Monday, August 16, 2010

The Last Fun Football

The highlight of every week for me is Fun Football, an hour with the kids being coach. I usually get kids the kids who are 6-11 and they are just the right age. They aren’t the cheeky teenagers and aren’t too young you can’t do anything with them. I have fun with this age group.


Last Saturday was my last time with these kids since I’ll be leaving Samoa next week. It was always a fun tradition when I was a young player to play Butts Up with the coach as the target, so I let these kids do the same. For those of you who don’t know what Butts Up is I’ll explain. Every player has a ball and they all line up shoulder to shoulder in front of the goal. The coach, or losing team, stands in the middle of the goal, turned around, and rear end facing the players. The fun for the players is to see who can shoot the ball and hit the coach’s...seat cushion to put it nicely. Needless to say, I think that was the highlight of the hour of football for the kids, especially the ones who had good aim.


The Business House Tournament also finished up last week. The Peace Corps team didn’t win anything, but considering we always struggled with numbers and most of the players hadn’t played either in a long time or ever, I’m proud of the team. Well done team!


The staff here at FFS held a dinner for me on Saturday night. That was a lot of fun and I enjoyed dinner and cocktails with them. Although, I’m not used to cocktails much anymore since they are usually unaffordable on a PC budget and I am not used to sugary drinks...tummy ache. The dinner was a nice send off though, as was tea this morning. I will miss the staff and being involved in football in Samoa. It has been quite an experience seeing the administrative side of football and I am glad I had the opportunity.


I started packing up my room on Sunday. It finally hit me I’ll be leaving next week. I think getting on that plane next Friday morning will be a bit difficult. This has been home for 2+ years and even with all the ridiculousness of my time here in Samoa, a part of me will never leave the islands.


So this may be my last blog from Samoa, not sure after my sister comes Wednesday if I’ll have another chance to write again. I might continue the blog for a while after I get back to the States, detailing my shock and awe with re-adjustment. We’ll see...too far in the future for now. If this is my last blog, thank you everyone for reading. I have had a good time telling my misadventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some more Futsal action

I wrote last week about the Futsal tournament being a big success and everyone enjoying the change of pace. Well, now I can be included in that group. Our head groundskeeper is the president of the Adidas Soccer Club and asked if I would play for them in the Futsal Tournament. I didn’t know if I would be allowed to play since I work in the FFS office, but the powers that be approved me playing because at the end of the day I am technically a volunteer and am not paid by FFS.


So after Fun Football with the kids on Saturday morning I headed up to the NUS gym, put on the uniform, and strapped on my indoor boots. I didn’t really warm up since I was a little late so my touch was off in the first half, but I eventually found it and had a good time playing. I kept trying to lead other players with passes and quickly found out that forethought in passing/making runs doesn’t often happen and my passes more often than not ended up out of bounds. We eventually worked it out and I had an assist or two. I’m not a shooter, even though in a small game like Futsal I should have blasted the ball instead of not shooting at all, but I tend to be more of a play maker and defender than a forward. I had fun nonetheless and look forward to the next game on Saturday.


There’s an article in today’s Samoan Observer regarding the Futsal action...photo credit: me! After my game, I was handed the camera to take photos. I really enjoy using the super nice camera, so I had no problem messing around it and pretending to be working.


I’m leaving the office next Tuesday since my Peace Corps service is almost up, so I’ve been trying to finish out projects and transfer files I have that the office staff will need next year. We are having a goodbye dinner for me on Saturday, so that should be fun.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Futsal comes to Samoa

On Friday, Vaigaga Primary School had a festival here at the FFS fields. We set up two rotations, one for the older kids, one for the younger kids. Again, I was in charge of one of the playing fields. This is much more fun than running the drills. The kids can be really funny when playing too. They all have a good time kicking the ball around and some are more serious than others, taking competition very seriously.


We had just started a new rotation of kids, so I handed the red bibs/pennies to a team of six and the others were in white t-shirts. The kids must have been Year 3 or so, around 8 or 9. The red team gathers in front of the goal, hands in, and cheer “Go Red!” Well, not to be out done, the team in white t-shirts sees this and they too gather around their goal, hands in, and yell “Go White!” I was cracking up. The games are only about 4-5 minutes before they rotate, but that group of kids was into it.


The Football Federation just started a Futsal tournament here. So Saturday after fun football with the kids, we headed up to the National University of Samoa gym to watch the competition. Futsal is such a different game from outdoor soccer. It is even different than indoor soccer where you can play off the walls and do a give and go with your self. In Futsal, there are out of bounds and you must kick the ball in while the ball is stationary on the line and you only have 4 seconds to pass it in. This caused lots of problems and teams were penalized often for improper procedure. The goals are smaller and only 5 on a team play at one time. The game is so fast paced, as in indoor soccer, but the ball is smaller too. It was really fun to watch the games and everyone seemed to enjoy the change of pace.


We just had special visitors from FIFA and OFC here. Reynald Temarii, OFC President and a FIFA Vice President, and three others from FIFA and OFC were here for a visit. They had an ava ceremony with the head of state, so all the stops have been pulled for them. It is a big deal though; the VP of the international soccer body came to visit, pretty cool.


My sister comes for a visit in a couple of weeks. I’m excited to see her since it has been nearly 2.5 years since I last saw her. So I’ve been busy making reservations and deciding on what we need to do before I leave; what kind of fun I’ve missed out on and not done in the past 2 years that I need to squeeze in now. I think I’m most excited for her to ride a Samoan bus...can’t wait to see that craziness. I’m a cruel sister I know, but I am the younger one and I’m sure all younger siblings will agree that it is our job to pester the older siblings; it’s what we do best. But in all seriousness big sis...I am very much looking forward to seeing you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

You’re really important

I was at work yesterday morning when the phone rang. I answered it and the guy speaking wanted to talk to my boss, who wasn’t in, so I told him I’d take a message and pass it on. The guy then says, “This is Misa Telefoni.” An alarm went off in my head saying...this guy is important. Misa Telefoni is the Deputy Prime Minister, basically the Vice President of Samoa. So that was pretty cool yesterday. I don’t think I’ll ever talk to someone that important in the USA.


The Peace Corps soccer team is still playing, just 2 more games left. We’ve struggled with getting numbers for every game, even had to play down a player on several occasions. Injuries have also taken their toll on the team. We are for the most part having fun playing, there are some teams though that really need to take it down a notch; this is after all a social tournament, not an official league or anything like that. I can be competitive, but I’m not out for blood like some teams are (or to give people concussions like one of our players received). I enjoy watching my teammates, some of whom have never played before or aren’t athletes, play soccer and I’m quite proud of our team. We have to work much harder to get numbers every week than businesses based here in Apia since most of the volunteers aren’t in Apia. We manage though and have a good time getting some exercise.


