Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Odds and Ends

Happy Thanksgiving! We are in Apia today doing a whole lot of nothing, which is pretty exciting because we haven't had nothing to do in quite a while. Things are quiet at the hotel as people catch up on sleep. Some have gone out to catch up on their internet use... emailing friends, reading the news (the whole India thing sounds pretty terrible), watching football highlights at I figure I can catch up on some blog topics that I've been meaning to get around to.
  • There are no beaches in and around Apia, so living here in downtown might be a little lousy. Island life without the lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean aspect.
  • It's difficult to differentiate what is typical of a Peace Corps experience and what has been typical of our training group's experience. It's hard to draw generalizations, but I will try to generalize.
  • Thanksgiving thankful list: Internet, text messaging, cell phones, New Zealand news
  • Before I left the states, I was lying in bed one night and I realized that I have become more and more of a fatalist over the past couple years. Perhaps it was the soul-crushing environment at eCivis or just living life outside the shelter of the college environment, but I feel like I've become much more passive in facing life. And lying there in bed, I decided that one of the things I wanted to work on here in Samoa is becoming more actively in control of my situation. So my interest in the locus of control discussion was already piqued before it began.
  • Peace Corps Generalization #1: PCVs are daring. Whether it's eating worms for dinner (Have I told that story yet?), climbing 5-story tall coconut trees, or traipsing a hundred yards through waist high swamp water, just about everyone in our group tends to roll with the punches without hesitation. I feel like other groups that I've been a part of would inevitably have a certain bloc who would be unwilling or hesitant to do things that are unusual and slightly scary, but I don't feel like anyone here is like that.
  • During the conversation about Locus of Control, someone said they think that all Peace Corps volunteers are inherently activist in their worldview. I think my worldview tends to lean toward fatalism, so I think this is a poor generalization, but I think there are some to be made.
  • Sometimes I forget that the Samoans in the village don't speak English very well. It's easy to assume that what they are communicating what they're actually thinking, and that's not always the case.
  • Our conversation on Locus of Control was framed as Activism versus Fatalism. I think the term fatalism has a negative connotation. After thinking about it, I prefer to frame the conversation as Idealism versus Humility. Are activists idealistic by definition? Are fatalists humble by definition? I guess not necessarily, but it does seem like there's a certain amount of hubris involved in thinking you have control over your own destiny. And a certain amount of humility in accepting that things are going to happen that are out of your control.
  • Least favorite Christmas songs in order of ascending repulsiveness:

    1. "Last Christmas" by George Michael
    2. "Merry Christmas, Darling" by the Carpenters
    3. "Merry Christmas" by the Waitresses
    4. “Santa Baby” by anyone who’s ever recorded it

  • Peace Corps Generalization #2: PCVs aren’t incredibly empathetic. Early this week, one of the guys in our group went to the hospital with salmonella poisoning. And no one was too affected by it. He wasn’t discussed at group meetings and his absence was barely acknowledged. Not that it’s a bad thing. And not that I’m complaining. Hell, I’m just as un-empathetic as the rest of them. I’m just making an observation.
  • More thanksgiving thankful list: Air conditioning, running water, hot water from the tap
  • I should point out that most volunteers don't have hot water in their living situation. So it really is a luxury to have it here in the hotel. Once I move to Maluafou, chances are I'll be dreaming of hot water again. Bucket showers with water heated on the stove?
  • On Saturday night, Phil was telling a story and he said, “I know I’m a quiet guy, but…” And the funny thing was that I hadn’t realized Phil was a quiet guy. He talks as much as I do.
  • So the worms… They are called “pololo,” and they’re a delicacy here in Samoa, kind of the equivalent of caviar or escargot. They are only harvested twice a year; one night in October and one night in November . I’m a little unclear on how it’s decided which night in October and which night in November. I think it has to do with the full moon and the rain, but don’t quote me. In any case, when pololo was served to me, the worms were fried in butter and served on a bite-sized slice of doughnut. They tasted like salty escargot without the whole snail globule in the middle. Not bad.
  • Peace Corps Generalization #3: PCVs are resolute. During a recent taxi ride, the driver agreed in advance to charge us $5ST for the ride. But as we’re driving, he changes his mind and tells us that he wants $7ST. When we refuse, he pulls over and drops us off on the side of the road. And all of us feel so strongly about the principle of the $2ST in question that we all get out of the van and start walking. No one protested. No one tried to get the group to acquiesce to the driver. We all piled out of the car and started walking over the equivalent of 60 cents US. Split 4 ways, it was 15 cents a person. 15 pennies.
  • Best Christmas songs in order of ascending greatness:

