Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

Is it really almost Thanksgiving? For me, it still feels like July. Actually, today feels kind of August-y because we've got a cool breeze coming through. While all of you are snuggled up in blankets, or turning on the heat, I'll still be here sweating and sweating and sweating.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Surely they involve a lot of food, family, friends, and other cheerful things. My plans are about the same although I'm still not sure how they will turn out. I'm going with the "island flow" and just waiting to see what happens. 5 months ago, I would not be able to wait until the last minute to make a decision, but living in a place where time just isn't as important will quickly change you as well.

My week has already had an interesting start. I walked to school in the rain yesterday and upon my arrival, found out that we would be having an assembly from 8:30-10:30. The closer it crept to 8:30, the more it poured. By the time I walked down to the gym, it was a torrential downpour. It's so funny to watch the Leone students run from cover to cover when it's raining. They run in waves and splash as they go. The assembly turned out to be a fashion show put on by the Home-Ec Department. It was entertaining and fun and had AmSam written all over it. Following the assembly, the Vice President sent everyone home because all the students were wet. Seriously. I came to school for a fashion show. Only in AmSam. I spent the rest of the day running with the running club, drinking coffee, watching a movie, and relaxing. Perfect Monday if you ask me!

Today is not rainy (at least, not yet) and it is technically our Friday! The English Department has been invited to a Thanksgiving lunch put on by the Home-Ec classes. I'll be stuffing my face (no pun intended). It's also movie day for my classes because really, there's no way that I'll be able to do any work with them.

Tomorrow is the Turkey Run! It starts at 5 a.m. and is a little under 4.5 miles long. While I'm in no real racing shape, I'm excited to run it. I'm actually running it for the junior class as the advisor so I've got almost 200 teenagers counting on me to get them some points for the class competition. I'll do my best.

Tomorrow is also the day I may (or may not) be traveling to the outer island of Ta'u. Ta'u is not a hop, skip, and a jump from Tutuila. It's 60 miles east of my island and very remote. Abby, Khoa, and I have had our names on a list to fly out there for almost 2 months now. Due to some issues with the airport, we have still not bought our tickets, mainly because we are still not 100% sure that there is even a flight leaving tomorrow. Hopefully by the end of today, we will know if we will be spending Thanksgiving with our WorldTeach friends that live out there. If we do end up going, there's also a chance that we will get to visit Ofu and Olosega, two other islands that are quite close to Ta'u. Ofu is the island that is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (hooray!). I guess we will see what happens!

Either way, I hope that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy your time with family and friends and make sure to take a nap!

Friday, November 18, 2011


These are the four boys that come to running club almost every day. This is us after the sweatiest run ever.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A whale's tail and other island-y news

This past Friday was Veteran’s Day. We didn’t have school, so while I was exhilarated (vocab word, yeah!) to have a day off, I had a busy day planned. Abby, Amber, and I spent the morning at the stadium watching the Veteran’s Day memorial. People spoke (including the governor of the island), our amazing, AMAZING swing choir performed, the Faga’itua HS Swing Choir performed, and the schools with JROTC programs stood on the field and paraded around at the finish.

While most of the ceremony was in Samoan, hearing the swing choir perform the Star Spangled Banner really made it all worth it. Being miles and miles away from the USA, it was nice to hear a song, in English, that I know and love. Hearing Samoans sing is truly a take-your-breath-away kind of thing and I get to hear my students sing every day…lucky me!

The swing choir massaged each other before they warmed up. First they massaged each others backs (a few crept down to the butt area...it was really funny), then they karate chopped each other's backs, then they massaged their own heads, and their throats. It was...interesting.

As soon as the JROTC students got onto the football field, a torrential downpour started and didn’t really stop for the entire time (about an hour) that they stood there. I felt so bad for them! It was cold rain and being in their uniforms, standing, for such a long time must have been so uncomfortable. But, they did it and they looked great!

Leone High School JROTC cadets/officers/etc...pre-rain. They look so dapper in their uniforms!

