Friday, December 16, 2011

An Inspirational Moment

Since the first day of school, one student in particular has given me absolute hell. Zachary Langkilde is a senior, starting football player, and a very cute kid. Unfortunately, he has an ego so big; his head often cannot fit through my classroom door. When added to his 5’5 stature with my diagnosis of ‘short-man’ syndrome, he is one extremely cheeky kid. In November, my students became parents to flour children. For one week, they assumed the responsibilities of having to care for a 10 pound sack of flour dressed as a baby. Some naturally chose not to do the project. Zach, to my surprise, took the project very seriously. His baby, named Swagger, was the best cared for and dressed in his class. During my “baby patrols” at lunch, I would spot him holding his baby while talking to his girlfriend, who was Swagger’s after school sitter. Daily Zach would show me how he was such a good dad, even if it meant I had to give him the attention he craved. He still has his ‘show-boat’ and cheeky moments, like stealing some kid’s calculator to take his final during the final, but since this project, he and I have developed a bond. After losing their championship football game, he came to me still sweaty and in his gear on the field for support. This past Wednesday, after performing in the annual Christmas concert, he found me and gave a big bear hug. I still don’t know how, but this cheeky 17 year old boy has weaseled his way into my heart. The picture below is of Zach holding Swagger working on an assignment in class.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Pictures!

 Picture of my new tattoo! 

Our high school logo!

Spirit week: Patriotic Day!


Peter, Lauren, and I on parent-teacher-conference day in our teaching outfits!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Only in American Samoa...

Can you walk around with no shoes, no shirt, and it really is no problem (like the country song)
·         Can you weigh 300 pounds and it’s normal
·         Is Carl’s Jr. the “place to be” or the date location of choice.
·         Do men wear skirts (called lava lava).
·         Do looks not matter. You can get away with wearing just about anything- even an orange moo-moo to work.
·         Do most of the students look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy/Girl.
·         Are people allowed to smoke on public buses.
·         Have the school bell be an empty oxygen tank hit with a metal stick.
·         Everyone, even kids, have a tattoo. You are questioned if you don’t have one.
·         Does it take 10 seconds to do your hair.
·         Is the literal translation of “white people,” “cloud bursters.”
·         Do students ask why your “eyeballs” are blue.
·         Can you get weekends out if you’re in jail for committing a crime.
·         Are family members buried in your front yard. People and dogs take naps on top of the gravestones. Creepy. Maybe it helps them to feel close to those who have gone before them?
·         Does business professional attire include flip flops.
·         Do umbrellas have three purposes, to protect against rain, sun, and dogs.
·         Can all the armpits of all your t-shirts get ruined because of the amount of sweat your body produces.
·         You need to have a stick and a rock, before you go on a walk, in case a bunch of dogs come after you.
·         Do the students have grey hair.
·         Is there one main road and you can’t go faster an 30 mph.
·         Can it be pouring down rain one minute and sunny the next
·         See dead, fried, squished frogs on the road.
·         Do the public buses sound like a night club.
·         Get hit by a falling coconut- it’s almost happened, a close call once.
·         Have high school kids shut down a road because of a fight.
·         Have a fight happen in your classroom (ask my roommate Lauren).
·         SWEAT ALL THE TIME. When you eat, when you sleep, when you shower, when you teach, etc. And I’ve come to terms that while I’m here, I will be sweaty and smelly all the time!
·         Do people get excited because it sea worm season.
·         See bats that are five feet long.
·         Do students have gold fillings on the front of their teeth that make them look like pirates.
·         Will you see 20 people crammed in the bed of a pick-up truck.
·         Learn to live without internet and a TV.
·         Listen to Justin Beiber in Samoan.
·         Listen to a 45 minute prayer.
·         Can you never be hugged and kissed by enough sweaty Samoans.
·         Can you work out and have lizards/geckos, frogs, flying bugs, and cockroaches join you and have bugs get stuck in your sweat.
·         Will students throw a dead cockroach at you.
·         Have I learned to hold my breath when I use a public bathroom.
·         Have over 50% of your students fail your class because they are at the level of an 8th grader and are expected to graduate in May.
·         Does it take 5 times to actually get a phone call through.
·         Nothing starts on time.
·         If something doesn’t get done today it can get done next month.
·         Do you go to bed at 8 pm on a Friday night because there is nothing to do and you started drinking at 6 pm.
·         Can you learn to love the students who made/make your life a living hell.
·         Can you have your anxiety replaced by a stillness and peace.
·         I have learned to flexible and patient. Some things really are worth the wait and not much goes according to plan.
·         Have I learned to reprioritize the important things in life.
·         Have I learned to look at life in a new perspective.
·         Has my hair grown about 4 inches- I have some nice grow out!
·         Is being disconnected and less distracted from all the material and little things has/is showing me to life live more simply.
·         Literally not sweat the small stuff. (Notice the theme of sweat!)
·         Am I am so proud to teach all 140 of my students and watch them learn. Especially journalizing transactions. Yay accounting kids!
·         Have I learned that I am a strong and capable person.
·         Have I learned that I am making a difference, even if my kids tell me I am torturing them!
·         Am I learning to be more comfortable expressing my feelings and learning to become sensitive.
·         Have I realized that I need to ignore what other people think and live my life the way I want to even if it means learning the hard way.
·         Have I learned that I live in a fascinating world and country and I am so lucky to be alive.
·         Have I learned to find the beauty in every situation- especially the really crappy ones.
·         Have I learned how spoiled we are as Americans.
·         Have I learned that everything happens for a reason.
·         I’ve realized that I really do hate running!
·         Have I been shown how amazing and beautiful American Samoa and its people are.
·         I’ve learned that I am living a life worth living.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taufua Beach Fales

