Friday, January 27, 2012

The adventures of Erin and Quinn

My friend Erin spent a week in American Samoa and I can’t express how wonderful it was to have someone visit me. Erin and I’s friendship started in New Zealand when we studied through the same study abroad program. We even took a nine day trip around the north island right before we came home. Erin and I get along like peanut butter and jelly and I am so lucky to have such a great friend. She is now back in New Zealand for a while and will be studying to get her master’s degree.
The funniest thing that started our adventure were her first words when she walked out of the airport. “It’s so HOT!” Thank you! Someone finally can understand what I mean when I say that it is hot! The poor girl roasted away throughout the rest of the week. When I was cold, she was overheating. When I didn’t need the second fan at night, she did. When we climbed up a super steep and long hill to the village of Aoloau, she said she’s never been so hot in her entire life. I wasn’t even that hot! I found her reaction to the heat very amusing. I guess I’ve just gotten used to it (even though it will always be a pain in the butt.)
When we weren’t trying to stay cool (oh wait, that was always), we went swimming, we dined on the ever-so-delicious Grilled Wahoo sandwich from Rosie’s, we scarfed down ice cream from the gas station, we spent a day on the far west/north side of the island, we went to basketball games, and the list goes on and on. Erin even came to school with me a few times and was the talk of the town! The new palagi girl had to be viewed and introduced by and to everyone. Students I’ve never even talked to made sure to come in and get a look at her. Erin even got a few love letters. You can always count on Samoan teenage boys to lay on the charm in every way that they possibly can.
While it was sad to see her go, I will be able to see her again in June when I head back to New Zealand. Hooray!

Erin and I, happy and sweaty, waiting for a basketball game to start.

My 5th period wanted to have a photoshoot. The boys had to show off their muscles...of course.

Driving to the far west and north side of the island. There's nothing like sitting in the back of a truck with your friends. A few minutes after I snapped this picture, it poured rain for about 20 minutes. We got wet. Really, really wet. Fun!

Private beach, palm trees, and a kayak full of cute Samoan kids. What a great place to spend my MLK Jr. Day!

 Mavaega and I, laughing - like always!

This is such a Vanna White picture, but I couldn't help it. A student brought me a pineapple! A few days later, another student brought me two mangos! Score.

In other news, I had a terrifying, frustrating, and annoying incident happen in my classroom yesterday. Three boys in one of my classes got into a massive fight. This fight included lots of harsh words spoken in Samoan, lots of punching, lots of slamming against my chalk board, and lots of anger. It’s amazing how fast a fight can start here. I am sure that I have mentioned this before, but fighting is what a lot of Samoans do to solve their problems. Talking through an issue doesn’t really exist. Instead, they fight. I’ve seen plenty of fights but I usually just go about my business and ignore them. It’s hard to ignore a fight when it’s happening five feet from where you’re standing and your students are viciously punching each other in the face. My other boys in the class were trying to break them up, but they kept charging right back at each other. I, being the person that I am, froze in place until I snapped out of it and ran to the phone in my classroom. Just as I was about to call the office, a whole bunch of people ran into the classroom, including one of our custodians who thankfully, was able to stop the fight. He hauled them off to the office. Whew. What a mess. A scary, frustrating mess.
On a positive note, a kitten and a bird sitting on a stick (literally) both made appearances in my classroom this week. I have no idea where the kitten came from. I looked up at one point and a student had it in her arms. I don’t even ask questions anymore. Only in American Samoa!
Also, my room is turning into an art gallery. There is a closet right behind my desk. I only use the closet to hold my soap (other than that I keep it closed. termites...cockroaches. EW GROSS.) but the outside of the door is now home to many pieces of beautiful Samoan designs! Once I hung up two things that students had drawn for me, I have been handed a new page of artwork almost every day. Some students design my name or their villages name, others draw Lion warriors, others draw pictures of me teaching, others just draw Samoan designs. Samoans are so talented with something as simple as a pencil. A student I have never even talked to brought me an amazing picture today. We found an empty spot and hung it up - how cool, right?! Most students just like to look at them all and ask who drew them. Others like to make sure their village has been represented on my door. I will have to take a picture of my gallery so you can see all the art!
Also,TGIF! As much as I am loving school right now, I am looking forward to the weekend. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but having a couple days off will be much appreciated.  Fa soifua!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pictures of me...and some birds...and maybe a flower

Oka, oka, oka! I am oh so very sorry for not posting in forever! My blogging has really decreased these past few weeks. Our internet at home has been creeping at glacier pace. It took me several days just to upload these few pictures.

