw.  The main strip of Apia was packed with tents where people were selling all sorts of things. Kind of like a flea market. All the tents had everything from pulatasi’s to jewelry to plants.  I was relieved because I knew these new tents were going to make shopping for a gift a lot easier than I had expected. I ended up getting a pair of yellow flower earrings and a matching ……. Saturday night I got a call from my host mother saying that I needed to come over before church so I could try on my puletasi to see if it fit. Why I was trying it on a half hour before church was besides me. Its not like any major adjustments would have been able to be made if they needed to be. Nevertheless I did what I was told.  Luckily the new church appropriate, all white puletasi turned out great, and no adjustments were made. The Mother’s Day church service ran an extra hour and a half later than normal. The women’s committee read passages from the bible instead of only the pastor reading.  At the end of the service all the women from the committee went up to the front of the church. They sang a song, but no dance. I was very confused, and when I asked later why they didn’t do the dance. My host mom said that they never ended up having practices. I can’t say that I was very surprised.  Because one of the many things I’ve learned is that here, things usually do not go according to plan. All in all, a one day holiday turned into a nice three day weekend, and one eventful week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Month of May

The month of May has always been a busy month for me. This year is no exception. All the events are still happening, but this year I’m just not there for them.  In my month of May I have Mother’s Day, my dad’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, college graduation of friends, and the beginning of summer fun. I’ve always been the person to make a big deal out of special events. I can’t help it, it’s just something that I love. So the fact that my dad is turning 60 and my sister is turning 20 , the fact that 2 of my very close friends are graduating college hurts me that I can’t be there. Not only does it hurt, but it also makes me feel extremely guilty.  I’m sure some people think that’s crazy, but I don’t. these are my people, and you’re supposed to be there for your people. So because I can’t be there, and sending any type of gift is out of the question (considering sending a package to the States costs an arm and a leg) I can only resort to one thing. Giving them a shout out here. So here it goes…
To Mom: Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you relaxed and enjoyed the day. I love you so much, and miss you terribly.


To Dad: Happy Birthday! I truly wish I could be there to celebrate your birthday with you. I know you don’t think it’s a big deal, but to me it is. You do so much for the family and you deserve a day to celebrate only you. I love you, and think about you every day.


To Kristin: Happy 20th Brithday! You are no longer a teenager. I remember when you were all excited to become a teenager. Have a great birthday, and don’t get in too much trouble! J


To Xiomara: Congratulations on Graduating!  You and I have been friends since the 5th grade and now we are both out in the real world….god help us.  However I know  you are going to do fantastic things with your life.



To Dave: Congratulations on your graduation! I’m sorry I wasn’t there to celebrate with you. But you finally made it and I am so very proud of you.  You have really come a long way.      

   

Let It Be

It’s the last week of Term 1. In other words nothing is really going on. Both students and teachers are checked out. Ready and counting down the days for break.  Students sit around day dreaming and playing while teachers are coming in late and dismissing early. Not really an uncommon practice here, however I must say it can be frustrating.   Granted I too am thinking about this marvelous three week break I have, but my trained teacher ways are refusing for me to check out completely.  All my training has taught me to prevent everything that is typical for Samoan schools. Don’t leave students unattended, only give assignments that have a purpose, make sure their engaged. These are things that have been drilled in my head from day one. However here it’s so not the case. For my class in particular my students are done with their tests, and I have no new material to teach them until after break.  I was going to give them their end of Term 1 exam¸ but my principal informed me that I had to wait until after break to give my test for some reasons regarding district policy.  So I’ve been stuck, not knowing what to teach, and not wanting to teach anything of great value because I know they would just forget it over the next month of break. I looked around at the other teachers who were not worrying about what to do with their students or about what was going on in their classrooms and I couldn’t help but think how much easier that would be.  Truthfully it’s amazing to me how easily one can settle and take on other people’s habits around you. For example, when all the teachers are sitting around talking while their classes are left unattended, leaving early and or giving busy work. I am not proud of this, but I have been guilty on all charges. Certainly not as often as the other teachers, but nevertheless I’ve done it. After days and days of getting closer to break I’ve been watching the productivity level hit an all time low. I decided I would not be a part of that anymore. I decided I was not going to let the contagious feeling of being unmotivated get me. That’s why I chose to make this last week, music week. First song I decided to teach my kids… Let It Be, by The Beatles. I felt this song suited my new attitude perfectly. The kids loved the song and they really got into it. Teaching songs to my students really helps with their pronunciation as well as becoming comfortable speaking English. So even though both students and teachers are checking themselves out, I’m going to do what I need to do and remember one thing… Let. It. Be. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Week of First’s