    1. "The 12 Days of Christmas" by John Denver and the Muppets
    2. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by the Jackson 5
    3. "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Jack Johnson
    4. "All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey (A guilty pleasure)
    5. "White Christmas" by the Drifters
Pictures below!
These are the tourists at Coconuts resort. This shot was taken through the window.


More rain.

More rain.

Another of the fire dancers at Coconuts. This girl is 4 years old. At UCLS, she'd be a tiny tot.

This is referred to as a "Samoan Lantern". A kerosene filled beer bottle with a rag. I believe in the states it would be referred to as a "Non-projectile Malatov Cocktail."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

End of the Middle of the Village

What's up, party people? I have no idea whether the pseudo-microblogging was well-received last week, but I figure it's the best means I have for summing up long internet-less periods of time. So now that we're back in Apia and I've had my first hot shower in 26 days (nearly 4 weeks for those who are keeping track at home), here are more fake twitters from the past week, or so:

Tuesday, November
    1:58 p.m. My time at the internet cafe runs long and I end up taking a taxi in order to make it to our 2:00 session on time. $3ST to travel a distance I could have walked in 8 minutes. Sucks.
    4:52 p.m. We say goodbye to Laura, who greeted us when we arrived at the airport, had a hand in our Life and Work training, and is now back in the continental United States. We'll miss you, Laura!
Wednesday, November 19
    8:45 a.m. Thungs get slightly testy and competitive within the group after a village-themed scavenger hunt. Also, try translating Proverbs 4:7 from Samoan into English under time constraints. Hell, try communicating "the book of Proverbs" to someone who doesn't understand English. Hell, just grab the bible yourself and try to find it. I dare you. You figure Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will look somewhat familiar (Mataio, Maka, Luka, ma Ioane), but Proverbs?! That's tough.
    1:15 p.m. It rains. HARD. For over and hour and a half. It almost makes it pointless to have class when we're literally shouting over the roar of rain on the tin roof above us.
    2:08 p.m. When 2 people from another class join ours for the afternoon, I am randomly selected to teach them what our class has learned so far. So I get up and my lesson flows pretty naturally despite being completely off the cuff and after, my teachers says, "That was pretty good. Were you ever a teacher?" I guess I was. Kind of?
    10:00 p.m. Numb3rs again. I don't know why.
Thursday, November 20
    10:02 a.m. I am more affected by our discussion of locus of control than I thought I'd be. This is a deep topic and the confines of a microblog make it an inappropriate forum. Let's talk about it sometime soon in its own blog entry.
    1:05 p.m. It rains. HARD. For over and hour and a half. It almost makes it pointless to have class when we're literally shouting over the roar of rain on the tin roof above us.
    10:00 p.m. Mele breaks out the dominoes. Samoan Dominoes turns out to be much like a very simple version of Mexican Train.
Friday, November 21
    10:48 a.m. During a language session specific to our long-term assignments, we're told the Samoan translation for computer window is "komepiuta polokalami," or literally, "computer program." It seems to me that we should use the Samoan word for window, "fa'amalama," because why make students conceptualize something in a second language and not conceptualize it in the language that is familiar to them? I'm teaching my kids to call them fa'amalama.
    12:02 p.m. It rains. HARD. For over and hour and a half. It almost makes it pointless to have class when we're literally shouting over the roar of rain on the tin roof above us.
    9:05 p.m. Peace Corps trainees use the staff projector to watch "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrells" in a public setting less than 10 yards (ans well within earshot) from the Congregationalist church's bingo night. While "LSATSB" is brilliant cinema, it is also rather profane and very violent. This made things awkward for me, sitting with my family at church bingo.
Saturday, November 22
    8:00 a.m. Today is the 45th anniversay of the JFK assassination. Sad.
    8:34 a.m. I am otld we're going to the family's plantation to gather coconuts.
    11:34 a.m. After hours of reading and catnaps, I realize we're not going to the plantation afterall.
