Friday, September 23, 2011

The Island Perimeter Relay Race 2011

This year I participated in the Island Perimeter Relays Race once more, but due to knee injury, this year I was not a runner. Being an honorary member of Team Kope Keine (or in English, “Hurry Girls!), I was made the team driver, responsible for getting the runners from one exchange point to the next, making sure each runner was sufficiently supported in terms of food, drink and medical relief, and possibly most important, scouting out Mormon Church’s (for those who do not know, Mormon churches have SWEET bathrooms!)

The race was as epic as any 104km run can be. After an evening of preparing sandwiches, filtering water, and me learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, we got to bed early in anticipation of our 2:45am wake up. By 3am we were out the door, and at 4am, the first runner took to the empty road, glows-tick baton in hand and ipod strapped on. In order of runners, our team consisted of 6 Peace Corps girls: Natalie “the animal” hailing from group 83, Kaelin “the flash,” Jenny “kuka and MVP,” Lily “the warrior,” Dana “the killer,” and Corina “CorinaC”* (her name sounds cooler altogether but due to Peace Corps policies I cannot give her full name here). I was given the snazzy original name “Driver.”

As one can expect, the day was full of emotion and team spirit. Along the way, Peace Corps who were not running met us on the road to cheer on the runner and give support. Inside the car, we blasted our favorite “pump you up” tunes and tried to keep the atmosphere light. Ten hours and forty-three minutes after setting out we reached the finish line in Apia. Many of our office staff had turned out to cheer on the runners at the finish line as well as a host of volunteers. It was a really beautiful day highlighting the tight bond that has formed between this group of 35 volunteers and our staff and I am proud to say that I was a part of it. Kope Keine took first place in the open women’s division and the mixed team of Peace Corps Runners took first in their division as well. I am proud to be a part of Peace Corps Samoa!

Keke Pua'a

Keke pua’a translates to “pig cake.” It is a glorious Samoan food combining three of my guiltiest food pleasures: fried dough, soy sauce, and pig (or really any of the various mystery meats that find their way inside of these tasty buns!) Keke pua’a costs $1 tala (or about 45 cents) and can be found for sale on the side of the street, at school canteens, and at the market, but my favorite keke pua’a are the ones sold between the hours of 4am and 6am at the Salelologa wharf. This delicacy has indeed become one of the main reasons I opt for riding the ridiculously early 6am ferry when travelling to Apia. Yes, it requires me to wake up at 2:45am and catch the 3:30 bus to town, but it is well worth it, for nothing beats fried salty meat and soy sauce in the morning!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Farewell to Mail

1:58pm I receive a text from Emi: “Are you home, I have your mail.” I was at home and asked where she was. “On the bus, about 15 minutes out, will text when I get closer. Left side of the bus.” And so it went that on this raining Wednesday afternoon without having to leave my village I received a carepackage full of delights from home, a postcard from Africa, and music to keep me rockin’ till December! It was all so perfect that I must admit I shed a few tears, missing my friends back home and loving the support they continue to offer me, two years into my program! To those that have sent mail, postcards, music, etc. during my time here, it goes without saying that it has been super appreciated and keeps me going when I am feeling down. I will be eating Mac and Cheese for dinner tonight and cannot convey my excitement properly! I promise Samoan treats for all of you when I return J

And as my service comes to an end, I have been advised to put up this statement that reminds me that yes, this experience really is passing: Any mail you wish to send will probably not reach me before I leave, so it is time to return to emailing. It has been a fun snail mail run while it lasted! That being said, any postcards u may wish to send should be posted no later than the end of this month. Thanks to all who have participated, my students and I truly appreciated your support and eagerness to see our project succeed. Thank you!!!!

Manu v. Namibia

“Are you from Namibia?” a man asked me as I was fighting my way to the front of the ticket mob, pushing and shoving to get our tickets for the 4pm ferry. “No, Go Manu!” was my reply! This was to the be the boat-ride of the year, for boarding time was 3:20 and the Manu Samoa were set to play their first rugby match against Namibia at 3:30. Wearing my blue shirt for support I rushed onto the boat at 3:20 to join the crowd gathered in the air-conditioned area of “the big boat.” This ferry is new to Samoa, beginning its operation just last year and boasting two flat screen TVs inside the air-conditioned cabin. Of course, it was the place to be for the match. The seats quickly filled and in no time at all we were watching the players march solemnly into the stadium in New Zealand. The Samoan national anthem was played and a few patriotic Samoans sang along on the boat. Next the Namibian anthem was played, and then we got the show we were all waiting for. The Samoans took the field and performed their traditional war dance, the haka. The boat went crazy as the men chanted and slapped their arms and chests! And then the game began and I remembered that I do not understand rugby. But there was hope! Sitting behind me was a man from New Zealand calling out all of the terms and thus educating my American sporting mind. I found myself really getting into the excitement of the match. Number 11, can’t remember his name, was unstoppable and scored almost all of the teams touches. The kicker was also precise and the whole team just stunned me with their athleticism. I had to feel sorry for Namibia as the game wore on, for they were just towered over by the powerful Samoan team. A controversial play that was particularly memorable was seeing one Manu player practically “clothesline” a Namibian player – at it was considered fair play! Wow, rugby is an intense game! The match was a sweep and at the end of the brutal game, Samoa walked away the victors, having scored 48 points to Namibia’s… zero. Next match is set for Friday, and as long as my schedule allows, I will be on the ferry cheering on the Manu!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

