Saturday, December 31, 2011

Back to reality

The blogging stopped for a few days but the fun sure didn't! Sadly, my time in Australia has come to an end and it is about time to head back to reality. If only I could bottle up the beautiful Sydney sun and pack a few cases of passionfruit yogurt, peaches, milk, flat whites, and frozen yogurt.

Happy 2012 blog readers! Expect more stories and many pictures in the next few days. Stay safe and have fun!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in the sun

Manuia le Kerisimasi, blog readers! I hope that you all have a wonderful day and that it is spent with all the people you love and care about. No matter if you spend it with family or friends, do not take it for granted - some people will be spending their holiday's working or on the other side of the world away from those people. I'm living proof!

I did have a lovely [in the words of the Aussies} Christmas. I was able to Skype my entire family on my Dad's side which was absolutely perfect and so much fun! Nothing like a little video love to cheer you up. Following that, Abby and I went on a run up a really steep hill, then we ran down a hill and discovered an incredible view of the skyline, bridge, and opera house. We then ran back up the hill and down the other hill. Following all the hill running, we spent our afternoon walking around Bondi - the beach, the town, etc. We (of course) snuck in some delicious frozen yoghurt and tried to stay out of the very hot sun. We get enough sun in AmSam so I am trying to stick in the shade.

The rest of the day was spent helping Amie cook, bake, and prep for the Christmas dinner that we had at her flat. We dined on a pumpkin/potato mash, delicious ham, pasta salad, steamed veggies, and many other tasty dishes. Not at all what I'm used to eating on Christmas, but it hit the spot. The glasses of red wine helped too!

I will be spending the next few days in Newcastle - beaching, wine touring, eating, and relaxing.

Once again, Merry Christmas, and stay warm and cozy! Much alofa.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Christmas Eve?

It is really hard for me to believe that it is Christmas tomorrow (Christmas Eve for you blog readers in the U.S.). To me, Christmas is waking up freezing cold at 6 a.m. with the rest of my family to look at our stockings, eat breakfast, and then open presents. This year, my Christmas will be spent in a new country, with new friends, and in a new temperature. I'm an ocean and thousands of miles away from my family, so I guess it's kind of a good thing that it doesn't really feel like Christmas because then I'd be really sad. I'm already bummed knowing that my entire family will be together without me, so I will do my best to make sure that I am full of high spirits (and food). 

Here are my highlights from day three of Sydney:

- Figuring out the bus system with Abby. We managed to get downtown Sydney (my friend Amie lives in Rose Bay, which is a suburb) and back all on our own!
- Seeing the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Bridge
- Walking around the city and stopping in shop after shop after shop
- Trying on clothes [it had been a while!]
- Sipping on a flat white [fancy coffee] and eating a chocolate mud cupcake and then being handed a free cupcake an hour later
- Walking around a big grocery store
- Walking around a gigantic mall [I forgot those existed!!]
- I failed to mention yesterday that I've eaten fresh peaches and nectarines here...oh my delicious!

Today was an interesting day for me. I felt extremely overwhelmed, kind of panic-y, and jumbled. Those all sound like really bad ways to feel, so let me explain them a little. I am in a huge city, surrounded by millions of people, lots of traffic, and many things to look at. Walking around the shopping mall was a little stressful because I didn't know how to soak it all in. I love going shopping but I was so overwhelmed with all the things I could buy! I am obviously feeling this way because 1) I don't shop in AmSam because there's nothing to shop for. 2) There are no malls, big buildings, or places in AmSam where I am surrounded by thousands of people at one time. 3) Cars drive 25mph on our island...they drive a lot faster here. The list could go on and on, but what I'm trying to say is that I guess I'm experiencing a little culture shock! Do not worry though, these feelings are not stopping me from wanting to explore! 

