Monday, August 31, 2009

Devil in the White City

The Teuila Festival started today, although it seems to be the kind of thing where it starts off slow and builds. The Road Switch tension is heading into our final week before the big day. The combination of anticipating these two events is palpable throughout Apia. Though the events will miss each other by a weekend—the Teuila Festival going all out on Friday, the Road Switch waiting until Monday—the convergence of these events feels horrible and awesome, like watching two buses collide.

Speaking of buses, a rumor circulated this weekend that the bus drivers were going to strike today to protest the government’s refusal to subsidize the conversion of buses to allow for passengers to enter through the left-hand side of the bus. If the buses shut down, the country would shut down, so as I wrote the test I gave to my year 11s last night, I wondered if I’d give the test at all this morning. But I could hear students on campus when I woke up.

The student body did a collective pump-fist this morning when my pule announced we’d be doing school cleaning after Interval on Thursday and Friday’s going to be a Sports Day. My 11.1 class said that students and staff will most likely attend the boat races and the parade on Friday morning, and then we’ll all walk back to school to start sometime after that. Sounds fun.

In my year 10 classes, I’ve decided to structure their Microsoft Word time by giving them topics to write about. Today I asked them to share their thoughts about the Road Switch. Some of them spent much of the hour trying to find the perfect font that would express their vantage point just right. But many of them had a lot of things to say. In fact, one girl raised her hand to ask if she could include her general opinion of the Prime Minister. “Ummm… sure?” I shrugged. Sounds good to me. The room was abuzz.

Also abuzz is the “village” behind the Samoan Tourism Authority (STA village) with tattoo demonstrations and handcraft booths and young men carving large pieces of wood. Walking through there today, the place seemed like it was still getting its bearings and preparing for denser crowds later in the week. I did stand around and watch a man carve a canoe using a chainsaw for a couple minutes this afternoon. It was surprisingly riveting.

With the race on Saturday, we got to ride or run over all of the new speed bumps the Ministry of Transportation has installed all over rural Samoa. Actually, there’s a huge speed bump that was just put in yesterday or earlier today at the end of Palagi Alley in the middle of downtown Apia. Speed bumps make sense in the short term—they’ll clearly help slow people down during the transition—I’m not sure if having speed bumps all over the countryside is such a great idea in the long term especially since most of the buses have no shocks.

But whatever. They’ve been turning on the colored lights that run along Beach Road, which just makes the atmosphere feel festive. It’s hard to look away as the buses prepare to collide, but if happens in the shine of festive lights, how bad can it really be?

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Teachers at my school were encouraged to wear black and white today to be in solidarity with the Road Switch protesters (We had class during the big march this morning). As Peace Corps Volunteers, we are supposed to be politically neutral. So I decided to wear all gray today, which I felt was the best way of expressing neutrality and complexity with a nice shout-out to the black and white contingent. Also, none of the teachers at my school showed up in black and white.

Wood-carving in STA village.

The new huge speed bump.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Island Tour

There’s a story in the bible in which Jesus’ critics get their undies in a bunch because his disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat—which is kind of gross, but beside the point. In fact, the whole point is it’s beside the point: Jesus shrugs at his detractors and essentially says he has bigger fish to fry, and that he can’t get all caught up in hand-washing. This illustrates my feelings about yesterday’s race. When the scope of the race is only the running, 64 miles is an arbitrary distance. Only when the context is provided—64 miles is approximately halfway around Upolu—does the distance have meaning.

This greater context affects the entire day’s experience. We were all focused on the race, the running, the competition, the dry-fit clothes, the water, the pace, the elevation, the constant stretching, the runner’s high, the exhaustion, the sweat, the smelliness. It’s all important and to lose such focus would be a mistake to the race and to one’s health. But to lose sight of the bigger picture—the palm trees, the ocean, the soles walking down the street with their machetes, the breeze, the fales, the women’s committees, the faleoloas, the ever-changing weather, the heat, the dogs, the smell of the ula flowers—would suck the life out of the experience.

