Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Echoes and Aftershocks

I’ve been time-traveling in my dreams. Reality and fantasy often converge during sleep, but lately I’ve been taking the next step, justifying the inexplicable by accepting time-travel as an acceptable narrative device. Watching “Lost” while living on an island, it hasn’t taken much for my subconscious to make these leaps. Several times over the last week, I’ve awoken with the rare (and in this case phony) intellectual satisfaction of being able to explain my own dreams: time travel. So it was especially creepy this morning when, on the anniversary of last year’s devastating earthquake, I was rudely awakened by another earthquake.

This morning I reported the quake “occurred exactly 1 year and 2 hours after The Big One,” but that’s only because I forgot to account for Daylight Savings. Technically it was only 1 year and 1 hour. The sun was in nearly the same place, the kids at school let out nearly the same scream, and I was in nearly the same position on my couch—with one crucial difference: I was laying the other way. Last year, my head lay at the eastern end of the couch. This morning my head was at the western end. If not for this immediately obvious detail, I might have actually believed The Island wanted me to join the Dharma Initiative.

But that wasn’t the case. This morning’s jolt, though slightly strong, lasted less than 10 seconds. I recall I yelled, “Get out!” in an Elaine Bennis sort of way, and then, upon checking the time on my cell phone, realized I was 5 minutes late for second period.

This experience encapsulates the national mood as I experienced it today. On one hand, I knew many people who expected today to be a national holiday, and after it was decided not to be, still searched for ways to commemorate the occasion. On the other hand, today was business as usual.

A few Peace Corps Volunteers had specially calibrated lesson plans because they assumed there would be no school today. Emails from the Rotaract community invited people to come commemorate the occasion with a moment of silence in front of the government building, while others encouraged people to wear black and white.

I hear there was some sort of ceremony in Lalomanu this morning, but mostly today functioned like any other Wednesday, which was both strange and a relief at the same time.

I attended the launch of (occasional blog commenter) Lani Wendt Young’s book, Pacific Tsunami – Galu Afi on Monday night, which gives a peoples’ history of last year’s earthquake and tsunami. There were speeches and musical tributes and opportunities for emotional release. It proved both cathartic and inspiring.

Looking back, the tsunami was literally and figuratively the centerpiece of my Peace Corps experience. Something changed that day at Samoa’s emotional core, and its effects seem to be everywhere: the cracks in the floor of my computer lab, the jumpiness of my students, the readership of the blog—hell, there’s good evidence Scout was abandoned by her mother as a result of the quake, and thus she came to stay with me.

But as easy as it is to see the change, it’s difficult to see life much differently. After all, this morning when I awoke, the sun was in nearly the same place, the kids at school let out nearly the same scream, and I was in nearly the same position on my couch. Sometimes when things change, they kind of stay the same. It’s almost like time travel.

I hope you’re well. More pictures from last year below.

Me standing next to Tui as Mira uses my phone to call her parents after the school was evacuated.

Crowds from multiple schools hike to higher elevation.

Cars and people evacuating under banners informing drivers of the switch from driving on the right to driving on the left. The switch happened 22 days before the earthquake.

Books in my living room that fell off my shelf during the quake.

Apia was evacuated again later that evening after sizable aftershocks. This family packed their bags to stay the night up the mountain.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Production Setback

Leah still wanted me to bring doughnuts at 7:57 this morning. Since we were scheduled to truck down to her village first thing this morning, she wanted us to bring two dozen doughnuts from Gregg’s Bakery in town to share with her staff, and I figured Peace Corps staff would be cool with making a pit stop before we left town. But then 19 minutes later before Peace Corps staff ever arrived, Leah called me. “I think we have a problem,” she said. Ho, boy, Leah. You don’t even know.

As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I’ve been charged with videotaping and editing a video on The Art of Co-Teaching for the Peace Corps office here. Theoretically this video would be shown to both incoming groups and to schools where a Peace Corps Volunteer will soon work. Kaelin 82 is spearheading this production; I’m just DP. We went out a couple weeks back during my school break to get footage of a bunch of the 82s leading songs and activities with their kids, and interviewing Principals and students alike.