 Swing choir and the JROTC parade on the track

 Check out those puddles!

 An 'aiga bus ended the parade. All the buses are decorated in some way, or they are painted really wild colors. I love it.

In other news, the one and only president Obama was here today. Not really sure why or what he did while here, but he was here. You would think he might take a day and take a tour of the island on an ‘aiga bus…I mean, come on, it’s the best thing to do!
I tried guava for the first time this afternoon. It was delicious! My afternoon snack is always fruit. Besides guava, I also ate an orange and some mango. Gotta love life on an island.
Now for the best story ever! On the run with the running club yesterday, we decided to head over toward the ocean. Right as the water came into view, I said to the two boys, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we saw whales right now?” The water was a perfect shade of blue, it was calm, and the sun was shining. One boy commented that he has seen whales here, but he mainly sees dolphins. The other one commented that he has never seen a whale before! I commented that the only whales I have seen were in Western Samoa and I only saw their spouts. [This conversation probably took less than a minute.] An ‘aiga bus went by and right after, I looked up and HOLY SMOKES, WHALES! I am not even kidding. There were two (what I assume were humpback) whales right near the coast, probably swimming right along the reef break. All three of us freaked out. I yelled. They yelled. We were amazed…how crazy is it to say “Oh, I wish we could see whales!” and BOOM, there they are. It was bizarre. The whales slowly swam away, but they came up out of the water so we saw their backs as their spouts shot water up in the air. One whale even flipped his tail. I cannot even tell you how exciting it was! The whole run back to school we kept saying to each other, “WE JUST SAW WHALES!!!” What a life, what a life.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

OMGood Island Hits

Talofa blog readers! I hope you all are enjoying your weekend. I am certainly enjoying mine. So far I've spent the weekend at a Veteran's Day ceremony, a football game, the grocery store, McDonald's (for coffee!), Rosie's (for the ever-so-delicious grilled wahoo sandwich), the gas station (ice cream...), Utulei Beach, Sliding Rock, and my house. It's been a pretty eventful weekend and it's not even Sunday yet!
I thought I would share some songs that always seem to get stuck in my head. Some are songs that are always played on the buses. Others are songs that my students like to play on their cell phones nonstop which means that I can't stop humming them all day...enjoy!

The first time I heard this song, I thought it was terrible. Now I love it and the Samoans do too!
This is a bus song. It's a bit calmer and perfect for a ride in the rain.
This is probably one of my favorite Samoan songs only because the boys LOVE to sing along. It's just about the cutest thing ever. I recently became BFF's with a freshman and he rapped this for me the other day. Aaaadoooraaableee.
Another classic Samoan tune that I could listen to on repeat. Perfect island song.
And speaking of good music, I hope you all have given the new Coldplay album a listen. It's absolutely fantastic in every way possible. Whenever I play it in my classroom, I always get "Can you change the song, Miss?" "Ooo Miss, change." Sigh.
And speaking of one more thing, I would say that I get called Miss at least, AT LEAST anywhere from 30-50 times per class period. PER CLASS PERIOD. "Miss, Miss, MISS!" The worst is when I'm clearly helping or talking to a student and "misses" pop up from all around the room. Now I just say it and repeat it right back just as many times to whoever said it. One of my classes has caught onto my little game and now they say it 10x more. Sigh, laugh, and sigh again. Only in AmSam.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MTV's, tsunami drills, and plants hitting me in the face

