Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Lovely Sunday

I awoke late this Sunday morning. It was 7:50 and church was to begin at 8:30. Knowing that the regular pastor was not here, I quickly decided that I was not going to church. I put on my pot of water to boil, and as I was pouring my stemming hot liquid of life, I changed my mind, raced to get ready, and was on time to church. I guess all I needed was come caffeine to get me going! It was a short service and at the end as I was leaving, a few of my year 8 students approached me and asked what I was doing for toonai. As I had not planned to be in the village today, I had made no plans for the after-church meal and jokingly invited myself to all of their houses. The four girls laughed and said, “don’t worry, we will come eat with you!” Not knowing what to expect, I raced home to prepare a little food myself, but I should not have worried, they had it all covered.

About ten minutes after I had arrived home, the first of my guests arrived. Pisi had a bowl of curried chicken soup, three large taro, and two palusami. Then Luti arrived with Saimini and taro. Alofagia joined the party with chicken and tomato soup, and last to arrive was Sasa, empty handed but ready to eat! Pisi, my “caretaker,” sent her home to bring food to contribute, and I opened a can of pisupo (corned beef), which I then friend with some golden onions. We lay down a mat, dished out the food, and the feast began. Sasa reappeared with some chicken soup and a plate of saka (bananas) and there was so much food that everyone ate until they could no longer move. It was really fun to have them over and quite possibly the most fun toonai I have ever been to because it was so relaxed, unlike the others where I feel like I am constantly being stared at and my every move analyzed.

After toonai, the girls went home to rest, but they have good memories and last night I had promised a movie. At 1pm, a group of seven kids of all ages appeared at my door, ready to watch a movie. I chose “Elf” for the occasion, because although it is totally out of season, it is a really entertaining movie that I thought they would probably understand. Visually, it is so well done that even if they did not understand what was happening, I knew they would at least enjoy the cinematography.

The movie ended in perfect time as the second church service was about to begin. I have started running a library out of my house, so the students signed out books and then went on their way to get ready for church without me having to rudely kick them out (as is sometimes the uncomfortable case). I have spent the rest of the day cleaning, and organizing my ideas for next term so that I do not have to worry about that later in the break. I can only hope that the week to come is as carefree and beautiful as today was. Then, Tonto is coming to visit, and then I am off to Fiji, so I anticipate no blogs for a while, but be patient, they will return. Till next time, Fa Soifua!

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

On Mothers Day Monday (because for even Sunday holiday we get Monday off as well), a bunch of us were hanging out at a local resort when we decided to commit ourselves to riding around the island after the last day of school. All week, I began to pump myself up. I rode my bike to school every day, went easy on the running, and hooked up my bike for optimal riding comfort. I was lacking a water bottle holder, so I duct-taped one on, and I rigged my bicycle rack to actually function. Come Friday, I knew I would be ready for the big trip.

As it turns out, I was not ready. I left my house and made it to Emi’s house in a record hour-and-forty-five minutes, and although I awoke the next morning feeling strong and ready to bike, the sky was never ending down pour of rain, and I found myself curling up into a ball and hoping the other girls didn’t actually want to bike in this weather. In any physical feat like this, mind is half the battle, and my mind definitely got the best of me. I know I could have done it, but the desire was just washed away by the rain. When the rain finally cleared, we decided to ride in the direction I had come from and hopefully reach Ali’s house, another hour or two past my house. Again, the trip was smooth, but by the time we reached my house, it was 5pm, and I was hungry. The idea of biking another two hours did not appeal to me at all, and so I cheered Emi and Elisa on as they set out into the afternoon sun and then I settled down for a hearty dinner followed by a deep, tranquil, well-deserved sleep. I am not one to quit on such missions, so I am a little disappointed in myself, but I know that physically I can do the island. Now I just need to conquer the mental side. Whatever happens, I must complete the circuit before my time here ends. This break is three weeks long, so who knows, maybe it will happen sooner than I expect! Till then, I will keep riding my bike, and be ready for when the time does come!

English Day Term One: Heal the World

In a whirl, the last day of school has come and gone, and with it, my first attempt at directing, stage-managing, writing, and producing a play. I am not fishing for your compliments here, but to be honest, even I am not exactly sure how I pulled it off in the end!

In an earlier blog, I described the formation of the idea and the hardships faced while rehearing. In short, the idea came to me while at church one Sunday morning about six weeks ago. This was the first Sunday following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and so naturally, it was on my mind as I sat quietly contemplating the previous week while a sermon in Samoan rang throughout the church. Lost in thought, I scribbled down the musical, and by Monday morning, I had a script and an idea to present to the principal and other teachers. We got to work immediately, and six weeks later, a production was presented to the mothers of the school children.