I have a little experience with digitally editing video, but not too much, so I was a little nervous from the beginning. It hasn’t helped that I can’t get my laptop to acknowledge the camcorder. This morning I finally figured out how to turn on the camcorder’s “USB Flow”, but even then, my laptop crossed its arms and turned a cold shoulder. Vista can be a snooty jerk.

But even that wasn’t the half of it.

I rewound to our old footage from last time to see how much tape we had left for today and set the tape at the right spot. But in the viewfinder’s playback, the screen is barred with a bunch of thick grey lines. Also, the camera’s speaker, which was already had an obnoxious crackle, was mostly silent. This wasn’t how playback looked and sounded two weeks ago.

In my frustration over the USB issue, I downloaded the camcorder’s 300-page manual over hi-speed internet a week or two ago, so I went looking for these grey stripes in the troubleshooting section. The manual diagnoses a dirty video head, and prescribes using the cleaner cassette for a minute or two to clear up the problem. But the Peace Corps doesn’t have a cleaner cassette.

And if the camera can’t play the footage we already shot, I’m severely dubious of its ability to accurately shoot new footage. But none of that mattered this morning because the staff member with whom Leah was going to co-teach was out sick. And he was the back up. The original is out on maternity leave.

AND THEN this afternoon I went to the office to figure this out with the Peace Corps’s Technical Officer, and I was standing at his desk when the acting Training Manager came in to tell me that it’s irrelevant whether Leah’s co-teacher will be back in school tomorrow because no one from the Peace Corps staff is available to drive me down there anyway.

So between missing on-screen talent (and her understudy), a camera with which to shoot said talent, and the transportation to carry the nada-camera to the nada-talent, the project seems a little doomed. I think we have a problem.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Pelenatete giving a presentation on Thailand.

Fautamara giving a presentation on the Philippines.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Got Nothin'

Today was an unremark- able day. Also, for whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep last night. And between the banality of my day and the tiredness of my brain, I am at a loss for a good blog topic for the day.

I went to the Tsunami Pacific - Galu Afi book launch tonight, but I’d just assume wait until Wednesday to cover that.

I asked Suasami, the teacher I usually sit next to at Interval, where she thought I should get my watch’s battery replaced. She recommended a jewelry store in town called The Treasure Box. They got it done expediently for only $14. Although they told me my watch had a broken gasket (is this a watch or an engine?), so they charged an extra $20 to replace that. Fine.

I didn’t realize I’d forgotten my bike lock until I arrived at The Treasure Box, so I had to ride all the way home to get it, and then all the way back.

My personal statement is just about ready, but the LSAC people still haven’t received my last Letter of Recommendation, so law school applications are in a holding pattern.

I’ve been watching Lost Season 5 (Do not leave any comments about Lost, please), which is phenomenal, and reading Chuck Klosterman’s “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”, which is incredibly overrated.

My school was relatively unaffected by daylight savings this morning; maybe a few more late-comers than usual to this morning’s assembly, but beyond that, nothing. It sounds like in more rural places school attendance was more chaotic (as I predicted yesterday).

I was assigned 2 student teachers from the National University of Samoa during Interval today, but I had compelling reasons that I should be assigned neither, so they were assigned to other teachers. I admit I am excited to have dodged this bullet.

We started the “rocks” unit in my year 9 science class today. Much of today was spent doing call and response vocabulary. Igneous. IGNEOUS! Plutonic. PLUTONIC! Pummace. PUMMACE! etc. ETC!

Slow news day. None of these things is worth 500 words. Let’s hope for a more exciting tomorrow.

I hope you’re well. Picture below.

