Monday, November 9, 2009

Grandpa Would Be Proud!

My grandfather has been a member of the Lion’s Club for decades. Every time I go up to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in West Virginia I see the plaques commemorating his fine years of service. I knew Lion’s Club was international; I’d seen their signs in Costa Rica while I was there on a field biology course, but I didn’t know they were in Samoa. That is until they delivered aid to me Saturday afternoon. I got pisupo (corned beef), spaghetti, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, water, Ramen noodles, etc. We took some pictures and I told them my Grandpa was a Lion too, so I’m sure they got a kick out of that. I borrowed a camera from another volunteer to take some pictures and caught the kids being their normal, funny selves. Charin likes to sing for the camera while Alofa prefers trying to be the photographer, always curious as to what that goofy thing is I’m holding. I was able to get a funny video of Alofa and Charin fake fighting. If you tell Alofa to “fusu,” she takes a martial arts stance, bobs her head like a bobble head doll, and then attacks. It is so funny and I always get a kick out of it, never gets old. This family, especially the kids, is the only thing keeping me sane at times. Of course sometimes they compound the problem (you know how difficult kids can be and I still haven’t gotten used to the whole family sleeping right outside my door), but the majority of the time they make me laugh when I need to or in talking with the adults my apprehensions are relieved.

The bus continues to be an interesting experience. I thought I’d seen just about everything. In the States there are certain things you can’t do: bring a puppy or any other form of animal (exception of seeing eye dogs) on a bus for fear of biting or allergies, here not so much an issue, kinda of funny what comes on a bus actually; weed whackers, not really a good idea either; machetes are a big no-no unless one is a crazed killer or wants people to think so; and the whole sit on a strangers lap would never happen in the States (you know how we palagi are, not big fans of touching, we need our bubble of personal space). All this I’ve gotten used to as normal; there isn’t much that goes on concerning the bus which truly shocks me anymore. That being said, the other week coming back from Apia and just one village from mine, a fight broke out between two soles. “Great!” I thought, “I’m almost home and these idiots are causing trouble.” They started in the back and worked their way up front. They got up by me and I hunkered down as they shoved each other into me and continued the punching and wrestling. I really didn’t want to have to go back to the office the next day and explain why I had a black eye or worse. I found it very cute when the Samoan lady next to me put her arms around me and yelled to the boys “Teine Palagi, Teine Palagi!” That did nothing to stop them, but it was cute. The lady had a kid about three on her lap who was about to lose it when the boy were wrestling on top of me causing me to be shoved into them. Eventually, the bus driver and other men got them separated. The driver kicked one guy off and told the other to stay put; he didn’t want this continued in the street. From what I heard the fight was about bus fare. While money might be a big issue, $6 is not enough to warrant a bloody nose and several face lacerations. But, I believe alcohol was involved as well so that would explain most of the stupid behavior. Just another day on the bus.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Long lost dog has returned!

Well, it took a whole month but I finally found her. I was sitting on the church steps last Tuesday, waiting for singing practice to begin, when I saw the little mutt sauntering down the road looking halfway lost as always. I walked down the steps and did the familiar whistle she knows as me. She stopped in her tracks and looked at me on the fist whistle, started wagging her tail on the second, and took off running towards me on the third. I think she was a little surprised to see me after a month. I’m pretty sure all the Samoans thought it was funny to see me and the dog. Oh well, I’m glad to see she is ok. She has been a bad girl though and is pregnant…again. I have to get her de-sexed but that isn’t easy without a car; that will happen after this litter comes though. Dogs are something not in short supply here and more dogs are not needed in this country. She followed me up the road after singing (waiting so patiently for me where the old house was until singing was over) and has stayed at the house since then; although, I had trouble finding her the past couple of days so I think she went back down seaward. I tried giving her a bath last Wednesday. As with most dogs, she wasn’t a fan. It was a short bath and she still smells like a dog, but I didn’t want to stress her out too much since she is pregnant. Pretty sure my family found me giving the dog a bath amusing.

