Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This may come as a surprise...

Depending upon how well you know me, you may or may not know how passionate I am about music. Music has been part of my life since I was a baby. I grew up listening to the Beatles. I can remember the first time my mom played John Mayer right after his first album came out and from then on I was hooked (new album on May 22 – hooray!). My first concert was Michelle Branch at NIU. I spent a weekend volunteering at Lollapalooza, a music festival in Chicago, in 2007, and I fell even more in love with some of my favorite artists that I was lucky enough to see. I played the violin from age four until I was eighteen. I now own a ukulele (and am starting up lessons again on Friday!). Music is not something I like. Music is something I love.

Spending five days out of the week with Samoan teenagers is already an adventure, but we all have one major thing in common. We love music. Music is a big part of most cultures throughout the world, but in the Samoan culture, I would say that it dominates. I arrive at school at 7:30. Within minutes of opening my classroom door, students are swarming to get a chance to get on my school computer. Why? Because I’ve got all the tunes. Throughout the year, I’ve collected so much music. I have Samoan oldies. I have Samoan newbies. I have Glee. I have Miley Cyrus. I have Tupac. I have Backstreet Boys. I have the top hits. I have the 90’s. I have 2 country songs (seriously – thank goodness Samoans share my disapproval of country.) I am the music girl. Students come to my room to “scan” (aka look at all the music.) They come to put music on flashdrives (which they then plug into their speakers and blast as they walk around), “blanks” (CDs), and iPods.

Students turn their music on during my lectures (this is so annoying). Students blast their speakers while they walk by my classroom (this is also annoying). They keep one earphone in while I teach (yes, they take them out after I tell them too.) They literally cannot stand silence. They ask me to play music while they take tests because it helps them concentrate (uh huh.) THEY LOVE MUSIC and I think that’s pretty cool.
Once upon a time, in my pre-Samoan years, I hated rap and r&b. Ohh, I hated it. A few months ago, I never would have admitted this, but now, I am telling you – my faithful and loyal blog readers – I LOVE IT. Sure, some songs are ridiculous and awful, but for the most part, I dig it. The other day, I was singing along to a song without even realizing it. I know all the words! What the? I find it amusing, a little bit ridiculous, and well, whatever! I owe it all to my little rascals.
Sometimes they serenade me. Sometimes they play me songs on their ukuleles (one played me “Blue Moon” today!) Sometimes they melt my heart when I watch them listen to music – they get so into it! Thanks to them, I now appreciate more kinds of music that I ever thought I would!
One day, a sophomore told me that this was the first song that he heard in English. How precious!

This is the one country song they like. Okay fine, I like it too. ...

This “MTV” (what they call music videos) is the HUGE hit in my classroom right now. They almost died with laughter when I watched it for the first time – apparently my reaction was priceless. I bet your reaction will be priceless too! (Sorry in advance)...

This is a song that we all love. It's just so darn catchy! ...
And last, here is a song that I am  currently playing on repeat. I'm not even going to bother introducing it to Samoans. I can hear it now. "TULE MISS, can you change the song?"

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Last Monday, Abby and I spent our day off from school (President's Day) at Airport Beach. I had visited this beach twice before - once during the day, the other on that cold, dreary, late night for a failed attempt at Palolo hunting. We all remember that post about those sea worms that Samoans eat, right? 

As great as beachin' it is, Airport Beach is kind of a hassle. For one, it's not even that far away from Leone but due to the bus routes, you have to take two buses , walk down a really long road, and then hike a boring, hot hike for half an hour to get there. Two, Airport Beach is stifling. There is absolutely no shade and well, the beach itself is uber tiny and more dead coral-y than sandy. 

With all negatives aside, what makes the beach less of a hassle is that it's quiet, pretty, and the snorkeling is fantastic! To solve all our problems, Abby and I did the following.

Step One: Take a Leone bus (aka stand in the driveway of our neighbors and wave it down as it goes by) to the "Y" (aka a road about 7 minutes from here). Get off at the "Y."

