Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peace, Rain, and Robbers

Today's Spirit Week theme was "Hippy Day." For the most part, they seemed to all understand how to dress like one (especially with the limited resources on island!). I wore jeans for the first time in almost four months and it felt so weird. I felt more like myself and I think it was because I was wearing had been a while!

Hippies in 5th period

Hippies in 3rd period...I'm still not sure why they think taking a picture at this angle is cool.

Hippies in 2nd period. Yeah, I don't really look like a hippy.

Boys hamming it up for the camera during lunch. The boy on the left is wearing a wig which could easily pass as Samoan hair. I also found out today that the boy in the middle is a twin of another one of my students. I always knew they had the same last name but I just figured that they were cousins...but no, they're fraternal twins. I am shocked! They are completely different in every way.

Abby and I representing the WEST SIDE. True fia gangsters right there.

This is a new addition to the Lion Running Club! He came into my classroom yesterday and got excited when he saw my Brian Urlacher (sp?) calendar. Today he showed up in an Urlacher jersey so I of course had to take his picture!

In other news, I forgot to mention 2 things in my post yesterday:

1) A student brought a puppy to class. It sat on her lap the entire class. No big deal.
2) Someone broke into my classroom this weekend...boooo. I ALWAYS triple check to make sure my door is locked whenever I leave my classroom. Sometimes I will get all the way to the office and then have to run all the way back thinking that I forgot to lock it. When I got to school yesterday, my door was unlocked. When I came in, my fans were on. Hmm. When I got to my desk, I noticed that things that were normally inside my desk were on top of my desk. BOOOOOO.

Things that were stolen from my classroom: my 99 cent bottle of HAND SANITIZER (seriously?), a bag of Lifesaver mints (understandable), a bag of Post-It's (random), my big ream of colored construction paper (I just realized this today and I'm super bummed about it.), and a student's uniform that he accidentally left in my class after running club on Friday (this made me feel awful).

Things that were not stolen from my classroom: my $2,000 iMac computer (you take my hand sanitizer but not my computer...??), my stapler (whew!), 4 pairs of shoes that belong to kids in the running club, my classroom phone, my chalk, and my broom (everyone's always trying to take it!).

People are weird. Anyways, the custodians discovered that the person unscrewed one of the wire gates and climbed in through one of my windows. I guess they walked out my room and then went back to the wire gate and tried to screw it back on. They must have gotten hot during all this because my fans were on. So sneaky...pff. THANKS A LOT, ROBBER!

One last comment. I think the rainy season has officially arrived. Rain, rain, rain...all the time. Everyone wanted to run in their slippers (flip flops) for running club yesterday so I sent them all home. They said that they didn't want to get their shoes wet because they'd smell. When I run in rain at home, my shoes don't smell. I ended up running by myself. When I went to put my shoes on today to run, I almost gagged. My shoes smell awful now. Must have something to do with all the dirty rivers I ran through! Ew.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This week is Spirit Week at school. Today was Ghost Day. How does a palagi (who already glows) dress like a ghost? By wearing all white, of course. Reactions to my outfit included the following:
- Catcalling after I walked by (aheeeeem).
- "Miss, just because you're wearing all white doesn't mean you're a ghost."
- "Miss, you're so beautiful!"
- "Are you going to church?" (HA! This was the most common reaction).
I guess my white skirt, white t-shirt, and ghost earrings (thanks Vickie and Barb!) didn't qualify as a true ghost costume to my students, but some of them came to school wearing black and white stripes, high heels, and weird face paint...that makes you a ghost??
Ghost, myself, and two boys that just wanted their picture taken with the teacher.

Black ghost, Palagi ghost, and White ghost: Multicultural Ghosts!
I went to the girls volleyball game after school. I have a few on the Varsity team. Both the JV and Varsity whooped the Voc-Tech's butts! Seki a!
The Varsity football team got done with practice so they all crowded around me at the Vball game. "Miss Quinn! The score is 9 to 8! Miss Quinn, come sit by me (everyone laughs). Miss Quinn! Take my picture!" Samoans are so fun. All the boys in this picture are seniors, so none of them are mine.
I almost stepped on this XXXL snail on my walk/run home. Neat, right?
It's a perfectly cool night. And when I say perfect, I mean perfect. For the first time in a long time, my skin is not sticky. I may or may not have just had some hot's cold! (In all reality, it's probably 75 degrees...haha.) Stay tuned for tomorrows's a good one! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

