Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Have you ever walked into a grocery store and been so overwhelmed with your choice of selection that you walked out without buying anything? What about a clothing store or a department store or pretty much any establishment that sells...stuff...?

After living on an island where I went to the store to buy the same stuff over and over again - black beans, KS bread, cucumbers, fabric (at least their was an extensive choice of selection there), eggs, - imagine how I felt when I walked into an American grocery store for the first time. My jaw dropped. I walked up and down the aisles in complete amazement. My eyes were bugged and my mouth watered. I thought to myself, "Where do I even start?!"

Moments and times like these have been happening continuously since the second I stepped off the plane in LA. Re-adjusting to American life has been interesting, to say the least.  I can't say it has been easy. It has actually been very difficult and it took me just over a month to really feel like myself again. In that month, I would wake up everyday feeling overwhelmed, sad, confused, and unsure of when I would break out of the Samoan bubble I was trying to keep around me. If it sounds like I wasn't happy to be home, I don't mean for it too. I was happy - I AM happy. Being surrounded with my friends and family has been great and I really did miss them while I was gone. It's nice to feel American again and to feel like I belong.

What's next in line for me? I will be teaching four English classes at Kishwaukee College. I laugh to myself at the fact that I am still going to be a teacher. Just the other night, I filled out a survey and one of the questions asked if I was an educator. I stared at it and went, "Wow, I can check yes to that!" My life has completely turned itself around job wise and well, I'm just going along for the fun ride!

What did living in American Samoa show me for my life ahead? International Education is still the career path that I want to follow. While I have always wanted to work in study abroad, and still plan on it, I am also considering other fields of Int'l Ed - possibly involving the South Pacific where I could develop projects, programs, and plans that can improve the education for and on the islands. Are these just dreams? Possibly, but I would really like to see them as goals that I want to work toward and achieve.

How will I get to where I want to be? My number one goal is to go to graduate school. I hope to be enrolled at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (aka the school of my dreams) next fall. This means that I will be up and out of Illinois and moving to California in less than a year. Can't complain about that!

Last but not least, this will probably be my last post on "Quinn in American Samoa." Sad. I have loved writing posts and sharing my life with all of you. It was nice to know that people out there cared about something that I was so passionate about. Thank you for your support, thoughts, mail, love, and kindness throughout this amazing adventure of mine. My time in AmSam was perfect. I couldn't describe it in any other word. Sure it had its challenges, but it really was an incredible year and I am so lucky that I was able to spend part of my life there. While I miss the islands and will always dream about going back, it is nice to know that I can always call AmSam home.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reflection: On Leaving the Island

Last time I wrote, I was hanging out in New Zealand. I had an incredible month with the J's and by the end of our trip (and after almost 3,000 miles behind the wheel), we had plenty of memories to look back on. Aotearoa is beautiful. I suggest you book a plane ticket as soon as possible!

After the month was over, and it was time to say "fa soifua" to NZ, I headed back to the islands. I spent a night in Western Samoa, where I spoiled myself with an "ocean front" Airport Lodge view.

My room looked out on the island of Savai'i. I never made it there, but hey, maybe someday.

The next morning, I was headed back to the island I had called home for the past year. As my tiny plane flew over American Samoa, I couldn't help but feel a mix of emotions. I was anxious to get back and see my friends. I was happy to be back in a place that I had missed. I was sad to know that I only had a few days before I was leaving for real. It was a lot to take in.

I made my last weekend the very best that it could be. I rode the buses. I went to the beach. I rented a car and explored with Alison and Drew. I ate the Fish Fajita Salad at Deluxe Cafe. I finally got to see the island at night, from my very own turf - Aoloau. It was a perfect weekend and even though I had a knot in my stomach the whole time, I knew that it was time to go home. I had people to see!

A view of Pola Island

Looking toward the photo above

I will still never understand the laundry detergent bottles. An up and coming Samoan art form? Who knows!