My year 12s are doing presentations from around the world. This is Esau talking about Brazil.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

No One Noticed Today Was Daylight Savings

All over Samoa, people woke up this morning before dawn whether from roosters crowing or their bodies’ internal clocks waking them. Most Samoans moved through their Sunday morning routine: the younger children collected rubbish from around the yard, the older kids made the saka (the fire for boiling breakfast), the women ironed the families’ church clothes while the men prepared the umu for to’ona’i, the big after-church Sunday brunch.

Sometime after the sun rose, someone rang the bells to inform the village church was about to start. The people hurriedly put on their Sunday whites, slicked back their hair, dawned their hats, grabbed their bibles and fans, and set off for church. Choirs sang, faife’aus prayed and gave sermons, the list of names and monetary contributions was read. Afterwards people stood around to chat for a while, but not for too long since to’ona’i was waiting at home.

Was it ever. There was pork, chicken, and taro that had been cooked in the umu; fresh oka; bananas topped with coconut cream; fried fish from last night’s catch; papaya and mangoes; and kokolaisa. After finishing their niu, the women washed the dishes while the men fed the table scraps to the dogs.

After such meals, most people experienced a post-prannial energy shunt, changed out of their Sunday whites into a more airy t-shirt and ’ie outfit and went to lay in the faleo’o and nap. Even the animals seem to get into the spirit of aso mālōlō, the day of rest. The cats and dogs napped along with their masters.

Sometime late in the afternoon in most villages in Samoa, someone rang the church bells once more to let people across the village know it was time to come back for afternoon services. As usual in most places, afternoon services were more lax and low-key. Many faife’aus made a few jokes. The choir sang some more, and then church was over.

Late Sunday afternoons are a relaxed affair, and as the sun starts to droop in the west and the temperature eases into the mid-twenties (Celsius), it’s a nice time for a quiet stroll around the village. Many people are out and about moving slowly, enjoying the breeze.

Once the sun set, most families in Samoa sang and prayed together, and then pass the evening quietly. Some watched whatever movie was showing on TV1. Some of the older boys in many villages brought out their guitars and sat with friends on the graves of their ancestors strumming nothing in particular. Most students prepared their uniforms for tomorrow, and some may have actually finished their homework.

And then, after most babies got groggy and the kids passed out, the adults felt sleep overcome them as well, and the lights were turned out.

People were supposed to move their clocks forward an hour at midnight this morning. But really, how would that have changed anything about today for most of Samoa? And how many students and teachers show up an hour late to school tomorrow? I guess we’ll see.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Blakey with UN workers Ane and Avril.

We played baseball Thursday night at the end of my computer class. That's Lise with the "bat" and Luuao playing catcher.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Ain't My First Rodeo

“I was sitting at the bus stop, waiting with 5 or 6 other people, and I was clipping my fingernails. That was when I knew I’d finally become a bus rider,” my friend Liam told me once. After we’d lived in San Francisco and ridden the public transportation system Muni daily for a substantial amount of time, a couple of us hopped on BART, and we were amazed by its posh decor. By Muni standards, BART was built for a king, what with its cushions, carpeting, and capaciousness. “These people are spoiled,” said Liam.

Cut to yesterday’s bus ride to the south side of the island. I got on the rickety wooden-roofed bus at 3:40 p.m. With an nebulous departure time, I took out my book and read to pass the time. Usually by Friday afternoon I’ve worked up a lot of sleep debt, and after 5 or 10 pages, I hit a wall. Since buses here tend to be packed to the gills with people, and since the hard wooden benches have seatbacks that are only about 8 inches high, sleeping on the bus in Samoa can be difficult. I chose to fold myself at the waist and fell asleep resting with my head on my own lap. This takes practice; I don’t think I could have done this when I first arrived in Samoa.

I’m guessing I slept in this position for roughly 25 minutes. I woke up when some kid tumbled past me. Not too long after I awoke, the bus driver started the bus’s engine, and a slew of stragglers got on.

Once the seats are filled on the bus, the common practice is to si’i, people sit on other people’s lap. So as a bunch of guys boarded, the girl across from me asked if I would be willing to have someone sit on my lap. I nodded and told her that was fine.

