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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just a few thoughts

When you apply for Peace Corps, they tell you to be flexible and don’t have expectations. This makes sense; don’t get your hopes up for a certain country or job and then be disappointed when you go somewhere else doing something else.

When I got my invitation packet I was told I’d be going to Samoa to be a marine science teacher at a junior secondary school. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t really excited about that. I do not think I’d make a good teacher (even if it was marine science), but I decided it would be worth a try. I get into training and I go out to a village and become a jack of all trades, none of that involving being a full time teacher. My main project was the marine protected area: clam farming, fish houses, coral gardening, creating a species list and a promotional flyer explaining what a marine protected area is. I was excited about this. Getting to work in my field right out of college, snorkeling whenever I wanted to and that being work was fantastic. Other projects include: working with a government ministry to hold a sewing clinic to teach the women how to use the sewing machines we got through a grant from New Zealand Aid, obtaining books and computers for the primary school, holding a rubbish seminar to explain why trash should not be thrown on the ground, obtaining funding for a spring fed pool for use when the pipe water is contaminated or shut off, and holding a dog and cat de-sexing clinic. And now I work with Football Federation Samoa developing soccer in Samoa. All over the place with jobs I’ve done here in Samoa.

Sites have been very different; going from rural Samoa to the big city (ok, not that big but for Samoa Apia is the only city like urban area). As far as housing is concerned I’ve been all over the place. First, by myself but having villagers stay at my house to “leoleo” (protect) me, to totally by myself, then post-tsunami living with a family, and now a site change to Apia where I again live by myself.

It’s funny about my current job. I have, again, a jack of all trades position. I’ve done simple data entry into a database registering players for the National League, looking up drills and creating a packet of activities we can use on Saturdays for the Fun Football program for kids, designing a newsletter template and contributing to the newsletter, supervising ball kids and referees. I never thought I’d be working in a national soccer office, working with players on a national team. Pretty cool when I think about it. I never thought I’d be in any kind of soccer development role such as I find myself in currently. I thought maybe when I go back to the US I’d strap on the old boots again and see if they still fit after I hanging them up at the end of my last college game. I figure I’ll join a league, maybe do some coaching. Now that I’m involved with the game as much as I am, I realize once it is in your blood, it never leaves.

I only have about 4 months left here in Samoa; I’m a bit curious as to what else might be thrown my way. I can honestly say PC has been an experience like no other. I wanted a bit of adventure and I surely got what I asked for (I need to learn to keep my mouth shut). It has been the toughest 2 years of my life for a lot of obvious reasons and some not so obvious, but it is experiences like this one which show you who you are. I’ve learned a lot about myself, but that also ends up leading to more questions. Not really sure where I was going with this blog; I guess this is one of those stream of thought posts. Oh well, I should probably get back to work.

Monday, March 8, 2010

For anyone feeling charitable

Even though I no longer live in Salesatele I do want to help them finish re-building the pre-school. The old pre-school was destroyed in the tsunami last September and the village is trying to get funds together to build a new school for the kids. It is being constructed in a better location out of the way of any future tsunamis which might come. You can donate at the following link:

Thanks so much.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I’m the most spoiled Peace Corps Volunteer

Last week was a bit sad with saying goodbye to my host family. I had the best fa’amavae I could ask for however. Wednesday night we went over to my host sister’s (Anita) parents’ house for dinner. Her parents lived right next to me pre-tsunami and were always very nice to me, giving me bananas, cucumbers, etc. After dinner, they had the kids do a sort of fiafia for us. The kids sang whatever songs they could remember from the radio, pre-school, Sunday school, etc. One of Anita’s sisters was in from Apia and her son did a hilarious Michael Jackson dance. He was moving his hips, bending his knees, and had arm movements to go along with it all. I was cracking up, as was everyone else. We stayed really late into the night, but it didn’t seem like we had been there that long. I really like all of Anita’s family, so they are people I will miss.