This week has been a week of first’s for me. It all started one evening when I was laying in bed,  and having a really hard time falling asleep. I was hot, people were yelling outside my bedroom, and I had a headache. I started to feel down in the dumps. I was thinking about everything that I had gone through these past 6 months, and wondering if I had even changed in the slightest bit. I didn’t feel different, and to my knowledge I was still acting the same way I had back home. To be honest this made me a little upset. I didn’t join the Peace Corps to be the same person! I joined to grow and change in every way possible. Needless to say when I did finally fall asleep I went to sleep a bit angry/depressed. During the night I awoke to this rustling sound. At first I shrugged it off, because lets face it “rustling sounds” are quite common and fankly you're better off not knowing what is making the sound. I fell back asleep. However  I awoke again to that same rustling sound. Again I went back to sleep. Finally the third time when I woke up I got up to see what was making this obnoxious noise. It was pitch dark, and the only light I had was this really small flashlight. I realized the noise was coming from this plastic bag I had on my table. I threw something at it, hoping that whatever was in there would run out and go away. It didn’t. It was stuck, whatever it was. I finally got closer to the bag and tried inspecting what was inside with my small flashlight. At first I thought it was a cockroach however after closer inspection I realized that it most definitely was not a cockroach. It was a rat. The rat had gotten itself stuck inside the plastic bag. Without even thinking, I grabbed a nearby water bottle and started beating the rat to death. I didn’t stop until I knew it was dead. Afterwards I grabbed the bag and threw it away, and when I was getting back into bed it hit me... what I had actually just done. Then I realized, that I have changed! Because there isabsolutely no way I would have even been in the same room with a rat, let alone have smashed it to death with a water bottle pre-Peace Corps. So killing a rat with my own hands…yup definitely a first. A few days later I was laying in bed and felt this crazing shaking. I jumped out of bed, and freaking out a bit. I ran out and was telling a fellow PC volunteer, “There’s a rat under my bed!” ( I must have still been thinking about a few nights before J) She said, “Lindsey there is no rat under your bed, that was an earthquake.” An earthquake!? I was certain it was a rat, but she convinced me that it was most definitely not. It was an earthquake. I have never felt an earthquake before in my life so I had no idea! Another first to put in the book!
So now it’s the end of the week, and looking back I am taking back my previous thoughts of not changing. Although I do not think I have made any drastic changes (at least yet) I do think that I am slowly, very slowly changing. Probably with each of these “first’s” I might even be changing a little bit more. Here are some more first’s that I have had while being here.
·                                    Taking a bucket bath
·                                    Sleeping with spiders and roaches
·                                    Eaten a fish with its head still attached
·                                    Let a stranger sit on my lap
·                                    Accidently Cussed at someone when I was only trying to ask for a bowel (in Samoan)
·                                    Listened to food being killed hours before I ate it
·                                    Killed my own food
·                                    De-gutted a chicken
·                                    Jumped off from the top of a waterfall
·                                    Swimming in the ocean while fully clothed
·                                    Washed my clothes in a bucket
·                                    Been sunburned in less than 5 minutes
With a year and a half left to go I am sure I will have sooo many more firsts. Here’s hoping to them being good!