I promised one of the players who doesn’t usually play we would go for pizza after the game if she played; we were in desperate need of players so I had to do what I had to do to get players. So we went straight into town for pizza at Italiano’s. Afterwards, we went next door to On the Rocks to split a couple of pitchers of Vailima (the local beer). It occurred to me as we were sitting there just how great of a country this is...I can go to a bar in soccer shorts having just played a soccer game and no one thinks anything of it. Awesome! That is one of the things I will miss about Samoa, you don't really have to be dressed up to go out on the town here. That is perfect for me since I hate dressing up.


Monday was a sad day. Three of my fellow Group 80 members left the country to head back to the USA. It is weird to see your group leave, makes you wonder where 2 years has gone. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago we were newbies and just getting into the country, all of us still strangers to each other. Now we are really good friends and splitting up is hard. It is amazing how close people can become in 2 years in a foreign country. Their departure also means I’m the sole remaining member of Group 80 on my island of Upolu. There are still 6 on the big island of Savaii, but I’m the only one on Upolu...it’s an odd feeling knowing your time is coming soon too.


It isn’t that I don’t want to leave necessarily; I’m ready to go in many ways. However after 2+ years, Samoa is just as much of home as the USA is, so in some regards I’m leaving home too...I’ve gotten used to island life. But it is time for me to go and I know that; got to move on to other things and let life continue. I’m still not looking forward to taking the GRE and applying to grad school; something I need to start preparing for. But for now, I’m still on and island and going to faifai lemu (take it easy).

Monday, July 26, 2010

This is just bizarre

I wrote about how after the tsunami last year, certain people in my village chose to loot my house and steal anything which I might have been able to salvage. Well, this is a bizarre story of just how far my things reached.


Last Friday, one of the PC staff members had a dinner for Group 80 since we are on our way out of the country, three of my group are leaving later tonight. It was a great dinner…Mexican food: enchiladas, tacos, salsa, guacamole, and for dessert, chocolate cake, ice cream, cookies, and frozen bananas with chocolate…out bellies were delightfully stuffed. Well, I arrive at the dinner after the PC soccer game and see my good friend wearing a shirt which once belonged to me. This was pretty confusing since it had been nearly a year since I had seen the shirt. I told her “nice shirt.” She replied “yeah, I know…I’ll give it back but you have to hear the story first.”


Liz was in her village and sees a sole wearing a shirt she new didn’t belong to him. She asked him where he got it and he told her he got it at CCK (a local discount and thrift store) for $16. She told him she wanted the shirt and to come by her house later. He didn’t come over, but this being Samoa and therefore very small, she was able to track him down via her host family and recover the shirt, which she handed over to me.


The bizarre aspects of the story are:


1) Liz lives in Savaii…the other island. She also lives inland. So it isn’t like she lives in the neighboring village and the shirt washed up onshore. That is a plausible story. To get to her village from my former village is about a 6-7 hour journey if you time it right with buses (bus from the village, bus to the wharf, boat, bus to her village). So someone had to bring it to the village.


2) The shirt just so happened to be an original. My cousin owns a screen printing shop and made the shirt just for me as a Christmas present in 2008. There are only two of those shirts in existence; it isn’t like one could buy the shirt in a store. Liz knew it was mine because I showed it to her when she came for a visit.


I know exactly how the shirt got there. A former counterpart wife’s family is from my friend’s village. So at Christmas when they went to visit (he told me they were going to the big island for the holiday), they took a whole bunch of my stuff with them to their big island relatives. Which is frustrating considering I thought that maybe my counterpart was a friend and would give my stuff back; that didn’t happen because I saw my stuff in their house and was unsuccessful in convincing them to give it back after the tsunami and even tried after the New Year. Oh well, doesn’t much matter now, but it is impressive that my stuff ended up all the way in Savaii. Now that shirt has a really fun story behind it.

A little more of Just Play

Last week was pretty fun. My office mates and I were out monitoring the “Just Play” program so we were out on the field all week. This made for an exhausting week, but much more fun than being in the office. Last Friday, we had a festival for one of the schools. We set up two playing fields big enough for a 6v6 game and two drill areas and then rotated the kids through so everyone got a chance to do everything. We had three or four groups of around 36 kids each. I was put in charge of one of the games; I could tell the kids were having fun as they were playing. One girl who had already gone through the whole rotation was being ball girl for me and asked if they could go again because she enjoyed playing so much. Unfortunately, the answer was no…they had to go back to school.


We monitored a few other schools in the afternoon. The kids really eat this up. For one thing, it is a treat to have good equipment in which to play. Another thing is we are letting them just play as the name of the program indicates. It’s not complicated or hard…all they have to do is kick the ball around. Sure there are drills and little games, but they get to run around and kick a football around…what kid wouldn’t enjoy that? I do have concerns about the teachers actually continuing the program after we stop monitoring, but at least the kids are having fun for now.


This past year, I was a member of the Football Federation Samoa Disciplinary Committee. We sanctioned players when they broke the Laws of the Game. Usually, this involved punishing them for fighting and attacking referees. Yes, attacking referees…you did read that correctly. I never thought I’d see a referee get punched…you just don’t do that in the States. I’ve seen it more than enough times here and it was considered a good weekend when a fight didn’t break out.


Sanctioning players was a little difficult since FFS didn’t have a Disciplinary Code; we had to use the OFC (Oceania Football Confederation, the boss of all the Oceania countries when it comes to football, like FIFA is the boss of all the confederations in the world) Disciplinary Code. Not everything in that applied here and there was lots that needed to be Samoanized (like putting fines in Tala instead of New Zealand Dollars). So that has been my other job for the past week, writing a code of discipline for Samoa.


It wasn’t all that difficult really; I mostly took what was in the OFC code and changed the NZD to WST and put in some other provisions which were applicable to Samoa. But it is kind of cool to be able to say I wrote it. When I came there was no FFS Disciplinary Code and now there is. It is going to be edited by the rest of the disciplinary committee and the normalization committee, so not like it is 100% all my doing, but still…I’m kind of proud that maybe after 2 years I finally have a lasting something (not many of the village projects were really successful in my book). So be ware all you Samoan footballers…there’s a new Disciplinary Code now, no more fighting!


As of today, I have just 30 days left as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It is still hard to believe my Peace Corps time is up. But I’m starting to get excited about being back in the USA. I really want a bagel, deli sandwich, real BBQ, and Mexican food. So I’m pretty sure all of that will happen the day I get back. I’m going to have to stay off the scales for at least three months after I get back…a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make for all that enjoyment in the belly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Birthday Celebration

Last Thursday was my birthday; the third I’ve celebrated since being in Samoa. I took the day off work to go into town and have a fun day of hanging out. I got breakfast at a new coffee shop/restaurant (a croissant with nutella is amazing!), then caught “Shrek Forever After” with a friend. A restaurant in town was having a July birthday promotion so I brought two friends along and got a free lunch and a glass of champagne. I was then convinced by my guy friends to shoot some zombies on Xbox…I am not good at this and pretty sure I shot my teammates more often than zombies. I went to dinner with eight of my friends at a restaurant that none of us had been to and that turned out to be quite good. After, we had a nightcap at Why Not to finish out the night. All in all a pretty fun day of not doing much of anything, as birthdays should be.

