These last few weeks have been an absolute blur. I’ve heard that about Peace Corps service; some weeks will feel like they’ll never end while sometimes entire months blink past. February was certainly one of those months and with any luck the next few weeks will as well. School has become a routine and we just finished our first term. I retested all of my At-Risk groups and was pleasantly surprised by the growth that I'm seeing in them! One boy in particular not only went from only knowing 3 letters of the alphabet to now 23/26, he also could pronounce all the short vowel words I threw at him (mat, sat, fat, hit, mit, lit, etc). Malo lava David!
A few weekends ago I went to my friend Lu’s village to have a girl’s weekend. It was a pain getting over there thanks to the buses. I had to leave school a half hour early, wait outside for the bus which ended up being half and hour late, go to Apia, wait for another one to her village, and travel all the ways there. All in all about 4 hours when she only lives about 30 min by car. Bleck. Lu lives in a village shaped as a circle around an open field which is different from mine that is in a line. She has a whole house to herself so I got my own bedroom to crash in for a few nights. It was also a treat to learn that she has cable TV! This means 10 channels: MTV, BBC, CNN, 2 Bollywood, 3 Samoan, and 2 others I’m forgetting. The Bollywood ones felt random. For dinner we made pasta which was a treat. In the morning we continued with the palagi eating by making pancakes in nutella and syrup. Yum! Her mom had mailed her some food treats and Lu was nice enough to share. You don’t understand what a hot commodity some of those things are until you live off of chicken and ramen noodles for an entire month. We decided to head over to Lalumanu Beach for the day. Some guys from Apia who are returned Peace Corps volunteers came in and picked us up. They were apparently spending the weekend in Lalumanu as well (hmmm, coincidence much…?). So we all spent the day swimming, getting sunburned, and laughing over stories. Definitely one of my better weekends. It’s nice to feel a part of a group for once and it’s such a good one to be in. I feel lucky.
My brothers are so funny. They are always getting into mischief and it’s usually when the older one comes home from Apia on the weekends (he goes to Primary school there). A few weekends ago I was reading in the main fale when I heard banging and laughing. I thought nothing of it but then five minutes later when I was walking back to my fale I noticed yellow footprints all over the ground. Following them I couldn’t help but laughing at the sight: my two brothers and the family dogs had yellow all over them. Apparently they’d been playing in paint barrels. Well naturally I started laughing and ran to grab my camera. When I came back they were getting a severe scolding from my sisters and were being set to work scrubbing the paint off the driveway. They were warning about how when my host dad got home he’d make them really sorry but he never did notice. To this day the footprints are still there haha!
Easter was interesting. First off, no Easter bunny. Which was kind of a relief not seeing some creepo in a bunny suit at the ball with kids on his knee (when did that start??). Had a bunch of relatives come in from various villages. My host dad had a bunch of sisters so they all came (four total plus their families). It was definitely a religious holiday here, as it was in the origins. Went to church twice (Good Friday and Easter Sunday). Even though I still couldn’t understand lots of it I did hear the word Eseta (Easter) lots of times. During the Good Friday service we got a performance by kids from the secondary school reenacting the crucifixion. They walked down the aisle with a guy playing Jesus dragging the cross and three others whipping him. From the sounds of the slapping I think they were taking their job a little too literally haha. After service we all went back to the house and had our toonai (Sunday meal). All the while this was going on, my family was pulling out lots of boxes of tin fish and woven mats. Thinking something was going to happen, I walked over to my cousin and asked if someone was coming over. “Yep, there’s a funeral today”. Oh, well that’s news to me. Sure enough, about an hour later cars started piling into the driveway and relatives started pouring out. And what followed was definitely a cultural experience. Lots of gifts were exchanged as well as money. The favorite gifts to give in Samoa are woven mats and boxes of tin fish. Woven mats come in various sizes and fine-ness. For instance ones that are about 2x4 with 1 inch wide weavings are cheaper to make and are usually used for sleeping. The ones given as gifts though are upwards of 5x15 with weavings of maybe ¼ inch. Those take months to make and if they are sold can go for almost $10,000. Well my family received 2 of those mats and we gifted one of ours. The other popular gift tin fish is interesting and has a background. Many many years ago, gifts of pigs and cows were given and often times if a fine was given it was in terms of that (i.e. 80 cows to be given to the victim). Over time this has given way to tin fish being given instead. When the person giving the gift calls out what they’re giving though, they don’t say “And here are 30 boxes of tin fish”, instead they still say “And here are 30 cows”. Anyways, after the mats and tin fish the families divided up the slaughtered pigs and cows that were brought. It was very important that every family present ended up with a part and each part had various meanings and importance. My family ended up with two pig legs, a cow mid-section as well as the cow’s head. It was interesting watching the young men carving up the animals while one of the relatives dictated what family got what. Whew, it was certainly an eventful Easter weekend.
Funny and memorable tidbits:
• Being asked quite seriously if I was from Russia because I don’t like the heat
• Being locked in the school bathroom. Who puts locks on the OUTSIDE of stalls?
• Killing my 6th centipede
• First marriage proposal (I told him “no” if any of you had any weird doubts)
• Getting bit by a dog
• My host sister exercising by running around the front lawn in circles for 5 minutes. You go girl! You did more than me.
• My new baby host nephew. I’m an auntie! Dadrian is beyond adorable and I was able to hold him when he was a mere 5 hours old.
• Giving my host brother Daniel a Batman shirt for his birthday and then having him wear a cape and zoom around the house for days.
• Sports Day at my school where “soccer” turned out to be lets throw a soccer ball at each other
• Being told “you look rather fat today”
• Watching Juno and my brother asking me if the pregnancy test was a flashdrive.
• Sitting down in school and my dress’ zipper breaks exposing my whole back. Aaaaah that was so embarrassing…
• Yelling “GO MANU!” as the Samoan Rugby team played in the Tokyo 7s. Did you know they're one of the best in the world?