Friday, October 22, 2010

Freaking Out!

Im going to my village tomorrow and I am wicked pumped but also totally freaked. We just got our temp assignments and I am going to Lotofaga on the beach and I have a great little group so it is going to be great!! But wow now the adventure really begins!! bye bye air conditioning. Bye Bye hot showers. Here I come sleeping mats and centipedes! No more money to write a real post but next time I talk to you guys it will be almost Christmas and I will be headed to my permanent site! Wish me luck everyone!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pupil of My Eye

view form my balcony

view from my classroom

Today we had a great lesson on the community structure in the villages and the roles the different groups serve. There was one group that really peeked my interest and that was the women’s group. This is composed of all girls that have finished their schooling and are hence considered women. The reason I was so interested by this group goes back to the gender roles I discussed earlier. Women studies was one emphasizes in college and I have always been really interested in women’s roles in different societies. Here in Samoa they describe women as the pupil of their brother’s eye. You must also know that most men and women refer to each other as brother and sister, and have a lot of the same feelings toward the opposite sex in their village. That is of course if they are not pursuing them romantically. The pupil of your brother’s eye seems like kind of a odd way to describe the women but once it is further explained and elaborated on, it is kind of beautiful. Samoa culture seems to be defined more by family relationships then by what I would consider romantic ones. People are labeled, brother, sister, mother, father, and then on to the extended family. Hence the roles of women are not as wife or lover, but as mother and sister. They say that it is the role of the men to protect and provide for the women. This even includes cooking, a role that is considered very feminine in American culture. In a way they are treated like queens, always sheltered, protected, and provided for. But unlike queens who have only symbolic power, women, and especially women’s groups here have real power. It isn’t labeled or recognized as much as male authority and power, but it is a common expression that if you want something done you don’t go to the village council you go to the women’s council. The Samoan expression states that the father is the head of the family but the women is the neck, controlling the movement. In some ways I rebel against this idea, as I like to think of myself as a budding feminist and want to be treated as an equal. In other ways I do believe women should be cherished and maybe even at times protected. This Samoan way of life both appeals to my idealization of women, and the chivalrous expectations of men I have adopted after seven years in the South. I want to yell “heck yeah you should cherish you sister”, because women are badass! Then I hear the voice of feminist past and proclaim, “No I am not to be sheltered, not to be protected. I am a force to be reckoned with.” I have definitely come to accept the gender roles a lot more since I first arrived, although I still struggle with the limitations that the roles put on women. The great part is that there is a blooming call for equality here in Samoa. It is just a small movement and there is a lot of progress to be made, but it is very cool that for the first time in Samoan history women can be chiefs. Though I hope that even with equality Samoans will always keep their sisters in the pupil of their eye.

Random thoughts:
-I am missing silence a lot, it seems with twenty of us living in hall way together you don’t have much alone time. I have found some moments to just sit and zen out for a while an it is really helping.
-We have been together for a three weeks now and we are under a lot of stress, I am predicting possible drama on the horizon…. Lets wait and see who snaps first! Haha
- Finding it very hard to keep up with friends back home and feeling bad that I cant be there for them like I should but also realizing that my relationships are going to change and evolve and that is ok.
- Really nervous about going to the village on Saturday and possible not having internet for three months…. Definitely adds to the intimidation of going to the villages
- really excited to meet my host family, kind of sad we will all be breaking up into groups and I feel like I will miss the other volunteers not in my village. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Address and Mail!

