Monday, June 3, 2013

My final weeks.

Wrapping up the last few weeks of school was fun, but also exhausting. Because my time on Manu’a was dwindling at nearly the same speed as that of school, I had to crunch everything in; work, family, friends and community.

It all started Saturday, May 25, 2013 when the family was prepping an umu to distribute to different families in the village in celebration of Feagai’s graduation. I’ve seen umu’s before, so I wasn’t expecting much, but boy was I in for a surprise. Like everything, the family went BIG. There were two umus—one for the recently slaughtered family pigs, including my beloved Wilbur, and then one for the typical veggies. Also, there was a frying chicken station, girls in the kitchen making salad, and about everything else you can imagine. Here are some photos of just how much food there was. After we made all the food, we went around family by family and distributed the food.

Then on Sunday, May 26, 2013, we had Baccalaureate for the seniors, the reason we were making all the food in the first place. It was a beautiful ceremony taken place in Ta’u. We all went to church as a family and took many pictures afterwards. Here are some family photos, the boys wearing all white with a little black are the graduates.

Baccalaureate essentially kicked off a week of parties. School was a joke, we watched movies and cleaned. I was fine with this because I wanted to spend as much time with these guys as possible. On Tuesday, Papa took me and Madeline out to Saua, the place where we go fishing that’s off the National Park. The tide was low, so fishing with the net was out of the question—we went Octopus hunting instead. We didn’t catch any, but we did come across two mullusks. Papa bashed one open and we just ate it right there on the spot. While we were there is started storming and it was so nice to just stand in the rain, look over the oceans and mountains, and know that this place is truly amazing and I’ve experienced to it’s fullest. Here are some photos of my last trip to one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

On Wednesday was 8th grade graduation. There are only 5 8th graders, so it was a quick and painless ceremony that actually made me sad. I realized how quickly the end was approaching. I was so proud of the 8th graders and how far they’ve come this year.

The next day was Thursday and high school graduation. The high school is for all of Manu’a and there were only 17 kids in the graduating class this year, 7 from Fitiuta, including my brother Feagai. Charlie- the youngest in the family was serving for the color guard, so it was great to see them both in their glory. A little different than graduations back home, but on the walk out of the gym, the graduates get mauled with candy ula’s and it was funny to see some of the ula’s go all the way to the top of their mouths. That day we made another two umus, but this time with 2 gigantic pigs. It was a day of celebration and it was wonderful. My papa and I shared a Vailima (Samoan beer), while sitting back at the umu waiting for the pigs to cook. It was so nice to spend some quality time with him before I left.

That Friday (this past Friday) was the last day of school and our staff party. This was by far the hardest day I’ve had here. The morning started out like all last days of school—a lot of fun. We had a field day, ate a bunch of junk food, and watched a movie. The hard part came when it was time for our awards ceremony. After giving away the awards to the kids, the principal recognized me and Madeline and then insisted on us doing a traditional Samoan siva as the students  sang our school song. This is when everything hit me. I was leaving for a long time and I was leaving some people who mean so much to me. As I was dancing and tearing up, I realized how much pride I have for my school and my village. Immediately following this, the principal gave us time to say anything we wanted. If I get emotional, I don’t like talking because then it gets worse. As I stood up to say my final goodbyes and to say thank you I was overcome with so much emotion, gratitude to those who’ve helped me, love for the friends I’d made, relief that I actually made it through the year, and sadness that everything was coming to an end. It was really difficult to hold it together, but somehow I managed to get a few words, including a few Samoan words that made everyone laugh. The staff party was a much more celebratory mood, with lots of food and laughs. I received a few gifts that I will be bringing with me back to the States. While their were times that I wanted to pull my hair out this past year, I love so many of my coworkers and I’m so glad to have met them.

Saturday was spent packing for the first time and cleaning. Disaster. That night I had my choir going away part, and as always it was great to spend more time with friends.

