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?


Unknown said...

Gosh...you covered all the important stuff...obama (yahoo!!!!), prop 8 (what? are you kidding me? how could there be such hate?) and tim lincecum (does it get any better?).

Sorry about the rough parts. Mosquito bites, thanksgiving (without the martha stewart party) and sticky, stinky hands.

But so nice that Luisa is managing to take care of you from afar, you got a great assignment and you have all of us cheering you on!

Uncle Matt even changed the petitions at mass on Sunday to include prayers for you.

We miss you and LOVE reading long accounts, short snippets and anything else you have to share. Stay safe (and get a new net!). Sending tons of hugs and lots of prayers....love, kaky.

Anonymous said...

i have that riddler mug. and you are completly right. it is awesome.
so glad to see you're having a good time. also sad to see the mosquitoes are really getting to you. perhaps we should send you a fly swatter?? :)

Amanda said...

Oh my! I'm overwhelmed by this post!

I love seeing the pictures of you. The picture of you with the baby is too cute!

I'm really sorry to hear about your mosquito bites & your camera! Can you still take pictures with it?

We're waiting for your call! I can't wait to see/hear more!

gower said...

Matt! The daily, twitter-like updates are very cool. Luisa is such a great gf, keeping you updated and cared for, despite the miles that separate you.

Sorry to hear about the mosquito bites, but congrats on the assignment! I look forward to reading more about your adventures in Samoa.