Saturday, October 31, 2009

My apologies for forgetting to tell you that we have begun the village stay portio of our pre-service training and as a result have no access to internet (and many other things as well!) Being that today is Halloween and we have been working non stop since we arrived in Samoa about a month ago, our group begged for a day off, and thankfully received it!
But let me fill you in on what has been happening! We arrived in the village of MAnunu around 4:30pm on a Saturday afternoon, to one of the most welcoming ceremonies I have ever experienced. We were shuffled off the bus and immediately guided into an Ava ceremony in the open fale (house) next to the church. One half of the Ava circle was already filled with the Matai (titled men) of the village and we filled in the other half after walking around and shaking the hand of each Matai. The ceremony was similar to the one we experienced upon our arrival to Samoa, only this time we were in a beautiful village an hour away from anything, surrounded by fantastic mountians. While I'm at in, let me describe Manunu - it is the picture perfect image of a storybook village. To reach the village our bus climbed a steep hill leaving the coast, drove past taro, banana, an dcow plantations on a windey road, and eventually reached the turnoff to Manunu, marked by a beautifully carved wooden sign. As we drove down the road we passed a few more cows, take a turn, drive down a short but steep hill to cross a cement bridge that has a gental flow of water cascading over it. We then sharply hike up another short but steep hill, and, BOOM! we are in Manunu paradise!
The dirt road into the village is lined with colorful, cheery flowers, colored fales define the circular village and as our bus pulls in the children of the houses come to life, coming to greet the newly arrived Palagi (term for foreigners, literally meaning "burst from god" or more simply, "white.") Did I mention Samoa is incredibly religious?

But where was I - the Ava ceremony was just as long and complex as I remembered it being. Once the ceremony was done, the women's committee came into the fale, handing us each a coconut with a straw and draped us in freshly strung lai's of flowers. I almost cried from the beauty of it all. The women sat down in the circle and then our names were called out as were the names of our host mothers, and like children, we were embraced by our new host mothers and rushed out to claim our bags and find our houses.

I couldn't have asked for a better host family. My samoan family consists of Site, my Tina (mother), Asa, my Tama (father), five brothers, and a sister. My sister and one of my brothers lives in Apia so for the most part its just me, my parents and three brothers. I have a generous room with a perfect "princess" bed (aka a beautiful mosquito net surrounds my sleeping quarters). Other than that, the room is pretty plain, but it serves my needs. My Tama was a cook at Samoa College back in the day, so I eat like a queen here! Chop suey is big, so is fried chicken, fresh shrimp and fish from the river, and did I mention the Ramen noodles?! But seriously, it's awesome.

Speaking of the river - there is the most magical swimming hole located just 15 minutes by foot from our village. The entire first week we heard about it but didn't have the time to actually go and check it out. However, when we finally did, the beauty was paralyzing. A perfect lagoon has been naturally carved out by the thunderous pounding of a 50 foot waterfall (afu) which drops down from the river above, creating a landscape that only a truly talented artist could dream up. We walked down the staircase carved out of stone and leapt in (fully clothed, the Samoan way).

Our trip to the afu was too short due to Manunu's 6pm curfew, requiring all village members to be in their fales for prayer. This is every day, not just Sundays. Sundays are another story. It is pretty much a requirement to go to church and do nothing else the rest of the day except faifailemu (literally meaning, take it easy). It is actually illegal to run on a Sunday, so instead, we go for long walks. I have been going to two church services every Sunday - a typical service in the morning filled with the most amazing music you can imagine, and a youth lead service in the afternoon where the youth group performs songs, dances, and a skit that they create just hours before performing. The first week we were in the village the pastor invited us to join in on the fun, so for the second service, a small group of us got up on stage and sang a song that we had prepared for the Fiafia held by the Peace Corps. It was pretty crazy for me to be in a church, let alone to actually perform on stage in one! but it was fun, and honestly, what else am I doing?!

There is so much more to report on and I apologize for this run on entry. I originally had planned that this blog would have some sort of organized structure to it, but apparently that will have to wait till I get settled into my new village - which I will know in about 2 or 3 weeks! A few last notes before I sign out:

1. I am slowly but surely getting over my fear of anything creepy-crawelly. The ants are everywhere and there is nothing you can do about them. It turns out they particularly like underwear and socks, so your only defense is to wash your clothes as soon as you take them off, otherwise, the ants have a field day. It's pretty gross.

2. Cockroaches - another fact of life. I have come to regard them as my night guardians because as soon as the lights go off, the roaches crawl out of the nooks and crannies and mats of the house and don't disappear till morning. I'll let you know how that philosophy pans out for me - so far, so good though!

3. My favorite creepy-crawelers are the gecko's that dot the ceiling at night. You wouldn't believe the size of some of these things, they look like they should be in tanks at a pet store, yet there they are, hovering above my head as I sleep soundly in my mosquito net haven.

4. As for the giant centipedes - the poisonous, creepy, giant skeletal centipedes - I have only seen a few legs of one of the massive creatures but it was enough for me to know that I do not want to encounter a full one!!

5. Off the subject of bugs - if you ever want to leave a new instrument, join the Peace Corps. I have been playing guitar like it's m,y second job here and have already learned to solo on a few of my favorite Phish tunes, including First tube and Divided Sky. I was playing and listening to only Phish for the first few weeks here but then I had a nightmare that Phish broke up and I took it to mean I should probably branch out musically. so I've been making sure to tap into the old classics, and soak in the cheesy christmas music that is already playing here in Samoa.

6. Running and yoga = amazing. I still can't get over the sheer beauty of the morning dew as it rises above Manunu. The soundtrack of cocky roosters isn't really pleasant, but it does remind you that another day has arrived!

7. School. It's Saturday. I don't want to discuss school. I'll mention that we have been doing tons of language, TESOL, medical, and safety courses. Language is my favorite. On monday we will start teaching at a model school, and then next week we will co-teach with Samoan teachers at local schools. It's all pretty exciting but nerve racking. I've learned to say "Sit down" in Samoan. Now I need to learn how to say, "Be Quite" and "Listen Closely!"

8. I experienced my first earthquake. It was pretty cool, especially since I was far away from the ocean and therefore didn't have to worry about anything.

9. Cold showers - it's still hard to get use to, but hey, at least it's a shower!

Well, that brings me to the end of this short novel. I hope it holds you over till the next time I get to write, which should be in about 3 weeks. Thanks to everyone who has sent me email/snail mail - I love hearing from you and miss you all a ton! Tonight we are throwing a Halloween bash for the village kids - it won't be the same kind of Halloween I've grown use to, but it will be fun none the less.

A shout out to Alvin, Melissa, Jill, and my mom who are all celebrating birthdays around this time. To anyone else I may have forgotten, sorry - I still love you!

Lots of Love,


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