Thursday, December 18, 2008

Training Odds and Ends

I’m writing this blog at 1:00 a.m. on the eve of the Great Scattering. The volunteers (we’re no longer trainees now that we’ve been sworn in) going to Savai’i are leaving the hotel at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first ferry. The rest of us can sleep in since we won’t be leaving until 8:30 a.m. at the earliest. And with training coming to an end, I figure I will tie up the loose ends on training so we can move on tomorrow.
  • As you can see, I got a haircut and I shaved the ‘stache. The “Before” picture was taken during the day so the sunlight is nice, and the “After” picture was taken at night with a flash after I wore contacts for 9 hours. So even though I’m happy about my shedding, the “After” picture isn’t the shiny, glowing paragon that I had hoped for, but it’ll have to do.
  • “Wonderful” by Everclear is a really sad song. I still find it surprisingly poignant.
  • In my interview with Dale, Country Director of Samoa, he pointed out that rather than using “Activist” and “Fatalist” in the Locus of Control discussion, better terms would be “Proactive” and “Reactive”. This is much better than my flowery “Idealism” and “Humility”.
  • On the Tuesday morning, my host family woke me up at 6:00 a.m. to pray. It was painful. We sang a song I’d never heard and then I had to read the bible aloud in Samoan. Psalm 1. I actually read the bible aloud every night for family prayer. That said, Tuesday morning’s prayer felt a little like I was their monkey doing tricks for them.
  • I think I also understated the roll of sandlot volleyball in the village. It happened every day at precisely 4:15 and would last until dusk because family prayer started at dusk. Volleyball was the social center for the youth of the village. It was a place to see and be seen. Most of the training group played volleyball at one point or another. Jordan, Joey, Dan, and Blakey were frequent players. I never played. But I would sit and watch for a while every day.
  • The bad “After” picture could also be attributed to Matt’s Theory on Haircuts, which states that for the first two weeks after you get a haircut, it looks just as bad as it did when it was getting to long. I illustrated this theory in graph form for Jennifer once. Lucky for everyone, I saved the file and I’ve posted it here for your edification.
  • “Nightswimming” by R.E.M. is a really pretty song, although I’ve never really bothered to listen to the lyrics.
  • I never told the second half of the story about when I pulled Akanese out of the van. One thing I’ve noticed about Samoan culture is that people don’t really hold grudges at all. Once a situation is defused, it is forgotten. But that was disproved a bit when I came home from school on the Tuesday after the Saturday that the incident happened. Things were quiet, and then Asolima goes, “Mati, remember when you hated Akanese and you pulled her out of the van? It wasn’t Akanese that put her finger in your ear. It was Lupe.” It turns out that Tafale told Asolima that it was Lupe and not Akanese, which REALLY pissed off Asolima (“I hate that girl”). Then Mele goes off on Lupe, all in Samoan, so I understand none of it. But tears run down Lupe’s face. So then there was a really awkward schism in the family that I had caused somewhat inadvertently. I was already pretty embarrassed about the incident, so this whole new chapter was pretty terrible. Lupe and I went for a walk later in the evening though, and things were cool. We also saw Tafale, which was awkward at first, but then things were fine.
  • Did you notice the sentence in our wordy Mission Statement that juxtaposes volunteer idealism and humility? Yeah. That was my idea.
  • I have read more of the bible in Samoan in the last 2 months than I have read the bible in English in the last 7 years. And the only reason I read it in English was because I took a class on the Old Testament in college. Matt Lanier would point out that this is because I’m Catholic and Catholics don’t read the bible.
  • Earlier in our stay, there would be sandlot soccer or rugby across the street from sandlot volleyball. I played soccer once, but once the kids with cleats started showing up, it wasn’t fun. It also became less of a game and more of a contest to see who could school me the most. This got old quickly.
  • “Africa” by Toto is easily the most fun song to sing at the top of your lungs.
  • The more I think about it, the more I am weirded out that Tafale borrowed my flip-flops and then never brought up the issue again and just kept them. Although that is sort of the way it works here. When someone says they really like something of yours, it pretty much means they would like to own it. Also, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there’s no way I can trade her for a different color. Black goes with everything, but it is not an option now.
  • We were all in a little shock at how often our host families used the word “hate”. I think that something is lost in translation and the Samoan idea of “hate” isn’t nearly as severe as the American idea of “hate”.
  • There wasn’t too much variety in the bible passages that I would read each night. Mele would tell me what to read, but there were very few in rotation. There was Psalms 1 and 23 and the first paragraph of Matthew 5. Judging from my limited Samoan vocabulary, I think Matthew 5 is the Beatitudes. For 2 days, we worked our way through Luke 1, but Mele was never good at telling me which verse to start with… so one night I read aloud the lineage of Abraham to Jesus in Samoan, which was incredibly boring for everyone involved. That was the end of working our way through Luke 1.
  • Dan and Jordan joined the rugby game one afternoon. In the locals’ attempt to school Dan, they gave him a black eye. After that, the village council decided to ban all sandlot sports except volleyball. Volleyball was also banished for a day near the end of our stay because kids in the village were going to play volleyball instead of going to dance practice for our Goodbye Fiafia. Funny.
  • Lupe was really nice. Her reputation (“I hate that girl”) was unwarranted, in my opinion. She was shy about having her picture taken. She would always call Bingo at our in-house games. Even on the night of the Great Schism, she still called Bingo.
  • I thought we were leaving the village at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, but it turned out our call time was 8:30 a.m. So I was late and my goodbyes were rushed. This was sad for me. But I am going back to the village for Christmas, so whatev. Buses don’t run on Christmas Day so I’ll be going out there the 24th and coming back on the 26th.
  • Finally, I can tell you that I’ve moved into my new place now, and it’s a little scary. Very few power outlets, the lights are out in my bedroom and in the kitchen, etc. But we’ll save all that for next time. Also, a bunch of us are going to Savai’I on Friday for Phil’s birthday.