The birthday celebration continued through the weekend. My birthday present to myself was a trip scuba diving. We went with Aqua Samoa out of the Aggie Grey’s Lagoon Resort. It was a fun trip, but the seas were rough. My air consumption continues to be really good; I had 130 bar (started out with 220 bar) after the first dive of 35 minutes and 110 bar after the second of 44 minutes. We saw a turtle and had a couple of cool swim throughs (bat fish were waiting for us at the end of the tunnels, which was cool). A day in the water is always a good day.

The fun weekend continued with an overnight trip to Savaii. One of my Group 80 Savaii counterparts is leaving in three weeks to extend his Peace Corps experience in the Caribbean and he wanted to hangout this weekend, so I figured since I was almost all the way to the wharf diving anyway I might as well go hangout. There were six of us over at Lusia’s that night enjoying the evening. We had dinner and chatted, then went to the most fun night club in all of Samoa…Evaeva.

Evaeva has a live band, a big dance floor, and the cover is only 4 tala…a bargain. Plus, it is always fun to see what kind of dance moves the ridiculously drunk soles come up with (mostly fiafia dance moves which don’t really go with the hip-hop and pop music and that makes it all the more fun). Evaeva is a little sketchy, not really a place a girl should go alone...always have a guy friend or multiple girl friends because drunken soles will want to dance and will “want to know you” but a lot of fun can be had out on the dance floor.

In the morning, I walked over the watch the World Cup Final with Jim at Jet Over Hotel. They have a nice big tv and we sat right in front while enjoying breakfast. As I said at the beginning of the tournament, Spain won. I was hoping for the Dutch to win, got to love the crazy orange uniforms, but Spain was too much for them. It was boring in the first half, then picked up and became exciting. I was happy both teams were in it though because whichever team won it meant a first time champion, which is pretty cool.

Getting on the ferry was a hoot. It was packed and a good thing the big boat was running; otherwise; I might have had to spend another night in Savaii which would not have been good. Queuing properly does not exist here in Samoa. To get a ticket at the window…massive hoard pushing and shoving their way to the front. To get in the fenced off aisle to get onto the boat…massive hoard pushing and shoving. Sometimes it’s a big pain to be squeezed in with mass amounts of people in the Samoan heat and no air conditioning…gross actually…other times the whole routine is kind of funny, all depends on one’s mood. Best idea is to just accept that this is the way it is nothing can be done about it so you might as well just go with it. And then comes getting off the boat and onto a bus where one has to sit on a lap…oh the ridiculousness. I’m going to be so used to having to push and shove in a line and sit on another’s lap I’ll probably try it in the States, much to the dismay of everyone around.

Random story time: A couple of weeks ago I was out with my coworkers monitoring the Just Play program at one of the primary schools. As we were out on the pitch I could hear singing going on in one of the classrooms. It took me a while to realize what they were singing…Justin Beiber’s “Baby, baby, baby” or whatever the name of the song is. I’m not a fan of the annoying teen’s music and was quite saddened that had reached all the way over to Samoa and primary school kids were singing it in class as an assignment…not what the world needs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July Shenanigans

Because the 4th fell on Sunday this year, we here in Samoa had to celebrate on Friday and Saturday (there’s a strict no fun policy on Sunday, not really, but Sunday is very much a day of going to church and resting, not much else is considered ok…aka no working or partying). So instead of celebrating our nation’s Independence Day on Sunday, we had 2 parties in the preceding days.

Friday night was the formal party at Sails, a nice restaurant right on the water. Everyone was dressed up in nice clothes, which for Peace Corps Volunteers is a rare thing. Even I was wearing a dress, which if you know me is really a big deal. I have no nice clothes here in Samoa so I had to have one made especially for this occasion. People were shocked to see me in a dress…I’m talking jaws dropping to the floor. It was a nice event complete with dancing, hors d'oeuvres, and free wine and beer. It was a classy event and fun for just the grown ups. And as what usually happens on a Friday night when lots of volunteers are in town, the party moved to V-Bar and Why Not when the formal occasion was over.

Saturday afternoon was the family event, a pot luck get together. People played Frisbee, croquet, and volleyball. Once it got dark, we lit sparklers and watched a slideshow with pictures of the US and fireworks (we can’t light fireworks here, so sparklers and pictures of fireworks had to do). There was a cake in the form of a USA flag and lots of food to go around.

Saturday night was the fa’amavae for my group, Group 80. We swore in as PCVs August 25, 2008 so we are officially done August 25, 2010. Some of our volunteers are leaving later this month to return home or transfer to other posts for a new round of Peace Corps and most of the rest of us late next month or early September, so this was our chance to have a party to celebrate us and say goodbye to people. It was a well done party (malo galue to the other groups for organizing it).

There was a really nice program as well…a slideshow of all of Group 80 in the field doing what we do, a talent show of singing and being musical, as well as the final act of Liz as taupou. Liz looked amazing…she did a great job! The taupou dresses in siapo (tapa cloth) and has a tuiga (traditional headdress) and does a siva samoa (Samoan dance). It was spectacular! The rest of the night was filled with fun I won’t go into on a blog open to the whole world, but we had a great time and it was a wonderful way to say goodbye.

The fun continued yesterday with a tour of the USCGC Kukui out of Honolulu, HI. The US Coast Guard was in town, coming from American Samoa on fisheries inspections. They came to the July 4th event Saturday afternoon and were nice enough to offer us a tour of their ship. That sounded like a pretty cool thing to do, so Sunday afternoon we did just that.

The mission of the Kukui is to maintain buoys and do some fisheries law enforcement. They’ve got a dive team, which I thought was pretty cool. We met Oscar, the man overboard dummy, saw their movie theatre (small but really cool), saw the captain’s chair and all his domain on the bridge, even sick bay and typical quarters for a sailor on board. They were even nice enough to give us official ship hats. It was a fun way to spend the 4th of July.

I was hanging out with other volunteers at Aggie Grey’s last night when they said something about me leaving in a month. I was quick to say it’s not quite a month…but then realized I will be leaving next month…granted at the end of the month, but next month nonetheless. That is a little scary and it continues to creep up on me. I’m leaving home just as much as going home. Adjusting should be interesting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out on the Pitch

We kicked off a new program called “Just Play” on Monday. The program is to get kids ages 6-12 playing soccer in school. Our job here at Football Federation Samoa is to train the teachers on football basics so they can deliver the program as we monitor the progress and support them when they need help. The teachers get great materials too. Not only do they get a nice book detailing 12 sessions they can run, but also four ball bags each with two balls, a ball pump, a whistle, eight bibs, four cones, and eight markers. That is an amazing amount of gear and these schools are so lucky to have this gear for the kids.

The course is two days long for each group and we have two groups of 20 teachers and 2 volunteers from a community. We also had two Peace Corps Volunteers who attended the first session. It was nice to see them come from all the way out in Savaii. They enjoyed the course and got some nice gear to take back and run the program out in the rural villages where they live.

Colin, the technical coordinator for the “Just Play” grassroots program, flew in from the Oceania Football Confederation offices to instruct the first group and we here at FFS are now instructing the second group. The course is mostly on the field, so that has been fun being outside instructing people on how to set up a small training session, how to run drills and games, as well as how to effectively run the session.