Then came yesterday. A really hard day and a day I will remember for a very long time. The day I had to say goodbye to Manu’a, my beloved island.  The morning started out with Mama insisting I come over early so that she could make us a goodbye breakfast. We had eggs, toast (!!), steak, and my favorite suafa’i. We went to church as a family and pretty much as soon as that was finished we had to leave. I was really sad and so I didn’t bring my camera for obvious reasons, but there are some farewell photos of me at the airport on my facebook. Fortunately, some of my family will be here on the big island this week so I can spend time with the before I leave, but I did have to  say goodbye to Papa for a really long time and that was hard. I love so many things about Manu’a and so much of that is because of him. It was hard saying goodbye, but that makes me look more forward to when I will be coming back and seeing him again.

So much alofa for Matasaua

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't hate, appreciate... teachers and mamas.

Malo lava!

When I think back to the most influential people in my life I think about my mom and my teachers, which is why I thought it was fitting that here in AmSam we celebrated both of them in one weekend.

Teacher Appreciation was the most outlandish thing I've seen in all 18 years I've been a student/teacher.  People here take this seriously. I mean really seriously. For about a month leading up to this week, we had only half days of school because all the teachers and staff of my district were practicing for a big event in Pago where all the districts comes together to perform for the governor and the director of education.

Everyone left Manu'a Wednesday morning as we head to Pago for our weekend. We left via the MV Sili and the boat ride there was pretty enjoyable. We got some great sunset photos and most people were able to sleep for the 7 hour ride. The boat ride took all day, so we didn't do much during our time on Wednesday. Thursday morning there were meetings all day, but that night our Principal took all the staff out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was the first time I'd been to a restaurant in 5 months and first time I'd had Chinese in over a year. It was fantastic. To make it even better it was a karaoke bar and they were playing great jams like "grease lightening" in the background acted out via Samoans. Here's a photo of Me, Madeline, and Vito (a coworker/friend) enjoying our feast.
Early the next day we had our major event which included songs, dancing, and step dancing, or if you want to say it in Samoan, pese, siva, and sasa. We started with a walk around the track introducing the schools, we played some games out on the field, then each school district performed. There was over 2,000 people in attendance. Here are some photos taken during that time.
Manu'a District setting up for our parade.

See the man with the sun glasses on in the middle with a big green lei, sitting like a boss?
That's our governor. 

School t-shirts! So much Manu'a Pride!

Sara (l) and Kristina (r)
Two of my favorite girls that live in Leone on Tutuila.

My favorite Manu'a ladies. Jacquie's on the right and Cat's on the left.
Cat was a WT volunteer last year that went on contract this year. She's hardcore.

Early Saturday morning we left to come back on the boat. The trip was pure torture. The waves were huge, we went through monsoon like rain, and I've never been a boat that bumpy. People were getting sick left and right. I was soaking wet. The only way to describe it was a war zone. I'm just thankful I don't get seasick. Overall, the trip to Pago was fun. It was a great break, but I'm happy to be back in Manu'a.

Sunday was Mother's Day, and just like everything else, they went all out. The Sunday School put on performances and they gave out candy ulas to all the women. Here are some snapshots of church.
Singing their hearts out.

One of my 7th graders on the Left, she was the MC for the performance.

4 of my students being cheeky in the background.

My brother is on the right, he was playing a father for Mother's day.

After church, we all went over to the family's to have a big delicious brunch. That evening we went for a ride around the island and I was able to take my favorite photo yet. One of me and my Mama. I couldn't ask for a better second mom. 

Happy mother's day to everyone, especially my real Mom! I couldn't be here if it wasn't for you. Love you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Faleasao Weekend!


This past weekend was WorldTeach End of Service- our end of year meeting that is supposed to help us gain information on reentry into our home country. I remember writing this on my calendar back in July and thinking the day was never going to come, but now that it’s here and gone I can’t believe how close I am to this all really being done.

We spent the weekend in Faleasao and Ta’u, the two other villages on the other side of my island. The meeting was insightful, but the best part was that all of us were together one last time before we all start trickling out of the country. Our field director showed up Friday via plane and brought tons of food with her that none of us have had in months. There was frozen pizza, fresh oranges and apples, salsa, BREAD, spinach artichoke dip, and the like. I WAS IN HEAVEN. We compared her unpacking the cooler to an episode of Survivor during a rewards challenge where the reward is food. Although let me point out that Survivor is only 39 days (if you’re there for the whole time, whereas we’re going on 10 months… rookies.) Friday night we had a big dinner and Saturday we had the meeting, went swimming, and played more games. Saturday night I had a definite culture clash as I was eating frozen pizza with fresh coconut water straight from a coconut.

