Monday, August 11, 2008

Donating blood, picking up trash, and hearing aids...

The Red Cross came the end of June...during it 3 members of the church donated blood, for the first time ever!

The HIV monster...the message got across and the audience was laughing hysterically!

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment came and did a waste management presentation, covering the 3 R's. Hanna was super awesome explaining just how recycling works!

The pastor got super into the program and then took over, throwing plastic bottles and tin cans at the kids and having them put them back into the right boxes.

A matai and one of the village guys setting down the recycling crate!

Bringing the trash to the crate...

Sorting out the tin cans and the plastic bottles.

Riding in the truck to go pick up the "real" recycling or breadfruit leaves allowed!

I love Laura! Her Dad came with a audiologist and fitted a boy in my village with his hearing aid! I always see him walking to school in the morning, and he is always proudly wearing it.

I still smile when I am walking to school and the kids are already there, library books in hand.

You've heard of a scare-crow, ever heard of a scare-pig??? Guess it worked!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Running marathons in thunderstorms and sharing air underwater...Would my Mom approve?

My first marathon!

It has been an adventurous 3 weeks off from school. Began with the region youth groups games...volleyball, cricket, and my favorite of course track and field. And the girls track and field team won! Now if a team wins in America, perhaps they would have some sort of awards ceremony afterwards...well here, we paraded the trophy back to the house where all the high chiefs were sitting, where they congratulated us. The Saturday after, there was a monsterous food feast for the youth groups from the entire about communal! People from youth groups from the whole region, those who competed, those who cheered, or even those who didn't, everyone celebrated together---ice cream and sandwiches, and not just one helping either---2 cups of ice cream and 3 sandwiches each. Unbelievable. 7 people compete, 300 people eat.

Followed by a hike up the mountain in my village. Ha. So you want to know the difference between hiking with a Samoan and hiking with an American? So I met my friend in the morning to go on the hike, and what do I bring. Peanut butter, jelly, crackers, in a backpack along with some water bottles and some nice sturdy footwear...what does he bring? A machete tied in a lava-lava that he wrapped around his shoulder (like a bandoleer according to my intelligent Peace Corps friend Shane who knows big words unlike me) and some sweet red flip flops. He got to eat yummy pb and j sandwiches and I got to drink a coconut, great combo...

Then came the day when I almost died. Well not really but well, it is not really a great situation to be underwater without air ---an apparent basic need of life. So I went scuba diving, and obviously didn't try hard enough to get the attention of the dive master when I was running out of I was down to 10 bars and yikes! You can all thank Christian for being so kind enough to give me some of his air! Anyway, not so funny at the time but well after---(for the Briggs'... just think of the time Uncle Rich saved Grayson's life as he flew over the waterfall!) yes, the stories were flying. Did you hear about the time Christian saved Sally's life? Oh no, tell me more! Anyway, it was quite comical and yes, I will be going back underwater into the great unknown again the end of the month. Guess it didn't scare me enough...

To the Bahai temple---if any of you do not know about the religion, which I didn't before coming was so different that any other place of worship I have ever been too. Different people read from all different religion books and there is a choir. No pastors, no rabbis, no offering and the acoustics in the building were incredible.

Soccer, singing, and Independence Day---The Under 14 boys team from our district won the soccer game! Very exciting, and the proud looks on the boys faces were priceless. Then Independence Day weekend was celebrated with lots of singing, and the parade which all the schools went to walk in.

And the MARATHON! Turrential downpour pretty much and thunder and lightning. It was pretty awesome running in the pitch black conditions with the lightning flashing over the ocean. Of course, if my Mom was here she would have been in a car in 2 seconds flat out to find me and make sure I was ok! The second half of the race though it turned to a light drizzle, so it was never hot, which was great! A bunch of volunteers came to cheer me on and there were even volunteers handing out Gatorade but best of all, GUMMY BEARS! YUM! And the free t-shirt. (I hope my Dad is reading this) The 4 hours and 13 minutes of running was certainly worth it. Afterwards there was a nice award ceremony. I ended up winning the girls division...we are not talking about Boston here though where there are a zillion people in the race, just a nice little group of 5. I got a really nice carved wooden bowl, and the best of all, a massage. Yikes I had to say a speech and was interviewed! AHHH. So 2 channels on TV in Fasito'o-tai...I guess you can figure out what that means. That there was a 50% chance in each fale, that the family would be listening to me that night ha. Aren't they lucky? The kids in the village were adorable the next day, and were really cute in congratulating me.

