Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the Samoan islands in 2009. According to a article, the earthquake was an 8.0 magnitude and it hit somewhere near American Samoa. The hardest hit areas by the tsunami were Pago Pago (the capital of American Samoa and the spot where the cruise ship docked) and my own village of Leone.
Just yesterday, a student came into my room to hang out before school started and she asked me if I knew what happened on 9/29. She then proceeded to tell me her own story about how the earthquake was unlike anything she had ever felt before. She had been in 8th grade in 2009. The quake and tsunami happened early in the morning and she had just gotten to school. Following the shaking and rumbling, she quickly ran home to make sure her family was okay - they live extremely close to the water and she is the older sister to 12 younger siblings. After arriving home and finding her family safe, they quickly drove up the mountains to wait out whatever was coming next. Everyone in her family survived and her house was not damaged.
Other families were not so lucky. A total of 34 people died in American Samoa. While that may not seem like a lot, especially compared to the death toll from the tsunami that hit Japan this year, people still lost their family members and friends. At that time, there was no tsunami warning system here. The only real notification that people had was from the radio and word of mouth. They had no bells or sirens or anything to tell them to get to higher ground. Did most people know that when the water recedes in the ocean that you should immediately start running? I'm not sure - but if this had never happened before, why would they know that?
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive further west than Leone and on my drive, the damage from the earthquake and tsunami was still visible. Broken churches and foundations of homes sat eerily. FEMA tents were still sprinkled around - are people still living in these? All my friends from FEMA (the guys that threw us the parties with all the delicious food) had come here to help rebuild homes, yet even to this day, 2 years later, FEMA tents still stand. It's a haunting sight to see.
Living in Leone on this day will be interesting. Last year, today was a holiday and students stayed home from school. Today, we have an assembly and service at 8:30 and I'm not sure what will happen after. I've heard that we will have classes and I've also heard that we will be sent home. I guess I will have to wait and see.
For those of you that live nowhere near an ocean, be thankful, for she is a mighty, powerful thing, and as beautiful as she is, she can turn ugly with the snap of a finger.

The link above is a video that was taken in Leone shortly after the tsunami swept through. At one point, the reporter is walking across a bridge. To this day, that bridge still shows sign of damage.

These tsunami warning sirens have now been placed all over the island. I have  yet to hear what they sound like, but I'm sure it is loud.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tiny geckos and a Swiss Family Robinson-like getaway

Talofa! I thought I would start you out with a little Samoan remix...remember that blog where I talked about the version of "I Gotta Feeling" (by the Black Eyed Peas)? Well, my roomie Amber finally found it! Here it is...
Isn't it fantastic? You might not appreciate it as much as I do...but I bet if you come here, hop on an 'aiga bus and cruise along the island, you'll love it just as much as me!

This cute little guy was on my ceiling the other night. I had to stand on my tippy toes and stretch my arms as far as they could go to get this picture. I wish I had something to put by it to show you how TINY it was. And the gecko seems to be hovering in mid-air. Magic!

Friday night was a big night for Pago Pago. A cruise ship was in town! Myself, my roomies, and one of our teacher friends, Danielle, went into Utulei (about a 45 minute drive from Leone) to visit the Friday night market. As we drove past the shipyard, this big old thing popped up. This could only mean one thing: palagi overload. Remember palagi (pa-la-ng-ee) is the word for white person. Suprisingly, we didn't see many palagi's but as we walked through the market all the Samoans clearly thought we were fresh off the boat. I got charged an extra dollar for a bunch of bananas! Darn it! And just about everyone stared at me, which they normally do, but this was more of a "HEY TOURIST, COME BUY MY PALUSAMI!" look. Ahh. Even as we walked along the harbor to get closer to the cruise ship, a group of teenagers shouted out "Thanks for visiting Samoa!" I yelled back, "I LIVE HERE!" It was funny. Later on as we walked back toward the market, I did notice three women that were obvious tourists. One had on a short dress which was way above her knees (scandalous!), the second one looked extremely uncomfortable, and the third one was walking and eating at the same time! TSK TSK!