No Palolo for me

As I sat on the white sand of Airport Beach at 2:00 a.m. the other night, I gazed up at the sky full of bright, sparkling stars. I managed to see three shooting stars (score!) and yes, I made three wishes. Life doesn't get any better than that, right? Stargazing on a beach in American Samoa?
What I've failed to mention is the following:
- I was one sleepy teacher. School wears me out. At home, it took me at least an hour to fall asleep. Here, it takes me 10 or less minutes. Having to stay up past 10:00 was a challenge. I took a one hour power nap, but that only made me more tired.
- 2 minutes after we got out of the taxi and started the long hike to the beach, it started pouring. And by pouring, I mean POURING. I remembered to bring my raincoat (whew) but that only does so much. The poncho you sent me wouldn't have done much, Mom. I had to walk all the way to that little beach soaking wet from rain. I also had to make sure I didn't trip and fall on rocks, or get thrown into the ocean (that wouldn't have happened, but I'm trying to make this hike sound extreme even though it's not). I did get sprayed by a few blowholes though.
- The hike and beach were PACKED with Samoans. I'm surprised they weren't chanting "PALOLO! PALOLO! PALOLO!" I can hear it now in my mind - it would have been neat. As we hiked, Samoans literally raced around us. I was amazed. Nothing like a little sea worm to get ya going faster than glacial pace.
- 5 minutes after arriving at the beach: rainfall number two. We were lucky to get invited under a tarp tent by Samoans. They later cooked us a fish over a fire. Seki a.
- It was a long, slow, "I AM SO TIRED. WHY DID I LEAVE MY BED TO GO LOOK AT WORMS," kind of wait. We killed about 3.5 hours of time doing a whole lot of nothing on that beach.
- I was cold, like legit, legit cold. My rain coat was keeping the wind away, but after getting wet from the rain, my body just couldn't warm up. Abby and I eventually huddled under a tiny towel. Brr. 10 minutes before we left, we realized that the water was a heck of a lot warmer than the outside temperature. We should have just sat in it the whole time!
- Last but not least, I didn't even see a silly Palolo. I know, right?? All that for NOTHIN. Apparently it was a "bad catch" at Airport Beach and no one really caught any because they weren't really coming out. People were in the water with their flashlights (edit: in my last post, I said that they glow. I was wrong. They don't glow at all. People use flashlights to spot them.) and the National Park Service set up some traps, but from what it looked like, no one had much success. Everybody packed up and hiked back. By the time I got home and got in bed (after taking a freezing cold shower. oy), it was about 4:00 a.m. I had to be up at 6:25. Less than 2.5 hours of sleep before teaching 105 juniors? Hooray.
All in all, I'm glad I went. Someday I will look back on it and be really glad that I attempted to see Palolo. While I didn't get to eat any, I did get to see shooting stars, so I'm a happy Quinn.
In other news, Wednesday night was Parent Teacher Conference night. I met with a total of 15 parents, 14 of which their children were either getting an A or A+. It felt weird being on the teacher side of the table and telling parents that their children are excellent students and very respectful. Some parents were shocked when I said how great of a student their child was in my class. "I wish he/she would do that well in other classes." (That made me feel good!) I, of course, wished that more parents of my challenging and un-motivated students would have come, but sadly they did not.
Tonight was the first meeting of the Lion Running Club! 12 students showed up. 2 wore slippers (flip flops) and 1 ran in his socks. While I told them that they could just come back tomorrow with their shoes, they were too excited so they just ran in what they had. I thought it was funny. It was a pretty random group but I did have students from all grades, so that was nice. We ran to a field down the road, did some shin walks, some circuit exercises, abs, push-ups, and then ran back. Some of them barely ran, others ran the whole time. Abs and push-ups were extremely hard for them, but they enjoyed the squats and lunges. It was an adventure, that's for sure! A lot more students are still interested in the club, they just forgot to bring in their consent forms. We will see how many show up tomorrow!
Last but not least, I must share with you a 'melt-my-heart' moment that happened today. In 2nd period, my students were writing a Diamante poem (poem shaped like a diamond) and as I was reading over some of their poems, I noticed that one of my boys was sitting by my desk and writing something. I got distracted and forgot to go see what he was doing. After the class left, I remembered and went over to my desk. In my lesson planning notebook, he had wrote, "When you read these few word I hope you'll think just for a moment of how much you meant to me. There are so many people whom I dearly love and care about in this world but theres no one else quite like you." Can we all say AWW. I got my first love note. The student that wrote it can always make me smile. He's sweet, does his work, and is clearly a charmer (and a good writer!) Reading his little anonymous note made my day so much better.  
I got the note from the student on the right. What a cutie! (The other two are cute too, of course! They make me smile just as much.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pictures and Palolo

