The last week of term 3 is set aside for teachers to plan for the new school year, and my principal told me that there really wasn’t anything for me to do that week, so I just didn’t go to school. Instead, I had probably the best week yet of my time in Samoa.
Monday – started off slow. It was really rainy in the morning, so I mostly sat around on my porch reading. I had just finished my sandwich for lunch when one of the owners from Sea Breeze, the resort in my village, drove by and asked if I wanted to join them for their staff Christmas party. Of course! So I spent the next 4 hour sitting in a beach fale, drinking white wine, eating BBQ chicken, and talking to cheeky boys from my village who were ridiculously drunk. The world sole roughly translates to “dude,” and is used in about the same way. It also refers to the demographic of males from about the age of 18-25, and the soles of the village are the cheeky boys. Until coming to the Christmas party, I hadn’t realized that I really don’t know any of the soles in my village. I don’t know where they hang out (although most of them spend the day working on the plantation), much less their names, but I talked to some cheeky soles at the Christmas party and saw how sheltered I’ve been living in the congregational fale. After I got back from the Christmas party, I went over to my neighbor’s fale and asked her to help me fill out a grant application. The Women’s Committee wants to plan a sewing week, but in order to have a sewing week, we need sewing machines, which is my specific project for the women’s committee. I had dinner with my neighbors, then played cards with the kids after dinner, and that was Monday.
Tuesday – I went on a mission with two of my Year 7 students to try to get back the 19 library books that hadn’t been returned. We started out at the far end of my village, then walked all the way to the end of the next village, then ended up at my principal’s fale two villages away (her daughter in my Year 7 class had a library book out that apparently she has lost). We spent about an hour there watching music videos and eating lunch before we came back to my village. However, only one of my students came back with me; the other opted to stay in Lotofaga. So I caught a ride with one of my students, we returned 6 out of 19 missing books to the library (I did get an anthology back, which was the priority for me, so the rest are unfortunate losses, but at least I have all my anthologies), and then I went and bought us ice cream. After a little malolo (rest – usually means reading for me), I left my room to discover some people from the village playing pool in my fale. So I went to join them. They were playing for money, and I miraculously (and accidentally) won the first three games I played. After I lost the fourth, I broke even (the bet was doubled from 50 sene to 1 tala for my last game), and called it good. I spent the rest of the afternoon maloloing, then went to koleni (exercise) in the evening. The women’s committee decided to join a multi-district exercise competition, so we put together a jazzercise routine and practiced with all the women from the women’s committee and most of their kids. Super fun. I was early though – it was announced at the women’s committee meeting that koleni would start at 5, but fa’a Samoa, that means 6. So I showed up at the fale at 5 and nobody else was there, so the family took me inside and turned on a corny Indian movie with English subtitles. It was actually pretty good, but still super cheesy.
Wednesday – I went into town in the morning to turn in my grant application. I only had one quote with it because apparently only one store in Samoa sells manual sewing machines (electric sewing machines eat up cash power, so it’s better for the committee to have manual machines), but I hope everything still looks good and I really hope we get sewing machines. Came back on my first bus back, played a little more pool, did some laundry, more koleni, then dinner with the family across the street.
Thursday – I spent the morning cleaning in anticipation of guests the upcoming weekend (who never actually showed up, see the Island Tour blog post). Lots of laundry, lots of sweeping, lots of reorganizing and trying to trim down my continual accumulation of stuff. Spent an hour or so reading at my favorite roadside faleo’o, then came back to my fale just in time to be called over to lunch with my neighbors. Watched some pool in the afternoon, more koleni in the evening, then packed for my weekend adventure.
Friday – I was getting ready in the morning – braiding my hair, collecting my bags, trying to prepare Nora for staying with the neighbors for the next 3 nights – when my neighbor called to me through my window (I generally communicate with them through my window) and said the bus was coming. There is a story behind this. Two weeks ago, we had a special church service two villages over, and the choir took the bus. Well, I missed the bus because I was sitting in my room, expecting to hear the bus or someone to come get me because it was leaving from in front of my fale, but I missed the bus. Fortunately, I caught a ride. So this time my neighbor called me in an effort to make sure I would catch the bus this time. The problem was that it was 6:30, they had said the bus was coming at 7:30, and I was only half-way ready. So I rushed around collecting all my things, turning off my water, and carrying Nora over to the neighbors’ fale, where she promptly freaked out. I tailed her for a while because the bus hadn’t arrived yet, then went to sit in front of the church and wait with my neighbor for the bus. Then we went into the fale next door, had some tea, and took a car to the koleni competition instead. Turns out I didn’t even need to worry about the bus at all, but I really appreciate them making sure I was ready in time to catch the bus this time. The koleni competition was one village over from another PCV, Chelsea, so I planned to go to the koleni, then wait with her for a bus to the end of her village, then walk to Mulivai, where we were having our book club meeting that night. The koleni was really fun. There were maybe 20 villages there, so it took a while to get through all of us, but we finished after about four hours. My village took 5th, and I will forever be curious if that was partly due to the fact that they had a palagi front and center doing jazzercise with the women’s committee. I was specially placed there. We got some prize money, and split it between all of us so everyone involved got either 5 or 10 tala. I got 10 tala, which I also wonder if it was because I was the palagi front and center doing jazzercise. Anyway, I got dropped off at the main road, and I was planning to walk to Chelsea’s fale so we could catch a bus together (her fale was maybe a mile down the road), but I was picked up by another car about 2 minutes after I was dropped off at the main road. So I caught a ride all the way to Mulivai. After everyone showed up for book club (around 3 in the afternoon), we all headed to the beach for a little snorkeling. I’ve only been snorkeling once since we had our water safety training in Samoa and I forgot how fun it was. I swam around out there for almost an hour. Then I walked around the hotel that had been destroyed in the 1990-91 cyclone season, then Dave (one of the PCVs who lives in Mulivai – his wife is Karen) tried to teach us all how to husk a coconut. Man! Coconuts are heavy, and it is freaking hard work to get the husk off. However, of the three girls there (it was us and Dave), I made the most progress on my coconut. I’m proud of that. Then we walked up the river instead of retracing our path to the ocean. That was quite the adventure. For the most part, the bottom was pure sludge, and you’re better off not asking what you’re walking through. The water was much colder, but then we came to a little tunnel place with trees and vines growing right out to the water on either side, and we all felt like we were on an Amazon adventure. Finally the river came back to the village, the bottom became rocky again, and we got out and walked back to their fale. We had homemade pizza for dinner, followed by an excellent book club discussion on Ender’s Game, followed by a cheesy Christmas movie shown on a projector. Great night.
Saturday – half the people from book club left at the crack of dawn to catch a bus back to Apia, but for the first time, I wasn’t one of them. Leisurely morning with a breakfast of banana bread, fresh fruit, and herbal tea. Then we went to a black sand beach a little way down the road. Word from the wise – black sand beaches look great in pictures, but they are not the ideal location for a day at the beach on a tropical island. As soon as you take a step onto sand where the sun has been shining, all the skin on your foot feels like it has been burned off. The water was beautiful – the ocean got deep fast instead of the gradual fade you usually find in Samoa – but I was only brave enough to cross the sand once. Or twice, rather, since I had to go out to the water and come back. Then those of us going on the Island Tour got picked up and started our adventure.
Definitely the best week ever.