Thursday, July 23, 2009

Week 1 In American Samoa

Sunday night we arrived around 9 pm in Pago Pago (pronounced Pongo Pongo). There, our group of 33ish volunteers met up with our Field Directors, Brandi and Lisa, and journeyed to the local technical high school via big yellow school bus! The rumors we had heard are true: we are indeed sleeping on a classroom floor for two weeks. They were generous enough to provide us with surprisingly comfortable mats, sheets and pillows. I was so tired after 15 hours of flight that a yoga mat would have looked like a Sheraton bed.

Monday: I woke up this morning at 6am AmSam time (don’t be impressed…it was not hard to do considering it would have been around 1pm in New Jersey). Today, Brandi and Lisa eased us into our orientation by keeping our schedule fairly light. We spent the entire morning at “the museum,” which is much like their center for the arts. I believe (don’t quote me on this) that it is DOE funded? It functions to preserve Samoan arts and culture by teaching 5-18 years olds how to wood carve, weave, and dance like their ancestors. It was incredible. INCREDIBLE. The children and adults were all so generous: they made woven headbands and bracelets for everyone, taught us how to dance (or tried anyway) and helped me learn how to say key Samoan phrases. For example:
Hello- Talofa
Thank you- faafetai lava (pronounced Fah Fe Tie lava)
Goodbye- Fa Soifua (Fa Sew ee foo ah)
Please- Faamolemole
And of course the essential my name is: Olou igoa o Courtney (pronounced with long o and u vowels- Oluo ing –o- a o)
After an amazing morning at the museum, we had bag lunches and then took a school bus ride around the island. It was a beautiful, clear sunny day, and the island is absolute paradise: turquoise water, 3,000 feet of verdant, palm-tree-dappled volcanic mountains and cool ocean breezes. I know- by this point you’re all like- Shut up already! Sorrrry

I do have to say that the group is great. Everyone is so friendly, easy-going and supportive. It’s a weird two week period because we all know that we will be split up really soon (especially my group who will head out to the outer island for the remainder of the year). I find myself getting closer to people who are staying on the main island, and I am sad to leave. But I think there will be some really great people on my island, too, and though our setting is more remote, it’s the experience of traditional authentic culture.

Tuesday and Wednesday: We've purchased cell phone plans (email me if you want my new number!) and had two full days of teacher orientation. We've all bonded a bit more, met some locals and are all around enjoying the island lifestyle. I move to my outer island on August 6th (school then starts three days later- yikes!). Until then, I am enjoying the luxuries of the main island, like being able to drink the tap water and eat the vegetables without bleaching them- yay rusticated living! I miss you all, and though my internet access is minimal, I will try and keep everyone updated as much as possible. Until next post- Fa Soifua (goodbye)!


  1. am sam sounds gorgeous & like it's going pretty well so far! missing you here for thursday night adventures!

    little meg

  2. Hey sweetie!! Was good to talk to you last night. You missed quite a thunder storm--no damage though, thank goodness. Sorry to hear about your computer :( but we'll figure something out. Everyone in NJ says hello and hopes you're enjoying your island paradise!! TTFN :)

  3. Yaaaay it's good to hear from you! It sounds like you are rocking the language :D

    I remember bonding really fast with everyone during my orientation in London - but it was easy to bond with everyone once I got to Manchester as well, so I'm sure once you're all the outer island all of you will be buddy buddy.

    I'm really excited for you! It sounds tough but awesome.

  4. Glad things are going well. Kepp Posing when you get the chance.