This little baby and I are getting pretty close. I now know a total of 5 chords! I can even play them without looking...practice makes perfect, right? Several students have offered to teach me so I'm taking up their offers this Friday for my first official lesson! (BTW: don't I look super uber matchy in this picture? I also do look sort of "brown" now, don't I? Hmm.)

These are the bracelets I bought in Apia at the market. I paid a total of 5USD for both. They are handwoven, handpainted, and handcarved from coconut. Seki a!
This was my most exciting purchase from the market: a handcarved, turtle shaped, coconut shell Q necklace! Q is such a hard letter to's never on any of those gas station keychains or necklaces (not that I would ever buy one of those things, but still!) and it's never on coffee mugs or stuff like that. I like that I have to come all the way to Samoa to find one!

Fancy earrings, complete with Polynesian art.
More fancy earrings!

In other news, tonight officially marks Palolo night (or so I have heard). What is Palolo, you ask and why does it get a night to itself? Palolo is a sea creature...aka a creepy looking spaghetti-ish shaped worm that floats up to the surface of the ocean two times a year. They pop up around 2 a.m. and apparently glow really bright, so half the Samoan population (or so I'm guessing) head out to the ocean and scoop them up with a net. They then proceed to eat them (gag). Some are eaten raw, others are cooked with butter and onions. I think I'll just watch. Maybe I'll eat a raw one? Why the heck not? Anyways, the Leone household will be leaving our home at 10:15, driving to the village of Fogagogo (try to say that one in Samoan!), and then trekking the half hour walk to Airport Beach. Thank goodness I have a headlamp. It's gonna be a late night...I should probably go take a nap.

Here's some background info: Palolo Worm  (I'm sorry if the pictures gross you out - don't worry, they gross me out too and I might be eating that - um, ew).

Fa soifua!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Venting and Running

As much as I love my life here in American Samoa, it in no way replaces my love for home sweet home Illinois. While my life in Illinois might not be as exciting or adventurous as my life in Pua Pua/Leone, it is still home to many people, places, and things that I love.
AmSam doesn’t have my family. Sometimes it’s hard to come home to an empty house and not be greeted with a big hug. Thankfully, I have now been graced with a computer at school and faster internet so I can Skype them more often.
AmSam doesn’t have my BFF’s. While my best friends are scattered all over the place, it’s still hard to be so far away from them. Sometimes I just want to call them up and go out for coffee!
AmSam doesn’t have fast internet. I shouldn’t be complaining about this at all because some people don’t have internet, but when it creeps at glacier pace, I get a tad annoyed. I’ve gotten used to it, but sometimes I’d really like to load a TV show or watch a Youtube and not have to wait 10 hours. A girl can only dream.
AmSam has really expensive strawberries. They sell them at the KS Mart for $9 a pint/box/whatever that thing is called. $9. NINE DOLLARS. WHAT. The sad thing is, no one ever buys them so they get moldy and then probably get thrown away. While it’s not really strawberry season at home anymore, the warm weather here (and summer hasn’t even arrived yet!) makes me crave them even more. [Random, I know.]
That’s all I really have to vent about right now. I’m a bit under the weather but the tea I’m drinking and the cool night breeze is a little rejuvenating. TGIF by the way. It’s no fun to teach when you’re feeling sick (actually, it’s awful in every way) so I rewarded my classes with a movie today. What did we watch? The Little Rascals. After a malfunction with the movie I brought, it was the only other DVD I could find at school. Turns out that it was the perfect choice. Nothing is more entertaining than being in a room full of 16 and 17 year old Samoans who are watching Alfalfa and Spanky dance around in tutus. I’m telling you, Samoans have some of the biggest belly laughs (more like full body laughs) I have ever seen and heard. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but they literally use their entire body to laugh.
In other news, have I mentioned that I’m starting a running club at school? I got the approval from my principal last week and on the day I posted the flier that advertised for the club, I already had 30+ students signed up by 1:30 in the afternoon. As of today I have over 50 signed up!! Students I don’t even teach or know have come by my classroom to add their name on the list. I’ve got a pretty good mix of boys and girls, too! We have our first meeting on Monday. I’m a bit anxious about how I’m going to handle a classroom of 50+ kids (actually, I’m just anxious about them being quiet enough so everyone can hear me) but I’m ready to hit the road running with them! I will keep you updated on how Coach Quinn survives her first week of trying to get a group of kids in shape.
For now, I must go to sleep. I’m always ready for bed by 8:00 (or so it seems) on Friday. It’s hard to believe that I was in Apia a week ago – how fast time flies.
Manuia le po and manuia le weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paradise Found!

