Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well I had a great week last week, as it was spent completely in my old island of Savaii. I had forgotten how much I had missed it, and was disappointed to come back to Apia and my daily job here. I have to say though, that after this week, there is nothing that I can complain about as far as my job is concerned.

I went out to Savaii last Saturday, because I wanted an extra day out there before my work colleages came to pick me up. I went to Lusia’s with some of the Peace Corps Savaii people, along with Blakey, Toa and Matt who came over on Friday to have a little Savaii downtime. I stayed that night with Supy in Palauli as it was on the way from the wharf to Asau, where I was going the following day for work. Five coworkers came and picked me up on Sunday night around 530 pm and we drove up to Asau which is on the North Coast of Savaii. It’s about an hour and a half drive. We stopped to pick up Sulu and also stopped by Matis’ house to pick up some of our palolo nets.

Now I am assuming that most of the people I know from back home don’t know what palolo is, since I had no idea what is was before I got here. You can google it if you want, but I think I can explain in concisely enough. Palolo worms live in coral along the coastline here in Samoa. I’m sure they live in other places as well, along the Pacific. The palolo spawn twice a year, once in October and once in November. Samoans always know when it is, all I know is it’s around the same time each year, and has something to do with the moon. During these times, the end of the tail of the palolo breaks off and floats to the surface. Inside this tail is the reproductive materials for spawning. The Samoans find it a delicious treat. So twice a year, the morning of the palolo harvest fishermen and women wade into the water before the sun rises and collects the tails that have risen to the top. If they did not, the tails would disintegrate and fertilization would occur.

After a 330 am wake up call of Monday morning, I waded into the water in a village called Sataua with two coworkers, Davey and Tai. I’ll tell you it was slippery walking over rocks with algae, especially when it’ still dark out. I honestly think I looked like the classic comedian bit, where someone just looks like their running in place because they’re slipping over and over again on the same rock. I didn’t fall though, and got into the water. There were probably about 25 other people in the water, waving around their palolo nets, hoping to catch some. It was nice standing there in the water, with lots of other people with the same goal, even before the sun rises. After about 20 minutes, it was understood by everyone that there was no palolo. This came as no surprise to me since, for hundreds of years the Samoans have been collecting and eating the only chance these worms have to reproduce. The boys and I climbed back out of the water and picked up Sapeti, Matis, Mikey and Sulu where they were trying to collect. We all got back in the van and headed over to Falealupo, which is at the North Western tip of Savaii, and holds the title for being the last place to see the sunset for the day in the whole world, as it sits closest to the international dateline. I took some pictures down here, and although there wasn’t much we did manage to buy some palolo that had been collected. Sapeti wanted it to bring home to her family, since as I said it was a delicacy. We then took one of our algae samples in Falealupo. At this point it was about 8 am and we decided to go back to the beach fales where we were staying to rest and get ready for our afternoon monitoring. We had a few goals that week, palolo, collection of algae for ciguatera sampling and the monitorings of a couple Fish Reserves, one a new one in Lefagaoalii. I slept for a while, then ate some lunch and we went over to the Fisheries Office in Asau. It’s quite different from the Apia office, and there are only three men on staff. We processed our algae sample from Falealupo, then rested for a while, as we were all pretty tired.

On Tuesday morning we went back out to see if we could collect any palolo on that day, but there were no other people in the water, so we didn’t even get wet. After about two hours we went back and I fell asleep for a good while. We then got up and drove over to Fagamalo to collect algae, and then again in Safune on the way back. We stopped at a family member of Matis’ house and picked up a size two pig, some breadfruit and taro. It’s amazing that you can just show up somewhere and walk away with more food than anyone needs. We went back to the beach fales and rested for a while then later that afternoon we went back to the Fisheries Office where we ate most of the pig, breadfruit and taro, we also had sashimi. It was a week filled with delicious raw fish, mostly oka, which I’ll have to make for everyone when I get back to the States. It’s cucumber, tomato, onion, coconut milk/cream and pieces of tuna. Delicious. We processed our two other algae samples from Fagamalo and Safune while we were there as well.

