Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meghan Turns 21

So today is my sister's twenty first birthday. Its crazy how little you consider the things you will miss in other peoples lives when you sign up for Peace Corp. Although it is an organization to help others because it is you going out there on your own, in a way it is intrinsically self-centered. In the months preparing to come, you think about all the restaurants you will miss, all the friends and family you, all the comforts and routines, but you don’t really think about missing out on witnessing things. I will miss watching my sister drink her first legal beer. I will probably miss watching her be incredibly hung over the next day. My sister and I went to the same college so I have been present at her last two birthday bashes, both epic and of course both busted by the cops. This year they are throwing a party at the same place with the same crew but of course it’s the big one, twenty one. There are lots of things I miss about home but one of them I never anticipated and one that is sometimes the hardest is that I am not a witness to my friends and families lives anymore. I will have to settle for looking and pictures and for fuzzy phone calls from across the world. I know this is all part of being here and the sacrifice we all make, but like a say some days are harder then others. I am still happy and loving it here but today my thoughts and heart are not in Samoa but with a beautiful girl who is drinking her way into adulthood.

The Big Island

So after a swift recovery it ended up being a great weekend. I headed back to my village on Thursday evening and after a discussion with my family it was decided that I wouldn't go to school on Friday and just rest before leaving for the big island, Savaii. So at around two o’clock after much resting I hoped on the bus and then eventually on the ferry. It was a short ride and I actually only spent about two hours traveling, which is actually only thirty minutes more then it takes me to get to Apia. So around five we pulled up in front of Lucia’s. It’s this really casual resort that is really popular with the volunteers on Savaii. It is situated on the gorgeous lagoon and we claimed a dock jetting out of the water. All the crew was there and we were celebrating four different joint Birthdays. I couldn't celebrate in true fashion as I was on antibiotics but it was great to see everyone and soak up some sun. We had a great laugh and ending the night dancing and this little hole in the wall place down the street. The rooms were wonderful and we even got hot showers and beds with real mattresses. The next day we took a taxi to a near by waterfall. It was gorgeous and the water was cool and fresh right from the mountains. We took turns jumping of the rocks of the ravine walls into the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and even swimming up and climbing behind it. It was beautiful. Then it was back to Lucia’s for a nap before a tasty dinner and another night chilling on the dock, chatting and playing games. The next morning it we soaked up some last minute rays then it was back to our villages and real life. It seems kind of like I just got back from vacation, but it was a much needed get away. I have realized that I really owe my sanity to these little moments where I get together with the other volunteers, speak English, and have fun. It makes me just remember who I am outside of this crazy situation. That I am a fun confident and well adjust person underneath the stressed, emotional and bumbling person you become in your village. There is another round of Birthdays in about a month so I have that to look forward to again, but for now its back to village life. I feel rejuvenated and ready to get stuck in. I’m hoping to get more time teaching this week and possibly even do some professional development with the teachers. Well wish me luck I'm off to go teach "I’m a Little Teapot" to years 1 2 3 and 4.
Us on the dock

Linds and two of the birthday boys

Me and the birthday boys

Jumping into the water

Using my camera in water!!

Me and Jenny

Me and danny behind the waterfall

Me underneith the waterfall

Me and Jenny catcing last minute raise

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Strep or What Ever

Well some how I have done it again, I have gotten strep, or at least some kind of bacterial upper respiratory infection. I always test negative for strep but show all the symptoms even the white spots on my throat. Of course then my blood work comes back and shows, wow this girl is not a liar and really is sick. I have gotten this or at least a very similar upper respiratory bacterial infection four times since June, twice in the states and now twice in Samoa. Don’t ask me why, because honestly I have no clue. Well after trying to battle what I was hopping was just a sore throat for two days in my village, the dreaded white spots appeared and I took a quite turn for the worst. My family brought me into town and I got into the doctor quick as possible and before I new it I had a nice big bag of horse tranquilizer size antibiotics. I spent the night in Apia and my friend Blakey came and visited me and made the best of my icky feelings with pizza and a movie. She also bought me some treats from America, two fitted v-necks (which are like gold here), a nice cotton black skirt which is fitted enough to pass for going out attire but long enough to be appropriate, and some tasty treats. All in all my sick night ended up being just what the doctor ordered, a night in a real bed, a hot shower, plenty of rest and some company to cheer me up. I’m headed back to my village today and am hoping I will be well enough tomorrow to still make it to the volunteer get together. Wish me well!

Here’s a list of things that don’t hold much importance in Samoa (especially the villages);
  1. Facial moles
  2. Facial hair on women
  3. bushy or even uni-brows
  4. weight in general
  5. scarring, especially wide spread pock scars on legs
  6. Toe nail fungus
  7. visible cavities, and rotting or missing teeth
These things are just very common and really not of much importance. Its very interesting that things that in America would hold a great social stigma are really just so unimportant here.