I live on a tropical island in the South Pacific. It has been 3 months since I landed here and I still can’t believe it. It feels weird to say that I live in American Samoa. At the same time, hearing coconuts falling from trees (I actually almost jumped out of my seat today when one fell right outside my window at school – it’s so darn loud and unexpected!), seeing men wearing “skirts”, and feeling chilled when the temperature drops below 80 degrees is all pretty normal to me now. I know how to catch a bus and how to tell the driver when to stop. I know the names of and understand the different coconut cream dishes (palusami, pikaki, etc…). Pronouncing Samoan names is becoming easier and I am even extending my own Samoan dictionary (hardly, but still…getting there). The challenge of classroom management and dealing with 105 16 and 17 year olds is getting a smidge easier every day and I’m still going to school with a smile on my face. I think I have finally settled into my island life.

What better way to celebrate such an accomplishment than taking a vacation! This past weekend was one of the most surreal 4 days I have ever had. If you were not aware, the Samoan islands consist of both American Samoa and Western Samoa, but they are two completely different places. They have a different currency and are not associated with the United States. The main two islands are called Upolu (Oo-pole-oo) and Sava’ii (Saa-vaa-ee). Last Friday, myself and a few of my friends escaped to Upolu and proceeded to spend the next several days in a stupor that can only be summed up as “wow.”
The currency in Western Samoa, aka the tala (taa-laa). Pretty!

After a crazy week at school, Friday couldn’t come soon enough. We ended up getting out of school a couple hours early (I’m starting to get used to the fact that school just might end at a random time). Abby and I quick changed out of our teacher attire and booked it to the nearest bus stop…and a bus never came. We started to walk in the general direction of the airport and eventually got picked up by one of our fellow teachers.  20 minutes later we were at the airport and in line to check in and get our boarding passes! Our flight was supposed to depart at 4:40. We didn’t end up flying until 5:15. Island time, people. The plane we flew was the smallest plane I have ever been on. There were a total of 19 people (including the pilot and co-pilot) and they had to place us in our seats depending on our weight. (When we got our boarding passes, we had to stand with our luggage on a scale…hahaha). Laugh out loud, right? After a quick 30 minute ride, we were landing in Apia, the capital of Upolu. Flying over Upolu was incredible…it’s SO big compared to American Samoa. Sava’ii is even bigger! The first thing I noticed was that Western Samoa is a lot less industrialized than AmSam. There was so much free land – a nice sight to see instead of buildings and roads everywhere. When we got off the plane, we grabbed our backpacks, and instead of taking a taxi, we decided we would be true backpackers and walk to our motel. We walked for a looooong time, asked many people for directions, and eventually found it, only to realize that we were at the wrong branch of the motel. After getting a ride to the right branch, we checked into our rooms, dropped off our bags, and headed to the nearest restaurant. We dined on some delicious Indian cuisine (butter chicken and naan = extremely yummy) and a bottle of wine before heading back to get some sleep – we had all had a long week at school and needed some rest.

Peter, Lauren, and Abby in front of our teensy tiny Polynesian propellor airplane.

This was the view from my seat. Squished!

Enjoying some good wine with good friends (Lauren in purple and Abby in black). You'll notice the signs in the background for the food. The Chicken Tikka Marsala was 16 tala which meant that it was less than 8USD. Sweet.