This definitely wasn’t how I used to enjoy my pizza back home, but hey, whatever you can get to drink that won’t kill/harm you here is worth it.

That night I went for a walk to enjoy the sunset because, like I said I really don’t have that much time left here. Here are a few snap shots of the view. To think that this is my life is actually really amazing.

This weekend helped me reaffirm that I absolutely love to travel and I’m not finished. As I start looking at what comes next I’m starting to get excited about it. I definitely think that traveling and continuing to live abroad is in my near future, but the even more exciting question is… where to next?

This coming week I am heading to Pago Pago for Teacher Appreciation events put on by the DoE. Every district was in charge of creating their own sasa (like step dancing Samoan style), siva (samoan dance), and pese (songs). We will be having a large performance this coming Friday that will more than likely last hours on end. We’ve been practicing non-stop for it and have let school out early everyday for the past 2 weeks so teachers can prep. I hear today is going to be no different, there are rumors practice tonight could last 6 hours. Ughh.

Anyways, I leave Wednesday on the boat for an 8 hour ride to the big island and will be returning Friday night on the boat, as well. All I can say is thank god I don’t get seasick. 

Fa Soifua.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Samoan Day!

Talofa Lava!

My whole New Year resolution of blogging more is not working out so well, but hey what’s the point of having a new year’s resolution if you don’t break it, right? J

Anyways this past Friday was our Samoan Day at school. The students and teachers worked for over a month to put the whole thing together. The school was divided into two teams Mosooi and Teuila. I was on Team Mosooi. Both of those names are names of plants native to Samoa. Each team had their own uniform made, women and girls wore a traditional puletasi and men and boys wore an ie’fataga. (I think that’s how you spell it).

The whole point of Samoan Day is to showcase Samoan culture and to remind the kids how amazing a tradition they come from. The event started at 7:45 in the morning with a parade around the village, followed by speeches, siva (dances), sasas (Samoan beats), and pese (songs). The whole village came out to watch the kids and Tama (the reverend) was a special guest. After the performances the special guests were presented with traditional Samoan gifts the same way they would be if they were at a Fa’alavelave. Some of the staff members were up all night preparing food for an Umu (Samoan oven using leaves, rocks, and fire) and setting up the event. I showed up at 4 am to help out and found out that they were just finishing from the night before.

I was so proud of my students and the kids. They really embraced the day and it was obvious that everyone had a wonderful time. While I was sitting there in my puletasi, my two ula (lei’s), and practicing for the event, I was reminded once again that I live in Samoa. I feel like it’s just become normal life for me that I forget how foreign it was just 10 months ago.

Here are some photos from the day. Keep in mind that it was already 80+ degrees outside the sun was shining down really hard. The kids and the teachers were both exhausted from the heat.

Team Teuila getting ready for the parade.

Team Mosooi (my team!) lining up for the parade.

More of Team Mosooi.
Vinny of Team Mosooi
 Both Lagi and Vinny are in my 7th grade English class. They gave speeches on Samoan History for their respective teams.
Lagi of Team Teuila

Hanna and Opete from 8th grade doing Teuila’s traditional dance for men and women. This is used as a huge fundraiser because people come up and stick money on their oiled bodies or just throw it at them. 
Team Mosooi doing a siva. If you look in the back, you can see me.     

Adelyn (8th grade) is the equivalent of a team leader as we begin our sasa.  
Better picture of our dancing. The ula (lei) around our neck is made of the mosooi flower.  

The day was wonderful and I’m so happy to have experienced it. The crazy thing is that I was hearing about Samoan Day for forever and everyone kept saying, don’t worry about it, it’s not until the end of the year. Now that it’s finished, I realize we really are in the home stretch. I only have 5 weeks of teaching school left and 6 weeks until I fly home.

I will write more about Teacher Appreciation in Pago, which takes place May 10. Hope all is well with everyone back home. Manuia le aso!