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


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, 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