On Saturday morning, we were up bright and early to check out the market in Apia. As we walked around Apia in broad daylight, I have never been so overwhelmed in my entire life. This was a religious weekend and holiday for the Samoan culture so everyone had come into town to do their shopping. Not only does Apia have stoplights (WEIRD! Forgot about those!), but there were so many cars and buses, and people EVERYWHERE. Abby and I panicked a little and were happy to get out of there. I don’t have a lot of pictures from the market, but I did come home with a lot of beautiful, hand carved and painted coconut shell jewelry! Following our market trip, we dined on some fresh fish and chips (talk about DELICIOUS!) and hopped into a taxi --- we were headed to Lalomanu (La-low-maa-nuu) out on the east side! The ride took exactly an hour and a half and I spent the entire time soaking in the beauty of the island. The houses, the fales, the people (especially the little kids – “Palagi!” – it’s adorable to see a little Samoan face light up when you wave to them), and the unlimited number of palm trees. I even saw COWS and HORSES! First stop lights and now big farm animals!
Delicious fish and chips...and a huge bottle of water. It was SO hot this day.

We eventually pulled up to Taufua (Taow-foo-aa) Beach Fales, the place where we would spend the next 2 nights and wow-ee was my jaw dropped. Words can’t describe the beauty of Lalomanu. You know the typical beach screensaver shot on your computer? That’s where I was. WOW-EEE! I really can’t explain it. I slept in a HUT on the BEACH. It took me 10 seconds to get out of my bed, walk down a few stairs, down the beach and BAM – OCEAN.  I fell asleep to the crashing of waves. I dined on lobster and octopus and the most amazing potato salad I have ever tasted. I saw breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. I saw 2 humpback whales!!! I took long walks on the most amazing white sand beach. I sipped from a fresh coconut right off the tree. I swam (in my swimsuit – yay for not having to wear a tshirt and shorts!). I sat on the beach at 3 a.m. by myself and looked at the stars. I snorkeled and saw beautiful fish! I made friends and danced with a bunch of awesome, fun Samoans (who were all my age!). I watched some handsome, perfectly toned, Samoan men siva (dance) and throw fire around. I saw a shooting star. I enjoyed some fruity beach drinks. I spent the weekend in turquoise blue water. WHAT A ROUGH LIFE!
Our fale is on the left. Yes, that is the ocean...right behind it! EEE!

Our fale had mosquito nets but I didn't get bit once so I slept without it. Early Monday morning, a huge storm rolled in - lots of rain and wind. It was crazy loud and the waves were HUUUUGE.

I'm standing in front of our fale and looking right. We would go for walks on the beach at dusk...and we would usually walk between 20-30 minutes one way. Lalomanu Beach is really long! The big fale on the right is where we would eat breakfast and dinner. The place is packed with people every weekend so we sat at huge tables and they served the food family style. It was a great way to meet people (99% of the people are palagi's - a lot from New Zealand and Australia).

I'm standing in front of my fale and looking left. There's another fale resort down from Taufua on the left. That big island out there just sort of sits there. No one lives there but someone goes out there to collect coconuts and other stuff...spooky.

Kasey, Lauren, myself, and Abby before dinner on Saturday night.

Oh my DELICIOUS. Besides lobster and octopus, we also had fish, chicken, pork straight off the pig (literally), lots of Samoan dishes, eggs, toast, oranges, beans, potato salad, rice, tortillas, bbq chicken, pancakes, curry, etc. etc. etc. I ate like a queen!

This was a highlight to the weekend. Half naked Samoan guys performing traditional dances and throwing fire around. We later danced to top 40 songs and hung out with them. It was swell.

Anyone care to join me on my return trip?

Snorkeling buddies. Right after we took this picture, it started raining. Swimming in the ocean when it's raining is SO FUN!

Needless to say, coming home was really hard. I could have stayed there for a few more weeks. But, I had to come back to reality and to teaching. Our flight home was sad – I wasn’t ready to part from my vacation and I was so exhausted. Lying on a beach all day is tiring! The landing into Pago Pago was awful. I was a little scared for my life for a few seconds…holy turbulence and shaking airplane. But, no worries. We landed.
My seat on the way home was right behind these guys. Sweet!