Valentines Day

Well its Valentines day here in the Pacific but to be honest its really just another day in the life. This past weekend we had a little secret Valentine gift exchange with other volunteers and one of the Peace Corp employees held a little spa slash movie get together. I wasn't able to make it as I was on a mad hunt for a new mattress (which is really just a foam pad). I have been fighting a loosing battle with bed bugs for the last two months and final decided that I was going to talk to family about getting a new mattress. It should be arriving any day now so here hoping that my nights and itching and scratching are over. I have to tell you there is nothing quite like lying down at night picturing the creepy crawlies that use you as a play ground at night. Beyond the incest bites I have been in pretty good health by Peace Corp standards. Pretty much every cut I get ends up getting infected and I have a fungus on my left ankle, but lets just say that I don't think there is a single volunteer who isn't battle some infection or fungus. At any given time there are probably five people from my group on some kind of intense antibiotics. School is starting to gear up a little. I had to substitute a little last week which was a real mixed bag. Subbing year five was horrible; imagine trying to keep twenty five eight year olds entertained all day when you don't speak the same language. The first half of the day was okay, but after three hours of English it all just started to go down hill. First of all that’s just way to much, if some one tried to teach me Samoan for three hours straight and I was eight years old I would probably go crazy too. Second I don't use corporal punishment and haven't had time to really implement any kind of classroom management so there was really no order. I learned several things from this experience. They tell us not to substitute for a good reason, it doesn't work. Also I need to establish a system and give the kids time to adjust to it. They are not going to just understand “don't do that,” when usually it’s followed by a slap. I'm still really happy with my living situation. I'm getting more and more comfortable with my family and it s really starting to feel like home away from home here. I am also getting more comfortable with my teachers and join in with there jokes and banter during lunch. I super excited to go to Savaii this weekend and promise to right a nice long post about it.

Since its love day here are some things I love right now;
1. Cow pigs, these are pigs that are white with black spots and look exactly like the cows in Britain
2. Going into town and having a bag of cheetos as a treat
3. Getting surprise packages, letters, and fb messages from peeps back home
4. New school uniforms, even though I look like a huge frumpy sailor
5. Papaya and pineapple
6. Getting silly texts from my fellow volunteers
7. When strangers buy me snacks on the bus...just because
8. That my family noticed I had a lot of book and had a beautiful new desk made for me.
9. When I go for rides with my much older host brother and my sisters we usually stop and get a treat like ice cream or these little coconut cakes
10. That the kids and my school seem to really like me and when I go into a classroom they all cheer.
11. Its rainy season and when the wind is blowing and I feel a particularly cold breeze I can smell Scotland.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Second Week of School

My second week of school has been much better on all fronts. I have had the opportunity to watch some great teaching, help out with some classes, and even give some reading tutorials. I have also had a lot of down time and witnessed a lot of non-teaching, but over all it has been wonderful to actually start what I'm here for. I will observe for another week then slowly start to integrate into the English lessons. With in the next month I hope to fully take over year seven English and be co-teaching with years 4, 5, 6, and 8. I also will start a reading group for children behind in reading and an advanced group for the kids who need more challenges then their classes can offer. I will also start giving presentations to the teachers on tactics and methods of teaching ESL. These are all skills I have learned though my training with the Peace Corp and am a little nervous to not only implement them but even instruct others how to do so. It’s exciting though that even after a couple of days I can see the teachers picking up some the things I do with the children. It gives me some hope that my work here will last beyond my time in country. I'm also ever more thankful of my situation here. I am generally happy; though everyday comes with new frustrations and challenges. Being unsure and embarrassment are still ever present emotions but it’s getting easer to laugh off situations and not take them too personally. My mantra has become patience, strength, clarity, and grace. Patience is so that I make it though the hours of waiting and not understanding. Strength is so I keep going when it feels impossible. Clarity so I can always be aware of my blessings but also the realities of my situation. Grace so that I may be gracious for those gifts and try to handle myself with maturity as to not embarrass myself more then is inevitable. I feel if I can just keep these things in mind I will not only be successful here but incredibly happy. I have had the loveliest surprise, an unexpected package! Two of my friends back home whom I haven’t able to talk with much since I got here, took it upon them selves to make me a little package of home. I got a singing monster… it was love at first sight, my friends now me too well, a cute owl piggy bank, a lovely candle, and of course the mandatory cosmo. The teachers ended school three hours early today to come into town to pick up their paychecks and I decided to pop into the office and there waiting for me was this wonderful bundle of joy. Thank you friends!!! I feel so loved!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


First day of school

Little sister cooking

My new baby
The one chore they let me do, feed the chickens

The library slash my office, thats my desk in the corner

Somaon breakfast for the teachers meeting, eggs, cake, pie, tuna sandwiches, and hotdogs. Look mama all the food is the same color ahah