The beautiful East side
What I didn't expect to be hard was to see my students again. I saw them on the bus and walking around. A few even surprised me at Alison's house. I had been gone for a month, and in that month, I guess my mind had accepted the fact that I had said goodbye to them. Seeing them again in person was gut wrenching. Students I barely even had a connection to made me choke up. Students I loved made me never want to get on the plane. How was I ever supposed to leave them? It was tough.

When my Flight Night finally rolled around, I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be. I patiently sat and waited. I was in shock that I was leaving but I had no emotion to show it. Drew hugged me goodbye and it was like I was going to see him tomorrow. 20 minutes after he left, as I sat alone, it hit me, "Whoa. This is it." Yet still, no emotion. 5 minutes after that, one of my beautiful, sweet, hard working students came running toward me, bawling her adorable eyes out. She had come to see me off, and at that moment, I realized how good it feels to be loved by someone. Later on, two more students showed up to sit and wait with me. I couldn't have asked for a better end to my night. They were sad, I was sad. But something in my mind kept saying, "This isn't over yet. You aren't really saying goodbye." I was still unemotional. I had shed no tears. I couldn't believe it. Finally, it was time for one last hug. I hugged the three of them, and as I handed over my passport, and turned to look at them one more time, I lost it. I cried the whole way through customs and security. I cried as I waited in the lounge. I cried as I walked outside. I cried as I walked toward the plane. I cried up until I got to my seat and found a little boy with the biggest smile on his face, waiting for me. My handsome, hilarious, sweet seatmate knew that I was sad and upset, and as the plane took off, he grabbed my hand and held it. That was it. All I needed was his smile and I realized that I was going to be okay.

My year was over and I could honestly say, feel, and believe that it had been the most incredible year of my life.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

*I wrote this post about a week ago*
Kia ora. I am back in the land of the long white cloud, aka New Zealand! I am ecstatic to be back in this beautiful country and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the J’s (my mom and her good friend Jan.) Let’s rewind a little bit.

I left for NZ on the morning of June 2. I flew to Apia on the tiny InterIsland plane (yes, what looked like smoke filled the entire plane – was I worried? Nah. My heart didn’t even skip a beat.) After the 30 minute ride, it was now June 3. I settled in at a table to wait out my three hour layover. I was wearing my Leone High School t-shirt and it was quite a hit. I had several Samoans approach me to talk about Leone, which made me happy. I even had a lovely conversation with an older woman who had the most interesting outfit: a conservative denim dress and drop earrings shaped and colored like marijuana leaves. There was constant laughter in my mind. As I sat and waited, I realized that this was the first time that I had travelled without Abby. Abby had been my rock on the rock. We had pretty much done everything together including traveling to Manu’a, Australia, and Apia. As I sat in the airport alone, I missed having her by my side.

My three hour layover turned into 5.5 hours instead of three. Something was up with the plane and we were set to leave at 2:30. I read my book. I people watched. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and then pinched myself when I remembered that ham meant sketchy canned mystery meat. I gagged the sandwich down. We ended up taking off at 3:00. It was a comfortable ride to Auckland. Not only did I score a seat in the emergency exit aisle (so much leg room!), but PolyBlue gave me complimentary tea! I walked onto this plane dreading the flight because when I had flown to Australia, I had been squished in the very back of the aircraft, I had froze to death, and I had not been giving a single drop of liquid for the almost six hour ride. As you can see, I was still holding grudges at this time but I was now a happy camper. And I knew that I was still in Samoa when the plane had a singing contest and gave out prizes. I just laughed to myself.

Touching down in Auckland was great but I knew that the worst part of my trip was one step closer: the cold. It’s winter here in Aotearoa. As I waited outside, shivering, for my shuttle to the lodge, I knew that I would have to be tough for the next 28 days. If it was cold in Auckland at the top of the North Island, it was going to be frigid in Invercargill, at the bottom of the South Island. Fa’amalosi, Quinn. Fa’amalosi! (Be strong!) I spent the night at a tiny, budget lodge close to the airport. It was cold, but the hot shower, tea, and extra blankets warmed me up. As I crawled into bed, I couldn’t help but constantly remind myself that in 24 hours time, I would be with my MOM for the first time in almost a year! SEKI A!