The life of Quinn in American Samoa has been busy! The second semester is already almost a month in and I just can't believe it. Teaching is going ridiculously well. I feel about a hundred times more comfortable in front of my students which has been helpful in so many ways. First semester was a constant challenge and frustration but I think that I just needed to get to know my students a little more and they, me.

I have yet to get back the computers that were stolen from my classroom. A few days after mine disappeared, another English teacher's classroom was broken into and the robber took either 4 or 5 of her iMac's. Sigh.

Basketball games are so fun! I've gone to all five games of the season so far and the players are excited for the teacher support. They like to come by my classroom, shake my hand, and say hi. It makes me smile to have new student friends.

Track and Field starts this week? Literally. We have a meet on Wednesday and we've only had 1 practice. Haha, this makes me laugh. I'm just gonna go with the flow. I get to coach the distance runners (the mile and maybe the 800...if they run it  here?) so I am excited about that. I am not excited to have practice at 3:00. The sun has gotten about a billion times hotter in the past month so running right after school is going to be rough. Either way, I'm excited!

My good friend Erin spent the last week with me. She came to school a couple days and was handed 3 love notes in her first couple hours. The boys really laid on the charm with the new palagi. We had a great time together and it was great to show off my beautiful island! Expect a post with pictures soon!

Thank you to those of you who have sent me mail: office supplies, copies of the Hunger Games, delicious snacks, hand sanitizer! - everything. I can't thank you enough for thinking of me and for sending me fun and much needed supplies. Fa'afetai tele lava! 

And now for the last round of Australia pictures... 

Me and that one building. I looked for Nemo in the water but didn't find him. Shucks.

Abby and I got all spiffy one night and went out for a fancy dinner with some friends. We wore clothes we would wear in the States. It felt a little scandalous, not gonna lie. And yes, I know that sunburn is probably making you gasp. It hurt and I learned my lesson. Yeoow.
This might be my favorite picture from Australia.

I was a tourist and got my picture taken with a koala.
I then took my picture with a kangaroo. I was surprised how soft he/she? was!

Abby and I visited the small city of Newcastle for a few days. I stuck my feet in the water and thought they were going to fall off from hypothermia. Holy cold water! What's funny is that Australians think the water is warm! PFF.

Abby and I also took a winery tour in the beautiful region of Hunter Valley. Oh my wine! I love wine! I just love it! That's all I am going to say. It was a wonderful day though - beautiful weather, beautiful landscape, beautiful glasses of wine! : )
Here's a picture of a weird bird. So weird.
Here's a picture of a cute bird. I want one!

Ok all. My eyes are drooping and I need a shower. Thanks for the continuous love, support, and kind words! I've had some down moments these past few weeks but thanks to all of you, I am keeping my chin up and pushing forward!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach coastal walk

I know, I know, more Australia pictures...but these are not of food so they will not make you  hungry! On our second day in Sydney, Abby and I trekked from Bondi Beach all the way to Coogee Beach. It took us a couple of hours and we had some really great views of the coast on our way. While we walked, we picked houses that we would like to live in if we had millions of dollars. The cost of living is ridiculously high in Sydney so we thought it was only fair to dream of what it would be like to wake up in a million dollar flat in Australia.

We had beautiful weather for our walk. It was a little sunny, a little cool, a little breezy, and even a little rainy. There was no humidity (woo hoo!) so our lungs were full of fresh, clean, moisture free air!

The water was pretty but it is nothin' compared to the water in AmSam. : )

We are approaching a cemetary at this point...we had forgotten that those exist! Remember that in the Samoan culture, you bury your loved ones in your front yard. Seriously.

Can you guess which one I picked?!
Pretty flower

This is one of the ocean pools that I was talking about a few posts ago. Pretty neat!
A less crowded beach than Bondi. Better for swimming and for taking the whole family!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quinn loves food + CSI

