Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fishing and Feather Plucking

I had SUCH a cool weekend! Saturday I went fishing with Longoleo and Neta. We left around 9 in morning and were gone for more than a few hours. We drove through the national park and soaked in the awesome views of the rain forest on one side and the ocean on the other. With Neta, Madeline and I went “women fishing.” This entails going along the shore during low tide, climbing the rocks, and getting all of the snails and clams off of the rock. This isn’t an easy process. You take a giant knife, almost like a machete, and chip them off the rocks while you have giant waves crash against you. You also have to deal with the other critters you find while doing this. Besides the endless amount of crab and jumping tiny fish, I almost stepped on an eel. Gross. We also went looking for sea cucumbers to eat. What you do is you grab them off the ocean floor and slice them open with a machete, if the stringy things in the middle are long and clear, then you take them home to cook, but if they’re still reddish pink and full of jelly, you throw them back in. The cucumbers will grow themselves back together and we can go back next week to check their progress. Unfortunately, none of them were ready, so we couldn’t try them.  Once we got the clams and snails off the rocks, we went back to the shore to sit and relax, We were sitting in maybe a foot or two of water on a boulders and Neta said it was time for us to become real Samoans so she pulled out the snails and clams, took two, smashed their shells off with a rock, handed them to us and said, “Eat.” Madeline and I just stared at each other, grabbed the snails first and then the clams and ate them. Right there. No cooking, no salt, no Tabasco sauce. Straight from the ocean. It was insane. Surprisingly, they really weren’t that bad. If given the choice, if I go out there this coming weekend, I’m sure I would eat some more.

Here are some photos I took along the way while sitting in the back of Leo’s pick up.  Look at this scenery.

There are tons of hermit crabs on the beach. Here’s a guy that I almost stepped on. His shell made him look like a dinosaur.

Here’s a pic of some of the fishies we caught. We used a pole and actually cooked them before we ate them, so not nearly as exciting as the snails and clams.

After we got done fishing, we all hopped back in the truck to make our way out of the park. Leo wanted to stop at one place real quick to check for some fish he might be able to catch with his net before we went home. When we stopped Neta pointed out a really cool bird that had just landed in a hollowed out part of a tree. Leo saw the bird and made a comment that its feathers make really good bait for fish. I heard this and didn’t think anything of it, but then Leo was like, “let’s catch it.” My first assumption was that he was going to shoot it, and then get some of its feathers, but considering I haven’t seen a gun since I’ve been here, I didn’t think that would happen. Next thing I know, Leo grabs a t-shirt from the back of the truck, takes off his flip-flops, and proceeds to climb the tree. The bird was maybe 15-20 feet up, so it was not an easy feat. Leo climbs up this tree and goes up to the bird, who I’m sure didn’t see him coming. Once Leo reached where the bird was, he yells back, “There’s babies!” So I thought this would mean he would just let the bird go and come back down, but no, he uses his t-shirt to grab the bird straight out of its nest and then he climbs back down the tree. With the bird squawking like crazy, he brings it over to the truck, tell Neta something in Samoan and then Neta started plucking some of its feathers. I was shocked, Madeline was horrified. After getting over the initial shock, I decided I wanted to try it. So I plucked a feather from a bird for the first time ever and it was alive. Crazy. After we had how much Leo said we needed, we let the bird go and it flew away. Just like that. Honestly so ridiculous.  Here are some pictures of this adventure so I can prove to you that I didn’t make it up.

The rest of the weekend went pretty uneventfully. Sunday was church and lesson planning. I made homemade peanut butter cookies for my students because ALL of them got 100% on their spelling test. I’m so proud of these tiny humans! I feel like I’m starting to get used to everything and get into a schedule. I can now do work from about 7-4:30ish and not have to worry about anything once I get home, which is SO nice. I also like the fact that Palagi keeps me company inside my room once the kids leave. He isn’t allowed inside my classroom during the day, but once 2:30 rolls around, he comes on in. Here he is. Look at this little monster, adorable right (in a stray dog type of way)?

The weather here has been super windy, everyone says we’re getting gusts from Hurricane Isaac. I have no idea how true that is, but either way, I’m sending positive vibes to Florida and the coastal US right now.  Still loving this new place I call home. Love.