AJ started the race just before the sun began to rise, and while we were at the first hand-off point as Trent was warming up, we saw bats in the air returning from a night of hunting. The spot was somewhere along the road in Pupu-Pue National Park. Jim told a story of some boys in his village who caught a bat and offered to cook it for him. I wondered how bats evolved. Trent guessed it had something to do with vampires.

A little while later during a stop at a scenic beach village on the south side of the island, we came to a newly built resort called “Boomerang Creek,” we think, although the name on the sign said, “Lupesina” or something. In any case, it had beautiful fales, a waterfall on the face of the green cliff, and a sandy beach. None of us had heard of the place, but it seemed worth it to go back.

At the very next stop, a slightly effeminate man came out of his house to see what the commotion was all about. He asked where I lived in Samoa, and I said Apia. “I used to live in Apia, but now I stay here with my partner,” he said. He looked up at the overcast sky, and asked if I thought it was going to rain. I shrugged. “I hope it rains,” he said. “The water in this village is very bad.”

During my uphill leg (which sucked), I saw 2 boys and a dog sitting on the side of the road. I was about 30 metres away from them when our van passed me. The dog went nuts, barking and chasing the van. I immediately stopped to pick up self-defense rocks while the boys grabbed the dog by its nape in an attempt to control it. Another car drove by in the opposite direction, and the dog broke free to chase that car. Indeed, this was a car-chasing dog, not of the human-chasing variety, and I was free to pass. “Manaia lau maile!” I called out as I continued up the hill. “Nice dog!”

For my last leg—I must have been somewhere around the village of Falefa—a couple of boys yelled from a fale far back from the road, “Fa!” I yelled back through panted breath, “Fa!” A few moments later they yelled again, “Fa, Matthew!” How the strange the Peace Corps is! I’m running through a rural village I’ve barely even heard of, and because of my quasi-celebrity palagi status, some kid knows my name. “Fa!” I yelled back with a sole-salute flick of the wrist.

We were on the north eastern coast by the time the sun came out, and right about then, we began to catch up to other teams. Adrenaline began to pump, and the thrill of the race began to take over. But we still had time to admire the waves at Luatuanuu, the ocean vistas at the Blue Marlin restaurant, and the roadside waterfalls in Letogo.

Trent offered me a piece of masi popo in Letogo. I ate it. And I didn’t wash my hands. I had bigger fish to fry.

I hope your weekend was great. Pictures below.

There was a small pig stampede in this village. Forgive me, I forget which village. The beginning of the 8th leg, if that helps.

The cliffs at Boomerang Creek. You can kinda see the waterfall just to the left of the palm tree on the far right.

Dan and Chris, who were as much a "greater context" as anything else, staged their own hand-off.

The sun coming out on the north side of the island.

Arrowheads pointing the wrong way have been added to the government's arrow lines to protest the impending road switch.

More protest graffiti. It says "NO SWIFTING HEA". It's unclear if they mean SWITCHING or SWIFTING, or if it's an intentional portmanteau.

Jim running the final leg down Beach Road in Apia.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Perimeter Relay

I woke to a chorus of roosters just as the alarm on my phone sounded at 4:15 a.m. With a 64-mile relay, it’s difficult to pack for the day, and as I lay in bed last night, I thought of several more things that might be useful. I unzipped my backpack and shoved in a roll of toilet paper and a notebook and pen. I had a nightmare in which we were along the course and I sorely needed to use the bathroom, so I took care of that, woke Trent (who slept on my couch last night), and we stumbled out the door to meet the van.

Somehow Joey 81 was able to get a rental van donated for the day. He also got us matching printed dry-fit t-shirts. It was impressive. Dan took the day off to drive the van, and Chris came along as something of a cheerleader. Other than that, it was the 6 of us on the relay team: Joey 81, Jim, Trent, Erin, AJ, and me. We rolled into the carpark at Sinalei Beach Resort in Siumu at exactly 5:30 a.m., and at 6:05, AJ took off on the first leg.