    7:38 p.m. Phil's sister, Tuese, works at Coconuts, a high-end beach resort down the road, and tonight I go with Phil and some of his family to watch the cultural show there. There is fire-dancing and traditional singing. The show is nice, but the mostly white spectators are the real spectacle. I have a Toni Morrison moment when I find myself standing outside the window of the restaurant, looking in from the other side to watch the show. We can see Tuese serving tables, and Phil and I wonder what the people at the tables think of her. I tell Phil that I would assum she drove herself here. Phil agrees and says, "Yeah, and she most definitely did not." I'll post a picture of the hotel guests tomorrow.
Sunday, November 23
    8:09 a.m. When I wake up, there is a girl doing chores around our house who I've never seen before. When I ask Asolima about her, she says, "That's Lupe. I hate that girl." Apparently Lupe ran away from home, but has been found, and is now living with us as a sort of prison. Or at least I think that's the situation.
    2:45 p.m. After Akanese pokes me with a pig spine incessantly for 15 minutes, I pry it from her hands and throw it out the winow of the van as we drive down the road. My host family finds this hilarious.
Monday, November 24
    10:15 a.m. It rains. HARD. For over and hour and a half. It almost makes it pointless to have class when we're literally shouting over the roar of rain on the tin roof above us (Is this getting old for you? Because it's sure as hell getting old for us.).
    11:15 a.m. We are given a list of Samoan profanities so we can avoid inadvertantly using them and we can identify them when they are used around us. The weird thing is, the sheet has all the equivalent English profanity. Perhaps there's no other way to convey the information, but it's still a little jarring to see all of it written out. Also, it's pretty funny to split hairs over the definitions of particular swear words. Although I must say, Samoans do get very specific with describing foul smells.
Tuesday, November 25
    7:04 a.m. The moment I wake up, I realize my digestive system is not happy. The queeziness lasts all day. As does the diarrhea. Yeah. I said it.
    12:42 p.m. While having lunch at Phil's because my family has gone to Apia for the day, his family is fascinated when I eat the skin of my mango slices. I swear my host family eats the skin. Or maybe they don't. But I thought they did. In any case, I haven't been too adversely affected eating the skin of my mangoes for the past several weeks.
    7:30 p.m. The village's Women's Committee holds a banquet in our honor. After food, an impromptu variety show ensues. It turns out my mom, Mele, is quite the entertainer. She performs in skits and leads the group in song. At one point, she breaks out into one of her standards, "The Twist". And a random lady, who we later identified as one of the teachers who lives in the house behind mine, starts twisting at me. So I twist back. PST Erin got the shot above.
Wednesday, November 26
    7:53 a.m. I get to school early so I can use the toilets with the running water. Another diarrhea day. I know some of you don't want to know about this, but I figure I'm going to give you the real experience. You'll hear the highest highs and the lowest lows.
    12:50 p.m. I am kissed goodbye twice by Mele, once by Asolima, and twice by Akanese. I am loved.
And now I'm here back in Room 4 of Apia Central Hotel. We successfully avoided room 14 (Mosquito Central at Apia Central). More pictures below. I've added captions to the pics from last week also. Happy Thanksgiving!
This is the Bon Jovi bus. It comes through the village twice a day. That's Phil ducking so I could take the picture.

Fire-dancing at Coconuts.

Fun with camera angles and mirrors. Brushing my teeth in my room at night.

Phil and I starting our new gay, mustachioed family?

Food at the Women's Committee banquet. Yes. Pizza, mini samosas, lumpia, coconut cream-covered bread, doughnuts, papaya, and chow mein. And a coconut to drink.

My mom (on the left) and her aunt, who is also Dan's grandma.

Rain. If you look in the middle of the picture at the two barrells, they've engineered the rain gutter to pour into the family water supply. Ingenious and frightening at the same time.

Akanese noticed that a lot of the other Peace Corps have water bottles and I just re-use bottles that I buy at the store. So she made it a point to pick out a water bottle for me on one of the family's trips to Apia. Possible source of diarrhea?

