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.