Saturday, July 31, 2010


Note: Google cannot corroborate the term "kiki". But that seems to be what everyone in Samoa wants to call it. I think this is essentially what Blakey was going for. Take the term kiki with a grain of salt.

My roommates during and post- college were never into themed parties, and it seems like the people who throw them never invite me. I’ve never been to an ugly Christmas sweater party. Or a Pimps and Hoes party. I attended an 80s party once, which was a good venue to show off my Nintendo track jacket. But other than that, nada. But I understand the concept though, so I was down this morning to help Blakey find a kiki for her Tahitian dancer costume.

The Yacht Club of Apia had a benefit fundraiser last night. The party’s theme was originally “Vicars and Tarts”, but when this was decided to be too British, the theme was changed to Vs and Ts; that is, you had to come dressed as something that starts with a V or a T. Thus Blakey’s Tahitian Dancer. (Note: I never planned on attending the party, and I didn’t. No costume for me. (In case you were curious.))

When Blakey asked me this morning where I thought she could find a Tahitian leaf belt, I had no idea what she was talking about. I’ve seen many Polynesian dancers in my time, but it’s usually the motion of the hips that hypnotizes me rather than their adornment. I shrugged. Blakey thought the open market at Fugalei would be the best place to look.

We went booth-to-booth through the souvenir vendors, each of them offering up grass skirts, none of which Blakey had in mind. Blakey had a conversation with each one, asking specifically about a Tahitian hip garland. It was the kind of deal where you ask 10 Samoans and you get 15 different opinions. In the end, we divined 2 important details: the garland was called a kiki, and it’s usually made from leaves of the lautalotalo, which my Samoan dictionary claims is an ornamental shrub called a Mauritius Hemp.

It became clear very quickly that the thing Blakey was looking for was a consumable item, something like a Hawaiian lei that’s only meant to be worn once and then tossed before it rots. But we were shopping at souvenir booths where they sell things meant to at least last the trip home (often not much longer).

So Blakey decided to make her own. But where to find this lautalotalo? At the market, we ran into an Aggie Grey’s employee and asked him where we could find the shrub. “Aggie Grey’s!” he said.

Not wanting to poach plants from an upscale hotel, we sauntered on keeping our eyes peeled walking through town. There was an ornamental shrub outside the barbershop where I get my haircut. We had a brief debate about how to proceed. We didn’t want to take leaves without asking. So Blakey went inside to ask the owner.

I waited outside, quietly amused by the whole thing. She emerged rolling her eyes. “He says it’s not the right plant.” Hahaha.

Eventually we found a tree in a lonely corner of a parking lot with passable leaves. It was certainly not lautalotalo, but it got the job done.

We walked to the Peace Corps office, where Blakey strung her own makeshift kiki and I played cards with some other volunteers.

Qualified success.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Friday at my school, the year 13s had their internal assessment for Samoan. Among other things, this involved making a couple traditional umus to roast pork, poultry, and other traditional Samoan cuisine. I had to teach during most of the festivities, so I gave my camera to my year 13 Amanda, who took 244 photos! Yeow! I didn't realize this until my camera ran out of memory during yesterday's wedding. Bad timing. Oh well. This picture and the ones below are from Friday's IA.

Giggly girls with the 13.1 form teacher in the middle of the line-up.

James with an axe.

Tafale and Ruta, both computer studies students, grill fish.

Lise peels ta'amū, a large starchy root, like big taro.

Girls pose for the camera.

Lanuola holding pig entrails.

Amanda, Tafale, and Ruta.

Friday, July 30, 2010


My theory: cell phones. From what I hear, marrying a Samoan used to be all the rage among Peace Corps Volunteers. You’d be sent to your isolated village, see most other volunteers rarely, and inevitably fall in love with one of the natives. In my head I picture Tom Hanks and John Candy in “Volunteers”, but I believe this trend was still going pretty strong even 10 years ago. But with the rise of Digicel, volunteers can keep in close contact with each other and even people back in The States with relative ease. And just like that, marrying a host country national seems to have gone out of style. Thus my excitement about today’s wedding.