My address here is:
Rachael Camp, PCV
Peace Corps
Private Mail Bag
Apia, Western Samoa

It is also best to do one of those pre made boxes with no weight limit and if you are sending a package write "go with god" or "god is watching" this helps the chances of it getting there on time! Also don't let them talk you into sending it to American Samoa. There should be no zip code. xooxox

Monday, October 18, 2010

Welcome Fia Fia

This Friday was the long awaited welcome Fia Fia. All the current volunteers made their way in to Apia to welcome group 83. A couple of volunteers came in early on Thursday and we all made a big group dinner and had a couple glasses of wine while wring the volunteers for all the information we could. The next day we had our usual classes then at 4:30 preparation for the Fia Fia began. 83 was banished to our rooms while the large conference room was taken over for the ceremony. We got all dressed up (which means applying the small amount of make-up and putting on a clean skirt) and listened to lour music getting all pumped up for the ceremony. It finally hit 6:30 and we made our way into the main room. All the volunteers looked so beautiful in their pulatasis  (formal Samoan blouses and skirts). The first did the traditional slap dance, then the girls did a slower very demure conservative dance, then the men got to dance around doing a very aggressive kind of yelling dance. You may be able to tell I was kind of jealous that the boys got the do the fun one. The girl’s dance was incredibly beautiful, so I guess I can let the boys have this one. There was a cool slide show featuring all the current volunteers then we headed down stairs to the pool to watch the fire dancers. It was crazy, like something out of a movie. The light two batons on fire and tossed them high into the air of spun then incredible fast, at times between their legs. It was very impressive to say the least. Then they brought group 81 up to the front of the pool as its there last year. It was really weird thinking before I know it, that will be me. I will be the one up there in front of the newbies, holding my current volunteers hands trying to hold back tears. Well lets be honest its me so there would be no holding back, I would be blubbering like a baby. Then it was up stairs for food and socializing. After the official Fia Fia was over we all met up at the bar and had a great night out, enjoying everyone’s company and making the best of one of our only night all together. This weekend we leave for our training village and will be split up into four groups of five. Then in December we will move out to our permanent sites on our own. I know there is a lot of time and a lot of steps between now and then but it still seems like such a foreign concept. Here I am living in comfort in a hotel in a bustling little town and soon enough I will be out in the Samoan boonies all on my own. It just seems so surreal especial when the only Samoan I really know is how to say hi and count to ten. I’m sure when the day comes I will feel much more prepared but it’s a little hard to see from this side of the looking glass. I am feeling a little nervous about moving in my host families house this weekend but I know it will do wonders for my language and really mark the beginning of my adventure into the culture. Here is hoping I have a family with a baby, if not I will just have to love on a neighbor’s because these Samoan babies are hard to keep you hands off of. I will report back soon on my move into the village, my temporary family, and the babies status in my host village! Thanks for reading everyone! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Water safety… oh wait… Snorkeling?

notice the people dragging behind the boat!

On Monday we went on our  water safety training and had a great day! It was a national holiday in Samoa. They say its because all the children eat too much after White Sunday and are unable to go to school, and I’m sure all the celebrating that the parents do has absolutely nothing to do with it. So after a bit of a sleep in we headed down stairs to our bus and headed off to water safety. It was about an hour drive, mostly spent with all the 83ers singing 90’s pop at the top of our lungs. We finally arrived at what looked like a resort complete with golf course, then we disembark the bus and see a huge thirty-foot catamaran, this was my first impression that I may enjoy water safety. We sat through a safety talk of about; um fifteen minutes. Then it was off to the boat to put our new learned safety knowledge to the test. It was wonders ride out to the reef and we all got to sit on the deck with our toesies hanging over the edge getting splashed. The views were gorgeous and we could see all four major Samoan islands. Then it was test time. We donned our snorkeling gear and off we went. It was the most amazing snorkeling I have ever done. Usually I feel bad for snorkelers because, as a diver, I feel they miss out on a lot being restricted to the surface. In Samoa this is not the case, the reef is sooooo incredibly close to the surface it would have been a detriment to have a tank. Yes, this did mean that the fish were smaller and that there wasn’t quite as much large wildlife, but it was incredible. With the amount of light filtering down, the reef was so colorful and vibrant. There were schools and teams of little fishes all over the place. I saw three schools of fish, a huge purple starfish, two crowns of thorn, and a SCHOOL OF SQUID! I had never before seen a school of squid! Who knew squid even traveled in schools? At first glance they just look like a school of black fish then you realize their fins are not going up and down but in a wave pattern up their bodies. Even then I didn’t realize they were squid. It wasn’t until the school formed a line facing into the current and spread their tentacles did I realize… hey those weird black fish are squid. I was enthralled; they just starred me down from their line as if we were having a no-blinking contest. I shot to surface and yelled for everyone to check out this coolest thing ever! I have to say, I have snorkeled and scuba dived a lot and it’s so wonderful to still have first sightings. After a while we got back on the boat and had sandwiches. After the appropriate time of thirty minutes we learn in water safety, we all jumped of the high deck and did back dives and flips… safely. Then we jumped in and took turns being towed behind the boat on the tow rope….safely. I mean we were obliviously practicing swimming against a current. Which if anyone is interested you should do diagonally. We then very begrudgingly got off the boat and got back on the bus for some more singing. Go Britney and Backstreet Boys! Nsync can go to poop as far as I care, but I did join in when they came up in our repertoire. I mean, I need to be considerate of my other group member’s needs and tastes. Basically it was a spectacular day and we all learn a lot about how gorgeous Samoan reefs are, and of course water safety. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