Days have been long, but seem really short since I get to knock a ball around all day (what a rough job I have this week). Some of the teachers aren’t bad players either so the program should go well.

I was very excited to start this program because it is a true grassroots effort at trying to get a solid foundation for soccer here in the islands. We have some really good players in the National League, but only three youth teams and those are all U-15 boys. So there is no youth league for girls and nothing for the young kids (unless they want to get knocked around by kids several years older). Without a solid foundation, soccer here will not succeed nor grow. So I am excited to see if this program works and stirs interest in the schools so that maybe the Federation can start some new leagues.

I’m excited about the next six weeks as well because we will be out at the schools monitoring the program and helping the teachers deliver the program if they need the help. So I get be out of the office and still be working, which is always good (I don’t do well in offices).

A shout out to the US Men’s National Team...way to finish top of the pool and move on to the next round. I don’t know where I’m going to find a tv, but I will be watching on Saturday morning. GO USA!!!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Addendum to Below

So it turns out that Transam, the company the Peace Corps soccer team played Friday night and lost to, played with a player who is registered with the National League. Registered players can not play in the Business House Tournament and teams who play those players are given a default loss. So the Peace Corps team actually won the game last Friday night 3-0.

Our team practiced last night at Apia Park. We kicked a ball around for a bit and then scrimmaged some soles who were hanging around. It was fun playing pick up with random people; although the field was less than ideal, divots everywhere and grass was a really long which made things interesting (never knew where the ball was going nor if your pass would get all the way you wanted it to go). Samoan soccer, at least with these guys and in most of what I've seen in the league, is very much an individual game. Some of our guys were frustrated trying to get things working, only to pass the ball to a sole and never get the ball back.

We have practice again tonight. Some of our team is very pro-active in the practicing. I didn't want to be too hard with always practicing, but they are calling practices so it is clear they want to win. We have a few new players for our game Friday; hopefully a good result will come out of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Greatest Month of This Year is Here!!!!

June 11 to July 11 will be the most exciting month of this entire year…it is World Cup month. I would love to be in South Africa for this!

USA took on England for their first match in the FIFA World Cup. This is a re-match of the 1950 World Cup game where the US (at that time a bunch of nobodies) took on England (the creators of the sport we know as football) and played for a 1-0 victory. According to football legend, in England the result was reported as 10-1 in favor of England. People operating the wire thought the 1 in front of the 0 must have been dropped because there was no way the US could beat powerhouse England. They were quite disappointed to learn otherwise.

This time around the sides were a bit more evenly matched, but US was still a huge underdog. The USA managed a 1-1 tie, which in reality is just about as good as win (at least we got a point out of it). They didn’t necessarily deserve it and the US is lucky they have one of the best keepers in the world between the posts because if Tim Howard hadn’t come up so huge the game would have been 3-1 easy. Also lucky that Clint Dempsey’s shot (while not pretty and should have been an easy, routine save) found the back of the net. But it doesn’t matter how it gets there, only matters that the ball crossed that line. The US did a fairly decent job shutting people down (Rooney for one), but again are lucky Tim Howard is an American. But well played boys…GO USA!!

I was lucky to be able to watch the game since I don’t have a tv. It might have killed me otherwise not knowing what was going on in such a huge game. But our very nice charge de affairs let us have a sleep over at her house and watch the game. The house is so nice…full kitchen (we took advantage of that by fixing a spaghetti dinner), ac, couches and chairs, and best of all cable tv complete with ESPN and Discovery Channel. So it was a pleasure to watch the game in the company of other Americans and at such a nice location. I nearly had a heart attack when Jozy Altidore’s shot was deflected by the keeper and hit the post late in the second half.

The Peace Corps are celebrating the World Cup by playing in the Business House Tournament up here at FFS. We had our first game Friday evening. We lost, but considering most of us have little soccer experience that’s not to be unexpected. We really didn’t do too badly also considering the other team practices and have been a team for a few years and we are a rag-tag team with little experience. I played between the posts for the game and had a few good saves. I also now remember just how much being a keeper can hurt…hitting the ground after a dive seems to hurt more than I remember, reminds me that I had a 2+ year gap in playing. I’m not sore though so that is good.

A bit of randomness here: I was jogging a couple of weeks ago when I saw an owl flying overhead. I didn’t know Samoa had owls, but this one was beautiful. It was a white barn owl (Tyto alba).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Less than 90 Days and Counting

Not much is going on at the moment, other than the usual shenanigans of course. My official Close of Service date is August 25th, so I’m counting down the days. I’m starting to get excited about going home, but starting to freak out about it too. I’m not sure I’m truly ready to be back in the US; I’ve gotten pretty used to life here in Samoa (even if it drives me nuts most of the time). My sister is coming down when I leave so that should be fun to be tour guide for her.

I went scuba diving a couple of weekends ago. That was fantastic!! We went on two dives with just a little bit of current, enough to feel it but not too much where it is uncomfortable. The current brought in all kinds of animals. We were swimming in schools of fish. We saw 5 turtles, a school of batfish, and 4 spotted eagle rays. I was nearly on top of one of the turtles before I realized it was below me. When we saw the eagle rays, four were moving in sync with each other which was really amazing to watch. I wish I had a video camera for that. One of the turtles ran head on into a stingray…that was amusing to watch, not what you would call graceful.

Up at the Football Federation we are starting a Business House Tournament for local businesses and organizations, so we’ve been trying to get that organized. It’s a half field, 7 a side, 10 week tournament so it runs right up to my last week here in country. I got a Peace Corps team together so I’m excited to start playing next week.

We are also starting a program called Just Play for the schools. We have 20 schools and 2 communities in the trial run and if it goes well, we will expand from there. The goal is to train 2 teachers from each school in the basics of soccer and then those teachers deliver the soccer program to the kids at their school. The schools get basic soccer kits (balls, bibs, cones, etc) to help them deliver the program to the kids. It should be fun if it goes as planned (but that’s the key now isn’t, making sure the teachers actually deliver the program).

That’s about it though. I’m getting excited for the World Cup, can’t wait to watch as many games as possible (even if they do start at 12:30 am). I don’t have a tv, so at the moment watching any of the games will be difficult, but supposedly the Federation is getting a tv so I’ll be able to watch in the office. GO USA!!


P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

COS and Saying Goodbye

A few weeks ago the Close of Service (COS) conference was held for the group I came to Samoa with 2 years ago…Group 80. This was one of the rare times since we swore in as volunteers and went out to our sites that all 11 of us were together in one spot. These occasions are always joyous and we enjoy hassling each other like the family we have become.

The conference itself was filled with Peace Corps business of assessing sites, what’s next as far as graduate school or jobs is concerned, re-adjustment into American life, evaluating our service and the Peace Corps Samoa office, etc. Really nothing all that exciting but some really good information came out of the meeting which will be very useful in the coming months. Oh the paperwork I have to complete!

