Thursday, June 13, 2013


Hello Quinn in American Samoa blog readers! Guess what? I'm back! No, not back in American Samoa (a girl can wish!). I'm back to the blogosphere and if you were interested in my life in the Pacific, I would like you to know that I'm back by the Pacific again, this time living next to it, not in the middle of it.

If you are interested in finding out more, feel free to hop on over and start following: Quinn in California. I can't promise that my adventures will be as exciting as my life in AmSam, but I can guarantee that something interesting is bound to happen to me on my new adventure. Feel free to follow me on my next journey in life, this time in the USA!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Have you ever walked into a grocery store and been so overwhelmed with your choice of selection that you walked out without buying anything? What about a clothing store or a department store or pretty much any establishment that sells...stuff...?

After living on an island where I went to the store to buy the same stuff over and over again - black beans, KS bread, cucumbers, fabric (at least their was an extensive choice of selection there), eggs, - imagine how I felt when I walked into an American grocery store for the first time. My jaw dropped. I walked up and down the aisles in complete amazement. My eyes were bugged and my mouth watered. I thought to myself, "Where do I even start?!"

Moments and times like these have been happening continuously since the second I stepped off the plane in LA. Re-adjusting to American life has been interesting, to say the least.  I can't say it has been easy. It has actually been very difficult and it took me just over a month to really feel like myself again. In that month, I would wake up everyday feeling overwhelmed, sad, confused, and unsure of when I would break out of the Samoan bubble I was trying to keep around me. If it sounds like I wasn't happy to be home, I don't mean for it too. I was happy - I AM happy. Being surrounded with my friends and family has been great and I really did miss them while I was gone. It's nice to feel American again and to feel like I belong.

What's next in line for me? I will be teaching four English classes at Kishwaukee College. I laugh to myself at the fact that I am still going to be a teacher. Just the other night, I filled out a survey and one of the questions asked if I was an educator. I stared at it and went, "Wow, I can check yes to that!" My life has completely turned itself around job wise and well, I'm just going along for the fun ride!

What did living in American Samoa show me for my life ahead? International Education is still the career path that I want to follow. While I have always wanted to work in study abroad, and still plan on it, I am also considering other fields of Int'l Ed - possibly involving the South Pacific where I could develop projects, programs, and plans that can improve the education for and on the islands. Are these just dreams? Possibly, but I would really like to see them as goals that I want to work toward and achieve.

How will I get to where I want to be? My number one goal is to go to graduate school. I hope to be enrolled at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (aka the school of my dreams) next fall. This means that I will be up and out of Illinois and moving to California in less than a year. Can't complain about that!

Last but not least, this will probably be my last post on "Quinn in American Samoa." Sad. I have loved writing posts and sharing my life with all of you. It was nice to know that people out there cared about something that I was so passionate about. Thank you for your support, thoughts, mail, love, and kindness throughout this amazing adventure of mine. My time in AmSam was perfect. I couldn't describe it in any other word. Sure it had its challenges, but it really was an incredible year and I am so lucky that I was able to spend part of my life there. While I miss the islands and will always dream about going back, it is nice to know that I can always call AmSam home.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reflection: On Leaving the Island

Last time I wrote, I was hanging out in New Zealand. I had an incredible month with the J's and by the end of our trip (and after almost 3,000 miles behind the wheel), we had plenty of memories to look back on. Aotearoa is beautiful. I suggest you book a plane ticket as soon as possible!

After the month was over, and it was time to say "fa soifua" to NZ, I headed back to the islands. I spent a night in Western Samoa, where I spoiled myself with an "ocean front" Airport Lodge view.

My room looked out on the island of Savai'i. I never made it there, but hey, maybe someday.

The next morning, I was headed back to the island I had called home for the past year. As my tiny plane flew over American Samoa, I couldn't help but feel a mix of emotions. I was anxious to get back and see my friends. I was happy to be back in a place that I had missed. I was sad to know that I only had a few days before I was leaving for real. It was a lot to take in.

I made my last weekend the very best that it could be. I rode the buses. I went to the beach. I rented a car and explored with Alison and Drew. I ate the Fish Fajita Salad at Deluxe Cafe. I finally got to see the island at night, from my very own turf - Aoloau. It was a perfect weekend and even though I had a knot in my stomach the whole time, I knew that it was time to go home. I had people to see!

A view of Pola Island

Looking toward the photo above

I will still never understand the laundry detergent bottles. An up and coming Samoan art form? Who knows!

The beautiful East side
What I didn't expect to be hard was to see my students again. I saw them on the bus and walking around. A few even surprised me at Alison's house. I had been gone for a month, and in that month, I guess my mind had accepted the fact that I had said goodbye to them. Seeing them again in person was gut wrenching. Students I barely even had a connection to made me choke up. Students I loved made me never want to get on the plane. How was I ever supposed to leave them? It was tough.