Friday, August 24, 2012


How has this become my life? I’m domesticated, completely and wholly, besides the whole living on a remote tropical island part. Tonight I left work around 4pm, putting in a 10 hour day. Not did I just leave work, like I do every other day, but I brought home a stray dog. One thing I swore I would never do here. He was a helpless puppy that was going to die, and who knows he still might, but I figured he should die happy. I brought him home, gave him a bath, and fed and watered him. He won’t be sleeping in the house and he may never actually come back in the house, but he will be outside the house where we left a box and blanket for him to snuggle in at night. Here is a picture of my new puppy, Little Palagi. This is him right after his bath snuggled up in a towel. He’s a keeper. We call him Pal for short.

After dealing with him, I went and played volleyball with my landlord’s family and their friends. My landlord has 3 sons who are 26, 18, and 15, so you can imagine the age range of the people playing. It was actually just me and a bunch of guys because the girls don’t play volleyball that much here. It’s terrifying when the guys actually get into it because they could easily break my nose if I was ever on the wrong side of a spike. One of the 6th graders at my school actually came over and was like “Oh, hi Ms. Baker, I didn’t know you played volleyball.” It was funny because I can just imagine him wanting a night to hang out with the big kids and then he shows up and a teacher is there hahah.

I soon realized that I had some work to do before school, so I came home and started to lesson plan. Now I’m sitting here taking a break from writing my jeopardy questions for review tomorrow, smelling my from-scratch cinnamon (freshly picked!) banana cake bake in the oven, and wondering “How did I get here?” 4 months ago I was on the craziest bar crawl of my life wrapping up senior year, now I’m sitting in my house with baked goods, a steady job, and a dog. I’m not saying it’s a bad change, I’m just saying it’s a change.

Here’s a pic of the chalkboard as I left school a couple days ago.

I know it just looks like a normal school classroom, but it’s my classroom and THAT is the crazy part.

The weekend is coming up and I will spend the bulk of it working on my lessons, especially now that I know my students better, I know how to keep their interest. I’m hoping to explore the national park and work with Mama on making some new mats.

Here’s the finished product of my banana cake! All of my baked goods keep on sinking slightly in the middle when they cool. Does anyone know why that might be happening/ how to prevent it?

I’m going Papaya picking tomorrow night, should be quite fun! Alofa. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Normalcy and Breadfruit Fritters!

Where to begin? My life is now back to being somewhat normal, just not in a normal location. I’m starting to feel like I am no longer a college student (although the consistent later nights and early mornings would make my body argue differently).  I have real responsibilities and I have students that depend on me. They are in hands for the next year and it is my responsibility to teach them as much as possible.

My landlord’s family is wonderful; Logoleo and his wife treat me and Madeline like we’re their kids. We actually call him Leo and his wife Momma. They check in on us and make sure everything is fine. They bring us food, give us money to put in the church offerings, and tell us when everything is happening. It’s safe to say they’ve welcomed us with open arms.

On Saturday I went fishing with Leo, his son Asila, and Madeline. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but we caught three fish and I don’t remember any of their names. Leo actually did all the catching; Madeline and I sort of wandered the coast taking in the breathtaking beauty. We fished out of the national park, so it was great to be able to go in and see it. I guess there are wild boars in there, so all I could think about is Lord of the Flies. There are also lots of butterflies and moths, for someone like me who HATES butterflies and moths, this was more terrifying than being worried about being taken out by a wild pig.

After a few hours fishing, we came home. That afternoon Leo and Neta (Momma’s niece—the heroine of the centipede story) took us to see the other side of Ta’u- Faleasau and the village of Ta’u. These places were much more like beach villages. They are sea level, the front yards are sandy, and the housing style in slightly different than Fitiuta. Hard to believe that a drop in elevation and only a 6 mile car ride can drastically change your surroundings that much. Here is a picture of the views from the other side of the island. The Wharf for Ta’u is located on that side, so if you look in one picture, you can see the wharf and a sign made out of seashells in the side of a mountain, “Welcome to Manu’a.” 

That evening we went to Momma and Leo’s for dinner where we had taro, coconut crab, the fish we caught, and some other little things.

Sunday was spent going to church. One of my 3rd grade students sat with me. The whole service was in Samoan, so I had no idea what was going on, but I nodded along and followed the actions like I did. A few times my student would see that I was doing something wrong, he would elbow me and whisper, “Teacher!! CLOSE YOUR EYES.” Hahah I listened. The reverend welcomed us to the church and the community during the service, which was nice.  After church we went to Momma and Leo’s and had a big lunch. Again we had taro, breadfruit, boiled bananas, pork chops, chicken, fish, soup, and corn beef and cabbage. Interesting mix, but it all tasted pretty good.

