Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Faleasao gets a new Faifeao (minister) and the town goes food crazy!

To the top left, KC is enjoying herself a delicious feast. To the top right, this pic is of my soon to be lunch. Yes, that is a coconut, which is my drink of choice here! The soupy looking option at the top left of my plate is oka (which is raw fish in coconut milk with cucumbers and scallions). UNBELIEVABLY delcious. That pink concoction is still a mystery to me...maybe canned fruit in...peptobismal. I couldn't tell you. Then in the bottom compartment is a round, giant piece of taro, a fish head (I have even eaten the eyes upon request...apparently they are a delicacy), pork (see pig pictured below), potato salad with seafood (maybe fish?) of some kind in it, sausage, and the always favorite here- corned beef. The fresh coconut was my favorite, and I really like the taro, too (starchy like a potato, but kind of sweet?). The picture to the bottom left is of coconut crabs- these were served to important people like the minister and Matai chiefs....not to little, palagi, volunteer teachers like me :(. And then, to the bottom right, copious amounts of fish heads for everyone. This is a pretty traditional spread here. I've been here long enough that I'm not sure what seems "exotic" to mainlanders...but all in all, it was a pretty delicious meal. I ate like a quarter of it...maybe.

The weekend also included three church services and a traditional 'ava ceremony, which I unfortunately didn't get to see. The chiefs and minister performed this ceremony, where you drink 'ava (or they call it kava in some parts of polynesia), a mild narcotic, out of a bowl that looks like this http://images.google.as/imgres?imgurl=http://islandedgedesigns.cubacub.com/kavabowl.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.islandedgedesigns.com/new-stuff&usg=__7xKRCdBMK3IcjeawxwSHCXPpuAI=&h=384&w=576&sz=29&hl=en&start=34&um=1&tbnid=AJc445a2OCOX4M:&tbnh=89&tbnw=134&prev=/images%3Fq%3DSamoan%2B%2527ava%2Bceremonies%26ndsp%3D21%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26sa%3DN%26start%3D21%26um%3D1 in celebration of big events (re: new minister). I've had 'ava before for fun with the volunteers...it tastes like dirty dirty mud water....ewww, and it made my face go numb...it's like drinking novacane. I wasn't really a fan, but it's an awesome tradition.

More pics of the Faifeao's first weekend in Faleasao!

The picture on the bottom right is of the banana-leaf baskets full of delicious breadfruit and taro (traditional Samoan veggies/fruit) that have been baked in an umu (a traditional underground oven). The bottom left photo is of Kaitie helping the women of the town inside Faleasao Elementary's cafeteria prepare all of the food for the men in town (the food first goes to the Faifeao, the Matai Chiefs and titled men, then to the untitled men and women and then children eat last). The photo on the top right is of some women in town making trays of food for each man- that's right- one tray for one person...Samoans know how to eat. And the picture on the top right is of a woman fanning the flies away from the "plates" of food. It's kind of like my Methodist church's annual chicken barbecue......on steroids.

More pics of the Faifeao's first weekend in Faleasao!

To the left is the minister's (Faifeao- pronounced f-eye-fay-ow) house. To the top right is one of the Matai Chiefs special pigs for feasting and a picture of some young, untitled men in town carrying traditional banana leaf baskets of food for the festivities!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My adorable 5th grade class...

Oh Heeeeey! My class just wanted to say: "Ua mai oe!" (what's UP!?)
Aren't they cute in their purple Faleasao uniforms! This is my classroom (my messy teacher's desk to the bottom right in the second picture, bulletin boards, chalkboard, reading center in the first picture all the way to the left, and traditional grass mats beneath the kids feet in the first pic). Awesome.
Here's the lineup from front to back in the first pic:
Sabrina and Tavini
Brandon and Tracy
(and then left to right all the way in the back) Hellen, Lopi, Aao, Patricia (or Loa, my host sister), Jack, Alphina and Terisa! We're missing Tiu, Claire Anita and Achilles.

I'm really lucky! They are a great class (though thoroughly exhausting), and there aren't that many of them. And look how studious they look in that second picture (don't be fooled). I'll try to keep updating more pictures later!

Manuia le aso!

"Have you ever seen a possessed guy before...?