The most important issue of COS conference is the feeling of being done and we begin checking out mentally. Once you hit the year mark, only one is left and the countdown begins. Now that we’ve had COS, the reality of going home finally sets in. Being done as a PCV is about 90 days away. The realization of two years having gone by is hitting us all and now is the time to start making plans to go home. This brings up the question of….ok, now what?

Some of us are extending here in Samoa; a few just for a few weeks or ‘til Christmas, but others for a whole year. Others are going straight back home the first day it is possible. And some of us have no idea what to do next. When should I leave? What am I to do when I go home? Should I get a job, which in this financial crisis is nearly impossible to get, or go back to school and get into even more debt than I am already in? Or should I be a lazy bum and not do anything until I come to terms with the fact there are now 3-D tvs on the market, Twitter is a huge thing (you have no idea how long it took us to even figure out what Twitter was in the first place), movies about teen vampires are popular, and everyone I know can update Facebook via their iphone, blackberry, or other mobile devices?

I kinda like the last option…hope you are ready for that Mom!

The other important issue of COS is the saying goodbye to the Peace Corps family. You get on a plane with total strangers and by the end of two years you have 10 brothers and sisters. It is amazing how close one can become in two years. We get thrown into this crazy situation and usually one’s PC brothers and sisters who are the only ones who understand where you are coming from when you tell a story or let out frustration. Saying goodbye is difficult.

Last night marked the first post-COS departure. I said goodbye to a good friend and she’ll be missed greatly. Briony, you are amazing and we’ll all miss you and your laugh which puts a smile on everyone’s face!

Friday, April 30, 2010

The “Twilight Zone” is real?!?

I have vacation days I must use before the beginning of June (PC rules say we can’t take vacation within the last 3 months of service). I wanted to go somewhere, just didn’t know where. Tonga, Cook Islands, and Tokelau all sounded interesting but expensive or not easy to get to. So I decided to take the quick, cheap vacation to American Samoa.

Day 1 - Monday
The plane you fly on is a 19 seater prop plane and it wasn’t full at all. I haven’t flown on a prop plane since I was a little kid and my dad flew a tiny little plane here and there. I got to sit right behind the pilots; with a prop plane that small I felt like Indian Jones in Temple of Doom, luckily the pilots decided to not ditch the aircraft and leave the passengers to fend for ourselves (although I would like to try skydiving someday). The flight only takes 30 minutes and the view is nothing but open ocean. I kept looking for something cool like a whale or dolphins, nothing but white caps. As we came into land I saw the gorgeous mountains. They are steep and dramatic, much prettier than in Samoa in my opinion. There is no fringing reef (or at least not much) around Tutuila so the water gets deep really quickly and crashes into shallow coves or right on to rocky out croppings.

We landed and took the five minutes to get through customs/immigration/baggage claim (it’s not a busy airport). I rented a car at the airport for my 4 days. Oh the feeling of driving! Such bliss!! I then started out on my vacation.

I remember growing up watching the old episodes of “Twilight Zone.” I very much enjoyed this old show and the crazy possibilities the writers always came up with. Going to American Samoa was just like an episode of the “Twilight Zone”…it’s America, but Samoa.

I drove past Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito, KFC, & Pizza Hut and noted those were places I must eat at before I left. I’ve never been to Carl’s Jr back in the States; they aren’t in my neck of the woods, but I’ve heard about them from other PCVs who have been. I ended up watching baseball on ESPN while eating a chicken burrito, yum! I drove past the movie theater, high schools, and Ace Hardware. I enjoyed seeing the yellow school buses (both regular size and short bus mind you). The thing which took me a minute to figure out was the buses which went all over the island. They are loud in speaker volume and in paint job just like here in Western Samoa, but looked odd. At first glance they are the same wooden buses as in Samoa, but the front grill was really low and I couldn’t figure out why. I then got a good look and realized the engines were those of Dodge or Ford trucks, the big Ram or F-150 types, and the wooden frame was built on top of the truck base.

I enjoyed driving down the single road to Pago Pago, taking in the coastline as we curved with the natural features of the rugged island. I got into the harbour and marveled at its beauty. Pago Pago harbor is a natural harbor, made from the collapsed caldera of a volcano. The water is blue-green/turquoise and boats of all types are anchored in the harbor. I drove past the US Post Office and police station, past the 2nd McDonalds on the island (yes, you read correctly, there are 2 McDonalds on Tutuila), the Bank of Hawaii, and several restaurants.

I’m not allowed to drive a car while a Peace Corps Volunteer unless I’m on vacation. So I haven’t driven in a while and it has been even longer since I’ve driven on the right side of the road. It is just like riding a bike though. I only had one issue and that was a roundabout. It wasn’t the roundabout which was the problem, it was the direction. I’m so used to driving left around them that if it hadn’t been for a sign indicating I should drive right around it I most likely would have gone left. But no worries, all was ok, no accidents whatsoever.

I drove all the way out to the eastern side of the island that day. I drove past the tuna canneries. The Star-Kist tuna cannery somewhat remind me of the Del Monte banana packaging plant in Costa Rica, not really impressive but produces a lot of goods. I drove through the tiny villages and noted all the western style houses, only a few open Samoan houses. The beaches were beautiful, palm trees and rocky shoreline. I drove all the way until the road ended, turned around and saw it all again. I enjoyed my first look at the islands.


Day 2 - Tuesday
I got up early and went to the National Park of American Samoa. I drove up the mountain and down at about a 45° angle, a little steep. I hiked a little trail which led out to really nice point with a great view. No one was around, just me and the birds. I was surprised to see a frog! There aren’t any frogs here in Samoa, but in American Samoa there are bunches. I was shocked to see it. It reminded me of when I went to Fiji with the girls and we were so enamored by all the frogs there that people probably thought we were weird for being so obsessed with the frogs.

I drove further into the park to do another hiking trail. This was a short trail and took me to a beach. The waves crashed on the rocky beach and to the left was a large rock face with a bunch of arches carved out from the waves. Birds were all around in the jungle above. There are so many white rumped swiftlets around. Driving through the village near this trail I saw people doing exactly what people do in rural villages here in Samoa…play cards, sit around and chat, and wait for buses.


I then drove to Cost U Less. Oh the wonderful smell of bulk goods, large appliances, and patio furniture!! Cost U Less is basically Costco or Sam’s Club. I bought some food and wished I had brought a bigger bag in which to take more back to Samoa. I caught a movie that afternoon as well, of course enjoying “The Backup Plan” with some “Raisinets.”

On the drive home I realized how much I miss driving. There is nothing like the freedom of being behind the wheel of a car, belting out (off key naturally) the words (or what you think are the words) to a song. One thing that struck me is the courteousness of the drivers; they let people out into traffic a lot more than in the US. That being said it is a good thing the speed limit is at most 25 miles an hour, pulling out into traffic when one should not is rampant, glad the brakes on the rental car were good.

