The first day is lousy. The only flight from Los Angeles to Samoa gets you in at 5:30 a.m. local time. You’re jet-lagged and bleary-eyed and confused and Peace Corps Samoa is really excited to see you. It’s overwhelming, and more than anything, you want a nap. But no time for napping. Before sleep comes, the day is filled with introductory sessions and informal tours and information overload. After a while, it all sounds like Greek. But it’s not Greek. It’s Samoan.
The Samoan might just be the most torturous part. Before you have time to unpack your toothbrush, you find yourself sitting in front of a large group of strangers for the ’Ava ceremony.
Your first ’Ava ceremony is intense in many different ways. First, the tone of the Orator Chief tends to be gruff and urgent. To the untrained ear, it can sound alarming, and you definitely feel put in your place. Second, the Peace Corps stresses the importance of abiding by cultural customs, which at the ’Ava ceremony translates to sitting cross-legged for the duration of the meeting. When was the last time you sat with your legs bent for an hour? When was the last time you sat on an airplane for 9 hours, soaking in the DVT, only to cut off circulation to your poor feet for another couple hours?
Last, you get a solo. In Samoan. The Peace Corps sends you your line in advance: Lau ‘ava lea le atua. Soifua, but pronunciation is unclear, and memorizing phonetic sounds with absolutely no context is baffling. And there’s the matais glaring at you and your fellow trainees who barely know you and the volunteers who know you even less and your legs are dying and all you want is a nap. And so you say ridiculous things that are not even close to Samoan and you feel like an idiot. And through your tired eyes, it sucks.
But through my well-rested, only-slightly-better comprehension of Samoan, respectful-of-but-not-nearly-as-intimidated by Orator chief perspective, it’s hilarious. Not in a mean-spirited schaudenfreude way, but more in a pitiful I-remember-being-in-your-shoes kind of way.
But today there was a tsunami evacuation, and at that point, it stopped being a benign form of hazing, and we all just felt sorry for the poor kids. But it certainly makes for a good story, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?
Meh. They’ll be fine.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
During lunch this afternoon, Apia was evacuated following the 2 earthquakes in Vanuatu. Group 82, who'd been in country all of 8 hours, were whisked up to the Country Director's house.
Rumors are flying right now. Someone told me a miniscule tsunami hit Savai'i. Someone else said there was no tsunami, but the sea level rose. Spencer 80, who lives pretty far out on Savai'i, is actually sitting next to me right now. So I can vouch for his safety.
When I asked what happened, he shrugged and said, "Ehhh... nothing happened."
So it's much ado about nothing, perhaps.
It's all a big campaign to keep 82 on their toes. Welcome, freshmen.
Koa and Sara strategizing photographs.
Rosie as Taupo.
Spencer handing out the 'ava.
Amanda, Casey, and TESL Trainer, Janine.
10 months ago