Hi Group 83, this one's for you! A few of you have contacted me, and I am so excited for you all to arrive! So in the spirit of welcoming your group, I have been thinking over things that I wish I had known before coming to Samoa. Here's a little list for you to ponder:
1. DO NOT GO OUT AND BUY CHACOS. Chacos are those over expensive, stripy sandals that people claim are incredibly comfortable once you break them in. Its also reputed to be "The shoe of the Peace Corps." This is not true of Peace Corps Samoa. What I found is that they are incredibly painful, providing the most blisters in the most awkward places due to all the straps, and to top it off, they are a pain to put on and take off. In this country, you are forever taking off your shoes, and you want the fastest method possible: the flip flop. So, do not worry about shoes, you will soon discover "Jandals," the basic white flip flop that dominate the feet of all who live here. They are cheap yet reliable. Where ever I am going, I wear my jandals. I wear them to school, to church, to the beach, to the bars, and have even seen people running and playing sports in them (although I do prefer sneakers for those types of things!) In short, avoid the Chaco.
2. Bring a computer if you have one. Seriously. It's a life savor in times of extreme down time. Plus, its useful for school! Don't bring TOO many clothes.
3. If you are going to have a bike, bring your own bike pump. The ones Peace Corps provides are no good. Also a good bookbag goes a long way in carrying things while biking. Or a bike bag.
4. Bring pens. Specifically, those multi-colored click pens. As you will quickly learn, Samoan students and teachers take a lot of pride in the tidiness for their notebooks. Everything is color-coordinated. It's kind of maddening, but you will get used to it. You will get yelled at if you sign the attendance book at your school in the wrong color. So be safe, have a multi-colored click pen on hand. White out is also incredibly popular. I don't use it, but I recently gave out some as presents to teachers. I have been treated like a superstar ever sense.
5. I wish I had a rain jacket. It rains a lot, and you will be walking a lot.
6. There is actually pretty good food here, so don't freak out too much about what you will be eating. I ate at all my favorite restaurants before coming to Samoa and then had delicious Chinese food the second night I was here. You won't find Starbucks, but there is still some really good coffee around. Still, get in those last tastes of home before you leave. You will relieve the experience many times while munching on taro.
7. Anything electronic is expensive. Bring a flash driver, or an external hard drive if you are into movies. Even if your not, you should probably still bring one.
8. Watch Mamma Mia. It's a way of life here. Rambo too.
9. Go with the flow. Fa'a Samoa, or the Samoan way, works. Just remember to laugh, breath, and be there for each other. Don't question things too much, everything has a way of working itself out. Samoa is a great country to be in.
10. We volunteers love chocolate. You should bring us some. Three Musketeers, please, otherwise I'll take some Milkyway Bars. Thanks new group!