The show went well, all things considered, and I learned a lot about producing a play in Samoa. First and most importantly, never again will I attempt a show on the last day of school. In the second to last week of school, the students were preoccupied with exams, which made rehearsals unreliable, but offered a good distraction for the kids after their daily test. However, being that exams finished Friday and there was a holiday Monday, many students decided that school was optional the last week and I guess there parents agreed, because for the dress rehearsal, only half the cast was present! I told myself that more students would be present for the actual show because we had worked so hard and they had seemed so excited, but to my dismay, I was mistaken, and even fewer students came to school for the final show! I had not cast any understudies (my second lesson in directing is to never forget to do that again!), but fortunately, a few of the year 8 students were eager to jump in and fill the deserted roles. They picked it up well and the show went relatively smoothly.
The parents seemed to enjoy the show, the students definitely enjoyed performing, and I felt a great sense of pride for what we accomplished as a school. I had assumed that my presence would be needed the entire time back stage for scene changes, but two of my year 7 boys really took to the behind the scene action and surprised me with their ability to follow the story-board and set the stage accordingly. I stayed with them to ensure smooth transitions, but next time, I think I know who my stage managers will be because these boys really stepped it up and impressed me!

I am so glad that the show was a success and am relieved that I am now on break and can just relax after such a stressful, unpredictable, last two weeks of school. Term Two the plan is to do an even more epic English Day celebration, and I will write another play to perform. I am thinking it will be based around the theme of “Under the Sea.” I am now taking song suggestions, so send them my way!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There are Cucumbers in my Pumpkin Patch!

Since my arrival in Samoa I have been fantasizing about starting a garden. I tried to start one about a year ago and was somewhat successful, with eggplant and chili plants sprouting. However, my joy was short lived as the plants were ripped up by some cheeky pigs (or children….), and I, too soon, threw in the towel and gave up on my dream. About two months ago with the help of some of my students, I returned to my dream. We spent a week preparing the area. First came the massive weed clean up, which took two days in itself. Trees were cut, pig droppings were shoveled away, and rocks were combed away. Next came the building of the rock wall to keep out the pigs. And finally, we planted. It was a meager garden attempt. All that was planted were two stalks of laupele (kind of like spinach), and a pumpkin plant we had found growing among the weeds. Of the three plants, one died right away, and the garden was left to it’s own devices. Every few days I go out and do some weeding, but I have not put great effort into this project.
A few days ago I began to admire the massive growth that has occurred in the pumpkin plant. From one simple plant I would now argue that I have a pumpkin patch! After school today I decided to check it out. I wandered over to the corner of my rock fence to check the progress of my pumpkins. And wouldn’t you know, there was a cucumber growing in my pumpkin patch!! I thought it was a joke; that someone had put it there, but no, I began to look closer and realized that 6 other small fruits are blossoming as well! My ignorance and willingness to believe that any leafy, viny, green plant with small yellow flowers would be a pumpkin plant gave me false hope for pumpkins. But now I have something even better to look forward to: cucumbers! Let’s hope the children don’t discover it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Singing Spirits of Samoa

Friday night I stayed up late by Samoan standards watching movies and pondering my time here. Just before midnight, I called it a night and crawled into bed. As I was drifting off to sleep however, I was surprised by a strange sound coming from up the road a ways. I checked my clock and noticed the hand had just struck midnight. I was puzzled at the hauntingly beautiful sounds of choir music so late at night but I rationalized that a late night church service must be underway, as the music seemed to be coming from the direction of the Catholic Church. There were no other sounds in the village, not even a barking dog or a grunting pig, and I reached for my ipod to try to capture the late night musical treat, however, just as I did, the voices faded and once again all was quiet and still in the village. I drifted off to sleep and thought nothing more of the event.

The next afternoon one of the pastors of the village stopped in for a visit, and after hanging out for a while, I remembered the voices of the night before. I asked him if there was a holiday or some special service I had not been aware of, and went on to explain the music I had heard. He laughed and told me it was probably just a radio. I smiled at his thought, but assured him that I had heard actual voices here, not from any radio or TV. Then his face turned serious and he told me that he and his wife use to hear the hymns when they first moved to this village. He told me I had heard the spirits, which travel late at night down the empty river to the sea in those late hours. I tried to call his bluff, assuming he was just trying to scare me, but he was insistent that I had heard the singing spirits. His parting advice to me was not to worry. He said it was a rare treat to hear such music and that he wished he still heard them as often as he used to. He said not to dwell on it, and savor the memory of the sound.