I think I have failed to mention on here (or maybe I have and I've just forgotten?) that in the Samoan culture, it is not okay to stand or walk while eating or drinking. This was really hard to get used to during my first couple weeks here. If you go out to get food, you find a spot and sit. In the fa'asamoa (the Samoan way of life), eating is an important part of their culture, and to them, it is something that deserves respect, therefore you sit and eat. I'm a pro now. Even after a visit to the gas station for some ice cream (I know, I know...weird, right?), we go right outside and sit on a bench, watching the gas attendants fill up cars. This is perfectly normal!

On Saturday, Abby and I, as well as two other WTers, Kasey and Lauren, headed out to Tisa's Barefoot Bar. From Leone, you can make it there by taking two buses. First you must ride to the market: 50-60 minute ride. Second, you hop on a bus that is headed toward Tula (a village on the very far east side) which will take you right by Tisa's. Shortly after you get on this bus, you drive by the Starkist tuna cannery...aka the nastiest smell you have EVER smelled in your entire life. This bus ride was about 15 minutes. Having never been there before, Abby and I watched for Tisa's, only to completely pass it. We got off the bus and walked back. At least we now know where it is!

Candyman, a New Zealander and his wife own the bar. Yes, he goes by Candyman. He whipped us up some fresh, homemade pina coladas and we soaked in the beauty of the white, sandy beach below us.  

The whole place was very Swiss Family Robinsony. It's a tourist trap for palagi's. During our few hours there, we spoke to some "yacht-ies" - a husband and wife from Portland that were yachting around the South Pacific. Tough life. As we watched the tide roll in, we feasted on some fresh banana fries, aka fries made out of bananas. Delicious!

Kasey and I with our sweet sunglasses

After we had gotten a little sun, we headed back to Pago for lunch (Tisa's had run out of all their food!) and after a little of a wait, a bus finally came by and picked us up. The thing about this bus was that it was PACKED. People were piled high - sitting on laps, on the floor, etc. 4 more people had to pile on...however would we do it?? Kasey and I ended up sitting on the floor of the bus facing everyone. I sat right next to the driver. Sweet. Fa'asamoa! My friend Lauren took a picture so I'll try to get a copy of it so you can see!

Now it is time for me to bake some cookies and enjoy the beautiful day. Malo!

Friday, September 23, 2011

AmSam Funnies

First off, manuia le aso fanau to the best brother in the world! Connor is turning 21! Have an amazing birthday, brother. I sure do love and miss you!
AmSam is one funny place to live. While I am constantly smiling, I'm also constantly laughing. This island is making my heart happy in so many ways. Whether it's my students saying something in class, or it's Mavaega running out of his class to say hi to me when I walk by his school in the mornings (yes, he really does do that!), or it's the prices of food (yes, this makes me laugh because it's that SAD. Abby and I found a jar of Nutella for $12 at KS Mart the other day...and a pint of strawberries is usually around $9. BOO!) I just laugh a lot here! Let's look at some specific stories that really stand out:
1) A bird pooped on me on my run this afternoon. Super gross but super funny (at least to me!)
2) The skin on my neck and face is really sensitive. If I barely touch or scratch it, I turn bright red. At least once a day, one of my students will be staring at me with huge bug eyes. I'll ask what's wrong, and they'll go, "Miss, what happened to your neck?" The poor kids think something attacked me or scratched me. I laugh and explain to them that my skin is sensitive and that nothing is wrong. I guess I would be worried too if I had Polynesian skin and it never turned red! Now that I've explained it so many times, I've got a couple kids that will sigh and say, "she has sensitive skin!" HA.
3) Hearing Savage Garden on the 'aiga buses is always fun and super funny. Brings me back to slow dancing in sixth grade!
4) We played Jeopardy in class today to review everything that we've learned about The Great Depression (and to give them a break from reading/presenting). One of my categories was "Things you know about Quinn.'' I definitely stumped them. One of my questions asked "What animal did my parents replace me with when I moved here?" I had never mentioned Frederick the duck before, but I wanted to see what animals they would guess. The 3 most common guesses were dog, cat, and horse. I also got quail in almost every single class (this made me LOL because they actually remembered me trying to describe a quail from the very beginning of class when we played the picnic game...) When I eventually told them that Jan and Dale got a duck, they weren't that excited. They don't have ducks here! They don't understand how cool ducks are!
5) I finally got around to having my students guess how old I am. I don't know why I was so apprehensive about telling them my age? I finally gave in. When they would guess 23, a lot of my boys would all open their eyes really wide, sit up in their desks, and giggle to each other in Samoan when I told them that I am 23. BAHAHA. Little cheekies. While this was funny, it's also kind of helped - a lot of them have been better students. Some days I feel like I'm 20 years older than them, and other days I feel like we're all the same age. Most of them are 16 and 17 - not THAT much younger than me. Weird!
6) I've gone through almost 3 jars of peanut butter in the month and a half that I've lived in Leone. Addicted much? Geez.
7) I can't go a day without listening to a rap song. ME? Listen to scary/hardcore/what is going on RAP? It's true, I now love it. I gave in to peer pressure (or student pressure). I still get a kick out of the fact that any song that isn't rap makes a lot of my boy students cringe.
8) There's currently a gecko chilling on the wall in my bedroom. He's just a little baby! Have I mentioned the gecko's before? We've got quite a few that live in our house. They're cute little crawly things. At least they eat the bugs! Maybe they should start eating the spiders and cockroaches too...
9) I had my students play rock, paper, scissors in class today to decide which team would go first in Jeopardy. They played it, but they said rock, paper, scissors in Samoan. I thought it was hilarious because it sounded so different!
10) I'm still getting called Party Girl and Miss America, and now I'm "pounding" fists with just about every boy that walks by my classroom in between classes. It's just what we do.
Alright. I've got some lesson plans to write up and a ukulele to practice! Fa'afetai tele lava for being avid blog readers (and for all the comments! I'm glad my suggestions worked!)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I want a comment! (or two)