Here is a link and some pictures to where I spent my weekend at Taufua Beach Fales:


September and beginning of October Happenings!

Ok, so I need to apologize for neglecting to write in my blog. I am not a huge fan of writing so whenever I think of updating it, there is always so much to tell that it seems like a daunting task.   However, I am excited to share all of the great, and not so great, happenings in American Samoa thus far.

We have hit the three month mark, as of today, of our service as well as the first quarter end of the school year. The past three months feels like it’s gone by fast, yet the first weeks of orientation in July feels like it happened years ago. The novelty of being in a new place and teaching has worn off; ergo the honey-moon stage is over. The last couple of weeks I’ve felt in a funk and was even sick for a few days. I’ve been told my students think I’ve changed and that I haven’t been as cheery and outgoing as I was when school began. And somehow running on a treadmill just isn’t the same as swimming. I even stopped exercising for a while which I gave myself no outlet for the many frustrations.

Last week I realized I was going through this phase and decided to make a change. My new challenge is making the monotonous Monday through Friday schedule of walking to and from school, teaching accounting and record keeping, lesson planning, grading, dealing with cheeky students, lazy teachers, etc. into something diverse and positive. The calendar in my bedroom for the month of October’s quote is “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing it to the end” - Abraham Lincoln. I took this to heart and am trying to live up to this. I also brought this quote to school and shared it with my students. We came to an understanding, the students and I, and we have agreed to make a conscious effort to follow it together.

Debits, credits, journalizing, posting to ledger, budgeting, and variances ran both my 140 students and myself into the ground last week. Despite the fact that midterms start tomorrow, I decided that last Friday we needed a break; we also have a scheduled pep rally that day so I wasn’t meeting with one of my classes and the school day was shortened- good day for a break. My students were to write/ask ten questions about anything they wanted to, myself included, and I would try and answer the ones directed to me. I collected their journals at the end of class and took them home and read every one. A good majority of students asked me some personal questions. They are very curious. Questions ranged from my favorite color, to my high school/college experiences in the states, where I go to church, if I ever lied to my parents, the pros and cons of having a boy/girlfriend while in school, etc. I plan on answering these questions this coming week and I think this will be a good activity that will make me more human and open a good dialogue, breaking up what a normal class is like.