A Bathroom, Kitchen, and a View of the Sea

After 6 months I have finally FINALLY moved into my own house. The best part is a kitchen and a bathroom that is inside the house. They seem like such common and basic things, but here they are a huge deal! Most bathrooms you see in Samoa are outhouses. To find a bathroom that is inside is like living in a lap of luxury. My room is great because it is more spacious than any other room I have ever had. Aside from my house’s great amenities, it also has another great aspect to it…the location. My house is about a minute walk from my school which is great considering the 25 minute walk I was doing before. But that’s not even the best part, probably the most idyllic aspect is it being right on the water. I have a killer view of the ocean. Every morning I wake up to the sound of the ocean, and waves hitting up against a cliff of rocks. My morning routine goes like this: wake up, boil a pot of water, get dressed, make coffee, make breakfast, sit out back and enjoy my view while having a cup of coffee and eating.  Its amazing, and it never fails, every morning I always think, ‘god this is my life. How did I get here?’ Then as I’m finishing my coffee my kids are starting to walk to school. They stop by my house, greet me with Good Mornings, and we walk to school together.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Living with a host family has always been my biggest concern. I knew before coming here that this was going to be one of the greater challenges I was going to have to face. During my training I stayed with a host family, in which I’ll say….wasn’t the best. Then I moved out to my actual village.  I was always promised my own place, but the house wasn’t built yet so I had to stay with another host family during the meantime.  My second host family ended up being amazing, and I have grown pretty close with them. I feel extremely close with this family, which is a good thing considering what it could have been. Nevertheless, I still wanted my own place. I have lived on my own for the past four years and have grown accustomed to the freedom. Living with a host family however gives you zero independence. Week after week, and month after month I have been patiently waiting for the village to start building my house, but nothing. Finally, four months later the wheels started turning. My house was being built. However, then an unusual circumstance came into play and the house that was being built for me was no longer the house I was going to be living in. My housing situation as of right now is nothing less than bitter sweet. On the sweet side I have this amazing house right on the water. I also will have a roommate, another Peace Corps Volunteer who is a year ahead of me. Peace Corps Volunteers living together is almost unheard of, but like I said, unusual circumstances. The bitter side is that the original house being built for me was on my family’s compound, which was going to allow me more independence, but still a connection with the family. Now moving into this new house I will no longer have that connection. This is rough because being connected to a Samoan family is a great way of integrating into the village. Breaking the news to my host family that I was no longer going to be living with them was extremely hard, and they did not take it well. So as of right now I have a lot of mixed emotions. I’m excited for moving into my own house, but sad that I will not be living with my family anymore.  I guess what this means is that I’m going to have to make extra more of an effort of spending time with the family, and integrating into the village. 

Going to see the doctor

I arrived at school Wednesday morning ready for another usual day of teaching.  However, this was not the case. Honestly I should be realizing this by now… the fact that nothing is as it seems, and a routine day does NOT exist here. My principal told me we were taking all the students to go see the doctor. “What do you mean take all of them to see the doctor? Where?” I asked. Mistake number two, aside from assuming I was going to have a “usual” day, asking details about the plans. Asking details about plans is another thing you learn NOT to do because nine times out of ten…they won’t happen. Okay so back to my story. My principal said we were taking all the students to go see the doctor. After I asked what she meant, she said that we all were going to walk over to the other side of the village where the doctors and nurses were waiting. This was going to be interesting for sure, and I wish I brought my camera, I thought. The students got in one long line and we trecked our way through the bush to the other side of the village. Side note: from my past experience being in American elementary schools it is almost impossible to keep one class in a single file line from the classroom to let’s say gym class. And now we had the whole entire school walking in one line all the way across the village. I really didn’t think this was going to work, but man was I mistaken. They did it perfectly. The line was in ascending order class: first graders up front, eighth graders in the back. Not a single kid was out of line. It was pretty cool. When we finally got to where we going, there were two huge large tents set up with rows of chairs. The students were all asked to sit in the chairs and wait. I had no idea what was going on (something that has become somewhat of a norm for me).  Me and the other teachers thought that the students were each going to be seen by a doctor and nurse. But as time went on more people from the village started showing up, women with babies, elderly, etc. They were all going first. More and more people from the village were showing up and I was starting to wonder how in the world all of these students were going to be seen on top of the other village people.  Finally I figured it out. This company The National Health Service is doing a project where they are coming out to every village to do routine check-ups on people in the village.  As I watched this whole process, it reminded me a lot of giving blood. The process went like this. Go to one station where you fill out the paperwork: name, phone, any existent conditions etc. Go to the next station get your temperature and blood pressure taken. Go to another station get weighed in, go see one of three different doctors, final station get handed a prescription if needed. Come to find out the students weren’t there at all to get checked by the doctor, they were there for a nutrition program. Out of left field right? See I told you. Nothing ever goes the way you think it will.  Nevertheless, the kids ended up having a good time and the overall program for the village seemed to be a success. Actually I am really impressed by the whole thing. So many people here do not or cannot go see the doctor, which is sad because most of them really need help.  Life is really hard here and it takes a serious toll on your body. Women who are 40 look like they are 70 and kids who are supposed to look brand spanken new, look like they’ve been through a war. I can’t help but think of all the times I’ve gone to see the nurse at school for a headache, or how people run to see the doctor on their lunch break. Yes Americans number one complaint is our health care system, but at least we have a system. These people have nothing. They have tents filled with a couple doctors that may come to your village once a year, and a hospital on the other side of the island that seems to be for people who are the “rich and famous.”  Its these cold true facts that make me realize exactly why I am here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Leaving the Birds Nest