My mom tells me that some of you are having trouble being able to comment at the end of my blogs.  I agree with the difficulty and this is a frustrating yet common problem with other blogs on this site.  I am going to try and help you with a step by step process because I would enjoy hearing from you.

1.       At the end of my current blog entry, click on “COMMENTS” and type your response in the comment box. 

2.       Directly under the comment box is the “Comment as:” box.  Click the arrow where is says “Select Profile”. 

3.       Next click “NAME/URL” and then type your first name in the NAME box.  Ignore the URL box and hit CONTINUE.

4.       Now click “Preview” and type in the “secret code”.  Finally, click “Post Comment” and  hopefully this will work for you. 

Looking forward to responding to your responses!

Sunday News

It’s a breezy, overcast Sunday morning in Pua Pua and the perfect day to write some bullet points.
·         My week in school was much better than last week. Kids were a little more well-behaved and they seemed to snap back to their normal selves. We spent the entire week working on skits. With groups of 4-6, they were to come up with a 5+ minute long skit from the perspective of a farming family during The Great Depression. Some seem to really enjoy it, others not. I’ve seen two groups present theirs and the rest will go tomorrow…I’ll let you know how they do!

·         I bought a plane ticket! My roommate Abby and I will be traveling to Sydney, Australia for Christmas break. There are no direct flights from AmSam to Aus, so we will have to fly to our neighbor island Western Samoa first. I never had the aching desire to visit Australia, even after I read Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country” (which was a fantastic read, by the way). I just didn’t understand why it got so much attention. The country is home to some of the deadliest animals in the entire world, like the Box Jellyfish. Ummm scary. But something in me changed (maybe it was the cheap –ish flight) and now that I’ve got a plane ticket, I’m really excited. We’ll be spending some time in Sydney where our days will be spent doing touristy activities and eating. How excited am I to be reunited with restaurants and big buildings and being able to wear my swim suit to Bondi Beach? We would also like to travel to other parts of Aus that are around Sydney – maybe see a little bit of the country and visit a winery or two.

·         For some reason, I’m the only one in this household that ends up finding and killing all the big bugs…and it’s always at 5:30 in the morning! We all remember my first spider killing. Gross. Last week I killed another spider only this one was above the stove. Whack. But this past week, I went to wash my hands in the bathroom and out popped some super long feelers from the hole in the sink right under the faucet. If I was a cat, I would only have about 2 lives left. Why do bugs think that 5:30 a.m. is a great time to make their presence known? Anyways, I horridly watched as a massive cockroach came out of said hole. I freaked, obviously. I sprayed about half a bottle of poison on the dang thing and then whacked it 3 times with the big fly swatter. WAAAHHH. My life. MY LIFE!