This week is Midterm week so thankfully I don’t have to do any teaching. I’ve got a fridge full of fresh papaya (sprinkle a little lime on it and it’s absolutely mouthwatering) and a heck of a lot of laundry to do. Life is life in AmSam and I’m gonna keep living it!
Gross on the outside.
Delicious on the inside!
It took me forever and a day to cut the whole thing, but boy is it worth it. SO GOOD. Also, earlier on in the day, one of my students said, "Miss, you're turning brown." Thank you?? Do I look brown to you?

Fa soifua!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What it feels like to be popular

On the way home from town last weekend, I was sitting in the backseat of a pickup truck. It was pitch black outside, the cool breeze was whipping through the open windows, and I was staring up at the sky (have I mentioned how bright the stars are down here??). Out of nowhere, someone yelled “Hi Miss Quinn!” as we drove by. It snapped me out of my star gazing daze and I quickly yelled back, “HI!” Let me remind you that the speed limit is a creepingly slow pace of 25mph, but driving any faster than that is not an option here. But still! It was night and there were barely any lights, yet the glow of my palagi skin was enough for the person (turns out it was one of my students who never comes to class) to notice me from afar.
I’ll just come out and say it. I’m popular.
I’m so popular that 3 cars stopped in the middle of the road today (one almost causing an accident with a school bus – eep) to ask me if I wanted a ride to school. I politely turned them down. I like walking to school in the mornings.
I’m so popular that the Leone ‘aiga buses not only pick me up when I don’t ask them too but know where I live. This happened on my way home from school today. Yes! Free ride on the best transportation EVER.
I’m so popular that on a run the other night, at least, AT LEAST 10 people said hi to me (as in they said my name, not just hi). It was a 26 minute run.
I’m so popular that people I don’t even know will say hi to me. On a run last week, a man was sitting by the road and as I ran by, he yelled out, “Hi Quinn!” I had no idea who he was.
I’m so popular that I feel like I’m in a parade when I walk across campus. “Hi Quinn! Hi Miss! Hi Miss Quinn! Hi Miss America! Hi Party Girl! Hi Momma Quinn (yep, add that to my list of nicknames). I really do feel like Miss America. I just need to start doing the fancy wave.
It’s kind of weird being popular. It’s also weird when people drive by in cars and shout out my name but I don’t know who they are. I’m not one to ask for attention, but I’m definitely receiving it here. While I already get stares for being a palagi (it’s super funny when little kids see me – they oogle or shout out “palagi palagi!”), it’s nice when someone actually knows who I am. I feel bad for not knowing everyone’s names in return, but hey, with having to learn 105+ names like Lauaki and Matafaga, you probably would have a rough time too.
Subject change.
I'm going on a mini vacation! This Friday, myself and a couple other WT friends are island hopping over to Upolu (aka Western Samoa). It's Columbus Day weekend which means that we don't have school on Monday. While Upolu is still a Samoan island, it's a new "country". Upolu has its own currency called the Tala (taaalaaa). Currently, one USD is worth $2.33 in WST (Western Samoa Tala). KACHINGGG. It's like New Zealand all over again! Everything is 50+% off! On Friday night, we'll be staying in Apia (uh-pee-ah). Apia is known for it's market: food, handmade crafts, etc. I'm going shopping! I've been told to get the fish and chips and a fresh niu (coconut) at the market so I am super excited for my first meal there.  On Saturday, we'll be heading out to the far east side of the island to the Taufua Beach Fales on Lalomanu Beach. It will take about 1.5 hours by taxi to get there...but once we do get there, I'll be spending 2 full days and 2 nights in "paradise."  Not only will I be sleeping in a hut on the beach, but I'll be enjoying some peace and quiet - no HI MISS QUINN's for three full days. I'm pretty excited...
Enjoy your own Columbus Day weekend! While you may not be in paradise, at least you've got apple cider donuts and hot vanilla lattes...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Grapes of Wrath and another go up Mt. Alava

I wrote the following post this past Tuesday (I just forgot to post it):

On my way out the door this morning, rain started to lightly fall. I pulled on my raincoat and started my walk to school. 2 minutes later, my coat was off. As cool as this island is, wearing a raincoat in the tropics is not cool. In fact, it's deathly HOT. My raincoat was off and on 3 times for the rest of my walk to school. Rain falls for a few minutes, and then it stops. Then it starts falling again. The rainy season approaches and I am assuming that rain is just not going to stop falling.

