This week has been such a rollercoaster of emotions. Starting out, last weekend was our annual Thanksgiving dinner. Every year it’s held at the Charge des Affairs (basically Ambassador but for a small island) house. This year Chad is the Charge des Affairs so he and his amazing family put on a killer Thanksgiving dinner. There was everything I’d have at home plus some Samoan things like pizza and chop suey. This was also the first year that I’ve eaten turkey on Thanksgiving!! Deciding to give up my vegetarian ways was for sure the best idea I did before starting the Peace Corps. Anyways, besides the usual fare they also had over 10 types of pies plus some tiramisu that our Country Director’s wife makes. The highlight of the evening was the homemade whipped cream. Apparently that’s quite a rarity in Samoa. After stuffing our selves to the traditionally hurting capacity, we spilled out onto the embassy’s grounds to play sports. I partook in some croquet while most of the guys (American and the few Samoan boyfriends that tagged along) played football. It was such a wonderful evening to just relax, feel American, and have a good time.
This last week we’ve finished up with our teaching practicum at the local school. I’ve been particularly stressed over this, as I want to do a good job in front of my peers but this last week’s been hard. It was the last week of school for the kids so they were all restless. My favorite class through was year 7/8 (2 years are combined) with the At Risk (lower) group. We did a lesson on onomatopias had a really great time with it. The kids are so smart and really interested in learning. We started out the lesson by running around and finding different sounds in the classroom by banging on things and trying to guess what the matching onomatopia is. There are 3 boys and 1 girl in the class so they really got a kick out of it. We ended the lesson after 30 minutes with a game of memory where we each do an action like crying and the matching onomatopia like wah wah and have to go around in a circle and remember each other’s. They got really creative which was awesome to see. In comparison, my last day of teaching practicum, a group which I will leave unnamed were completely cheeky and not behaving at all. It took all I had with time outs and stern faces to get them to stop running around. So not quite as enjoyable.
Two nights ago was the farewell To’ona’i with the local Methodist Church. This was unlike any party that I’ve ever been to in America. So I’ll try and do my best to explain the chain of events. First we started with a prayer from the minister then he said “I know you’ve all been wanting to dance even though it’s forbidden, so now’s the time!” And out came some serious rap dance music. All the Samoan guys jumped up and came over to find partners. Haha, it was a great start to the night. After that song another Peace Corps Volunteer, Ally came out in the traditional outfit of the High Chief’s eldest virgin daughter and danced the Tau Po (sp?). This involved her dancing in place while people come up and put money on her and then go and dance in the background. When an untitled man comes up he’ll act like he’s going crazy like he’s in love with her and lay on his stomach so she can step on him. It’s definitely a site to see! After her dance, there was another Western club song and now it was the Samoan girls’ time to go find a partner. Seeing how there’s only 2 unmarried guys in our group, they were certainly hot commodities. After that began the family dances. One song at a time, each Peace Corps volunteer would come up and dance their way onto the stage. Their family would join them and dance around them while others would come and give money. Usually between each family’s song they would play another Western song for us to dance to. During one of those, it was our turn to go and find a partner! I wasn’t feeling confident about going up to a group of guys so I found Madi’s little brother Mareko and pulled him in to dance. He’s only 8 but oh my god he can dance! He was right out of MTV! I think I also made his day haha, he kept asking my to dance afterwards and was full of smiles the rest of the evening. Halfway through the evening, the group dances began. First there was the Samoan guys. They did an AMAZING dance. Half of them dance at a nearby resort so they had had plenty of practice. It was so much fun to watch them with so much energy, especially since we know them all now. After they went, it was our turn. We’ve been practicing for the past 2 weeks and we nailed it! Our timing was off slightly but damn if we didn’t look good :) It was finally time for me to do my dance with my family so up I went and danced into the center. I had a great time with my family dancing around me and my older brother lay down and had me step on him. I really love and felt the love from my family. After all of the families had finished dancing, we were about 3 hours in and sweating from all the dancing but also having such a great time. At the end, the pastor handed out gifts to all the Peace Corps. I receive a beautiful lavalava and matching earrings. I’m so thankful for my church.
On Saturday of this weekend, the power was out at night, which was a mixed blessing. We couldn’t see anything that we were doing but because the entire region lost power, the night sky was beyond spectacular. The next day on Sunday, the water was out for our village, which was not so fun. The previous day there was a volleyball tournament in the village so all the drinks were sold out of the store. Sunday was brutally hot so the combination of heat and no drinks made for an extremely thirsty village. At night when it still hadn’t come back on, my family who owns the store made a trip into Apia to try and find some drinks to bring back and sell to the village. I swear, orange soda never tasted so good before.
Saturday night was also a drama filled night. Around 10pm, I was over playing cards in Madi’s fale with her brothers when suddenly they all jumped up and ran across the village. Apparently the high chief’s son had gotten extremely drunk, became angered when someone told him was drunk, and came into town looking for a fight. He picked up a rock to hit someone when some of the untitled men held him back. Unfortunately at this point the pastor got involved trying to break it up and was punched. The next day, the high chief’s son and his family came to the pastor to make a formal apology but the pastor rejected it. In Samoa, most crimes are dealt with at a village level and never see a court or police involvement. At this point when the pastor rejected the apology, a meeting of matais (elders) was called to decide the punishment. I only found out yesterday that the punishment is 3 cows to be given to the pastor. I think this is an extremely interesting view of law and it seems to be quite effective.
We’re leaving the village this weekend, which is so sad for me,…these 2 months have absolutely flown by. I’m going to miss my family so much, though I know I’ll grow to love my new family just as much. Where did training go??