We all want to grow up we’re desperate to get there. To grab all the opportunities we can, to live. We are so busy to get out of that nest we don’t think about the fact that its going to be cold out there. Really freaking cold. Because growing up sometimes means leaving people behind. And by the time we stand on our own two feet, we’re standing there alone.  College was the first time I was really forced out of my comfort zone. I moved away from my family, and had to make decisions for myself. I was “alone,” or so I thought. However, I still had friends from high school at my college and I was only an hour away from my family. I still called my mom and friends on a regular basis asking them for advice. I remember one time calling my mom freshman year to ask her if it was okay that I skipped a class!  So looking back now it was more like I was standing on one foot rather than two.  Jump ahead 5 years. I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer. Living in a foreign country. For any of you who are or were in the Peace Corps you will know what I’m talking about, but for those of you who aren’t and reading this let me explain. From the moment you start your application process into the Peace Corps they lead you by hand in every step of the way. Everything from where to sign, who to call, to what to pack. They put you in a hotel, book your flight, and give you money for food. Fast forward to training. During training you are told when to get up, when to go to class, where is good to eat, where is bad, what kind of volunteer you should be, what to look out for, even when to do your shopping, the list can go on forever and forever. My point is you’re the bird in the nest. Frustrated and trying like all hell to get out of that nest to be an official PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER. Well fast forward to today. I am an official Peace Corps Volunteer. And what have I learned? Be careful what you ask for. I don’t mean this in a bad way by any means. But here I am, kicked out of my nest, standing on my own two feet (for real this time), and alone. I have my assignment, I have my site, and I have simple knowledge of the language. Now what? I…have…no…idea. I’m suppose to teach, and ultimately make this a better place when I leave then when I came. Great, now how am I supposed to do that again?  I’m battleing this fine line of trying to help and trying not to be pushy. Like I said in a previous post, change is a difficult thing. Most people want it, yet fear it. I knew that I wanted to change for myself and make a change around me, but I didn’t account for the fact that the people around me might not be ready to change. It’s a fine line trying to suggest changes, and forcing things upon them that they don’t want or are ready for. I have all of this energy and ideas, but I don’t know if I should act on them. Things are just so complicated. My process goes like this: I have an idea let’s say…. starting a reading program in the village or opening up a medical clinic. First I have to find out if the villagers even like the idea. Seems like a simple thing you either say yes or no. But no, not, here, ambiguity is like a second language so what seems like a simple answer- yes or no, turns into beating around the bush, round about answers, or no answers at all. I don’t know if it’s because people think that if I bring this idea to them its going to be because I want their help, or if they just don’t care. Whichever the case it can be pretty tricky. However, after I do come up with a general concensous the next task has to be funding. How am I going to get the money? Who offers what? How much do I need? Etc. etc. Along with the funding I also have to figure out which organization or company I need to go through that will help me with my project. Finally, and probably the most trying aspect of this whole process is timing. A snail on its deathbed moves faster than time here. Patience is key, and persistence is a must. Anything I want done I have to keep pushing for. I have no problem being patience, persistent and pushing. To me that’s the easiest part of this whole operation. Maybe its because I have full control of that, and I can be patient, persist, and push as much or as little as I want. However, the hard part is working around all of the dynamics. The social dynamics of the people in the village. The emotional dynamics of wants, needs, likes, and dislikes of individuals. And the financial dynamics of figuring out funding, resources, etc. Make a change I said, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi said. But there’s a problem with those statements…its based on the change happening soley from one individual. I’ve learned that is impossible. To change things you need partners, helpers, listeners, and friends among so many others. Nevertheless, like so many other people in this world, I tried so very hard to get out of that nest, to “stand on my own two feet.” And what happened?  I am, alone, and trying to figure out how to get things done. How to make a change that people want. By myself none the less because I’m out of the nest. The nest is where the real change can happen. The phrase, there is more power in numbers holds true here. Things in the nest aren’t this complicated, hell you don’t have to deal with stuff like this at all. But here I am, on my own two feet, praying… that I don’t fall flat on my face.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just some randoms

A Somoan orange...ironic isn't it?
I jumped from the top of that

School

My lovely school!
The font of my room.
On my way to school
My classroom/library
Three of my 6th graders :)