Halfway through my walk, I reached a house that I never used to notice. As of late, the house has been infested with vicious, snarling dogs. I dread walking by this house. So far I've had to defend myself 3 times and I had a feeling that his morning would be my fourth. The dogs knew I was coming before I could even see them. In fact, one dog even left his own territory to start approaching me. It was at that time that a man walked around the corner of a large bush. SAVIOR! Hurray for the owner 'halu'-ing his own dogs away from me. Happy Quinn.

As I walked past Midkiff Elementary, Mavaega ran out of his class (of course) and asked if we could read a book tonight. Sure thing, kiddo.

Rain. drops. keep. falling. on. my. raincoat.

I get to school and almost make it to my classroom and a student goes, "What happened to your skirt?" Oy. Mud spots are all over me! That's what I get for wearing a yellow lavalava.

The rain was coming down so hard that all the kids were hiding under another building. When it would let up for a few seconds, they would run to the building where my classroom is. Hilarious.

Okay, back to today’s post:
This past week, I wrapped up my unit on the Great Depression with the movie, The Grapes of Wrath. I wasn’t sure how my students would react to it. It’s in black and white, was filmed in 1940, and didn’t have any rap songs or swear words. Without any access to a projector or a TV, I had all my kids crowd around my Mac computer that I have in my classroom. On the first day, only one class truly paid attention. Everyone else was sleeping, pushing my buttons, or doing other homework. On the second day, a class asked if I could put subtitles on, and sure enough, it worked like a charm. Throughout the rest of the movie (which took 3-4 days depending on how far each class got every day), almost everyone ended up paying attention and liking it! Of course there were still the kids that fell asleep or did other homework, but at least they were quiet. In the movie, some men beat up another guy and kill him. This made my students laugh like crazy! That’s exactly how it was when somebody died in the Harry Potter movie I saw when I first got here! They laugh at the stuff that would normally make others sad. Funny.
Thursday (the 2 year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami) ended up being a very somber day. We had each class for 25 minutes so I had them journal about their own story on 9/29/09. I had several students ask me if they could write about something else because it was too hard to write about. This was obviously a punch in my gut because I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have gigantic waves come crashing in on your village and even your home. I have yet to read the entries. They are waiting for me at school and I am kind of dreading the task of reading 105 stories about that day. In another journal entry, one of my students said that I’m like a second mom to her, and that’s exactly how I feel when it comes to this kind of stuff. I hate knowing that something terrible has happened to these kids. Following all the classes, we had an assembly. The swing choir sang (and OMG were they good), people spoke, individual students sang, they said a lot of prayers, and that was it. We had lunch and then everyone went home at 1:15.
Because we got out early on Thursday, Abby and I got a ride into town from one of our science teachers to do some grocery shopping. We shopped, hopped on the first bus, and when we were waiting for the second bus, another one of Leone’s science teachers drove past and then stopped and gave us a ride home. Go science!
Friday was game day in my classroom. I put some word scrambles on the board which ended up being a hit. Good to know. In my mainstream classes, we played 20 Questions. You think of something and then everyone else is allowed to ask 20 yes or no questions to try and guess it. That game is kind of boring to me, but it kept them entertained so I was happy. Earlier this summer, I attended a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference with the Kishwaukee College Adult Literacy Program. In one of the sessions that I attended, we were given a sheet of paper that had a list of phrases on it, for ex. find someone who wears glasses or find someone who has been to Alaska, etc. You have to go around the room and ask people the questions. If you find someone that has been to Alaska, they have to sign the paper, but the person can only sign your paper once. The whole point of it is to get to know a whole bunch of people in a short amount of time. I never thought that it would work here. I felt that it would be too complicated for younger students and that it would turn my classroom into a riot. I decided to try it on Friday in my proficient classes, and they LOVED it. I had statements like, find someone who has seen Lord of the Rings (of course!), find someone who can draw your face on the back of this paper (that was funny), find someone who can do the splits (I even had a few girls do it for the class!), find someone who has been to Manu’a (the outer islands), find someone who can dance like Beyonce (no one would dance for us…sad), and find someone who drinks coffee every day (“You’re a teacher, Miss, of course you drink coffee every day!) Friday was a good day.
Period 2. Love them.

