Monday, July 30, 2012

Week 3 begins...

Hey all,

Can’t believe I’m starting the 3rd and final week of WT orientation today. This week is much more relaxed and intensive than the past two, if that makes any sense. On days when we do have stuff, I feel like I could go crazy with the pressure and stress, but then there are days when we have absolutely nothing.  Either tomorrow or Wednesday I am giving my final lesson to some students. It will be at a fourth grade level and we will be going over the concepts of democracy and majority rule. I’ll be turning the classroom into a democracy and we will ‘vote’ our way through the lesson. Should be an interesting experience. I’ll keep you guys updated on how it goes.

This weekend has been pretty productive with mundane chores for me, but there was some fun. I started Friday night off by going to Toa (the local bar/restaurant that turns into a karaoke bar late). It was a crazy downpour when we walked there, but we wanted some of that food so we didn’t care if we got wet. Within 5 minutes of the 20 minute walk we were drenched. When I finally got to the restaurant I could literally ring out my clothes. I WAS SOAKING. But, I did have some amazing food- teriyaki Ahi tuna cakes served over rice. Pair that with their local beer and I was a happy camper. It was nice to calm down after a whirlwind of a week.

Saturday I spent doing laundry and going to the seamstress and fabric shop to get all of my uniforms for school made. Yesterday was a mixture of class and fun. After spending a few hours inside the classroom, we all went to the park across the street from the school for a barbeque. Here’s a picture of the park. Crazy view, right? This is what I see every day. Unreal.

<-- This area was struck pretty bad by the Tsunami in 2009, so this park was apart of the rebuilding effort.

--> Here are the two stray dogs that always hang out in the park. I want so badly to just give them a home for a year, but I know they would be even worse off when I leave next summer.

After dinner we decided to toss the volleyball around and we were having a lot of fun. I decided to get super serious (mistake #1) and I dove for the ball (mistake #2). When I dove I didn’t see the massive boulder in my way and I completely smashed up my knee. I’m fine, but I made good use of the first-aid kit I brought with me. Thanks, Momma Jude! I’m such an idiot haha.

I found out a little bit more about my village. The oceanfront that is next to my house—the place where we would snorkel is known to have tiger sharks. Yep, the man-eating kind. I’m not even exaggerating; tiger sharks are the WORST for humans. Here’s to hoping I don’t get eaten alive. On the bright side, there haven’t been any attacks on humans that are documented. That’s comforting, right?

Enough from me. Thanks to all the family and friends I talked to yesterday, it was so nice to feel close to home again. I hope everyone had a good time at marathon!

Love, love.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Orientation, Cooking, & Cold Showers

Hey guys, this week has FLOWN by. I can’t believe it’s already Friday. I’ve been constantly going all week long with 10-12 hour days inside the classroom, only to come home and prep lessons that keep me up most nights. Today marks the day of a joint lesson I will be giving. We’re presenting one on using clues within pictures to help sound out the words on the page. Typical 2nd grade stuff. I’m really excited. I’m starting to get more and more comfortable teaching and being in front of people.

Even though I’ve been really busy, all of us get together for dinner every night and help cook. This is the first thing I’ve been learning during orientation that has nothing to do with teaching. Last night for dinner was jambalaya, a few nights ago it was corn flake baked chicken and rice. Turns out that when I don’t have the pressures of being a college student, I actually like to cook. Now, I’m not saying I’m good, I’m just saying I’m working on it. Looks like my future husband might actually have a wife that cooks after all.

Another thing that orientation has introduced me to are cold showers. There isn’t hot water in American Samoa. I mean there are some places, but not at houses. I’ve been taking non-heated showers for the past two weeks and that will continue on for the next year. It’s safe to say that the thing I’ll be looking most forward to come my return will be a hot bubble bath.

The last thing I wanted to mention in this post deals with my future. For those of you who know me well, know that I’ve had a year, 5 year, and life plan since I could talk. If one thing changed, I would calculate and recalculate the changes that would take place because of the alteration. For the past couple years, my plan has been to graduate, take a year off, then go to law school. This is definitely still the goal I’m leaning towards, but I may take another year off before I go to law school or grad school. is a really great website that I’ve been looking at for jobs I could have when I come back to the States. The website posts education/public service/social justice jobs and volunteer work that are available. If it all worked out, I would love to spend a year in Grand Rapids or Detroit working and then hopefully going to law/grad school the following fall. I know this is all a bunch of rambling, but I’m still trying to work things out. I think I’ll still apply for law school this fall, but if given an option, I may defer for a year. Again, who knows?