One thing I do love about this city is the endless amount of cafes, chocolatiers, and coffee shops there are. Every other shop or building is one of these three things. The city smells like coffee and delicious foods and this is so terrible for the budget backpacker because I want to try everything! Food is crazy expensive in this city (Sydney has been rated as being one of the most priciest cities in the world). An average meal is $15. The currency rate is about the same for an Aus dollar/USD, so you're not even getting a deal. 

For now, I will wish you a Merry Christmas Eve! Enjoy the time with your family and friends and stay warm if it's cold where you are!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sydney turns sunny

Highlights from day two in Sydney:

- Waking up feeling refreshed, not sweaty, and ready to explore!
- Mango Peach yoghurt with toasted muesli. Enough said.
- Seeing the iconic, and most well-known beach in Australia: Bondi Beach. Turns out it's pronounced Bond-eye not Bond-ee.
- Walking from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach, a coastal trek that took around two hours.
- Frozen yoghurt with dark chocolate chips, strawberries, and raspberries. The girl who served it was from ROCKFORD, IL. How bizarre is that? It's a small world.
- Blowdrying and straightening my hair. [I know, I know, I sound like such a girl. When you throw your hair up into a ponytail every day for almost 6 months, you'd want to style your hair too!]
- Dinner at a tapas bar and seeing the Sydney night life

It's Christmas Eve in Sydney, which is very hard to believe. If you're not done Christmas shopping yet, you better get back out there and quit reading my blog! Don't forget to buy peppermint ice cream!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sydney, oh Sydney

Highlights from day one in Sydney, Australia:

- Lots of eating: passionfruit yogurt (loved it in NZ, still lovin' it now), Tim Tams (of course), a delicious eggplant, wild mushroom, capsicum (red pepper), onion, and mozzarella sandwich- all on fresh, grainy, amazing bread, REAL MILK, veggie pizza: pineapple, wild mushroom, tomato, whole olives, capsicum, onion, and a whole lot of real, mouthwatering cheese, and last but not least, a slice of pavlova. [As you can see, it's been a good food day.]
- Taking a shower with hot water for the first time in 5.5 months. It was probably the best shower of my life.
- Being cold. It's freezing here! The Aussies are walking around in jeans and tank tops, and I've got jeans and a long sleeve on and my toes are like ice blocks. I must say, it is so refreshing to walk around and not have sweat pouring down your face. My face hasn't been this dry in forever. 
- Being around other palagi people. It's nice to not have everyone stare at you as you walk down the street. 
- Taking a nap and using lots of covers. Best feeling ever.

Today was a good day. After a night in Western Samoa, and almost a 6 hour flight this morning (where we were served nothing - not even a drop of water or a bite of an airline pretzel...rude), it felt refreshing to be in a city, surrounded by thousands of other people, big buildings, and fresh air that just feels so darn good in your lungs. I'm liking this place.

Bedtime for me. Jet lag plus lots of food for dinner plus cold air = a very sleepy Quinn.

G'day mate!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today is the day!

My Christmas adventure begins today! After spending the day at the American Samoa Community College having Mid-Service Orientation with WorldTeach, Abby and I will be heading to the airport to jet off to Western Samoa for the night. We arrive at 7-ish p.m. and will need to be at the airport by 5 a.m. tomorrow morning. We are staying with a Peace Corps volunteer in Apia tonight and the international airport is 45 minutes away...guess that means we'll be getting up at 4 because our flight to Sydney leaves at 7 a.m.
To all of my faithful blog readers, I thank you for always keeping up-to-date with my oh so interesting life here in American Samoa. Have a wonderful, exciting, and relaxing holidays and make sure to eat all the delicious food that you can stuff in. [And by that I mean Christmas cookies.]
Fa soifua and Manuia le Kerisimasi! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Have you got a smile on your face?

