Wednesday, April 08, 2009

6 Months!: The Story So Far and FAQs

This morning marks exactly 6 months since we landed here in Samoa. It’s weird how in some ways it feels like we just got here, and the last 6 months has gone by in the blink of an eye—and on the other hand, it feels like we’ve been here forever. After the frenzied life of training, these first 3 months of actual service have been much slower and more predictable. That said, there’s still been a lot of adjusting to do.

The Story So Far (as continued from 1/8/2009)

January turned out to be a strange mix of waiting for school to begin and attempting to prolong training as much as possible. Coming off the high of New Years, we had 3 or 4 weeks before school began, which meant we could spend time “nesting” and hanging out with one another before students showed up. Teacher meetings started late-mid-January where Phil, Koa, and I pretended to be IT guys. They stayed over at my place, and we played Clue in the evenings to pass the time.

I lobbied the Chargés-Affaires to show Barack Obama’s inauguration at her house. It started somewhere around 5:00 a.m. Samoa Standard Time, but a bunch of us were awake, drinking mimosas, toasting the new president. In addition to Dan’s birthday, January 20 also marked the last time I had a hot shower.

A couple days soon after, computers arrived in my lab, which was exciting because to that point, it seemed questionable whether or not I would really be teaching Computer Studies. The workstations are ridiculous and completely not what I was expecting when I joined the Peace Corps: flat screens, P4s and Core-Duo Processors, and a Samsung MFP. It’s as nice as anything I had back at my corporate job in The States.

I sewed my own curtains just in time for students to arrive and do yard work around my house. It was a little bizarre supervising students as they weeded and trimmed foliage around campus.

February kicked off with the Superbowl, which we had to arrange specially with one of the sports bars in town because most places aren’t open on Sunday. But any nostalgia for all things American was quashed quickly by the first day of actual classes. Without another computer teacher, I taught 28 out of 30 classes classes for the first 2 weeks of school. My counterpart started in week 3, which brings my schedule down to 4 classes per day, which has been much better.

I went surfing with PCV Aaron in February, just before he left to go back The States. It was a good time, and I think I could almost be a legitimate surfer with a little practice, but I have yet to get back on a board. The waves at the surfing spot crash into lots of rocks, and it’s really not the kind of place to learn.

I visited Phil in mid-February and I was able to get all of my stuff back that had been stolen from his place in early January. My digital camera, iPod, and Skype headphones are all back in my custody. Props again to the Samoan police. My stay in Savai’i that weekend was too short, but I have yet to have time to go back since. But I will soon enough.

I have ventured back to the host village thrice since the end of training. I’ve been trying to go once a month, which has worked out well so far. During my trip back in February, a siva fundraiser was going down at the church, and my family made me dress up as the Taupo, the ceremonial virgin, for the big Taupo dance. Yeah. You’re jealous.

I watched the Oscars with my neighbor, Maegi. Good times, although my picks did poorly. And no, I didn’t like Slumdog Millionaire all that much, and yes, we can dish it out on email if you feel that passionately about it.

In mid-March we had two musical acts come through town. It would have been weird to have one, but we had 2, which was completely bizarre. They were both great. One was a bluegrass band from Bowling Green and the other was a German indy rocker. The German’s sound was more crisp and unique, but the bluegrass band played Paul Simon covers, so I’ll call it a draw.

My birthday was pretty cool. Actually, 3 other current volunteers celebrated birthdays that same week. And all of us turned the same age. It was odd.

Since then, things have been pretty quiet. In part because of a week of rain. Apparently there was a cyclone(? Maybe a hurricane? Monsoon?) in Tonga, and we were on the outskirts of the weather pattern. So the weather here was only extreme in the sense that we had a lot of rain. Although I did manage to build my cinderblock shelf without getting the wood wet, so it wasn’t any kind of Ark-necessitating storm.

And now Easter break has started for students, and tomorrow should be easy for staff. And that’s the story so far.


How big is your school?
    My school has around 750 students and about 30 staff members. I’m not good at estimating acreage, so I can only compare it to places in The States. I’d say it’s about as big as the 500s at Logan. Maybe a little bit bigger. The 500s plus the Old Gym.
How many computers do you have in the lab?
    I have my computer plus 12 student computers. My computer is running Windows Server 2003 and the rest are networked. Occasionally students use my computer, but often I’m using mine to broadcast demos or PowerPoint presentations out to them.
How do you like teaching?
    Teaching here is a lot better and a lot more fun than teaching in Oakland. The students are better behaved, and the administration seems more put together. I like teaching the older kids best. I feel like I have an easier time relating to them, and their English is better so they have an easier time understanding. It’s frustrating and difficult to teach through a language barrier.
What’s the medical situation for a typical Samoan?
    There are traditional healers in villages, but there are also westernized medical facilities. Traditional healers use the leaves and roots of different native plants in their healing. The girls got sick a lot when I was in the village, and I did my fair share of schlepping around children who’d been covered in strange and exotic smells. In my experience, the kids abhor the way it feels. They scream bloody murder. There was also the case of the man in Faleupo who cauterized the cut in his foot.

    When I went to the doctor last month, I went to a clinic near the Peace Corps office. I had a scrape on my cornea, and the doctor shined a bright light into my eye and had a chart on the wall to test my vision. It was similar to any doctor’s office back home.

    Pharmacies are referred to as Chemists. And they sell everything you’d expect a pharmacist to sell.
Have you ever thought about posting a "glossary" page?
    Yes, but I haven’t figured out the best way to do it. In fact, I wanted to do a whole site re-design, but Blogger is pretty limiting in the templates they allow. To do it well, I think I’d need to publish the blog via FTP, and I admit I have no idea how to do that. Liz 80 has a great setup. I need to talk to her and see how she set hers up.
So when is Hillary coming?Why don’t you shop at a fale’oloa rather than the supermarket? Why haven’t you tried wearing Jandals, the flip-flops most Samoans wear?
    My life in Samoa is full of compromise. It’s hot and humid here. I have no car. No TV. No oven. No garbage pickup. I sewed my curtains. I manually wash my clothes. I wear a lavalava to school every day. I eat a fair amount of taro. Most people in Apia speak English to me, but I try and speak Samoan when possible. And occasionally I will pick up something from the fale’oloa. But occasionally I just want to eat some peanut butter. And I want to wear my comfortable flip-flops from home. Part of compromise is recognizing what is dear, and for me, that’s peanut butter and my feet.
Tomorrow starts a new round of cultural exploration. Tomorrow’s topic will be the Open-Air Produce Market. Story So Far pictures below.

Students at an assembly. Boys on the left, girls on the right.

My computer lab.

The school schedule written out by hand in chalk.

Year 13s.

Volleyball on sports day.

Tafale (in a Rick's College t-shirt) and Tone in the village.

The Germans.

Christian and I celebrating our birthdays. Don't be fooled. Both shots are posed.

The lizard in my sink.


1 comment:

Kelly said...

I loved the re-cap. Very, very fun to read. It's so nice that you are sharing your experiences with us. We miss you!