This is fiafia practice. We do a slap dance for the community. Front row is me, K8, Blakey, Erin, Joey(?) and Paul(?). Back row is AJ, Chris(?), Dan, Jordan, Supy, and Phil. I think someone's between Supy and Phil. Maybe Koa?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Village Strikes Back

Here I am rocking the Jack O'Lague look! Rockin' the 'stache and the thick glasses. Hottie!

So I thought rather than trying to remember and sum up the last 2.5 weeks, I would just pretend like I was twittering except in the old-fashioned low tech sense. So I kept a little notebook and wrote down things during the day.

Let me know how you like this format... for future's sake.

Saturday, November 1
    2:49 p.m. My family is gone when I arrive in the village, but they arrive 10 minutes after I get there. They’re very excited to see me. Kinda touching.
    8:34 p.m. Another Saturday night spent watching the Catholics dance from the street. JEALOUS?
Sunday, November 2
    10:42 a.m. I almost cry when I am served an omelet for breakfast. Kinda strange that they call it “pizza” here… Okaaaay…
    4:58 p.m. I become the most angry I’ve been since arriving in Samoa when I play Samoan Rummy, a.k.a. Lami. Rules are ridiculously arbitrary.
Monday, November 3
    8:10 a.m. During check-in, Dan refers to yesterday’s weather as “Africa Hot.”
    2:15 p.m. We have an extremely longwinded conversation on corporal punishment in Samoan schools. Also, the power is out. Also, my phone is dead. Also, I can’t charge it because the power is out.
Tuesday, November 4
    6:45 p.m. Pretty cool to hear the whole room erupt when CNN announces Obama as the projected President-Elect. The final vote tally at the embassy is 95 for Obama, 10 for McCain.
    8:00 p.m. I buy the first round of drinks at the bar. And then proceed to lead the group in “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on the drive back to the village.
Wednesday, November 5
    7:08 a.m. Luisa wakes me with news regarding prop 8. Way to wreck last night’s excitement, California. I would like to fight someone who voted yes. And hopefully break their nose.
    4:16 p.m. During our tsunami drill, Chris starts singing “The Sweater Song” from Weezer’s Blue Album and then makes a “Lost” reference. And her name is Chris!
    5:26 p.m. When I get home, Mele is sitting at the table with baked dough covered in coconut cream somewhat similar to cinnamon rolls. This turns out to be dinner.
Thursday, November 6
    7:03 a.m. I wake up with Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Early in the Morning” in my head. Good song excellently used in a season 2 episode of “Mad Men.”
    10:34 a.m. During a health training session, the subject of insects in the ear arises (a little late!). Our PCMO finds my light remedy quaint. She then tells the group to put warm coconut oil in their ear, should it happen to them.
    3:15 p.m. PCT Dan falls asleep during a Safety and Security session, snoring loudly. So the instructor talks over him.
    6:48 p.m. I am skeptical of Asolima’s egg-cooking abilities, and then feel like a total jerk when she presents me with a perfect, restaurant-caliber over medium egg.
Friday, November 7
    9:30 a.m. I have a breakthrough when I begin to understand how to use the 10 different Samoan dependent pronouns. I’m also beginning to understand the use of tense markers. Verb conjugation is easier than Spanish in the sense that there are only singular and plural verbs. That said, there’s no pattern for making singular verbs plural. Also, I haven’t begun to understand the 11 different independent pronouns.
    4:53 p.m. Someone observes that life in the village is much like the movie “Groundhog Day” where every day is the same as the day before. I have mixed feelings about this. If that were true, it would mean that our first day here and our last dould be pretty much the same, and that’s just not true. I feel like every day here is slightly more difficult than the last in terms of stress, lack of privacy, general grunge, etc. That said, the rest of the day proves to be just like every other.
Saturday, November 8
    10:45 a.m. My host family and I go for a day trip around the western half of the island to visit some family friends.
    11:30 a.m. We stop at some unknown person’s house. I am served a cup of tea in a McDonald’s Batman Forever mug from 1995. It is The Riddler edition. And it is awesome.
    2:53 p.m. We go on an unexpected junk food binge, which I am completely uninterested in, but obliged to partake in because gum and twisties and ice cream is being bought for me. My hands are sticky, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to wash them.
