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!


Jovan and Rich said...

Whew, what a week! Love you!

mom said...

So glad you are back to blogging again! When you have rain, is it windy, torrential, a shower? It's nice you finally get to play in the rain without worrying about lightning!

Ouyang said...

So glad to read your blog!

I'm visiting American Samoa now, probably will stay here until the Christmas day. I like hiking very much, I walked the hiking trail of MT. Alava last Saturday, it was amazing! Please mail to me at, just in case you and your friends plan another hiking, please count me in. Thanks a lot!


Ami said...

that tap tattoo thing is pretty intense! a few weeks back, my sweetie and i were watching storage wars (ever heard of it??) and one of the people came across a tap tattoo set - first i had ever heard of it! don't know if i could do that type of tattoo!

Anonymous said...

i love tatoos

Christina said...

The rubber flooring for gyms provides non slippery floor surface, hence the feet can be adjusted well during exercise. The best quality flooring can be purchased exclusively from