Saturday, April 23, 2011

Post Card Project

Inspired by the work some of my fellow volunteers are doing, I have decided to begin a post card project at my school. The objectives of the project are simple: to increase students reading comprehension while educating them about the world outside of Samoa. Postcards sent will be presented to the class, the students will read them, and for those who are interested, students will write letters back. Postcards will be taped to our wall sized world map and thus they will begin to give students a more in-depth understanding and vision of the map.

I am asking any and all interested people worldwide to take a minute of your time to assist me in this simple yet rewarding project. If you or someone you know would like to participate, send a postcard of your city, state, country (or vacation destinations!), and tell my students some information of your choice. Fun facts about the featured location, facts about your life, your profession, etc, would be great. Like I said, this is a very flexible and free project, and the more postcards we get, the better the project will be!

If you are ready, get out a pen and find yourself a postcard and send some mail our way, I look forward to hearing from you!

Peace Corps Samoa

Rachel Goldstein, PVC

Private Mail Box 7139

Salelologa, Savaii

Western Samoa

**If you would like us to write back to you, send me a note with your address:

Passover 2011

Tuesday night 7 of us gathered in Asau to observe Passover. Of the Peace Corps volunteers, Lili, Elisa, Dana, Matt, Jeter, and myself were present, and Matt’s JICA roommate Dai joined us as well. It was a nice mix of people! Last year we had gone to Lili’s village and cooked the feast at her house, but due to time constraints this year, we made the meal more of a potluck, and it was greatly successful! A week before, Lily divided up the staple items and everyone was asked to make enough of their item for the whole group. I was in charge of cooking matzo and the charosets, and although neither were my dad’s cooking, I made a pretty close second on the apple-honey-nut mixture of charosets. I used my slap chop and had a lot of fun! Matt has a limited kitchen, so he boiled the eggs while his roommate made a delicious salad. Elisa conquered the market and made a beautiful vegetable soup, while Jeter conquered his fear of cooking meat and prepared a lamb stew. Lili cooked matzo and potato pancakes, and Dana topped the pancakes off with homemade applesauce.
It was a really lovely meal, but as always, the most special aspect of the dinner was the company. It was great to come together, retell the story, and share a special meal with people I consider family at this point.
Following dinner we sang songs while Matt played guitar, told stories, and swapped classroom experience tales. Then in true Samoan fashion, we took out our lavalavas, spread out woven mats on the floor, and drifted off to sleep.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Farewell to the Dancing King

Sunday night while watching a movie I received a call from an unknown number. Usually I do not answer numbers I do not recognize because 9 times out of 10 it is a random taxi driver or man who has somehow come across my number. However, something compelled me to answer the phone this one time, and as it turned out, it was my host sister from my training village calling with some very sad news: my beloved host father had past away the day before and she wanted to let me know of the funeral plans.
I was overwhelmed with emotion. I knew he had been sick but I did not realize just how sick he had been. Of course I agreed to go to the funeral which was to be held Wednesday morning, all the way back in the host village. Lili and I travelled there together as she had been very close with my family as well. Unfortunately transportation can be pretty unreliable here and as a result we missed the bus to take us to the ferry, and as a result did not arrive in the village till about noon. The trip in deserves it’s own blog. In the end, we made it though and were able to spend the day with my host mother, sister, and five brothers, as well as the rest of the Manunu community.
My host father, Asa, will be remembered for his great laugh, incredible cooking, and world class dance moves. He was so good to me, and I am still in shock that he is gone. Instead of describing the funeral, I would like to capture some of the many memories we shared together in the short two months that I lived in his family home.
Asa was an incredible cook. I was the envy of all the Peace Corps in training, because while they were eating white bread and butter for three meals a day, I was served homemade pizza’s, steak, salads, tuna sandwiches (with cucumber!), and of course, his signature dish, chop-suey. Asa had been a chef at a college and I greatly benefited from his experience. Going back to the village, my brothers teased me, poking me and saying I was nice and fat when Asa fed me, but now that I have left the house I am too skinny. Maybe there is some truth in that – although as an American, it does feel great to have people constantly telling me I am too skinny!
Asa did not believe in exercise. When I first arrived, I asked his permission to go for morning runs with my friends. I would have to wake up at 5 and be out the door by 5:30, otherwise it was too hot, but at first, Asa did not approve. For my first week, he insisted that it was unhealthy to run that early in the morning, but he offered a compromise. He would let me go for a walk with him at 6am. The first time we walked, we decided to go to the new store about a 20-minute walk from our village. Leading the way up a grassy dirt road, Asa took me to the store, and although the storefront window was boarded closed (because it was only 6:30 in the morning!), Asa pounded on the window, woke the sleeping family inside, and bought me a coca cola and a bag of chicken flavored chips. Definitely not my definition of breakfast, but it was his gesture of providing for his adopted daughter. I could not refuse! He did eventually grant me permission to run, but I am glad we got to share a few morning walks.
His dancing was superior to anyone I have ever met. Asa was the dance champion of Samoa back in the 1970’s and he travelled to American Samoa to compete in a competition, which he won! Forty years later, his dance moves were a creative blend of Disco, Michael Jackson, Hip Hop, and Siva Samoa. It was truly a sight to see, and us volunteers would fight over who got to dance with him at the weekly dancing during training.
One morning I came out for breakfast and there was a beautiful flower on the table, called the Christmas Flower. He had picked it for me to wear behind my ear to school. I told him how much I loved it, and from then on, I had flowers waiting for me almost daily at breakfast.
He had a pool table behind the house and at night the villagers would come over to play. Asa made money by charging them $2 per game. I once asked to play, and he asked if I had money. I thought it was ridiculous to have to pay at my own house so I didn’t. Later that day, he told me I could play one game, but then he had to get back to his business. He was a funny guy like that.
Sometimes I would bring out my guitar, and Asa would pick it up and pretending he knew how to play, would strum wildly and laugh and sing American pop tunes.
It is a shame that he passed away so early. He was full of life and had some much love to give. He played a significant role in my adjustment to Samoan life and for that I will forever be grateful.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A New Job - Soccer Coach!