Sunday, November 9
    7:03 a.m. Happy birthday, Lili… wherever you are.
    10:58 a.m. Asolima asks me to “write an application” for her to apply for a job with airport security. So I write the most flowery cover letter I can with my limited knowledge of her experience and qualificatios. But she’s happy, so it’s cool.
    9:42 p.m. The problem with everyone playing ukulele here is that everone only knows 3 chords: C, F, and G. This seriously limits the number of songs we can all play. So far I’ve been able to contribute “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” and “Bad Moon Rising.” I really need to teach Samoa to play an A minor. Secondary project?
Monday, November 10
    8:22 a.m. All hell breaks loose when our training director nonchalantly tells us that Thanksgiving is coming a week early d tht our stay in Apia will be considerably shorter than was originally promised. People are very angry.
    11:35 a.m. Withing the course of 5 minutes, I find out that my camera’s viewfinder is broken and I have a mosquito bite on the tip of my right index finger. Today sucks.
    4:58 p.m. They move Thanksgiving to the day after real Thanksgiving. Whatever.
Tuesday, November 11
    9:00 a.m. Luisa texts me to let me know Tim Lincecum has won the Cy Young award. I did bring my Tim Lincecum jersey to Fausanga and I will wear it tomorrow in his honor.
    1:36 p.m. I find out that my permanent assignment for the next 2 years will be teaching computers at Maluafou College in downtown Apia. I was hoping for as urban a setting as possible, and I hit the jackpot there. Internet seems guaranteed for the next 2 years.
Wednesday, November 12
    8:12 a.m. We find out we’re meeting our principals next Tuesday. Everyone’s pretty excited.
    7:01 p.m. Pancakes are served for dinner. Asolima tells me that I’ve gotten fatter since I arrived in the village (Could it be the pancakes for dinner diet?). When I deny my fatness, she tells me I still “have a nice figure.”
    11:00 p.m. I watch an entire episode of “Numb3rs” for the second time in Samoa (and my life). The second is as terrible, if not moreso, than the first. I did watch a lot of “Northern Exposure” before I left, and Rob Morrow feels like an old friend.
Thursday, November 13
    8:07 a.m. Both of the packages Luisa sent are delivered. Who know that The Onion humor would hit the spot so well? Luisa, apparently. Also a Weezer t-shirt that glows in the dark. What a perfect thing. You are all jealous, and I accept that.
    11:47 a.m. We learn the word “Maualuga” during our language lesson. Exciting because Rey Maualuga is a great defensive force at USC. His name means tall. He is not that tall. Also, for all of you taking notes at home, the Samoan ‘g’ always comes with an invisible ‘n’ in front of it. So Maualuga is pronounced Mow-ah-loon-ga.
Friday, November 14
    11:37 a.m. My small group is told that we should have collected more “factoids” for our presentation so if audience members have questions about something, we could elaborate. Our group is baffled by this.
    4:30 p.m. We go to the beach fales in Tafatafa to for the evening to celelbrate Laura and Meghan finishing their service.
    5:47 p.m. Turns out Dylan (Conan O’Brien/Kyle Maclachlan) is from the Portuguese quarter of Rhode Island. When I ask if he’s from Bristol, he is shocked that I’ve heard of his hometown. He agrees that certain Samoan dishes strongly resemble kale soup.
Saturday, November 15
    8:20 a.m. I wake up to find that I am covered in what I would later tally 60 mosquito bites. Stupid defective beach fale mosquito net.
    1:15 p.m. I finish “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. A very fast and fascinating read. Moving on to T.C. Boyle’s “The Tortilla Curtain” next.
Sunday, November 16
    8:20 a.m. Happy birthday, Carter Grow!
    11:30 a.m. Between church services I make a construction paper chain to help countdown the days until training is over. It sounds pretty cranky, but I guess that’s because it is.
    7:32 p.m. Pigs feet are served for dinner. JEALOUS?
Monday, November 17
    4:00 p.m. We start preparing for our goodbye fiafia. Our trainers demonstrate the goodbye song that we are going to learn and sing to the village. The four of them break out into 4-part harmony. It is shockingly beautiful and bizarrely casual.
    5:45 p.m. During a frantic dash from local bodega to local bodega to find cough medicine, the women I'm with take a cigarette break. Yeah. I said it.
That's all I got. Pictures below! Don't have enough time for captions. They'll have to be added on Thanksgiving! Bye!
Here is me and my paperchain. Notice the pink ones come second to last. Like advent.