In order to ensure teams finished around the same time, starting times were staggered to allow those who estimated a longer finish time to start the day early. Some teams started as early as 2:30 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. We were scheduled to start at 6:00, and we were the second to last group.

We had a leap frog system. After AJ started the race, we would drive past him to the beginning of the next leg. We would all get out of the van to cheer, Trent warmed up, AJ would eventually show up, pass the baton to Trent, AJ would stretch a little, and we’d repeat the process with the next runner. And so on from there for 23 legs.

Not knowing what kind of downtime we’d have—we’re talking about 64 miles, even if every person runs a 7-minute mile, that’s still 7.5 hours total. And for every extra minute anyone takes, that’s another hour. So I brought a book just in case. I didn’t need it. Between the warming up, the cooling down, the constant stretching to stay warm, the cheering, and teaching Dan how to drive stick shift from the backseat, it was a full day.

The weather was almost perfect. It was cool and windy and overcast for most of the day. The sun peeked out sometime around noon, but by then everyone was completing their last legs, and though it felt somewhat akin to running through hell, it was all the more incentive to finish faster.

Since start times were staggered, we spent most of the day by ourselves, but toward the end, we began to catch up to other teams. Running a race by yourself would be a curious thing in America, and no less in Samoa. Running by rural fales, we got our fair share of confused looks. But most people would smile and nod and say hello. Kids would wave, which was fun. They’d occasionally call out, “Bye bye, palagi!”, which becomes increasingly irksome after a while, but whatev.

Our finish time was somewhere in the ballpark of 8 hours 35 minutes, which made everyone proud. We’re pretty sure we placed second overall (out of eleven teams), but we’re still waiting for official results.

In the meantime, our team dispersed to shower and nap.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

The baton, a mini-light sabre, was pretty gross by the end of the day. 64 miles in sweaty hands is not pretty, particularly for the lanyard.

Dan at the helm.

Since AJ had to run up a gravel driveway before dawn, we were instructed to follow him in the van, blasting him with our headlights. This picture is slightly ghoulish.

Trent taking his mark.

Mormon churches along the route agreed to open their doors to let relay teams use their bathrooms.

Erin being interview for TV3.

Jim being leap-frogged mid-leg.

Pene, above, was on the fastest team. You might also recognize him from my year 12 class. He was the runner who overtook our runner near Saleapaga.

Joey mid-leg, as taken from the van.

Probably more relay pics tomorrow.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chocolate and Skittles

The Ghiradelli Chocolate Company, based out of San Francisco, has a lesser known manufactory across the bay in a small suburb called San Leandro. My grandmother, who lives in San Leandro, is well-connected to the factory and continues to get bulk amounts of gourmet chocolate—Ghiradelli is fancy schmancy—for free or for next to nothing, I’ve never been exactly clear on that. In any case, while I enjoy a good dessert, I’ve never been big on sweets or candy. Skittles and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Starburst are great, but I never cared that much… until I came here.

I’m not sure what it is about being here that makes sugary sweets taste so much better. It might be the heat of the sun, the barrenness of the lifestyle, the rarity of dessert. I also feel like we’re far enough away from The States, it’s rare that we get good ol’ American processed food, and any time we fall back into the synthetically flavored food stuff that’s been chemically engineered in New Jersey, it’s like a junkie in withdrawal finally getting his fix.

My first taste of this glory was during training in the village. Jordan received some gummy bears in a package from his family in The States, and he shared them. Showing a fool’s restraint, I only took one bear, but instantly after I popped the thing in my mouth, my brain exploded. It was like singing. It was like a mouthful of smiles. It was like a bundle of gummy warmth. I’ve always liked gummy things, but this was a new level.

As packages started to come more frequently, someone would pass around a bag of Skittles or bite-sized snickers, and the euphoria would come right back. Once we were out of training, I would occasionally buy little pouches of Peanut M&Ms, which I’d never appreciated in The States, but which I’ve realized are a joyous little confectionary.