Day 3 – Wednesday

I hiked in the National Park again this day. I drove up the Fagasa Pass and hiked up Mt. Alava. The trail was 7 miles roundtrip and I did it in 3 hours 54 minutes (including 40 minutes at the top for pictures, water, and banana chips). The trail was rated moderately strenuous and I believe that. At first it isn’t so bad, then come the rocky inclines which go on for a couple hundred feet. The views are amazing! If you go to American Samoa and enjoy hiking, take advantage of all the trails, you will not be disappointed.

I was the only hiker in the park that day (and yes I know Mom, I shouldn’t hike by myself but what’s a girl to do when she has no one to go with? I’m not missing out on a great time). It was just me and the birds, and the several lizards I startled by tramping through their turf. Lots of species call the mountains home. Most numerous are the white rumped swiftlets. I saw some pigeons and a couple of purple swamphens as well. I saw tadpoles hanging out in a puddle at the top of the mountain.

At the top of Mt. Alava, all 1,610 feet above sea level, there is a cable car station. The cable car no longer runs, but it is fun to see the wires and gears. There is also a tower for tv broadcasts up there too (that is still in operation). From the top, you get great views of the harbour, Rainmaker Mountain, and Mt. Matafao (the highest point on Tutuila). The view is breathtaking. Again, if you go to American Samoa and you like hiking/nature, hike up the mountain. It’s a lot of fun.


After the hike I drove til the road ended in Western Tutuila. Those roads would make any West Virginian proud…steep, curvy, mountain passes. I had a blast winding my way to no where. I went past more beautiful coves and rocky shorelines, past deep drop offs and very nearly ran into a school bus (had to back up so the bus could pull forward so then I could go forward).

I went past Leone and some of the tsunami affected villages. These villages still look pretty bad. Still lots of rubble and plenty of people are still living in tents or shacks. I hope they can get back on their feet soon.

I drove past a high school practicing football. And not the football I work with everyday, but good old American gridiron. I also saw a bus which was marine themed; I tried to take a picture, but could never get a shot.

Day 4 – Thursday
Last day of vacation. I ate a pancake breakfast at Sadie’s CafĂ©. The restaurant was nice, I recommend it. The pancakes were a cross between American and Samoan pancakes, kind of odd. They weren’t as light and fluffy as American pancakes, but tried really hard to be, yet looked more like Samoan pancakes. This probably makes no sense, but if you had seen them you’d understand. The half-breed pancakes were good by either standard.

I wasted some more time driving around and doing not much of anything. I bought some more stuff and managed to find a spot for it in my suitcase. I went to KFC for lunch and watched CSI as I enjoyed my chicken and more importantly…the buttery biscuit. I returned the car and sat under the “Big Ass Fan” I kid you not, this was the brand of the fan. I watched ESPN and awaited my departure. My Twilight Zone experience was coming to an end. But not before going through immigration and straight to the plane. No bag check whatsoever. This made me laugh. I’m not sure if TSA has jurisdiction in American Samoa, but if they do they probably wouldn’t be happy at the non-existent security screening. Even the little Fagali’i airport here in Samoa did a little inspection of luggage. Oh well, they know all people want to do when going from American Samoa to Samoa is smuggle in bulk goods from Cost U Less anyway.

So ended the “Twilight Zone” experience. I drank as much “Mountain Dew” and root beer that I could find, especially root beer, I’m kind of addicted…it’s like crack. Spending the US dollar but hearing people speak Samoan was odd. I didn’t notice as many lavalavas as here in Samoa, much more Western style clothing even out in the rural villages. People in rural villages still wave at a palagi driving by. Seeing a high school practicing football was just bizarre, haven’t seen football in person in a while. Sending a package from a US post office was a fun little experience too…I felt like I was home. Watching American TV was of course amazing! I ate a bagel with cream cheese!!

The experience was weird…Samoa, yet America. But I think it made me finally get excited about going home. Up until this point I didn’t think I was ready. I didn’t really want to stay here in Samoa, but didn’t want to go home either (that’s not really a good predicament to be in). After being in American Samoa I think I’m ready to go home. I’m going to freak out over really stupid things and get excited about things I wouldn’t normally get excited over, so much that I’ll probably embarrass whoever I’m with, but that is part of the fun too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Soreness is almost gone

Tuesday concluded the 5 day coaching/women's development course here at the Football Federation. It was run by an Australian elite coach instructor who works for FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. It was a really good course; I learned a lot. It was a great opportunity for people here to learn more about coaching and women's football, especially since it was free (just about all coaching courses have fees attached). I'm really glad I attended. I look forward to coaching at home.

I haven't played soccer since I graduated from college (university to those who call high school college). This means I've gone 2.5 years with out touching a ball, with exception of the high school alumni game I played in 2 years ago. Either way, it has been a really long time since I was out on the pitch. I was playing in soccer boots made for indoor soccer since that was the only pair of soccer related shoes I own.

Indoor flats + grass (especially wet grass) = not a good idea.

I slipped all over the place...a lot. I'm quite sure that having improper equipment is a major factor as to why my groin felt a little strained by the end of the course. Feels much better now with a couple of days rest.

We got some really nice gear for the course. Shorts, shirts, warm up suit (not going to do any good here in Samoa, but I'll wear it back in the US), and actual soccer boots. This will be nice for coaching the kids on Saturday mornings and any other kicking of the ball I do. No more slipping and sliding all around the pitch.

My job changed once again. I'm now in charge of competitions instead of media. Our former competitions manager decided to switch to media so now I get that fun. Problem is there is no current thought to getting a new competitions manager. While it is good experience, it's not really a Peace Corps job. I'm having a hard time getting that point across to my boss at the Football Federation. Developing football and doing grassroots programs = PC...not doing a job a Samoan could do. Oh well, make the most of it right?

Here's a link to the Samoan Observer article I wrote about the coaching course.
http://samoaobserver.ws/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21373:ffs-develops&catid=34:sports&Itemid=54

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A collection of somewhat random experiences

In Samoa, the long distance, silent conversations are quite common and usually involve lots of head nodding. People can be on opposite sides of a room or half a football field away and somehow still get the point across. It's quite impressive.

I was walking in town yesterday when I heard a "hey! hey!" I looked over and see this kid I know from Saturday football. He was about 1/2 a block away and I was walking across the street. He asked where I was going, I replied to the store to shop. He replied with a head nod and a smile, then said bye as he went his way. I said bye, then continued to walk down the street. It then hit me what had just gone on...a silent conversation from a distance. Granted is was no drawn out, in depth conversation, but it did get a laugh from a passing Samoan. I then had a smile on my face while walking down the street. I've apparently not lost all of my villageness and can still hold the silent conversation.

A bit later, I get stopped by a man. He shook my hand and said hello. He then asked if I liked it here. I said "yes, it is nice." He then cocks his head and says "Peace Corps right?" I smiled and said "yes." Then we conversed in Samoan. He asked what I was doing; I told him I work for the Football Federation and he asked some other questions. We wrapped up our conversation after a bit and I proceeded to the store. It did make me smile when I thought about it...he instantly knew I was Pisikoa.

