Thursday, September 5, 2013

Family Time

Coming from a close-knit family in America was always something that I loved.  We would always spend our holidays together even to the point of preferring to spending Christmas at home with our immediate family rather than driving up to visit Aunts and Uncles.  Just over two years ago my mom and dad moved apart.  I’m proud though of the close relationships that I maintain with my parents.  When something goes wrong, my mom and dad are the first people that I call and I don’t mind (as long as it’s not long-term), living at home.  In the past, I’ve lived with host families in Japan and have enjoyed the similarly close relationship that you get from living with a family versus on your own in an apartment.  Housing in the Peace Corps is incredibly varied depending on what country you’re in.  You can go anywhere from a room with a host family (which is what I have), to an apartment, to a shared room with another Volunteer.  Check out an amazing video on Youtube called Peace Corps Cribs to see some examples.

Coming to Samoa, there are three options for volunteers.  One, if you work in Apia (the Capitol), you get an apartment!  This is just 3rd year volunteers that work here.  Two, a small house on your school compound.  Allyson and Josh, our married Volunteers, have this option and it certainly has its ups and downs.  Due to decreased security, this is usually not a viable option especially for women.  The third option is most common, host families!  In Samoa, families are very close knit and you often have extended family either in the same house or on the same compound.  In my training village everyone in the village was related.  70 years ago, their ancestor had started the village and given a plot to each of his sons and daughters who in turn raised their families there.  As I walk down the street in my permanent village, my host sister will often wave to people passing and note that they are her cousins.  Half my village is related some how!  And I have one of the larger villages consisting of approximately 600 people.

Family is everything here.  Things that you do affect the family honor either positively or negatively and everything is done as a family unit.  The weekly mowing has the entire 8 person household out sweeping up the grass cuttings, families sleep together in a communal open air house, and cooking each meal involves every member of the family.  On the flip side, if some offense is committed, the whole household is held responsible.  In my training village, a young man punched the pastor in the face and the next morning, him and his entire family were on their knees in front of the pastor’s house asking for forgiveness.  One of our teachers in training told the story of her uncle who had committed some crime and was subsequently banished from the village along with his family.  When he refused to move and went away to New Zealand on holiday, he returned to Samoa to find that his house had been burned down.  This is of course an extreme and unusual case, but it does illustrate the family togetherness and strength of the village.

I enjoy living with a family here in Samoa.  They are here to support me.  My father helps me with my Samoan by refusing to speak if I use English (my Samoan has improved in leaps and bounds!), my brother sits for hours in my room playing my iPod, and my sisters help me stave away homesickness.  I wouldn’t trade the situation for anything.

My cousin Jay, Me, and my brother Caleb

My sister Laititi and her baby Dadrian

My brother Caleb, host dad So'afa, and Me!

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