When I don’t spend my time lesson planning, which is how I spend my weekends because I have to turn in a weeks worth of plan’s Monday morning, I spend it attempting to cook. I made some cookies Saturday for us to eat Sunday. Then last night I made breadfruit fritters. If you don’t know what breadfruit is, look it up. It grows on a tree and it’s a pretty weird texture.  Anyways, I used the fruit to make dough and then made cinnamon sugar fritters. Here’s a picture of the finished product!

After only eating a few I took them over to Leo’s because I didn’t want to eat the entire thing. However, when I went I thought I would just drop them off and be on my way, but Momma wouldn’t let me leave until she had food to give to me. I left my house with fritters, I came home with 2 chicken thighs, 4 hot dogs, and 4 chicken tails (I don’t even know what these are). Clearly they mean business when it comes to sharing food.

I’m still trying to figure out the mailing situation here. It’s hard because I’m not on the main island, where my mail gets sent. So typically I have to wait an additional week before any of it actually comes out to Manu’a. I’ll keep people posted as I get my mail. For people who are sending me stuff via amazon, sometimes they will send you an email saying that they left it at the post office or they tried to take it to my house; please know that EVERYTHING ends up at the post office because they don’t deliver here. It is our job to pick everything up. So don’t worry, it should be getting to me in due time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My New Life

My first week of school is finished! This week was full of interesting adventures. Turns out school can be just as hard for teachers as it is for students. I am starting to be happily settled into my new home. I posted pictures earlier this week of my new bedroom, but here is a photo of the outside of my house. I have no idea why there are two front doors, but there are—so deal with it. I took this photo from the street this morning before school.

I’m not sure if you can see it or not, but the ocean is in the background. If you look out my front door, you see the mountain/volcano know as Mt. Lata. It is the highest point in all of American Samoa, not just Ta’u. Also we live on the side of it, so all we really see are trees… it doesn’t really look like a mountain to us because we’re already on it, not looking at it from afar.

Last night, right before Madeline and I went to go to bed, she came into my room and said there was a centipede on her laundry basket. I pretty much laughed at her and told her she would have to take care of it herself. I assumed it was the same size centipedes as we have back at home—not much longer than an inch. I was wrong. I went into her room to help her for moral support and this is what I found:

That thing is about 5 inches long. I was mortified. After several failed attempts to kill it and multiple murderous screams later, our landlord’s son came over to see what the deal was. Asila, the son, was out back behind our house picking coconuts. We told him about the centipede and he laughed at us and told us to just step on it. He then gave us each a coconut that he broke open with his machete and drove away. Both of us decided it was time to ‘man-up’ and get rid of it ourselves. Within 5 minutes of this decision we heard a knock at the door. Neta, a fellow teacher and neighbor came over because she heard we were trying to kill a centipede. She quickly walked over got the RAID and  killed it. Like it was nothing. We felt really stupid, but also SO thankful for Neta. She has come to our house every night this week to make sure we didn’t need anything. There’s a thing in the culture here where the women do their own thing and the men do their own thing. Asila didn’t help us because I’m assuming he would have felt uncomfortable coming into an all women household without having male supervision. So he went and found Neta and asked her to help. He’s the greatest. Finally we fell asleep and I woke up this morning to finish my lesson plans. I saw ANOTHER centipede and killed it this morning ALL BY MYSELF. Like I’m a big girl. J haha

School so far has been different than anything I’ve ever experienced. This week we got out early every day. There was no set time and the teachers didn’t know it was happening, but the bell would ring and the kids would go home. It doesn’t matter if I was in the middle of a test, lesson, or game. The kids had to go. So I would wrap up everything and off they went. I’m starting to better know my students and see what they like, what they get, and what they hate. They are starting to understand our routine and I love seeing when they pick up stuff I taught them. I love that on Tuesday they didn’t know my name but today (Friday) they knew that before the bell rings to start school they should be sitting in their desk reading quietly and once the bell rings they do their journal for 15 minutes and then go sit on the carpet for our morning meeting. Routines rock, they rock even more when you get 7 and 8 year olds to follow them.

So every day the teachers get free breakfast and lunch. Some of it can be completely Samoan style, but other times it is just like I’m home. For example on Wednesday they served Crispix cereal and kiwi for breakfast then at lunch they served Pizza with spam and corn. Clearly it is just whatever they can scrounge up they serve.