When my Flight Night finally rolled around, I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be. I patiently sat and waited. I was in shock that I was leaving but I had no emotion to show it. Drew hugged me goodbye and it was like I was going to see him tomorrow. 20 minutes after he left, as I sat alone, it hit me, "Whoa. This is it." Yet still, no emotion. 5 minutes after that, one of my beautiful, sweet, hard working students came running toward me, bawling her adorable eyes out. She had come to see me off, and at that moment, I realized how good it feels to be loved by someone. Later on, two more students showed up to sit and wait with me. I couldn't have asked for a better end to my night. They were sad, I was sad. But something in my mind kept saying, "This isn't over yet. You aren't really saying goodbye." I was still unemotional. I had shed no tears. I couldn't believe it. Finally, it was time for one last hug. I hugged the three of them, and as I handed over my passport, and turned to look at them one more time, I lost it. I cried the whole way through customs and security. I cried as I waited in the lounge. I cried as I walked outside. I cried as I walked toward the plane. I cried up until I got to my seat and found a little boy with the biggest smile on his face, waiting for me. My handsome, hilarious, sweet seatmate knew that I was sad and upset, and as the plane took off, he grabbed my hand and held it. That was it. All I needed was his smile and I realized that I was going to be okay.

My year was over and I could honestly say, feel, and believe that it had been the most incredible year of my life.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

*I wrote this post about a week ago*
Kia ora. I am back in the land of the long white cloud, aka New Zealand! I am ecstatic to be back in this beautiful country and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the J’s (my mom and her good friend Jan.) Let’s rewind a little bit.

I left for NZ on the morning of June 2. I flew to Apia on the tiny InterIsland plane (yes, what looked like smoke filled the entire plane – was I worried? Nah. My heart didn’t even skip a beat.) After the 30 minute ride, it was now June 3. I settled in at a table to wait out my three hour layover. I was wearing my Leone High School t-shirt and it was quite a hit. I had several Samoans approach me to talk about Leone, which made me happy. I even had a lovely conversation with an older woman who had the most interesting outfit: a conservative denim dress and drop earrings shaped and colored like marijuana leaves. There was constant laughter in my mind. As I sat and waited, I realized that this was the first time that I had travelled without Abby. Abby had been my rock on the rock. We had pretty much done everything together including traveling to Manu’a, Australia, and Apia. As I sat in the airport alone, I missed having her by my side.

My three hour layover turned into 5.5 hours instead of three. Something was up with the plane and we were set to leave at 2:30. I read my book. I people watched. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and then pinched myself when I remembered that ham meant sketchy canned mystery meat. I gagged the sandwich down. We ended up taking off at 3:00. It was a comfortable ride to Auckland. Not only did I score a seat in the emergency exit aisle (so much leg room!), but PolyBlue gave me complimentary tea! I walked onto this plane dreading the flight because when I had flown to Australia, I had been squished in the very back of the aircraft, I had froze to death, and I had not been giving a single drop of liquid for the almost six hour ride. As you can see, I was still holding grudges at this time but I was now a happy camper. And I knew that I was still in Samoa when the plane had a singing contest and gave out prizes. I just laughed to myself.

Touching down in Auckland was great but I knew that the worst part of my trip was one step closer: the cold. It’s winter here in Aotearoa. As I waited outside, shivering, for my shuttle to the lodge, I knew that I would have to be tough for the next 28 days. If it was cold in Auckland at the top of the North Island, it was going to be frigid in Invercargill, at the bottom of the South Island. Fa’amalosi, Quinn. Fa’amalosi! (Be strong!) I spent the night at a tiny, budget lodge close to the airport. It was cold, but the hot shower, tea, and extra blankets warmed me up. As I crawled into bed, I couldn’t help but constantly remind myself that in 24 hours time, I would be with my MOM for the first time in almost a year! SEKI A!

Flash forward to June 5. I am still J-less. The Jan’s have not arrived. I spent the entire day – exactly seven hours at the International arrivals gate waiting (with all my luggage, mind you.) When the board said that their plane landed, I stood in the same spot for the next three hours waiting for them to come out. By the time the three hours was up, I called my Dad (poor guy, I woke him up in the middle of the night) only to find out that the J’s flight in Chicago had been delayed causing them to miss their flight to Auckland. HA. Alrighty, off to the motel by myself! So here I am, sitting in my non-heated hotel room, writing this blog. NZ is so weird about heating. They don’t have central heating like we do and for some odd reason, the room I am in doesn’t even come with a heater. It does come with a kitchen though. Interesting. I’ve got about four more hours until I head to the airport to (hopefully) welcome the J’s! I’ll use my free time to watch TV (something I haven’t done in so long…), brave the cold and go for a run (can I just say that I am beyond excited to run here. NO DOGS! OMG!), sip some tea to warm me up, and read. I would go into the city but it’s about a 45 minute bus ride one-way so I wouldn’t have much time.

