Walking from my village to catch
a bus on Friday after school.
I thought I would dedicate this entry to updating you on a number of different things going on the past couple of weeks.
1. The rainy season seems to have arrived on time this year. It typically begins in October, and I’ve noticed this past week a return to those days when it rains whenever it wants to, followed by sunshine. I have yet to experience that first torrential downpour of the season, but it will be fun to see when it happens. A torrential downpour in Samoa grabs all your attention and you are lured in by its pounding force and just stand at the window in hesitation, wondering if it could possibly rain any harder. Sometimes it does.
Unfortunately, because the rainy season is beginning, it makes life a bit more challenging. I’ve had to cancel my daily run for the past two days and finding a time to do laundry seems to be a losing bet against Mother Nature. But somehow I made it through last year, so I guess I can do it again.
2. Many Samoans eat corned beef from a can, otherwise known as pisupo in Samoan. It is extremely high in salt and fat and it is one thing I’ve chosen not to eat while here. However, on a few different occasions I have been given a can (or two) as a gift, and to turn down that gift would be culturally insensitive, so I always seem to have a stack of pisupo on my kitchen counter. On Thursday I decided I would open a can for the two teachers at my school. I knew that they liked it, so I thought it would be a good solution to get rid of it. I decided to cut some carrots up to make the meal somewhat healthy. I warmed the corned beef and took it over to the school. The teachers seemed really surprised and grateful. However, once they started eating it I could tell they didn’t care for it. I’m not sure if I overcooked it or if the expiration date had passed, but because they couldn’t just set the food aside, they thanked me for it after a couple bites and then called in some kids to finish the rest. I could hardly keep from laughing as the kids ate the food. I don’t think they cared for the carrots either.
3. Remember the term caveat emptor? It was a business principal that came from England which meant, “buyer beware.” Well I’ve found that it also applies in Samoa. I had been buying, and enjoying a chocolate breakfast cereal here that was very similar to Coco Puffs, although I’ve bought my last package a few weeks ago. The last batch I bought looked different when it was in the milk, and also tasted much different than all the other packages I had bought in the past. I checked the expiration date and that was fine, and it wasn’t the milk. I took the bag back to the convenient store where I bought it. Of course I didn’t have a receipt, but I tried to explain my situation. The store clerk said there wasn’t anything he could do because the food came from another distributor, but didn’t hesitate to sample some of the cereal just to make sure. He stuck his hand into the bag—the same hand that had been working the cash register all morning—and took a few bites. He said they tasted the same, but got a second opinion from his colleague behind the counter, who stuck her hand into the bag— the same hand that had been stocking shelves all morning—and she said they were the same. Just to be sure they were in fact the same taste, they both asked the lady waiting behind me in the check out line to try some, and she stuck her hand into the bag—I don’t know where her hand had been—but she delivered the same ruling as the first two.
Cereal is not cheap here, especially for someone on a Peace Corps budget, so I took the cereal back to my house with me in the hopes of figuring out what to do with it. A few days later at school, my year seven students had done a great job so it dawned on me, “give it to the kids.” They had never tasted the cereal before and would go crazy for cereal (most Samoans don’t buy cereal because of the price and because many families don’t have refrigerators for the milk). It ended up being a huge hit and the kids loved it. I even gave some to the teachers!
4. Thanks to Lisa, a Peace Corps Volunteer from Group 79, (who has just extended in Samoa for a fourth year!) I found a man who lives near Apia and makes soap at his house. I went out to his house with Lisa last Saturday and bought a small square block of soap for only 4 tala—less than $2.00 U.S. Dollars! He uses the coconut oil in making the soap and has many different scents and designs to choose from. I’ll be making a visit back there again soon.
5. I’ve had a fever twice within the past two weeks. This isn’t all that uncommon for volunteers, although I had gone several months with good health. Having a fever just slows me down here. It is hard being sick back home, but being sick in a foreign country is harder. The language, and daily routines seem a bit more harder on those days. But I’m back to feeling pretty good now and hopping it stays that way!
6. September and October have gone by so fast and November is going to do the same I’m sure. We start final exams at school in one more week and those will last two weeks. After that it will be all about end of the school year cleaning and preparing for prize giving (look for a future blog on this in December). Right now I have that feeling my mom always talked about at the end of the school year where she is trying to get stuff done with the kids. There is so much more I want to do with them, but I guess some of it will have to wait until next year.
7. I have further proof that the “coconut wireless” is alive and well here in Samoa. I told only my neighbors who I eat dinner with regularly, that I was going back home to the United States during Christmas; I purposefully only told my neighbors, wanting to see how fast the word would spread. In less than a week, most of my students seem to know and several people throughout the village who I’ve talked to, so I guess I won’t need to announce it any further.
8. It is continuing to get dark out later and light out earlier as we head towards Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere. Sunrise is somewhere around 7a.m. and sunset around 7:45p.m. And that reminded me about a neat feat that I will have accomplished once I return to Samoa in January. Within less than a month's time, I will have lived a part of every season. When I leave Samoa in December it will be spring here, but fall when I arrive home. Winter will begin while I’m at home and subsequently, when I return to Samoa in January it will then be summer! So let’s get this straight, the order of the seasons is spring, fall, winter, summer—right?
9. The new group of trainees (Group 83) arrived safely a few weeks ago. They will be sworn in as volunteers in December. We welcomed them a couple weeks ago with our traditional fiafia which included a night of Samoan dances, a great slide show put together by Matt from Group 81, and a buffet dinner cooked by us (or picked up by us if you got Chinese take-out like I did). They are currently out in the training villages for language, cultural, medical, safety and teaching training. Best of luck to them as they continue to slog through the first couple of months in country.
10. My last bit of news is actually about family. I found out on Thursday, October 21st that my cousin Anita and her husband, Phil, are expecting their first child! I received a text message from my sister announcing the fantastic news. Unfortunately, I’ll be in Samoa during her delivery, but I’ll be looking forward to meeting them after my close of service. Congratulations to Anita and Phil!
11. And just because I didn’t want this to turn into a “list of 10”, I’ll let you know that my birthday is on November 15th!
The waterfall I have to cross over was flowing pretty heavy on Friday.
The view as I walked from my village!
These two guys visited with me during the last part of my walk. They asked for me to take their picture.
My cousin Anita and her husband Phil, who are expecting their first child the middle of next year!