·         The Leone Lions finally won a football game! We played Kananafou HS (Kah-nah-nah-fow) on Friday and whooped them. 

  • Something happened to my iPod and it managed to delete everything on it. That was a sad day for me. To make myself feel better, I purchased this little beauty:   
Yes, it’s purple. Not my first choice, but the wooden ones were way out of my budget.

After playing the violin for almost all of my childhood, I wasn’t shocked when I was able to easily tune it. Thanks to a Youtube video that helped get me started, I managed to get all the strings in tune and I learned a couple chords. Several of my students have offered to help me learn how to play the ukulele so I will be taking them up on those offers.

·         My roommate Amber had suggested that I visit a small diner in Pago Pago called Rosie’s. Apparently they serve the most delicious thing that she’s eaten on island: a grilled Wahoo sandwich. What’s Wahoo? A really ugly looking fish that you can find all over the place here. I met up with my friends Melinda and Khoa and we decided to give the sandwich a try. Turns out she was right. It was super delicious!

·         A student (who I don’t even teach!) managed to find my blog. I was subbing for his class and out of nowhere he goes,” I found a picture of you and Erin on the internet.” I thought to myself, huh?? There are two Erin’s in the WT group so I figured it was a picture with one of them. I asked him how he found it, and he said he had been researching Faga’itua HS and a picture just popped up. Then the lightbulb turned on: back in the day when I had been up in Minnesota visiting my friend Erin, I had found out that I would be teaching at Faga’itua. I had then written a blog post and put a picture of Erin and I at the start. Oka! I must remember to censor myself a little bit more now…

That’s about it for my week. Now I’ll fill you in on some cultural things that I’ve noticed.

·         People eat uncooked Ramen here. They will buy a packet of the noodles, pour the powder on the noodles, and eat it. Just like that.  Random?

·         Samoans can have entire conversations with their eyebrows. Seriously. Most of the time, they say yes by raising their eyebrows. It’s a fast raise and I find it fascinating. I thought it was kind of annoying at first, but now that I’ve been here over 2 months, I find myself doing it too! It’s becoming second nature to me. I try to not do it, but it just happens.

·         The tattoo is an extremely important part of the Samoan culture. Word on the street is that tattooing began here or within the Polynesian culture as a whole.  I would say that 50-75% of my students have tattoo’s. Most of the girls have ankle bands and they are beautiful! The boys will tattoo themselves by putting marks on their hands (not quite sure what they mean) or having their village tattooed on their arms. If they don’t have a real tattoo (or even if they do), they have their artistic friends draw on them with Sharpies. Just this past Friday, two boys in one of my classes tattooed Sharpie murals on their forearms.  
Have a fantastic rest of your Sunday. Stay warm but feel free to come visit if the cold gets to you…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Money well spent...

Guess who's spending Christmas break in Australia?


Details will be coming soon...!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mavaega and the Frisbee

Today was a fantastic day. Absolutely fantastic! I have nothing bad to say besides the fact that I wish I wasn’t hungry 24/7.
·         School was great! Everyone was well behaved which was such a change from last week. We read about farmers during the Great Depression and then we talked about foods that farmers grew during that time which we then connected to the foods that they grow here on island. I assigned them their first big project: a group skit where they will bring (within their group) a farming family during the Great Depression to life! They all seem to be excited about it.

·         I had found baby carrots at the grocery store on Friday. My lunch was so much more exciting!

·         It was a super/awful/terrible/I need a pool HOT kind of day and on our walk home from school, a school bus pulled over and picked us up! THANK YOU AMSAM!

·         3 packages came for me in the mail. Hurray for fun and exciting goodies!

·         Mavaega, Kolio (other neighbor boy) and I read books about sharks and snakes. We then threw a Frisbee and not only did we manage to get it stuck on the top of my house, but we also got it stuck in a lime tree, and in a breadfruit tree. Trying to get it down from all those places was quite a challenge. While trying to knock it out of the breadfruit tree, we also managed to get a 5 foot long wooden pole and a soccer ball also stuck in the tree. OKA! (oh my goodness.)

·         Abby and I went for a run and it was fabulous!

·         I ate my weight in food (after a cold, refreshing shower of course): leftover rice/chicken/veggies, an orange, two slices of peanut butter toast, and a small bag of m&m’s…and about two Nalgenes of water. I’m tellin’ ya people, I’m becoming a Samoan with all this eating!