There is still a language barrier that, depending on the student, can be very challenging. I have to watch myself and make sure I talk slow, give clear and concise instructions, and use simple wording. Furthermore, my students are smart and have the ability to succeed but there is a huge disconnect. If they miss school, they don’t ask for missed work, homework isn’t turned in, there is no studying before tests, projects are turned in late, etc. Whether this is due to lack of motivation, laziness, or their life at home with church and chores devours all their time, it is very frustrating. I was told that this is the attitude of the students ahead of time, but seeing how most kids just settle with bad grades, plan on working a blue collar job, and stay on this rock forever; I have never been so passionate about education and creating a brighter future for these kids. I care so much for every single one of these kids and I want to see them succeed and do great things.

The Samoan culture doesn’t raise kids to ask questions and thinking for themselves. They are told what to do all the time. This carries into the classroom. There is no critical thinking and analyzation. There is a fear to ask questions because they usually get hit by the Samoan teachers/parents if they do so. I try and create an atmosphere that is positive and safe, where it’s more than ok to ask questions. It’s kind of working at the moment, haha.

I have been trying to make an effort to get to know my students on a more personal level by attending softball, volleyball, football games, going to church with them, and having them come in for one-on-one tutoring. For tutoring, some of my athletes, like the football players, are failing my class. After notifying their coaches, we now have study parties during lunch.  It’s actually really fun despite not having a break during that time. The coaches really appreciate it as well because it is open to all football players, not just my own. After the work is done, we chat about music, movies, their girlfriends, football, college, etc. I can say now, that come June, when my service is completed, it will be hard to say goodbye to these kids. Some of these kids are huge, nearly six feet tall or bigger, big real big, and put on this front like they’re big and bad, yada yada. But when you get them one-on-one, they are harmless and very kind but have huge, hilarious personalities.  A few want to go to the new Twilight movie with me when it comes out next month, I haven’t decided if this is crossing the line, but they really want to go with me and they bring it up often. It makes me laugh.

And I always have random kids come that stop by my classroom to say hi throughout the day. I have 15 football players and they love seeing us at their games. Our JV is the best on island and our varsity is second. Varsity lost their game this past weekend and it would a tough loss, the moral is going to need some boosting! I have been bear-hugged by many students at the games and some of the boys down on the field will wave at me or chat while they should be in game mode. It’s great to be able to support these kids on and off the field. I realize I talk about my football boys a lot, but I also have a fair amount of other students that will come and hang out with me during their lunch and/or come to me for advice in their personal lives. It’s nice to know they trust me and know that I am there for them. Some of these kids would bend over backwards for me, or if I ask them to jump, they ask how high.

I reorganized by classroom the other week and they wanted to help. I pictured myself sweating, slaving away in my room by myself. But come lunch, a number of kids give up that time to be with their friends. And they came ready to work, and ready to work as they had changed out of their school uniforms and put on other clothes that are ok to sweat in. It made me smile. I also have 15 brand new computers sitting in my classroom in boxes but I do not have the room, outlets, or steady internet to use them, so its just a shame they are sitting there useless. Also interesting that I have new computers but I still do not have enough chairs and desks for all my students to sit in. Money is not allocated effectively and it’s very frustrating.

I also am trying to use Samoan in the classroom. Half the time they laugh at me when I say something, but they respond really well when I say, “soy le pisa, fa’amolemole,” which means “please stop talking.” Or another phrase they all laugh at is “tusitusi in your api,” meaning “to write in your notebook.” “Oh my gosh” in Somoa is “oka.” And I love to say that. It’s my new and favorite word. “Oka” is also a type of fish, so when I ask “oka” my kids make a squirm or shimmy motion and then say “oka Miss Kasey” back to me. My students refer to me as “Miss Kasey” but it usually comes out as “Miss” or “Miss Kase.” I’m getting use to be called by my nicknames- a bit different. And by the way, all 1300 students at Tafuna High School know my name. Kids I’ve never seen before will yell “HI MISS KASE” from across campus.  