Friday marks the four month mark since I moved to AmSam and we also don’t have school because of Veteran’s Day. This has been one crazy week so I am excited for an extra day off!
Today was an island-wide tsunami evacuation drill. A “fake” earthquake was to hit the island at exactly 10:00. At 10:00, our bell started going off. [Let me take a moment here to explain our bell, which isn’t a bell at all. Our bell is an oxygen tank. Yep. People beat on it with a stick to signal when class ends, when class starts, and when a tsunami is coming. Bells do not exist on this island. Everyone beats on the oxygen tanks in their villages. I find it hilarious, but I’m so used to it now that I don’t even realize how totally random it is.] Anyways, 4 minutes prior to the oxygen tank ringing, it starts pouring. Rain or shine, this drill was happening. For the next 30 minutes, we stood outside in the cold rain trying to keep the students together and calm. I had a raincoat, but that didn’t help my feet much when I was wading through ankle and shin deep nasty water. Ew. As soon as we had everyone outside and somewhat organized by classrooms, the actual tsunami warning system went off. UGH. You should all know by now how much I hate tornados. They are my biggest fear and hearing a tornado siren is enough to make me want to lose it. The tsunami sirens are almost as bad. It’s a really creepy beeping sound with a voice that says something in Samoan. After we had everyone piled out on the football practice field, we all just stood there in the rain and mud. What fun. We then had a 15 minute assembly and since everyone was soaking wet, the principal sent everyone home. It was 11:00. I spent the rest of the day grading papers and enjoying the peace and quiet!
Let’s back up a bit. On Halloween, we had a MTV Showdown at school. Samoans call music video’s MTV’s (funny, right?). Each class had to perform a skit, a MTV, and the advisors had to do their own mini MTV. Everyone wore black, too. It was quite the assembly and entertaining in so many ways. The junior class had the best skit by far, and even though I’m biased because I have almost all of them, it was hands down hilarious. I made a video of it, and by myself and with my students, I’ve probably watched the 9 minute video about 20 times. It gets me every time. I wish so bad that the internet was fast enough on this island for me to upload it so you could see it! They did a great job with the skit and MTV, and two of our junior advisors did a dance to the Pussycat Dolls (I snuck my way out of it. I was not about to be a Pussycat Doll in front of the entire school…ha). Later that night, we had trick or treaters! For the first time in my life, I was able to answer the door to more than one or two trick or treaters. It was so fun! The kids and high schoolers that showed up at our house all sang us a song: half in English, half in Samoan. It was cute. We passed out candy and sat on our front porch with a candle because the power went out. Spooky!
Another weird angle picture, but with two of my sweetest students. This was MTV Showdown Day. 

This is either the freshmen or sophomore class performing their MTV. Theirs was pretty good! Almost everyone used Beyonce songs (they just love her here) and some crazy intense rap songs.

Our varsity football team has made a comeback! We whooped Kananafou (Kah-nah-nah-foh) High School's Samoan butts last Friday. The view from the stands will never get old.

Sweaty, extremely happy, and cheesin' football players. Four of them are in my classes.

Here are some more AmSam randoms for you:
-          I’ve got a race coming up! There is a “Turkey Run” on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I’ll be running it for the junior class. I’m not sure what kind of race shape I’m in, but I’ll do my best to win a turkey (literally).
-          Someone threw a plant at me today and it hit me in the face/head. I’m pretty sure it was an accident and that the student didn’t actually mean to hit me but I had leaves and dirt all over my head, forehead, and neck throughout the whole drill. HA. I think it’s hilarious. I don’t even know who threw it, but either way: only in AmSam.
The following song is a classic Samoan tune that I’ve come to love. It’s about a Samoan couple who are forced to have a long distance relationship when the woman goes to New Zealand to pick apples (at least I think that’s what it’s about. I know it is about apple picking at least. It’s called Tauga apu and apu means apple.) The juniors used it at the end of their skit and it was PERFECT. I thought I’d share it with you all:

Now that I’m slowly catching up on my internet life, I’ll continue to enjoy this beautiful, cool night with a cup of peppermint tea and some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that I baked earlier.
Somebody eat some chili, a caramel apple, and some sweet potatoes for me! I send you all my alofa and hope that you aren’t too cold in all that snow that seems to be hitting home. Remember…I’ve got an extra mattress for anyone that wants to take a few days vacation on a tropical island. I promise you coconuts, bananas, sun, and plenty of fun!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm baaaack!

