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’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.