Okay, one more funny story. So the big rugby field in front of the school has been turned into a giganto checkerboard with 200ish boxes. Each family in the village has there own little box which they have to nicely mow, weedwack or whack with a machete---their choice. Supposing, if their box isn't mowed by a certain time they get fined by the village. I need to take a picture because it is hysterical right now---because there are 4 random sad looking boxes all alone, waiting for that machete to come crashing down on them.

So that is way too many words and no pictures, but if you got through the whole thing, congratulations and go buy yourself a special treat. I am in a goofy mood, hope ya'll have a super June. And Happy Retirement MOM. And Happy Father's Day DAD. And Love ya BRO. Sally

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Learning letter sounds
What is today?

The lovely library- the kids definitely loved taking out books this term!
Happy kids making puzzles and coloring pictures in the library, a new afternoon routine
This one is for you Mom...if I could give you all the beautiful flowers in the world for Mother's Day I would. Love you! (The greenhouse we visited in American Samoa)
Jamie, Stephanie, and I in American Samoa

Holding an octopus for the first time! in American Samoa.
Maybe the dance was the reason the guys won their rugby game!
Getting in the Easter spirit!
Sita, Aaron, and I on our bike ride
Amanda's wedding!

Happy Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day has come again and Term 1 is about over in school…The year is going by fast. Things have been going well at school and the weekends have been busy as well.

“Sally, what is the word A-B-U?” I love the questions I get at school. ABU! Of course, the name if the monkey in Aladdin. If nothing else, Setu, one of my students in year 6, has made all the time spent trying to make the library awesome well worth it. He has improved so much and comes to school talking about Aladdin, Scooby Doo, or Garfield, whatever the book is he took out for the week. Scooby Doo and Cinderella are definitely the biggest hits amongst the students. Since it is the end of the term, I am in the midst of making sure all of the books are back from the term, and then the students must wait until next term to take more home. Although they weren’t too excited about that, three weeks is a long time to go. I am pretty happy about how the library has gone. The students are all aware now how to take good care of the books, and most have come back. The vice principal told me that if the kids haven’t given their book back or $10 if it is lost, then they won’t be given their school report next week. Very happy that there is support among other teachers for the library.

Now that I know the levels of the kids, and have a better idea of how to effectively be teaching them, I am trying to be a bit more creative…We shaped words out of clay for the first time---of course the first day was 10 mins making words, and then 5 making meat pies. Yummy. Also wrote the words with paint. They loved it.

Computers, computers. My goodness…We have been doing Microsoft Word, Paint, and Encarta Encyclopedia. The kids get slips of paper, either Find, Type, or Draw….They need to open up the program and then Find Cat or whatever it is. It is incredible how quickly they have been picking it up! After school has been okay, not too many people, but those that have been coming having been typing resumes, job apps, and reports for school, so it is worth it to have it opened.

Easter weekend was awesome! On Good Friday, they had a “camp” with all the youth groups from the district. We did a Samoan song and the others groups did plays and dances. On Saturday, they held the games, track, volleyball, and cricket. I ran the 800m and the 4x4. Haha won the 800m too, so that meant I would go on to the Champ of Champs in May, with others from my youth group. Certainly no 2:22 happening though anymore! Easter Sunday, I couldn’t resist painting some Easter eggs to get in the spirit! We didn’t have any gas left to boil the eggs and my fire building skills are not quite to par, so I went 2 houses down where one of the guys had a fire going to boil the eggs and then we painted them at the house next door—haha I am going to try that next year, walk up and down Osborne Hill Rd. asking to boil eggs or for flour or sugar and see what happens.

Then came the Samoan wedding—the wedding of one of the Peace Corps girls, Amanda! Many volunteers were there- it was a wonderful day filled with lots of dances with her family and his family, and all of the “fa’asamoa” the exchange of pigs, fabric, etc.

