Wednesday, June 29, 2011
My Grandmother on the Oklahoma side always wore this shade of pearl nail polish. She went once a week to get her hair and nails done. She was extremely beautiful and the definition of a lady. I will never forget holding her hand so thin and fragile. The skin translucent and look so beautiful to me with that pearl nail polish. I looked down the other day and realized the color I have been wearing on my hand for the last eight months or so is the same shade. My sister only sent me two colors and the other is red, a little crazy for the village, so I only pull it out for special occasions. So pretty much my whole time here I have been wearing my grandmothers signature shade of nail polish. Life’s a crazy thing.
Well since my initial attempt at registering people for the health challenge things have really picked up. I have now registered thirty five people, including myself. One of my teams still never really made a showing but the team formed by the church my family goes to has really pulled through. I think after my morning registration kind of flopped word got out in the village because all of a sudden people started coming up to me asking register because they wanted to support me and the program. It was such a boost. I mean it would be better if the registered because they really wanted to lose weight but hey beggars can’t be choosers. Monday was my first day of walking for the challenge and I saw ten participants out walking. I couldn’t have been prouder. These are women that exercise never been part of their lives but here they were out walking the plantation road like I had been for the last couple months. Yesterday it was kind of raining and I thought we were doomed; rain is pretty much an excuse out of anything here in Samoa. If it rains you can skip out on school, work, and all chores….definitely exercise. Excuses in general are pretty abundant here but rain has got to be the number one. I poked my head out at four thirty the set time for the meet and it looked like it had stopped. My sister who is doing the challenge said I should go walk and that no one would come. It had been a long day at school and need to get out anyway so I decided to go anyway. Low and behold there were four women walking. It was such a nice surprise. It is becoming clear that I have at least four or five women who are really devoted to the exercise and a couple more who are at least half way there. They even asked if I could get zumba or jazz tapes so we could have exercise class. My mom the aerobics and yoga instructor would be so proud. Things are looking up and so now I just have to keep up the motivation as the challenge continues. Wish me luck!!
My parents have sold my house back in America. It has been on the market for a couple months and they have been doing everything possible to get it to sell. It had been a while and there hadn’t really been any serious interest so I hadn’t really thought about it. Then a couple days ago my sister just says “oh hey we sold the house today.” I know I probably been more prepared for this exact message but I have to say it took me completely by surprise. As I have written before my family has moved around a lot and home has always been more about the five of us then any physical house. But… we had owned this house for almost eight years. That is almost triple any other home my family has ever owned. I lived there for four years of high school and then come home to it all through college. If there was any house I had ever thought of as home it was this one. My parents had cleaned out and packed up my room a while ago so it wasn’t my bedroom I was sad to loose. It was definitely the family spaces; eating dinner together at the table, chatting and snacking in the kitchen, watching TV together in the living room, talking about life in the hot tub, chilling on the big love sac with my friends, Sunday lunch out on the patio. We have some incredible memories in that house. This is the right move for my family and my parents are building their dream house in Texas, so I will have a base to come back to when my service is over. It’s just quite something to wrap my head around that when I come “home” it’s going to be to a completely different house, and that I will never again sit on that couch with the dogs or unwrap Christmas presents next to that fire. Thanks house, for all the memories. Now, on to a new house and new memories to be made.
Peace Corp Samoa has joined forces with the Ministry of Health to head up a program called Samoa Health Challenge. This is the third year they have done the health challenge and they have switched up the format a little in hopes to reach more Samoans. This year the volunteers are supposed to organize teams in the village. The challenge last four weeks and it is basically a competition between the villages to lose weight, but the emphasis is on healthy living this year and not as competition centered. Each participant is encouraged to eat healthy and walk every day making small sustainable changes toward a healthier lifestyle. We have all been a little nervous about this challenge as the volunteers before us faced a lot of challenges and reluctance last year. Also most of us have no health background and aren’t necessarily living the healthiest lives ourselves. Being obese is just so common place in Samoa and there is no preexisting emphasis in the culture on diet or exercise, it’s just not part of the Samoan mind set. I am not saying everyone here is happy with their bodies, they are definitely not. Trying to get Samoans living in the rural villages to eat less and walk ones a day many not seem like much of a challenge but it has turned out to be just that. I started the process of making teams and setting up for the challenge about three weeks ago. I found one team leader at the church my family goes to and one of my teachers. Both seemed very enthusiastic and even asked for an additional twenty packets for their teams. This morning was registration. I showed up at the designated time and place and registered nine people in two and a half hours. One team leader didn’t even show up. I know this is just part of working in Samoa but I can say I wasn’t a little disappointed. I sure that more people really did show interest but it’s just the way things go here. Everyone says yes to your face but the truth is a whole different thing. Some people were probably too scared, some had something come up at home, and some were probably just too lazy to leave the house on a Saturday. There is so much talk but not very much action. It’s the same at school with two meetings a week, during what should be class time, meant to help improve our school but it barely ever makes it in to the classroom. So new game plan: one- lower my expectations a little and remember I can’t look at this though my American eyes, two- be persistent. I am going to keep registration open two more days and carry the scale around with me so anybody that asks I can just whip it out and register them on the spot. Wish me luck!!