·         I caught up on Facebook and my email and then stumbled across this amazing video that was taken just a few days before I arrived on island. Troy Polamalu from the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted a football camp for the entire island. He also donated new cleats and jerseys to all the teams. I'll also brag a little and say that he stood right outside my house because my landlords helped organize the camp. YEP! Small island. As I may have said before, I could care less about NFL. If someone asked me who won the Superbowl two years ago, I couldn’t tell you. I just don’t get it. But being on this island, and being around hundreds of kids and people that are so passionate about the sport, I can’t help but like it…a little bit. Anyways, watch this video! I recognize many of the Leone Lions and a few of my students are even in it!:
·         As I sit here typing this, Mavaega has just called my name for the sixth time. He has been drawing me pictures at his house and then running over to my house and giving them to me. The first one got me all choked up because after our day of reading and playing yesterday, I think our relationship has changed in so many ways. Not only is he my BFF but he has become a little brother to me. I just love him so much! And he’s quite the drawer – lots of pictures of me running, throwing a Frisbee, and giving him hugs. We give each other opo’s a lot (hugs!).

·         And now it is time for bed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not a fun start to my week...but a fun end!

Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to lay down, curl up in a ball, and cry your heart out? The kind of day where everything made you angry or upset and you just couldn’t take it anymore?
Of course you have and it’s (perfectly) normal. I’ll up and admit that I experienced one of those days…in fact, I experienced three in a row. Last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were literally and utterly awful. I am an overly enthusiastic person on a normal day. I try to always be extremely happy and positive in whatever I do. Keeping a smile on my face 99% of the day is important to me. Trying to be that person when 100+ high schoolers are misbehaving, talking back, yelling, not doing their work, and talking constantly is physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible.
Tuesday and Wednesday were about the same – lots of chatting, hitting (they just love to do this-one girl slapped another guy and made him bleed. I kicked her out of my class and locked the door.), and eye rolling. I always start the day (except for Wednesday) and end the day with a mainstream class and both of my mainstream classes are rough. In once class, they all just seem to sit and stare at me. I have to repeat directions at least five times, even when I’m simply asking them to take out their notebooks. It’s not that they don’t understand me, they just take forever to do anything. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m walking around clapping my hands and saying, “Let’s go, let’s go, zip the lips, get out your notebook”…etc, etc.  When I first started saying “let’s go” I had a few people ask me where we were going. I laughed on the inside.
Thursday was the killer day. I had a great lesson planned and as I was walking to school, I gave myself a pep talk to just get through the day because Friday would be that much closer. We are doing a unit on the Great Depression right now and after they took their vocab quiz, I had printed out some photos of the Migrant Mother, bankers, men standing in line to apply for jobs, etc. I was going to put everyone in groups, hand out the photos, have them talk about what they thought was going on, and then have them present to the class. After all this, I would read them the actual caption of the picture to let them know how close they were to guessing.  My first two periods were great – they seemed to enjoy the lesson and they were somewhat quiet and attentive. After that, my day went from “okay” to “seriously?” I’m pretty sure 80% of the kids cheated on their vocab quiz (darn them and their capability to speak another language!). Even though I tell them to be quiet, a few stifle out some words or laughs, and I bet you anything that they are giving each other the answers! From now on, if anyone talks during a quiz, I’m ripping it up in front of them and giving them a 0. Take that!