I invite suggestions for the Cultural Exploration series, and the most frequent response is people want to hear about weddings. The only reason I haven’t covered weddings is because I have yet to attend one. Unfortunately, Friday’s wedding wasn’t all that “traditional”. The ceremony went down in judge’s chambers without the hoopla and fanfare I’d assume would usually go into a Samoan wedding. That said, it wasn’t all just signing of names and shuffling of papers.

Attendance was small, but so was the office. The entire list of attendees goes like this: Presider, Bride, Groom, Bride’s Sister, Blakey, Me. The married couple is on a pretty tight budget—getting the bride’s American visa requires flying to Auckland for an interview at the American consulate there, and flying to Auckland requires getting a Kiwi visa at the New Zealand High Commission here. Fees abound.

But On a Budget doesn’t mean Un-Sentimental. The bride and her sister cried during the exchange of vows, the groom panicked as he patted down his pockets when it was time for the ring, the couple shyly shared the briefest of pecks at the end of the ceremony. It was cute.

Blakey and I, neither tolerating the down-played nature of the occasion, pulled out as many stops as we could. Both of us sat in the back of the judge’s office snapping photos, a veritable storm of flash photography.

The quiet ceremony was followed by a cozy celebration at a swanky Apian eatery. I was quick to introduce the American tradition of clinking my glass with my knife to force the couple to kiss. The couple balked initially at the practice, but by the end of the meal they got into the spirit.

Blakey and the bride’s sister were signed witnesses on the marriage license, so my presence in Judge’s chambers was auxiliary at best. It wasn’t until the reception when my attendance became crucial.

After drinks were served, the groom turned to me and said, “You’re the Best Man, Matt. I guess you better make a speech.”


I’ve never attended a Toastmaster’s meeting, and after an embarrassing incident in high school, I try as hard as I can to avoid expository public speaking. Trucking through my mid-20s, though, I’ve attended a fair amount of weddings in the years leading up to joining the Peace Corps, and I heard some pretty good speeches. I don’t remember anything specific, but they’re all fresh enough in my memory I had a good ballpark to aim for.

So I let it flow. And if I do say so myself, it was pretty damn good.

Warm, heartfelt, funny. In fact, I think those words capture the whole day. It wasn’t a Samoan wedding, nor was it very American. It was a Peace Corps wedding. It’s too bad there aren’t more these days.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Blakey and me in the back of the judge's office.

The bride's sister and Blakey.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Odds and Ends Thursday 62

I realized today teaching-wise most school days only last the first 3 periods for me. It seems like more often than not lately I’ve been tasked with some sort of odd job that precludes me from teaching the second half of the school day—almost always not by choice. Friday the school secretary needed my help re-constructing an Excel spreadsheet in order to register the year 12s for the School Certificate exams, yesterday was that strange cross-town odyssey, the day before was spent taking class photos of 6 form classes. I’m happy for the change in routine, but I’m a little worried about falling behind in the curriculum. Here are some other odds and ends from the week:
  • Chris 81 took the silhouette photo above with my camera during tonight's soccer game. Thanks, Chris.
  • I don’t wear shin guards during our soccer matches. This has taught me a valuable lesson in why soccer players usually wear shin guards.
  • As much as I’ve been down on soccer, it’s really fun. I’m glad we joined the league, and I hope I can find a winter league when I get back to The States.
  • Yesterday at Interval one of the year 13 maths teachers gave me this problem:
      Express the following in sigma notation: 2.3 + 2.9 + 2.27 + ... + 2.729.
    My solution, which took me about a minute to come up with, is at the bottom of this post. As it turned out, the text book’s solution was much simpler because the dots in the problem above aren’t supposed to be decimals, they’re supposed to be multiplication dots (i.e. 2•3 + 2•9 + 2•27 + ... + 2•729).
  • Jen, Tommy, and I ate at Paddles Restaurant on Monday night. I’d never been there before. It was delicious.
  • You should check out The Moth Podcast. I particularly enjoyed this week’s show with Juliet Wayne and Brad Lawrence. As soon as it was over I replayed the whole thing. That never happens.
  • I admit I lied to Andy the Austrian at Seki ā Pizza and told him I was an American tourist working at CNET heading toward Sydney after my brief stint in Samoa. But after a while explaining my Peace Corps status becomes tedious. You know?
  • Despite a cursory-plus knowledge of Samoan, I teach almost exclusively in English... to an extent I’m not sure I realize. In casual conversation with year 13 Amanda (who makes the blog somewhat regularly) I used the term toeitiiti, almost/soon, and the phrase ou te lē iloa, I don’t know. She and the other year 13s in the room were taken aback. “It’s good that you’re picking up some Samoan, Mister.” I swear I use both of those about 100 times a week.
  • I didn’t realize there are two “little boats”. When I posted about the little boat recently, I took the Samoa Express, which has absolutely no passenger seating. This past weekend, Jen, Tommy, and I took the Lady Samoa I, which has a few-but-essential benches for passenger seating. We were able to sit in the shade in both directions. Seki ā matou.
  • Waves were choppy on the ferry back to Upolu. A kid in the row behind me threw up. I was enthralled in my book, and I wouldn’t have noticed had the spew not splashed on my leg. Later in the boat ride a girl in my own row threw up. Once again, splash. Gross.
That’s all I got for this week. I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Pictures Year 13 Amanda took with my camera last Friday. This is the year 13 geography class.