After Early Service Conference I took a couple days of village life and went to the gorgeous little uninhabited Island called Namua. There was a couple little beach huts, a bathroom hut, and a little kitchen that some staff took a boat in to cook breakfast and dinner for us. It was incredibly beautiful and the most peaceful place. We did nothing but lay on the beach, swim in the ocean, talk and read for two days. On the second morning the tide was out so we decided to climb around the island on a small strip of beach and rock that is accessible when the water is out. It was quite an adventure. Five volunteers set out with no shoes and just there swim suites and found themselves in quit a pickle. It was incredible. There was a lot more rock climbing and wading then beach but it was something else. The waves crashed over the rocks and there were sections where we were backed up against the bottom of a cliff face. We found loads of little beaches around the island that are completely inaccessible ninety percent of the time. We got about two thirds of the way when we realized we may have miscalculated the time it would take for us to get around the island and how long it would take the tide to come in. At this point we are covered in scrapes and scratches and our feet were incredibly sore from walking over so much coral. We reached a point where it was turn or swim. We chose swim. We doggy paddled our way around the last section of the island trying to avoid huge rocks and sharp coral. We definitely added to a scrape count but we made it! What an adventure.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Well where to start? I have been offline for about two months now and it honestly just feels so good to be typing on my own laptop again… maybe not the same one but hey its mine and it’s pretty. Today I got the package of a life time. A massive box from my sister with not only my life saving laptop but a million snacks and treats! I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for her. It’s almost impossible to get anything done here, especially if it’s something back home, for example say purchasing and shipping a laptop a couple thousand miles. I am completely reliant on my sister back home for everything from filing taxes to getting stick deodorant. So thank you sister and family who make this happen for me while I’m here.
A lot has happened since I last wrote, most notable term 1 ended, I went to Early Service Conference, and term 2 has begun. Toward the end of term 1 it was becoming more and more apparent that school was really not going how I wish it would. My classes were constantly being canceled and I was always being asked to step out to do some typing or cover for an absent teacher. I had made my schedule flexible and been super relaxed about school because I didn’t want to cause too many waves right off the bat. On one hand it did smooth over lots of relationships and racked me up some good credit but it meant I wasn’t getting to do very much teaching. I was starting to miss home a lot and just the freedoms and choices of living in America. I started doubting my effectiveness and my purpose for service. My negative experience at school was starting to give me a negative outlook on my service in general. Did I come all the way to Samoa to read in my room and do the occasional typing job? This has completely changed in the first two weeks of term two. I am teaching my own classes, I have made a concrete schedule and am sticking to it every day, even if it means I have to say no to other teachers… something that is not very Samoan. I have thrown the Samoan scheme from the early eighties out the window and am using the ESL materials that Peace Corp has given me to and creating my own curriculum. The difference is astounding. Not only am I a million times happier and more fulfilled, I am being more effective. My time with the students has doubled and the new lessons are a huge success. At the end of the day I realized that being a good volunteer is not about making everybody happy and like you. It’s about doing what you need to do. Now is it easier to get things done when you are liked? Yes, so I don’t regret my term one choices, but I have paid my dues and done my time. Term 2 is about me finding a way to do what I need to do. I can already see it is not only going to be good for my students but good for my mental health.
I know there will be more dips and low points in my journey but I am happy to have found the solution to my latest one. I think or should I say hope that things will just keep getting better at school. In turn my purpose will become clearer and my contentment which is a constant balancing act will be fortified.