I am so happy. I think if I were to describe myself in one word, I would pick happy. I love to smile. I would be completely okay if I even had to smile while I sleep! A senior walked into my class today and I smiled at him, and he asked me, “Why are you so happy? Why are you smiling so much?” I responded, “I’m always happy and I love to smile!” I got the cheeky, “It’s because you’re seeing me, isn’t it?” “Well, of course!” Either way, having a smile on my face definitely makes me feel good.
Last week, I was not happy. I was feeling just about every negative emotion a person can feel. At times I was angry, other times I was sad, most of the time I was homesick, but I was also annoyed, frustrated, irritated, and unhappy. I think I hit the low point of my year in American Samoa. Every little thing bugged me. If a student was rowdy or a class wouldn’t do what I asked, it brought me down even further. I just was not in my normal state of mind and did not feel like myself. I don’t want to really talk about what got me down because it’s over and done with! This was a new week, and I’m back to the same old me. HAPPY QUINN!
Why am I so happy? Well, exams are over. Semester one is over. Tomorrow is our Christmas Program at school and a dance after that! I wonder if it will be like junior high dances? Will there be slow songs? Tomorrow night is our faculty/staff Christmas party and well to jump the gun: AUSTRALIA IS ONE DAY CLOSER!
Australia…a place with things like fresh milk (not the boxed stuff that tastes like those little coffee creamers on the table of your favorite mom and pop diner), yogurt, delicious salads and fresh fruits and vegetables! It is also a place where I will be able to walk and eat at the same time…in public! How exciting is that?! I’ve mentioned before that food is respected here. You sit when you eat. This is so hard.
Australia is also a place with big buildings, a whole lot of people, and fast cars. While I’m excited to see a city again, I’m a bit nervous about the stimulation of Sydney. Sure I see people here, but the entire population of American Samoa is probably about the size of Sycamore (or maybe a little more). That is not a lot of people. I’m also nervous about fast cars. When I’m walking and a car speeds by me at more than 30mph, it’s kind of frightening. I am going to have to look both ways a billion times.
When you are homesick and upset about every little thing (even though you are trying so hard not to be), you just have to focus on the future. What got me through the week was thinking about Australia. I’ve got a smile back on my face, I’m almost done grading my finals, and I’m about to go eat some Oreos. Life can’t get any better.
Fa soifua and manuia le weekend!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Miss, do you have a dollar for me?"

Here are a few Samoan songs for you to enjoy as you read this post: 

I could listen to this song on repeat all day long. I just love it so much.

A classic Samoan song

One of my students told me to show this to anyone who wanted to know what life is like in Samoa. This pretty much sums it up. [This video was filmed in Western Samoa...that beautiful beach with the island in the background? Yeah, I've been there. That's Lalomanu...aka paradise, clearly.]