Maria from my computer class posing by the pool at Le Vasa Resort on the south side of Upolu.

Girls giving some tourists a thrill.


Posing with a surfer dude.

Answer to the sigma notation problem above.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Word from Our Sponsors

Even the lamest of field trips is far more thrilling than the banality of school. As with everything else in life, the destination isn’t nearly as important as the journey itself. And here’s something that is equally jarring in Samoa as it was in San Francisco: cities are busy in the middle of the work day. I spend my day cooped up in my computer lab—shouldn’t everybody else be doing something similar? Don’t these people have jobs? How is there no parking at the downtown shopping centre? These are just a few of the many bizarre parts of today’s 2-man field trip around Apia.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been taking class photos for the school magazine, and during Interval this morning my pule asks to see everything I’d taken so far. So I trot out my laptop and show him my trove of tiny faces huddled in front of the flagpole. “These are nice,” he says. “We also need to take pictures for our sponsors.”

I’ve been on plenty of soccer teams and I played Little League. I know it’s customary to get some local sponsor to provide money for uniforms or trophies or whatever, and in return the sponsor gets a team photo to display prominently in his/her business. Yeah, cool.

Not what my pule had in mind.

“Do you have time to take the sponsor photos right now?” he asks me. The athletics students were working out, and I assumed we were going to round them up and take a photo for the TradePac Corporation, which donated uniforms.

“Sure,” I say.

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll get the car keys.”

We drive to TradePac’s corporate offices near Apia Park, and my pule tells the girl out front we want to meet with the CEO. As it turns out, the CEO is out on an errand, but he returns within 5 minutes, and my pule and I sit at his desk.

There’s some chewing of the fat, and then my pule says, “We need to get a picture of you for our school magazine. We want to get a picture of our sponsors.”

The CEO is clearly caught off-guard—as am I. This leads to an awkward exchange in which I take a picture I don’t really want to take of a person who doesn’t really want his picture to be taken. My pule smiles ear-to-ear.

From TradePac, we head over to Aggie Grey’s, who donated money for prizegiving last year (I think). Thankfully, the lady there offers to email me a photo, and we skip the photo shoot. I realize the photo she’ll send is probably one of the hotel rather than the staff, but I’m perfectly fine with that.

As we continue our trek across town, I realize we are un-salesmen, going door to door in corporate offices thanking executives and cajoling them into taking uncomfortable photos.

At Eveni Carruthers, we have actual business to conduct, picking up uniforms for next week’s athletics meet. She starts asking me questions about logistics and fiscal matters, which I defer to my pule, as if to say, “Look, Lady. I’m only here to take the awkward photograph.”

Our last stop is Samoa Stationery. The CEO is polite, and even plays along when my pule cracks a joke about me having 20 Samoa girlfriends. In the back of my mind I hear myself asking, can we please go back to school now?

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

My pule insisted on getting a picture of these girls at TradePac because they're alumni.

