Friday, January 16, 2009

Busy Week

Things seemed like they were slowing down with school not starting for a couple weeks and the lack of activity in my day growing. So of course, as soon as I devoted my blog to a week of cultural exploration, things actually got interesting. Oh well. Here is the news from the past week.


Plan for Watching Inauguration Being Finalized
Details are almost confirmed for us to watch Obama swear in. Being the political junkie that I am, I emailed the Charges-Affaires directly to inquire about watching Barack Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony live on the TV at the U.S. Embassy here. She emailed me back and let me know that they won’t be able to open the embassy in the middle of the night (things will get started around 3:00 a.m. Samoa time), but she invited me and other PCVs to come and watch at her house. I am really excited about this. I am so there.

I remember watching Bush’s Inauguration at Bill’s house with Sara and Nick back in January 2001. That was kinda fun in a really sad way. I hope that Tuesday morning will be kinda fun in a mind-blowingly awesome way.

Savai’ian Burglary Suspects in Custody!
The Samoan police have 2 suspects in custody in connection with the break-in that occurred while I was staying at Phil’s house. Dan told me that Phil told him that the police had a guy in custody. But Phil got a call on Wednesday morning from the Peace Corps Safety and Security Officer saying that police have another suspect in custody. The 2 youth happened to be in Apia for a hip-hop dance-off. It’s not clear on how that relates to how they got to be in custody, but the dance-off was mentioned when the Safety and Security Officer called.

I also heard from a tertiary source that it’s customary for Samoan correctional facilities to allow prisoners to be released during the holidays, and there is a corresponding rise in the crime rate during holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day.

There’s no word yet on whether or not the police will be able to recover my stuff that was stolen. Either way, I am definitely impressed with Samoan law enforcement.

Murder at Boddy Mansion: Scarlet Slays Billionaire in Billiard Room with Wrench
Phil and Koa stayed over on Monday and Tuesday night, and we played 8 games of Cluedo. The American game “Clue” is marketed under the name “Cluedo” in and around the South Pacific. We are unclear on whether it should be pronounced clue-dew or clue-doe. In any case, Koa won 5 games. I won 3. We considered inviting my next door neighbor, who is a missionary, to play. “Would you like to play an American board game that centers around murder?” Ehhh… we thought the better of it.

McSweeney’s Clue humor is far more clever than mine.


3-day Teacher Conference Held at my School
The Samoan Congregationalist School System held its annual pre-school year teacher in-service on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Teachers from all 6 Congregationalist secondary schools came to plan for the year. Koa and Phil stayed at my house during the conference. Word got around that we were here to teach computers, and so we spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday looking at other teachers’ laptops.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a situation that would make a good TV show? Koa, Phil, and I would set off in the morning, have rather bizarre encounters at the teacher’s conference, break off and do our own thing in the afternoon, come together to listen to American news and prepare dinner, and then retire to the living room for Clue(do). It had sitcom formula written all over it.

At one point, we were asked to look at the laptop of an individual with a fair amount of gender ambiguity. The person was very nice, the 3 of us tried our best, but the laptop in question had a fried hard drive that was completely shot. Later that day as we were walking home, Koa said, “I feel bad we couldn’t fix Pat’s laptop.” It had no comic setup, which made it better in my opinion.

Note: I believe that transgendered individuals should be treated equally and fairly. Such individuals, known as Fafafines here in Samoa, have an interesting role in the community here, and the entire subject is definitely worth a Cultural Exploration (collecting pictures for this might be difficult). That said, the gender ambiguity of the name Pat as well as the pop cultural reference make Koa’s comment funny. I don’t mean to marginalize. And yes, Liam, I know you think I should be more unapologetic.

Computers Showed Up in my Lab
Computers arrived and were setup in my lab today. The computers themselves are really nice, and my lab would easily fit in with any given lab at CNET Networks (or CBS Interactive or whatever you guys are calling yourselves now). I have 3 computers running Intel Dual Core Processors, and the rest are P4s. All of my computers have flat screens. All of the new ones are running Microsoft Office 2007. This situation is a little unheard of among Peace Corps in Samoa, and I’m kind of embarrassed to tell anyone about this situation. My computer lab is ummm… effing sweet.

The Office 2007 part may be a little too fancy, actually. The Pacific Secondary School Certificate exam, which the Year 13 students will need to take, is based on Office 2003. A lot of the curriculum is very Office 2003 specific (Sample test question: In Microsoft Word, what is the 3rd item on the ‘Format’ menu? Yes, the questions can be that ridiculous.). So I’m not sure how the Office 2007 situation will play out.

My House has Homemade Curtains!
I’ve been slowly making curtains for the windows in my house. Curtains are essential because they block out light and make the house much cooler. They also help to keep my private life private. I don’t mean to imply that I have much of a private life here. I’m just saying it’s nice to watch a movie on my laptop without the whole world looking in and seeing that I have a laptop.

Dylan had his host family sew his. That would have been nice and far faster, but I have always been a little obsessed with instant gratification, and I won’t see my host family until next Friday at the earliest. Blakey was the one who suggested, somewhat offhandedly, that I sew them myself. It has meant hours and hours of sewing, and hell if I really know what I’m doing with the needle and thread, but the ones that are complete seem good enough.