My life now is pretty different. I went to bed last night by 9:15pm and I was up this morning at 4:15am. I was in my classroom by 6 and the kids arrived around 6:45. Every morning I am able to watch the sunrise out my classroom window over the ocean. Here is picture of my school. You can see the ocean in the background. My classroom is the first red door on the left of this picture:

I know I said I would post pictures of my classroom and here it is now that we have some work up on the walls. 

My favorite part of my classroom is our constitution bulletin board. I’m a social studies junkie so when I saw a remake of our constitution I knew I had to have it for my classroom. On the first day, my students and I made our own constitution for our classroom and they signed it with their “John Hancock.” I don’t know if you can see their signatures or not, but here it is:

Because we knew school was getting out early today we decided it would be OK if the kids played a game outside. Our school is SO small, so 4th grade through 8th grade all play together and they surprisingly get along really well and there isn’t much bossing around by older kids. Here the kids are playing a game called Lepe. It is essentially baseball, but because there are no bats or baseballs they use their arms as bats and a dodge ball. You can see the base of Mt. Lata in the background and you can also see the roof of the church (the white building with beautiful windows.) The little boy in the second picture in the Jordan jersey is one of my students. His name is Ioramo, but he goes by Joe. Makes sense.

Well this weekend will be full of lesson planning, church, and getting to know my village. I spoke with some women that are going to take me “women fishing” tomorrow. I’ve also spoken to my landlord and he said he would find some man who spearfishes that will take me. Should be exciting.

Once I figure out my skyping situation I will be sure to let everyone know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shouldn't you be married by now?!

Hey all! Long time, no talk. I’m happy to announce that I am officially on Ta’u, sitting pretty in my lovely village of Fiti’uta. So far, I absolutely love it. It’s quiet, the people are friendly and it is starting to feel like home. My house is pretty big. I have my own room that is about the size of my room in Grayling. It’s a two bedroom, one bathroom home with a finished kitchen and our own washing machine INSIDE the house. The living room is HUGE. You can tell this place used to be a fale (a house with no walls) because there are posts around the living room. Here are some pictures for everyone to see my new digs.

Also, when you look out the back porch you can see the ocean. It’s hard to complain that my first house after college has an ocean view, not many can say that.
Bedroom Before

Bedroom After!
Now on to my school, I think the last time I wrote I mentioned that school started on Monday and I wasn’t flying in until then. Well, the start of school has been pushed back to this Wednesday, which gives me today to set up my classroom and put together some lesson/first day plans. Also, I was pushed back to teaching the 3rd/4th grade multi-age class again. Hahaha good thing I didn’t become too invested in 5th grade. Jacquie, a WT volunteer who was supposed to be teaching 5th at the other elementary school on Ta’u is now teaching 1st grade, so I really can’t complain. Speaking of my classroom, here is the before and after of it! It’s still a work in progress, and to be honest, I feel like a classroom isn’t a classroom until the students have their work on the walls, so give me a week and this place will feel like home.

While I am SO happy I am finally on island and getting to know my super friendly neighbors, it was an adventure trying to get here. I’m not sure if you all know this, but airplanes and I don’t really get along… especially if they’re tiny. I had to get over that real quick, because this was the plane we flew over on. Including the pilots (who you could see the whole time because the cockpit didn’t have a door), it only carried about 15-20 people. When we checked in, they weighed not only our carry-ons, but also US with the carry-on. I literally had to step on the scale with my backpack and purse on. I assumed that if they had to actually see how much the passengers weighed it didn’t bode well for the durability of this thing. The flight itself was only about 25 minutes long. We flew over Ofu and Olesega, the two other islands that make up Manu’a with Ta’u. They are connected by a bridge. Here are some photos of Tutuila (main island), Anu’u (island off Tutuila), Ofu, and Olesega. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the place to get a picture of Ta’u, but trust me when I say it is stunning.
Our puddle jumper!

Cock Pit!!

Tutuila is on the left, Anu'u on the right.

Ofu and Olesega

Fiti'uta coast! I made it :)

Now it is Tuesday morning, and I am still waiting to see if I even have internet in Fiti’uta… hopefully I didn’t write this whole thing for nothing! This morning I woke up to roosters at 5am… on the dot. Since living here, I have noticed that Roosters will crow anytime of the day, but apparently in Fiti’uta, they also make sure to crow ridiculously early.