Wednesday night there were some interesting sights in the sky. I saw two shooting stars. They both had green tails and lasted 2-3 seconds so I’m thinking they may have been part of a small meteor shower. They didn’t seem like regular shooting stars to me. The really cool thing was the aura or ring around the moon (also known as a halo). When the first shooting star caught my eye I saw the ring around the moon. I’ve seen rings around the moon before, but never this big. As I looked up I put my thumb on the moon and my index finger on the ring, 3 inches or so. I’ve only seen them an inch or less. Really cool to see. Pretty soon I had the whole family out there looking at it. That was funny because I told one person; they gave an exclamation of surprise and called another until the whole family was outside staring at the moon. They kept asking what day it was because since Wednesday was the 28th the next day was the 29th and the one month anniversary of the tsunami. They thought something bad would occur the next day. I kept trying to tell them the ring was only because of moisture in the air, but that didn’t seem to be a satisfying enough answer. Oh well, it was still fun to gaze at the moon with them.

It is funny how life comes at you fast. I went from living alone and by the sea to living with a family and in the jungle. I used to fix my own palagi food but am now given Samoan food. Although, we get a lot canned foods (beef stew, mushroom soup, baked beans, etc) as part of aid given to the other family whose house was destroyed and shared with me because they feel bad I was affected more than a lot of families and I haven’t been given aid. I told them I appreciate it, but it isn’t necessary; they send over stuff anyway. They aren’t used to the palagi canned foods so they give them to me. The girls in the family tried apple juice for the first time and made funny faces. They said it was o’ona or bitter. I had a box of raisins and we put them in the oatmeal along with chopped walnuts we were given as part of the aid. I thought it was fantastic and really added a lot to the oatmeal. Charin, the 4 year old, spit every walnut and raisin out; e le masani (she isn’t used to it). That was amusing.

I am working on a proposal to get funding for a new pre-school. Of course the other, which was my house, was destroyed in the tsunami. We should be submitting the proposal soon. We picked up three computers Friday, thanks to Jenny for giving us two of the four she requested and Sara and Cale for an additional computer to replace the whole order as well as for fixing them up and keeping them safe. I’m hoping to keep a little busier on an everyday basis either messing around on the computer or actually doing my job and teaching people how to use the computer. Work comes in spurts so it will be great to have something more often to do.

When I got back from Apia and picking up the computers Friday, I was called over to the pulenuu’s house. Three trucks from DMO, Disaster Management Office, were there. Apparently, they have been trying to find me for four weeks and the last time they tried to find me I was in Apia for the fiafia to welcome the new group; go figure, I was in the village all that time except for the time they came to deliver stuff to me. Well, my family can stop being mad at the village for not giving me aid (even though this didn’t have anything to do with the village, it was all DMO). I got a bunch of cereals, canned foods, noodles, rice, cookies, soap, laundry powder, a non-stick skillet, bowls, and a box of NZ Artesian water. Since I am now part of a Samoan family I shared. I gave my family everything since they cook for me anyway. They had me keep some things, like the toilet paper, toothpaste, two packs of cookies (in case I get hungry), and the bedding for when I need to change my sheets. We should be eating really well for the next few weeks. We have enough cereal to feed an army; the kids enjoyed it for dinner Friday night. I’m interested to see what else might show up, not that I need it or really want it, but it will be given anyway since I’m a tsunami victim. My family gets well fed; I’m ok with that.

It is still really weird to drive past Poutasi on the bus. There is still a lot of debris. They had to knock another building near the secondary school down because of water damage. The area near the school looks pretty cleaned up; although just a giant field for the most part now, but just to the side where there are more trees there is a lot of tin used for roofing and wood scattered everywhere. It is a little unnerving to be on the bus and when we get to Poutasi everyone turns their head to see how the clean up is going. My village will change soon too. Those of us whose houses were completely destroyed by the tsunami aren’t returning to where we once lived. Many of the families whose houses were not damaged at all or only minor water damage sustained are starting to move up to the road as well. They are pretty scared to live down in the village center near the sea and I can understand their wish to move inland to be safer. I was a little unhappy to hear a matai knocked his house down just so that he could get aid. His house sustained no damage, yet he is taking advantage of the disaster. From what I’ve heard, this is happening all over Samoa and I’m sure it happens worldwide, but that doesn’t make it right.

The best part of my days, besides the nap which is a cultural requirement, is right around dusk. I love watching the bats fly around. The palm trees are mere silhouettes, the sky is shades of blue, pink, red, purple, and orange, and the air is starting to cool off from the warm day. The bats emerge from their mountain roosts and fly out in search of the evening meal. The bats are peaceful things to watch at the end of the long days.