Now that I’ve been living at my official site for about 2-3 months, I feel like I’m finally getting settled in enough to broadcast to the world my living situation.
I live on the family compound of one of the pastors in my village. There are three churches, and he is the pastor of the EFKS church (I think this is the Christian Congregational Church). There are several benefits to this living situation, and just a few downsides. I’ll start with the benefits
- My fale is ginormous, my room is ginormous, and my bathroom is ginormous. I probably have more space in my room and bathroom combined than some PCVs have in their entire fale.
- My fale is set on a downhill slope, and my room is in the back corner. While this does not give me complete privacy (you can still see into my room from several angles), my windows are about 8-10 feet off the ground, so at least I don’t have children knocking on my windows.
- I have no major security concerns. I feel no hesitation or worry when I lock the door to my room and leave for five days. I’m not worried about people breaking into my room and stealing my stuff. I’m also not worried about people taking my clothes off the line. However, I did lose a pair of socks that way. Fortunately it was just socks and not my running shorts. One of the girls in my group lost hers that way, and it sucks to try to replace them in Samoa
- The kitchen I have access to has an oven
- I am right on the main road, and while this is annoying sometimes at night, I don’t have to go far for the bus
- I have a fantastic porch. I love to sit out there and read, or watch the volleyball games in my front yard, or just drink tea. I could rule the world from my porch.
- I live in the congregational fale, so I immediately stepped into a community and continue to have access to that community on a regular basis
And the downside…I live in the multi-purpose, general use, congregational fale. Most churches in Samoa have a hall or a fale of some sort where they hold events, big meetings, or whatever else they can think of, and that is where I live. My room is my own, and my bathroom is my own, and I can lock both of them, but everything else about my fale is fair game. There are some annoyances that come with that, such as
- I have to keep my food and dishes in my room if I don’t want everybody to have access to them, so that means I have to be extra-vigilant about storage so I don’t attract mice and bugs. I also have to make multiple trips between my room and the kitchen any time I want to cook anything
- My fale hosts meetings on an almost daily basis, and I feel I have to lock myself in my room if I choose not to be a part of the meetings (most of which that is the case). I know I can leave my room, or leave my fale altogether to go for a run if I feel like it, but I almost feel like I’m walking out of prison saying “I get to go other places while you’re stuck here.” I’m getting over this gradually, but it will still take some more time. I’m also still unsure about the frequency of meetings. They are still fairly unpredictable, and we are only 1 month into the school year – I have the whole rest of the school year to see what other surprises may come about.
- My host parents do more than I realized to keep little kids away from my room. I had this revelation when they left me alone one night. I was sitting on the porch reading before they started their afternoon school and there were a couple kids hanging around waiting for school to start, too. Then my parents drove by, said they were leaving, told the kids to go home, then they drove off. The kids didn’t leave. So I went and hid in my room hoping they would leave without me around as entertainment. I was wrong. They started saying my name outside my door, then knocking on the door, then shouting my name, then pounding on the door so hard I was sure it would break down. After a half hour of this, I gave up and went for a walk, and fortunately none of them followed me on my walk
- Along with that, I generally have an audience for anything I do. I brought home some fruits and veggies from shopping one day, and I was cutting them up in the public kitchen in my fale. There were a few kids hanging around the porch, and they all came to watch me. I at least managed to get them not to all stand in the kitchen while I was in there, so they sat out on the porch and stared at me through the windows. As with everything else I do, I’m sure it will get old with time, but until it does, I need a lot more patience for cooking.
Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with my living situation. It has its ups and downs, just like everyone else, but they may not be the exact same ups and downs as everyone else. This adds a whole new meaning to the idea of “living in community,” and any time I feel too frustrated, I just think to myself “this will make a great story some day in the future.” And I covet my indoor plumbing, complete with sink and counter. That would be one of the hardest parts for me to give up.
I also live with a host family. My host parents are older and have 4 kids in their 30s, some of whom have their own kids
Host dad – Malo (which means hello, so every time I say hi to him, I also say his name) pastor at the church across the street. Smokes like a chimney
Host mom – Lisa, ex-nurse, bingo fanatic
Older host sisters – Sia aka Palesia, lives at home during school breaks and weekends, watches the kids during the week when they go to school in Apia.
Seleisa – works at the airport, may get a tattoo with me (you’re supposed to get them in pairs in Samoa)
Younger host siblings – Girls: Saolioni (14 maybe?), Losa/Rosa (10? Just had a birthday), Lisa (4, in her first year at school)
Boys: Lafi (8?) and Zelman (6?)
All the younger host siblings attend school in Apia during the week and come back to the house on the weekends. They usually stay with my host sister Seleisa, who lives just outside of Apia, or with other family in Faleapuna, which is about halfway between my village and Apia. My host parents drive to Apia every day to visit the kids, or sometimes, they visit Aufaga so they can teach their Samoan school (basically a second school day in the afternoon with bible study added in). Sometimes they spend weeknights in Aufaga, sometimes not. Sometimes the kids come with them, sometimes they don’t. Either way, that’s a ton of driving and the roads are terrible right now because of the weather.
Basically, even though I’ve lived here for almost 3 months, I still have no idea what exactly I’m going to get on a daily basis. Most of the time there is school in the afternoon, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes the whole family comes back every night, but usually it’s just my host parents. Such is life in Peace Corps – you never know what’s next.