Time spent outside of school on the weekends, we (whenever I say “we,” I mean my two roommates that are at my high school, Peter and Lauren, we were called “three’s company” by the field director of our program last year and the “three amigos”). We are a trio and do everything together. But we try and go out and do things, even if it’s taking a bus into the main part of the island on Saturday and eating lunch and then heading home. This last weekend (October 8-10), the three of us, two other volunteers, and the field director from the program last year headed over to Western Samoa for the three day weekend- thank goodness for Columbus Day. Western Samoan unlike American Samoa is independent of the US, much bigger islands, and more touristy.

Apia (one of the two islands that make up Western Samoa) is about a half our plan ride from Tutila (the biggest/main island of American Samoa). The plane we take is a small, little jet that seats about 20 people with an open cock pit. I was seated in the front row behind the pilots and was able watch them do their thing. So we loaded the plane, buckled up, and then took off in a matter of about 5-10 minutes. The accelerator to the plane is very similar to that of a ski-boat. You just push the stick down. But instead of the stick being on the side of the boat, in a plane, it’s on the ceiling. Both pilots have to grab onto this thing and muscle it together to get the plane up to full speed for flight- teamwork! The plane also has this screen that the pilots use to see the route between the two islands. It looks like the screen of an old school video game. The wheel of the plane looks like one used to play a game.

The landing strip in Apia is so small and has one small building for the airport. It is located in the middle of a village/residence area. We took a taxi to the capital- Western recently aligned their time and driving to New Zealand as they do a lot of import/export, therefore they drive on the other side of the street. But since this is new, some people forget what side of the street to drive on and some cars’ driver’s seat is on the left and others on the right. It’s kind of weird, crazy, and scary at the same to be a passenger driving on the roads there. The streets in the capital had thousands of people out about, stop lights, and huge buildings. It’s small here in American Samoa and to see that many people, all the roads was very overwhelming.

Rugby here is huge and the world cup has been going on for some time- this is the equivalent to the Olympics here. Anyways, Samoa has a team that competed and did very well and the players are viewed as heroes to both Western and American Samoa. It is like how football is in the States. People crowd where ever there is a TV to watch this brutal sport. If Manu (the Samoan team) wins, people celebrate in the street and go crazy. It so happened that the Samoan Rugby team was arriving the day we arrived in Western and a welcome home parade was in preparation. The place where we stayed is about a two hour bus ride away. As we were waiting in the bus at a stop light, here came the rugby players. They were sitting/hanging out of cars/trucks, police and a fire truck were also in line to celebrate as well. They passed right next to us and I was able get a close view. It was really great timing on our part ! And oka! they are very attractive, in-shape guys. People on the street were going crazy and so was I to see these celebrities!

Once we were clear of the parade, off we went to the opposite side of the island. Again, Apia is much bigger than Tutila. I saw forests of palm trees with lots of cows, horses (which we don’t have here), and pigs. The poverty is much worse there than here. Passing through different villages it was really sad to see how some of these Samoans live. Children don’t have shoes or clothes, huge families live in run down and rusting fales- fale is the Samoan house, it has a roof and floor and held up by the columns, no sides. In contrast, I saw very elaborate houses and nice cars. Apia is so much prettier than American Samoa. Here in Am Sam the people do not take care of their islands. There is trash all over, you can’t swim in certain areas because the water is so contaminated, we have to boil water due to e-coli (even the rain water), and the roads are terrible. We also don’t have many nice beaches. But in Western it was the opposite. The people take pride and care for their land.

The part of the island we stayed at is in a village called Lalomanu and was completely destroyed by the tsunami that happened two years ago. I meet a local there who lost 13 members of his immediate family and also helped to fetch the bodies of those lost out of the ocean. The whole village had to be rebuilt and parts are left in ruin.

We stayed at Tafoua Beach Fales. It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen- paradise. We are right on the beach with sandy white shores with the bluest waters. The fales are on the water’s edge and are given a bug net with sleeping mats as well as pillows and sheets. That’s it. Everything else you need is communal/family style. The bathrooms were across the street, which is a stone’s throw away, and reminded of me of college dorms- except in the lady’s room there is only 1 mirror and sink. This is a place where do you not need to wear shoes. Everything is sandy and clean enough that you don’t get dirty. So for two days I didn’t wear shoes and it was great.