Wednesday morning was our time to move from Asau down to Sapapalii, which is very close to where I used to live. On the way down we stopped at Lefagaoalii to do the initial monitoring for the new Fish Reserve there. As soon as we go there one of the Fisheries men from Salelologa was there and recognized me from Salimu. He said sau i teine Salimu, which mean come here Salimu girl, and I had to give him a kiss on the cheek. Everyone thought it was hilarious, not so much me, but no harm. I also was employed to use my camera to take pictures of the village to go into the report for the new Fish Reserve. There are mangroves on the other side of the village and pre-school that backs up to them. I took pictures of all the kids outside of the school and they were all adorable. They kept saying, Vaai, aulelei le teine palagi, which means look, a pretty white girl. Again they were adorable. Finally I was able to suit up and get in the water.

At first it was freezing getting into the water because there are many freshwater springs that flow into the ocean along their coastline. Doesn’t happen very often that you get cold while here in Samoa, at least not for me a Maine girl. When we got out farther though, it was probably the most impressive coral, soft coral and marine life that I have ever seen. It wasn’t low tide, but it certainly wasn’t high, and it was the type of swimming where you had to inhale deeply so you would be buoyant enough to get over the corals. My job was to lie the transect lines and then the rest of the team would come after and mark the corals, fish and invertebrates that they saw. My first try was pretty ridiculous, as I was supposed to be lying a straight line, but Mikey kept hitting me in the leg, and pointing in a different direction. I thought that I was going straight, but I wasn’t looking up or back, so I don’t know why I would have thought that. The other four times were much better, and total we were in the water for 2 hours. It was amazing, and I’ve gotten to see things that I have always wanted to, but hadn’t yet. It will be a great place to protect. It’s right back Jim’s village in Samauga, so as we were going through I saw him crossing the street in his newly black hair. We stopped and I got out and Jim showed me around his fale. I have been to his house before, but only to pick him up, so it was cool to see how he lived. He had a great set-up and it seemed like it was very comfortable. I got back into the car and after many jokes about the fact I was in Jim’s room for a long time, we moved on.

We got to Rosalote fales in the afternoon and signed in. I actually liked the first place better, but everyone else seemed to think that Rosalote was great. They served food buffet style instead of individually, so that might have been why my Samoan counterparts liked it so much better. We rested that night and then left early the next morning.

On Thursday we went to Papa Puleia by Liz’s village and did a monitoring of the Fish Reserve there. We had to wait for a while for the tide to come back in because we could see the coral exposed, and obviously you can’t swim over that. It took about an hour and a half, but we finally got into the water. I was then handed a GPS remote, so we could map the Fish Reserve for our report. The device isn’t waterproof however, so that didn’t really work. I had also never seen it before, but it was assumed that I knew how to work it. I had to have Tai meet me along the coast line so I could swim up and onto the rocks, and take a reading from there. The waves that day were pretty crazy and we were getting tossed around pretty bad. Since I’m the less experienced of the crew, and Tai was on shore, my job was to come behind everyone and untangle the transect line. The corals there were mostly Acropora tabular, so the line was stuck everywhere. On top of the massive job of untangling it, I was being pushed around pretty badly. I had to hang onto some of the massive coral, just so I wouldn’t be swept away. Being me though, I thought it was pretty fun, and enjoyed myself immensely. I was also able to take a look around at everything while the rest of the team was writing down data. It was a beautiful area, and I have never seen that much Acropora tabular in one place before. I also saw a beautiful toby and lots of other great marine life.

After Papa Puleia we drove down the long road to Tafua, where there is a pretty amazing beach. The waves were crazy right here though, and we hardly went swimming to get the algae samples that we needed. Again I thought it was fun. That afternoon we relaxed, hung out that night and then everyone else left on the 10 boat on Friday morning. I stayed on in Savaii to go home and visit my host family which was great.