A great bike ride followed with Sita and Aaron. I had rode around Savai’i last year and wanted to ride around Upolu as well, we only had a weekend though, so we did half of the island. Stayed at 2 beach fales. One is on a river- quite different than most, nice change no sand everywhere! We hiked to a waterfall as well, nice chilly water to swim in and cool off- I was even cold at a point!

SCUBA SCUBA. I am now a certified PADI Open Water Scuba Diver. Doesn’t that sound impressive? Todd and I finished up our class that morning, and then the instructor asked if we wanted to go on and do an advanced dive in the afternoon- Of course! How could we resist. So we are going to keep going and get the advanced cert. We did a deep dive. When you get to the bottom, the instructor had us solve a math problem and write our name backwards… SGGIRB YLLAS…to make sure we weren’t “narced”---to see if we were still thinking clearly. We swam around for awhile and I saw a turtle!!! Way different than seeing the ones in Savai’i which are contained. This one was just swimming around loving life.

American Samoa! So close from here, so Stephanie and Jamie and I flew out on a miniature plane for a weekend vacation. At my cousin’s wedding last year, I met the aunt of my cousin’s wife, who lives there. They were incredible. Picked us up at the airport and treated us like we were part of their family for the next 3 days and we were certainly very spoiled children! Driving us around everywhere, amazing palongi food we have missed so much, hanging out at their private beach and riding kayaks.

Rugby! Sally, do you have any plaster? Sally, do you have any icy hot? Sally, do you have any band-aids? The rugby season must be in full swing. One of the things I will missing next year is hanging out watching rugby on Saturdays with the girls in my village, eating popcorn and salati vi, this delicious salad made with vi, a yummy fruit, coconut cream, peanuts, and of course sugar. Since all the games are in our village, they all get quite into it and the field is usually packed. Fasito’o-tai won the Shield last weekend, it was a big game. I haven’t quite figured out exactly what that means but I am thinking it is like winning Leagues, like in high school. Whatever it was, they were all thrilled and everyone was jumping up and down so all I can figure is it was a big deal 

One more week of school and then 3 weeks of vacation…plans are going to an anti-corporal punishment campaign! (which two others volunteers did a lot to get going), more scuba diving, going to the Bahai Temple for church, the youth group games, a hike at the National Park (a program another volunteer is doing), and plane ride over the villages, a trial half marathon and then the real deal on June 7th. Probably also a trip back to Ma’asina too because it has been awhile. Ooooo, and the new group comes June 4th, so we are going to have a welcoming night for them that weekend. Guess I can’t complain. June July August SEPTEMBER. My little brother Preston is getting married!!!! October November DECEMBER I will be home for Christmas. It will have been a whirlwind of a 2 years. Love you all, thanks for the steady stream of letters, and Happy Mother’s Day.

Love, Sally

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Scuba diving, marathon training and the ABCs

Well, I guess it has been awhile since I last wrote. Time is really flying by. The whole concept that we are now counting down is just strange. March 1st? Been in Samoa for almost a year and a half...wierd. So my two personal goals for the year are to become a certified scuba diver and to run in the 1st international marathon in Samoa..June 7th. The first goal...3/4 accomplished yea! I am taking the classes with Todd another volunteer---they are held through Aqua Samoa, which runs their business at Aggie Grey's resort. Blue starfish, zebra fish, yellow fish, blue fish (I think I have been reading too much Dr Seuss...), even squid, and we haven't even made it to the "cool" sites yet. 2nd goal, well we are only up to 8 miles, however the great part is that I have a running buddy and we have been running before school---I have to saw running right by the ocean at 6 am when it is still nice and cool, well, I guess I can't complain.

New things happening at school...We got 100 fruit trees from Yazaki in Samoa this week--it was sweet. The Nutrition Center from the M of Health came and did a presentation about the benefits of healthy eating/ eating fruit for snacks and then the Yazaki presented us with the trees. Village boys came and made a fence and then the kids planted the trees behind the school---It even made the paper and the news! The kids were nice and dirty by the end, so you could tell they were enjoying themselves. Started a Homework center at the library in the afternoons for sec schools and a reading hour at church for the Sunday School kids.