This little resort is very isolated, in terms of being close to a big village, and two other resorts share the same beach but doesn’t stretch more than a half mile. When you make reservations, breakfast, lunch, and dinner come with it and the price is very affordable. Western uses a different currency called tala, the bills are bright colors and coins have the different kinds of staple foods, banana, taro, and breadfruit, on them. One tala is approximately 2 American dollars. When I would look at the menu I would get a startled that everything was expensive but then I was like, oka! it’s in tala.

In the main fale, the meals are served and all the guests sit together at two, long tables. We met a lot of people/families there on vacation from Australia, New Zealand, and Europe- so there were other white people! Everyone was very nice and friendly and people have asked that we come and stay with them. All the food served is caught fresh in the water right in front of the resort. Lobster, oka, other fish, etc. was so good and prepared Samoan style.

Saturday night after dinner there was a performance of traditional Samoan dance and songs. Really it was just hot, young Samoan men in lava lavas (a piece of material wrapped around the lower half of their bodies), leafs tied around their knees, and woven visors. The ending performance was of two flame throwers. Afterwards we were able to meet the dancers and we all danced together in the fale to American music. Kids to the elderly and even a couple of dogs were on the dance floor busting moves. It was a blast!

We spent our days, apart from eating, snorkeling, taking naps on the beach, tanning, finding shells, swimming, and just plain relaxing. (And when I say tanning, we came back a few shades redder. We forgot the sun on the equator is much more intense. I have never gotten so tan in so short of time.) We didn’t have a care in the world. The hardest thing we encountered was what kind of cocktail we would order during happy hour. There was no talk about school and we immersed ourselves even more into the culture, learned a few new words/phrases, making many new friends, and star/planet gazed on the beach at night- all in a matter of 48 hours. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a vacation. The six of us came knowing no one and after living in the close-knit environment we couldn’t get away without getting a million hugs. And who would have thought that I would be lying on a beach getting a tan in October. But all good things must come to an end, and we left planning on when we could go back.

Some things that I am looking forward to in the coming weeks are more football games, parent-teacher conferences, and the Tattoo Festival that happens over Halloween weekend.

I realize that is a very lengthy entry, but I hope that you get a taste of what life for me is like. I am loving life despite the not so good days. But as with anything, take it with a grain of salt and don’t sweat the small things- even though I sweat all the time here. I am here to serve and do whatever I can for these kids. Yet, I am counting down the days until I get to come home for Christmas, where I will freeze my booty off! I have days were I definitely miss family and friends (and thank goodness for skype). It will be great rejuvenation to come home in a couple of months!

Hope all is well at home!

Fa’afetia! Manuia le aso! (thank you and have a good day) And GO WARRIORS!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Week 5

Hi! Finally have some internet at school- it doesn't really work at my apartment which is a huge bummer. Sorry its taken me about a month to update my blog. Life has been crazy busy! I’m teaching at Tafuna high school, home of the warriors, and it kinda looks like a prison. Two weeks ago I was at school sweeping, mopping, moving furniture, etc. to set up my classroom- it was the sweatiest process. But I finally have AC in my room- thank goodness because I would have roasted.  

I’ve met most all the staff. My department head is great, she is like my mom. She has taken me shopping all around town, driven me home (which is two bus rides away), and took me out to lunch. There are 4 other teachers in our department. I heard that the other 2 business teachers are rejects from their former departments. Soooo, I pretty much work with slackers who don’t like to show up to class to teach- but they are really nice and have taken me under their wing.

School started last Monday, I’m teaching 2 classes of accounting and 3 of financial record keeping. My class sizes are about 30 but I only have 25 desks. Students have to sit on the ground until my stuff comes- which who knows when that will happen. I’m on “Samoan time” now and it takes forever for stuff to get done or its not done at all. All of my 120 students are really nice, friendly, and love the fact that they have a white teacher. I have to lock my door b/c I have boys coming in just to stare at me and ask if I’m married. Apparently I look like a cheerleader, Britney Spears, and a model to them b/c I’m “pretty” and have blonde hair which cracks me up!