We went back to our house and I gave my family going away gifts I had bought in Apia. We chatted for a while and played with the kids. In the morning, the PC office came to pick me and my stuff up. Unfortunately, the kids were off playing and Salesa (my host brother) was already in Apia so I didn’t really get to say goodbye to them. Anita got a ride to Apia with me and that goodbye was really rushed and abrupt as well. I did tell them I have every intention of visiting them in New Zealand after my PC service so perhaps that is why the goodbyes were virtually non-existent. I really do want to visit them in NZ and that is the plan, but one never knows what could happen. Oh well, I suppose this way was better than some long, drawn out, awkward goodbye. I will miss them however.

I’ll miss nothing but the same movie over and over again. The girls get into streaks of nothing but Cinderella, Miss Congeniality, or Harry Potter (not that those are bad movies, but everyday, multiple times a day is a big much, at least I have 5 Harry Potter’s to choose from). I’ll miss coming back from Apia (where I’ve been working over the weekend) and hearing little Charin say “Malo Ta’a” (ta’a means hanging out in a bad way, so she is basically saying Hello/nice job being lazy and not working). But that’s ok because I tell her when I wake up earlier than she does “Malo moe umi” or “Hello late sleeper.” I’ll miss getting off the bus and having the girls run towards me saying “Rita!” Of course, this is mostly because they know I always bring a treat for them.

Oh well, life moves on and we must adapt. I moved into my new house just Monday and started work at the Samoa Football Federation. I have a room with a bathroom inside and have access to the kitchen in the Federation offices. It is a nice kitchen too…fridge, microwave, oven, stove top, toaster! I can’t wait to bake cookies. I have access to the washing machine…used it last night, amazing! Most of my clothes were dry by this morning; it is amazing what difference a spin cycle makes. And I found out last night while showering….wait for it….hot water! Ok, all you Samoa PCVs (and other country PCVs who may be reading this as well) try not to get to jealous; I had to brag a bit. I have a ceiling fan as well…life is rough.

As far as the actual job is going: Right now I’m doing office work…data entry trying to get players registered on a database with the Oceanic Football Confederation (who oversees us and FIFA oversees them). I put together some training lessons for use with the Fun Football program we do with kids every Saturday morning. Office work isn’t my thing (I’m more of a hands on, get a little wet and dirty doing marine biology type gal) but I can rock a desk for five months…and besides, it relates to soccer so I’m ok with doing office work, for a bit anyway. Besides…I got some sweet gear for working here, so it has its benefits. I work with nice people too so it’s all good. I look forward to seeing what other tasks I’ll do. The job description has me doing a bit of everything really. Key aspect of Peace Corps is be flexible, so I’m game for whatever the job brings.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tsunami – Round 2

Friday night I received a text around 10:30 pm from the Peace Corps office which told of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, stay tuned for possible tsunami warning. I got another text around 1:30 am saying there is now and official tsunami warning and the tsunami is expected around 9 am. This was followed by a phone call at 2:30 am saying the same thing. Well, given my recent experiences with tsunamis I was in no mood for another round. I was perfectly safe, staying with friends up a mountain, but I remember the aftermath of the other tsunami and didn’t want the country to have to go through that again. When you go through something like that it tends to stick in your mind forever.

At 4 am, the tsunami sirens started going off every 20-30 minutes. The sirens are only in Apia however. Pretty soon the sound of the sirens was followed by the sounds of church bells and conch shells being blown to alert people. Needless to say I didn’t really sleep much after that. Not only was the noise bad for a light sleeper like me, but I was still thinking about what would happen if another tsunami hit this island country 6 months after the first. At 6 am, my concerned parents texted me about the tsunami warning. Guess they didn't want another episode like last time of knowing I lived on the south coast of Upolu and not knowing for hours whether I was ok or not...understandable.

I heard from other volunteers who were around the town area trying to get uphill that everything was shut down. Not one store or restaurant open and no buses or boats were running as well. Police had barricades up which didn’t allow anyone to get into town and were directing traffic inland. Well, 9 am when by…nothing. Pretty soon 11 am rolled by and no tsunami so the warning was cancelled. I was relieved…a stressful Saturday morning however.