Long time no blog! I’ve got about 5 million things to catch you all up on and I’m a little overwhelmed with my “must blog about this” list. I will first explain why I haven’t posted anything in over a week. Last Friday night (as in a week ago), around 11:30, I was fast asleep when a totally random, scary, crazy loud thunderstorm popped up out of nowhere. I thought my heart was gonna fly out of my chest. For the next 15-20 minutes, we had on and off thunder and lightning (which was striking extremely close to our house). I kept falling asleep between each thunder crash and every time I woke up, I would be clenching my pillow and my body was dripping with sweat. It had been a while since I had heard a storm. The point of this story is that 1) thunder and lightning is pretty rare here. It rains all the freakin’ time but we never have an actual storm 2) the lightning fried the internet modem…hence the reason why I haven’t been around. Either way, I’m glad I got to experience a thunderstorm in American Samoa. As frightening as it was, it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.  We have had several more thunderclaps since then but I haven’t seen any more lightning. As long as I’m talking about the weather, I might as well add that the rainy season has definitely arrived. Holy Rain. Sometimes it will pour all day long. Other days it will rain on and off and produce the most steamy, awful humidity that I have ever felt. All I hear anymore is, “Miss. It’s so hot.” “Miss. Relax.” (When they say relax, they literally want to just relax because it’s so hot.) I don’t blame them. Teaching in humidity is extremely hard. My face and body is turning into a river with all this sweat. I can’t even wear my hair down anymore. Too HOT!
Alright, now let’s bump back to Spirit Week again. Wednesday was Prom Day. Students came to school in prom dresses, suits/tuxes, and make-up. A lot of my students asked me why I wasn’t wearing a prom dress. I told them that it wasn’t the first thing I thought to pack when I moved here. Ha. It was quite a sight to see and it made me really excited for the junior and senior proms that will be held later on this year!
3rd period prom beauties
Thursday was Jersey Day. I wore a shirt that said “Minnesota.” I got the same comment all day, “Miss, that’s not a jersey.” “I know.” It was funny. A few people had Bears gear on. One person had a Cubs shirt. A lot had on Polamalu and Manu Samoa jerseys. Manu Samoa is the Western Samoa rugby team.  Polamalu is on the Steelers and everyone in AmSam is his number one fan. Friday was Rainbow Day. This was the day I looked forward too, mainly because I just love wearing lots of color! Spirit Week was a lot of fun, but it was also very chaotic in the classroom: everybody was all over the place and all sorts of crazyness went on.
I feel like I'm always posting pictures of these boys (maybe because they like to take 5 million pictures of themselves). This was Rainbow Day!
In my proficient classes, we finished up a poetry unit. I taught them five types of poetry: acrostic, mono-rhyme, diamante, nonet, and shape. They then had to write their own poetry book using each of the poems. The books turned out really nice. Some decorated them with pictures, others drew Samoan designs, one was even bedazzled in sequins. Abby started reading them before me and soon found several poems that appeared in many people’s books. Plagiarism. Darn it. This put a damper on me because now I need the internet to check all the poems to make sure they didn’t get all of them from the internet. As of right now, I’m about halfway through the books. I’ve only found about 5 or 6 people that have taken poems from the internet (some of which I’m really disappointed because they are some of my smartest students.) The rest of the books are wonderful in every way. They have made me laugh and they have surprised me. I have some really talented and creative writers!
Last weekend was Tisa’s Tattoo Festival. It’s an annual event that happens on the east side at Tisa’s Bar (I’ve visited several times for a much needed afternoon drink). Abby and I as well as several other friends made our way over there on Saturday. We were on a bus that was so packed that Abby was sitting on my lap. I couldn’t stop laughing because life here is so surprising. One minute you’re sitting on a bus packed with Samoans, and the next minute you’re being attacked by a pack of dogs. Cool. Anyways, we ended up staying at the festival for most of the day and night. Several tattoo artists from the island were giving tattoos by gun, and one, Wilson, was giving tattoos by the traditional tap tattoo. He is one of 8 people in the entire world that knows the true and traditional art of the tap tattoo. It is an important part of the Samoan culture and according to history, Samoans were the ones who invented the tatau. With the tap tattoo, women will get their entire thighs tattooed and men will get tattooed from the waist down to their knees. The tattoo will literally cover every (and I mean every) inch of skin within that area. According to a Samoan we met (and not to be gross or anything) but they even “spread the buttcheeks” to ink them as well. Hardcore tattooing. The entire process was mesmerizing and looked ridiculously painful. It involves a stick with a piece of bone on the end. The bone is dipped in some sort of ink, and is then placed on the skin. From there, the artist will tap another stick on top of the bone stick and create a tattoo. It’s difficult to explain. Maybe these pictures will help you understand. All in all, I could have watched this all day long. The tattoos are breathtakingly beautiful and I wish so bad that I could be brave enough to get one. I just don’t think I’d do well with the pain. Eep.
The actual artist is the one on the left. The other two are stretching the skin for the tattoo. EEOWW. The guy getting the tattoo looks like he's taking a nap.