My grandmother sent an envelope of Ghiradelli Chocolate. Normally I would have set this aside and offered it to guests or perhaps re-gifted it. Here, my brain was so excited about it, I had to hide it and ration it to ensure it lasted.

And just as it began to dwindle, my parents came to visit, bringing with them a 6-pound box of Ghiradelli chocolate! Wowa. I had to find a special container to fit this seemingly bottomless beast in my freezer. As word of this got around, I would have people over, and occasionally catch them staring into my freezer, as though hypnotized.

“You can have some,” I’d say nonchalantly, feeling a little God-like.

When a pair of year 9s swept my classroom, I gave them 3 chocolates each. When Site and Filifili came by my house the night they pulled an all-nighter, I offered them chocolate. They’ve gone over quite well with students; I should try it more often.

It’s a holiday set, so it has some unusual flavors like Peppermint Bark and Pecan Pie. I’ve decided to save the Eggnog for last since I find them surprisingly delicious and there’s no eggnog in Samoa and the flavor feels out of season in August—a culinary “Jingle Bells”.

They key is the moderation. The more you have, the less special it is. Whatever. This post has made me hungry. I’m going to go binge.

I hope you’re well. Who knew “eggnog” was one word? Pictures below.

This papaya tree is growing out from underneath my house.

Girls making goofy faces a the science faire.

After the science faire ended, the boys "stacked" chairs. This would not have gone over well at my reception job back in high school.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Odds and Ends Thursday 25

With being locked out of my house this past weekend, and having a fair amount of stuff to do on Sunday that I wasn’t able to do on account of being locked out, I’ve felt behind all week; like it’s Thursday and I’m still trying to do Wednesday things. What are Wednesday things, you ask? Checking the newspaper for election results. Going to church for ashes. Completing crossword puzzles of medium difficulty. You know, Wednesday things. Here are some other odds and ends from the week:
  • I assigned my year 12s and 13s to make a brochure in Microsoft Powerpoint. They had to advertise a small business of their own creation. Peresitene is one of my bigger, bulkier, manlier guys, and a number of times I used him as an example saying he could create Peresitene’s Faleotiulu, that is Peresitene’s Hair Salon. Lo and behold, he turned in a brochure for Peresitene’s Hair Salon today. Hilarious. And an impressively good sport.
  • Apia is sold out of cheap peanut butter. I could splurge and get some one of the large quantity jars, but the cost per ounce goes way up, and who needs that?
  • Paul’s mom Jane, who frequently comments, is visiting along with Paul’s brother, Dan. I had dinner with them last night at The Curry House, which is up the mountain a ways. The company and the dinner were both excellent.
  • I need a Halloween costume. Anyone got any good ideas?
  • A woman, the mother of one of my best students incidentally, is on campus all the time now. She hangs out in the teacher’s lounge with the teachers during interval and I’ve seen her walking around outside classrooms between classes. I think she may be a teacher. This is bothersome because it means our school is taking on new staff and I’m still teaching 29 classes per week.
  • Also, she took my seat between Vaifale and Apong at Interval. I’ve been sitting on a bench next to the kitchen holding my muffin in my lap. Boo.
  • So much to do before my sister gets here next week. Sweep. Perhaps mop. Take the underwear off the kitchen table. All that stuff.
  • Walking to school from the Peace Corps hostel on Monday morning, I saw the guys practicing in the fautasis, the 50-man canoes. And then I saw them Tuesday afternoon. Practice is getting intense as we get down to the wire. I wonder if they’ll taper next week.
  • Speaking of tapering, our big run is Saturday morning. I’m still short on details, but I hear there will be 23 legs in the 64-mile relay, and since there are 6 runners, 5 people will run 4 legs and 1 person will run 3 legs. Erin has called tentative dibs on the 3-leg spot, but her 5k time is impressive, so we’ll see. Also on the team is Trent, Jim, Joey 81, and AJ. It’s gonna be awesome.
  • It’s frustrating that they’re scheduling extra weeks of school on account of the 2-week Swine Flu break, but they’re not delaying the due dates of any of the CATs or the major projects. So I still have to rush to get everything in, only to have extra time once we’re done with all the curriculum.
  • So I think I’m going to make my year 12s do PowerPoint. And my year 13s are going to work on their typing skills. Done and done.
  • If you’re Robert Smith of The Cure, Wednesday things are apparently always the same as Tuesday things.
That’s all I got for this week. Happy birthday, Mom! Pictures below.

