Saturday, August 27, 2011


Today I was able to check off a long awaited goal of Peace Corps Samoa – that is, I learned how to make the wispy brooms, called salu. A few weeks ago at school I had mentioned to Sapi, one of my year 8 students, that I desperately needed a new salu for my house and that I would love to make my own. “Come to my house after school!” she immediately offered. I was going to Apia that afternoon and had to pass, but I told her I would love to take her up on the offer the following week.

So today Sapi arrived at my house around 2pm telling me to get ready, her father, Siaki, would be here with his car any minute to take me to their home at the other side of the village (about a 30 minute run away from my home…so pretty far!) We arrived at her home and gathered in the large open fale to drink koko and watch music videos with the rest of the family. Sapi disappeared to cook our lunch as I conversed with her father, grandfather, mother, little sister, two little brothers, and two men from the store. The youngest brother was not happy about something or other and kept balling up his fist in a tight ball and with the full force a four year old can offer was laying punches into his mothers arm. She just laughed and called him cheeky. I smiled and hoped he wouldn’t turn on me, because I would not be so polite in dealing with him! Sapi soon reappeared with chicken soup and rice, and it was delicious!

After lunch, Sapi grabbed a fine matt and some pillows and dragged them outside to the shade of a mango tree. The children and I lay under the tree digesting and enjoying the breeze while her father went of to collect coconut leaves for our project. About a half hour later he returned and Sapi’s mother, Matelena, brought us each a knife (me, Sapi, and Sapi’s 7 year old sister, Gagau). The girls each took a coconut palm and handed me one as well. They then proceeded to show me how trim the desired leaves to their spines and pluck them off the main stalk. After we had collected a pile of about one hundred spines, we returned to the matts in the shade and began the task of cleaning the stalks with our knives. Sapi taught me how to press the knife against my thumb and glide the blade against the spine of the stalk to strip it of any remaining leaves. Once “cleaned,” we cast the finished stalks aside and continued with our task. Over the next hour we worked together to create two brooms. Sapi said I should take both home, but after all of her work and the generosity of her family, I insisted that they keep one for their own home.

The afternoon was quite memorable and reaffirmed everything I have been telling myself about these next few months: that I must seize every opportunity I can to live village life to the fullest. Since I had travelled so far from my home, I was able to interact with the women who live on the other side of town who I rarely see, and truly took them by surprise when they found me making brooms right next to their scheduled volleyball game! It was really fun just sitting around chatting with them and laughing, laughing, laughing! In this spirit, I had made a solid commitment to not turn down any invitation that comes my way from here on out. So tomorrow night, I will once again join this great family, for their Friday night dinner. I am so excited at the outcome of today and have already made a mental list of other skills to acquire (and where to go to acquire them!) before leaving. Three months to go, and it doesn’t feel like enough time to do it all!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Le Manu Samoa!

Yesterday around 2pm I found myself in a taxi heading towards the market to catch the bus to go back to my village. Low on cash and exhausted, I figured it was for the best to leave Apia Saturday instead of Sunday. Then in an instant, it all changed. As I was approaching my final destination, the Australian rugby team passed by heading towards their match in Apia Park. I was caught in a moment of limbo, and then instantaneously asked the taxi to turn around: when will I ever have the opportunity to watch the Manu Samoa play live again? It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could not miss!

I raced back to the office where I found Elise and Matt getting ready to go to the game. Remembering there was blue face paint in the office, I asked Elisa if she would paint my face, and then I painted hers. We raided the offices “free box,” and were soon geared up and ready to go cheer on our team!

Walking to the game which was to take place about a mile down the road from our office, we found ourselves loaded with excitement and anticipation. The street was filled with others decked out in their white and blue Manu gear, all heading to THE place to be.

We arrived at the stadium, which felt like entering another world. High, clean bleachers surrounded a pristine field. Samoan flags waved in the wind, and the bleachers, packed with fans, seemed to sway as the ocean of blue danced and sang.

The game began and I quickly realized that I do not know the rules of rugby. I met an Australian woman who tried to explain it to me, but ultimately, we were both at a loss. Here is what I took out of the game:

1. Samoans are incredibly quiet spectators, until a “touch” is made.

2. Rugby is WAY more intense than American football – they do not wear padding of any kind!

3. The players throw themselves at one another, sometimes being dragged across the field – their laundry bills must be high!

4. The ball can bounce off the ground without going out of play.

5. The kickers would make great NFL kickers as they kick from seemingly impossible angles.

6. The team does NOT always do the Haka. Too bad!!

Overall, I am incredibly happy with my decision to stay for the game. I felt like I was witnessing some great feat of human power watching those teams battle it out. In the end, THE MANU SAMOA WON!! All in all, it was a great day!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Savor the Moment

With under four months left till my departure from Samoa, I have been making a conscious effort to appreciate the here and now while I still can. For a while I found myself caught up in a last quarter funk, desperately craving the comforts of home. But then it hit me, when will I ever have the chance to live in a Samoan village again? I need to live each day to the fullest and take in all Samoa has to offer before it’s too late.

Strolling to school in the mornings, I no longer rush by the women as they ask me where I am going. Instead, I make an effort to engage them in conversation, if only for a brief moment. Yesterday was the epic return of BINGO to the village and I found myself sitting in the middle of the huge church hall with a circle of teachers, in a situation where I once felt out of place but now felt among friends. I looked around the room between games and was met by smiles of familiar faces. And in the end, even though I spend $24 to place and only made back $2, the day was worth it for the memories alone.

Today in school there was no tea to start the day. Having had a heavy morning of song practice with grades 3, 4, 5, and 6, I eagerly awaited the bell signaling interval, and guaranteeing tea. When the time finally came, a fifth grader brought me my cup with a smile: “Rachel, tea!!” I took my cup, gazed into the milky mixture, and had to laugh. Not one, not two, not three, or four, but five ants were floating at the top. With less ants I would have scooped them out and drank my tea, but following the culinary rules I have come to learn over the years, for than 4 bugs in a dish means time to toss it. I took out my water bottle, soothing my over worked voice, and made a mental note to enjoy the moment, for in America, I doubt I would have laughed being served ants for lunch!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hey, Jude!

This blog is dedicated to Mystery Man Jude, travelling through Asia and Europe and sending post cards as he goes. I think our count is close to 10 but I haven't been to the post office in a week, so I can't wait to see what awaits me when I go. To you, I just wanted to say an official, blogged-out THANK YOU, because without your support, my project wouldn't be nearly as full. The kids love your notes and have learned so much about a part of the world previously so foreign to them. So Jude, thank you again. My kids would love to write back to you and to your students as well, so if you read this note, I would love to get your information. Till then, I will remain your grateful, curious, snail-mail friend!