Thursday, May 23, 2013

Early Service Conference

Well, the first term is officially over.  10 weeks total and then a blissful 2 weeks of vacation.  With the Peace Corps though, our first vacation was reserved for continued training in the form of Early Service Conference.  So we got a week of vacation and then a week paid to stay in Apia for training.  For the first week, all the Peace Corps decided to head out to Manase in Savaii for a well deserved vacation and beach relaxation time.  I met up with my fellow Upolu people Lu and Millie to get on the ferry together to head out to Savaii.  This was quite an ordeal and the first time for me to do so.  The other volunteers are old pros at this point with the ferry but it was still new and exciting for me.  So as we boarded on, it became apparent that this was an extremely large ferry.  It said seat capacity was just over 250 and it holds cars as well.  Inside there was the heavenly item called air-conditioning and TVs to watch as we made the hour long trip to the other island.  The first 15 minutes or so were fairly smooth and then we hit the open ocean outside of the reefs that surround the islands.  At this point the horizon line began dipping up and down below the window and things started to make a distinct dipping motion.  Thank God I don’t get seasick because this would be the perfect time for it to show up.  And this was on the larger ferry!  I can’t imagine what it’s like on the smaller one.  Anywho, after the hour long ride we got out and met up with Kiri and Lina, two PCVs who live on Savaii.  They met us in the wharf with a “Welcome to Savaii!” sign which was wonderfully thoughtful of them.  We decided to kill a few hours by going to a nearby resort, Lucia’s, which is owned by a former PCV.  It’s a really beautiful resort that’s built on a lagoon.  Perfectly teal water that was slightly colder than the open ocean.  Great spot to relax and welcome myself to Savaii!!

Later in the afternoon, Lu and I boarded a bus with Kiri to spend a few days at her house and Millie left to spend a few with Lina.  Lu and I got the wonderful bus experience by Lu being asked to sit on my lap for the trip.  For an 1hr 45min trip, that can results in some serious numb leg and butt.  Once getting off though, it was great visiting another PCV and seeing where they live.  Kiri’s village is beautiful, right on the ocean with a huge Catholic church built there.  We were welcomed into her home by her family and then later that night after eating, went to the rock pools that her village has built.  The water was probably the coldest that I have EVER been in and once you became used to it (or numb), then your body felt cool for hours afterwards.  Great experience, especially because my village doesn’t have any of those.  The next day we headed over to meet up with all the other volunteers in Manase, a picturesque village that has beaches right off of a postcard.  We stayed in fales there that were little more than huts with mattresses and mosquito nets but honestly, anything more and it would’ve been brutally hot.  As it was, we had a nice breeze and an ocean view.

The other volunteers arrived the next day, bringing with them food for a potluck.  With 13 volunteers, that meant plenty of barbeque, chips, and other foods including my personal favorite, brownies made with cocoa Samoa (Samoa’s own cocoa mix).  The challenge of the day ended up being getting the grill started.  Grill in this case meant a metal plate balanced across two logs with coconut husks to put underneath.  Well Zach went to it with gusto and eventually got it lit to much applause and presto, we had barbeque.  I haven’t eaten that much in a long time and it was great having things that reminded me of home (Kiri brought pasta salad!).  We ended up meeting a guy who was staying at the resort at the same time and inviting him to hang out with us.  He’s from Canada but apparently just moved to Australia to start teaching there.  Well we all had a great time for two days just relaxing in the water and totally living up to the nickname of the Beach Corps.

Brad and Zach trying to get the coconut husk grill lit.

After Manase people headed in different paths for a few days before training so I decided to go with Allyson and Josh (the sole married couple in our group) to their house and hang out with them.  They live in their own house on Josh’s school compound and it’s a really cute place.  Kinda like something you’d see in the mountains of North Carolina, very cabin-esque.   We continued the food-fest by having Josh cook chicken saturated in BBQ sauce and then the next night having Mexican food.  One day Allyson even made bagels (!!).  I felt like I was in little American town right there.  Thanks Allyson and Josh for letting me hang!
Me enjoying my bagel :)

After that it was finally time to head into Apia to start our Early Service Conference.  This was actually more interesting than I had thought it would be originally.  At this point we all had 10 weeks of teaching under our belts so the sessions on teaching were much more relatable and we could think about how we would enact this in our own classrooms.  Some of my favorite sessions included Classroom Poster Design, Library Projects, and a session where local businesses came in and talked about how we can help out.  Great time!  Plus, we were all put up in the same hotel so we all got to hang out together for a week.  Won’t happen again until December so we all took full advantage of the time to go out and enjoy.  Unfortunately while I was there my backup power cord for my computer happened to break so I was really out of luck with my computer.  Luckily a week after ESC a package arrived from my dad and mom with a replacement cord so whew.  Note to any future PCVs in Samoa: if you have a Mac, bring a backup power cord!!  There’s nowhere on the island to buy a replacement.

PCVs and other aid groups during a Yoga event at ESC promoting Sexual Assault Awareness

Our Country Director's wife's legendary tirimisu

Planting trees for Sexual Assualt Awareness month at the local women's shelter

The new term started out great and went right into the swing of things on day 1 (which I hear is unusual).  I also got a wonderful surprise!  We are without a year 5 or 7 teachers so I was given the year 5 classroom to use as my own!  So all that first Monday I took to move out of the library and to decorate my new room.  I’ll take some pictures and upload at some point.  It’s great to have my own space AND to have a blackboard finally.  I’m very thankful for it.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the update! So awesome :) it seems you have acclimated and are having a good experience and have met some really great people :0