Step Two: Walk from the "Y" until we can catch a Tafuna Bus. [Sidenote: Step Two never really happened. We never saw a Tafuna bus and by the time we did, we just decided that walking the rest of the way would be alright.]

Step Three: Going along with the above sidenote, continue to walk until you get to the village of Fogagogo. Yeah, try saying that one. Holy vowels. F-oh-ng-oh-ng-oh-go. Whew. Anyways, turn onto that road and keep walking. You'll pass the airport. You'll pass some fancy houses. You'll sweat. An airplane might pass over you. Wave if you feel like it.

Step Four: As you approach step five, you'll want to grab some rocks or a stick. There are some bad dogs at a house right before you get to the ocean. Throw the rocks, Halu, keep walking. Curse the dogs, as always.

Step Five: Step on the tire and follow the trail. The trail will take you right along the ocean for the first part, and you will continue to follow the airport fence the rest of the way. Watch out for blowholes, big waves, and rocks. Try not to trip, it will probably hurt.

Step Six: You will reach Airport Beach when you can't go any further. Put on another layer of sunscreen on every inch of your skin that will be touched by the sun. Unfortunately, you will still get burned.

Step Seven: Snorkel, take a nap, swim, don't step on the coral, soak in the views, enjoy!

We got there and it was low tide and very calm. Still pretty blue out there, though.

Yes, that's a cruise ship. It changed directions about five million times. I'm convinced that it was headed toward New Zealand, but I really don't know. And yes, that's a Samoan standing out there, fishing. He's probably standing on the coral. Sad. We can only hope that he's standing on rocks!

While we basked in the hot sun, Leone was getting beaten down by torrential rain. Isn't it funny how an island so small can have completely different weather all at once? Weird.

The airport fence and the beautiful background of American Samoa. Sigh. It's just so pretty. Sometimes it overwhelms me.

Abby and I could only take so much sun. After we had both napped, snorkeled, and eaten lunch (my peanut butter and jelly sandwich was melted - that's how hot it was), we packed up and started the long hike back to civilization. We were lucky to get picked up by one of our fellow teachers once we passed the dog house so we didn't have to walk the entire way. Seki a! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vatia Tide Pools

A few weekends ago, some friends and I traveled the village of Vatia. Vatia is on the other side of the island and is also the spot where you can start the Mt. Alava hike. As always, it was a fun day of exploring the beautiful island of American Samoa.

We rode in the back of the truck the entire way - my favorite. This is a view of the Pago harbor. We had just passed the tuna cannery. Blech.

That's Pola Island out there. I have yet to do the short hike that takes you closer to it.

The beautiful, lush coast.

Manuia le aso! Have a nice day.

The tide pools from above. I almost got swept into the ocean and almost fell on some rocks. That was fun!

This was the last picture I took before my underwater camera died. Sad day. I sweet talked Fujifilm about fixing my problem but they have yet to respond. BOO.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Have I ever told you about something really bizarre that happens on this island? Well, I've told you about lots of bizarre things, but this one in particular always leaves me saying "whoaaaaa."

A lot of the time, it rains when it is sunny out. I'm talking about full blown, scorching sunny. I walked out of my house today and got double protection from my umbrella. I didn't get wet, and I didn't get sunburned at 7:15 a.m. Kinda makes me say, "what the?" (quoting from Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer). Have any of you read it? It is SO good. I'm not that far into it, but I think that the little boy would be my best friend if he was real. I just Googled it and see that they recently turned the book into a movie. I'll have to see it when I get home.

Anyways, back to the rain and sun. As I lifted my head from underneath my massive umbrella, my jaw dropped. What did I see?