Every day we walk a mile to and from school (along with a few mile long bus ride) which is nice to get some exercise but again we get so sweaty.

The school admin here at school is a bit unorganized. We were told not to start teaching until second week of class which started yesterday. Half the junior class didn’t even have schedules the first half of last week b/c their counselor didn’t feel like doing it. So last week we go over rules, play games, or whatever we plan. The teacher next to me decided that since it was “too hot” one day she just wasn’t going to teach. As volunteers here we were told that we would 10 times harder while getting paid way less and it is totally true.

Classes are 50 minutes long but sometimes the bell goes off too early or too late. The bell at all school is an old oxygen tank that is hit by a metal pipe. Sometimes you can hear it, sometimes you can’t. It’s just whatever here which kinda drives me crazy but I’m learning to just go with the flow. The first month of school we have to be strict and mean so students will respect and listen to us. They use corporal punishment here. But as a “white” teacher, students know we don’t hit so they think they can get away with anything. But I’ve discovered that they love the point system so when they are misbehaving I can just deduct points from their grade. For some of my big classes, I have to be the meanest person ever. I’ve also been told to call their parents/pastor or send them to the office if they get out of hand. Students fear this b/c they’ll get beaten so bad they can’t come to school the next day. Therefore, I’m planning on trying to solve all problems in class.

Another problem has to do with student and teacher absences. Twenty missed days in a semester is normal and homework is not given b/c students have so many chores and church related events going on. I did ask that everyone bring a notebook and pen to class and about 95% did which is very impressive. I have already given a couple quizzes and students love to cheat. I caught one kid cheating and took his test, ripped it in half and then threw it up in the air in front of the whole class. He then had to pick up the pieces thrown them away which was totally humiliating but they next day the kid was an angle. That sounds so mean but it works and that kid will never cheat again in my class.

Moving on… The bug situation is ok.  I have about 20 bug bites and the itch gets overwhelming at times. I’m just waiting to see how many scares I’ll get from being here. It gets dark early here, around 6:30 and then all the bugs come out. The family whose property we’re on has a million trees so we see bats at night and they’re massive. We also have to watch out for spiders and centipedes. I was bitten on my forearm (as well as my lip and chin) by something the first couple of weeks here. The bite on my arm took over as my whole forearm was swollen.

I live in an apartment with two other volunteers, Lauren and Peter, who also teach at my high school.  Lauren teaches science and one English class and Peter teaches math. We all have our own bedrooms. Mine is painted purple, has hot pink curtains and bedding, and has gold glitter on the ceiling with a light and a fan that works! At dusk my room gives off a pink glow- I love it! I also have a bed but the mattress is hard foam and is painful to sleep on but on a positive note I have a huge closet. I finally was able to decorate somewhat and have a bunch of pictures and a small mirror up. We’re on the second floor of our building which nice that I don’t have worry about toads coming in. My room has a door that leads to a wrap-around porch (we do abs every other night out there- hopefully I’ll come back with a 6-pack). There are 2 bathrooms also brand new and a small kitchen and couch. The family also has a treadmill which is really nice since there are some mean dogs that live nearby that are known to attack. (One of the volunteers had her skirt ripped by a dog that came after her.) Our apartment building also has 2 other apartments with 5 other volunteers there as well. It’s nice to have all 8 of us there.

Also here are cockroaches, flying cockroaches. I’ve never seen one before I got here and they are massive and just plain gross. I was looking for a band aid one day under our bathroom sink which of course has this huge open hole. As I’m taking a bag, there comes straight at me this huge roach. Of course I scream bloody murder and run out the room and they bug crawls away. Later that night we’re eating dinner in the kitchen and this bug decides to join us. I again freak out and am screaming at Peter (as I’m standing on my chair which is pointless b/c it can fly) to kill it since he is a guy. After a few minutes of chasing it around it is finally killed and bug guts go everywhere- they are the nastiest things ever!