She handed the child sitting on her lap to the woman next to her, and then got up and sat on my lap. I should note this is slightly unusual. For the most part, unless a male and female know each other—usually family members of some sort—women sit on other women and men sit on other men. So there was a little bit of social rule-breaking here.

In any case, she sat down on my lap and then turned to me. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Lē afaina.” No problem.

Very slowly she swiveled her head to look at me. “Have you spoken Samoan the whole time?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“How long have you lived here?” she asked.

“Almost two years.”

“Two years?!”

Yeah, lady. I just folded myself like a map and took a 20 minute nap in the middle of a crowded bus. That’s an advanced skill. It’s not nail clipping, but it’s proof that I’m a bus rider.

I hope you’re well. Pictures from the village below.

Me and the baby. New Facebook photo?

Akanese (in the middle) and friends.

It's hard to tell from this picture, but Akanese is playing jacks with these small rocks.

Keleme again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Scout's Birthday

I acquired Scout on 7 October last year, and she was between 10 and 14 days old at the time, so I’m going to arbitrarily choose today as Scout’s birthday. I invited Jordan and Blakey over this afternoon to celebrate. As you can see, I was the only one who got into the spirit. I made a special iTunes playlist with Cat Power, Cat Stevens and Cat Empire, and Scout peed on Blakey’s foot. Jordan felt ridiculous from the get-go. Scout ate her food stingily, jumped off the table, and spent the rest of her party shredding paper towels.  It was all to be expected.

Sorry for the short post today, but enjoy the photos. I hope you're well.

Hanging out on the power brick.

Laying in the lap.

First trip to the vet.

Imprisoned with Jenga blocks.

Grooming on Phil's back.

Solving puzzles of skill.

On the kitchen floor with favorite toy: toilet paper roll.

Today in front of the screen door.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Odds and Ends Thursday 69

My year 12s are putting together PowerPoint present- ations, and my year 13s have been working on their desktop publishing assignment, so I’ve done very little teaching in either of those classes lately. It’s strange because I’ve been at school a lot more hours this week because of camp, but I actually feel like I’ve been teaching less. Maybe I’m just pacing myself to get through the day. Here are some other odds and ends from the week:
  • As part of Close-of-Service procedures, the members of group 81 have been updating their resumes these last couple weeks. Everyone’s got a different opinion about what a resume should look like, and we’re all stubborn about which rules by which to abide. Jordan likes all of his bullets to fit on one line, Phil swears by serif fonts, I think wide margins are foolish. You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself, right?
  • On the crotch-grabbing photo: Crotch-grabbing is a way of life with ’ies. Since most boys wear shorts under their ’ie, there’s a whole lot of fabric adjustment that goes on throughout the day. This is particularly true during sustained physical activity. In the case of that picture, Manila is in the middle of Culture Day dance practice, and yes, he’s grabbing his crotch. But that crotch-grab is so secondary, I barely noticed it when I chose the photo. Also, it’s such a part of life here, I feel like it only improves the magazine’s accuracy in capturing the life and times of 2010.
  • In teaching my class “At the Zoo”, it turns out the zookeeper is very fond of gum. Also, the hamsters goof off frequently. Yeah. My zoo is sugar-coated.
  • My year 13 Amanda was asking the other night what music I have on my computer. I gave my normal response, “Nothing you’d like.” But then she asks, “Do you have any Paul Simon?” Yes. Yes I do.
  • At Pinati’s last night, I ate 2 full plates. Take that, stomach!
  • I’ve lived without an electrical fan since 10 June (or at least that was when it was first reported on the blog). But Phil texted this morning to observe the first day of Spring. The heat is coming. And we just got paid. I think I’m ready to buy.
  • On Weezer’s new tour, the band is playing 2 nights at each stop: on one night they're playing the entire Blue Album, on the other the entire Pinkerton album. When I heard about this, I emailed my friend Chris to tell him that such an event was as special as his getting married, and thus I would be willing to fly back to The States for such a show. As it turns out, Weezer has scheduled their Bay Area appearance for 30 November, the jerks. I’ve already assured the Admin Staff that I will not be going home in November. So hopefully I can catch them somewhere else on the tour. Roadtrip to Seattle anyone?
  • Also, Weezer played a show in San Francisco a week after I left back in October 2008. Those guys hate me.
  • I had dinner with Jordan and a Korean guy doing anthropology fieldwork on Sunday. “Jordan” and “Korean” are interchangeable in T9 Word Prediction.
  • My watch stopped twice this week. I fear the battery is dying. I haven’t looked into watch-smiths in Samoa, but I assume it will be expensive to replace the battery here. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Or go watch-less until December.
That’s all I got for tonight. I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Weeks-old picture of Paul mopping the new PCV Resource Room.