New tall shelves at Citimart.

Huge banner in front of McDonalds advertising Saturday's race. Pressure's on now.

Most stoplights have been shut off all over town all week, almost surely because of the road switch. Maybe they'll be out until the switch actually happens. Wouldn't be surprised. Yes. Samoa could survive without stoplights for 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Science Faire

Every year I entered the Pioneer Elementary School Science Faire, I came in runner up. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I vaguely remember handwriting the word “hypothesis” in first grade. My parents were pretty good about helping me put together the project, but I remember writing up procedures for making red cabbage litmus tests and comparing gravity’s pull on objects and other stuff like that. Liam came in first place at least one year. I remember him doing something involving magnetism and dryer lint.

In any case, our school hosted the local science faire today. I use the term “local” because the grouping of schools was a little strange. It was a combination of public schools and Congregationalist schools; and of secondary schools and primary schools. There was speculation over whether the science faire would happen at all with the whole Swine Flu break. The Methodists canceled theirs. But ours went forward as planned.

My neighbor Maengi led the charge at our school. She asked me about a month ago if I had an old bike tire the students could use to make some sort of wind turbine. I said I’d check and see if anything was available at the Peace Corps office. There wasn’t, and they decided to find a new topic. So I had absolutely nothing to do with our school’s entries to the faire.Since our school hosted the faire, students and staff were invited to tour the event during interval, which I did.

I expected at least one volcano. We’re on an island in the South Pacific, sitting on the ring of fire. Hell, we had an earthquake on Monday night. And a Paper Mache volcano spewing vinegar and baking soda is such a default science project anyway. On one hand, I felt a little cheated when there turned out to be no volcano. On the other hand, I felt relieved for Samoa’s sake.

Despite the absence of the volcano, students found ways to be culturally pertinent. One group did a study on using elements from the natural world to make fabric dye, which is something that’s been done in Samoa for hundreds of years. Another group presented a study on the different strata of air in the rainforest. Admittedly, that one lacked the crowd-pleasing “Wow!” factor. Oh well.

And, as usual, the exhibits that pleased the crowd were the least scientifically interesting. The one that hooked me was the following:
  1. Fill a soda can with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Place a Styrofoam cup over the top of the can so that it hangs over the sides of the can.
  3. Stick a lighted match under the cup.

The Styrofoam cup shoots into the air. Whoa! It didn’t really push the boundaries of science, but I could have watched the kid do it over and over.

The awards event was held this afternoon, and it seemed live every school walked away with something. And I felt the need to comfort the runners up. You know, the science faire bridesmaids.

I hope you’re dealing with issues of science. Pictures below.

Beakers and hydrochloric acid. Good times.

Beakers of plant-based dye.

This had something to do with electricity.

I think JICA had something to do with the organization of the event. In any case, they had a small-but-present contingent.

Model of a tsunami alert system (not to scale)(haha).

This was the complementary diagram.

The lady on the right is a judge.

The award ceremony.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Vaguely Remember the Internet

I vaguely remember the Internet. By the time I left The States, I had already begun to wean myself. I was laid off for 5 months before I left, and though the Internet is fun and limitless, a person uses it a lot less often when s/he isn’t forced to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours every day. That said, being completely disconnected after we arrived here was a culture shock. But now, it’s not too big a deal. And some parts are literally unimaginable.