Up close shot of the actual tattooing. Check out that piece of bone. Whew.

 This is a picture of the traditional malu, the tattoo that is given to women. It is performed by the tapping method. In this photo, the girl was performing a siva, which means "dance." I spoke to a 15 year old girl who had recently gotten her malu and she said that it took about three hours. I asked her if she cried and she told me that her mother is very hard on her so crying would have shown that she was weak. All the power to ya. I'd sure cry.

In other news, running club is still running! The numbers are low, but it makes life a little easier when I don’t have to keep track of 16 teenagers all running down the street. Sometimes (like today), two of my regular boys will come and we can actually run at the pace I normally run. I like this. We don’t have much conversation during the run because the sun is so hot that I can even feel it roasting inside my ears (that’s how intense it is.) Today we raced the last 100 meters of our run. I won. HA! I’ve still got some sort of endurance in this crazy weather. I’ve even convinced the two boys to run track (which I will hopefully be coaching!)
Saturday and Sunday nights are turning into adventure nights for Abby and I. We have decided to embrace the pitch black darkness of Malaeloa (My-lay-low-ah), the village behind us and go for night walks around 7:30. I bring along a flashlight and we walk. People always say hi to us or ask us for our phone numbers or ask us where we live. It’s fun. This island is also swarming with toads so we are constantly yelping and gasping at all the bellied up, squished, and hopping things. I’ve never seen so many dead toads in my life. They make this island STINK. P-U!
Here’s a random AmSam funny for you: the letters b and p are the same here. While this is not part of the language or grammatically correct, it’s just become a “norm.” Students will write p instead of b in their journals, on their homework, and on the chalkboard. I’ve learned to embrace it although it’s quite funny when words like “porn” pop up on their work when they clearly meant born. It’s funny to point this out to them. “Oye!” They’ll say and then fix it. Makes me laugh.
Today (Saturday) was a good day. Embracing the rain is something I am learning to do. I throw on my raincoat (I still really need to buy an umbrella…) and start walking. Abby and I spent the morning at the village soccer games. Abby is on the Leone team. After waiting for almost 3 hours, the team Leone was supposed to play ended up not having a team at all. We got a ride home from a friend and spent the entire 20 minute ride getting drenched in the back of her truck. Good times. Following that, we headed over to the new “fast food” joint in Leone. It just opened on Thursday and it’s the only place around here to get food to go. It’s owned by the family of a student who goes to our high school. He’s quickly become Abby and I’s really good friend. Following a French fry break, Abby and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the village of Vailoa. A while ago, we made friends with the family of one of Abby’s students. The family has 13 children all of which are under the age of 14. Whew. We took 7 of the kids and played Frisbee, went swimming in the ocean, and visited their new baby pig. The family even invited us to spend the night. It was a heartwarming day and like always, made me fall a little bit more in love with this beautiful island.
Stay tuned for a post about the MTV Showdown we had at school this past week, our football team's win against Kananafou HS (50-8, baby! Have I mentioned that LHS went from losing every game to winning all the time now? We even beat the only undefeated team on the island. OKA!), and other islandic shenanigans. Malo and fa soifua!