Anyways, nothing super new to report here. I want to thank those who have already purchased things on my Amazon wish list-- they will be used to their full potential! Another shameless plug- Check out this link for ways you can help my classroom! Also, my phone is back working! I guess they thought our 989 area code was Afghanistan’s country code, which is why I was being charge $.75/min instead of the $.12/min rate. I guess it’s easy to confuse Northern Michigan and Afghanistan. Hah.

Faifai le mu!
Take it easy!


P.S. Have fun at Marathon this weekend Up North people! I don't remember the last time I missed it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This is Samoa

This was a title I was waiting to have until I had a good reason to put it as it. All of the literature I read from past volunteers talked about various illogical things happening and the people here in Samoa not really thinking anything about it. Dogs chase you and people just watch? This is Samoa. People stop you on the street just to ask how your day is? This is Samoa. You see 4 rainbows in one day? This is Samoa. Internet goes out in the entire country for a week and no one thinks anything of it? This is Samoa.

The last quirk I mentioned is what just happened to me. Internet here has been really spotty. It went out Friday mid-morning and didn’t come back on until today. People honestly didn’t freak out; in fact everyone went on with their daily lives as if nothing had changed. In a way I admire them for this trait. If this were to happen back in the States, shit would hit the fan. Everyone is so laid back here, an attribute that I’ve never been able to master. Because of this, I have a few updates to give you and the blog post is kind of long.

Here was a post meant to go up Sunday morning:
Finally. A morning off. Even though I still woke up on my own before 6:00am, I’m loving the fact that I don’t have to be inside a classroom by 8am. Yesterday afternoon we finally got to see a pretty big chunk of the island. We started off at 11:30 am and drove pretty far East. It was beautiful. We drove along the coast in this beast:

Yea, that’s the public transportation here. It’s an old wooden bus that blares music. We rode the whole way jamming to Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, and the Temptations. Clearly they know how to party here. You just wave one down and hop on. Like I said in the last post there really is only one road, so you hop on one going the direction you want to go and then let them know when you want off. When you get off you throw them a dollar. It doesn’t matter if you’re going 2 miles or 20 miles, it’s $1.00. Once we got to the Eastern edge, we went swimming in a wharf. The water was SO WARM. But, me being me, I had to ruin the gorgeous day somehow and the way I managed to do it was by getting cut by coral. Now, the cut really wasn’t that bad. I was actually kind of excited by the tropical idea of being cut by something you can’t find anywhere near home. The novelty of it quickly ended as soon as I remembered all horror stories about the ocean—Jaw’s and Finding Nemo included. Sharks smell blood and that’s when they attack. I once again found myself RUNNING out of the water. While I know it was highly doubtful that a tiny scrape would attract a man eating great white, I wasn’t taking chances. So I spent the next little bit going around and catching crab, which was just as entertaining.

Here is a pic of me standing next to a giant rock along the way. Legend has it that this rock, along with one other right next to it, were once brothers. They had to flee the island for safety, but became rocks. I don’t really know the whole story. But it sounds like it must be true. Also, you’ll notice the skirt I’m wearing. It’s like a sarong, but it’s called an ie’lava lava and is traditional casual dress for women.

Here is another pic of the scenery we saw along the way. We drove all the way East and then all the way back West, so there was a lot to see.

After coming home from an exciting day, a group of us wanted to enjoy the fact that we didn’t have any place to be in the morning, so we decided to go out.  Now I know I told everyone at home that women don’t really drink on the island and that is true, but in the city there are a few more westernized bars where women come and drink. Luckily, there is one right up the road from where we are staying right now.  There were a bunch of palagi’s (white people) there, which is fine for a night, but I definitely would not want to make this a regular thing. I actually won’t be given that option because on Ta’u (the island I will be living on), there are no bars, even for men.  While at the bar I had the local beer; it was a lager and tasted pretty bad.  The best part about this bar is that at 10pm in turns into a karaoke bar, which is when the Samoans come out. It was awesome to hear men that could easily be mistaken for a real life giant to sound like Michael Buble.  Also, you’ll notice that in the pic of me at the bar I have my hair down. Here, people don’t wear their hair down; they only wear it in buns or ponytails because when your hair is down it is easy for evil spirits to get in. Whenever I’m out in public my hair is always up, so it was nice to be able to have it down, even if was just for a night.