My job here with the Football Federation of Samoa continues to evolve. Most of my work used to be on Saturdays. Saturdays involve me playing coach to the kids, organize/supervise ball kids for the games, help the referees if they need it, sometimes play 4th official, and pay the referees. I would help in the office during the week as well. I organized/filed all the referee reports, went through the reports and made a spreadsheet of top scorers, I helped a player with a visa so he can go to New Zealand and play, and various other random jobs around the office. Not really exciting, but what office job is?

Now I have a whole new area of work. I was appointed to the Disciplinary Committee as secretary. I, along with 2 lawyers, decide punishments for players who have received a red card. Many of the punishments are the standard 1 game suspension, but some involve multiple game suspension and fines. This is interesting to me. I do have a football background so I know what is appropriate in the game and what's not. I'm learning a lot about the ins and outs of football from a technical side. Everything has to be done a certain way and a decision has to be made following a certain set of rules. It's a good experience; I'm enjoying it.

I'm now the interim Media Officer as well. This is a whole new aspect of a job. I'm a marine biologist; I have no journalism or media background at all. Well, that's not entirely true. I was on the yearbook staff for 2 years in middle school, but as far as I'm concerned that doesn't really count. Now I'm in charge of contacting tv stations, writing press releases and articles, and taking photos. I like taking pictures so that part of the job I enjoy a lot, especially because the camera is awesome!

It is amazing at the variety of jobs I've done while in Peace Corps. I've worked with a marine protected area, written grants, organized a bunch of programs (sewing clinic, rubbish seminar, animal de-sexing clinic), etc. Now I'm doing a variety of jobs for FFS. PC always say be flexible and do the job which needs to be done, and I think I've accomplished that. It amazing the new skills and confidence I've gained.

I'm taking part in a course here at FFS about the development of women's football. This is exciting for me. As I think I've written before, I think I might go back to the US and do some coaching. So this course is a good experience for me. We had a little 4v4 tournament today. That was the first time in 2.5 years I've played soccer, aside from the high school alumni game I participated in before coming to PC. I'm a lot rusty and have the touch of a brick wall (course some of that can be blamed on me being a goalkeeper too). Maybe my the end of the course I'll be a bit more to form.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finally Some Rain

There aren’t many good lightning storms here in Samoa. If there is lightning, most of it is cloud to cloud, all you get is some rumbling. There is very little of the make you jump out of your knickers lightning which I find fun to watch.

Of course there is always an exception to this. I remember back in February I think it was: I was sitting on the porch of the fale palagi my host family owned writing in my journal. It had been a rainy day with some distant rumbling. The 2 girls were hassling me as usual, asking all kinds of questions. All of the sudden a flash and a loud crack! The girls went running inside to the safety of their mom’s embrace. I have never seen them so scared. The lightning was really close; it seemed to hit the house next door. They kind of reminded me of the sheltie (Lily) my family had. Every time there was a storm she would run to my mom. If Mom was in the study, Lily would be under the desk cowering at Mom’s feet. Or if Mom was relaxing on her reclining chair, Lily would be up in the chair too, as far back and pressed as hard against my mom as she could possibly get. Many times my mom had to stop doing what she was doing just to sit with the scared dog we had. Poor pup.

I grew up in the Midwest (St. Louis) which is in the region of the US known as Tornado Alley due to the massive amounts of tornados those states get, moved to Huntsville, AL which according to one statistic is the 5th most dangerous city for frequency of long track F3-F5 tornados, and then went to college in Florida and when you think Florida, think thunderstorms and hurricanes (along with sunshine, Disneyworld, oranges, beaches, and key lime pie if in Key West of course). I have many memories of tornado drills in school where we went out to the hallway and curled up into a ball with our hands over our necks and noses to the ground or crouching in the closet under the stairs while at home or hurricane parties and waiting out the hurricanes with my cousins in Florida. I’ve lived in places which get good storms so I guess I enjoy watching the raw force of nature.

We had heat lightning in the clouds during the soccer games on Saturday. The games continued through the flashes going on above. I found this a little odd that flashes of death were going on above and we were still allowed to have a full set of games. I guess this stems from Florida which gets heat lightning all the time and I have many memories of being at soccer practice or a game and seeing our athletic trainers holding a lightning meter, measuring how far away the lightning was from the field. If the lightning was within a certain mileage (I think 3-5 miles), we had to go inside until ½ hour after the last lightning strike was measured to be with in that mileage. But that is Florida, the lightning capital of the US.

Monday night we had a pretty good lightning storm. There were lots of flashes, but only rumbling, very few real cracks of thunder. Tuesday was a very wet day. The weather has been very dry the past few weeks and the islands were in desperate need of some rain. The soccer fields are looking brown and the water levels in rivers are low. As the rain came down yesterday, I thought I might need a canoe to run my errands in town as rivers were sprouting up where the water was running off. Luckily by the time the afternoon rolled around, the heavy rain was done and all that was left were sprinkles of drizzly rain.

Today is looking better, cloudy, but still plenty of sunshine.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Robbed at Gunpoint

I wasn't robbed at gunpoint so don't worry. A Westpac bank in Vaitele (just outside of Apia) was robbed Thursday. It's the first bank robbery ever in Samoa. Here's the front page of the Samoan Observer from Friday morning.


And the link to the article:

http://www.samoaobserver.ws/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=20945:robbed-at&catid=50:headline&Itemid=62


Here's a few other links to articles:

http://tvnz.co.nz/world-news/first-armed-bank-robbery-in-samoa-3455463



http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10637344


In other news not nearly as exciting...at the football (soccer) games on Saturday I was the 4th official for one of the games. I recorded goals and substitutions. I'd never done this before so I didn't really know what I was doing, but it turned out to not be very complicated. Luckily the game wasn't complicated by yellow or red cards and no fights. So it was a good experience.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The New Residence

Before I forget, here are some pics of the new place:

First off, my little room. It's not much, but does have a ceiling fan and hot water in the bathroom.
Next the kitchen, oven & stove top as well as a fridge. Lots of counter space too.


Mustn't forget the microwave. And yes, I do make popcorn in it. There used to be a toaster, not really sure what happened to it.


The washer is really nice to have. The spin cycle makes all the difference...dry the next day even when left indoors. Amazing!

This is a panoramic of the complex. The fields are in the backyard as well as the mountains. A pretty waterfall pops out when it rains.

So that is the living situation for the next 4 months. I'm never late for work since the office is above me. I have security guards who patrol the grounds and lock/unlock the gate for me when needed. So not bad. Can't complain about housing that's for sure.

Wonderful Easter Weekend

I finally got more than one day for a weekend and it was spectacular. I had Friday through Monday off…wonderful! Since I work 6 days a week now, I don’t get much of a weekend. I do get a ½ day every week to take whenever I want to, so I took mine Thursday afternoon and started my Easter weekend early by meeting a couple of volunteers at the movies. Afterward I ran some errands, which surprisingly were productive and I got a lot done (this doesn’t happen very often because I always get distracted or can’t find what I need).

