Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cool Story, Hansel

I love to relate stories from my village to the staff at the Peace Corps office – I feel they have a unique appreciation for our stories (I’m not actually sure how often they appreciate my stories, but they are in a unique position to listen to them). Most of the staff in the PC office are locally hired, so they have a thorough understanding of the culture, and most have been working in the office long enough to also have a unique appreciation (there’s that phrase again) of the Pisikoa perspective of what happens in the village. I was talking to someone in the office the other day, sharing my hilarious stories from the village, and she asked me “Do you think people back in the States will find these stories funny?” My response: “I’m not sure, but they’d better at least pretend to because they’re the only stories I have.” Here are a few examples, so you can prepare your (fake) appreciative response for when you see me in person.

• Choir practice was particularly full one week because we were preparing a special song for a district church session. Our choir is about ¾ men, so as more and more showed up after practice had begun, they had to move around to make space for everyone on the pew. At one point, this one man stood up to move a row or two to the front (because everybody always wants to sit in back) and someone called out “nice hair!” I took a closer look, and it looked like a plain old chop job. He had little puffs of hair sticking up randomly, while other sections were cut so close that it looked like he could have been going bald. We all had a good laugh. Then as I was walking around the village after choir practice, I saw a bunch of men with the same haircut – shaved close on the sides with a little more on top. Like a buzz cut. The next morning, when the pastor called out a group of men for being particularly drunk a few nights ago, it dawned on me that this man in choir had the same haircut, but it looked especially ridiculous because he had a bald spot on top. I was even more surprised when he didn’t patch up the chop job and left his hair the same as all the other men for a good week or two more.

• The corn flavored lollipop. What a disaster. I had finished dinner with one of my families and was hanging out with the kids in front of their shop, waiting to be walked home. The kids love to give me things from the store, especially when the parents aren’t looking. Fortunately it’s mostly little items – bubblegum and candy and whatnot. This time, the only candy they had was a corn flavored lollipop. I was suspicious of the look of it, and though I tried to tell them I was full, they insisted I eat it. How can you say no? So the boy behind the counter gave one to me and his little sister (we were out front). A few licks in (ugh, but I can get through this I’m sure), the little girl bumped my arm and I dropped my lollipop (yes! Now I don’t have to finish it!). We looked at the lollipop, then at each other, then back at the lollipop, and then she slowly held hers out for me and picked up mine off the ground. Then we all looked at each other (including the boy behind the counter), then the girl and I looked at each other and our lollipops, then she put her new/old one in her mouth and I put hers in my mouth. After all this happened (it felt like minutes, but I’m sure it wasn’t more than 10 seconds), the boy said “no, no, no! Let me get you a new one!” So my original lollipop was discarded, I returned my replacement to the little girl, and commenced eating a brand new corn flavored lollipop, suffering through every lick.

• My bed had a bad smell to it, which was frustrating because I couldn’t fathom the cause of the smell and it meant I would probably have to wash my sheets again when I was sure I had washed them for the last time in Peace Corps. I texted my friend complaining about the smell, and she said it was probably a dead lizard, which I immediately dismissed because it was in one very specific spot in my bed. Not to mention, it was my bed, which is impenetrable because I sleep under a mosquito net. I had noticed it for two nights running, so I resigned myself to laundry the next day because I was too tired to deal with it tonight. Instead, I positioned myself so that I covered the smelly spot, then I couldn’t smell it at all. I was half asleep for an hour or so because it was a particularly noisy night, then I got up to go to the bathroom. As I moved to get out of bed, my hand hit the smelly spot and just underneath the sheet, I felt the distinct outline of a lizard. My body instantly became wide awake, but my brain lagged behind and I thought “What do I do? Do I leave it there and get it in the morning?” Idiot! You take care of that dead lizard now! I’m pretty much a pro with dead bugs at this point, but lizards are another story entirely, so I panicked throughout the whole situation. I got my pieces of cardboard that I use to scoop up dead bugs, pulled the sheet off my bed and scooted the lizard off my bed. Crisis averted. Except I still had a dead lizard on the floor, and I would have to deal with it in the morning. Not to mention, I would probably forget it was there and step on it in the morning. So I returned again to the dead lizard and picked it up with my dead-bug removers. I was wearing my headlamp at this point, and it made a horrible glare of his scales, so I couldn’t really look at what I was doing. I threw him outside, rearranged my bed, and spent the next hour trying not to think about it so I wouldn’t throw up. I still can’t figure it out. I tuck two sheets under my mattress, and I can’t fathom how this lizard crawled between the sheets to die right next to my shoulder under my top sheet. I also have no idea how long it had been there, but I really don’t want to know the answer to that one. The next morning, I texted my friend to tell her she had been right, that it had been a dead lizard. Her response: “those things can get anywhere.” I will never doubt it again.

• One Friday after school, I came home to my neighbor kids on my porch. The Year 8 boy said he was going to Apia with the grandfather and a Year 9 girl who was somehow related to them so they could watch the premiere of the latest Samoan movie. They would be returning the next day. When the bus came by, I stayed with his younger sister and watched the party leave. I felt a little left out, so I assumed the younger sisters would too (the sisters are in Year 6 and Year 2, I was standing with the Year 2 girl). So I turned to her and asked her if she wanted to get ice cream, figuring that this would be a nice little treat because she was left out of the bigger plans. She said no. I nagged her about it for a little while because by then I was really set on the idea of ice cream, and finally she gave in. So I got my money, then we went over to their house to pick up her sister. They were quite engrossed in the movie they were watching, so I chatted with the mom for a while, then the mom basically had to kick them out of the house to go get ice cream with me. We ate our ice cream quickly, left the shop immediately, and they went straight back to watching their movie.


  1. Did you at least give the lizard a proper burial in the morning?

  2. I think you're right about unique viewpoints of appreciation. I find most of the PCV blogs pretty entertaining and educational fare, and like many other Samoans I suspect, share a somewhat paternal view to your stories (perhaps, an extention of your Samoan family) while at the same time appreciating your own view also of the story, not as a non-Samoan but as an observer of what it might be like to inherit that external view for a second of two.

    I quite like the gecko story. Despite their being a part of life in the Pacific, I can't stand them. A dead one is as freaky to me as a live one, and horrible experiences such as stepping on one, closing a door in on one, closing a window in on one, drinking a hot coffee with one dropping smack into the middle of the cup and burning to death instantly... the list goes on and on.

    So i definitely had a laugh, and a genuine one at that :-). Please keep posting your perspectives particularly after a few months back in the US. I think that perspective will be the most interesting one of all.