Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prayer from a Pisikoa

Dear (insert preferred deity/deities/spirit(s)/guide(s) here)

Thank you for all the wonderful blessings you have put into my life. Every night I go to sleep unspeakably thankful that I crawl into bed under a mosquito net and not layers upon layers of blankets and thermal underwear.

Please remind me every day of the beauty and love that surround me all the time, even when everything feels hopelessly bleak.

Give me patience to endure (dinner with the rowdy kids across the street, lessons that fall flat, endless hours of nothing to do, getting work done, etc.) and still be a pleasant person.

Help me build the relationships necessary to starting (and eventually finishing) projects. Help me get to know the people around me who can provide resources, help, and friendship.

Please send more rain.

Please help me find the strength and courage to be the PCV I want to be.

Give me patience to endure and still be a pleasant person.

Thank you for the good karma that comes my way. I think I’ve paid my dues to get a few occasions of good luck, so thanks for remembering me every once in a while.

Help me cultivate a gracious and giving heart. I understand now more than ever the importance of sharing when you have, so that you have good credit to borrow with when you have not. Help me to open my heart and resources to those who have so generously shared with me.

Remind me to find growth and learning opportunities from my frustrations instead of stubbornly holding onto complaints and grudges because it is so easy to complain. Don’t even get me started – my list is probably 5 miles long.

Give me patience to endure and still be a pleasant person.

Help me find motivation, inspiration, and initiative for both professional and personal pursuits.

Please, please, please find it in your heart and my good karma reserves to let me have running water while my sister is visiting.

Thank you for the periods of good health. I know they aren’t permanent, and the longer they last, the more I worry about the next storm, but help me not to worry – it only makes things worse.

Give me patience to endure.

Help me to learn to trust the process and the people around me.

Thank you so much for my PC family – they provide relationships and resources I desperately need and without which I would probably not survive.

Help me to forget worries, anxieties, stress, negativity, cynicism, etc. etc, and help me to remember optimism, hopefulness, idealism, laughter, and a light spirit.

If there’s anything I’ve forgotten, please work on those things too.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Neither Out Far nor In Deep

When I first visited my village in November 2010, the complaint that came to mind immediately was that my village is set up on cliffs, and I wanted a beach! Well, it took me all of three days to find the beach once I moved to my village in December. The beach is down a hill, obviously, and maybe 5 minutes away at most. It also took me a few more months to figure out that I am one of maybe 4 or 5 volunteers on Upolu who does have a beach at their village. Most people have ocean that comes right up to rocks with no sandy interruption. No, I don’t have an ocean-front view from my fale, but I’ve decided that I like my ocean-near property much better than ocean-front property. I still live close enough to hear the waves at night, I find plenty of crabs and other sea life in my fale, and, by being set up on cliffs, I am relatively safe from tsunamis. In lieu of ocean-front property, I have my favorite look-out spots where I can just sit and watch the waves forever. I was doing that the other day when I thought about a Robert Frost poem I read and analyzed in school:

Neither Out Far nor In Deep
The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be---
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

When I analyzed the poem, I said that people watch the waves and ignore land because they want what they can’t have. It is impossible for people to live forever on the ocean, and as a result of wanting what we can’t have, people stare at the waves as a way of trying to come close to the thing they want. After living in Samoa for almost 9 months, I have changed my view a little bit, and there are parts of the poem that I agree with more and also parts that I disagree with more.

I love looking at the water. Every time I can see even the tiniest spot of ocean, it is all I want to look at. When I take walks and come to a strip of road where I can see a big chunk of ocean, I become fixated on it at the detriment of my walking (not watching your step can lead to a lot of near misses and missteps). Every bus ride home, I invariably pull out my book, but put it away again once we reach the coast. The longer I stay here, the more I believe the water has some magnetic pull that drags everybody in. I haven’t found anybody completely immune to this yet.

I would argue with the last two stanzas, though. While the land has more obvious variation – hills, plants, buildings, a rainbow of colors instead of infinite shades of blue and green – I do not think the land varies more than the ocean. The ocean is constantly, continuously changing because of the movement of the water. It is never the same thing, and it never repeats itself. Also, I do not think the distance of view has any implication on what makes for a good sight. At any given time, the farthest a person can possibly see is to the horizon. If anything, the ocean is less hindered by perspective because there are no hills, buildings, or other obstructions to get in the way. Sometimes there is a boat that can mar the perfection of looking at the water (the harbor in Apia may not be the prettiest harbor I have ever seen, but I always say the view is ruined whenever a ginormous cruise ship is in for the day), but people can see farther when looking at the ocean than looking at the land.

While on the surface the ocean can pass for a large, unchanging, solid mass of water, it contains much more depth in every sense of the word. Sometimes the ocean really is just a bland sheet of blue-gray water, but usually it is much more captivating. It is mysterious, unknown, and enchanting. The calm, steady rhythm of the waves ensnares all the senses. I still find myself unable to answer the question of why I always look at the water every time I come across it. I do think people are captivated by the idea of things they can’t have, but I don’t think that is the only reason, or even the main reason, why people love looking out to the water. So why do I always look at the water? Because I have to. I have thought about this for quite a while now and I have no other explanation for it. Yes, the ocean is beautiful, yes, the nuances are beyond words, and yes, the waves are calming, but how do you explain the pull of the water? I’m tempted to say it’s stronger than gravity. So Robert Frost, in answer to your observations, all I can say is that the ocean is captivating in a way that the land is not. That’s not to say that land views can’t be just as spectacular as ocean views (the wording doesn’t even work – ocean view makes perfect sense, but land view sounds awkward), but they are different, and where water meets land, water generally wins.

Friday, June 10, 2011


A brief, photo tour down the main road of my village
Far end of my village

I see houses like this set way up on hills and I think to myself "that would be such a pain in the butt in the winter," but then I remember that they don't have to deal with snow here

Nice ocean view across from a big field with some fales

There are a lot of horses in Samoa because everybody uses them to carry food from the plantation. I was surprised the first time I saw a horse, but now it makes sense

All Mormon churches in Samoa have the same design, so you can always tell where the Mormon church is

All Mormon churches also have basketball courts

Store across from the Mormon church

The playing field. It has since been upgraded with the addition of rugby posts. They are made out of huge sticks, and I don't know where they found them or how they put them up.
One of the roads leading to plantation land. Also supposedly the road that leads to where the water in my village comes from - when there is water, that is

Assembly of God church

One side of "the valley" in my village

The other side of "the valley." It's a really big hill

The preschool

More and more villages have Western Union sponsored signs now. This one was put up maybe a month ago

My fale

Another store

And the third store in my village

One of the volleyball fields in my village. It hasn't seen a lot of action recently, but it was used a lot during Christmas

My school

My favorite roadside fale

And the end of my village