Well, tomorrow marks my first day of being a teacher. Not sure how I got here. I’ve worked office jobs all through college and even my time at EWMA pre-school didn’t prep me for this. I’m starting to realize just how much teachers do and just how important they are. I’m responsible for my students, their wellbeing, and what they learn for an entire year. Wish me luck, I’ll need it! Tomorrow is the first day of my life as a young professional, not a student. Let’s just hope I can be as positive an influence on my students as my teachers were for me.

Here’s a shout out to some of the most important/influential teachers in my life:
Aunt Mary, Sandy Michalik, Mrs. Reynolds, Miss Weiler, Miss Packard, Lack, Ms. F, and of course my mom (the only non-teacher in this group). Not sure who is reading this, but if you’re one of these people, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without all of you. Please expect many phone calls and emails as I struggle through this next year.

That post was supposed to go up Tuesday morning. As I’m sure you all can tell, I write these posts when I’m away from the internet and then post whenever I have the chance.

Tuesday inside the classroom was great. I set up my classroom and got to know some of my students. While school didn’t officially start, the students come in and help the teachers clean and set up. I don’t think that’s right, so after I made the kids wipe down their desks, I let them play with some of the games I brought and read some books.  The lunch lady served lunch and we had pizza. Not just any pizza, but pizza with corn and spam on it. May have been one of the oddest concoctions of my life. After realizing what it was a few bites in, I decided to eat just the crust and tomato sauce. Hahah. Now that it is Wednesday morning, I am up again by 5am thanks to the roosters and waiting for when it is fine for me to go back inside the classroom and lesson plan.

Some notable quotables from yesterday:
1) “You’re pretty. Why aren’t you married yet?” (As if looks is the only thing that dictates the desire to be married and being 22 makes you an old hag.)
2)  “Wait, why again is Ohio State so bad?” (Yes, I am brainwashing my kids into the right way of thinking.)

Alofa to all. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


To start off this blog, I just want to say thank you to everyone who purchased stuff off of my Amazon Wish List. I received my first shipment the other day and it included everything from crayons and markers (shout our to Jeff Liu!), to ESL materials. Unfortunately, none of the products told me who sent the stuff which stinks because I want to send you all a little something, so if you chipped in let me know! Once school starts, I will show all of you how they were put to good use.

This week has been pretty uneventful. I spent the majority of the beginning of the week going to DOE workshops and prepping for my move to Manu'a. Earlier this week I was told that I would be moving Saturday, but due to traveling issues, I won't be leaving until Monday afternoon. What? Monday is the first day of school and if I leave then I'll miss it? Yea, I know. This is Samoa. Turns out the first day of school is pretty optional. In fact, so optional that a majority of my coworkers won't be there either. I guess so many people come to Tutuila (the main island) for summer break and wait until the last minute to go back to Manu'a that they aren't able to get flights out. So not only will the school be half empty, but no one really sees much wrong with it. Here it is more of a matter of fact than an abnormality... which is SO FRUSTRATING. Also, since the plane is so little, I'm only allowed 44 lbs of luggage-- you're not even given the option of checked baggage. Because of that I sent pretty much all of my clothes and food over via boat. Looks like I will be living out of my backpack for longer than expected. Oh well. One thing I've learned here is to just go with the flow and laugh things off because you aren't really given any other options. Because of my extra time and the fact that I don't know what I'm teaching yet, I'm trying to find other ways to spend my time. Tomorrow I might go for a hike to a waterfall and Saturday I might head to a beach bar. We'll see.

New Zealand- Steinlager

China- Tsingtao
When I'm on Manu'a I won't really be able to drink, so with my time left on Tutuila I've been trying the various beers that I've never seen back in the States. Most are lagers. Here are a couple pics of the two beers I've had. One's from New Zealand, the other from China.

Also, here's a gem of me on the first day of DOE orientation. While this isn't a full on puletasi, I'm wearing a puletasi bottom. With my hair pulled back tight, a flower in my hair, and my knees and shoulders covered, I'm looking pretty professional! (Although I think I look kind of goofy.)

I will keep you all updated on when I leave for Manu'a. Last night I had dinner with the principal of Manu'a High School and everything she talked about made me so excited to get there and start the next chapter of my life. Hard to believe that I will soon be living in  a place where less than 1% of the world population has ever been to!

Monday, August 6, 2012

"The women will serve you."