This year, I teaching diff classes. I have two classes of the kids who need extra help with reading, and then years 4-8 each come to library period once a week and years 6-8 have computer once a week. My goodness, the excitement from the kids to 1 be able to take books home to read from the first time and 2 to use computers, well, it is definitely pretty extraordinary! (Yes, and thanks to all for the books---1500 books labeled and stamped---they are very appreciated by the kids!)

Rugby season is beginning again next Saturday--looking forward to watching the games, as all the district games take place at our field. The last two weekends, the youth groups from the village have all gotten together for games, cricket, and volleyball, and then track events. I ran the 4x100, did shotput and discus HA. I never knew when I would need those shotput throwing skills from 8th grade. Anyway, been enjoying myself hanging out with the youth group, swimming in the ocean, and running.

Hope all is well in chilly NY! Love, Sally

Monday, December 31, 2007

Yeah the AUS pics work!

Us happy while watching Samoan songs and dances at Aggie Greys.

Aunt Mary and me feeding kangaroos in Austrailia, gosh I am spoiled.

Christy and I being giggly, giggly cousins! With our chocolate-covered bananas and stuffed penguins who had names, personalities, and lots of tri-lingual conversations. Ask my cousin for the stories, although we are probably the only 2 that thought we were funny. It is fun being 5.

Aunt Mary and Christy on the Sydney Harbor Bridge overlooking the opera house

Oops! What happened to the road?!

The gang from Austrailia except for one of the girls who was somewhere else. All the kids flew out today, including my little 6 year old sister. I said bye to her and lost it. Cried, cried, cried on the bus almost all the way to Apia. She will be living in Austrailia with her brothers and sisters. I will definitely miss her and her constant enthusiasm. We definitely had lots of great times together, coloring, playing with my hair, going to Manono...she is a very spunky 6 year old; it will definitely be different in the house the 2nd year.

Happy Christy with her coconut

One of my friends in the village climbing up a coconut tree to get coconuts for Aunt Mary and Christy. Check out how he wrapped the shirt around his leg. Not so impressive for anyone living in this country, as they learn right from birth, but very impressive of course for us!

Aunt Mary speaking to a Samoan cop....why? To inquire about what to do about her precious daughter's turtle bite

Being given a candy necklace by the mom of the student who I am teaching sign language to

Aunt Mary given the wonderful honor of giving out the year 8 prizes

I can't figure out how to switch the order of these, so just enjoy! Happy New Years everyone! I will be living it up for 2 days on a beach with a bunch of other volunteers. Hard life. Love you all! Love, Sally