(End of Sunday post. Here is what has happened in my life the past few days.)

On Sunday, all of us lounged around the campus. Sundays are meant to be a day of rest, so in the mornings you are supposed to lay low and go to church. There aren’t any catholic churches around and because I won’t be on Tutuila for very long, I decided to just stay inside Sunday morning. That’s one luxury I won’t have once I’m on Ta’u. So a group us played cards and even got out and played volleyball in the evening  with the locals. We played with a brother and sister and they were pretty great.  Obviously my team won. J

Monday was another busy day. We started with a lesson on long term lesson planning then we headed to Blunt’s Point. It’s a hiking trail that ends on a point with old cannons and unbelievable view.  We hung out there and talked about culture shock and how to readjust to living in a new country.  I forgot my camera, but I was able to snag a few pics on other people’s camera, so once I get ahold of those I will be sure to post. Then we spent the later part of the afternoon going over appropriate apparel. I need to get a puletasi made, which is a formal dress for women—it’s what all the teachers wear. Think of the most unflattering outfit you have, times it by a million and then that’s a puletasi. Once I get the fabric and get it made, I will be sure to post a picture of how ridiculous I look.

Today has been great. I started the morning out with a meeting with my principle. She let me know that more than likely I will be teaching 3rd and 4th grade, but at a 4th grade level. There are only 2 3rd graders in the entire school and 6 4th graders. That means my classroom will only be made up of 8 students, which is unheard of back home. I’m so excited to have so much one on one time and to be able to start them out early with constant English speaking in their life. Typically, only WorldTeach has students in the older grades and they don’t experience much English until then. While I did prefer to teach 5th or 6th grade, I am excited to have students that are excited to be there. We have the same standards and benchmarks as back in the States, but they are rarely met here and even if students don’t meet the benchmarks, they still pass them on to the next grade. I’ve heard that past 6th grade teachers have students at a 2nd grade level. This should be quite challenging. It’s weird because for the first time in 4 years I’m reconsidering if law school is the way to go.  (Mom and Patti- I don’t want to hear any “I told you so’s.”) This is still an idea bouncing in my head, but maybe a MPP, MSW, or even an MEd is the way to go. Who knows? Maybe I just will always travel and find new countries to teach in so I never have to go back to school. I still have time to figure everything out.

Just a head’s up, I’ve been having some issues with my cell phone and my minutes. Hopefully I will have that fixed soon. The way my phone works is that if you call me, it’s free (for me). If I call you it’s $0.12 a minute.  The issue is that they’ve been charging me way too much per minute, so I’m staying positive that my time on the phone with them and going into the phone company’s office will lead to it all working out.

Alrighty guys, that’s all from me. Hard to believe I’ve been here over a week. I’m staying busy and loving every minute of it, but missing all of you.

Until next time. Alofa.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Riding in Cars with Boys.

Hiya folks!

Yesterday was REALLY long. We started class right at 8am and went all the way up until about 6:15pm, with only about a 45 minute break all day. Exhausting. Also, yesterday wrapped up our first full week of Samoan language classes. We take those classes daily for two hours at a time. I’m starting to understand it, but it is taking me a while. I can say a few things like “Hello, how are you?” “I am a teacher.” “Thank you.” “Please.” and other common conversational pieces. We are continuing this practice for the next 2 weeks and then once I’m on Ta’u, I’m sure I’ll get more fluent because people rarely speak English there. It’s just pretty cool to think that I can now speak English and Spanish pretty well, as well as conversational Vietnamese. To throw in Samoa as being close to fluent would be awesome—even if it isn’t that practical once I get back to the States. Our language teachers are two elders from the Mormon church on the island. Both of whom, aren’t native. Both appear to be in their mid-20s. One’s from Idaho, the other is from Denmark. Interesting mix. If these classes have taught me anything, it’s that teaching teachers must be the WORST job in the Universe. Everyone has their own teaching style, so when they’re taught a certain way that doesn’t align with how they want it, they speak up and they speak up OFTEN. So while our Mormon, non-native Samoan teachers aren’t necessarily doing an outstanding job, I definitely take my hat off to them for being willing to spend their time teaching US.