A triple rainbow. That's right, a triple rainbow. Oh-em-geeee "whoaaaa!" I was amazed. I couldn't believe it. It was incredible. As I stared at it, it made me think of this video (sorry it isn't a youtube video...they block youtube at school):  double rainbow

That was a sign to me that today is going to be a great day at school.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blindfolding Samoans

"I longed, yet dared not, to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see. At length, with a wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night encompassed me." - The Pit and the Pendulum, Edgar Allan Poe

Prior to the month long preparation for Samoan Day, we read Poe's story, The Pit and the Pendulum. Before getting to that, let me rant a little bit.  ...   I really despise our class textbook. It was written for students who speak English as a first language, and the stories within it are difficult for second language learners (especially for Samoan high school students). Unfortunately, it is all I really have and making copies of other stories is sometimes impossible. Plus, I don't want to waste paper. Anyways, when flipping through the book, I found both P&P and The Raven, but decided to read P&P because I had actually never read it before and because another WTer gave me some great class activity ideas to go with it. I read the story and thought it was okay, and then decided to read it again and during my second time around, I realized how good it is!

Let's take another break and talk about me and my severe lack of understanding all things symbolic in literature. I feel as if I have discussed this before? Oh well, let's review. I am not the type of person who can read something and go "WOW. I didn't realize that that piece of white cloth really meant this." or "Who would have thought that he was actually trying to tell that other girl what he thought about that man's best friend's cousin's ex girlfriend." Hmph. I first struggled in high school. The stories we read went right over my head, but I loved, loved, LOVED my English classes, so I tried my best. College was just awful. The few lit. classes that I did take were not enjoyable for me at all. Oh well. Anyways, back to my original point...when I read through P&P for a second time, I GOT IT. I literally got it. I found the little things that symbolized something else. I asked myself rhetorical questions. I made myself proud. I figured that if I could understand it, I could get 60 Samoan teenagers to understand it. That was my goal. Did I achieve it?

Yes, I did.

Did they find the symbols?

Yes, they did.

Hooray, I could be proud of everyone!

It wasn't until we got to the part where the pendulum is about to slice the poor guy in half that they got interested, but either way, most of them enjoyed the story. After we finished reading, I decided to do something that would get them thinking not just about a part in the story, but about actual life. For the first part of P&P, the man is trying to figure out the shape and size of his dungeon. His torturers have left him in complete darkness, so he must explore his cell using every sense but his eyes. From this, I decided to blindfold all my students (not all at once, that would be chaos), and take them on a walk around the LHS grounds. Not only would they understand what it was like for the prisoner, but also for people who are blind. We have two blind students at our school but even then, I don't think most people realize what life is like to not be able to see anything, ever. So, we tried this out. It was a bit crazy of me to leave the classroom with all of them, but they had a good time, and I have pictures to prove it!

Some of them hated being blindfolded and couldn't wait to take it off. Others were really interested in what it was actually like to be blind. This is 5th period in front of the cafeteria. I took them around trees, I walked them up steps...their buddy had to keep track of them to make sure they didn't fall.

Third period girls

2nd period

3rd period

2nd period boys. This picture puts such a big smile on my face!

The photographer got creative and took a picture of me talking to my class. : ) I was probably telling them to quit yelling. Ha.

This is probably my favorite picture from the entire bunch. So much buddy love. I'm telling you - they do not have personal space on this island. 

3rd period holding on to their buddies!

For all you teachers out there--if you ever read P&P, try this activity! I don't regret doing it at all. We had a lot of fun, and we had some great discussion about what life is like for people who are blind. 


Monday, February 13, 2012

Samoan Day

What an adventure the last month has been, culturally speaking, of course. This past Friday, February 10, was Samoan Day at Leone High School. Prior to this day, the students and devoted Samoan staff members have been avidly preparing for the big day. Three weeks ago, an hour per day was set aside for the students to learn their traditional siva. Siva is the Samoan word for dance. Two weeks ago, anywhere from two + hours was set aside to continue learning, practicing, and preparing for their presentation. As enjoyable as all of this was, our class schedule and lessons were a little bouncy. As a junior class advisor, I sat in on at least 25 hours of Samoan Day practice. That is a whole lot of siva-ing. Overall, I loved watching them dance, and hearing them sing can literally bring you to tears sometimes. They were troopers throughout the entire past month and I am so proud of them for sticking with it and for working together as a team (something that can be difficult for them sometimes.) Enjoy the pictures (if only I could upload videos....sad.)