The First Week of School

It’s almost to the end of my first week of school and things are really starting to look up. Very few kids are in attendance but at least the teachers are holding some kind of classes. Mostly they are just having the kids copy down sentences and look at books, but at least is some kind of learning. They have told me that real classes will start next week and the children will start to come regularly. I don't if it’s just that my expectations have been lowered or if I am actually adapting a little to Fa'aSamoa but the pace of things isn't bothering me as much as it was before. I have a lot to be thankful for. I have my own desk in the library, which is lovely so I can escape from the kids between classes and plan or just open a book and relax for a minute. There is also an ancient laptop in the library that is as slow and infected as possible but I have been able to use it to type these posts when classes are running slow and I don't have anything to observe. I seem to be a school which doesn't have too much of a problem with teacher attendance so at least I won’t have to substitute all the time. My schedule is looking like I will be teaching English for year seven everyday then alternating English for years four five six and eight. I will even have a period in the afternoons when I can help with the youngins in years one two and three.  I am still a very discrete presence and am taking my time to really ease into things. That way I can get a good feel for how things are working and slowly start working myself in without creating too much immediate change that could cause problems. Like I said before I keep telling myself slow and steady wins the race, I mean I do have two years. I also feel that if the changes here come naturally over my course of time here then they may be more likely to sustain after I leave. I had a wonderful walk yesterday with two girls my age that I met at the young adult youth group at church. They speak pretty good English so I could enjoy the walk without stressing too much about being understood or understanding.  I hoping this will become a daily thing and maybe even the foundation for an excursive project in the community in the future. It seems when ever this adventure throws me a curve ball and I get frustrated and down, the next day it comes back with something wonderful. I guess that’s why they call it a roller coaster. I'm also starting to get to know the kids and everyday more and more people great me as I walk by. It also helps that they say my name not white girl. Over all things are looking up and I'm starting to feel hopeful again about school, although I am already counting the days till the next volunteer get together. I can honestly say I couldn't do this without my comrades. On average I'm sending over thirty texts a day reaching out to them. It makes everything better when there is someone to celebrate your successes, share your frustrations, and laugh at the absurdities.

School Slump

      So it’s the second day of school and to be honest I'm not quite sure how to feel. The same routine as yesterday as began and the children have spent the day cleaning, weeding, and moving furniture. The teachers just sit around or order the children around. I see the merit of this system because it seems to be a necessity and it inspires pride and ownership in the students. It is hard to accept from my very American point of view that time that is allotted for the children is being spent cleaning. It is also tough because we have all been looking forward to school starting for so long and I really wanted to get stuck in and it seems that won’t be happening for a while. The biggest challenge here is definitely patience. It’s all about waiting. Things take time, a lot of time, and everything takes two or three times what it does in America. I should be used to this as I have lived in several developing countries that have a similar pace, but it seems it will be my biggest adjustment. I have talked to some of the other volunteers and it seems that you start going by Samoan time some time after your first year. I can’t wait because right now all this sitting around and waiting, not to mention the incredible inefficiency of everything, is killing me. I know that school will slowly gear up and I’ll get stuck in, I also know that this will give me purpose and drive. It just seems that even getting that is going to be a while. I keep reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race. Hopefully this applies to the Peace Corp. It’s just hard because after so long waiting to feel integrated, to feel productive, to feel confident, you start to wonder if you ever will. Deep down I know I will eventually and every day I get closer, it’s just crazy to realize it probably won’t be till around my one year point. That means I have a year of feeling like a fish out of water and a chaos of emotions. I knew this went I signed up and it is all part of the adventure but as a person who is used to feeling in control and confident, sometimes that year without it feels like an eternity. School starting! This really means me sitting around waiting for the cleaning to finish and classes to start but hey at least it’s better than being stuck in my house!

Death of a Laptop

So I hate to report it but there has been a death in the family. After four years of loyal and dedicated service my laptop has taken its last breath. I left my computer at home last week when I went to English Camp. When I got back I started it up as usual and everything seemed fine. Then after uploading my pictures from the week, a sudden message appears on the screen “Emergency restart.” I oblige and shut her down. I pushed the button and the screen went crazy. Black and white lines, zigzags, and general distortion filled the screen before it went black. I did everything I could, take the battery out, charged it, and tried to restart but it seems that was the dramatic last throw of my computer. I am writing this blog from the ancient and infested laptop that my school has. It’s the first day of school and the children and cleaning and moving furniture. Since I don’t have a classroom to clean, it’s been a pretty boring first day but I'm sure that things will get exciting soon enough. A lot of stuff has happened since I last wrote; English Camp, All Volunteer Conference, a cyclone, and general shenanigans. Since my ability to write has been greatly limited now, I’m going to just go ahead and give some high lights.
Teaching Samoan children how to do the human note
Playing hours and hours of mafia with the other volunteers at camp
Cooking tasty food for everyone at night
Sleeping on a church hall floor for a week
Getting stuck in town for three days during the cyclone (which was just rainy and windy, nothing to big this time)
Going to see a movie!! It was so fun. I got to pretend I was back home for a couple hours
Meeting everyone in town for All Vol conference, with TVs, real beds, hot showers, and no bugs!
Eating at delicious restaurants in town and staying a crazy nice hotel for the weekend.
I will try my best to still post things as much as possible even without my computer!! Thanks for reading!