So after having a pretty jam-packed day in class, about six of us decided to go to the 6:30 Batman showing. We were already running behind. It’s about a 20 minute walk from where we’re staying to the theatre and we didn’t leave until after 6, which meant we were cutting it CLOSE. To make up time we decided to speed walk. Along the way, a pick-up truck with about 3 guys our age pulled off to the side of the road and asked if we had wanted a ride. Now, Mom if you’re reading this, I know you said never to get into the car with strangers, but the culture here is different. So, we graciously said “Fa’afetai!” (thank you) and hopped in the bed of their truck. The whole way there they were talking to us about what we were doing in Samoa and how we liked it. Once we got to the theatre (keep in mind, they weren’t going to the theatre, but offered to take us anyways), they insisted we get a picture with them, so we obliged. After a few more thank yous and one of the guys asking if any of us girls were single to become his wife, we went into the theatre. One of the girls here has the pic on her camera, so I will have to upload it later.  The theatre reminded me a lot of the one in Grayling, but it had two screens and was nicer. I felt like I was back home. For anyone on the fence about going to see this movie, YOU SHOULD SEE IT. It was phenomenal. I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie that good. Seriously. GO SEE IT.

Well, even though it is Saturday, we still have orientation. Meetings start this morning at 8am and then we have an “island tour” after lunch. We are essentially driving from village to village to look at the schools. Unfortunately, we won’t be going to my school because you have to take a plane to it. Ahh the joy of being on an even more remote island.  Remember- email me, skype me, call me.

Alofa ia te ‘oe!
(I love you!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

I guess I'm a teacher now... and kind of a celebrity.

Hi guys!

Not much new has happened since I last wrote. Orientation has kicked into full swing and we're doing stuff from about 8am-7pm, which is when we all get together and play cards or get to know each other better. I have 8 people on the smaller island I will be living on. There are 2 married couples, a guy, and then three girls (including me). I really like everyone. My roommate seems great-- she's from Puerto Rico so I'm hoping we can work on my Spanish. All of us already have plans to go on crazy adventures.

Yesterday we made our first trip to the Department of Education. We met three pretty important people and discussed our role as teachers. As we took the 20 minute bus trip from Nuuli to Utulei, I continued to just take in my surroundings. In American Samoa, there is only one main road and it wraps around the coast. You can stay on it for forever because it's a circle. Even the locals joke about how simple it is. The only other roads are small off shoots to take you to back villages or houses. So as we drove I just took in the coast. The monstrous ocean contrasted with the serene mountains. It was beautiful. Once we got to the DoE they showed us to a conference room. After waiting there for about 5 minutes chatting, a group of cameras and reporters walked in. We didn't really say anything, but continued to talk. When the DoE people finally came in they just sort of said, "Well it looks like you guys will be on TV today." All of us were SO confused. In Samoa there are only 2 local channels, the rest are mainland US channels. So if you want to hear local news and weather you have to watch them. Needless to say, both channels were there. So last night as all Samoans were eating their dinner watching the news, they found out that all the WorldTeach teachers are finally on island. I feel like in the US this never would have been news, but here it's a pretty big deal.

For those of you who don't know, WorldTeach only goes into countries that requests its presence. American Samoa DoE contacted WorldTeach because there is such a teacher shortage here. This is why I like it so much. We aren't taking locals' jobs. We here because they want us to be and everyone treats us that way.

When I walk down the street people smile and wave. A few will ask me if I'm a teacher and for the first time in my life I really am and I love it. I like the feeling of being appreciated and I LOVE the feeling of being welcomed by people who don't even know me yet.