Although there are 2 problems I’ve run into. The first is aesthetic. I just bought fabric and sewed a hem around the curtain string. And what better fabric than the one I’ve already used on the walls? The problem with this is that I now have the same fabric on almost every wall in my house. It’s a little much, I think. One can only take so many hibiscuses. So I might have to take down a couple walls worth. The jury’s still out.

The second problem is that they have no weight to them at all. It’s nice that a stiff breeze can still get in, but this means that they are constantly draped over the furniture rather than behind it. I don’t really want to nail the bottoms to the wall, but I’m not sure how else to keep them down. Any suggestions?

My next home improvement project will be cinderblock shelves. Good times.


Erik’s Radio Show May Be Missing Link in Turning my Peace Corps Experience into Northern Exposure
Erik from group 79 has a radio show on one of the local stations here in Apia. He’s on Fridays and Saturdays 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The station plays a wide range of music somewhat akin to the playlist of Jack FM in Los Angeles. I told him I’d be interested in doing stuff there, so I shadowed him last Friday. I think I’m going to go again tomorrow. It’s pretty awesome playing backseat DJ.

I’ve Cooked Taro Twice Now!
Since leaving the host village, I think many of us have surprised ourselves with the Samoan cultural aspects that we’ve decided to adopt. Phil is growing banana trees; Paul’s Jandals have become a part of him; Blakey, Koa, and Kate go back to Fausaga every other week, it seems. In addition to my homemade curtains and manual laundry, I’ve started cooking with Taro.

Taro is a root vegetable, similar to a potato. It is a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, and iron. I’ve cooked it 2 ways since my adventures in cooking taro began. The first is boiling it and topping it with a traditional pe’e sauce. The second is grating it, mixing in some green onions, garlic and rosemary, and making taro hashbrowns.

I’m still perfecting my technique of boiling it and making it traditionally. It’s difficult to know exactly how long to boil it for. But the pe’e sauce is the real challenge. In the village, it is made by grating out the inside of a coconut, squeezing out the cream, and then adding salt. It’s a rather arduous process, and if I were to try it in my house, I’d have to acquire quite a bit of equipment. The method I’ve been perfecting involves freezing a can of the coconut milk that you buy at the store. In the freezer, it will separate into coconut milk and coconut cream. The first time I tried it, this worked well. The second time, not so much. In any case, the milk does not freeze, but the cream does. After discarding the milk, you thaw the cream and add salt. I’ve gotten mixed results. But like I said, I’m still perfecting the process.

The hashbrowns, on the other hand, have been awesome. I am very proud of them, and I will cook them whenever I have people eat over at my house. It is my new Dish of Obsession. At 2416, I started out with the Egg in a Basket and then it was the Peanut Butter and Stuff Sandwich (Peanut butter, banana, apple, and cranberry sauce). Now, taro hashbrowns.


Wild Fire Bar and Grill in Apia will Show the Superbowl
We found a place to watch the Superbowl. Some people are REALLY excited. If anything for me, being in Samoa has made me miss baseball. It’s summer here, and there’s no baseball. And the sad part is that there probably won’t be too much baseball when summer in The States rolls around. Oh well.

My Exercise Plan Fails Miserably
I had planned to start running at the beginning of January. I feel like I ran that marathon back in August, and then completely stopped exercising. So the plan was to start running in January once training was over and the challenges of moving in were settled. It’s tough to exercise here though. It’s far too hot when the sun’s out, and it’s still far too hot in the evening. Ideally it would be best to wake up 6:00-ish and go, but that just seems ungodly to me. So we’ll see how this situation develops.

And that’s news for the last 7 days. I hope things are well back home. Pictures below.

Me and Erik at the radio.

Me sewing my curtains. They are visible in the Cluedo picture at the top of this blog.

Me cooking taro.

Cheese/Taro grater, taro, knife.

Raw taro hashbrowns.

Cooked taro hashbrowns.

Koa getting swallowed by my curtains. See? This is a problem.

At the local bar, On the Rocks. Left to right: Me, Phil, Koa, Susi from Fausaga, Lui from Fausaga, Blakey. Sorry, Koa's Sister, you got cropped.

Phil and JICA Tetsuya.

My computer lab.

Yes, that's a Pentium 4. Yes. That's a flat screen. This is better equipment than eCivis has, probably.


Jane said...

Ideas for your curtains; if you hemmed them, you could run something long, of weight through fold in the hem. Perhaps something like the string of beads used to trim Christmas trees (if you can find that). You could sew or safety pin on misc. decorative items near the bottom (high enough so they don't clang against your walls). You could also teather them down with string to hooks or nails on the wall. Velcro, if you can get it, could work too.

I love your reports and read them everyday. That must be a photo of Paul's JICA roommate. 'Was fun to see.

I'm impressed with your sewing project. Congrats!

Pauls' Mom,

Unknown said...

I was going to suggest using magnets. I guess you could either take two magnets together and put them on either side of the curtain so that they attract to each other. Then you can arrange them at the begining, middle, and end of each curtain. It's kind of the same idea as using the safety pins. Good luck. I am now wondering what your taro hashbrowns taste like.

Also, does the Samoan school year start in January?

Unknown said...

Your curtains, open the hems and drop in heavy washers then baste stitch around them to hold them in place. Do this every 12-18 inches.
In a pinch you could use coins, granted they are heavy enough.

Anonymous said...

Use those killer dog rocks to hold them down!!!