The drive back on election night. Everyone pretty drunk. Phil with his awesome fan. Blakey kissing Supy.

Asolima is a great "plater", as they'd say on Top Chef.

Walking with the baby. I think this is the most Jack O'Lague of all the pics.

Phil's cousin Onosai. He has opened a small bodega at Phil's house to raise money for his kids to go to school. His Sunday afternoon doughnuts are a huge hit.

Mosquito bits on the palms of my hands.

The Riddler mug.

Phil's sister Tafale in front of a real sunset. Doesn't it look like cardboard though?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


We are in Apia for the afternoon to watch election coverage at the American embassy. I was hoping to get some picture of that event and post them here, but they confiscated my camera and my cell phone literally as soon as I walked in the door. So no pictures today.

Obama's gonna win. I'm very confident now. As soon as Ohio was projected a win, it's pretty much sealed.

Pretty cool watching at the embassy, although it feels like we're all at Discovery Zone or Chuck E. Cheese or Gymboree because we came in when the party started and there was an outer room with a TV, but we all walked into the inner room with the TV. I sat front center, cause I'm all about election coverage, and the room grew pretty raucous. Peace Corps don't get to see each other too often, so any occasion that provides an opportunity for people to get together becomes more about the socializing and less about the central event. Even if the central event is the most important political event in our lifetimes.

In any case, I really shouldn't talk being that I left to come down here to the internet cafe. But when I did finally leave, I had to walk out through the outer room... where it turns out that everyone 55+ was watching TV. It essentially felt like the parents' room. It was not raucous at all. You could actually hear James Carville blathering on about cajun-flavored politics. It felt a little silly.

As far as the rest of life goes, the village is okay. It's grown strangely routine to not have running water. I've also begun to perfect the act of bucket showering. I admit we've only been back there for 3 days, and I don't know that I'll feel as okay after another 3 weeks.

One story before I go...

I woke up at 12:45 this morning and felt an ant (or what I think was an ant) crawling on my ear. So I swatted at it... and it crawled INTO my ear. So I freaked out a little. Having an insect in your ear canal is one of the worst feelings of non-pain that there is in this world. After I stopped panicking, I remembered advice that I'd heard somewhere about sleeping with the light on so that the insect can see where the light is and climb out accordingly. While my current sleeping situation doesn't lend itself to having a light that I can easily turn on at 1 o'clock in the morning, I managed to find my cell phone, which has a built in flashlight. So I laid there for approximately 18 minutes while this ant explores the inner workings of my ear. All of it completely audible, and all of it creepy as hell.

And then it crawled out. And I swatted at it again. And it was gone. So I don't know that it was an ant. But I do know that it was gross.

The end. HuffingtonPost is now calling Obama "President-Elect". I realize that I'm understating my own elation over the insane momentousness of this moment, but that's because if I told you how I want to give everyone in the internet cafe a hug right now and run outside and shout in the streets, it would still not be enough to capture the level of joy and relief and wonder and excitement and awe and mind-blowing, tear-jerking happiness that I feel.

So it's cool. Obama's gonna win. Awesome.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Happy Halloween, everybody! Despite being expatriated, Halloween was alive and well here. While the party that we all attended last night is put together by the Peace Corps, the Japanese Peace Corps (abbreviated JICA, I think?) and the Australian Peace Corps (AusAid?) go all out, and last night's party was a great success.

After our volunteer visits on Tuesday and Wednesday, we all made it back into Apia Thursday morning. As we trickled in different people dd different things. I was able to Video Skype with Luisa from the Cappuccino Vineyard restaurant here in town. Once it was clear on what I was doing, a couple kids from town lined up behind me to watch the screen from over my shoulder. In the little Skype interface, I could see my face with a small crowd building up behind me, and it felt like I was hosting Good Morning America. It was a good time. Video Skype is awesome. Even from a wireless connection. I highly recommend it.