Flash forward to June 5. I am still J-less. The Jan’s have not arrived. I spent the entire day – exactly seven hours at the International arrivals gate waiting (with all my luggage, mind you.) When the board said that their plane landed, I stood in the same spot for the next three hours waiting for them to come out. By the time the three hours was up, I called my Dad (poor guy, I woke him up in the middle of the night) only to find out that the J’s flight in Chicago had been delayed causing them to miss their flight to Auckland. HA. Alrighty, off to the motel by myself! So here I am, sitting in my non-heated hotel room, writing this blog. NZ is so weird about heating. They don’t have central heating like we do and for some odd reason, the room I am in doesn’t even come with a heater. It does come with a kitchen though. Interesting. I’ve got about four more hours until I head to the airport to (hopefully) welcome the J’s! I’ll use my free time to watch TV (something I haven’t done in so long…), brave the cold and go for a run (can I just say that I am beyond excited to run here. NO DOGS! OMG!), sip some tea to warm me up, and read. I would go into the city but it’s about a 45 minute bus ride one-way so I wouldn’t have much time.

Before I say fa!, I’d also like to add something that warmed my heart. Want to know what I first saw when I walked into a tiny grocery store in Auckland? Coconuts. The next thing I saw? Koko Samoa. A couple aisles later? Corned beef and tuna. I said out loud to myself, “Where am I?” J

Fa soifua!
*Internet is expensive here but to update you, I am in Napier and headed to Wellington tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pictures and Adventures

4 full days in American Samoa to go. Enjoy these pictures that sum up everything I've done and experienced in the past week.
Senior Ball. 

Parents, family, cousins, and friends attend. You can "walk" with a date, meaning your name and your date's name will be announced and you will meet each other in the middle of a stage, trade flowers/ula's (lei's), and then the boy will escort the girl off the stage. Dad's escorted daughters, cousins escorted cousins, boy's escorted their baby's all very different here. After all this, they dance to songs like the Cupid Shuffle while the parents watch (or dance) and then they go home! 

There was A LOT of satin but everyone looked great!

The NHS students helped out and they got all wet because the weather was terrible - so rainy and windy!

One of my best friends : )

This little guy's name is Quinn!

The palagi teachers all spiffied up!

My last day with 1st Period

Myself and who Amber and I call "The Triplets." These three are inseparable. 

A teary goodbye with my fifth period

I'm really gonna miss this one.

I've gotten so many hugs and Samoans happen to be very good huggers!

The seniors got awesome t-shirts and lavalavas for senior week

Some of my Snow Boyz

Tired after a rugby game

At the Senior Baccalaureate on Sunday - they looked so beautiful and handsome in their uniforms!

The three of us after Baccalaureate

Fabric in Tutuila Store - it's a bit overwhelming...

Abby and I raced down the hill one night to catch this gorgeous sunset in the Leone Bay.

Came home from school one day to find the most vivid double rainbow right over our house. Lucky us!

Moments like these will stay with me forever...

Memorial Day was spent at the beach in Fatu Ma Futi. We swam in the water but the current was so strong that we kept getting swept down the beach! Ha.

Holding on to a rock so I wouldn't get swept away.

It was a a perfect day in AmSam.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fiafia night

To break up the emotional posts, let's travel back in time to a night when I wasn't really thinking about leaving. About a month ago, the senior class had a fundraiser to raise money for senior week/baccalaureate/graduation/etc. It was called "Fiafia Night" which pretty much means a night of excitement, dance, and fun.

The villages that the students come from split up into different countries so it was an international night. They then performed two dances that belonged to that country. For example, the village of Leone was Jamaica, Amanave to Poloa was India, Malaeloa was Africa, Taputimu and Vailoa were Tahiti...etc.

