Monday, June 15, 2009

Good week followed by an even better weekend

Sorry Mom, I just can’t sew.

Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development (MWCSD) came to the village all last week to instruct a sewing clinic for the ladies of the village. The women finally got to make good use of the sewing machines we got from a grant I wrote to NZ High Commission. Some women knew how to use a sewing machine, while others did not. It was fun to see the progression of sewing throughout the week. Early in the week, people learned how to thread the needle and cut fabric patterns. By the end of the week the women had made all kinds of clothing: shirts, shorts, puletasi, skirts, etc. Most people started out with a puletasi or shorts since those are something they did by hand before. By the end of the week people were sewing shirts for their kids and husbands, dresses for the girls, and muumuus for grandma. I bought fabric with the intention of learning how to sew a puletasi. Well that was all fine and dandy, except no one really taught me how to do it. I think the fa’afafine teacher was a little peeved I didn’t know how to sew. She mostly did it for me because she didn’t want to waste time actually teaching me and having to redo everything I did wrong. This was a little frustrating, but then I figured who cares. I’m going back to the US in 14 months where I’m going to buy my clothes off a rack anyway, what good is it going to do me to know how to sew a puletasi? Also, the clinic was for the women of the village anyway, so it really was more important for them to get the instruction they needed. So sorry Mom, I still can’t sew. I did put some of the stitches in though and not all of them had to be redone. Friday we held a display of all the clothes everyone had made. TV1 came out and did a story on the event. I think the women were really excited for this and were really proud of themselves. They had a stereo going and sang to the songs. It was comical to see the women crooning on the microphones like they were Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra. There was of course dancing and they made me dance even though I can’t siva Samoa. The village wants me to be the village taupou (unmarried girl, usually by Samoan custom a virgin who is singled out for her charm, looks, and manners, with the duty of mixing the ava and opening and closing a fiafia) but I don’t know why they want me to hold this position. I don’t know how to properly mix the ava or siva Samoa and those are two really important tasks of being a taupou. Oh well, it is flattering I guess when they tell me to make the ava for a matai meeting or when they have a special guest come (like my Dad; oh yes, I made the ava for him too). Anyway, the clinic was a huge success and I’m glad to have a good project finally completed.

The Manu Samoa

After the weeklong sewing clinic I decided I deserved a little reward. I caught a ride into Apia with the Ministry of Women people, took care of some business, and then went to the Manu Samoa vs Junior All Blacks game. This was awesome! Manu Samoa is the national rugby team of Samoa and named after a famous warrior chief from Sapunaoa (the village right next door to me). The Junior All Blacks are the second string of the world famous All Blacks, the national team of New Zealand. Being a typical American, I don’t really have a clue about rugby and neither did Benj, Casey, or Kate who went with me. We get the general idea of the game, but the rules and intricacies of the game we miss because well, how many people in the US actually watch rugby? Not many, in fact I had no idea until about two months ago the US has an international rugby team. But for 10 Tala, we got great seats, covered and pretty close to the field. We watched with great interest the Junior All Blacks perform their haka and the Manu Samoa do the tau Samoa; how many professional sports teams do you know which perform a war dance before they take the field? (click the link above to watch a video of the war dances, really awesome) The Manu didn’t play very well the first half, but the second half was really exciting. Manu Samoa came back with scores and was only down one point. The last 15 minutes was incredible. Manu Samoa kept driving and were so close to scoring. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull out the upset and lost 16-17. It was a great game and so exciting to hear the crowd roar with support of the Manu Samoa. I can’t wait to watch another Manu Samoa game, hopefully I can watch a Manu Samoa vs All Blacks and see how the Manu Samoa do against the A team.

This feels like a weekend soccer tournament!

After I got back from Apia, I went over to the neighboring village of Sapunaoa to watch our village boys take on theirs in rugby. I figured this was just going to be a small, two village event. I was wrong; it ended up being a six village affair and tons of people were there. When I got there, Matatufu and Satalo were playing. Next game was Saleilua vs Salani. Then came our boys. It was a great game. I heard a rumor that Sapunoa gets players from Manu Samoa to play for them even if they aren’t related to the village. This tends to not sit well with our boys apparently, so this was a big game. Our boys were leading most of the game, but a big push in the second half gave Sapunaoa a 20-14 lead. Our boys needed another score, plus the two extra points to win. They drove hard and tried to push their way in, but the clock ran out on them. They played really well though and I’m proud of my boys. As in most rival sports games, fans tend to get out of hand after the game. About two minutes after the end of the game, a big fight broke out. I have no idea what the cause of it was, but you know how tempers flare at sporting events. My women were protecting me though. They are funny like that. I was walking with Siniva and Fuataiina. They both took my hands and got really close, trying to shelter me from anything that might go wrong. We were a ways a way when the actual fighting was going on; I only saw one punch thrown since most of my view of the fiasco was blocked. The fight was broken up by the time we walked that way (and we had to go that way to go home), but Siniva and Fuataiina still felt the need to be body guards. It was cute actually; they weren’t going to let anything happen to me while I was in their company.