Shedding My Skin

Every cell in the human body regenerates. Like snakes, in our own way, we shed our skin. Biologically, we are brand new people. We may the look same, the change isn’t apparent, but sure enough we’re changed. It’s the way that people try not to change that is unnatural. The way we cling to the things that were, instead of being what they are. The way we hold on to old memories instead of making new ones.  I had a revelation this week, and I see a whole new turn in leaf happening because of it. I’ve realized that I have been holding on to my old life. Wishing for things of my past and being depressed when realizing that it will never be again. This is odd because I joined the Peace Corps for whole new experiences and life. I wanted to push myself more than I ever have. No regrets. Just do, and bust my tail to do everything I could to make things happen for myself. Nevertheless I found myself trying not to change, and up until now I have felt…off. Say what you will but when push comes to shove most people always opt for the comfort of their own familiarities. Wishing, hoping, and praying for things to stay the same. This is what I was doing and this is where my revelation came in. I have been trying to be the same person that I was before the Peace Corps.  My training at the University for teaching in most ways, is training for teaching in the States, and I have realized that it does not work here. My way of handling situations back home does not work when trying to handle situations here. Beliefs I had back home do not apply here. So my revelation- basically, stop believing the common belief most people have... that everything is permanent. It’s time to morph, merge, and grow. In order to grow you must shed that old layer of skin. So I’m shedding, and in turn, I’m changing. How we experience all of this, well, that’s up to us.

Savali

Savali, English translation, “to go for a walk.” Savali has become one of the highlights in my day. Every evening at 6 I head out to go for a walk through my village. At first it was something I forced myself to do when all I wanted to do was stay curled up in my room. However, now I look forward to it. Sure it’s good exercise, but my main purpose for going for walks everyday was to “integrate into my village,” making my face familiar to the villagers. (Something the Peace Corps strongly suggests and drills into your heads from day 1)  Now, it has become so much more, now when I go on my walks I have company. First it started off with my little host sister joining, then days later another kid would join, then another. Until now I have 5-6 kids walking with me every day. Every day they ask me if I’m will be going for a walk, and every evening they are waiting on the side of the road for me to come. J  We walk for about an hour taking different routes each time. Most of the time is spent with the kids helping me practice my Samoan. Other times, we sing English songs that I’ve taught them in class or they hear on the radio. Even Samoan children seem to have “Bieber fever.”  On the particularly hot days we will end our walks at the natural spring pool. Because I walk everyday most of the villagers expect to see me in the afternoon. Therefore, I am always bombarded with a lot of hello’s, how is school going, where are you going today, and okay see you tomorrow’s. Even though this becomes repetitive quite quickly, I don’t mind because I know they all just want to make conversation. Most recently, some adults have joined in on my walking sessions. Walking with adults brings a whole new positive aspect to the spectrum because this allows me to talk more about village life, and learn more about the families. So I think I’ve decided to take my new hobby (that I used to force myself to do) and run with it. I think I am going to start a walking group in the village. J

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Most Bizarre Conversation of the Week

Yes that’s right, of the week because here in Samoa bizarre conversations are as typical as going to the bathroom. However, the most recent one topped the cake. My 19 year old host brother came back from school the other day and came rushing into my room. Asking me if I’ve ever heard of the snake baby. Snake baby? Like a baby snake? “No,” he said, “A human baby that has a body of a snake.” I was very confused. He pulls out his phone and plays this video for me that’s like a youtube clip or something. Its like a horror movie video clip with this snake thing that looks like it has a mummy head stuck on top with a blonde wig on. I told my host brother and the rest of my family that no, it is not real, but they didn’t believe me. They said that it was real and some woman gave birth to it somewhere in the Soloman Islands. They were adement that this thing was real when clearly to me, its not. However, they wouldn’t hear any of it and actually were quite annoyed that I didn’t believe it. This is just many of the weird conversations I have here in Samoa, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Editors note: Last night my host brother told me, “that poor snake baby died. Honestly Lindsey, it was on the news….” 