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The 48 hour Christmas

Wow. All I can say is that I woke up today at 10 am, record breaker time of sleep in Samoa and did nothing all day but read a book, sleep, and well go for a run, cause that will always be in my blood I suppose. Christmas can be exhausting, ha. So it all began Christmas Eve, 2 days after coming back from Austrailia and I just knew we needed a tree. I asked the kids what they thought---and what do you suppose the answer was? So, one of the kids (there are 6 here now, 4 came over from Aus), chopped down the tree and then we all decorated, and decorated, and decorated. Called home to America---so good to talk to everyone. Whoever invented speaker phone was genius. Now let me say something about this place, this is definitely a participatory place. So if I am in the village and there is youth group or something going on, they just love it when I participate. It is amazing how encouraging they are too cause I am not exactly Miss Grace. So I was writing some Christmas cards (seemed like a good thing to do Christmas Eve, esp since all letters to the States take atleast a month!) when one of the girls called and asked me to come to the practice. I missed a bunch of practices being in Aust but hey, it is Christmas so okay, I better get in the Christmas spirit and dance. At night, another church in the village was doing dances, songs, plays will 2 other youth groups from the village (not ours though). I know a lot of people over there esp kids from school so I went to watch. Started around 9- the church part- and then afterwards they all went outside and danced on a stage outside all lit up with lights...very cool! I really don't think people here sleep sometimes, well that is at night anyway, I guess the key is long mid-day naps! cause they started the dances at midnight and it went on until almost 3 am! They rang the bell at midnight, and people were walking around kissing everyone wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. So Christmas Day, 9 am I went to my church, the Methodist the one I usually go to, followed by Prize Giving for the Sunday School (kind of like an awards ceremony given at end of the year), followed by a Christmas breakfast of steak and eggs yummmm. Played with the kids and wished a Merry Christmas to people walking around in the village, went to the beach and then hung out until 5 pm, when our dances were to begin. Now...I have already mentioned this to some of you but let me explain the concept of "Samoan time" which is what Samoans call it too. My Samoan family got an invitation saying it started at 5. Well they were all playing volleyball at 5. Samoans are really funny cause they always say that if they tell you something starts at 5, well add Samoan time, so it really starts at about 7. The add 2/3 hours thing is not so rare at all. The other thing is bells here. Let me tell you, it is quite a confusing system. For this event, there was the bell at like 5 to end volleyball and to say start sweeping the church, and getting ready. Another one an hour later, which I got up and thought I should get going but looked out the window (Thank goodness I can see the church from my house or I would either be 2 hours late or 2 hours early every time!) and the guys were still hauling logs for a skit and such. So I stalled. Then another one like half an hour later, looked outside nothing, but a few minutes later music began, so I knew it wouldn't be long. In conclusion, it began around 7:30/8...pretty simple really just add 2 or 3 hours to stated time. It ended up being a very enjoyable evening. Danced, sang (like 1/3 of the is hard to memorize Samoan songs!) and then we ate and chatted afterwards. I have to admit I started tearing up when I was watching one of the plays (I danced only 2 and watched the other ones that they had just learned) realizing it was a year ago I came and next year will be gone. I guess next year the only word to explain it will be bittersweet. The youth group that I go to has just been so amazingly welcoming, always encouraging, and just chill and nice about everything. Afterwards, all the ladies from the church invited me over to eat with them, but I decided to eat with the rest of the youth group instead. They always make sure I have all I want. One of the guys asked me 4 times if I wanted tea, then another one. Then, after another person asked to make sure I was full and didn't want more. There was a little meeting afterwards to figure out what to do with the money that was raised and another person sat down next to me, and translated into easier Samoan so I would understand. It really is incredible and I know I will miss them. Anyway, that ended around 11 pm, making this Christmas an enjoyable 48 hour Christmas. It is a good thing it wasn't any longer however, I am bad at choosing trees I guess, and that thing was dead by today. Oops guess it wasn't an evergreen!

Miss Photogenic! And she now knows my name... Practically whenever she sees me, she says "Ally!" Very cute and nothing like an almost 2 year old to make you feel special.

Our top year 8 girl at Prize giving with one of the pastors.

The year 8 kids all dressed in white with their candy necklaces.

Timber! Here is comes!

Christmas trees are always bigger after you cut them down!

One of the other kids from Aus decorating the very different looking Christmas tree or maybe we should call it a Christmas bush

Happily making decorations

The EFKS church decked out for Christmas Eve service

Midnight. Let the dancing begin! On the stage next to the church

The EFKS girls all in red in the Christmas spirit

Can you see me? Trying to be graceful.

All dressed up for the play

These boys don't mess around. One of the plays.

Two youth group boys and yours truly

Now, isn't that a scary picture? Don't worry it is only baby Jesus and I am not the Virgin Mary

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! Love, Sally
(Sadly, I couldn't get the pics from Aus and when my aunt and cousin were here from Samoa---I will try again cause they are good!)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Aunt Mary and Christy!