The heartbreaking moment (or 50 minutes) of the day came when my best class (meaning they always listen, do their work, and pay attention) lost it. I could barely even hear myself say the directions of the lesson because they were talking and laughing so loud. Finally I said, alright, if you keep talking, you’re staying an extra minute after the bell. Obviously they didn’t hear me, so I kept going. I got up to four when one girl finally went, “AUA LE PISA!” (stop the noise) I explained to them that they would be staying four minutes after, and for some reason that meant nothing to them so they kept talking. I asked, do you want one more minute and one of my sweetest kids looked me in the eyes and went, “Yep, give us one more.” UGH. Just thinking about it now gets me all choked up. I responded with, “Alright, fine. For the last 15 minutes of class, you can sit in silence. Turn your face forward, don’t lay your head on your desks, and be quiet. One voice and you’re going to the office.” So, they sat for 15 whole minutes. The bell rang. They sat for four more. I explained to them that their attitude would not be acceptable and that I did not appreciate the way they were treating me. WHY is it SO HARD to be mean? As I did so, some of the kids had bug eyes – it’s like they were seeing a whole other side of me. When their four minutes were up, several of them apologized, and one kid came up to me and said sorry and gave me a fist bump (that made me smile a little). What a day, what a day. When 3:00 finally rolled around, I sat at my desk, turned on my music, and tried everything I could possibly do not to burst into tears. I succeeded – I refuse to let them win!
The next day, one of the kids in the class came up to my desk with a serious look on his face. "Miss, are you still mad?" "No George, I'm not. I just don't want to be treated that way and it's not gonna happen again, right?" He's a really good kid and I don't think he was being disruptive. I feel bad for the kids that actually come to class to learn.
[I must pause this blog post. Mavaega is calling my name and giving me code symbols to come outside and play with him. BRB!]
Ok, back! I just spent the last hour and a half reading an I SPY book with Mavaega. We taught each other new words in our languages. I taught him that “cap” and “hat” mean the same thing, as well as “pail” and “bucket.” We talked about snowmen, we sounded out words, and when he read the word "sweet" on a page full of candy pictures and I asked him what that meant, he responded, "That means niiiice." Hahaha. He taught me how to say sunglasses, five cents, and “Do not touch the boy's ear.” in Samoan. We clearly had some fun conversations. He will be turning 8 in November and his reading skills are excellent for a third grader! Before I SPY we played with some punch balloons that my Mom had sent me. Fun! Abby and I also made the most amazing/delicious/to-die-for lime bars – how sweet it is to live by a lime tree!
Now that I’m in such a happy mood, I don’t really feel like talking about the negativity of last week. It’s over and done with, right?! Needless to say, Friday ended up being an amazing day. My classes listened, they were kind, and we had a fun time. Hurray! Abby and I grocery shopped on Friday night, made blueberry almond pancakes and scrambled eggs for dinner, had some cheap New Zealand wine, and went to bed early. On Saturday, I went into “town” (meaning I got on an ‘aiga bus, sat on the bus and soaked in the ocean as we cruised along the coast for an hour). Yep, it takes just about an hour to get from our house to the post office. I mailed some letters – the week before last I had all my kids write letters to soldiers. They loved it! We talked about what things to include in a letter and how if you wanted to be a pen pal with someone, what would you ask or say. 3 of them brought in addresses of family members that were serving and I sent the rest of the letters to three others that were based in Afghanistan. After getting home, Abby and I eventually wandered down to Sliding Rock again and explored even farther along the water. We found some awesome, crystal clear tide pools…did a little snorkeling and a little jumping into the pools. We even saw some ocean creatures farther out! Not quite sure if it was a dolphin(s) or a whale, but we definitely saw spray from a blowhole and something dark moving in the water. Our mom’s are mailing us binoculars – whale season is just around the corner!
Sunday is coming to a close. I’ve got some rice cookin’ on the stove for a chicken/rice/veggie dish, and I’m sure I’ll end all that deliciousness with another lime bar. Tomorrow is a NEW day and let’s hope that I get through it with a smile.
Much alofa!

Abby on the left, dried up (?) lava on the right!

A new view of the Sliding Rock coast. Do you now understand why I like to come here so much?

Tide pool! This one was too shallow to swim in.

I had just jumped off the rocks on the right. It was pretty deep in this pool. We snorkeled a little, saw some really bright blue fish (I failed at taking a good picture of them), and swam around enjoying the peace and quiet.

Mavaega playing with the punch balloon. He just loved it!

My BFF and I.

We spent a long time on that hammock. I SPY is fun!

I have more pictures I want to load, but the internet is not being very nice. Guess I'll try again tomorrow! Manuia le Monday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

And then there were!

Our FEMA friends had another party for us last weekend. As you can see, they fed us lots of delicious dishes! They have now left AmSam - one to Australia and the other two back to the USA. They will be missed!

At our last football game against Faga'itua HS, Leone was "away," meaning we faced the ocean and not the mountains (from the stands).