This adventure keeps on getting cooler! Yesterday I spent the morning helping Sara and Josh clean up around their house, but afterwards we had an official welcoming from the family whose land the house is on where Josh and Sara are staying. I ate taro, breadfruit, coconut milk, salmon, SPAM (!!!), corn beef and cabbage, and terriaki beef. The food was so great (not the spam), but I completely understand why Samoans are such large people—they eat often and they eat A LOT. Don’t get me wrong, the food was phenomenal but I could never eat that much all the time. During this time, I experienced for the first time the role of genders within the household. At the luncheon Josh went to help bring out the food and the host family mom said, “Josh, have a seat. The women will serve you.” When I heard this I about flipped my shit, but I was respectful and served the food to the men as they sat and discussed football. 

After our luncheon we went to one of their family friend’s personal beaches.  It was on Maloata Bay. Here is a map of American Samoa. I’m staying in Leone and you can see on the west side of the map Maloata Bay. 

As soon as we got there we were awestruck by the view.  All of a sudden, Sara made some sort of noise so we all thought she saw a dolphin or a boat. She mentioned seeing water shooting into the air so we all watched intently (I thought for sure it was a great white.) We kept watching and all of a sudden we saw two whales surface. One jumped and splashed and the other smacked its tail.  Seeing humpback whales in the wild was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

We decided to finish the afternoon by kayaking and snorkeling around the reef right around the bay. On our way home, one of the grandson’s of the host family sat on my lap in the bed of the truck. As we drove away seeing the sunset with this little boy sitting next to me telling me stories and calling me auntie (sign of respect), it made me both miss home (especially all of my nieces and nephews!), but also love my new surroundings. I’m constantly learning and experiencing new things and I love it!

This morning I woke up bright and early to attend the Dept. of Education Orientation for teachers. It was really bizarre. We started 45 minutes late. They served us breakfast—2 boiled eggs and a cinnamon roll. The orientation started with songs in Samoan, a prayer, and presenting of the colors. After some remarks from the local Reverend, the head of the DoE, and the Governor, we were released to go find our schools. As everyone says, we need to be very flexible when you’re a teacher here and I learned that first hand today. Today, I found out I am no longer teaching 3rd and 4th grade multi-age. Instead, I will be teaching 5th grade, with the potential of teaching 5 through 8 subject based. Hah. Joke life. Hopefully I will find out more tomorrow. Also, I found out that I will not be going to Manu'a until Saturday, which means I will only have Saturday evening and Sunday to move in and set up my classroom before school starts Monday morning. 

I'll keep everyone posted on my teaching situation. Good thing no matter my classroom/age I get, I will still need all of the supplies and books everyone has purchased for me!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Orientation is done!

Wow. So much has happened these past few days. Wednesday and Thursday were mainly spent doing chores and attempting to get everything set for my move out to Manu’a. I am now a proud owner of two bank accounts and an official American Samoa teacher certification (good for 3 years). 

Friday is when the fun began. We started the morning off with a hike in Fagatele Bay. It’s the marine sanctuary here in American Samoa. The school bus took us pretty far into the rainforest and then we had to hike from there. Here’s a pic of the school bus on its way out of dropping us off.

We were strait up off roading it in this thing. The hike was unbelievably gorgeous. While it was slightly challenging to hike back up the mountain, the hike down to the bay was great. The scenery was out of this world— the hike was full of exotic plants, flying foxes, lizards, and noisy birds.

When we finally got to the bay, this is what we found:

The bay is a marine sanctuary, so we were able to go out and snorkel to see everything. I snorkeled in about 30 feet of water over the reef and the water was clear blue.  It was unreal what I saw. I swam over baby barracudas and sharks (Can you believe it Zac and Courtney?!?!) I saw so many fish and the coral was beautiful. I guess where I’m going to be living is home to the largest Porites Coral in the entire world and NOAA is working to turn that part of the ocean off of Manu’a into part of the sanctuary in order to preserve it.

Friday evening we went to the local market. On the first Friday of every month they have dances, music, and vendors at the market and everyone goes down there to hang out. I had some Filipino dish for dinner as I watched some traditional Samoan interpretive dance. Friday night we went to a party to celebrate our last night of orientation. I met the local radio host named LJ (he said his real name, but said palagis could never pronounce it, so he’s shortened it) and he yelled at me for being a Lions fan. We then spent some time talking about Samoa and places that I should visit. He said that Manu’a is a wonderful place that I will love—although it may take some adjusting. It was great mingling with locals and actually getting to know them on a better level. This was the same party where I met a guy who is out here doing work for the telecommunications company. He is in his mid 20s, from Punta Gorda, spends his summers in Gaylord, and his mom graduated from Grayling High School. He mentioned that he was bummed he was missing the canoe marathon.  I could not believe it. Chances are we’ve been in the same place at the same time and we were just now meeting on the other side of the world.

