That is apparently the nickname for the Peace Corps in island locations, and I can see why. We went to the beach on Saturday, our first day off, and it was beautiful. Right by our hotel, there is no beach. We have a seawall, so we can see the water, but we can’t really get to it. It’s still very pretty – except for the occasional ginormous cruise ship that comes into dock on Samoa and looks completely out of place – but there’s no beach. One of the volunteers from group 81 (I’m group 83) took us to Tafatafa beach somewhere on the south side of the island. I would love to know where it is in relation to Apia, but I couldn’t tell you where we went. We took taxis across the island – up a winding hilly road and back down a winding hilly road until we saw more water. It’s the only road that cuts across the island, otherwise you have to go around. I think the beach was near where the tsunami hit last year – there were a fair amount of buildings still under construction.
Tafatafa beach is a pretty touristy beach, so we got to wear our “Western swimwear” while we were there. We stayed on the other end of the beach away from all the tourists, and I cannot emphasize how BEAUTIFUL everything is in Samoa. (I don’t know if I said this before, but Samoa is pronounced SAH-moa, emphasis on the first part). Everybody kept saying how the beach looked like a screensaver. The water was nice, but it still got a little chilly for me after a bit. To save my skin, I spent most of the time in a fale (fah-lay, a generic word for a house, but this was more of a covered platform on which to sit/nap/eat/whatever) reading “Lord of the Flies” (everyone finds that ironic) and playing various card games. I learned how to play Euchre. I also learned that a Samoan deck of cards known as a “Sweetpea deck” (probably spelled differently than it sounds) contains the numbers 11, 12, and 13 in addition to the standard 13 cards you find in a US deck. The sun is super hot and strong right near the equator. The day after the beach, I also spent some time in the hotel pool, and between the approximately 1 ½ hours I spent in the sun, the amount of freckles I have has about quadrupled. I even have some freckles on my stomach. It’s ridiculous.
We had water safety training yesterday, which was another instance of the Beach Corps. We spent about 45 minutes in a little shelter talking about the dangers of the water – rip tides, barracudas, coral cuts, etc. (sharks are surprisingly low on the list) – and then we went out on their little boat which did not at all look like it could hold all 20 of us. We went out to the middle of nowhere and went snorkeling. It was the first time I went snorkeling, and I’m sure it showed. When I first got off the boat, I felt certain that my mask was going to leak and there was no way I could breathe through that little tube, so I flailed around for a while before I got the hang of it. It was amazing! We saw an octopus, bright purple starfish, and a bunch of other fish that normally only exist in the zoo. I will definitely have to do that again. I put sunscreen on probably 8 times and managed not to get any major burns. I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying all the water. I really hope I end up near a beach. They still haven’t told us where our specific sites are, I think we learn that in about 3 weeks.