OK guys, that's all from me. Tonight I'm going to see Batman at the local movie theatre with a group. Should be fun!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Instant Coffee, Rainbows, & Wild Dogs

Yep. The title says it all. This is what life in Pago Pago is like for me right now. Yesterday morning I woke up and it was FREEZING. Well, not freezing by Michigan standards, but freezing by Samoa standards. And, it was raining. Because I was still in absolute shock of my new surrounding I decided to bundle up and go for a walk. Within 5 minutes the rain stopped (because, I guess that's about as long as it ever rains here.) This is what I found:

Yep. That's a full on rainbow. I guess by checking out the locals, I was the only one who was completely struck by it. I guess that sort of thing happens here often. I can get used to this. After staring with my mouth obviously wide open and looking like a complete idiot for maybe 10 minutes, I decided to keep walking. That's when I met the dogs. There were two of them and they were ADORABLE. They also wanted to kill me. So as I was being growled and barked at by two dogs that could easily be in a kibbles and bits commercial I promptly turned around and booked it. If people weren't staring before, they definitely were now. Clearly, I'm making friends quick.

During orientation, I am staying at a high school. We're sleeping in classrooms and eating in the home ec room. The food here is pretty Americanized and so is everything else for that matter. There is a McDonalds, Carl's Jr, Pizza Hut, KFC, and a Ford dealership all within walking distance. The only thing that reminds me that I'm not in Michigan anymore, is when I wake up to this:

This is my view from the balcony of the school. Not too shabby. I now spend my mornings drinking instant coffee and just staring. Well, and obviously blogging too, but you get the point.

Alright folks. That's all from me. Sending serious love from across the world.  Hopefully today will be full of rainbows and dogs that don't want to kill me!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Talofa, Pago!

Hi Everyone!

I finally made it! After nearly 20 hours of air time and two full days of travel, I am safely tucked away in Pago Pago, American Samoa. This is where my orientation will be taking place until August 4. On the 4th, I will be moving to my new 'home' on the island of Ta'u. It's only about 6:30am here and we didn't get in until about midnight last night, so I don't really have anything that new to add. All I know is that Facebook doesn't work at the school, so unless I find a new internet source, you guys are going to have to email me!

I wanted to take this post and let everyone know how grateful I am for everyone who has helped me out these past couple of months. I feel like so many important things have happened to me in the past couple months (graduation, LSAT, move home, move to Samoa, etc.) that I never really told anyone how much I appreciated them. So, without further adieu...

To my Ann Arbor friends- thanks for everything. You're support during the LSAT and the great times we had these past 4 years really have kept me going through all the tough times.

To my friends back in Grayling- thanks for reminding me how great Grayling can be. While none of us live there anymore, you all made my three weeks of freedom more fun than I thought they ever could be. You reminded me that I really shouldn't ever be MIA for 4 years like that ever again. There are a lot of great things there and I shouldn't take them for granted.

To my siblings- you all have been so great when it comes to supporting me. Being in Samoa is certainly something I would not be doing if it weren't for all of you. I love that even though I constantly feel in competition with all of you, you never once make me feel like I'm the baby sister struggling to keep up with all you've ever accomplished. (OK, well maybe you all will do that every once in a while.)

To Mom- Absolutely NONE of anything that has happened to me would be possible without you. You've been such a huge supporter (both emotionally and financially!) Don't worry about me, I will be just fine!!

So overall, I want to take this time and THANK YOU ALL for letting me be where I am today. As I wake up and look across the ocean and see volcanoes surrounding me (pics to come soon!), I realize that I'm here because of you, so thanks for giving me this opportunity.

Until next time. Love.

Monday, July 9, 2012

One week to go!

Holy crap! Where has all the time gone?! I will be in AmSam a week from today and I couldn't be more excited, terrified, and every emotion in between. Right now, I am attempting to figure out how to pack everything I have into only two checked bags and a carry on. Wish me luck!

Since writing last, I have found out that I will be teaching at Fitiuta Elementary School, which is on the island of Ta'u. Ta'u is one of the islands that makes up Manu'a, and Manu'a is a group of islands about 70 miles off the coast of mainland American Samoa. Sort of confusing, but that's where I will be. I will be gone for a total of 11 months, which puts me back home in either late May or early June 2013.

Here is a picture of my school. If you look close enough you can see the ocean in the left background of the pic.

The weather there will be unbelievably gorgeous, although it will rain quite a bit. For those interested, here is the 10-day weather forecast for Pago Pago, the capital city of AmSam.

Well, that is all from me now. I will be posting periodically once I get into the country, so check back if you're interested.