I post to my blog nearly every day, but besides that and Skype. Occasionally I look up random questions on Wikipedia (e.g. Who hosted “The Late Late Show” after Craig Kilborn?). But other than that, I barely use the Internet any more. The dial-up is too slow and too costly to use for more than a little bit at a time—also, after years of using broadband, a dial-up connection can be irksome.

The only real Internet I ingest is my weekly trip to the Internet Café to download podcasts. While things are downloading, I’ll look around Facebook and check on my fantasy baseball team. Both of those require a lot more bandwidth. But after that, I start scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for things to do.

So much of the Internet is based on repetition or following something that’s ongoing; following a news story, following a blog, following . All these things are based on a constant or recurring presence with that part of the Internet. I used to enjoy reading the San Francisco Chronicle online and I would often skim HuffingtonPost, but it’s difficult to look at a news site once a week and pick out the big stories from the minor stuff. The 24-hour news cycle makes a snapshot glimpse pointless.

And Twitter. What the hell is Twitter? When volunteers come together, we often speculate on what exactly Twitter looks like or how it works or how a person uses it. I got a Twitter account early on before it took off, and it was a terrible user experience back then. So I assumed it’s improved greatly, but I still have a difficult time imagining it. The consensus hypothesis is the interface probably resembles the Facebook Newsfeed.

In any case, there inevitably comes a point at the Internet Café when I start looking for things to do. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to surf. Today I went to Metacritic to see what’s going on there. I had never heard of any of the top ranked music, and maybe one or two of the top reviewed movies. So I shrugged, and checked how much time I had left.

I nearly resorted to watching the percentages grow. I’ve mentioned before that RPCV Dylan used to keep lists of things to do on the Internet, which doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Liam and Chris and others send me links to YouTube, so that could be something to do. Or maybe I’ll just keep to Wikipedia and dreams of Twitter.

I hope you’re connecting. Pictures will be posted later this evening.

Lise with the peace/victory/USC sign, Amanda holding the mouse, Solinuu being an adolescent male.

Solinuu solo.

Painting the lines on the street to prepare for the street switch.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Weekend in Exile

I had big plans for Sunday. I had papers to grade, but I also had a whole lot of nothing to do. And between heading out to the village and celebrating Blakey’s birthday this weekend and doing the 64-mile relay and celebrating Cale’s birthday next weekend, I don’t have much in the way of low-key going on, and the plan for yesterday was to sit around in my boxers and read my book.

It didn’t happen.

At Blakey’s birthday party Saturday evening, someone was opening a bottle of Coke, and I rustled around in my pocket to find my keychain. And it wasn’t there. A bunch of people were staying at Blakey’s, and since in light of the fact I had no house key, it seemed pointless to go home. So I stayed too.

I’m usually pretty good about checking my pocket for my keys before I leave my house, and I tend to realize I’ve locked myself out within moments of the door closing. But Saturday I had no idea. This seemed suspect.

Spending Sunday at Blakey’s was lots of fun, but it wasn’t the same as sitting in the comfort of my own space. I managed to watch 14 episodes of “30 Rock”, and I also helped Blakey and one of her students, Francis, make oka.

Oka consists of diced tuna steak in coconut milk mixed with cucumber, tomato, pepper, and onion. Blakey cut up the fish. Francis provided the coconut cream. I chopped vegetables. I chopped 2 green peppers and one red pepper. Without washing the cutting board, I started in on the cucumber. It wasn’t until the end of the cucumber that my fingertips started to burn.

And holy hell, did they burn. My guess is the cucumber soaked up the red pepper—the red peppers from the market are notorious for their potency—and the salty cucumber juice allowed my fingers to osmote the fiery solution. It throbbed. It looked like second-degree burns. It felt like I was holding my fingers up to a pot that was cooking on the stove.

As the day wore on, it passed. I left Blakey’s around 5:30 p.m. as the sun was starting to get lower in the sky. I figured if I stayed at the Peace Corps hostel, I’d be close to school and close to the locksmith.