I hear the following phrases multiple times every day (even from students I don't even have or know):
“Miss, do you have a dollar for me?”
“Miss, do you have a quarter for me?”  [I get the sad puppy eyes along with it.]
“Miss, do you have bus fare for me?”
“Miss, do you have a phone?”
“Miss” [x10,000,000]
It's like I owe them or something!
In AmSam...
...they don’t say suckers. Instead they say lollipops.
...they don’t say toilet paper. Instead they say paper toilet. [Funny, right?]
...people of all ages love doing the Electric Slide. My students like to listen to the song in class. Funny.
...they love the song “Sexual Healing” more than the average person.
...tough, hardcore, mess-with-me-and-I-mess-with-you-boys will pick “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift instead of a scary rap song.
...going anywhere without a plate of sandwiches, a bag of McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and cases of soda is not okay. Sad.’s normal to see someone weed whacking their lawns (not many lawn mowers here) in slippers, shorts, and a t-shirt. I cringe and hope that they still have toes by the time they finish.
...they share EVERYTHING. Cell phones, pens, backpacks, notebooks, homework (grr), and even food. Let’s talk about their sharing of food. Someone walks into my classroom with a bag of tuna sandwiches for a party they are having in another class (yes, when you have a party in your class, you bring tuna sandwiches. Of course!), that student is SWARMED. Everyone wants a sandwich. If one person gets a sandwich, everyone needs to take a bite out of it. If someone has a cookie or even a tiny little piece of candy and someone asks for some, they easily give it up and share it with them. Sometimes, they don’t want to share. I’ve had students literally stuff half a sandwich in their mouth in less than 5 seconds so they don’t have to share. I’ve also had students come into my room with food and hide behind my bookshelf so no one else knows they have it. They can eat it in peace (unless someone comes in the room, they get afraid, and shove it all in their mouths.) It is so very entertaining.
...hitting, slapping, punching and the whole violence thing is normal. Fights are always happening at school. It’s just what they do. They fight village vs. village. If one village comes into another village’s turf, FIGHT. (This happened on Friday. My student explained it to me. “Someone came into our turf, Unkah Bunkah*, so we fought them.”) Even if you try to explain to them that violence is not the answer, it’s just what they are used to and they won't listen to you. Fighting makes them proud. Their scars (yes, some of them have scars) are important to them. When I tell them that they shouldn’t fight, they just say that they need to fight. Anyways, the whole point of this is that I’ve learned to accept it, unfortunately. There were about 8 students in my room before school the other day. Out of nowhere they were all out of my room in under 3 seconds. I ran after them because I was so confused…it was just a fight and they wanted to watch. Good grief. It's like they have an extra sense in their minds that someone is about to punch somebody else...if only they had an extra sense to turn in their homework on time!
* Unkah Bunkah is the code name for the village Amanave (but only the west side of the village...). They also go by ATL.
*Tuala is the code name for the village Vailoatai. They like to shout TUALA all the time.
*The Tap Boys are from the village of Taputimu.
*The Snow Boys are from the village of Aoloau. Aoloau is also known as Alaska (ha) because it's a village in the mountains and it gets "cold" there. HA.
...these are all the code names I can think of at the moment...there are more...
In other news, final exams are this week! This means that I have almost finished my first semester as a high school teacher. Wowza. It has also been 5 months since I left home sweet Sycamore. Crazy. In a week and two days, I'll be on my way to Apia...and then to SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA the next day. Christmas break can't come fast enough!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa, Family, Friends, and other Blog Readers,
I am writing this letter to give you my classroom Christmas wish list. I am (in no means) begging for the items on this list, but instead I am politely wishing for these things that can be helpful and useful for my lessons and when doing activities with my students.
Now that I am a teacher, I understand what it’s like to not have any funding for your class. Almost everything you need to purchase must come from the money out of your pocket. It is very difficult to do this, especially because supplies are limited on island. I have learned how to be creative with the supplies that I do have, which has been very helpful so far!
I now present to you, my classroom Christmas wish list! If you have any of these things laying around in your house or office and they aren’t being put to use, my classroom would love to have them!
-          Paperback copies of the book, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
o   I have decided to read this book with my proficient classes and I am really excited about it! It is an excellent book and perfect for their reading levels. Reading a book from photo copies is boring, so I would love to have a class set (around 25 copies). The movie for the book comes out near the end of March and if it comes here (please, please, please!), I would like to take my classes to see it…they can then write both a book review and a movie review!
-          Office supplies that are just sort of hanging around in your junk drawers. Have some extra white out, scissors, note cards, pencils, post-it’s, pens, highlighters, or anything else you can find? Send them my way!
-          Markers and colored pencils
-          Hand Sanitizer (unfortunately the bathrooms at school don’t have toilet paper or soap…this means that my classroom is a little germier than I would like.)
-          Stickers
-          Scratch paper, construction paper, greeting cards you aren’t using
-          Magazines (for my students to read and to cut up for projects), junior high/high school level books and novels
-          Basically anything you think would be useful in a high school classroom!
If you are able to send something, I can’t thank you enough. I will be so appreciative of whatever you can send, even if it’s a sheet of stickers! If you are unable to send something, that is completely fine! This is not a list of things I need, instead, it is a list of things I could use but can do without if I have too. Please do not feel forced to send anything and do not go out of your way and spend a lot of money on these objects. My classroom is open and accepting of used items (my students will never know the difference!).
If you do decide to send something, please send it in a flat rate box (available at the USPS). By sending it flat rate, I will get it faster, and the weight of the package doesn’t matter: whatever you can fit in the box will all send for the same price. Also, please remember to write AIRMAIL on the outside of the box (or else it might get sent on the boat and that could take a month or two…eep!)
My address is:
Quinn Bolander
c/o WorldTeach
P.O. Box 5411
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799