White Sunday

Today was white Sunday in Samoa; this is Children’s day. This means that the children get to hold the church services and eat all their favorite foods all day, and best of all the parents have to service them. All the little boys wear all white new little Pula Tasis, which are long, skirts and blouses and the boys wear dress Lava Lavas (basically skirts) and dress shirts. This morning we all put on our best Samoa clothes, long skirts and dress blouses. We dawned our little and modest jewelry and makeup, then slicked back our hair into buns in the Samoan fashion (an unexpected perk, easy hair). We then headed off to the church of one our trainers, The All Saints Church, which is Anglican. It was a modest but very beautiful church about half way up the mountain that backed up to a beautiful ravine. We went inside and waited for the children to begin the service. The congretation was about fifty or sixty and was very diverse, with people from India, New Zealand, and of course the visitors from America. Then we heard the clapping and singing begin. It was like magic. All the little voices raised in song and all the little feet as the head toward the door. Then the doors were opened and the children began their entrance. There were all ages toddlers to teenagers, and they were all so beautiful. The came in and began there program. This consisted of some lovely singing, what I would call gesture dancing, and some skits. Some of the older kids got with there little sibling and preformed acts as a family and usually dedicated them to either their parents or a member of their family that had recently passed away. I have to admit that there were definitely some tears shed on my part. It made me think so much about my parents and how thankful I am for all they have done for me. After much cheering and clapping the cogregation went into the neighboring hall for tea, snacks, and as it was children’s day ofcourse icecream. It was wonderful because we actually got to see Samoans with their families and what their relationships are like. It was really our first view into what to expect when we start to really integrate into Samoan life. Everyone was so friendly and if you just initiated conversation they would chat to you all day. It was a wonderful day and I know I wont forget how beautiful it was to see those children sing about their love of each other and their faith.