I took this picture while a bunch of us were out one night, and I realized that everyones shirts were all so colorful. It was like one of those TV shows where everyone clothes go together a little too well.

Blakey and Iki.

AJ tried to go all retro and turned in his common exam scores to the Ministry of Education on floppy disks. Somehow the data on the floppies got corrupted, and he had to have someone burn them off of his computer on Savai'i and bring them to Apia. Scowl indeed.

This mug is one of the ones in rotation at Interval. It freaks me out a little with its psychedelic tendencies. A monkey riding a zebra (see yesterday's post) with a split-headed fox(?) running next to it. Weird, dude.

Leah 82 after I inadvertently pulled that chair out from under her. I honestly thought she heard me pulling it away, and I had been sitting in it before. But she just sat right down in the chair-less space. What a jerk am I.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

At the Zoo

I’ve been teaching my year 10 English class Simon and Garfunkel’s “At the Zoo”. For those unfamiliar with the piece, the latter verse of the short song is a rundown of the state of inter-species politics at the Central Park Zoo. “Zebras are reactionaries / Antelopes are missionaries” etc. The effect is that of a children’s song written for adults, and I feel like there’s got to be some good English lessons to be taken away. So all week I’ve been using the song for more than just singing.

It’s not ideal though. For one, Samoa doesn’t have a zoo, so the concept is obscure if not baffling to my kids. Going along with that, I don’t think most of my kids have seen a giraffe in person, or an elephant or very many of the other creatures in Simon and Garfunkel’s menagerie. But there are occasional nature shows on TV here. My host family had a few books with pictures of various animals from around the world. So we’ve been making do.

This posed a problem yesterday when I had my kids try and draw the animals the way the song describes them. Monkeys standing for honesty went okay, and portraying a kindly-but-dumb elephant was easy enough, but the kid who drew the reactionary zebra was clearly taking shots in the dark. The class corrected him, but I so loved his original picture I had him re-draw it after he erased it.

It’s difficult describing an animal to a person who’s never seen one before. How do I explain an antelope? “It’s similar to a skinny goat, and it can run very fast.” And an orangutan? “It’s like a gorilla with longer arms. It’s from Indonesia.” And a hamster? “Similar to a mouse.”

Today’s lesson was my favorite though. We wrote our own bizarre personifications of Samoan animalia. The animals we came up with were less “zoo” and more “petting zoo”—dogs, cats, cows, pigs—but that didn’t hinder the assignment.

At first the kids had a difficult time wrapping their minds around the concept. I got a lot of sentences like “The dogs don’t like the cats, but they do like bones.” I told them to separate themselves from real life, and to try to think of something funny.

Their reactions were entertaining. “What if you walked up to the fale’oloa, and there was a cow behind the counter?” I asked. “Would a cow be good with money?” I asked this question to several times to several different groups of students, and each time they answered with a confident, “No.”

It took a while, but the concept slowly dawned on a few. As a class we came up with, “Cats are lousy drivers.” A couple other highlights included:
  • Cows often play rugby, but they’re slow;
  • Chickens are very cheeky (which I liked for the consonance); and
  • (My personal favorite:) Pigs are strong and silly, and they always want to play dress-up games.
Now that’s the spirit.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

It's a nice pigeon. The hamster looks a little like Sonic the Hedgehog. The antelope looks like an unidentified giant microbe. Maybe Listeria?