Before I say fa!, I’d also like to add something that warmed my heart. Want to know what I first saw when I walked into a tiny grocery store in Auckland? Coconuts. The next thing I saw? Koko Samoa. A couple aisles later? Corned beef and tuna. I said out loud to myself, “Where am I?” J

Fa soifua!
*Internet is expensive here but to update you, I am in Napier and headed to Wellington tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pictures and Adventures

4 full days in American Samoa to go. Enjoy these pictures that sum up everything I've done and experienced in the past week.
Senior Ball. 

Parents, family, cousins, and friends attend. You can "walk" with a date, meaning your name and your date's name will be announced and you will meet each other in the middle of a stage, trade flowers/ula's (lei's), and then the boy will escort the girl off the stage. Dad's escorted daughters, cousins escorted cousins, boy's escorted their baby's all very different here. After all this, they dance to songs like the Cupid Shuffle while the parents watch (or dance) and then they go home! 

There was A LOT of satin but everyone looked great!

The NHS students helped out and they got all wet because the weather was terrible - so rainy and windy!

One of my best friends : )

This little guy's name is Quinn!

The palagi teachers all spiffied up!

My last day with 1st Period

Myself and who Amber and I call "The Triplets." These three are inseparable. 

A teary goodbye with my fifth period

I'm really gonna miss this one.

I've gotten so many hugs and Samoans happen to be very good huggers!

The seniors got awesome t-shirts and lavalavas for senior week

Some of my Snow Boyz

Tired after a rugby game

At the Senior Baccalaureate on Sunday - they looked so beautiful and handsome in their uniforms!

The three of us after Baccalaureate

Fabric in Tutuila Store - it's a bit overwhelming...

Abby and I raced down the hill one night to catch this gorgeous sunset in the Leone Bay.

Came home from school one day to find the most vivid double rainbow right over our house. Lucky us!

Moments like these will stay with me forever...

Memorial Day was spent at the beach in Fatu Ma Futi. We swam in the water but the current was so strong that we kept getting swept down the beach! Ha.

Holding on to a rock so I wouldn't get swept away.

It was a a perfect day in AmSam.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fiafia night

To break up the emotional posts, let's travel back in time to a night when I wasn't really thinking about leaving. About a month ago, the senior class had a fundraiser to raise money for senior week/baccalaureate/graduation/etc. It was called "Fiafia Night" which pretty much means a night of excitement, dance, and fun.

The villages that the students come from split up into different countries so it was an international night. They then performed two dances that belonged to that country. For example, the village of Leone was Jamaica, Amanave to Poloa was India, Malaeloa was Africa, Taputimu and Vailoa were Tahiti...etc.

It was an entertaining night and they were able to raise over $4,000 in just a few hours. In the traditional Samoan way of giving money, as they students danced, people in the audience would come up and throw money at them. No big deal. Only in American Samoa.

The ATL crew (aka the villages from Amanave to Leone) performing a Maori Haka (New Zealand). I wouldn't quite call it a Maori Haka but hey, it's the thought that counts.

The Miami crew (aka the village of Malaeloa) performing a very interesting African dance. 
The village of Leone (the biggest, as you can see) was Jamaica.
Another shot of the Jamaica group - you can see people throwing money at them.

The Taputimu and Vailoa girls performing a traditional Tahitian dance, complete with the famous hip shaking! I was jealous of their favorite color and adorable!
The Taputimu and Vailoa boys - shakin' it Tahitian style.
Pava'ia'i was in charge of Mexico. The boy in the orange lit up the stage. He is an absolute riot!

The Snow Boyz of Aoloau were Hawaii (not a country, but hey, it's in the S. Pacific!).
The Fiji crew - one of the best performances!

Even though I don't teach any of the 200+ seniors, I am friends with most of them. I went to their Baccalaureate service this morning and I still can't believe that my time is coming to an end! 6 more days on island and I'm going to soak up as much as I can before I leave for my trip back to Aotearoa.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Last day...

Malo lava.

I apologize for the lack of blogs lately. I have barely even had time to sleep (honest truth!). Like I said in my last post, this week has been a whirlwind of emotions, but at the same time, it has been so much fun.

I went to the Senior Ball last night. It was so fun and all the students looked so beautiful and handsome!

I'm pretty sure it's turning into winter here. I wore JEANS yesterday to school. Jeans! I'm sure it was in the high 70's but I was so cold. I'll be in New Zealand in a week and a day and the average temperature on the south island is in the low 50's. Egads. I'm gonna freeze to death.

Today is the last official day of school. We're having an assembly and I guess just hanging out?

I will try to post again soon.