I noticed a trend in group conversations whenever we had time to kill (on the bus, at lunch, killing time in Apia) and these are the main topics I’ve seen come up:
Tattoos are a big part of Samoan culture and most adults have tattoos, so there is a trend for PCVs to get tattoos sometime during their service. Some of the current volunteers have tattoos that they’ve showed us, or they have plans for future tattoos. So the big question is “Do you think you’ll get a tattoo while you’re here?” For me, as a person with two tattoos already, the answer is yes. I don’t know yet what it will be or where it will be, but I’d like to get something to represent my time in Samoa. There are a few things to consider with this. I don’t know if I want to get a traditional tattoo. The traditional tattoos are done in the tapping manner, I hear they are very painful, they are permanent permanent (can’t be removed with laser treatment), and you don’t get any say in the design you want because the tattoo artist only does their family tattoo style. In case you don’t already know this about me, I’m the kind of person who would like to have a say in what my tattoo looks like, so I’ll most likely wait until I go to New Zealand next year and get one done there. However, I am a big fan of all the armband tattoos I’ve seen. I don’t think that I would actually get an armband tattoo because it is VERY visible, but it is tempting.
The future/what’s next
This covers mostly future potential travel plans (ex. Going to Faleolupo (sp?) – the farthest west point on Savai’i for New Year’s Eve, going to New Zealanda for Christmas next year) and what will come after Peace Corps. I have a couple ideas for what will come after Peace Corps. I could potentially extend my service for a third year, and I hear that you can extend your service in a different country. I’m thinking my biggest resume builder would be to work with some women’s organization in a country that speaks Spanish, but I don’t know anything about how to extend service, much less in another country, so that plan is still very vague. If that doesn’t work out, I would like to jump right into grad school in January after I get back, but I’m thinking it would probably be smarter to work a bit, save up money, then start grad school in August. I feel like it’s really too soon to plan anything for after Peace Corps because so much can change in the two years I’m here, but two years is also a really short period of time and I’d like to have a plan for when I’m done.
The topic of food includes a general overview of what our families have been feeding us, but mostly concerns the foods we miss and would love to be eating at this very moment. Chicken enchiladas, crock pot macaroni and cheese, freshly baked cookies, and a grilled chicken salad (boneless, skinless chicken) with crisp veggies top my list. I think I can generalize and say that cheese is pretty darn near the top of everybody’s list (except for those who are lactose intolerant). Peanut butter and jelly did make it into my diet halfway through my time in the training village, so that was nice, but I hadn’t gone without it long enough for it to make it to the top of my list. There is a nice pizza restaurant near the Peace Corps office in Apia, so we get pizza on a fairly regular basis. We are not without familiar food here, but there are some things you just can’t replicate with the resources available. For example, I haven’t seen an oven yet, so I doubt I’ll be able to bake cookies, which makes me a little sad.
I remember about a week or two after we got to Samoa, one of the current volunteers told me that by the end of training, you will know the bowel movements of everyone else in your training village. I didn’t believe him, but he wasn’t lying. The conversations were never detailed, but they happened much more frequently than I ever thought they would.
Coconut wireless is the gossip system in Samoa. This is how everybody in the village knows exactly what everyone else is doing before it has even happened. I remember during out second to last week in the village, we heard that one of the year eight girls got into Samoa college (here college is secondary school and university means post-high school education) and another got into Vavele college, which is pretty amazing. The thing was, people were talking about this the day before the final scores were reported, so no one was supposed to know, but everyone already knew. Peace Corps tells us all the time that even when we lock ourselves in our room with the blinds closed, we should still be careful about what we do because someone will always find out. The notion of privacy in Samoa doesn’t really exist. Coconut wireless also works in the Peace Corps community (although I find this is generally standard for any small community). Gossip in Samoa is the only thing I know faster than the speed of light.