The beautifully drawn orangutan, the zookeeper, and the amazing zebra, which is amazingly reminiscent of Trogdor (Watch the whole video.).

Year 9 Nakisa wins my unpublished magazine award for best smile.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Inches on the Reel-to-Reel

Five years ago I may have put up a fight. No, actually, probably not. I was more irrationally idealistic back then, but even I had my limits. I was censored back then about as much as I am now. Working at eCivis, I had to write up summaries that captured the essence of different grand programs, and the monotony of the job would often lead to a game where I’d see how many hidden puns I could sneak by Quality Control. I guess it wasn’t very surprising when they’d cut stuff out back then, and I guess in that sense today was unexpectedly expected as well.

I suppose I should have been more nervous when I handed the first draft of the magazine to my pule today, but mostly I was excited and proud. It’s not the best high school yearbook ever by any means, but it’s been a cumbersome project, and the simple fact that I have a working draft to hand in feels like an accomplishment. But somewhere along the way, I began to enjoy working on the magazine, and I willfully took ownership of the whole thing. So when, after seeing the second page, my pule grimaced a little, and then quickly reached for a pen to cross out one of the pictures, I wasn’t sure how to react.

As I said, I’ve been censored before. Hell, the blog itself has been censored on many occasions. For the most part, I’m willing to acquiesce to anyone who’s got a beef with what I publish here. I’ve never laid claim to journalistic integrity in this space, and if people want certain details redacted, I’ll chop away.

But it does hurt my artistic soul a little. Journalistic integrity might be too lofty a principle, but there is something to be said for experiencing something the way it was originally intended. Once you start contorting around details, it stops feeling organic. That sense of pride and ownership slips away a little.

I took a film class at USC where a guest speaker talked about being on the set of a film and how if he makes only 2 small concessions a day on a 30-day shoot, by the end, he’s compromised 60 times. At that point, is the finished project anywhere close to his vision?

But the yearbook is not my opus. Nor is the blog. If a few photographs need to be cut, it’s not the end of the world. And really, who am I to force my American aesthetic wit down the throats of an unsuspecting foreign audience?

So I’ll cut the pictures of Manila grabbing his crotch and the one of Luuao sleeping in my class. I’ll allow the blog to my artistic outlet this time....

...until someone asks for the photos to be taken down.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

Delilah, Sunula, and Angelina. Goofballs.

Nellie sweeping.

Sam and Esther dropped by today to bring me lunch on behalf of their friends who read the blog in New Zealand and Hawai'i. Thank you, blog readers, wherever you are!

Lunch was delicious. Salad with avocado and egg. Custard dessert. It was quite a surprise. Thanks again. I'm speechless.

Monday, September 20, 2010


It’s 10:35 p.m., and I’m sitting in the computer lab listening to a barrage of Rhianna, Justin Bieber, and Glee. All the year 13 students are camping here on campus for the next two weeks in order to cram for the Congregationalist school common exams in early October. For the next 2 weeks I’ll be teaching an extra 75-minute period Monday through Thursday. Yup. Year 13 Camp is on once more, and I’ve decide to embrace the teeny-bopper music aspect.

In effect, it’s the beginning of the end: 2 weeks of camp, 2 weeks of tests, 2 more weeks of camp, 2 more weeks of tests. From there it’s a short trot to Prizegiving. There’s that feeling in the air I vaguely remember from my last semesters of high school and college, where one suddenly realizes things aren’t going to last forever.

It’s true: I’m probably more in tune with that feeling because my year 13s’ end is my end too. Let’s not dwell too much on this.

Camp is exciting. Everything about it seems new. Some things feel like breaking the rules: the students wear street clothes rather than uniforms, I wear shorts and a t-shirt rather than my typical Hawaiian shirt and ’ie faitaga. It feels like rules are being broken; like we’ve gone behind the scenes a little. I went running tonight, and I admit I thought a little more about walking past everyone to get off campus. They’re going to see me go running, I thought. That’s weird.