While the computers at the hostel are new and flossy, they are ridiculously protected and monitored. This is all to say that I couldn’t watch any of the fun stuff on the community hard drive, and instead had to opt for whatever DVD I could find. This turned out to be “The Queen” starring Helen Mirren, which I saw back when it first came out, and turned out to be just as good the second time. I recommend it.

I prefaced the movie with a dinner of ramen, hastily prepared in the hostel’s microwave. My stomach was none too happy about this. In fact, my stomach spent the rest of the evening, and much of the morning reeling and trying to expel nastiness whatever way it could.

I showed up to school feeling haggard, and not looking much better. My fingertips were finally starting to heal, but my stomach was still in knots. My shirt, the same one I’d been wearing since Saturday, had a small teriyaki stain just below the collar. PCV Benj lent me an ’ie faitaga. But I showed up! And I taught all my classes. And I finally got a hold of the locksmith. I told him where I lived and he said, “Oh! Are you the Peace Corps? I’ve opened your door before.”


He showed up at interval and opened my door with the quickness. I had less cash than he wanted, but I offered him a pumpkin to make up the difference, and he happily accepted.

I changed my shirt, washed my feet, and grabbed my stupid keys, rushing back out the door to make it to the teachers’ lounge for muffins and tea. Any ordeal that ends in muffins and tea couldn’t have been all that bad.

I hope your weekend was spontaneous. Pictures below.

Koa and Dan at Blakey's party.

K8 and Erin at Blakey's party.


I thought this was a cockroach, but it turns out the Peace Corps office has a crab infestation. Weird.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Funeral Crasher

Ever since Paul and I waited for a bus that never came and the whole rolling out of the red carpet for my parents, I’ve decided to wait to notify my family I am coming to visit until I am sitting on a bus waiting to roll out. This practice is still under consideration for the long term use, and it’s so far seen mixed results. Case in point was yesterday when the bus dropped me off at my family’s house yesterday afternoon, and no one was home.


The outhouse was unlocked (thank goodness), and it didn’t take too long to find them. It turns out they were down the street at Phil’s family’s house. I got a hold of Asolima, and she told me to walk on over. So I did, but they met me in the van before I could reach Phil’s house. The door opened and a clown car of formally dressed Samoan faces greeted me. I was wearing a Tommy Sport t-shirt and my grungiest pair of khaki shorts.


It took me about 20 minutes to ascertain where we were going—a funeral—and by the time I figured this out, we were there. My nasty appearance wasn’t an issue because it turned out we weren’t going to the church portion of the funeral; we were only there for the fa’alavelave portion.

Fa’alavelave is a debt one is obligated to pay when something happens in a friend or family member’s life that interferes with normal activity; e.g. wedding, funeral, canoe lost at sea, etc. From what I could see, the ritual was pretty much what you’d expect. We can explore my ambivalence to the overarching idea of the concept in another post.

In any case, I could only see what was going on from far away because I spent the entire time hanging out in the van with the baby. Asolima was there most of the time too. She spent quite a bit of time playing Nature Park on my phone and I played Tetris on hers, which was awesome.

What was not awesome was when we were chatting later in the night and I had three mosquitoes land on the back of my neck at the same time. I brushed them away. Then three more landed on the back of my elbow. I freaked out a little, and then I realized they weren’t mosquitoes. Asolima said, “Oh it’s a—what’s the word?”



So I stood outside the van for the rest of our wait. There wasn’t too much left, and after a while, family started pouring out carrying obligatory fa’alavelave white styrofoam boxes. They piled back in the van, and I sat on the console facing backwards on the way home because we ran out of seatbelts.

We went to Jordan’s family’s house to divvy up the takeout meals, and then headed home.

There was talk of checking out the Catholic siva, but it was getting late.

I hope you’re showing up unannounced from time to time... just to keep them on their toes. Pictures below.

The funeral reception tent.

I was poorly dressed, but not nearly as much as this guy. Dodgers. What a jerk.

This picture is cute.

This spider was in the outhouse last night. I held it.