We had short classes on Thursday where we gave short slideshow presentations on our volunteer visits. Friday we had classes in Safety and Security and more training in Teaching. We also took a field trip over to the Ministry of Health to learn about nutrition in Samoa. They showed us their garden, hosted a tasting of different Samoan fruit, and then fed us soup for lunch that they made from the vegetables they grow in their garden. The soup was leafy with a couple sweet potatoes here and there. It was ridiculously similar to Joe's Kale Soup.

Halloween ended up being somewhat of a mad dash. Once classes ended for the day, a number of us got to work on putting together makeshift costumes for last night's party. Blakey led the charge among our group to purchase football jerseys from the local thrift store, and a large part of our group formed a football team. Phil (the tallest in our group) and Supy (the shortest in our group) cut out jersey-knit spoons and went to the party as the big spoon and the little spoon. Dan started out trying to be a mummy with a roll of paper towels that we found, but then switched to making a toga out of hotel bed sheets. I ambitiously set out to be a mosquito; an effort which impressed people, but in execution it proved rather unwieldy.

I made wings out of a silver car visor cut in half diagonally. My nose was a funnel with a paper towel roll stuck to it. I made an extra set of arms out of cheap spatulas, and I made antennae out of a wooden stick that I found at a general store here in town. When the lady at the store saw that I was going to by the stick, she got very suspicious, and asked, "What do you need this for?" I thought for a second about the best way to tell her that I was going to dress up as a large mosquito. Realizing that that cultural chasm would be far too wide to cross, I decided to simply tell her, "Halloween." To which she responded, "Ohhhhhhhh..." And that was that.

In any case, my left wing started falling off almost as soon as we got to the party, and I couldn't drink with my nose piece on, so I quickly lost the wings and the nose and morphed from a mosquito to an ant.

I don't like to talk too much about going to bars and drinking here in the blog because I figure there's not much that I can say to recap that sort of an event. That said, parties like last night's are some of the only occasions that volunteers get to come together and see one another. So as much as I feel like I should just write off last night to run of the mill bacchanalia, I think there is a social importance to the whole thing that would be lost.

When a party like last night's is held, all of the volunteers show up, young and old. There are several volunteers here in their 50s and 60s, and they were all there last night, partying with the twentysomethings. When catching up with one another, one of the most telling factors in a person's Peace Corps experience is how long they've been in country. Batches are referred to by their group number. That is, my group is referred to as group 81, the group that got here in June is referred to as group 80, 79 came in October 2007, etc. It tends to be the first thing you remember about someone after their name. And because the pool of socialites is so limited and because gossip is so inevitably rampant, everyone builds up mental dossiers about everyone else. So interactions at parties and other social gatherings are strange, particularly for newbies, because you run into people that already know lots about you even though you're meeting for the first time. I'm sure that the longer we're all here, the more we'll learn about the people who are already here (we've already learned quite a bit), but still, the whole thing is kinda weird.

In any case, I hope things are great back home. I won't be blogging for a while because we go back to the village this afternoon where we'll be staying for the next 26 days. Yowsers. We're back in Apia the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm sure I'll have quite a bit to tell you then. Be safe, and I'll talk to you all soon! Pictures below!
The Skype video interface. Luisa cut her hair! So cute!

Kale soup's doppelganger.

This restaurant has a funny name. We went there for dinner, but it was closed.

Phil and Supy as big spoon and little spoon. Dan in his toga.

The rest of our group in football costumes.

Nao(sp?) from JICA.

Volunteers Laura and Max as Mormons. Laura held the book upside down on purpose.

There were 2 Sarah Palins. The one on the left is actually Australian. The one on the right was a little more half-assed costume-wise, but she had the accent down pat. I told each of them the awesomely off-colour joke that I heard recently, and when the American laughed, the Australian stared at me and said, "I think the cultural barrier is pretty wide there." Mmmm... awkward.

This is the Slimer piñata that Cale made. It was paper mache and awesome.