It’s the other side of that teacher mystique. I remember thinking it bizarre to imagine my teachers going home and performing menial tasks. Buying groceries, washing the car on Saturday, feeding the dog. Weird.

But now, as I said, I’m on the other side. I can’t have students know that I go running. Or that I occasionally wear the same t-shirt 3 days in a row. Or that I can’t help singing along to “Don’t Stop Believing” in my own terrible, shrill voice. Oh well.

I’m not wholly convinced that Camp makes much of a difference in the kids’ performance on the tests. Right now I can hear several playing Mavis Beacon and two looking at pictures from someone’s flash drive and giggling. But it’s hard to believe the alternative is better necessarily.

Staying at home has its own distractions with feaus and TV and little brothers and sisters to look after. At least staying here offers a quiet place to study. Provided you’re not in earshot of whichever Beyoncé song is on right now.

Although tonight is the first night, which means everyone’s going to stay up until at least 3 o’clock in the morning, and then show up to my class exhausted tomorrow.

Meh. Whatever. It’s camp.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

My year 13s wanted to take a class photo after tonight's session. I really like this picture. I almost printed it tonight.

Okay. So these next photos are so creepy, I've decided to link to them rather than display them. If you want to take a peek, you're going to have to click. That way I'm not to blame. Proceed with caution.

Last night before I went to meet up with some guys at the movies, I went to use the bathroom before I left, and I noticed the floor in front of my shower was covered in ants. Covered. I'm estimating well over 20,000 ants. I sprayed them with Mortein and headed to the movies to clean up the mess later.

Photo 1

This is the carnage 24 hours after the fact. The edges of the floor are still dense with ants.

Photo 2

This is a slightly closer view of that density.

Photo 3

Even closer.

Photo 4

The pile of ant cadavers after sweeping. My estimate of >20,000 ants comes from the size of this pile. Gross.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

International Food Festival

Shortly after I graduated from college I paid a visit to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I was blown away by how underwhelmed I was. It seems like if you’re going to have an NFL team, your town should be a happening metropolis. And the Green Bay Packers are nothing to scoff at; they’re steeped in tradition. But Green Bay, Wisconsin is about the same size as Hayward, California, which is pretty middling for California. But here’s the kicker: Green Bay and Hayward are, population-wise, about the same as Samoa.

Phil likes to point out how small the country is simply in terms of degrees of separation. Whereas it’s probably possible to connect to anyone in the world in 6, in Samoa, I’d assume you can get from anyone to anyone else in less than 3. Everyone knows everyone else—much like an American suburb. I bring up all this because Samoa’s tininess makes events like yesterday’s International Food Festival at the Hotel Insel so fun: everyone knows everyone.

I hadn’t heard about the festival until I was in the car en route. Rotaract had a Battle of the Minds taping yesterday morning, and a bunch of us piled in the car afterwards, I assumed to be dropped off at home. But we didn’t go home. We went the International Food Festival.

The event was small, but there was an impressive array of countries and cuisines represented, and all were quite tasty. The Indian Food tent had a deal offering 2 curries, rice, and buttered roti for $6, which offered the most food for the least amount of money. But there was also Italian, Filipino, German, Fijian, Hawaiian (yes, not a country. I know.), and Samoan booths.

As good as the food was—and the food was good, I ate at 4 booths over the course of the day—it was the startling cross-section of people that I enjoyed most about the day. I ran into a bunch of families I normally only see at mass on Sunday. I saw the lady who runs my favorite restaurant in Samoa, The Curry House, enjoying the afternoon with her family as a patron, not a vendor. “Funny seeing you on this side of the counter,” I told her. She laughed and told me I needed to try the tiramisu she ordered. Done and done.

I spent most of the day hanging out in the car park with the Rotaract kids, but when they announced a fashion show was about to be held on the events stage, we got up to watch. As it turned out, two of my friends, Aina and Esther, were models.