Thank you for reading and keeping up with my blog. It is comforting and motivating to know that so many people care about my time here and your support is much appreciated. I am so lucky to be able to spend a year of my life in such a wonderful and beautiful place. If only I could fly all of you here to see what life in AmSam is really like.

Fa’afetai tele lava (Thank you very much)!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The frozen turkeys and the Tutuila Trio visit Manu'a

It is December 1st. I’m sure it feels like December to all of you. The winter chill is slipping under your covers at night. The tip of your nose turns pink when you walk outside. Your snow boots are creeping closer to the front of your closet. You might even be stocking up on hot chocolate mix and soup. I, on the other hand, am experiencing none of those things (besides the fact that I made my own chicken noodle soup the other night). To me, December 1st is a balmy, humid, roasty-toasty kind of day. It's also quite rainy and wet. I’ve got my slippers (flip flops) on, a skirt, a t-shirt, and my hair up because it’s just too hot to wear it down. To me, it is still July, and it will continue to still feel like July for the next 6 months. I’m not complaining or anything, I’m just stating the fact that it does not feel like December and that it is extremely hard for me to believe that Christmas is literally right around the corner!

Thanksgiving came and went and my holiday was spent island hopping throughout the outer islands of American Samoa. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving was our last day of school. Barely anyone turned in their homework that was due. All my classes were chaotic. More than half of my students were missing in my last class. I, for sure, was ready for a few days off of school! On Wednesday, Abby, Amber, Allison (last year’s WT Field Director) and I were up at 3:45 a.m. for the Turkey Run at the high school! We got to school around 4:30 and the race actually started at 5 like it was supposed too! I am guessing that around 30 people either ran or walked the 4.3 (approximately) mile long race. Running through the streets of Leone when it was still pitch black and somewhat cool was exciting. Actually, just being around other runners was exciting! I stuck with a palagi man and woman for the first mile or so, then dropped the woman (yeah!) and stayed with the man for the rest of the race. I ended up finishing in 4th place and was the first woman in! I had a lot of fun, and came home with a frozen turkey as my prize.

I think that a turkey might be the coolest thing I've ever gotten from a race! Also notice the fancy ribbon race bibs that we had to wear!

Shortly after the race, Abby and I rushed to finish our last minute packing for our trip to Manu’a (aka the name for the outer islands). We both wanted to bring our frozen turkeys, so we threw them in a bag and took the bus to the grocery store to stock up on some Thanksgiving staples, and then met Khoa at the airport. An hour or so later, we had our tickets, checked in, and got on the plane. We had a flub with the turkey’s and had to rush to find a cooler bag to carry them in, but in the end, we were on the plane and ready to go! Shortly after the plane took off, steam started pouring out of the air conditioning vents. Only in AmSam, right?

It was kinda spooky!

25 minutes later, we landed on the island of Ta’u (pronounced Taa-ooo). Ta’u is the home to Courtney, Erin, Wes, Cat, and Mitch, our WT friends who are teaching out there. Courtney met us at the airport and it was so good to see her after being apart for almost 4 months! We hopped in the back of a truck and drove along the coast back to the village of Ta’u, where she and Erin live. When I say that I live in the middle of the ocean, I really mean it, but when I say that Ta’u is a remote island that feels like its own little world, I mean that even more. Ta’u is absolutely beautiful. It is rugged, tropical, lush, mountainous, and beach-y.