At the new apartment the family who owns it lives right next door and they finished building it like a week before we moved in. Two Mondays ago, they had a party/ family get together. Their Pastor came and blessed us and the apartment. We're now apart of their family. We call them Aunt Ese (pronounced Essay) and Uncle Jack. They're an older couple and Jack was just named the High Chief of their village. Their youngest daughter, who is about 30, lives with them. Her name is Tata and she is engaged to be married next month. The family also has their own personal seamstress and servant- Olie and Cara. Olie made my school uniform. The fabrics here are so hot. I feel like I sweat and stink all the time here. Another family helps Jack and Ese out. They have 4 kids that are fun to be around- Lesha (my age and also a teacher), Fulo (15), Lelo (is a cousin of theirs and also 15), and Theresa (8). We helped them set for the party- it was a lot of work. Every move you make here you just sweat and you sweat a lot. Stinky in Samoan is u'u and that's me all the time.

During the "ceremony" or the blessing of the new building, the prayer was 45 minutes long and in Samoan. While the pray was being said we were sitting on the cement ground in a fale- a traditional house that has a roof and open on all sides. We were also in matching skirts and my leg fell asleep b/c I was sitting cheerleader style. The whole time I was praying that the prayer would end.

We’ve been to airport beach which is literally next to the airport. It was a bit of a walk- every place here is. It is a bit secluded but beautiful. To get there you have to walk on these huge rocks that the waves crash up onto and have blowholes- in some places you had to walk at the right time or get soaked to the bone and/or get swept out into the ocean. But at this beach there is white sand and pieces of the coral that have washed up. You can you swim and snorkel and not have to worry about the currents being too strong. We saw a bright blue starfish, lots of little fish, and crabs. When lying on the beach, little hermit crabs were all over. I tried picking one up but got a little freaked out. This was a nice escape and distraction to the fact that classes started the next day. Our goal is to go the beach once a week, get some sun and play!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 1

Talofa tele lava (many greetings, an exciting hello, etc.!)

Its been a great first week here in Am Sam! My fellow volunteers are fantastic and we're having a blast!

Here are some things I've been up to:

*7 hours of class on week days and several hours on weekends (classes consist of the Samoan language, lesson planning, classroom management, go-to-know about the island, etc)
*Set-up a bank account (might I add that the bank looks like the DMV where you have to pull a number and I had to wait an hour and then it took 45 minutes to set it up)
*I take showers with cold water (which feels really good) but the shower is a PVC pipe with a hole cut out for the spout
*For 20 girls there are 3 showers and 3 toilets
*The shower building is 2 buildings over
*We're sleeping in classrooms on a mattress on the ground and living out of our suitcases for 3 weeks
*Our water has to be boiled or bottled to drink
*Hitchhiking it common and I've done it twice
*Hiked to a waterfall and swam in my clothes (I have some nice sores on my feet from my chacos that I haven't broken in yet)
*Toured my 13 mile long island (which took 4+ hours) and took 200 pictures (our bus overheated and we had to stop haha- the buses have huge basses and play music really loud)
*The Justin Beiber song "Baby" has been translated and is played often- I love it!!
*On the tour we stopped in an outer village and the bathroom looked like it had never been cleaned w/ no TP- I did the hover and dry heave at the same time
*Walked 2 miles to a restaurant at night only to be segregated (Samoans on one side and everyone else on the other). Note to self: don't order chicken at all- my chicken in the salad did not look or taste like real chicken.
*I've been stuck in a sudden downpour and soaked to the bone
*Swam in the ocean and then had to take and bus and wake a ways (it was really uncomfortable to say the least)
*I'll work at Tafuna HS teaching business classes. This school is the biggest and notorious for having really bad kids. Apparently vocational classes are the dumping ground for those who need classes to fill their schedule. So I'll have 9-12 graders who may not speak English, and I could have a desk thrown at me if they get mad. My students will probably get in fights in class! I may need my old big red softball helmet with a face-cage so I don't get hurt!
*I was attacked by a bug or mosquito last night- only 5 bites but they're some nice welts, one of which is on my lip!
*The dogs are a somewhat of a problem and I've had to threaten one by pretending to throw a rock at it!
*I have to buy the traditional clothing to teach in that consist of a shirt down to my ankles and a conservative top- apparently its too breathable so I'll sweat like a pig which is great!
*Its rude to eat and walk here
*I've been pointed and stared at which I find assuming
*I wave to everyone I see here and they all think I'm crazy
*The grocery stores look like dollar stores
* I saw Harry Potter here and it was in English- but parents let their kids run around in the theater and a few babies cried throughout the movie
*It doesn't really look like a third world country but some parts definitely do. Everyone drives a nice truck, there is a McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Carl's Jrs