Girls Night, Drinks and the Beach

Friday night was boys and girls night here in Samoa. This is went the current, in country volunteers, host a get together for the new volunteer’s. This is so we can have fun getting to know each other and ask the questions we might be a little tentative about. This year Blakey hosted girl’s night at her house. She served us lovely chilly with rice and CHEESE, actual cheese which we haven’t seen any of since we got here (something that has occupied my thoughts quite a bit). We also had this cold raw fish coconut soup thing called Oka and some roast chicken. It was all pretty tasty but I may not repeat the Oka adventure. We sat around chatting and eating delicious food. We got to talk to three 82s and two 81s. Blakey’s principal even came over and talked to us about gender roles and what to expect in our communities. I was really nice to hear from her because it also seemed that even though the gender roles are a little stricter here and very different then back in the State, it doesn’t mean they are wrong or bad. Yes only boys can climb up the coconut trees, this is because they love their sister and don’t want them to get hurt. Most of the tasks restricted to men are those that they wish to do show their love and respect for the women. Also the roles restricted to women are the ones they do to show their love and appreciation for their men. I am trying to see it this way, but I know it will take getting used to. Before the principle left she had us all bow our head and lavished us with the most wonderful and beautiful blessing. It is really cool to see how strong peoples faith is and how open they are with it. There is very little judgment about the other person’s faith but only the want to share their own. After she left we drank and eat a bit more then headed to a local bar to meet the boys after their boys night. It ended up being a great night, I think there were probably thirty, PCVs and PCTs there all together. I got to meet a lot of the current volunteers and it was nice to talk with them some more. After a long night of socializing we hit the hay. The next day we went to beach and it was breath taking. Blakey picked us up at ten and we spent the whole day swimming on the reef and sleeping in the open-air fales. Some of us got a little to much sun but thankfully I didn’t burn, just a little pink on my nose. Thanks Mama for the factor 50. It was a wonderful day and I can’t believe I will be spend the next two years in the beautiful country.

Ava Ceremony, Pig roast, and Cooking

The first day we got into Apia we came strait to our hotel, which is actually the same building that houses the Peace Corp office. It is a really nice place, air conditioning, sometimes warm showers and nicest of all its clean and there aren’t many bugs. It’s a far cry from how I will be living in a couple of weeks but the Peace Corp is gradually introducing us to our new lives. We have two weeks in the hotel studying, three months in a training village with four other volunteers, then off to our permanent villages will we will be the only volunteer. I’m sure by then I will be ready for the millipedes and rats; well…. at least prepped for battle. When we got here we were introduced to the staff that will be training us and started to prepare for our welcome ceremony. This is the Ava ceremony. The Ava is a shredded and dried root that they strain water repeatedly through. It is drunk out of a coconut and can numb you tongue and definitely give you a bit of a buzz. We had to learn a toast, then the elders gave prayers, speeches, and drank to us and we drank to them. It was really cool and it was fun learning the Samoan cheers. It was also the first time we met some of the return volunteers. Blakey 81 led the ceremony and made the Ava in a beautiful traditional Samoan dress. They all seemed so cool and I was a bit star-struck as I had been following their blogs, and they had become semi-celebrities to me. That night we had a welcome dinner with all the traditional Samoan dishes; a whole roasted pig, coconut milk baked in taro leaves, bread fruit, fish wrapped in banana leaves, and roast pumpkin. It was mind blowing; everything was so juicy, fresh and tasty. I have decided that eating like this for four years may not be such a burden, and now I know why Samoans like their food so much. The next day we had a bunch of intro classes on phrases, security, and just general stuff for getting around in the city. That night a couple of volunteers and I went to the market and picked up a bunch of food to make dinner for everyone. We pan fried delicious fish, roasted pumpkin, and stir fried eggplant, taro, string beans, and onions. Another delicious meal and fun bonding as a group. We have all started to get really close and it seems like we want to do everything together. Someone mentions lunch or going into town, and it seems like almost always all twenty of us find some way to accompany them. You can’t imagine the impact twenty laughing American walking down the street have. I am loving Samoa and loving the people. The gender and society roles are still a little blurry and it’s going to take time getting used to but I’m sure I can do it.

For pics see matt's blog!