The girls, in the early stage of learning their siva.

The boys 
As you can see, we practiced in the cafeteria. 

Sitting indian style is a traditional part of their culture. They are used to it. I bet if we threw a room full of American boys in here, they wouldn't be happy.

It is amazing to me how every single girl looks completely natural when dancing. They are so graceful and each and every one of them was absolutely beautiful to watch.

Putting everybody together and practicing the entire presentation.

On the morning of Samoan Day, my classroom turned into a Sharpie tattoo parlor. These were a few of the finished products.

Amber and Abby are sophomore class advisors, so this is the fabric the sophomores used. My fabric is what the junior class wore. The advisors matched their respective classes. At this point, my uniform is not complete.

Beautiful students and myself

Handsome, baby oiled, leafed-up, juniors

 Waiting to parade into the gym

Junior girls - upper left, Senior girls - right side, Junior boys - lower left

 My uniform is now complete. I've got the feathers in my hair, and the lipstick swoosh on my face (still not sure what it means - I was just told that it's a "cultural tradition." ok!)

 The freshmen - I loved their fabric!

The sophomores had an amazing opening to their performance - complete with fire!

 Junior girls - aren't they beautiful? It was such a breath of fresh air to see them in other puletasi's besides their boring school uniform. 

The junior Mr. and Miss. 

 The senior Miss and Mr. - I loved her dress!

Senior girls - their puletasi's were also very bright and islandy.

 Senior boys

Myself (in my front yard) after the performance. I may look a little Samoan but I am still a very white palagi. 

All in all, the day was amazing. Seniors won the overall competition, but each class had an incredible performance and all their hard work paid off. They seemed to enjoy the day as well, so everyone left on a happy note. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Squeak, meow, wow!

I am having some issues. They aren't that big of a deal, but I just have to bring them up. Suprisingly and even a little ironically, all three issues are about a mouse.

My mouse situation actually starts with a computer mouse, specifically a mouse for a Mac computer. Remember that one time when someone broke into my classroom and stole two of my computers as well as my keyboards and mouse-s? Yeah, that was fun. Anyways, I still have one computer left. I was able to get my hands on another Mac keyboard but am failing miserable at finding a mouse that works. The keyboard and mouse are both wireless, meaning you have to use batteries in order to get them to work. The five Mac mouse-s that I have tried refuse to work. Sigh. I have finally resorted to putting my computer away because I am asked constantly, “Where’s your computer? Can I use your computer? Can I get music from your computer?” No, mouse, people! I even tried to borrow one from our library that might have a USB cable, but sadly, all those mouse-s/mice? have a circle port/cable/thingy so that’s no good.

