Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In The Classroom

A brief note about the flight. A 10-hour overnight flight with two sleeping pills on a luxury liner. Not that there was more room on the flight, but each seat had its own personal screen from which we could choose to watch one of 33 movies, one of 77 TV shows, countless music videos, or we could play games or listen to plain old music. I watched “The Blind Side” and, of course, “Big Bang Theory.” And we got two meals. However, even two sleeping pills cannot put me to sleep on a plane (I think I managed 4 hours off and on), so I have resigned myself to be forever doomed on long flights with drastic time changes. We landed just as the sun was rising. I was hoping for some sort of delay in the flight because I wanted to see an overhead view of a tiny island with a beautiful coastline, but no. We landed almost in the dark. I could hardly differentiate island from ocean.

Our hotel, which happens to be in the same building as the Peace Corps office, was about an hour drive away from the airport, all along the coast. We had about an hour to unpack then jumped right into things. They welcomed us with an Ava ceremony. They kept it short, but it was still an hour of Samoan that I couldn’t understand and a funny tasting drink. Occasionally there was laughter, and once someone said something about Barack Obama, so I really wonder what was said. This was in the same room where we have class. We have a fairly nice view out of the classroom. Actually, I haven’t found a bad view on the island yet. We had one brief language class – we start intense language in about a week – and my particularly section meets outside next to the pool, surrounded by palm trees. Again, not a bad view.

I’m trying very hard to get used to not questioning what type of meat is in every dish, and trying everything regardless. I had one bite of pig that still looked like pig when it was served, and I managed almost an entire serving of fish before it started to taste fishy. I think I’m doing pretty well with that. The fruit is delicious and fresh. The hotel serves a continental breakfast every day of papaya, bananas (which are a lot smaller and sweeter than the ones in the US), coconut and plain toast. The one thing that is very hard to get used to is the timing of the meals – as always. Breakfast is at about 7:30, lunch is at noon, and dinner is usually between 7-8. That’s a killer – I always feel like I’m going to pass out by about 4:30, right when our daily training sessions end.

Everything is still in the intro phase. Intro to Peace Corps, intro to training, intro to volunteer expectations, intro to medical issues, only to be closely followed by intro to diarrhea. A full hour and a half on diarrhea – I think I know more than I ever thought I could possibly know about diarrhea. But it was first because they guarantee it will be the first medical issue to hit us – oh boy!

Right now I am still getting used to the novelty of being on an island. Prices are so much higher than I expected, but I keep forgetting that everything is imported. A bag of Doritos – I’m guessing about ¾ the size of one in the US – costs $15 tala (they use the dollar sign here). A jar of peanut butter runs about $12-15, and small bags of things easy to snack on cost anywhere between $2-5. Shampoo costs about $6-9 (a full size Pantene costs $20!), depending on the quality, and I bought a 250ml bottle of Nivea lotion for $12 (I only use lotion once a day thanks to the humidity). So if you would be at all interested in sending me anything from the US, toiletries are greatly appreciated – especially body wash. They only have bar soap here. Snackable foods are also greatly appreciated. I’m sure my budget will be livable when I get all settled in, but since we had to spend half of our first week’s “allowance” on a cell phone as soon as we got it, everyone (myself included) has had to exchange money in order to have enough to buy meals for the first week.

But other than that, the humidity hasn’t been as stifling as I expected. It’s always breezy and I generally end up with a slightly sticky feeling instead of a full body sweat at the end of the day. That will most likely change when we leave the hotel and don’t have air conditioning in our bedrooms and 8 fans in our classroom. As for now, everything is beautiful. Almost everyone in my group of 20, save maybe 3 or 4, was told they would end up somewhere other than the South Pacific. Some people wanted to go to Eastern Europe, almost half were told they would go to Latin America, and others had their hearts set on Africa, so the South Pacific was not the first choice for most people here, but now that we are here, everyone agrees it’s pretty great. I think the reason the South Pacific is the most requested location for the Peace Corps, yet all of us ended up here at the last minute, is because people who want to go to the South Pacific probably have other motives and aren’t quite cut out for the Peace Corps. That’s my theory. Either that, or they save all the tropical paradise locations for the last groups to so that if something goes wrong with their first assignment, the last-minute back-up assignment isn’t too bad.

While I’m thinking about it, to everyone who wants letters – I promise you will get letters, but they will just be coming slowly. It costs $2.70 to send a letter, so I’ll have to save up and buy some envelopes and stamps, and then figure out when to get to the post office between 8:30-12 and 1-3:30 M-F, since I have training all those times. But that is the only time the post office is open, and also the only way to send letters. And it also takes about 2-3 weeks for mail between the US and Samoa.

Sunrise from the plane
View from the classroom
This print is all over fabric here - was this the print they had on Survivor Samoa?
The classroom

1 comment:

  1. Wow that looks great! have fun dealing with your "first medical issue". :-) I remember that issue lasts a while.