In rereading some of my earlier posts, I have noticed a trend in my writing themes: laundry, lack of water, and the kindness of others. Today I intend to focus on all three.
I awoke as usual around 6:30am and did some yoga. While in a meditative state, I resolved not to go to church and at the same time not to go to Apia as I had intended. I figured this Sunday would be the perfect day to catch up on laundry, reorganize the house, and get in some good hours on guitar. All was going according to plan. Laundry was soaking, kitchen was polished, and my guitar was waiting patiently for me in the corner. I decided I should get the laundry out in the sun sooner than later, so I went to ring it out and then as is always the case when I have planned a laundry day, the water was not running for me to complete the “rinse” cycle (aka dumping the clothes into a bucket full of non-soapy water.) I figured I would give it a half hour then try the tap again.
At that moment, my neighbors called me over for the Sunday meal, so I went over to feast of pig, taro, and chop-suey (all the staples of a toonai.) I noticed their tap was running, so at the end of the meal I returned to my house with high hopes for my laundry. But I was out of luck. Not only was my tap not running but the spigot near the store was off as well, meaning my side of the road was without water once again. I called my neighbors as asked if theirs was still on. They apologized saying no, but assured me it would be on again in a few hours. I told them my laundry dilemma and they asked if I would like to come finish it at their house. I did not want to impose on their water supply, but they insisted that they had a 44 -gallon barrel of water set aside for these reasons.
I loaded my soapy laundry into my own smaller bucket and walked over to their stashed water. And twenty minutes later, my laundry was hanging on the line to dry during the prime sunny hours of the day. Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends. ☺

Teuila Thursday

This week marked Samoa’s’ annual “Teuila Festival,” a festival celebrating Samoan culture and geared towards tourism. In Apia it is a big deal and every night different events take place, ranging from the Miss Fa’afafine Pageant (drag queen Miss Samoa) as well as the REAL Miss Samoa Pageant, to traditional Samoan dance competitions and my favorite, the long boat race. In the village however, it is re of an after thought. People gather at night to watch the televised broadcasts and speculate on the results of the Miss Samoa Pageant, but for the most part, the festival is not celebrated.
However, Thursday as I walked to school I was greeted by the decorated faces of the village’s two women’s committees. The village, being so large, is divided into two groups: the sasa’e group (meaning south/east), and the north/west, although I forgot the name for that group. Around 7:30 in the morning, the women of the north/west, all wearing red and white, were gathering at Mina’s house across the street from me. As I walked by, Sineva ran out and insisted I join their group once school let out. I agreed and so began my day.
An hour later, school was over, as all the teachers were planning to participate in the villages Teuila activities. I raced home, but on my Maliolio Girls shirt (from the Samoa Challenge last year), and got to the volleyball court where the games were just beginning. The south/east team was decked out in red and blue shirts with yellow lavalavas and had clearly been practicing, because they began singing and dancing at 9am and did not stop all day! My team was a little less organized and it took some coaxing to get them signing, but both sides were merry and fierce on the court.
The volleyball games went on for hours, and not once was I invited to play, although I had been chosen for a team. Then finally, my opportunity came and I was thrown in. I soon remembered how much I dislike volleyball, and the blazing noon sun only furthered my lack of enthusiasm for the sport. I enjoyed my first game, and then was shocked to learn that my team, although the losing team, was slated to play two more rounds! By the end we were all exhausted, however, in traditional festival mode, we all danced back to our teams shaded trees where the older woman were beating time on old metal cracker containers and the younger woman sang. This strut back to our team areas turned into a dance off with every woman trying to out dance the others. Laughter, song, and dance grew to a loud peak, and then died off to await the next round of players. The day continued like this till 5pm at which point the women sang their final songs and then loaded up into cars to drive home and reflect on the day. I will never forget the music of that day!