I met the people I went to the movies with at the Peace Corps office and they convinced me to go to Faofao beach fales for the weekend. I had been thinking of going to Savaii since I need a vacation off this island; however, since this past weekend is one of the most traveled weekends in Samoa I didn’t want to deal with the really crowded buses and boats. John had rented a car which made the deal even sweeter. We Peace Corps Volunteers have a fondness for Faofao as it has been a great place for us to get away when we need too. They take care of us at Faofao and we enjoy going. Faofao is in Aleipata, the area which was hit the hardest by the tsunami back in September. Right after the tsunami, we couldn’t even tell where Faofao had been even though we had been there several times. When the other PCVs told me they were going to Faofao and invited me, I was very hesitant to go. Back in December when my Mom and Aunt were here just driving through the area was really hard for me. I didn’t know how I would react if I went for the weekend. But I decided to see how I would do, knowing I wanted to go back sometime.

We decided to be true tourists that day and stopped at Togitogiga Waterfalls to go for a dip in the cool water. We also did the coastal walk there as well. I highly recommend this do anyone coming to Samoa. I had no idea it was as amazing as it was. The path to get to the car park is 4 km and is an adventure in itself. The 1.8 km trail takes you through a jungle of pandanus and overlooks the crashing waves. There is no barrier reef on this section of the south coast so the water is deep and crashes powerfully against the large sea cliffs. Natural bridges and amazing rock formations have been cut by the strong waves. There is also a lava field and blowholes at the end of the path. It is a pretty cool thing to do and I wish I had done it sooner.

I am very impressed at how well they have done getting Faofao back up. They have 6 fales built and are in the process of building more. They have a large dining/hanging out area complete with a bar which John’s students at Don Bosco built. The beach looks great as does the coral which was really surprising considering the destruction 6 months ago. None of the fales have electricity, which adds to the rustic nature of the resort. I don’t know if they plan on putting electricity in or not, but for now a kerosene lamp will have to do (or the light of your cell phone). Six of us went and had a very enjoyable time talking, swimming, walking the beach, reading, etc. The typical things one does while relaxing on a beach with friends. Benj found a kite surfing board so we messed around with that while swimming in the ocean. We had a perfect day for the beach too, sunny and warm (course that describes most days here). The sunrise Saturday morning was one of the most beautiful I have yet to see. We left early Sunday morning to get back to Apia; I could have used another day of that gorgeous beach, but we had to get back.

I was able to fix my bike and ride it into town on Monday. I had problems with the pedals locking up (it did go through a tsunami and somehow still works, course this is mostly thanks to Jim and Trent who fixed it up for me). I sprayed lubricant on it a lot and the pedals still locked up, causing me to nearly tip over when I rode it to the next village to shop for my family; luckily I was coming back from the shop and didn’t have far to walk back. Somehow yesterday they decided to be nice and not lock up; I’m thankful. It is 3-4 miles I guess from my house to the PC office. Going there wasn’t so bad, mostly downhill. I thought I would die going back since it is mostly uphill, but thankfully my heart didn’t explode. It turned out to not be nearly as bad as I thought I was going to be, even though not all the gears on the bike work. Running and biking are very different and I’m in ok shape running wise (not going to run a marathon or anything, but can run a few miles no problem), but didn’t know how biking would suit me. I didn’t use the bike much when I lived on the south side. Once, I did ride 12 miles (in the rain) to Siumu and 12 miles back the next day…that about killed me. But today after the bike ride, only my bum hurts from the seat. So now that I know I’m not going to die from riding the bike I’ll have to do that more often. No cars hit me either which is a big plus too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Few Noticeable Differences Between Life Tua and Big City Life

As to be expected, life here in Apia is not the same as in rural Samoa. I lived with a family for 3 months of training, then on my own tua for 13 months, then with a family tua for 5 months, and now I’ve been on my own in Apia for 1 month now. I had very much gotten used to life in rural Samoa. Here are some observations:

1) It rains a lot less here on the north side of the island than on the south.

2) There are a lot of cars and they are all in need of a repair/I need to break into the car and liberate their subwoofers. I knew this before, but it is even more apparent when they drive past me while I’m running and I inhale so much exhaust fumes I know I just took 2 years off my life (I miss running in clean, fresh air) or they drive past my windows at all hours of the night with ridiculous bass one would not expect here in Samoa. It is kind of like the bus, you hear it before you can see it. Ear plugs are amazing!

3) I haven’t stepped in pig nor chicken feces in a month now – brilliant!

4) I haven’t eaten breadfruit/taro/ufi in a month now – I liked breadfruit, but don’t miss the others (a little dense on the starches for me).

5) I can buy steak in various forms (stir fry, sirloin, etc), ground beef (called ground mince here), and even boneless…yes, you read correctly, boneless…chicken breast from the grocery store. Best part is…the cuts are not 80% fat nor salted way beyond anyone’s sodium intake needs for at least a week like the meat you get tua…I’m amazed and enjoying adding flavor into my diet!

6) I bought lettuce! I think that says enough right there.

7) All I need to say is MEXICAN FIESTA NIGHT! Super excited for that!!!!!

8) Now that I work for the Football Federation, I have computer and internet access from 8-5 M-F. Pretty sweet!

9) I haven’t eaten Ramen noodles for breakfast in a month (nor rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for that matter). I’m a big fan of breakfast so Ramen for breakfast was slowly killing me I think, just not a breakfast food to me.

10) Sadly, I haven’t eaten papaya in a month either. I need to make a trip to the market and buy some.

11) I haven’t worn a puletasi in a month. Being a soccer office, dress code is relaxed. No need to wear a puletasi when casual clothes will do.

12) I have AC from 8-5 as well and ceiling fans are amazing.

13) Even though I’m in Apia, since I’m on a sports compound (no houses), I don’t hear dogs at night. I’m so glad to not have to yell at the dogs at 3 am for making too much noise fighting and…etc.

14) Unfortunately, I don’t speak Samoan quite as often as I used to so I’m pretty sure I will lose much of the language I’d picked up over the past 22 months. That truly is a shame.

15) Power still goes out at least once a week, but doesn’t stay out for hours and hours like tua.

16) I have not had issues with no water in a month…and it comes out of the tap clear, definitely not used to that (and it is warm!).

17) Running isn’t viewed as weird as it is tua. But then again, I do live on a sports compound so that might have something to do with it. People run in town on the seawall too, so it isn’t just that I live on a sports compound, people actually understand the benefits of exercise. People (soles & kids) are still cheeky about it though, disturbing me while I run with obnoxious comments. Oh well, just have to get used to that; I do stand out being a white girl after all.

18) I used a hole puncher today…haven’t used one of those since pre-PC.

19) In the month I’ve been here, I’ve had more centipedes than in my time tua. I have had 3 to deal with compared to just 2 tua: one fell on my while I was reading in bed, I stepped on another (lucky it didn’t bite me), and the third was monstrous and even though I sprayed it with Mortein, it still wasn’t paralyzed and crawled off to where I couldn’t get to it.

20) I read the paper everyday (the Federation gets the Samoan Observer delivered everyday). At least I look through it since most of the articles aren’t really worth reading.

That’s all I can think of for now; I know there are more differences. At some point I will get pictures of the new site up.