LA and Staging

Saying goodbye to my father and little sister, then watching my mother and older sister walk away from me at the airport were some of the hardest things that I have ever done. Looking back now, I already know that it was right. I have been in Samoa for two days and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I just know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, at exactly the right time, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Here are some thoughts and stories that have occurred somewhere in between my last blog post and paradise. Like I said leaving was hard and the flight to Dallas then on to L.A. weren’t particularly amazing, but ok. We landed in L.A. in the grayest rainiest day that the city has seen in probably a year. People couldn’t stop talking about how strange the weather was for L.A., but I didn’t let it faze me. I marched right through the terminal and found my friends. We drove around town (in a lot of traffic) and eat a fantastic French dip sandwich at Phillipes, which was featured on “Man verses Food” on food network. It lived up to the hype, deeeelicious! This is my second “Man verses Food” restaurant and I’m thinking of starting a tour de food… maybe when I get back. (P.s. I realize that I have been talking about food a lot, and be prepared this post is all about food too). Then it was off to the Hotel. Staging it self was pretty expected, lots of talking and lots of procedures and stuff. All in all the actual staging part was fine but the part of pre-departure that was exceptional was the people. WOW. It’s like a pre-screened, guaranteed compatible group of friends. We all; love kinds, love travel, love culture, believe in service, have the guts to volunteer, and are pretty friendly. It doesn’t seem possible that twenty people could get together and some how all get along marvelously. With in hours we were all laughing and joking, but most importantly ready and confident for our adventure together. I couldn’t ask for a better support system, I feel like I just make nineteen new best friends. The next big thing hit me when we stepped off the plane in Samoa. It was like stepping into a post card. The sun was setting, there were flowers blooming everywhere, the ocean was twenty feet behind us, and the mountains jutted into the sky in front of us.  It was breath taking. I will never forget the smell of the flowers, ocean air and lush plants. It felt so incredibly right. Then I met my first Samoan and found the people were just as extraordinary; beautiful, quick to laugh, and so open. I knew this place would be home very quickly.

  • They serve Tang here which is what I drank as a kid in Nigeria, definitely brought back memories
  • Watched one of my sisters and I favorite movies “Little Princess” on the flight over and cried like a baby in front of everyone.
  • Air New Zealand has the funniest security video I have ever seen and also pretty darn good food
  • The flight was only nine hours so no one has an excuse not to come visit, its easier then getting to Europe people!!
  • They don’t really have cheese here!!!!! OMG this may be a problem! Does Parmesan and sharp cheddar ship well?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

L.A. tomorrow Samoa the next!!

So its my last day in Texas! I have had a great weekend with all the Camp ladies. We spent Friday shopping and then went to get lots of fried stuff (chicken, onion, pickles, and potatoes) with very very large margaritas. Then Saturday we went on a mad search for an army surplus store to buy a satchel, an idea which I kind of fixated on for some reason. We eventually found one and I got a great bag. We wen to go see a movie, "You Again" and I enjoyed a very large coke icy and popcorn. Then it was time for OU VS TEXAS! We spend the afternoon eating pizza and peperoni rolls, and watching the game. It was a resounding victory, well kind of ahha. With a final score of 20 to 28 I never doubted us. Then yummy British sausages smuggled back from the UK on our last trip, with lovely boiled potatoes, and salads. This last one was more of a mama meal then a Texas meal but I'm am going to miss those just as much. Today, pancakes for breakfast, Tommy Bahamas for lunch and then we have to take Meghan back to airport. As you can see I have been determined to touch, TASTE, and smell and the comforts of home. My comfy bed, my families hot tub, doing my hair, putting on a full face of make up, wearing cute clothes, and watching all my favorite shows. But beyond these kind of silly things I have just been enjoying laughing and cuddling with my family. I'm not really nervous anymore, it seems the electricity in my veins is momentarily dormant. I feel so calm and ready now. Its here and I'm ready. I cant wait to meet everyone and to see this amazing place. I have a friend that lives in LA that thinks she will even be able to see me before I check in tomorrow night. I'm sooo excited! I just know I'm going to love this. My bags have been packed for a couple days now and all I have left to do is get my flu shot. Its finally here.

P.S. thanks to Lillian I know exactly what creepy crawlies to expect ahah (this maybe one of my biggest challenges)

all the fried food!

Saying goodbye to my favorite drinks

The ladies before taking baby Camp to the airport

Boomer Sooner!!