Group 83




I had two huge fears about joining the Peace Corps. One that I wasn’t going to make any friends in my group, and two that I was going to lose the friends I had back home. I’m pleased to say that neither is true. I could not have asked for a better group of people to be on this Peace Corps venture with. In my group (group 83) there are 20 people. 7 guys, 13 girls, two married couples, and two people over the age of 60. None of us are from the same backgrounds, and yet, somehow, we click. Obviously some are closer with others, but we are all friends. Usually with a group of people this size there is drama, or judgement going on. However, oddly enough this isn’t true in our case. The thing I like about my group is that I could easily call on of them if I needed to vent or get away for a bit, and the same visa versa. People usually try to get together once a month to hang out, eat good food, and frankly… speak English. It starts off as a small thing, but usually this small get together involves everyone coming together. As soon as that ‘get together,’ ends we are all planning the next time we will see each other. The PC staff has even made comments to me and other PCV’s about the close relationship our group has with each other. What can I say?! We just got lucky! J I, in particular feel very lucky because within this awesome group of people I have found two girls who have become my best friends here, Jenny and Rachael. The three of us instantly clicked and realized quickly that we have a lot of the same likes and goals. Jenny is an elementary teacher like me, and Rachael has always wanted to travel abroad like me. I talk to these girls every day; god knows what I would do without them.  Jenny and Rachael remind me SOOOO MUCH of my friends back home. Same conversations, same college life, same attitudes, and same outgoing personalities as my friends back home. As if it couldn’t get any better, I am still close with my friends back home. Granted I can’t talk to them as much as I used too, but they are still at home rooting for me. J

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The lovely friends in my room....



First Week of School

First week of school! Filled with new supplies, clothes, and haircuts. Fun ‘getting to know you activities,’ well rested teachers, and clean/organized classrooms. NONE OF THIS was the case my first week of school.  Now, believe me I’m not ignorant to think that any of this would be the case, but I must say I was not expecting my first week to be the way it was. The weekend prior to school starting I texted my principal to ask her when I should arrive at school; she said 8 o clock was when school started so arrive around then. Monday morning I showed up on time and ready to go. I showed up, and no one was there. Not a single kid, not a teacher, no one. Finally an hour later people started arriving and an hour and half later the principal came. All in all there were 14 students that day. Basically that day was spent talking to the principal and two other teachers about nothing in particular while the kids played. This went on for a couple hours and then the principal decided the day was over and we all went home. On Tuesday the same thing happened, exactly the same thing. Wednesday about 20 kids showed up and the weeded the school grounds, and picked up the grass clippings by hand.  Thursday was a different story. The same 20 kids came to school and were ordered to continue weeding as well scrub down all the classroom walls/ceiling. They also scrubbed the outside walls of the school and cleaned out the gutters. After that they cleaned the bathrooms. It is not uncommon for the students to clean the school the first few days of school. It was a little weird at first, but actually I kind of think it’s a good thing. Only in the sense that the kids take responsibility for their school. They take care of it and everyone works hard to make sure that it is up kept. I decided that I was not going to sit and watch the kids clean anymore and on Thursday I decided to get down and dirty and help scrub the walls as well. After all, its my school too!  The bathrooms however I decided to leave to the kids. J By the end of the first school week not one lesson took place, no more than a hand full of kids showed up, and the teachers seemed to still think they were on vacation.  Not the first week I had imagined. However, it seems to be the fa’asamoa.  I am excited to start teaching though. I’m going to be teaching grades 4,5,6 and 7 every day.  I don’t have my own classroom so I will be using the library.

Dads

I’ve been living with my host family for about two months now. They are a great family that I’m really starting to come to love. Each member in the family has their own story, but for this blog I would like to focus on my host dad. The reason I would like to focus on him is because last night it occurred to me that he resembles in many ways like my actual father. My host dad works for a gas and electric company in Apia. He has been working there for almost 30 years. When I asked him if he likes his job he said yes, but I could see it in his face that he is tired, and looking forward to retiring. This is similarity number one with my dad. My dad has worked for a service company for over 30 years and seems to be counting down the days until he can finally retire. He has worked his whole life and I know he is ready to finally be done. However, he keeps on working because he knows my family needs the money. The same goes for Mika, my host dad, he works because he is one of the only members in the family with an actual income. Every night Mika comes home he sits down, uniform dirty from work, lights a cigarette, has a cup of coffee and watches the evening news. Both men are the last ones to go to sleep, and the first ones up in the morning.  On particular nights when the day seemed to be particularly hard and long he is usually a lot quieter. This is similarity number 2, and identical to the T with my dad. Every night my dad comes home after a long day of work and secludes to quiet and relaxation time. This entails a cigarette and soccer/news. Those nights when my dad has a rough day you can usually see it in his face. His eyes will be a little red, and tired looking. He’ll usually be a bit quieter like he’s lost in his own thoughts, and he’ll do this thing where he puts his hand on his chin.   Last night while I was watching the news with Mika I saw him do this same exact thing. It was very surreal. I don’t know if its because I haven’t seen my family or been home in a long time, but I think about the little things a lot more now. The most random stuff like our crooked mailbox, how you could always see my dog in the window when pulling in to the driveway, and how when walking into the house I could always tell by the smell when it was spaghetti night. Every day my little host sister and brother run outside of the house when they hear my host dad’s truck coming. They always run to the truck before Mika can even get his door open. Always greeting him with huge smiles. I used to do this all the time when I was little I could see my dad’s truck pull up through the front window and I would always run out there to meet him. He would always have a Dr. Pepper drink and he would always give the rest to me. I loved being the first one to talk to him when he got home. I’m adult now, moved away during college, and am now living in Samoa. Nevertheless, I still think about those times, and even the smallest gesture from a new person who is in my life can allow the memories to come flooding back. I love it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

