“Fa’afetai Iesu mo mea’ai, amene;” or in English, thank you Jesus for the food. It’s the first and only prayer I have learned to say in Samoan and I say it on a nightly basis before eating meals with other families here in the village. I say it at school before eating lunch with the teachers. I say it at the women’s to’ona’I before the Sunday feast. And sometimes I even say it in the comfort of my own home, just for fun. In each scenario, I truly am thankful to the women I am eating with for providing my food for the day. But this past year has given me more to be thankful for than just food.
On a day when I have struggled to get my water pipes fixed three times over the course of five hours, I think it most fitting to start off with a thanks to my next door neighbours, Mina and Vaifale. Vaifale is the self-appointed president of the water committee here in my village and therefore he is the go to guy for all water related issues. Over the past week he has fixed my pipes seven times. Today I proposed maybe getting new pipes… only time will tell what happens, but I think it will save him a lot of time if he agrees. At this point, I am totally willing to pay for them!
But water aside, Vaifale and Mina have become my parents away from home. If the power goes out, Mina is at the door with candles. If a cyclone is on the way, Vaifale is there updating me with the latest news from the radio. But perhaps most importantly, the two of them have opened their home to me. I eat dinner with them three nights a week and stop in on almost a daily basis just to say hi, to sip koko, and to chat. Without them, my village would feel like a village but not like a home. They make me feel at home, and for that homeliness in a strange land, I am truly thankful.
Along the village lines, I am thankful for my faifeau and his faletua, two of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. When I moved in, the faletua sewed new curtains, bed sheets, pillowcases, and stocked the kitchen area with plates, bowls, forks, and knifes. They have proven to be just as welcoming as Vaifale and Mina and I am thankful for their endless support for me and my strange palagi ways.
Lili deserves her own paragraph of thanks for being the best friend I could have ever found. Her optimistic and hilarious texts always keep me laughing and using up all of my free texts throughout the day, and time goes by as if we were hanging out every day, not just once every few weeks. When we do get to kafao, be it in Salelologa or Apia, we always have the wildest adventures and part knowing that the next time will be just as fun. When I am having a down day, Lili doesn’t hesitate to call, and when I spend all of my money, she is quick to lend a few (hundred) tala. I am so happy that Peace Corps has introduced me to someone as great as Lili who I am proud to have as a friend and a sister.
And to the rest of my Peace Corps family, do not feel left out! Group 82 whom I came into this amazing country with has truly been a family from the beginning. My Savaii girls, Emi, Ali, and Elisa, provide the best stories and laughter every Saturday at Lucia’s (I am thankful for Lucia and Tui, too!), and I look forward to the weekly unwind Saturday afternoons with you girls. Tana, my other Savaii sister, was the first Peace Corps I met and although we might have had a shouting match the first night in our hotel back in LA, I have grown to love her so much. Samoa would not be the same without your enthusiasm Tana! I can’t wait to get tattoos in January! My Savaiian Brother, the mysterious Matt – you are one for the books, with such a positive outlook on life. I love how you inspire me to be calm, go with the flow, and just realize how BEAUTIFUL everything really is! I hope the yoga retreat happens! And to the Upolu volunteers, I love you all the same, and value the time we spend together in Apia. Bring on the ice cream!
To my friends back home, especially those who have supported me through emails, facebook updates, and calls now and then, I really appreciate your commitment to our friendship. Leaving everyone and everything you know for two years is an experience that is just as hard as it sounds, and without the contact with all of you, I would lose touch of who I am and where I came from. I look forward to seeing my Skyview Family, Rockland County Crew, 615 girls, Bucknell boys, and every one else in between in just a few weeks! Best care-package award goes to Haile with Ezra as a close second. For all of you who want a shout out at this time next year, I will be here another year, so get those packages in the mail; I love cheetos, chocolate, and pretty much anything manufactured in America. But to be honest, Arianna’s never failing holidays cards mean just as much as the treats which fill out my belly and my clothes, and I can safely say I have all of them hanging on my wall. Thanks girl! I could go on and on, but calling you all out individually goes against the spirit of what I am most thankful for: you. Friendship isn’t a competition, and with friends like these, how could I ever seriously compare?!
I am thankful for running water and electricity. For a reliable (green) bus, and an entertaining feud between my bus and the pink bus for never ending entertainment. I am thankful for the pili (lizards) residing in my room and the chickens eating centipedes outside. To red wine. Thanks Gwenn for the dress and The Lady Samoa II for the time served – we miss you, queen of the va’a! I am thankful to have such a supporting office staff and particularly the best PCMO in the whole world who is there to reassure me that my medical issues are not that severe and that almost everything can be fixed with a Benadryl. To DJ OKAY and Phish – may a remix of your music one day happen and further rock my mornings. And to Christmas lights being ok in November. I am thankful for my loving family back home and for all that they do for me. My thoughts are with you all until I return. Stay strong. I love you all. To Jacob, thank you for never letting me slip through the cracks. I appreciate your honesty and sincerity and am so glad to call you my twin.
Lastly, I am thankful for this wonderful adventure that I have been living for the past year and I look forward to the next year of Peace Corps service. The challenges faced and lessons learned in the face of those challenges have been some of the most insightful and meaningful ones of my life. It is hard to process service while still active, but I know a part of me has change for the better, and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to grow in this manner. So Happy Thanksgiving to all, may it be full of food, family, and love. Amene.