The last 3 weeks have absolutely just flown by. We’ve had a solid 3 weeks, 8 hours a day of language training and I actually feel really good about my language ability. On Monday, I had a Language Proficiency Interview and I scored 2nd highest in my group (!!). It’s been difficult these last few weeks and really intense, but I feel good about communicating at a basic level. Apparently in past Peace Corps groups, they received double the time for language training that we did, but spread out through their training. They were trying a new format this year and it seems to have been a success! I'm happy that the language classes are over though, it was such a headache and we were always coming home exhausted mentally.
My family is absolutely amazing. My immediate family includes my dad Fa’avale, my mom Logo, my aunts Tusi and Poto, my brother Lucky, and my two sisters Umafale and Ailine. But the family next door does most things with us and in particular I love my little brother J (Junior) who is 6 months old, and my little brother Amataga who is 4. My aunts are usually around in the day and do most of the things with me. My mom and dad have another house that they’re in during the day and come and visit us at night. During the 2009 tsunami, the village of Utulaelae was destroyed and everyone rebuilt their houses in the hills higher up. Last year, the Peace Corps approached the matais (village elders) of the village and proposed to use Utulaelae as the next training village for volunteers. The village agreed and decided to rebuild the entire village next to the ocean where it was originally located. So over the next few months the site went from being occupied by 3 people, to over 100. Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that there was nothing there just a few months ago. There is a store and a church, and beautiful houses. The only thing indicative of recent rebuilding is the absence of gardens. Samoans are very proud of their gardens and Utulaelae has none currently. My family is really loving so I feel really lucky to have them. My mom is also an amazing sewer. She made me a puletasi (traditional dress) every day for the first 2 weeks to wear to school and they’re absolutely gorgeous. I feel lucky to have such a large collection of them. I also have in my family a dog named Devil and a kitten named Tili. For the most part my family ignores them but I’m happy since I have a kitten that sleeps on my feet every morning at breakfast and a dog to keep guard over my house as I sleep and also has the most GORGEOUS yellow/gold eyes.
Samoans have a very interesting view on dogs. The saying goes that Samoan dogs don’t eat food, they eat rocks. This is because people are always throwing rocks at the dogs. And not without good reason unfortunately as we saw on the first day when Madi got attacked by a pack. It’s been difficult for me to view dogs differently over here. I see a loving pet who is attempting to come in out of the rain and they view them as flea infested animals trying to come in a steal food. Both views are right in a way and it’s hard to find a middle for me.
On that note, I’ve inherited the Peace Corps cat!! Two groups ago, a Peace Corps volunteer adopted a cat and was unable to take her home, so gave her to a member of the next group. I’ve become the lucky recipient of her this round so I’m thrilled to be receiving a spayed, flea-free, litter box trained cat. A ready friend for entering my new family in December.
Last week, we made a trip out to To Sua Trench. Some of the members from the previous Peace Corps group came out to show us around so it was awesome getting to talk to one of them. Chelsea is in the same district as my new village (though I hadn’t learned of my placement at the time!) To Sua’s a really gorgeous place that you can climb down a steep ladder and go swimming. It’s basically a blowhole that had it’s top blown off and is now open. There are caves on either side that you COULD go swimming into, but it’s highly cautioned against. This is mainly because while it does go out to the ocean, the tunnel splits into 3 at one point and you have to make a correct guess in order to come up for air. NO THANKS! The current inside the swimming area was crazy strong but it went left, right, left, right so you didn’t have to worry about being sucked out. After the caves we went to the beach next door that had actual blowholes as well as gorgeous coral and caves that you could look down into. Really a beautiful side of Samoa that I hadn’t seen yet. Mark it down family! We’re going to it when you come out here :)
This week we returned to Apia for a few days in preparation for site visits later in the week. Tomorrow I’m heading out to my site for three days to visit my future family and to see the school that I’ll be working at. I’m really nervous that I have to rebuilt bonds with another family but also so so so excited to see the place that I’ll be working at for the next two years. We passed my village on the drive into Apia and it was exciting that everyone got a peak at my village! We all kept trying to guess which house was mine but we’ll see tomorrow :) I apparently have a host mom and dad, and 5 sisters all about my age. I’ve heard my mom has one of the largest gardens in the area so I can’t wait to see it! I’ll be living in a western style house with my own room, kitchen, toilet room, and shower room. From what I’ve heard it’s a gorgeous house and a sweet family. Can’t wait!
Today was also Election Day in the USA! We all went to Aggie Grey’s, a famous hotel in Apia, and watched the results coming in. GO OBAMA! It was exciting watching the results in another country with other expats coming and going while it was on and throwing out comments haha. Especially the older guys from New Zealand who had no idea what was going on, “I hope your chap wins!” From what I can tell, everyone in my Peace Corps group is democrat except for maybe 1. It’s an interesting dynamic from my college I went to haha.
I have a lot of journal entries that I’ve been writing while in the training village but unfortunately forgot all of them in the village!! So when I come into Apia again I’ll make sure to post them but for now, sorry!