It was an amazing experience and reminded me of why I have wanted to be a marine biologist since I was ten. I recently was asked by the Peace Corps to help with one of the training sessions for the new group of 23 volunteers. They asked me to do the survival session, which I found to be a little funny, but after being there and talking about how to survive here in Samoa, I guess I understood why they asked me. I had lived with a family, without one, in a village, in Apia, in Savaii, in Upolu, worked in an office and in a village. I had pretty much all of the bases covered. When asked what I do to cope, I said I go swimming in the ocean for a couple of hours, get out and write down everything that I saw. It’s amazing, but true that this simple act can change my whole outlook on life. It rejuvenates me and allows me to be calm. I’m very lucky to be in a place where that’s even possible.

It was also great spending time all day with Samoans again. They were wonderfully nice and welcoming and complementary. They loved the fact that I could speak their language, at least to a degree and that I was open and willing to try and do things in a Samoan way. I think my time in the village will be a great asset to me in my work here in Apia. I definitely feel like a part of the team.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Well I have officially left my site and home in Savaii and have moved all my belongings up to Avele College located right outside of Apia. I think the village is Vailima, or perhaps Avele which would make more sense. The massive secondary school sits up on the hill with around 600 hundred students and 40 staff members. Unfortunately the pule (principal) has just lost her husband, so as you could guess I haven’t had much time to talk to her about what I’ll be doing for the school. Originally with talks between Aiga (the principal) and Kellye (my PC boss) I was slotted to help with their science program and perhaps math. Those of you who went to any type of school with me will remember that I cannot possibly teach math, so those details will have to be ironed out. My roommate, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer named Blakey was kind enough to let me move into her house on the school compound. The house itself sits in the middle of a taro patch and amongst the many people that live and work at the school. There are three bedrooms, a kitchen with refrigerator, bathroom and shower. Blakey has done a great job with the house, so I’m very happy to be there. I’m sure everything will work out just fine with the Avele part of my assignment.

Ministry of Fisheries however, I can’t say. When we asked them if they wanted a Peace Corps volunteer back in July, they said they would be unable to accommodate me because there were no more funds in their budget. Now that I have my own place to live and would be completely free labor, I have still not heard a word from them. Perhaps they don’t want to have the burden of finding things for me to do. This is quite unfortunate since I do have a background in Marine Biology and could help them with their programs. We’ll see what happens. If MAF doesn’t want me as a volunteer I am going to try to work with Conservation International that does work in Samoa. Their office is up close to my school, so who knows maybe it would even work out better. That’s my update for what’s happening now.

As far as my old village, I am very interested in continuing to help them with any projects they want to undertake. I will be going on at least once a month to do the monitoring on their Marine Protected Area and giant clams. My family although sad, if still very welcoming and want me to come back often to hang out. Overall the move is alright for everyone, and that’s what’s most important. Now my hope is actually getting some work done, but here that’s a pretty big goal.

Here are some pictures of things and people I'll miss back in Salimu. I'll put more pictures up later, when I get my camera card.

Monday, May 18, 2009

So my last entry had quite a few spelling and grammar errors, for which I apologize. I had waited until I got into the office to start typing the blog entry, which can lead to lots of errors. With only one computer, and lots of Peace Corps Volunteers on Savaii, you don’t want to be a person who takes their time typing. So for this entry I’ve done a good job and typed it on my computer at home. I have quite a few random pictures that I’ve wanted to share with everyone, so I’ll take this entry to do so.

Here are some pictures of other volunteers and I getting together for some fun times. It was my birthday at the end of April, so myself and some friends rented out a catamaran sailboat for five hours and sailed around the two smaller islands in the Samoan Archipelago and went snorkeling. It was a great time, and it was also a send off to our friends Allison and Craig who returned to the US, back to Georgia. We also went to a great drag show at the Zodiac bar. There is a huge drag scene here in Samoa, it’s a very interesting part of the culture, of which I’ll talk more about later. It was also cinco de mayo and a lot of the volunteers stayed at Lusia’s Lagoon, our favorite place to go in Salelologa. They made salsa and a piƱata for our friend Jim to break for his birthday. It was a lot of fun, as you can tell by the pictures. Sometimes its very good for us to let off some steam every now and then. This next picture is what happens when your foot is up against your bug net. They just bite you over and over in the same place, while you think your safe and sound in your net.