Shortly after dropping off our bags (and sticking those turkeys in the freezer!), we were off for our first adventure: a hike to Second Beach. What an adventure it turned out to be. This is not a hike for the weak. What’s funny is that it’s not even a hike where you have to climb up a mountain. Instead, you have to climb up and over huge, massive, slippery rocks…again and again and again and again. I was doing alright until I lost my grip on a really slippery rock and fell in between two other big rocks. It was one of those times where the fall feels like slow motion and you know it’s going to hurt like heck. I ended up slamming both feet into yet another rock, and my right ankle crashed into another rock. Eeeeaaahhh. For a few short seconds, I thought I had broken my ankle. It hurt SO BAD. I was a bloody mess but I hobbled over those darn rocks and kept going. In the hour or so that it took us to get to the beach, I ended up falling three times. All three times I hit my same bad ankle. By the time I got to the beach, I really hated life. After I took a few deep breaths and looked around, I realized that I was still in paradise and that I was lucky that I 1) had not broken my ankle or leg and 2) had not hit my head on a rock when I fell. Ta’u Hike from Hell for the win! To quickly sum up the way back, Courtney stuck with me as I hobbled back over the rocks again. We left as the tide was coming in, and pretty soon, the tide was really picking up. We had to walk through the water on our way to the beach, but on the way back, walking in the water would have gotten us sucked out into the ocean. No good. We had a few scary moments about not being able to safely get over some massive boulders, but after squeezing through a tiny hole, one more fall (leaving me with a bruised and scratched arm and armpit- this hike was really good to me, as you can see), we made it back to flat land. What an adventurous start to my weekend! We ended our hike with a much needed swim in the nearby wharf.

The view from Second Beach. If you stepped anywhere near those trees, your entire body was swarmed with namu (mosquitoes)

Looking the other way at Second Beach. You can't see the deadly rocks in this picture but you can see the islands of Ofu and Olosega!

Erin, Courtney, Myself, and Abby at Second Beach

Thanksgiving was a fun day. We spent it in Faleaso, the village and home to the three other teachers on the island. We stuffed our faces with turkey (Wes cooked it up for us and it was delicious!), stuffing, green bean casserole, cheesy veggies, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread, and cucumbers. We ate like kings and queens! We even had brownies, pumpkin pie, and chocolate pudding for dessert. We spent the rest of the day hiking, reading magazines, relaxing, and enjoying our time together.

Hooray for Turkey!


This was our centerpiece on the table! A pineapple, green peppers, starfruit, and a koko pod. Tropical and classy, right?

All of the Thanksgiving fixin's. It didn't feel like Thanksgiving for any of us...probably because were were sweating!

There were puppies at Cat, Wes, and Mitch's house. This one was the cute one.

I found a creature shell on the beach in front of Wes, Cat, and Mitch's house. It's some sort of lobster. I thought it looked cool.

We hiked to this little cove on Thanksgiving. We went swimming and soaked in the view. 

Courtney, Myself, and Abby after our hike and swim

On Friday and Saturday, I was lucky enough to visit Ofu (Oh-foo) and Olosega (Oh-loh-sen-gah), two other islands that make up Manu’a. 9 of the WT volunteers, and 4 Samoan men piled on a tiny fishing boat and crossed the water. It takes a little over an hour to get to Ofu from Ta’u. The Samoans fished as we cruised and they were reeling in massive Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna. The fish have to be sasa’d (hit) once you catch them or else they flap around and are loud and annoying. The man steering the boat let me sasa one of the fish. I took the big stick and hit it (be proud of me Dad and Connor!). I was TERRIBLE at it. It took forever for me to kill the stupid thing and it wouldn’t stop flopping. I finally got it and I couldn’t stop laughing. ONLY IN AMERICAN SAMOA. Later on, the Samoans filleted one of the fish and passed it out to everyone. I took a bite of raw fish straight out of the ocean. I felt like Gollum gnawing on fish from the Forbidden Pool.