I made this chalk tower in my year 10 English class last week. Doing this with chalk is much more difficult than doing the same thing with crayons.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ungentlemanly Conduct

The most stunning sports injustice I've ever faced was during a water polo game fall of my senior year of high school. Water polo can be absurdly brutal because the pool’s surface provides a translucent-at-best scrim underneath which the referee cannot see—and thus can’t call fouls. In this particular game against Newark Memorial, the hole set had a much larger wingspan than I, and at one point he grabbed my wrist and pulled it far enough below the surface that I couldn’t breathe. He probably only did this for 5-7 terrifying seconds, but it was enough to induce deeply primal fear in me. I wriggled out of this literal death grip and climbed this kid like a ladder. From there, I proceeded to curl my body around his head, trying in vain to drown the guy. It was with only slightly less of a sense of injustice I approached tonight’s social soccer match.

PCV Erica works for the Samoan Soccer Association, and she has served as team captain for the Peace Corps’ team over the past seven weeks. Our games have always been on Friday nights, and for the great majority of the time, the games have been lively and competitive but still fun. We’ve played such local teams as Punjas, Lesa’s Telephone Services, and UN/SPREP, and we’ve had a great time.

Until our final game.

We played Friday evening. The first half of the game was uneventful, save for the goal we scored. The ball had sailed toward the sideline on a kick from our backfield, and I passed the ball in from the sideline just before it went out. The other team, who shall remain nameless, thought it should have been called out—our team took advantage of the confusion and scored.

The second half grew much more heated as the game became more rough and confrontation escalated. At the peak of this conflict, a player from our team was negligently kicked in the head/neck and was knocked out cold. We loaded this player on an ambulance, and the game pretty much ended then and there.

Three days later (errr... yesterday), the other team protested. They claimed we had abandoned the game. Nevermind that one of our players was taken away in an ambulance and another rode along to the emergency room; apparently the rest of us should have finished the game. The other team somehow also successfully argued that we should have to forfeit the goal we’d scored in the first half, and that the entire game should be replayed. The re-match was scheduled for tonight.

This was particularly detrimental for our team for several reasons, including:
  • Our players are dispersed throughout the country, and it’s difficult for volunteers to assemble on a Tuesday night;
  • Casey 80, one of our power forwards, finished his Peace Corps service and flew back to America yesterday; and
  • One of our players couldn’t play tonight on account of the concussion he’d sustained in Friday’s game.

So we showed up tonight with six players and no subs. The other team showed up with enough players to field an American football team—it was as though they had squads to rotate in and out.

We managed to score a goal—a header off a corner kick—but of course the other side dominated, and we lost 6-1.

Our 1-0 game stolen from us, we sauntered off the field, completely disenchanted with The Powers That Be.


I hope you’re well. Tommy’s pictures from Friday’s match below.

Joey 81, an inimitable force on the Peace Corps Samoa soccer team, and Casey 80, who sadly made his exit last night.

Erica 80, our all-star goalkeeper. No really. Opposing teams are unanimous in their awe. She's amazing.

Joey 81, Jordan 81, and Ben 80 forming a wall in front of the free kick. This ball deflected off Ben's unguarded shin. Me on the far left.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Guest Contributor: Jen and Tommy (Part 2)

Hi. I’m Jen. Still. Tommy and I have a list of things we really loved about being in Samoa. While this list isn’t complete, it gives you an idea of some of the fun things we’ve encountered in our short time here. Some other things that don't show up below but are still awesome are fish and chips, sunsets, friendly Samoans, the clean air, Scout the cat, the noises that lizards make, mosquito nets, and highway landscaping.