I am now the soccer coach for the year 5 and 6 girls at my school. Practice started last Monday and we practiced every day after schiool for 2 hours. Then Thursday, we loaded up a bus with 125 excited children and headed to our first game.

The other teams of our district arrived one by one, and by noon there were 6 schools, about 700 children, sitting and singing in the main hall, pumping themselves up for the game. Teachers were standing around the perimeter with sticks to keep any rowdy children in line, but thankfully they were rarely used. As I listened to the singing children, it dawned on me: while every school was singing in Samoan, my children were singing all their songs in English! We ran through the English Day program, to the pride of my staff and the envy of all the others. It was a really awesome moment.

Then the games began and my girls were up first. I have a lot of pride when I say that of all the games played that day, we were the only team to score a goal during actual game time. We ended up winning 2-0, and although I am not that win-obsessed, it felt great to have my team win their first game. I am a new coach and they are new players. We have a long ways to go, but come the end of May, I am hoping we qualify for finals, and maybe, just maybe, we will be the juior champions of Samoa! Two months till the final tourdement. It’s anyones game at this point, but I know, we want it bad!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dinner and a Musical....

Sorry, I have been so busy and have not had time to update. I just tried to write a few entries but after a savory dinner of stovetop chicken parm (probably the best meal I have cooked in my life!), all I want to do is sleep. I boiled my chicken in a white wine, garlic and Italian herb mixture for twenty minutes or so. When the chicken was ready I drained it, smothered it in tomato sauce (spiced with herbs), and sprinkled some cheese on top. After three minutes, my perfect meal was ready. I sat down on the floor, put on some Sublime, and poured a glass of red wine. Sometimes, I forget that I live in a village and just need to be lush. And then I realize I am sitting on the floor drinking wine out of a water glass and it all comes back to me.

My life has been busy these days. For starters, I wrote a musical. Michael Jackson would sue me if he was alive, but luckily for me, he will never know that I have titled my musical “Heal the World” and I feature two of his songs. But here is how the story goes. Last year, one of my fellow Peace Corps sisters, Elisa, put on an amazing English Day at her school. The highlight of the day was a musical featuring every class performing a song. The songs were strung together by light dialogue and acting. Inspired by Elisa, I decided to host my own English Day this year. I decided that due to the recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters in the world, a great theme would be along the lines of friends helping friends. From there my topic evolved into Heal the World, with an allstar lineup of songs flushing out a beautiful story of love and friendship. It reads like this: There are four friends who live throughout the world, a girl from Haiti, a girl from Japan, a boy from New Zealand, and a boy from Samoa. Each friend has a magical ring that they can use to fly together and together, they help people in need (kind of like Captain Planet!) The friends must activate their ring powers when a massive earthquake rocks the world and destroys the homes of the friends. Throughout their journey they make new friends, and spread the message of helping a friend in need. It’s a bit cheesy, but the songs rock and the students are really learning a lot about the world, so it’s been a really fun project. I will report more on this epic performance in a few weeks after the show has been performed. For now, I have 3 weeks to whip this production into shape and get the students speaking as best they can. Then the parents and the village will come and be wowed by their amazing skills. Songs to be sung (In order of appearance): We Are The World, It’s a Sunshine Day, That’s what Friends Are For, Lean on Me, Make New Friends, and I Believe I Can Fly. We end with a mashup of We are the World and Heal the World. The students know all the songs, now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

Well, this has been a ramble of a blog. I am busy with a host of other projects as well but I will leave those till another day because for now, I need to lie down and bask in the memory of the amazing food I just consumed. Till next time, tofa soifua!