It was an entertaining night and they were able to raise over $4,000 in just a few hours. In the traditional Samoan way of giving money, as they students danced, people in the audience would come up and throw money at them. No big deal. Only in American Samoa.

The ATL crew (aka the villages from Amanave to Leone) performing a Maori Haka (New Zealand). I wouldn't quite call it a Maori Haka but hey, it's the thought that counts.

The Miami crew (aka the village of Malaeloa) performing a very interesting African dance. 
The village of Leone (the biggest, as you can see) was Jamaica.
Another shot of the Jamaica group - you can see people throwing money at them.

The Taputimu and Vailoa girls performing a traditional Tahitian dance, complete with the famous hip shaking! I was jealous of their favorite color and adorable!
The Taputimu and Vailoa boys - shakin' it Tahitian style.
Pava'ia'i was in charge of Mexico. The boy in the orange lit up the stage. He is an absolute riot!

The Snow Boyz of Aoloau were Hawaii (not a country, but hey, it's in the S. Pacific!).
The Fiji crew - one of the best performances!

Even though I don't teach any of the 200+ seniors, I am friends with most of them. I went to their Baccalaureate service this morning and I still can't believe that my time is coming to an end! 6 more days on island and I'm going to soak up as much as I can before I leave for my trip back to Aotearoa.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Last day...

Malo lava.

I apologize for the lack of blogs lately. I have barely even had time to sleep (honest truth!). Like I said in my last post, this week has been a whirlwind of emotions, but at the same time, it has been so much fun.

I went to the Senior Ball last night. It was so fun and all the students looked so beautiful and handsome!

I'm pretty sure it's turning into winter here. I wore JEANS yesterday to school. Jeans! I'm sure it was in the high 70's but I was so cold. I'll be in New Zealand in a week and a day and the average temperature on the south island is in the low 50's. Egads. I'm gonna freeze to death.

Today is the last official day of school. We're having an assembly and I guess just hanging out?

I will try to post again soon.


Monday, May 21, 2012

This is It.

My last Monday at Leone High School has arrived. Today will be the last day that I see all my classes in one day. This fact didn't even connect with me until Abby said something this morning.


I can't believe it. It feels like just yesterday when I was walking on the campus for the first time.

Didn't I just teach my first lesson?

Sigh. How fast time flies.

This week will be a whirlwind of emotions, goodbyes, laughter, pictures, exams, and an assembly. I'll be on a roller coaster of ups and downs. Saying goodbye is so hard. My heart is broken to leave this island and all the people who have made my time here so amazing. But, I'm tough and I'll push through.

As always, thank you for all your support, love, care, and kind thoughts. You have no idea how much they have helped me this year.

Fa soifua - manuia le aso/taeao/afiafi/po.

Monday, May 14, 2012

All it takes is a frisbee

Back in September, Abby and I went to the village of Vailoa. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from our house to this village. Many of our students live here and it is right on the ocean. While there, we made friends with a gazillion little kids (who all happen to be brothers and sisters...or cousins). Refresh your memory by going back to this post: Vailoa kids

A few weekends ago, Abby and I went back to play with the kids. While we had seen them several times since September, we were amazed at how much they had grown in the past several months. Just like last time, it all started with a frisbee. The second I pulled it out of my bag, kids came from every direction to play. "QUINN QUINN QUINN!" It was a really fun day and I just love being surrounded by tiny Samoans! 

*All of the pictures were taken by Abby. *

The twins: Alpha and Omega.

Pile up!
They just love having their pictures taken!

Toothy grins

This picture puts such a big smile on my face.

High fives are fun!

After we swam for a little bit, it was decided that I should be turned into a mermaid. 

When you try to become a mermaid to close to the ocean, the ocean will take away your flipper.

So you move farther back and start all over again.

The finished product. Seki a.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


"Patience! Patience, my love."

Smeagol's convincing words to Gollum (to hold up on stealing the Ring back from Frodo) are words that we can all learn from (yes, I understand that not everyone is a LOTR fan, but please...hear me out.) 

