Thursday, April 21, 2011


1: Number of people who use the “Z” mailbox in the PC office (meaning, me, so I never have any false hope about whether I have mail or not. Either it’s there or it’s not)

Also the number of times I have found a mouse inside my toilet. Let me tell you, you always double check for a while once that happens. Then you don’t care anymore, but it’s always at the back of your mind – should I look for a mouse before I sit down? Maybe…
(This, as with all other problems I would rather not deal with – crabs, ginormous spiders, and a beetle so big you’ve only ever seen one like it safely pinned behind a glass case in a museum – I just ignore and walk away until they solve themselves by disappearing. So far, it’s worked every time)

1.5 Number of tubes of Colgate Total toothpaste I have gone through. I think I did my calculations pretty well and it should last me just over 2 years. But even if it does run out, I have seen Colgate Total in Samoa! Aua le popole

2: Number of consecutive hot showers it takes to turn a cold shower from (bearably) refreshing to icy torture

2.5: Number of buses that go from my village to Apia. There are two regular buses and a phantom third purple bus that I see occasionally but have never yet had the luck to catch. One of these days…

3: Number of Samoan islands I have visited – Upolu, Savai’i, and Manono

Also the maximum number of showers I have taken in a day. Yes, I did take three showers in one day– sometimes you need it (it amazes me now that I used to get by on three in a week!). I don’t make a habit of it though. One is still the norm, with two becoming more regular when I have water in my shower

4: Number of different types of weather in Samoa. Sunny – which is brutally hot. Cloudy – nice temperature, but can get depressing after a few days of a sheet of gray covering the entire sky. Rainy – actually feels pretty cold if it continues for a while. And last, rainy and hot – which makes the air stifling with humidity, but fortunately I haven’t encountered it too much here. Apparently that was the norm during the rainy season last year. I’ve realized that what the weather feels like is determined by the amount of sunlight rather than the actual temperature. I’m pretty sure the temperature varies by about 3 degrees (Fahrenheit) over the course of the year, but it can feel drastically different.

5: Number of run-ins with sea creatures inside my fale (four crabs, one hermit crab)

5 our of 6: Number of the past weeks I have not had water in my shower (I have not had water in my shower for 5 out of the last 6 weeks). 90% of the time I still have water in my sink, just not my shower. After 3 and a half weeks of no shower, I finally went and got the plumber to come look at my pipes, and he just gave them a good shake and it magically fixed everything for…6 days. And since then, sometimes I have a shower, sometimes I don’t. It’s rather annoying.

6: Number of months I have been in Samoa

7: Number of close encounters of the dog kind I have had while running. I tried to chase one once, to try to scare it away, but I just slipped on gravel and fell. It ran away anyway. So now I carry rocks – sometimes – when coming up on fales where this has occurred multiple times. Haven’t thrown any yet, but I have pretended to. Sometimes it works.

Also the number of days it has rained all day in 2011

8: Number of PCVs I have visited in their village

17: Number of students in my class

20: Approximately how many minutes it takes to walk across my village on the main road (meaning my village is less than 1.5 miles long on the main road. Not sure yet how far back it goes up the hill – does it count if it is just plantation or does there need to be a fale there too?)

Also the number of PCVs in my group

24: Number of books I have read

28: Number of weeks I have been in Samoa

Also the number of letters I have sent

38: Number of days without rain in 2011 (This number was more impressive when it was only 8 days of no rain by early March – I’ve been in a drought of sorts since then. Bad news for my garden at school, I don’t think the eggplant will survive the drought)

80: Average temperature of Samoa

83: My group number – we are the 83rd group of PCVs to come to Samoa since 1962 – pretty sure it was 62

493: Number of pictures currently on my memory card (and at least 150 are pre-Samoa. I keep telling myself to take more pictures, but it doesn’t usually work)

And because my phone keeps track of these things
2844: Number of text messages I have sent

2912: Number of text messages I have received

Friday, April 8, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

Samoa has made some changes recently, most notably switching the side of the road people drive on (they drive on the left now to match Australia and New Zealand) and implementing daylight savings time. Someone told me that daylight savings time was initially meant to reduce energy costs by having more sunlight later at night, but I also heard that it didn’t really make a difference.

I go back and forth on whether or not I think daylight savings is really necessary in a tropical location. Yes, there is a slight shift in when the sun rises and sets, but it changes by maybe an hour over the course of a year. It’s not like in Colorado where you have significantly less sunlight in the winter months. In Samoa, it’s pretty constant. On top of that, a large part of the Samoan schedule runs by the sun anyway. Most villages (I would say all, but I don’t know for sure) have a curfew at sunset. This is when people have evening prayer, then usually eat dinner afterward. The curfew isn’t for the whole night; it’s just for a half hour or so for prayer. People will still get up when, or before, the sun rises to start the umu and the daily chores, and they will still stay up to watch whatever TV shows are playing. However, I will admit that it will be nice to have more sunlight in the morning. Usually the sun is just peaking over the hills when I leave for school, but now I think I can get in a morning run before school starts, although my school now starts a half hour earlier – probably to compensate for more sunlight in the morning.