I am sitting here with my cousin Christy on our last day in Austrailia. What a trip it has been! My Aunt Mary and cousin Christy arrived in Samoa on the 5th of December and then stayed for a week before we all headed to the "land down under" for a week. Tomorrow, back to Samoa for me and back to the chilly States for them. It has been great to catch up on all that is going on back at home and to show them where I have been living for a whole year. Lots and lots of giggly nights, chocolate stops, and well here are the highlights: (Pictures to follow when I am back in Samoa)

----The last sunset of December 9th (Falealupo...)
----my cousin may have been the 1st sea turtle bite victim ever! watch out when you are feeding those supposedly harmless creatures...guess we got a little too close!
----one of the days, my aunt and cousin wanted to ride in a paopao, the small dugout canoe-like coats and learn how to husk cocounts...amazing how fast things happen when you know the village. The first guy I asked ended up having a boat and said yea we went over to his boat, he quickly did some repairs (of course only using a rock, some rope he found, and some twigs) and off we went. One of my year 6 boys was "tour guide" so he took my cousin out, then came back for my aunt...we learned however that those boats are quite small, and it was a little rough balancing, but hey it was fun...then to the coconuts. I asked another guy from the village to teach us...well, we certainly got the whole deal...he husked them, scraped them, let us eat the "Samoan ice cream", and showed us how to make the coconut cream...the most exciting of course was his climb to the top of the coconut tree in front of our house. Very impressive.
----Trip to Ma'asina. One of my Samoan brothers, after much convincing, went and got coconut branches and taught my aunt and cousin how to make the baskets. My Aunt, who makes baskets in the States, enjoyed seeing how they do it in Samoa, definitely different. They ate the Samoan way, cross legged on a mat on the floor, and enjoyed hanging out with the first people who showed me Samoa...
----Youth group weekend with Stephanie's youth group in Manono---Aunt Mary and Christy were there to watch an ava ceremony which was done when the group from Manono arrived. Well, the word "watch" doesn't exactly work in Samoa, especially if you are a visitor, because there is so much respect for visitors who come, and the people want them to be a part of everything... So as I went to get my aunt and cousin chairs so they could sit behind unnoticed, one of the ladies was directing my aunt and cousin to go and sit right along beside all of the high chiefs, pastors, people from the youth group...we later joked about their week visiting Samoa being a "100% immersion program", for obvious reasons...Afterwards, both groups performed songs, dances, and skits. They had the honor of watching me pretend to be a graceful Samoan girl...ha. Nope, but I have a year to learn how to be graceful...we'll see...
----Aggie Greys. Last night went to a fiafia at the hotel. Great songs and fire dancing.

To Austrailia!
----Took a day trip from the city to Phillip Island where we watched the "Penguin Parade"---it is stadium seating, all these little penguins come up to shore every night where they find their way to their little burrows where they spend the night before going back to the water in the morning. Very cute to see all these cute little pengiuns coming out of the water and walking up on the beach! On the way there, we stopped at a wildlife reserve --fed a koala and kangaroos and pet a wombat!
----Getting the Melbourne Gaol and later toured the Prison
----Enjoyed the areas of South Gate and Federation Square, Yarra River, Victoria Open Air Market
----Went to the top of the SkyTower to view all of Melbourne...from the 85th floor...have you ever seen an elevator that only has the numbers 1,2,3, 85?

Decided that the whole driving on the left side of the road thing is way too difficult and it is also way too far to drive to get to Sydney, so we flew----

----Sydney Opera house---absolutely gorgeous, especially when it is all lit up at night! Took a tour and then saw Christmas at the House, a performance with lots of Christmas carols, most we recognized but a few no clue, all the Aus favorites. Funny to watch there skits too about Christmas --one with a barbeque pit, and also their Christmas song about a kangaroo...very different to be going to an opera house to watch a Christmas show when everyone is in their cute summer attire!
----Took a day trip to the Blue Mountains, my favorite part though (besides the incredible Choc milkshake) was seeing kangaroos in the wild. In a national park we stopped at (in Melbourne they were in fences)---they are just like deer here, just hanging out while people are picniking besides them. One had a little baby in its pouch.
----Hyde Park- a nice city park in Sydney
----Bondi Beach, Manley Beach- took bus trips to both of these, some of the most popular beaches in Aust
----Museum of Contemporary Art, where we commentated everything, like the professional art critics that we are not

A wonderful trip. Austrailia is a wonderful, and also very large, as we have figured out, place. Definitely recommend visiting, although it is quite a trip from the States. Back to Samoa in the morning. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Crazy that it will be 2008, the year already that I will going back home. Love you all! Love, Sally