I would describe myself as a patient person to a certain extent. I am not one to overly complain about something that isn't going my way. I can take my time on something if it is absolutely necessary.

You see, as patient as I am, I am the kind of person that likes to get something done as fast as I can. I've always been that way. If someone gives me something to do, I do it right away so I can start on the next thing. I'm not the kind of person that likes to drag stuff out to make it take forever. To me, that's just wasting time.

My life has changed in many, many ways since moving to American Samoa. I have learned so much about myself throughout the past year. I have grown and changed. I have also learned that sometimes, you just have to slow down whether you like it or not.

One thing that I have really learned is what the word patience means. I have also learned how patient I am willing to be in a place where patience means everything. Here are some examples:

Oh, the bell hasn't rung yet? And it was supposed to ring 20 minutes ago? The bell will ring when the bell rings (or when the office remembers to send someone out with the wooden stick to hit the oxygen tank.)

Oh, you were late to class because you came from the other side of campus? Ok, here's one thing I am NOT patient about. Samoans walk really slow. I'm talking reeeeeeeally slow. Even my really fit students walk at glacier pace. There is nothing wrong with this, but I just can't do it. I have really long legs and my legs like to go super fast. "Miss, you walk too fast."

Oh, you don't have your homework? Sigh. Assigning homework is like asking them to climb Mt. Everest. I take a deep breath and explain to them that not turning in their homework on time will make them lose points (of course this doesn't work either, but hey, at least I tried). Sigh. PATIENCE. I've gotten much better since the beginning of the year.

Oh, your final essay is due tomorrow and you haven't even started it yet? "You can do this. I will help you, but I believe in you and know that you will get it done." [I'm a nice teacher. Can't help it.]

Oh, it is raining so hard that I can't hear my music or the movie playing on my laptop. I actually like when this happens because I like just lying or sitting there, listening to the beautiful sound of the tropical rain...something I will miss so much.

These are just a few examples of ways I have to be calm and collected on this island. In the words of Smeagol, you won't get anything done if you aren't patient!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I just had a "oh my gosh school is almost over what am I gonna do how am I gonna say goodbye this is the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with" moment. I've been getting them a lot lately, probably because I get asked what day I leave at least 5 times a day. Sigh.

Next week will be my last week with the seniors. I don't teach any of them, but I love a whole lot of them. They have exams next week and the following week is senior week.  Knowing that soon they won't be hanging out in my classroom or coming in to say hi makes me sad. On a brighter note, I am looking forward to Senior Ball (aka the Samoan version of Prom) and Graduation (I will cry.)

Even though the seniors will be gone, I am lucky to still have so many freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to keep me entertained. Knowing that they'll still be around for an extra week is enough to keep me smiling. 
To deal with the panic attack moments, I first take a deep breath and after that, I remind myself that even though I call AmSam home and I have 200+ students that have become my family, I am soon to be going home to my actual home and the many friends and loving family that I have not seen in almost a year. It balances out the bittersweetness that's flowing through my mind right now.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

That's so...nice

I graduated from college with a degree in English. I spent four years of my life writing countless essays and completing assignments in vivid detail. Remember the golden rule: show, don't tell! I happen to like the English language very much.

Now that I have lived in a place where English is not the first language, I have noticed that some of my own English skills are in jeopardy. Let me explain one.

When you hear the word nice, what do you think of? Prior to living in AmSam, I used the word to describe people who went out of their way to do something for me. "You are such a nice person." "Thank you for doing that for me - that was nice of you." Normal. 

Now, I live in a place where the word nice is not used to describe people. Instead, it is used in situations like this.

In comparing two types of chocolate cookies (where the adjectives gooey, chocolatey, and melty could be used) my students describe the cookies as nice.

"How was your weekend?"
"Oh, it was nice."

"Did you take your Science test?"
"Well, did you do okay?"
"Yes, it was nice."