Anyway, since daylight savings is fairly new, there is a huge banner hanging in the middle of Apia, the capital of Samoa, pronouncing when daylight savings begins and ends. Despite the huge banner for everybody to see, I would say that at least 90% of Samoa got it wrong.

Daylight savings was supposed to end on April 3rd, but most everybody changed their clocks on April 2nd. Not everybody did – my village buses still ran at the same time, not an hour later. But my host family rang the bell for the Sunday school walk-a-thon to start at 7 in the morning because they believed it was 6 (it went from “6-8”). So for a whole day, I didn’t really know what time it was. I knew what time it was, but everybody else would tell me I was wrong. It made me think about what an abstract concept time is, though. It’s just a number. I try to base my schedule around the sun – go to sleep about 2 hours after the sun sets, wake up about an hour and a half before it rises – and I’m guessing most people in my village organize their schedules around the sun, too. I had a friend in college who always said “We were meant to live by the sun! We should sleep when the sun sleeps, and be awake when the sun is up” (or something along those lines). I find it funny that that’s how I live now – kind of. I still have my watch alarm set to wake me up before the sun comes up, but really, the numbers on the watch don’t matter. I think it’s the numbers that make me tired. I used to wake up at 6, but if I want to keep my schedule with the sun, I’d have to set my alarm for 5. I used to go to sleep around 9:30-10, but if I keep my same schedule, now my bedtime will be 8:30-9. I don’t know if I can handle that – both those times are too early. But they’re just numbers. The numbers on my watch are what make me worry about being late, having enough material for a full class, and meeting deadlines. But all those concepts are fairly negotiable in Samoa, so the numbers don’t matter as much. Not always, but sometimes. It’s all negotiable, and it all depends on who you talk to.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Peace Corps Challenge

Apparently this was started by a PCV in Mongolia, and the idea of the “Peace Corps Challenge” is to give people in the United States and idea of what life is like in the Peace Corps. It is a challenge to friends and family back in the States to try living like a PCV for a week. Ideally this was supposed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of PC, which happened on March 1st 2011, but I missed that deadline, so you’ll just have to settle for now. We talked about it for a long time at a book club meeting, and this is what I can remember from the list we came up with

  • No oven to cook your food in
  • No microwave to reheat leftovers (don’t even think about frozen meals, those don’t exist)
  • To match my particular living situation, keep all your food and dishes in one room, and carry them to the kitchen whenever you want to make anything to eat. Also, try to find a dozen neighborhood children to watch while you do it
  • Cold showers – to take it up a notch, you can take a cold bucket shower for those times when the water isn’t running.
  • No washer or dryer – wash your clothes by hand (I usually just let mine soak in a bucket for a while) and hang them on a line to dry. This is especially fun if you are washing your sheets or towels
  • You can only use public transportation, or maybe a taxi if you have a bunch of shopping to carry around
  • Finish all your shopping for the week in the span of two hours on Saturday morning. Add to that walking between shops with all your bags to make it more challenging. Then add to that either a tropical strength sun or a downpour
  • Boil all your water before drinking it
  • Occasionally turn the power or water off for a few hours
  • 1-2 hours of internet a week maximum
  • Although many families in Samoa have a TV, my host family doesn’t, so no TV. You can watch TV shows or movies on your laptop if so desired, but no more than 3-4 times a week and not for much more than an hour at a time (because you worry that your laptop gets so hot so fast and you don’t want it to have a meltdown yet)
  • Always carry enough cash with you to finish all your shopping – nowhere accepts credit cards

And then we got into the less serious aspects of life in PC Samoa, and these are some more ideas we came up with

  • Every person you meet, you must ask them 1. Where are you going? And 2. Do you have a friend? (meaning boyfriend/girlfriend). Must be done in that order
  • When using public transportation and all the seats start to fill up, either sit on someone’s lap or have someone sit on yours. In general, no girls sitting on boys’ laps, though – that’s too cheeky
  • When going into a store, you must leave your bag at customer service and can only carry your wallet and cell phone with you through the store
  • The only utensil you can use is a spoon. It’s surprisingly versatile, although it is a bit tricky with pasta
  • Listen to one CD for approximately 4 months, a slightly different, but overall similar, CD for the next 4 months, then Christmas music for approximately 4 months. This effect is best achieved if it has an upbeat island/techno remix background
  • Carry an umbrella with you everywhere (this is a personal choice, but highly recommended in Samoa)
  • You must always be sitting while you eat – this is incredibly difficult for me to remember, and I break this rule any time I think I can get away with it.

Then we decided that we didn’t just need to put the annoying aspects of PC life in there, so these are some other things for you to try

  • Wear flip-flops (also called jandals) everywhere you go – work, church, shopping, everywhere
  • Go to the beach once a week to get some natural exfoliation on those heels because despite the humidity, you’re wearing sandals everywhere and your heels still get a little cracked
  • Eat as much fresh pineapple as you can possibly stuff in your mouth
  • Take a break whenever you have the slightest inkling to do so. It’s hot, you need some rest
  • Enjoy the greenery year-round
  • Walk a half mile down the road from your house in either direction and have a dozen people say hi to you

All fun aside, I do challenge you to take at least one thing off this list and try it for a week. Let me know how it goes and if you think you could do it for two years. Cold showers aren’t too hard to get used to.