    That’s all I got. Pics below.

Me on the day of Swearing In. A Samoan dress is refered to as a Pulatasi. Dylan refered to my outfit as a Man-tasi.

Akanese and Me after the Swearing In ceremony.

Country Director Dale and Me after the Swearing in Ceremony. Thick-framed glasses are standard issue in the Peace Corps. Also, he looks like Dan Leopard in this picture. Also, Dan Leopard wears thick-framed glasses.

Oge during the village dance that immediately followed the Swearing In ceremony. I still think he looks like Jose Leal.

Language Trainer Onofia dancing at the fiafia.

I think this is the same scene as the earlier picture from Culture Day, except from another angle. From left to right, Supy, Phil's Dad Isaako, Phil, Me, and I think Oge. We are peeling Taro. But who needs vegetable peelers when you can just cut off the top of a tin can with a machete and use that?

One of the pigs post-roast. Pretty amazing the efficiency of their cooking style. We baked 2 pigs in roughly 45 minutes. They stick lava rocks in the fire, and then cover the pig. Those rocks are HOT.

This is my bucket shower. First, you rub the soap on the pink loofa/scouring pad. Then you scrub your body. Then you take the big yellow bucket and fill it with water from the big green barrel. Then you take the little yellow bucket, fill it with water from the big yellow bucket, and pour it over your body. You could just take the little yellow bucket and get water directly from the barrel, but then you might get mosquitos or whoknowswhatelse. For me, the big yellow bucket was a good way to spot such things.

This is the toilet. To flush, you take the old paint can (not pictured), fill it with water from the white barrel, and pour it into the toilet reservoir. Flush as usual.

To'ana'i with Uncle Laumatia. 2 fish, breadfruit, palusami (coconut cream covered in taro leaf), chicken soup, chop suey, and a coconut to drink.

Cute, nerdy Iva at to'ana'i in Apolima.

And finally, a Canadian tuxedo right here in Samoa. Awesome, ay?


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you got rid of the moustache but I miss the curls!

Amanda said...

I can't believe you cut all your hair off! You're too skinny also!! I love all the pictures. So cute. 'Wonderful' also makes me sad. I like all your random thoughts & it makes my day to read your blog.

Anonymous said...

Roast pork and taro root. Kale soup. It doesn't look like you're too far from home. By the way, it's easier to boil and cook taro first and then then peel it. I'm glad you lost the 'stache. It looked like a '70s flashback - and just a bit cheezee. Otherwise, you look good! I hope to talk to you soon. Love, Dad.

Chris said...

You could have been an ex-pat American Mustache Institute member - but no - you threw it all away (or shaved it all away, if you will)

Amanda said...

i like how dad spelled it cheezee