Talofa! Ua mai oe? (Wah-my-oy?) How are you?
From what I’ve been seeing on facebook, it sounds like you’re going through quite a heat wave at home. Bummer! It’s currently winter in AmSam which means that the humidity is at its lowest point of the year. I’ve only really been “hot” maybe 4 or 5 times. Seems kind of ironic, doesn’t it? Sure, I sweat but mostly I’m comfortable. Living next to the ocean has a huge perk: a breeze. Nights are cool which makes it easy to fall asleep. The days can get very warm, but since our orientation involves us sitting in a desk for almost 10 hours a day, we don’t really spend much time outside. When we are out and about, the sun is extremely strong. I stood in one spot for about 3 minutes yesterday and my feet felt like they were roasting. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a must! While the humidity hasn’t really been a problem, I’m sure my report on the weather during the rainy season will be completely opposite.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve almost been here for a week and a half. We WT’ers feel like we’ve been here for several months. I suppose that makes sense considering we live in such close-knit quarters. This can only mean that my year on the island is going to fly by super, crazy fast. Our group has opened up, we’re bonding, and we’re enjoying our time together. 7 people will be living on the outer islands of Manu’a and 2 will be living on Aunu’u, the small island right off of Tutuila (my island). It will be sad to see them go considering we won’t see most of them until our mid-year WT conference in December (?).
The WT crew at Blunt's Point (minus Melinda and Heidi)
In the Samoan language, the word for a white/Caucasian person is “palagi,” pronounced pah-lahn-gi. The word literally means something like “burst through the sky/heavens,” so palagi is NOT a derogatory term. You can always tell when Samoans are talking about you because you will usually hear the word being said in conversation. For the WT’ers, seeing another palagi around the island is exciting! We are the minority, and we are curious to know what other palagi’s are doing here.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, AmSam is home to many wild and domesticated dogs. Dogs are not treated as pets here, but instead are used for protection of the family home and fale (open guesthouse - pictures to come). Throughout orientation, we have been constantly told how to defend ourselves so we do not get attacked. If a dog comes toward you, you are supposed to yell “HALU” (haa-loo) which basically means get away from me. This is a word that you would never say to a person. If halu doesn’t work, you are supposed to bend down and pick up a rock or an “imaginary rock” to “throw” at them while again yelling halu. So far, I’ve only had to yell it once. I’m sure that the dog didn’t want to harm me, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
On a lighter note, I have been able to run! There is a group of 5 WT’ers, including myself, who usually hit the streets either before orientation or at dusk. Running is something I look forward to here. It’s a good time to practice the few Samoan words/phrases I can actually remember, as well as to discover new places. I have made friends on runs by stopping and talking to people. I have had boys ask for my autograph while holding out a phone instead of pen and piece of paper…which made me laugh. Cat-calling is HUGE here, but not in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable. Samoans love to say hello and talk - especially to palagi’s.
In the next few days, I’ll be teaching another English lesson to the WT group (with a partner), I’ll be hiking up Mt. Alava, and hopefully finding some time to do laundry. While I get limited time on the computer, I love all of the emails and messages that I have received. For those of you that have sent emails, for some reason the internet at our orientation site blocks us from responding. As soon as I get settled in my HOUSE(!), I will hopefully be able to respond.
Manuia le afiafi! (Have a good evening!)