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."


Barb Carusillo said...

Fascinating blog. Your insight and use of language is captivating. Not the usual stream of consciousness modus operandi, but vignettes that give a slice of life, and show us your thought process.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, little embarrassed that both Mariah and George Michael make it as guilty pleasures in my top christmas song list...

Unknown said...


It's really time for some new news. We miss you!


david santos said...

Good weekend, Samoa!!!