Beautiful faces in Period 3. Love!

A few from Period 5. Love them too!

On Friday night, the roomies and I watched Bridesmaids. I made myself a delicious chicken salad. Went to bed early. On Saturday, Abby and I were going to give Mt. Alava another go. We first hiked this mountain near the end of orientation, so it had been a while since we sweated off 10 pounds. Read this post to see how it went the first time:  Mt. Alava: Climb Number One
Around 11:00, Abby and I took a bus to the Tafuna T, walked for a few minutes, and then met up with our friend Khoa and his neighbor Dave. Dave is in the Coast Guard and he has a truck, so we hopped in, and off we went. It took us a little over an hour to drive to the start of the hike. It’s a beautiful drive and I wish all of you could experience it. Once we got to Vatia, we put on some bug spray, another smear of sunscreen, pushed up our sunglasses and started trudging. Within the first 5 minutes, I was so exhausted that I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. The trail was covered with leaves so not only did you have to be extra careful, but it just took away all the traction. The first couple miles are pretty much straight up. The first time we climbed, Khoa and I flew up it. The second time around, Khoa and I huffed and puffed and moaned. “I hate my life.” “I feel like crap.” “WHYYYY.” We really only said this stuff when we could catch our breath, which wasn’t very often. We took a couple breaks, downed half our water bottles, and tried to get air into our lungs. It was rough and I was tempted to turn around and go back down, mainly because we hadn’t even started the ladders. We took one more long break and it was exactly what we needed.
 On the first ladder, I felt great. Pretty soon we were having conversations as we crawled up them. The first time around, I was swearing with every step, this time, I could have sang a song. Not really, but maybe. The ladders were still tough, but I just pep talked myself with every step. “DO IT!” I felt like Gollum, Sam, and Frodo climbing up the stairs to Cirith Ungol except my Shelob was a great view and a spot to down my second water bottle and my Gatorade.
Pictures really don't show you how steep the ladders are. I found that climbing them like a monkey (using your hands and not the rope) is a little bit easier. Works your arm muscles too!

 Yes that ladder is straight up and yes I made Khoa stop halfway so I could take a picture. I'm so nice!
By the time we reached the top, I was sweaty, but I felt AWESOME. It is such an overpowering experience to stand on the top of a mountain and look out to see this tiny island in the middle of the ocean. Words can’t describe it. We hung out for a while, took some pictures, refueled with some apples and trail mix, soaked in the view, and rested our legs. Pretty soon it was time to hike down. Last time, we hiked down to another village, but because we had a ride this time, we had to hike back down the ladders. Piece of cake, right? The first couple ladders were easy, but pretty soon our quads, knees, and hips were screaming. Trying to walk down a super steep mountain with ladders is quite difficult. Getting to flat ground again was sweet relief. After a few minutes of stretching and soaking in the beauty of the Vatia bay, we were back in the truck and headed toward drinks and food.
You HAVE to click on this picture to make it bigger. DO IT, NOW! I LIVE HERE!

Roomie Abby and I. Sweaty but happy. One more step backwards and we would have ended up in the ocean.
Resting my legs by the bay in Vatia.

Let me now update you with my eating (I could really make a separate blog to talk about how much I love food, you know). After the hike, we went to Tisa’s Barefoot Bar (I went there last weekend…) where we had a couple beers and watched the night slowly approach. Candyman came back with a dog tooth tuna. Creepy looking thing. We talked to some other palagi’s that live on island, and then headed back into Utulei to eat some pizza (it’s like a repeat of last weekend!). Abby and I split an 18’’ sausage and mushroom. I downed my half and ate 3 pieces of crust from Khoa and Dave’s pizza. It was glorious. We then stopped by the gas station and got ice cream. I scarfed down a cone with cookies and cream AND rocky road almond. I know I’ve said it before, but WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH ME. I eat SO MUCH FOOD. Where does it all go??????????? Abby thinks I should enter an eating contest. I could totally win. Khoa eats as much as me, so at least I’m not alone.

I slept like a baby last night. Hiking up a mountain will do that to ya. Now it’s Sunday and I’ve got sore hips and calves. I’m enjoying a delicious iced coffee (thanks Kristine!) and I can hear a nearby church congregation singing. Life in American Samoa is just plain freakin’ awesome. Manuia le aso!