Friday, June 17, 2011

You can call me Miss Bolander...

I spent the last four days in St. Paul, Minnesota, visiting my friend Erin. Erin and I went to New Zealand through the same study abroad program and we have been lucky enough to spend quite a few mini vacations together.
This is Erin and I enjoying the Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis yesterday:

Following our adventures in the garden and a delicious meal of hot dogs and mac & cheese, we were about to settle down for the night. Remembering that I needed to sign up for a 5k that I will be running on the 25th, I got online, registered for the race, and then checked my email. I was not expecting to see this: American Samoa 2011-2012 Teaching Placements. My reaction was instantaneous. My jaw dropped, I started shaking (truth), and I felt like I was about to lose my mind.
THIS WAS IT! Would I be teaching Geometry? Or a lab involving chemicals? Just thinking about this makes me cringe. I had never been more nervous in my life. All I wanted was to be an English teacher.
I opened the document with Erin by my side and Mom on the phone…and then I screeched because my dream came true. For the 2011-2012 school year, I will be teaching English at Faga’itua High School in Faga’itua, American Samoa. I could not have asked for a better placement. I will be on the big island, Tutuila, but I will be in a rural village, something that I had asked for on my preference form.

I think the village is pronounced Fahnguh-ai-too-ah.  Upon my arrival in AmSam, anything can happen. I could be transferred to another school, village, or island, but for now, I am beyond ecstatic with my placement. 
My happy dance was definitely necessary:

The countdown is 24 DAYS! Soon to come: what and how I am packing (oh how difficult that will be), last adventures in the USA, and prepping to be a high school teacher!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Never heard of AmSam before, eh?

If you still think I am going to Somalia, this is the post for you! Take out your notebooks, sharpen your pencils, and grab a cup of coffee or two – it’s time to learn.
At this point, I’ve directed you to experiment with Google Maps to see how AmSam compares in size to the rest of the world. It’s just so cute and tiny, right? Aw.  As small as it is, it has a lot to offer.
§  AmSam is a tropical island.
o   In 2006, Islands named Ofu Beach (on one of the outer islands) one of the 30 best undiscovered beaches in the world.  I can’t wait to visit that!
o   Tropical = palm trees complete with coconuts, warm weather, beaches, sunrises/sunsets…okay, you get the drift.
o   Tropical = humidity, sunburn, bugs…sooo many bugs: mosquitoes, spiders, scary/huge/massive/frightening centipedes (I’m talking colossal size), vicious wild and domestic dogs (previous volunteers have had to walk around with pipes and large rocks in their hands for protection – oh yay!), etc.
o   Lesson to learn: No matter where you go, there is always going to be something beautiful as well as something that might test your limits a little more than you would like: embrace it, go with the flow, and maybe wear some bug spray and sunscreen.

§  AmSam is an island full of football.
o   Someone (can’t remember who or where I read it) made a joke that football players are the biggest export from the Samoan islands. 
o   According to an article on, 200+ Samoans play in Division I football.  Holy smokes.  That same article said, “It has been estimated that a Samoan boy is 40 times more likely to reach the NFL than a boy growing up in the United States.”
o   To read the article, follow this link: "American football, Samoan style"

§  AmSam is home to a Starkist tuna factory.
o   Tuna is one of the main exports from the island.
o   Next time you make a tuna sandwich, see where the fish comes from!

§  AmSam is a territory of the United States.
o   According to AmSamoa Tourism, AmSam has been a U.S. territory since April 17, 1900. The island was used during WWII, where it held a naval base, hospitals, landing strips, and protection/retaliation against the Japanese.
o   The island chain uses U.S. currency as well as our postal system. It costs the same to mail a letter to me in Sycamore as it will when I am in American Samoa. How freaking awesome/way cool/crazy is that? Also, packages can be sent for similar prices as well. *Hint Hint*
o   AmSam is home to a National Park!
o   The temperature ranges from high 70’s to low 90’s throughout the year. The average annual rainfall is anywhere from 150 to 300 INCHES A YEAR. Whoa.
o   AmSam is extremely religious. Way back when, Christian missionaries paid the islands a visit and converted as many people as they could. The majority of the island is Christian but other denominations include Mormon, Catholic, and a few others. Because of this, the dress code is conservative. Women are not allowed to wear swimsuits, shorts that are shorter (punny) than the knee, and tank tops with tiny straps.
Alright, class is over for the day. I hope you were able to learn something from my little list of facts. I can’t wait to share my own experiences with all of these things in 29 DAYS!
Update 1: I have added a “subscribe” box on the top right of the blog. Enter your email address, follow the steps, and my blog will show up in your email whenever I update it. Link back to the blog to read it though. Who wants to read a blog update from an email? BORING!
Update 2: Confused about how to comment? Scroll all the way down…I added some directions.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Only in American Samoa....

Only in American Samoa, do they have music videos like this…
Will I come home with a “caramel complexion?”
Only in American Samoa, does McDonald’s actually look appetizing…

Only in American Samoa, well, need I say more?

Only in American Samoa…will I turn into a football player?….

Friday, June 3, 2011

The reason why

Many people have asked why I chose to teach in American Samoa. Most people who teach English abroad head to China, Japan, or Korea, but I guess I'm different. During my semester in New Zealand, I stayed in a dorm that consisted mainly of freshmen Kiwi’s, which was quite the experience. But, I was lucky enough to get placed on a floor with people from all over the world. I was the only American, but students from Japan, Tonga, (Western) Samoa, the Philippines, and New Zealand lived near me. Before NZ, I had never even heard of Tonga or Samoa, and it wasn’t until I became friends with my floor mates, that I really became interested in the South Pacific (tiny) islands.
When I discovered WorldTeach, I researched all of the countries and after a brief “I want to go to Colombia” stint (my Mom wasn’t too happy about that), I realized that my answer was right in front of me: American Samoa! Not only would I be back in the South Pacific, but I would be able to reunite with my Samoan friends and continue to learn about the culture, history, and lifestyle of a tropical island.
That being said, besides anxiously awaiting the news of where I’ll be living and what I’ll be teaching, I am keeping myself busy with “attempting” to learn Samoan.  It is a vowel-filled language, and some of the words have up to three in a row, like Nu’uuli. Just a guess, but I think it is pronounced new-glottal stop—oooooooleee. We will see if I am right. Another catch is the letter g. In Samoan, g = ng.  The capital of the main island is Pago Pago. It is pronounced as Pango Pango. Also, stress is put on the letter a, making it more of an ahh. Neat.
Other than practicing my vowels, I am checking things off my list with WorldTeach, stocking up on flip flops, and eating all the greens, berries, and citrus that I can hold (more on this later.)
Until next time, tofa!