I know I'm forgetting a lot but thats the gist of it! I'm on Samoan time where there is no rush to do anything so I'm learning patience! I live in a tropical paradise. The beaches look like they're from a magazine. The water is crystal clear and the prettiest blue! The sunrises are breath-taking. I would describe this like Jurassic Park- just w/o the dinosaurs! It never gets below 70 degrees here and its not as humid as I thought- but if you walk anywhere during the day its a guarantee that you sweat like there is no tomorrow!

I absolutely love it here (but I know I'm still in vacation mode haha!!)

I didn't proof-read this so please excuse any errors!

Fa'afetai (thank you) and Fa (bye)!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 1: LAX


What a day and it's only 2pm! My morning began at 3:30- and having gone to bed at midnight I was a bit tired when I woke up! My mom and I left for the airport around 4:30! I have never flown by myself before so I was nervous when we parked at the terminal.

I am NOT a light packer. My two carry-ons and two checked bags weigh about 120+ pounds- HEAVY HEAVY HEAVY! One of my checked bags my grandma gave me was an army like duffle bag without wheels and weighed about 45 lbs. Dragging all that dead weight left some blisters on my hands and I'm a bit sore for lugging around all the weight.

I flew virgin airlines and was assigned a window seat all the way in the back of the plane. My flight was 100% full and lucky me, I sat next to Chatty Cathy! Fortunately I was able to sleep the first half hour and when I woke up she immediately chatted me up. Our hour+ conversation was actually really great. Chatty Cathy's name was Barbie and she is a hair stylist in her mid fifties. She is a recovering alcoholic and shared her story with me. Barbie has a daughter about my age and she was kind enough to became my mom for the rest of the flight and found me a restroom, helped me get my luggage, and showed me to the shuttles- this was great b/c I was so lost. She was definitely walking like she was on a mission which was challenging to keep up as I dragged, rolled, and carried all my crap.

After the shuttle and at the hotel I realized (more the person checking me in) I was at the wrong hotel- the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express are a little too similar. By then I was exhausted and it took a lot for me to hold it together. I was by myself, sleep deprived, grumpy, and didn't know where I was but knew enough to know I wasn't where I was suppose to be. But they were nice and had a shuttle come and get me to the correct hotel. So I get to my room and am starving. There is a nearby 7-11 and I grab some food. Little did I know there is no microwave in my room to heat anything up. I walked all over the hotel and finally was able to find one in the laundry room where no one spoke English!

Once I took a break and caught a second wind I realized I will not rip up my hands carrying all my luggage. (WorldTeach told us we need to be able to carry our things up to 6 blocks and 4 flights of stairs- and that was not going to happen with this duffel bag!) So I called a cab and went to Target and bought one. This may not seem like a big deal but I've never been in a cab before let alone by myself in California with all those crazy drivers!

I am the first arrive in my group and we have a meeting tonight at 9. Soooo until then I am going to take a nice long nap in the sun by the pool! Tomorrow we leave for Hawaii (a 5 hour flight) at 10:30 am with a  few hour lay over and then another 5 or 6 hour flight to Am Sam! Lots of traveling tomorrow and I'm excited to meet everyone and not travel by myself!!

Until next time!!!!