Current status on this issue: hopefully resolved! I found a $6 USB cable mouse at Cost-U-Less tonight. We’ll see if it works tomorrow. It works!! 
My second issue also has to do with a computer mouse, this time for a laptop. I turned my computer on the other day and I couldn’t get my mouse to budge! Turns out, my trackpad had been turned off.
Current status: Working! All is well again.
My third issue is with an actual mouse (as of 30 minutes ago, a husband and wife – please no babies). They are living in this weird wooden box thing that must cover some wires or something in our kitchen. Waaah. Someone send me a cat! Mouse poop – everywhere.
Current status: Need to get mouse trap(s). Sorry little squeakers.
What makes all this even funnier is that I found my grocery list from last week. The first item on it was mouse. The second item on it was cheese. At the time, situation 3 had not been discovered yet. I’m so funny!
Speaking of animals, (this time cute ones), the new fad at Leone High School (for boys in particular) is to meow. Yep. Meow. Like a cat. All the time. While I was enjoying the peace and quiet of my first 20 minutes of lunch (before the door gets knocked down by five million teenagers wanting to listen to the same rap song over and over again), my time was suddenly interrupted by a sneaky student standing behind my classroom, hidden, meowing. I’m talking meeeeeeeeeeowwwwwwwing. He sounded like a cat in heat. I could not stop laughing. Every time I stood up to go figure out who he was, he would run away and then come back a few seconds later. The meower eventually came into my room and started a chorus of meowing with all the other students that were listening to the same rap song (over and over again.)  I wish I could have gotten it all on camera. Oh Samoan high schoolers. You’re so fun.
To conclude this cat and mouse post, I will give you a small preview of my classroom art gallery. Students are fascinated with each other’s work. Students I don’t even have will come in and just look. They like to ask who drew what. They like to see if their village is represented. They say things like, “He’s such a good artist, Miss.” It’s as if I have my own art museum. I like to stand back and watch them. It gets me all choked up sometimes because they look so darn cute! Art is such an important part of their culture and they are so proud and supportive of each other. Enjoy!
 Some of them think I'm married because I wear a ring (hence the Mrs.). My ring is on my right hand but they still constantly ask me if I am engaged.
 Drawing a masterpiece on my chalkboard.
 Amazingly detailed Samoan designs
 Please click on this picture and make it bigger. It is fascinating, isn't it?

My name has never looked so cool before!
These are cartoon/comics that some of them did for their project on "The Pit and the Pendulum."

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's really wet outside.

Weather update!

According to NOAA, we are in a "monsoonal trough" and boy do I believe it.

Wind: check
Rain: check

It started raining around 10:30 this morning and has yet to let up (it is now 4:15). It poured so much in 20 minutes that they decided to end school at 12:00. Walking around campus was fun: ankle and shin deep water.

Either way, everyone was happy to go home early on a Monday!

It's a little breezy down here...

Taeao Manuia (Good Morning) from windy American Samoa. I was up all night hoping that our metal roof didn't blow off. According to NOAA, we're in a wind advisory and will be until 7:00 a.m. Sadly, that is only 15 minutes away. I am loving the wind because it has cooled the temperature. Don't leave, breeze! If any of you are ever interested in checking the weather out in AmSam (you probably aren't, but, you never know), feel free to go to: NOAA AmSam 

It is Monday. Today's events include teaching 3 classes, (probably) subbing for 1 class, sitting in on 2 hours of Samoan Day practice, an English department meeting, and a track meet after school. Let's hope that the cup of coffee I just had will get me through at least a couple hours of the day.

Manuia le aso - Have a great day!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Woo hoo fast internet = lots of pictures!

I have spent most of my day sitting in the Laufou shopping center in Nu'uuli using the high speed internet. I can upload a picture in less than a minute. At home, it takes me at least 15 minutes. Whew. Anyways, here are some more pictures for you to enjoy!
Myself and some adorable neighbor kids.
The LHS JV and Varsity basketball teams. Woo, go Lions!
Cute little men lounging on the beach in the village of Malota.
When Erin was here, we hiked up to Blunt's Point. It's about a half mile hike, so nothing too difficult!

The Pago harbor is behind us. Photographer Abby made sure that the tuna boat made it into the picture.

On one of Erin's last days, we walked/trekked/panted up the ridiculously steep road to the village of Aoloau. It was a great walk. Tiring, but I did it in my Chaco flip flops so I guess that makes me an extreme hill walker.
In case they forget where their bell (oxygen tank, ha!) is?

Slowly reaching the top. Check out that view!... and the super steep road...
Up, up, up we go.
We didn't climb all the way to the top of Aoloau because we ran out of water, but we were happy with the view that we did get to see.

The Aoloau kids/Snow Boys call this "The Sap." I'm not sure if I am spelling that right or not. It's a frame for a house. Not quite sure what happened to the house. Anyways, it's their hangout spot.
Perfect picture frame!

Speaking of Aoloau, these are two of the Snow Boys that like to hang out in my room. We, of course, are repping the West Side.
Hot, sweaty, happy friends!