Saturday I spent my last morning at Nu’uuli Vocational Technology High School. I realized that I never showed anyone what my life has been like the past few weeks, so here is a pic of where I had my morning coffee:
Also, here is me with the school sign. I had to get a pic—I mean, how often do you live out of a high school?
We spent our last morning having a nice breakfast at a restaurant called Sadie’s by the Sea. Here is a photo of my view while eating my breakfast:

Clearly life in Samoa thus far has been wonderful. The scenery is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and I’m loving what I’m doing.  With all that being said, I’m super anxious to get out to Fitiuta and be in my new home. This week is the Department of Education orientation. Monday is the opening ceremonies and Tuesday and Wednesdays will be spent on elementary school meetings. Either Wednesday or Thursday is when I will finally make it out to Manu’a/Ta’u/Fitiuta.  For the coming days I will be staying with two of my friends Sara from Connecticut and Josh from Texas. We spent the first night here getting to know the family that owns their land/houses. They treated us to Carl’s Jr. and tomorrow we will be having an umu for our official welcoming.

Only 9 days until my first day of school!  Yikes!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Museums & Reverse Culture Shock

I had such a great start to the week. Monday afternoon I spoke to a representative from Manu'a (the group of islands I will be living on). All of her advice was super helpful and I'm feeling more prepared than ever to finally make my way out there. Tuesday was a busy day. My final solo lesson for training went better than expected. I LOVED interacting with the kids and teaching them about democracy, majority rule, and voting. They responded really well to it. We finished our language lessons yesterday and I'm starting to understand conversations better and better. Not sure if I wrote about this last time, but I've had a few conversations with Samoans in Samoan and it definitely helps me learn better when I speak directly to them.

Today was the best day ever (at lease since I got here). This morning we had a conversation about America Samoa and it's relationship to the rest of the world. We also discussed whether or not this qualifies as a developing nation or not. This might be boring to some, but considering I majored in International Studies, this discussion was right up my alley. After our discussion we went to the only museum on the island. IT WAS SO COOL. Here are some pictures of the eclectic place.
This American Samoa flag was taken to the moon and back on Apollo 11.

Traditional Samoan Tattoos

This flower (pictured below) is still used for its medicinal
practices on the island I will be living on. This was taken more for
Zac and Amber to see. I figured you med students would appreciate
the fact that they have meds to fix supernatural diseases here.

Traditional Samoan dress

This is a High Chief dressed in his ceremonial outfit. There are still high chiefs today that wear this during ceremonies and celebrations.
As you guys can see, culture and tradition are still very strong here. I loved learning about the history and seeing how it has changed through the years. Today I was definitely reminded just how important culture is to people and how vital it is to preserve it whenever possible.

After the museum, we went out to a fale (house with no walls) and met with some women who taught us how to weave. This was another great part. Today, I made myself a bracelet from bandana (pronounced baahn-dahna) leaves. It was so amazing to watch these women with such skill weave amazing bracelets, baskets, mats, and everything else. While I was weaving, I remember thinking, "this is something I am going to remember for the rest of my life." I'm sitting here with women who barely speak my language and I barely speak theirs, yet we were communicating through art and emotion. Pretty powerful stuff. It's moments like this that make me realize how much I love traveling and even more so, how much I like learning. I hope that feeling never goes away.
Weaving process. You start with really long leaves. It took me about 45 minutes to do the whole thing.

Finished product!
Today I also experienced my first bout of reverse culture shock. I had some spare time on my hands so I was surfing the web and I came across on how the two twilight stars are caught in a cheating scandal. Unfortunately, one of my guilty pleasures was celeb gossip, but today when I saw it I got really pissed off. I was SO frustrated that every magazine is blowing up over it, when I'm half way across the world struggling to find affordable school supplies for my students. UGGHHH. Sorry for that rant, but I had to get it off my chest.

Those are the only updates I have. I've officially started the law school process with MSU's application 'in progress.' Sending love from across the world. Until next time. Alofa.