Baby bananas (total omg-this-is-the-best-banana-of-my-life moment when you eat them!)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Adventures

After a fabulous Friday and Saturday, you would think that my Sunday might be low key considering Sunday is the day of rest (and the day of gorging on food). It was for the most part. I did a little resting and I ate a lot of food, but let's just start at the beginning.

On Saturday night, one of my vice principals invited me back to the CCCAS, which is the Congregational Christan Church of American Samoa in Leone. It was also the very first church on can read more about it and see pictures of what the chapel looks like on their website: CCCAS Leone  I had visited this church once before and had seen many of my fellow teachers and students. This past Sunday was the celebration of the 181st anniversary of CCCAS so eight other CCC churches from the west side came to the service in Leone. The chapel was packed - so many Samoans all jammed into one place. It was very hot, and I got a seat that literally touched the back of the church. All in all, it was 2 beautiful hours of Samoan and beautiful singing. I saw lots of my students and it warmed my heart to see their eyes light up when they saw me at their church.

Following church, I was invited to a to'onai (sunday lunch) by a woman who works for the Department of Education. It was so interesting to eat lunch in a traditional Samoan house.  The adults and guests always eat first and are served by the children. This was a bit awkward for me as one of my students was putting food on my plate. After we finished, we sat outside with some coffee, and the kids got to eat. Following the coffee and digestion of all the Samoan food, Tui (the DOE woman) drove me all along the west coast of the island out to the village of Amanave. The views were breathtaking and also unsettling in some spots. Many villages on the west coast were ripped apart by the tsunami in 2009. Many FEMA tents still stand and it was haunting to see houses and churches literally ripped apart. By the time I got back to my house, it was 1:00 and I had left at 8:45. I had a great day!

Having Monday off from school was also nice. At this point in the school year, I am still so excited for each day with my kids, but I was happy to have a day off during the week to explore. Abby and I were up bright and early for a long run. We had to HALU a few times, but thankfully no dogs tried to attack us. Following that, our friend Khoa came over and from there we went to a local park in the village of Vailoa. The walk took us about half an hour and once we got there, we came across a massive cricket tournament. I know nothing about cricket, but it was entertaining to watch. We found a spot on the field where we could throw a frisbee and within 15 minutes, we were surrounded by kids that all wanted to play with us. The frisbee (thanks Kristine!) ended up being a huge hit. It was an absolute blast and the kids were adorable. Most of them were young, probably between the ages of 5 and 10. They could barely speak English so we spoke the little bit of Samoan that we did know. Once we told them our names, all they said was Quinn Quinn Quinn! Abby Abby Abby! Khoa Khoa Khoa! It was so precious.

Today happened to be hot. The kind of hot where you just want to lay down under a ceiling fan. There was no breeze and the sun was extreme. After about an hour and a half, we told the kids that we were going to go swimming and from there, they invited us to their private beach! We asked permission from the owners of the land, and within 10 minutes, Khoa, Abby, and I were standing on a white sand beach surrounded by palm trees and a whole bunch of kids. We splashed around and got hit by the big galu (nngaahloo - wave). The current was super strong and you had to use all your might to stand up. How these little 5 and 6 year olds could do it with no problem was amazing to me. There were also lots of lava rocks and they were extremely slippery, to the point where you could slide down them...Abby and I tried to walk on them and we could barely stand up. Even crawling was difficult because they were so slippery. The kids walked on them like it was no big deal. Samoans are so cool!

After lots of sun (almost too much - it was scorching every part of us) we headed home for a much needed shower. I had sand just about everywhere on me. Having sand in your pants is no fun. Later on, I played badmitten (how do you spell it?) with Mavaega for a long time. Now the temperature is finally cooling down and I just finished a big bowl of brown rice, chicken, and teriyaki veggies. Ahhh. Now on to lesson planning for the week.


P.S. I slept awful last night - couldn't fall asleep. When I finally did fall asleep, I remember waking up for about 3-5 seconds and I thought to myself, "Is my bed shaking right now?" before falling asleep again. Turns out it was really shaking! An earthquake hit around Tonga sometime after 10:00 last night and we felt it here in AmSam. It was a 6. something. Thankfully there was no tsunami warning. Our house is far enough from the water and it is also on a hill...I am also thankful for that.

So many little kiddos! Abby, Khoa, or I would throw the frisbee up really high in the air and all the kids would go running to catch funny!