The list of Samoan Awesomeness:
  1. Drinking from coconuts. Niu, as the drinkable coconuts are called, are delicious. I do NOT like dried/shredded coconut at home, so I was skeptical of this practice. Thankfully I gave it a chance. It’s light, refreshing, and a little bubbly. Also, Scout the cat seems really excited about getting into a coconut, which is both cute and entertaining.
  2. Walking. I really like that most places in Apia are within walking distance. I would prefer the walking be done with a breeze and in the shade, but I like it nonetheless. You get a better opportunity to take in the environment from your feet than from a car window.
  3. The buses. This was one of the biggest surprises for me. As a faithful blog reader, I had a pretty good idea about a lot of things to expect here in Samoa. The buses, however, were a hilarious surprise. They have the most random murals and funny sayings on them. We didn’t get a picture of this one, but it says “Jungle Boys” across the side with a picture of Mickey Mouse holding a Digicel phone (a local cell phone company). On the back there’s a mural of Scar and Simba with the words “No More Hate”. It doesn’t get more awesome than that, but I’m going to keep going.
  4. Tanu Beach. Savai’i is beautiful and we were lucky enough to experience it at the Tanu Beach Fales. There’s something to be said for falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing and taking a walk along the beach minutes after waking up in the morning. Tanu Beach Fales is run by a family and they extend that family atmosphere to their guests. Breakfast and dinner are served on a long U-shaped table and the cultural show on Saturday night is put on by the entire family, from babies to grandpa. It’s relaxing, the ocean water is the perfect temperature, and the scenery is postcard-esque.
  5. Breakfast foods. Both at Apia Central, where we stayed in Apia, and at Tanu, breakfast was provided. It turns out I’m not papaya’s biggest fan. However, I am a fan of New Zealand butter on toast, miniature bananas, and mangoes fresh from the tree. Tommy insists I also write a sentence about the panikeke, which is much like a banana flavored cake-donut hole. Besides Seki ā Pizza, it was his favorite food experience here so far.
  6. Seki ā Pizza. A four-village walk from Tanu Beach Fales brings you to the best pizza I’ve had in a long time. The crust was thin and flakey and the sauce was perfectly seasoned. Not only was the pizza delicious, but the owner, Andy from Austria, gave us a lift back to Tanu. Matthew rode shotgun with the pizzas that needed delivering.
  7. Fire Dancers. As I mentioned above, there was a cultural show at Tanu on Saturday night. At first this reminded me of a Logan cultural assembly. They danced and sang after feeding us a traditional Samoan dinner (also delicious, by the way). It was nice to see the entire family participate, including the very young children and to experience traditional songs and dances. Being the Logan alumni that we are, we assumed there would be a fire component to the show. We were not disappointed. These boys have been practicing their craft since the age of 5 and it shows. The pictures don’t do any of them justice, of course, but we had to include one.
  8. Beach pigs and other animals. I knew from some of Matt’s Cultural Explorations there would be a fair number of animals roaming around. Maybe it’s the city mouse in me, but for some reason I find them fascinating. At Tanu they have a pet pig (which is probably more likely an eventual dinner than an actual pet), which one of the Kiwi’s started calling “Xena the Warrior Pig” because she was friendly to the women and bit the men. She had a number of incidents with some of the men while we were there. She also had free reign of the place and found herself on the beach a number of times. A pig on the beach? Fantastic.
Of course getting to spend time with Matthew and his Peace Corps friends was the main highlight of the trip (minus the brutality during Friday’s soccer match). After reading about them for so long it was nice to get to meet and hang out with everyone. We’re off to Australia now, where we’ll need long pants and raincoats. Thanks to Matthew for hosting us and thanks to you for reading.

I hope you’re well! Pictures below.

THis is just one of many different murals painted on the sides and backs of the buses.

Tanu Beach Fales. Yay!

Bananas at the bus stop

Matthew becomes a pizza delivery man

The fire dancer finale


A boat at the beach

Happy (early) Birthday, Carla!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Guest Contributor: Jen and Tommy (Part 1)

Hi. I’m Jen. Tommy and I came to Samoa to visit Matt for a few days before heading to Australia. Unfortunate- ly, our trip was cut a bit short when our original flight was canceled, but we did the best with the time we had and enjoyed ourselves. It was good to see Matt, of course, but it was also good to experience the things and meet the people I’ve been reading about for the last year and a half. Today I’m going to review the things that I found to be not awesome about Samoa. Don’t worry, tomorrow I have a much longer list of awesome and very awesome things to discuss.