The tiny fishing boat that we all squeezed on to.

My feet hung out with some smelly fish on the way over. P-U!

A bird swarm = a heck of a lot of fish!

Sasaing the fish. I am hitting it's back. Hitting in the back will not kill it. I am terrible at this.

Approaching the island of Olosega

Ofu on the left, Olosega on the right

Pulling into the Ofu wharf and catching the sunset!

Highlights from our trip to Ofu included staying at Erin S. and Jessica's house (the two volunteers that teach at Olosega Elementary School), jumping off the bridge that connects Ofu and Olosega (it was such an adrenaline rush!), snorkeling and lounging on one of the top beaches in the world (literally…it’s made the list!), eating some of the fish that the Samoans caught on the boat (once again, thanks Wes for filleting and cooking it!), enjoying the serene beauty and peacefulness of the small village, and hanging out with friends that I had not seen in a very long time!

Swimming, wading, and enjoying the cool night in Ofu
Yum, dinner.

The bridge that connects the beautiful islands of Ofu and Olosega.

Abby and I on the bridge. We have many exciting adventures together!

Just about to jump off the bridge. I'll admit that I was having a crazy adrenaline rush...the water was pretty far down!

Mid jump!

Made it! The current was pretty strong so it took a while to get back to the white sandy beach! : )

This is the beach on Ofu that has gotten a lot of attention on beach lists. It was kind of cloudy but it was still paradise in every way!

The snorkeling was INSANE. I'm not very good at underwater photography and I don't think this picture looks too exciting but the coral was HUGE and beautiful and every color you could think of!

My view from the water. Yup, paradise.

We took the same fishing boat back to Ta’u on Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the weekend relaxing, watching movies, eating, and finding ways to entertain ourselves. It was in fact Sunday, and just like on Tutuila, Sunday is the day of relaxation and church. We ended the day with cinnamon bread from the one place on the island that bakes bread. Delicious.

Here is a "bell," aka an oxygen tank used in the village of Ta'u.

The original plan was to fly home on Sunday, but I live in American Samoa. Of course the flight was cancelled. Khoa, Abby, and I were put on stand by to fly back on Monday. Thankfully, we made that flight. I did have to miss a day of school (which surprisingly bummed me out!) but hey, I got stuck on a tropical island in the middle of the ocean. Seki a!

The airplane view of Ofu (left) and Olosega (right).

The WT volunteers that live on Ta’u and Ofu deserve a lot of credit for spending their year in Manu’a. The islands are remote, quiet, barely civilized, and even more so in the middle of the ocean. I am happy that I was able to visit them! Besides these obvious differences, here are a few more things that make Manu’a a whole new world: everything is expensive in Manu’a. The stores are the size of a bedroom. Seriously. Small jars of peanut butter are $6+. A small box of pasta is $3. A bag of Cheetos is $6. Cereal is almost $8. A can of tuna is $2-2.50. I would have a very difficult time with limited food options. I don’t know if I could do it! Manu’a is home to twice as many mosquitoes and ants. You have to wear bug spray 24/7. They will swarm you the minute you step outside. Gross. While there, I got to try some new things: starfruit (surprisingly delicious), the Samoan koko (not quite sure about the spelling - see a picture of it from our Thanksgiving centerpiece), and koko Samoa (the Samoan drink that is made from the koko pod).

All in all, I had a wonderful weekend. While I came home with some bumps, bruises, and a little sunburn, I am so happy that I went. Re-uniting with my friends was a great way to spend Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to see them again in just a few short weeks.

Can I just end this post with a little bit of bragging….I WILL BE IN AUSTRALIA IN 3 WEEKS.  

Keep warm, friends and family!