The beginning of December has been...interesting. It's summer here in the southern hemisphere, and it's the rainy season in American Samoa. Downpours drop from the sky out of nowhere....it will be beautiful, sunny and humid as all get-out, and then BAM....like Blitzkrieg, raindrops the size of gumballs are pounding on your classroom roof making it impossible to talk to the student 5 inches in front of you. At least I don't have to worry about a drought anymore...drinking water abounds in my metal rain barrel! I've also found that it's exhilarating to run in this kind of weather (and a lot cooler, too). So, after work, KC and I will run along THE only road that exists on the entire island. Earlier this week on a rainy afternoon, we made our way over the hill to the next village, Ta'u and we came upon a crazy situation....

At the bottom of the mountain is the sole medical clinic on the island. It's staffed by one doctor, Malo, and his family (who I LOVE). Anyway, as I'm rounding the corner, I look up, and see about 9 boys carrying a teenager's lifeless body into the clinic. It was shocking to witness....there are no ambulances here (or even right now there are hardly vehicles of any kind since we are always almost out of gasoline). The boys had been playing volleyball at one end of town when Ili (the teenager) collapsed. The clinic, which is about half the size of an olympic swimming pool, was bombarded by the whole town. Families followed after the human ambulance that carried the boy through the double doors to the clinic. KC and I stood there in horror. We interrogated the crowd: "What's going on!? What happened? Is he conscious!?"
The people who responded had a hard time understanding us, and with what little English fluency they had, pointed to their chests and said..."His heart, his heart."

It seemed like the entire village was there, pushing past each other trying to enter the clinic. Even in my moment of panic, I was touched by the community's support for one of their own. A medical emergency here can often be fatal...with one doctor, no medicine and hardly any equipment, without airplane evacuation, something treatable elsewhere can easily become life-threatening here.
KC and I decided to stay outside of the clinic (which also serves as the doctor's house) to stay out of the way. After about a half an hour, Malo's wife, Caroline, emerged. She said she didn't know what was going on, but he was conscious because she could hear him screaming. Malo was working on him. We waited with her in the rain, making small talk and trying to ignore the eerie screams coming from inside the clinic. After almost 45 minutes, Malo emerged shaking his head:

"Have you ever seen a possessed guy before?"
KC and I just stood there. "uhhh....what?"
Malo continued, "Do either of you know how to do an exorcism...the faefeao (minister) is off island..."
I could tell Malo was being sardonic, but KC and I were still shocked! Possessed!? We could still hear his screams coming from inside the clinic. I explained how someone told us it was his heart. Malo shook his head and said that it seemed that an "evil spirit" had inhabited his body and was trying to escape..and the villagers were trying to exorcise it with Fofo (special Samoan massage) and banana leaves.

My kids assured me the next day that Ili had been saved and all was well in Ta'u again. I had my class write about if they believed in ghosts. I knew that there was talk of this island being haunted by Aiiku (I-ee-ku), ghosts, but, after reading my kids responses and witnessing this crazy "possession," I'm sure going to be careful walking around town after dark. I mean...I'm prone to rare occurences like tsunamis and earthquakes...I really don't want to get possessed while I'm here!

Since I haven't posted in over a month and a half.....

Here's a quick synopsis:

October was "rough." Three large earthquakes, one giant tsunami and a small drought that made it fairly difficult to find drinking water for a while. Everyday was a challenge in some new way...emotionally...physically...spiritually. October was kind of the bane of my existence.

November proved to be a little better....no natural disasters (always a plus). However, it still seemed fairly exhausting to me, personally, because I began applying to graduate school in Women's Studies and English, meanwhile attempting to teach/plan/manage a class of children who do not enjoy school. (But I guess I understand... who wants to learn when it's 85 and tropical outside your door all year round? Professor Kaminsky always said Chicago had ideal learning conditions because the weather made you never want to leave your room....and I think he was on to something. Though, when the temperature is constantly pushing 90, air conditioning would probably prove the same incentive....if there was air conditioning :/ ). Anyway, I digress... So, November was spent writing my personal statements, working on a 16 page writing sample and researching schools and deadlines. What makes this process awesome on a remote island is the infrequency there is available internet. So, even though there were several weeks without any connection to the world wide web at all, I somehow managed to get my applications together.

That's my excuse for the lack of blogging...sufficient I think?

emotional stress+no intrawebz+grad apps allow no free time= no blogging :(

But now, as I have my four-to-five schools lined up, I'm ready to get my blog on again. If there's ever anything in particular you loyal readers want to read about (food, weather, people, events etc.) feel free to comment and let me know! Living here makes it hard to differentiate what's exciting to read about in the developed world. So holla at me!