There are some things that are not awesome about Samoa, and while I don’t want to be a downer, I want to give an accurate picture of my experiences:
  1. Mosquitoes and other bitey bugs. I think my non-tropical blood is especially tasty to these tropical bugs. I have a nice constellation of bites on my legs and ankles. I’m really lucky it’s too sunny for vampires here because clearly my blood is delicious.
  2. Soccer injuries. On Friday evening we went to the Faleata Sports Complex to watch a rousing soccer game between the Peace Corps and one of the local businesses in Apia. Shortly after halftime a dramatic turn of events took place and things got a little heated and raucous—let’s just say Samoan emergency response time could go on the awesome list.
  3. Standing on the bus. I think public transportation is an excellent way to travel, generally. At home when you have to stand on the bus or BART it can be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Standing on the bus here is entirely different. The roof is about an inch shorter than I am tall and today’s bus had nothing to grab during the bumpier moments. It’s also a lot hotter and stickier in close proximity to others.
  4. The Heat. Let’s face it. I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area. Anything above 75° is pushing my comfort level. Give me 90° and humidity and I feel like I’m cooking in my own juices. I realize that this is “winter” (extremely questionable terminology requires quotation marks) but it’s still very uncomfortable, especially in Apia.
  5. Roosters. I am not a bird lover. I feel the need to be up front about that before I go on to complain about them. Because of the jetlag, I’ve been getting up between 4:30 and 5:30 each morning. The roosters start up about 6:00, it seems. Since I’m already up, that’s neither here nor there. HOWEVER, once they start, they never stop. Right now it’s 4:15 p.m. and roosters are crowing. A normal person may have already tuned them out, but I want to slap a permanent snooze button on their foreheads.
  6. Diesel exhaust. There are a lot of diesel-powered vehicles in Apia. The exhaust they spew doesn’t smog up the beautiful sky, thankfully, but it does add to the heat (blerg) and make the city smell like...diesel.
Just so you don’t think I didn’t enjoy myself here, stay tuned for the list of Samoa awesomeness that includes some of the following: drinking from coconuts, the buses, fire dancers, Seki ā Pizza, Tanu Beach Fales, beach pigs and other animals, breakfast foods, sunsets, and walking.

I hope you’re well! Pictures below.

Here's an action shot of the soccer game pre-confrontation.

Here's the rooster's quieter girlfriend(s?).

It's hot.

Tommy would have liked the ocean to go on the not awesome page. He calls this disdainful respect.

Scout is so cute! She's a lot smaller than I thought she would be.

Decidedly not not awesome. Yeah, I said it. The best fish and chips I've ever had.

A picture of what's to come...beach fales

The view from the pier at Lusia's where the Peace Corps kids hang out. Awesome, right?

Friday, July 23, 2010

This Post Has No Pictures

Because my year 13 student Amanda borrowed my camera this morning and didn’t return it. As you’ll recall about 4 months ago I had a bit of soul-searching to do the last time Amanda, my highest achieving year 13 asked to borrow the camera. She wanted it to capture her mom’s graduation from college, and after much deliberation I decided far be it from me to put the kibosh on capturing a mother inspiring her daughters on film (megabyte?). And given this precedent, today was an easier sell for her.

She walked straight into the computer lab after this morning’s assembly, and wasted no time. “Mister, I need to borrow your camera.”

I was only caught slightly off-guard by her tone. Part of me raised an eyebrow and the word “need”, but most of me was the old pushover, and it didn’t take long before I agreed.

In fact, when she expressed reservations regarding storage capacity and the battery life, I suddenly became a salesman. “I just charged the battery, and you can take up to 466 photos!” I boasted.

So Amanda took the camera, and 5 hours later, when she promised to return it, she was nowhere to be found. I assume she will come knocking on my door tomorrow when I'll be on Savai'i with Jen and Tommy--where I'll be wishing I had a camera.

It's poor timing because this pictureless post is going to sit at the top of the blog until Monday because I'll have no Internet the next 2 days. Oh well.

I hope you're well. We'll talk Monday. Have a great weekend.