Hi all. Sorry for the lack of posting...our internet at home was out for a while! Thankfully, places like Carl's Jr. and Pizza Hut (yay fast food...not) are wi-fi spots so I was able to upload some pictures at a super fast (not) internet speed! Anyways, here is a food post from Australia:
On arrival into Sydney, Abby and I were starving. Virgin Samoa/PolyBlue Airlines = CRUEL. I may have already mentioned this, but on our flight that lasted almost 6 hours, we were given no food...not even a sip of water. This was very frustrating especially because the flight wasn't exactly cheap. Anyways, the minute we were off the plane and had our bags, we ran to the nearest airport convienence store and grabbed a Crunchie bar (aka a delicious Cadbury honeycomb covered in chocolate treat). I used to eat them in New Zealand and Australia is also home to a Cadbury factory so I was happy to be re-united.
After our trek to Amie's flat, we ran out the door to find lunch. We ended up at a cute little cafe called Europan. I had a delicious veggie sandwich on amazing bread (I forgot that there was such a thing besides fake wheat bread and sweet white bread!) and it hit the spot. I paid $10.50 for that sandwich. Darn those Australians for making their fresh, amazing food so expensive! Later that night, Abby and I treated ourselves to pizza and dessert at a cute little restaurant also in Rose Bay. The pizza was fresh and we watched the chef make it from our table. Fresh dough, sauce, wild mushrooms, capsicum...etc. etc. etc. It was mouthwatering and I could have eaten 10 of them. For dessert (obviously we had dessert), I had pavlova, also a treat you will find in New Zealand and Australia. It has a whippy (is that a word?) consistency and is usually topped with kiwi, strawberry, and passionfruit. Looks pretty too, eh?
My pavlova was almost too pretty to eat!
Other food highlights include eating frozen yogurt. I had frozen yogurt for the first time in Los Angeles when I was hanging out with my friend Emily. I fell in love. On our first trip to Bondi Beach, Abby and I discovered both frozen yogurt shops and decided that it was only fair that we made sure to try each place. This was from "Twisted Frozen Yogurt". I give it an 8 out of 10.
Chocolate frozen yogurt, strawberries (oh I missed you!), rasberries, and chocolate chips. Delish.
Later on in the week, Abby and I stopped at a cupcake shop. They had a deal: a regular coffee and a gourmet cupcake for $5.50. That was a steal in Australia! We of course took part.
Flat Whites and chocolate cupcakes make me a very happy person. I'm not exactly sure what is in a Flat White. All I know is that Australians don't drip their coffee. They only press it or go fancy by having espresso drinks. Works for me!
This was our Christmas dinner that Amie and her flatmate cooked/prepared for all of her guests. It was absolutely amazing and we were all stuffed by the end. Meals like this don't exist in American Samoa.
Fresh salads and vegetables...fresh cheese...a ham!...mashed pumpkin...I was in heaven!
Christmas appetizers:
Amie made some egg nog. Australians don't have it and most have never tried it. I'm still not a fan.
Last but not least, it's only fair that I show you a picture from "Smooth". It was our last day in Australia so I went all out.
Peanut butter and original frozen yogurt, m&m's, and m&m cookie dough. Yep.
I'm sure you are all very hungry right now. Sorry about that! Abby and I ate very well when we were abroad. This was a definite highlight to my trip!
In other news (and in regards to my CSI title), my classroom was once again broken in This time, the robbery was a little more serious. I had just gotten two more beautiful, brand new iMac Apple computers on Monday and on Tuesday night, someone unscrewed the metal gate that covers my windows, bent it back, removed the window panes, climbed into my room, took my computers, my mouses, and my keyboards, turned on my fans, and unlocked my doors. Sigh. Now I have one computer left (weird.) but no mouses or keyboards. BOO. While I was furious when I first got to school (why me??) I'm over it now. Nothing I can do about it, it just stinks that my students won't be able to use them. The police came, I gave a report, they took pictures and investigated. It was all very CSI'y. Interesting to say the least. Will this be what it takes for Leone to bump up their security? I don't know. Will I get my computers back? Doubt it.
OK! Off to school I go. Did Sycamore or wherever you live get snow? If so, enjoy it for me! I'd love to come face plant into a giant snow's been unbearably hot and humid this week. I have to sit down in each class directly under a fan so I don't overheat. Fun!
Fa soifua!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My life is full of beaches

No matter where I go around here, I can't escape the thing that so many people love: beaches. I hate that I'm saying this but...beaches get old. As much I love to lounge in front of a turquoise blue ocean, the crazy hot sun likes to do bad things to my skin. I'll be honest and say that I didn't lay on a beach once during my entire stay in Australia!
The beaches in Australia were bigger, white-sandier, and busier than anything you would find in American Samoa. This just made me love my little island even more because if you go to a beach here, it's never packed with people.