My family

The front area of my host familys fale.

My host mom!

Vi, Moseki, and Siave my host brother's and sister

The most simple and perfect toy.

Peace!!

Teine (woman on left), Li'i (in far back) Mika (boy with cheesy smile) Siave, Vi, and Moseki
Just part of my wonderful host family!

English Camp

This past week me and several other volunteers participated in an English camp put on for kids. The English camp was held at a fellow volunteer’s village. The whole premise of the camp was to help the new group (my group) receive more practice working and teaching Samoan children. There were 12 of us total. 8 people from group 83 and 4 people from group 82. (83 is my group) The 82’ers were the ones kind of in charge of the whole operation. We were to stay in a church hall for the week. We arrived this past Saturday, and like most cases there was major miscommunication when we got to where we were staying. The church congregation thought we were arriving earlier then we did, and because all of the volunteers were coming from different parts of the island we all arrived at different times. However, we didn’t know that the congregation was waiting for us all to arrive because they wanted to have an ava ceremony. Let’s just say we didn’t make a good first impression. However, I think we redeemed ourselves the next day at church. We sang a song during church, and each gave a quick introduction of who we were. That seemed to ease things a lot. Monday was the start of English Camp and I must say I was a bit nervous. I had only had two prior weeks in a Samoan school. Therefore its was all pretty new to me. It was nice though because all of us got together and kind of planned our lessons together. The start of camp was a bit chaotic, and uncertain. I didn’t know my kids and I had no idea what kind of English background they have had in school. Because the camp was only a week long I had to do a quick evaluation of each child. However, I realized that it wasn’t going to be thorough as if I was in my own classroom. The days consisted of two parts: a morning class and an afternoon class. The morning class was the actual lesson, and the afternoon class was mostly games that somehow related to the lesson we had just done. Throughout the days I taught things like: verbs, body parts, and directions.  We played games like: Simon Says, Hangman, and several other games.  I had a lot of fun.  My first day I had 12 students by the end of the week I had 22. Same goes for the other volunteers. I found this to be a good thing because it meant that kids were going home and telling their siblings and friends how much fun camp was, and then they wanted to come too. Thursday after school we let the kids watch Aladdin. Friday being the last day was a big day. We had the English Camp Olympics! The 8 teachers were grouped into two’s. So there were 4 teams: America, Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia. My team was team America. We had relay races all afternoon. We did the crab walk race, the wheel barrow race, the 3-legged race, human knot, and dragon tails. The kids had an awesome time. My team came in last, but for the record the teams were stacked! My class had the smallest and youngest kids compared to Rachael’s team who had kids who were bigger than me! Nevertheless my kids were awesome, and did great. J After the races were done we gave out certificates to each child, and then of course…handed out ice cream cones. Other than the actual teaching of the lessons I have to say my favorite part was saying goodbye to the children. I know that sounds weird, but its true. I had student after student coming up to me giving me hugs and thanking me for teaching them during English camp. My favorite was when a student who was so shy during class walked with me all the way home and then repeatedly thanked me, hugged me, and waved goodbye until I was out of sight. It was those moments that made truly made me feel good. You can just hear the sincerity in their voices, and see it in their eyes. I absolutely love it, and them.
Assembly before English Camp




Peace Corps teachers!!


English Camp 2011!!!!





 My team, Team America!!! For the English Camp Field Day.
Doing the crab walk at field day


Getting their certificates at the end of camp.