There has been very little time between when I was assigned to Samoa and my actual departure, so I realize that I haven't been able to talk to everybody about what I'll be doing there. Please see the list of frequently asked questions below.
Where is Samoa?
Samoa is about halfway between Hawai'i and New Zealand (about 1,000 miles closer to New Zealand). It sits just below the equator and just east of the International Date Line. The time difference is 4 hours behind California.
How long will you be there?
A Peace Corps tour is 27 months; that is, three months training and then two years in a permanent assignment.
Wow. That's a long time. Do you get to come home?
I get 24 days off each year during which I can travel. If I choose to come home, I'll have to pay my own way.
Isn't Samoa an American territory?
There are 4 islands in the Samoan archipelago. The two eastern islands are American Samoa, which is an American territory. The two western islands are Western Samoa, which is independent. In 1997, Western Samoa officially changed its name to Samoa, but it is still widely referred to (by Google Maps, the US Postal Service, et al.) as Western Samoa. I will be going to Western Samoa.
Are you sure? I think you're talking about Tonga.
Yeah, I'm sure. Tonga and Western Samoa are two different independent countries.
How long is the flight?
The flight is 10 hours, non-stop, from Los Angeles to Apia, Samoa on Air New Zealand.
What language do they speak there? Will you have to learn it?
There is a Samoan language, although English is also spoken. Students start learning English in high school. I will be required to learn Samoan as part of my job.
What will you be doing there?
I have been hired as part of the Information Technology program. It is unclear exactly what this will entail, but I get the impression that I will be teaching computer classes to middle school students. A lot of things with the Peace Corps are very tentative, so this assignment could change completely once I'm actually there.
Where will you live?
While I am in training during the first three months, I will be almost surely be living with a host family near Apia, the capital. My housing after that will depend on my permanent assignment. Although there's the chance that I'll have my own place, it's more likely that I will either live with a roommate or be assigned to a new host family.
Do they have internet there? Are you bringing a laptop?
Internet access in Samoa varies by region. In and around the capital, in-home internet is pretty common. There are also internet cafes. Internet cafes should also be available in more rural regions, but access may be intermittent.
What about a cell phone?
Most Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa carry a cell phone. It's unclear whether my iPhone will be functional on the Samoan network. Texting is common. As far as talking on the phone to America, programs like Skype are popular.
3 days ago