This is the beach in Rose Bay (where we stayed with my friend Amie). It was about a 1 minute walk from her apartment building. We also watched the New Years fireworks from behind the beach - you can see the Sydney bridge from it!
This is the ever-so-famous Bondi Beach. It's the most popular and well known beach in Australia (I think?). Anyways, this is it on my second day in Australia. Not too busy.
This is Bondi Beach from a higher point with the hopping town of Bondi in the back. Abby and I did a coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach so we beach hopped, basically.
This is Bondi Beach on Christmas...a tad bit busier, eh? At home, we blast the heat, make some hot chocolate, and watch The Snowman. In Sydney, everyone goes to the beach and sunbathes.
This is Bondi Beach on New Years day. Wowza.
Australia likes to put swimming pools and pools filled with ocean water right beside the ocean. While it seems weird, it makes sense. Big waves, strong currents...not always the best swimming conditions.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Expectations, goals, and a whole lot of fish

I really enjoyed my time in Australia, but stepping off the plane and getting blasted in the face with hot humidity just felt right. I was happy and ready to get back into my everyday routine. I expected it to be hot (which it was and still is). I expected lots of household chores: cleaning, laundry, unpacking (check, check, check). I expected to go grocery shopping (fridge is back to being fully stocked). I expected to lesson plan (well, kind of. I’m ready for tomorrow at least!) I expected it to rain (yep, sure has).
I didn’t expect two little boys to show up at my doorstep and bang on the door because they were so excited to see me. I didn’t expect to play Frisbee and soccer with an entire yard of kids. I didn’t expect to make my bff Mavaega’s day when I gave him a t-shirt from Australia. I also didn’t expect to make so many new friends in two days. All it took was for me to go to the laundry mat, stand out in my front yard with a Frisbee, and go swimming in the ocean.
Leaving this island for almost two weeks and then coming back has given me a chance to look at my life in a new perspective. So many people love me here, and I love them right back. I should have expected all of the things above to happen, but things like unpacking my suitcase or cleaning the bathroom got in the way. Now that it is 2012 and my second semester as a high school English teacher starts tomorrow (wow!), I am going to take a deep breath of humid air and strive to open my eyes a little bit more this year and soak in as much as I can. I have a goal to breathe, learn, accept, work with, embrace, and love every bit of my life in American Samoa (even if I sometimes want to cry). I know that I can accomplish this goal and I think I am already off to a good start.
What better way to end this blog than with some pictures from my quick overnight trip to Apia…  

After landing in Apia, getting my passport stamped, and hailing a taxi (and when I say hailing, I mean picking one of the many men that are anxious to taxi you to places)- Abby and I were off to Supy's house. Supy is a Peace Corps volunteer and he lives about 5 minutes from the airport in the village of Moto'otua. I had his address but the taxi driver took us to the wrong place. We called Supy. No answer. We kept driving. Hmm...where are we going? 30 minutes later, we end up at Supy's house. Have I ever told you that no one in all of Samoa has an actual address? You just sort of say things like, "I live in the yellow house behind California Mart" or "It's on the street next to KJ Kiel Electronics." Apparently even taxi drivers struggle with this method.

After dropping off our bags and getting to know Supy and another Peace Corps volunteer Blakey, we were off to downtown Apia for some food. We ate at a really nice hotel right across the street from the water. I can't remember what it was called, but it was classy. The 'foodie' in me was excited to eat. Being the 'try new things while you're in Samoa' person that I am, I shared fried eggplant (delicious) and Poke. Poke is apparently a Hawaiian dish - raw yellowfin tuna, soy sauce, and a few other things (read about it here: Poke). I can honestly say that I thought it was so darn tasty. From never eating any sort of fish besides tuna sandwiches to now eating raw fish...I have come so far! Go me!
Poke on the left, fried eggplant on the right - yum

Next up was an even more appetizing fish burger. More tuna - this time cooked. Absolutely delish.

Western Samoa is so New Zealand-y. They use 'tomato sauce' (aka tomato water) instead of ketchup. Blech.

It's obvious that we're still in Samoa. The shine on our faces says it all. That drink in the middle of us is a Vailima. Vailima is the beer that is made in Western Samoa. I think it tastes like watered down dirty water, but hey, that's just me. Vai means water and lima means five. Huh?

After a restless night under a mosquito net that didn't quite do its job, Abby and I were up at the way-too-early hour of 3:40 and out the door by four a.m. After a taxi ride to the international airport (it's about an hours drive outside of Apia), we checked in, and eventually said goodbye to Samoa for a while.

Little did we know how BIG the Australian airport would be compared to the airport that only has two gates...
More to come soon!