The word nice is probably the most used adjective on this entire island and it is never used to describe the goodness of people. This used to eat me up during my first few months of teaching. I regret to inform you that now, I have given in.

I use the word nice in all the wrong places. I describe meals as nice, I said that my birthday was nice. I will honestly say that I am not doing it on purpose. I picked it up from all my students and fellow teachers and now I say it without even realizing it. Sometimes I realize it and just shake my head. The funny thing is, everyone understands what you mean if you describe something as being nice.

Only in American Samoa.

Monday, April 30, 2012


If you were to ask any Samoan on this island what their favorite food is, I bet you $500 that they would say some kind of meat. Samoans love meat more than the average person. No meal is complete without it. Vegetables? What are those?

In this post, I am going to explain to you how much meat is loved on this island. (Sorry if you’re a vegetarian!)

My very first meat experience that I remember is on the day that I first moved to Leone. Our landlords were having a party with their church and as Abby, Amber, and I sat down amongst a fale Samoa full of Samoans, we were each handed a gigantic plate of…meat. Okay, there might have been some rice, but the plate almost fell out of my hands because it was so heavy. Barbecued chicken, sausage, and other mysterious types of meat surrounded a small round of rice. I can remember thinking, where am I?
From there on out, getting handed plates of meat didn’t surprise me as much. It’s just what Samoans eat and what they love.

Only in American Samoa do trucks drive by you with a cooked pig in the bed. As Abby and I were walking to do laundry once, that is literally what happened. A small truck drove by with two men sitting in the back holding a gigantic cooked pig. Abby and I just busted out laughing which made the Samoans laugh too.

Only in Samoa do they pick pigs out by size. Just yesterday, I asked a friend a completely normal question: “What size pig did you have?” He responded, “Size two.” Of course.

Only in Samoa does the freezer section of grocery stores have a ridiculous amount of meat. I’m talkin’ freezer after freezer of it. Just about every kind of cut/slice/chop/section/part you could possibly want.

Only in Samoa do kids crack up laughing when someone mentions sausage. They start hyena laughing and then the jokes start. They also call each other the Samoan word for sausage to poke fun. Yep.

Only in Samoa am I randomly handed two gigantic hot dogs in the middle of class. Thank you? I handed them off to a couple students and within 10 seconds, there was no sign that hot dogs ever entered my classroom.

Only in Samoa do they have a type of meat called a turkey tail. Um, it just sounds gross, doesn’t it? Actually, it is more than gross. It is extremely unhealthy due to its very high fat content. Interestingly enough, Western Samoa banned the importation of American turkey tails but recently lifted the ban last November so they could be admitted to the World Trade Organization. What the?

Read this if you are interested:  It makes me so sad that the United States has such a big part of the obesity, diabetes, and general health problems of the Pacific Islanders.

And now for a few pictures (you must understand that this blog would not be complete without them...)

Abby and I walked into a grocery store and this was in the freezer section. That would be a pig, barely wrapped, unsanitary, just chillin there. [See what I did there? Hehehe]

The fish section.

What is luncheon loaf? I probably don't want to know.

This time we've got luncheon meat. Pork and Chicken. Yum, just what I want for tonight's dinner.

Potted? Really? That makes it sound ten times worse. Sick.

This is our neighbor boy's favorite. What a treat...especially the lite option!

Samoans buy these and eat them on-the-go. Delish.

I hate the word corned. Just sounds nasty, doesn't it? Especially when you combine it with the word mutton. 

Mmm corned beef, a South Pacific delicacy. Samoans make a dish called pisupo. Open the can, pour the contents into a skillet with oil, add some onions. Delicious combination of fat, sketchy meat, and oil.

[As you can see, I'm not the biggest fan of pisupo.]

No comment.

I'm sure if I was Samoan, my favorite food would be fried chicken or sausage. Meat is normal here and no meal is complete without it!

Okay now I’m starting to get grossed out thinking about meat this much. Ha. This post is uma (finished).