In the car on the way there, I assumed we’d check out this festival and leave after an hour or two. As it turned out, we were there for nine hours. Hanging out, shooting the breeze, drinking cheap imported beer, eating a myriad of ethnic cuisine. At one point I heard tinikling (sp?) in the distance, which was so Union City, I went and bought a plate of adobo, rice, and two lumpia. Apparently the lumpia was extremely popular and sold out in 20 minutes.

In any case, I was blind-sided by the event, but happily so. And everyone I know was there to celebrate with me.

I hope you’re well. Unfortunately my camera’s battery died yesterday morning, so I have no photos of the event. I very disappointed about this. Apologies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Odds and Ends Thursday 68

This week flew by. Granted Monday was a cleaning day so there wasn’t much work to do, but even then, I can’t believe it’s already Thursday. Although now that I think about it, last week’s conference seems like it was ages ago. But still. These last 4 days have gone by at break-neck speed. I wonder if this is just the feeling of getting back into the school rhythm, or if this is how time is going to feel between now and December. Hard to say. Here are some other odds and ends from the week:
  • Yes. I’ve been a day behind all week. But that’s pretty good relative to the last two or three weeks. Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, huh?
  • Wednesday after school I was upstairs in my computer lab when Samoa experience a small earthquake. I’d guess 4-ish on the Richter Scale. In any case, I think my lab is the only second-story classroom at my school that’s retrofitted for earthquakes. And it held up well.
  • During Tuesday’s gleeful 9.2 science session, I realized 361 and 961 are both perfect squares. Does that seem suspicious to anyone else?
  • After thinking this through, I now see that many perfect squares have a difference divisible by 100: 576 and 676, 484 and 784, 529 and 729, etc. It’s all just (x + y)(x - y) where one of the multiplicands is divisible by 50. Or when they’re both divisible by 10. Nerd alert.
  • Sorry, Barb.
  • Does humidity help with joint flexibility? I can touch my toes way easier here than I could in America. Thoughts?
  • I find it’s starting to get easier to miss things now that America is on the horizon. Jeopardy! was brought up twice today. I can’t wait to watch Jeopardy!.
  • For those keeping track at home, 3 of my 4 Letters of Recommendation have been received by law school people. I just need that last one, and I can start submitting applications to schools. Raise your hand if you want to proofread my personal statement.
  • To those of you who’ve emailed me from Point Loma Nazarene University, I am going to try and get to your questions in the next couple days, but there are a lot of you. So hold tight.
  • Weezer’s new album, “Hurley”, is better than there last, “Raditude”. But then again, you could make arguments that Justin Beiber has put out albums better than “Raditude”. Yeah, I said it.
  • Paul has got me on this new kick listening to songs by The 88s and a bunch of stuff by The Hold Steady. Thanks, dude.
  • Also, I discovered earlier last week that the mystery song I’ve had in my head for, seriously, the past 2+ years is The Verve’s “Lucky Man”. I never listen to The Verve, but I saw them at a music festival in April 2008, and I guess the song must have stuck with me.
  • Sorry. Last music bullet. This American Life played Shakira’s “Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” at the end of a recent episode. It was enough to inspire me to buy the whole album. No buyer’s remorse here.
  • I waited and waited to open this new pair of glasses because I was worried the anti-reflective coating would fall victim to the humidity before I left. Call it a self-fulfilling prophesy, call it what you will. Half the right lens has peeled off. Oh well.
That’s all I got for this week. I hope you’re well. More Miss Samoa photos below. Once again, all pictures taken by Blakey.

Miss I Love Samoa's Beachwear.

Miss McDonald's Beachwear. She won.

Another of Miss McDonald's.

Miss Apaula Heights' Traditionalwear.

Miss Australia's Traditionalwear.

Miss New Zealand's Tradtionalwear.

Miss Apaula Heights' Eveningwear.

Miss Australia's Eveningwear.

Miss New Zealand's Eveningwear.