The only name I remember out of this bunch is Moi - the girl in the pink shorts. The two boys are clearly twins and I could not get enough of them. They were adorable in every way and they kept asking Abby and I questions in Samoan. We would just respond by saying "how are you" in Samoan. It made us laugh and they just gave us puzzled faces. Ha!

Another Moi and the twins. Once I brought out my camera all everyone wanted to do was take a picture and then look at it! Pictures are FUN!

The same boys again, two minutes later. Samoan pile up!

These two joined us right before we went swimming. They are brothers and obviously BFF's. That's another great thing about this culture...your brothers and sisters are your best friends. The older boy is a sophomore at Leone HS. He looks serious in this picture but he usually had a smile on his face.

Siaosi (the Samoan name for George) loved playing with the frisbee!

A few hours at a private beach surrounded by adorable kids? Perfect way to spend any afternoon. The funny thing is, this isn't even all the kids...there were still many more who hadn't gotten in the water yet.

Little, wet, cute Samoans

Two new friends of mine who loved having their pictures taken.

This is Sammy and her brother Vai. Their family owns the beach. Sammy is one of Abby's sophomore students.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Photos on a Sunday

Talofa lava and Manuia! I hope you enjoyed your weekend and if you have tomorrow off of work or school, enjoy that too! I have had an incredible weekend so far (no weekend has disappointed me yet) but it wouldn't be complete without a new blog post - this time of pictures. I'd like to show you a little bit of what going to school for me is like, and who I get to see while I'm there. Get excited!

This is the road I walk along to get to school.

This is the same road only looking the other way - my walk home.

Tropical rainbow = pretty darn beautiful.

Some of the boys in my 2nd period. The boy on the right is wearing his JROTC uniform. JROTC is HUGE here and a lot of kids - girls too! are involved in it. They wear their uniforms on Thursdays...and they look so handsome and beautiful!

The same boys 2 minutes later - these guys love to look at the world map my mom sent me.  

5th period - what a fun bunch they are.

I dressed up like the kids this past Friday. Teachers didn't recognize me - they thought I was a student. Kids commented, "Nice uniform, Miss!" My green sunnies are also a huge hit. "Where did you get those, Miss? Can I have them?" - heard that about 50 million times.

1st Period: "Miss, you're so white!" - I laughed out loud. You'll notice the guitar - several students bring their guitars to school every day. I love when they sing and play, which happens often! Also, some of the kids don't have uniforms on because Friday was our first Pep Rally. The juniors had to wear green shirts.

The view from my room in between classes. So much green and yellow!
Some seniors and one of my students (in the sunglasses) stopped by to say hi...and to ask if they could have my sunglasses. Whenever they pose like gangsters, I call them Fia Gangsters. Fia means "wannabe". It makes them laugh.

Some of my 2nd period writing in their journals. I clearly did not notice the cell phone as I was taking this.

Two of my adoooooorable kids from 3rd period. All of my kids are adorable. So so so cute. This is my shirt that the art teacher made for me - he even spray painted my name on it! I'm a junior class advisor so I get to hang out with my kids all the time. Hooray!

More 3rd period. They make me laugh so hard!

No pep rally would be complete without boys dressing up like girls. The two on the left and the one on the right are my students. You'll also notice the sock/slipper look.

The junior class banner. All the classes compete in many different things including banners! The boy with the pink backpack is one of mine and he is an incredible artist. Many others in this pic are my kids too - including our junior class president in the barely there outfit.

Some of the junior class at the pep rally. GO LIONS!

The Pep Rally was a major event. Barely any of my kids were in class on Friday because they were prepping for it. All the classes competed with banners, Mr. and Miss, and cheers that lasted 6 minutes long - I got some great videos of those...but the darn internet is too slow for me to upload them. It was a fantastic way to end the week. I even got to dance in front of everyone again - only this time with two of my students - so so fun! We were rallying for the sports, but mainly for the football team. We played the undefeated school Faga'itua on Saturday and ended up losing 23-14. We scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and it was so exciting! 2 Leone kids got taken to the hospital though...sad day.

I'll leave you with that for now. Tomorrow I will be doing some hiking on my day off of school and I will come back to the blog with more adventures and pictures of the beautiful island that I'm calling my home away from home.