Odds and Ends Thursday 61

My friends Jen and Tommy flew in from New Zealand tonight. They were supposed to fly in from Los Angeles 36 hours earlier, but apparently some mechanical failure on the plane was a big enough issue Air New Zealand had to cancel the weekly direct flight from LA to Faleolo. In any case, I took the bus to the airport this afternoon, which got me there approximately 4 hours before their flight got in. This was by design, and I brought along a book and my iPod and a notepad to handwrite tonight’s post. Here are some other odds and ends from the week:
  • This week has been trying. Every so often it’s as though this country gangs up on me. The boat didn’t show on Saturday, my school skipped the Monday morning assembly, I lost my phone over the weekend and Digicel’s system happened to be down until Tuesday. The spare phone I bought when my parents visited last year has wandered off, and Lucky Foodtown keeps selling out of the cheapest cat food. It’s been death by pinpricks.
  • My iPod battery is amazing. I’ve had the thing for years, and I admit I’ve been a littlecareless with overcharging it and not using the entire battery before overcharging it again. Nonetheless it continues to be a beast. I’ve been listening to hour upon hour of podcasts lately, and the iPod continues to grin and bear it.
  • A couple months back I considered writing all my text messages in haiku. Thoughts?
  • I always like it when pop songs are written in 3/4 tempo. Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” is playing throughout the airport right now. It’s definitely in 3/4 time.
  • Also incidentally, Samoa loves Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be”. It never fails to make me feel like I’m attending a middle school dance in the mid-90s. “Play some ‘Tootsie Roll’! Play some House of Pain!”
  • Maengi asked if she could borrow a DVD on Tuesday night. I always get a little nervous when I lend movies to the Indian missionaries because I’m afraid the movie will have too much of an American nuance (e.g. The Royal Tenenbaums, Milk, The Sandlot) or it will be too violent (e.g. Lethal Weapon movies, Platoon) or too sexual in nature (e.g. Vicky Cristina Barcelona). I gave her “Big”. She liked it okay. Maybe I’ll give her “The English Patient” next time?
  • The latest album on the Samoan pop charts is a group that does Samoan covers of Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock’s “Picture”, Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”, and Little Anthony and the Imperials’ “Tears on my Pillow”. It’s an eclectic mix.
  • My assessment procedures were audited by the Samoan Ministry of Education last Friday. The auditing process took all of 2 minutes.
  • I’ve moved from feeding the cat 3 times a day to feeding her only twice a day. Though she’s clearly not happy about this change, I’ve found her to be far more affectionate. Try and explain that one.
  • In our taxi on the way to dinner tonight, the driver told me in Samoan, “Mormon missionaries speak the best Samoan; except for they don’t know any of the swear words.”
That’s all I got for this week. I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

I rarely write posts by hand.

Jen and Tommy. Psychedelic.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Mopped

“The ants make little piles so we have to sweep every day,” my neighbor Maengi told me during my first few days of living next door to her. For a while, that was the case. I remember moving into my house and being disgusted by the dirt on the floor, the ring around the sink, the gecko droppings lining the window sills. Did they use my house to keep pigs before I came in?

The answer, of course, is no. The inevitable truth of living in a climate where bugs thrive and the heat is so much the windows have to be opened 24 hours a day, dirt gets in. The humidity penetrates damn near everything, things rot and decompose so fast you can smell them only briefly, the ants are such a force they should have their own seat in parliament.

I’ve never been a stickler for cleanliness, although I’m no Pigpen. Friends back home might take issue with me saying this, but I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll enter into a game of chicken to see who will take out the trash. I’ll live in relative filth for days. But I’ll also be the one to cry uncle. My dirt tolerance is high, but not through the roof.

I bring all this up because I mopped tonight. I have friends flying in tomorrow, and I don’t want anyone thinking I live in squalor. I figure I’ll roll out the red carpet, clean up after the cat, sweep the cobwebs out of the corners.

But every time I clean like this, it only reminds me why I do it so rarely: it feels so pointless.

Dirt is an abominable force in my house. By the time I finish sweeping my small house, it’s time to start sweeping again. I mopped with bleach, and then I mopped with floor soap, and there are still copious stains dotting my linoleum. Clean surfaces seem like vacuums for dust; the dust fairies follow me around the house spreading a new layer the moment I finish an area.

It’s totally warped my memory of America. Our apartment in San Francisco was rarely if ever “clean”—one might have used the phrase “straightened up” from time to time, but never “clean”. In fact, as I recall we’d have girls over and they sit on the couch quietly appalled.

Yet in my house here, my recollection is our apartment was virtually immaculate. How did we keep the piles of dirt outside? Did we have a maid? It was so clean!

And I worry a little about adjusting to life in The States. What will the cat do when she’s introduced to an environment where there aren’t a handful of ants and dead millipedes in every corner?

Hey, look at the time. I gotta go sweep again.

I hope you’re well. Pictures from snorkeling at Phil’s house below.





And more coral.