I got a really odd feeling as I was watching the games. It felt just like so many soccer tournaments I participated in during my soccer days. People were sitting on the grass all around the field or in cars pulled up next to the field, people were selling food (nothing like you would find in the States, no pizza, hotdogs or candy, but chips, rice, & taro…the Samoan equivalent), people were huddled in the shade, had umbrellas or the Samoan equivalent…an ie. The crowd cheered loudly when their team scored and would tease the opposition around them (ok to do since they are most likely cousins anyway). It was fun; I think the village really enjoyed seeing me out there supporting our boys too.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Visit from Pops

The past 10 days have been really fun. Dad was here for a visit so we went all around the islands seeing the beauty of Samoa. Dad got in on the weekly flight from LA at 5:00 am. We hitched a ride into town from another PCVs host brother and checked in the hotel. I immediately introduced him into the Samoan culture with a trip to Fugalei market for breakfast. I had him try panikeke (Samoan pancake), kokoesi (cocoa papaya), and vaisalo (coconut porridge). He liked it all, but thought the kokoesi was a little rich. We walked to the fish market to see what the early catches were and saw the bus stop. We walked through the flea market to see what the local vendors were selling and then headed off to see the wonderfully American hotspot, McDonald’s. We hung out there while drinking real orange juice and a Coke and then headed off to Magic Cinemas to watch “Night at the Museum 2.” We got some pizza at Italiano after the movie. He thought for Samoa the pizza wasn’t that bad. He especially liked the view of the harbor and sitting outside in the open air. We caught the culture show at Aggie Grey’s that night and hung out with Casey & his dad as well as John and his daughter. And all that was just day #1.

Day #2: We picked up the rental car and headed off to the south coast to hike in the jungle at the river fales Casey, Casey's Dad, & Erin. I recommend Lalo Talie River Fales to anyone coming to Samoa with a sense of adventure. The hike is amazing! Hiking through the Samoan jungle, wading through rivers, and face climbing waterfalls…can’t get much better than that. The hike was 3 hours or so of total outdoor fun. The falls are so gorgeous; I can’t wait to go back again. There is nothing like relatively pristine land where only a few adventure seekers go, as well as the Samoans who plant taro just about everywhere up there. It is really an awesome hike, followed by a nice meal and sleep in fales next to the gently trickling river. If you want even more fun, hike like Samoans do…in flip flops. It adds more fun to it trying to hold on to your flops with your feet while wading in rivers. Or you can do the smart thing and bring strap on flops, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Day #3: We took the ferry over to Savaii & drove up to Manase to hang out on the beach and on the deck of the beach bar in Jane’s Fales. Not really an exciting day I guess, just driving around, but the views you get are always amazing. We crossed the river we stayed next to the night before and headed off into the jungle. We passed through the hills and then came out of the little pass and were greeted by a gorgeous view of the villages and beautifully blue water.

Day #4: Scuba diving! We went diving with Casey, Briony, & the crew from Dive Savaii. They are great people, so nice and really take care of you. First dive was “Wreck Juno”, a ship which sunk on the reef back in the late 1800s. It was fun diving around the remains of the wreck and looking at all the fish, Christmastree Worms, & coral. When we started the dive the weather was nice and sunny. When we surfaced, rainy with a rolling sea…a bit of a change in weather. It calmed down after 10 minutes or so though. Second dive was “Coral Gardens.” We saw some really cool stuff this dive. There is an electric clam making its home in the coral here. It isn’t really electric but the way the phosphorescent light moves through the flesh of the clam makes the clam look like it gives off an electric current. We saw a turtle and anemonefish as well. Nice dives and a good day in the water as always.

Day #5: We drove all the way around the island, admiring the gorgeous views all over Samoa. We stopped at the Dwarf Cave to see if we could spot any dwarves. No dwarves, but it was still worth stopping. The entrance to the cave is only about 4 feet high, a head banger even for me. We only had one light so that made the cave even cooler. There is a shelf which is completely flat due to the lava which carved the cave. There is a lake at the end of the cave, which would be cool to swim in if my underwater light had been working at the time. We drove out past Falealupo and stopped by Tufutafoe to say hi to another volunteer. We stopped at the Taga blowholes. Awesome! There were at least 10 blowholes in the one spot, one goes up at least 100 feet. The noise of these blowholes is amazing, so loud and powerful. We had fun getting close to the holes, and then when a big blowhole erupted we ran away. We forgot to get a coconut to through in the blowholes and see how far it would shoot up, next time though. We stopped at the black sand beach. It was pretty and fun to see the unusual black sand. We drove back to Salelologa and stayed at Lucia’s. I love Lucia’s, not only do they take care of you, but the place is so cute. You walk on little paths though the jungle to get to your fale and can hang out on the dock, watching the fish or the stars. Plus they really know how to cook and will serve you great food no matter what you order.

