Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eh, Maybe Tomorrow?

Sunday afternoon and I am lounging in my fale after a terrific toonai. I didn’t realize how much I missed Samoan food until I sat down to lunch this afternoon with about 30 other members of the congregation in our churches new party hall and tasted the sweet and salty palusami (young taro leaves stuffed with coconut cream), the juicy pua’a (roasted pig), and the slightly bitter koko Samoa (Samoan hot chocolate). I felt a little guilty as I walked to toonai being that I had shown up a half hour late to church, but I had my reasons. I blame it on the storm that never came.

I landed in Samoa Wednesday morning and after checking into my hotel I figured I would stop by the Peace Corps office to say hello and collect some of the things I had left there before returning to my hotel room to catch up on sleep. I was greeted by friendly hellos, but the warm welcome did not last long. Quickly, I was informed that a major cyclone was moving into the Samoa-Fiji region and that it was a very bad idea to stay the night in town. The office staff urged me to reconsider my decision to spend a night, or if nothing else, leave on the first boat Thursday morning. I opted for the second option.

Waking up at 6am to catch the 8am ferry was a rough feat for my jet-lagged self but somehow I made it to the wharf, after downing two Dramamine in anticipation of the cyclonic sea’s ahead. When we finally set sail however, I was surprised by one of the smoothest passages to date. Blue skies awaited me in Savaii and as I rode up to my village, I had to wonder if this storm was actually real.

I drifted in and out of sleep the rest of Thursday and when I awoke Friday morning, the infamous river behind my house was raging and a thunderous rainstorm was beating down on the village. “Here it comes,” I thought, as I raced to fill buckets with water and stock up on candles at the store. But wouldn’t you know, once those buckets were filled and my emergency bag packed, the skies cleared and by the end of the day, the roaring river had ceased. However, the Peace Corps office texted us to be prepared for the storm that would surely hit within the next 12-24 hours. So I kept my guard up.

Saturday morning the river was gone, save for a few puddles here and there. Women made their way down to do their laundry and children swam in the remaining pools. It did not rain all day, yet the text messages kept coming: “be prepared, 40-50 mph winds expected tonight!” I stayed up late waiting for the gushing sounds of wind, but alas, this storm still wouldn’t show its face!

I awoke to yet another calm morning today. I had anticipated a real storm to be upon us and so I had not set my alarm for church, which brings me to where we started: late. I hurried down the road and caught the last half hour of the service. While at church, my phone vibrated with yet another text: “70 mph winds expected later today and into tomorrow, sit tight.”

As I laze around my house on this drizzly Sunday afternoon I wonder, will this storm ever hit? Part of me expects that the minute I post this blog the skies will open and pigs with start flying through the air. Yet the sensible side of me tells me to pack a beach bag, for sunny skies are likely on the horizon.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Malo Uso!

They say when you are in the Peace Corps your fellow volunteers become a second family to you. I don't know who "they" are, but they are absolutely correct. For the past month I was lucky enough to visit my family back in America, and although it was a full months visit, it seemed too short. I stepped onto the airplane at JFK with a heavy heart, sad to be leaving my family and friends in America for yet another year. While I have loved my time in Samoa thus far, I was nervous about what this second year would bring. I should have remembered the old phrase, "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

My flight from JFK took off only 15 minutes late (which was a miracle considering the ice storm that had been slicking up the roads for hours before my departure.) The overall experience was fine though. Right next to my gate was a mini spa, and so about an hour before boarding I went for one last pampering session in America, treating myself to a manicure and a plush massage chair. At ease, I boarded the plane, took out my computer, and watched a few episodes of LOST (I am desperately trying to finish the last season and where better to watch a show about a plane crash than on a plane….it really boosts your adrenaline!)

The plane arrived in LAX early and since I had three hours till my next flight I walked the half hour walk between my arriving domestic terminal and the departing international one. My legs sufficiently stretched I found myself back where the whole Peace Corps journey began a year and a half ago at The Roadside Cafe just next to my departure gate. After chowing down a quesadilla I saw a familiar face: Leah had arrived for the flight! We hung out for the next few hours and then almost missed our flight having delved so deep into conversation. It was so nice to have a travel buddy, and great to catch up after our month apart!

The flight was long and somewhat bumpy due to the presence of some developing tropical storms over the Pacific Ocean, but as the hours passed, I found my smile growing wider and more genuine until it was almost silly when we finally touched down at Faleolo Airport just past 7am. I immediately turned on my cell phone and was greeted by a host of "welcome back, sister" messages. I was truly touched. It has become second nature for us volunteers to refer to each other as "brother" and "sister," but never has it felt more true than it did this morning upon my return.

It is a weird feeling leaving one home to return to another, but all clich├ęs aside, I could not be happier to be back in this country with this, my second family in a place I can proudly call my second home.