Day #6: Back on the ferry to Upolu. We drove down to my house. I was surprised we weren’t immediately swarmed by my village, but I think that was due to me not telling them an exact time of arrival since I didn’t know exactly when we would arrive. Dad got to see the house and all the quirks of it. Like the sink faucet which will spray water everywhere if you aren’t careful and no matter how hard you try to turn it off, still drips anyway or the shower faucet which is extremely hard to turn on and off, especially if you don’t know the trick to it. He thought it was a cute house, Samoan open fale in the front and a little room at the back, and thought as I did when I first signed up for Peace Corps…a lot like camping, complete with an outhouse. At least I have a hammock now (thanks Dad) and as I’m writing this I am enjoying hanging in it.

Day #7: Ava Ceremony. Dad got the real Fa’aSamoa today. He got the traditional ava ceremony and was even offered a matai title. I had to make the ava since the village thinks I should be the village taupou. Dad enjoyed the welcome and was a little overwhelmed I think in the hospitality of my village. We got a breakfast after and then a bbq later. Dad enjoyed meeting everyone and I took him for a little tour of the village. I think he liked seeing all the things I had talked about and written about in my e-mails and blog posts.

Day #8: Happy Birthday Dad! We drove over to Togitogiga Falls and spent a little time admiring the falls. We also went over to To Sua Trench. Again, it is just a big hole…as Dad said, “in Florida, they call this a sink hole.” Well, then we came to the other trench with water in it and climbed down the 100 foot ladder. I think he was impressed by this hole a little more than the first one. The tide was up so there was lots of water crashing into the trench. It seemed kind of angry actually as it was a rainy day and not really the best for sightseeing. We then went over to the blowholes and lava field. Since the tide was up, the blowholes were really going and the waves were crashing on the lava field quite powerfully. It gave a feeling of something you would see in a movie about an evil scientist living on a remote island and the only way for the good guys to save the world from total destruction at the hands of the evil scientist is to shimmy down a blowhole in to a secret entrance to the scientist’s lair. But maybe that is just me and what I thought. Anyway, we walked around a bit and took some pictures. Dad was blown away by the view when you come off the little path and around a corner, and boom…there is the lava field with blowholes spouting water. It is a really impressive view. We drove over to Faofao Beach Fales for the night. He liked the beach and the view of the Aleipata Islands. Again, I had hoped for a good weather day, but it was rainy. We managed to work in a walk on the beach during a break in the rain though. We hung out and played suipi, even though I don’t think Dad is a fan of the game really. I think he will stick to Euchre and Michigan Rummy. I think he liked staying in a more traditional Samoan fale. He liked the beach bar, even though the view was ruined by the tarps being down due to the rain. Oh well, rain is something you can’t avoid here and at least it waited until the end of the trip and it wasn’t rainy the whole time Dad was here.

Day #9: My 1 year anniversary of coming to Samoa! We visited the host family in Amaile. They enjoyed meeting my Dad and seeing me since this was the first time I’d been back to see them. They feed us and we talked. The weather was really nasty this day and when we said we had to go during a downpour and strong wind, I think they thought we were nuts. We got back to Apia in one piece even though the water and potholes on Le Mafa Pass tried to prevent that. We did enjoy seeing the waterfalls pop back out from all the rain. Dad did some shopping and got some gifts for people. We caught the Siva Afi (fire dancing) Competition that night. What a way to end a trip. Nothing like watching people twirl and throw in the air sticks which are not only on fire at both ends, but also have a knife and a hook on one end. I actually think it would be cool to learn, but I don’t think anyone in my village knows how to fire dance. Oh well, at least that will prevent a heart attack on my mom’s behalf. I’m not sure she would be ok with me playing with sharp objects on fire.

Day #10: Really just a continuation of the day before. Dad’s plane left at 2:30 am so we drove out to the airport after the Siva Afi competition. He got checked in and we said goodbye. He had 36 hours of flying, so I’m sure he was looking forward to that. Not only does he have to get from the middle of nowhere in the South Pacific, but he had to get back to the middle of nowhere USA, aka Alabama. Some of us PCVs were talking one day about how every plane coming or going from Samoa is always at a really awkward time, like middle of the night or really early in the morning. Some one asked why that was…simple answer: Samoa is in the middle of nowhere so the airlines want to make the planes come into or leave civilization at a decent hour, making flights here start or end at inconvenient times. Dad’s journey started at 2:30 am in Samoa with a flight to New Zealand, 14 hour layover there, 13 hours of flying to Los Angeles, then to Denver, and then arriving in Alabama at midnight Saturday night. I’m sure he isn’t going to know which way is up Sunday due to jet lag and crossing the International Date Line two times and going forward and backward in time so many times. Oh well, he made it through the jungle waterfall hike, he’ll be fine.

I enjoyed Dad’s visit. It was nice to see family after a year of Samoa. I tried to show him the best of Samoa that I knew of and I think he got that for the most part. Samoa is definitely a change from Alabama and Dad loved it. Now it is back to work for us both. My village has the sewing clinic next week, so that should be fun. I don’t know how to sew, but I’m going to try to sew a puletasi. We will see how that goes.