Here are some pictures of our Aumaga building the fence for the garden project. They all really love having their pictures taken, so I made the rounds and everyone got to pose for at least one picture. It’s going to be a pretty large garden, they want to plant, tomatoes, cucumbers, long peas and cabbage. It’s not very many different crops, but that’s okay. I’m going to plant watermelon, pumpkins and peppers. These crops don’t need to be inside the fence, so I don’t think anyone will mind.

We have finally gotten or sewing machines as well, we start the sewing classes in the beginning of June, so I will get some good pictures of the women learning to sew soon.

Now I’m getting ready to go to Fiji for Ellie’s wedding at the end of June. I am very excited and all of the girls from Group 80 are going to be joining me on the trip, so when I’m not on the wedding island, I’ll have people to travel around with. I’ll be there for ten days and I can’t wait.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here are some pitcure taken in our fale behind our house, where all of the cooking is done. In this sequence Palepa and Kilali and making koko samoa, which as you can guess is the cocoa here. Just a little insight into the daily stuff that people do here in the South Pacific.

Here Kilali is crushing the koko beans, to make the paste, this is done obviously after all the roasting is done.

Her Palepa is holding a bowl of semi-roasted koko beans, they have to separate the fully roasted for the semi-roasted to make sure all the beans are done.
Kilali and Palepa are both separating the beans in this picture
This is how they roast the beans.

And here's a picture of my host brother Happy in the background drinking some of the already completed koko Samoa.

I drink a lot of koko here. At the moment its koko season, so it's everywhere. It has a lot of caffinee though, so one cup is pretty much it for me, and drinking it before bed is out of the question.

As requested here are a few picture of my house, or well not my house, but the house that I live in. As you can tell it is very colorful and, usually very full. At one time there are about ten people sleeping in the house. I do have my own room though, so I get some privacy, but it can be very hard.

Here is a picture of our kitchen

This is our shower, yes I do have running water, which many people here do not, so I'm very lucky. There's no hot water, but you get used to it, especially when its so hot outisde all the time. A cold shower feels pretty good. Actually if you get the first shower of the night, the water can be warm because its been heated in the pipes all day. That can be nice, however I'm rarely the first one there. This is also where I do my laundry, which is what you can see here in the picture.
This is the living room ,where most of the people in the house sleep. I'm taking this picture from the doorway to my room.

This is another picture from the doorway of my room.

And here is a picture of my room itself.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Okay there was a request for some pictures from my site, sorry that these are the only ones I have at the moment, but I'll get some of my house and my family up here soon too. Above is the vaita'ele in my village, or the pools where people wash clothes and themselves. One great thing that has come out of my seminars is the banning of using bleach and detergent in these pools, as it goes straight into our marine protected area.

Below is our auala galue, or work road that goes through our village and up to the plantations. As you can see its not in the best shape and we're trying to change that as soon as we can get support from the government.

This is our field below, where we play rugby and volleyball and all that sort of stuff. I spend a lot of time with the women every week stabbing the ground with large knives and picking the grass out of the sand. It's an interesting part of our mondays. obviously below was before monday.

This is our fale komiti, or community fale, which is why we need a new one. You can find me here often lying on a fala (coconut leaf mat) napping in the wind. It's much cooler down there.

This is a view from the fale komiti and you can see the extent of our village along the water. It's a small place, but it is gorgeous.

At the moment unfortunately I'm under the weather with some sory of parasite, but that's why Teuila tells us not to drink the water. I'll be fine though, all part of living here. We have received our grant for the 12 sewing machines for our women's commitee. Unfortunately my counterparts mother passed away this past week, so it true Samoan fashion, there are lots of people and things happening in our village to prepare and also hold the funeral. Lots of people visiting from America, New Zealand and Australia. Another women in our aualuma lost her mother three days later, so we've been helping with that as well. My seminars have been put on hold due to the loss of these two women. The village is all working together to get them through it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This is Allison, standingby the little creek that leaves the waterfall. Although you can't see the waterfall in this picture this is at Palauli waterfall in Supy's village. The color of the water is amazing.

Okay this is a picture of my house in Sailmu, the windows to the left are the windows to my room. It's beautiful, hot, but beautiful.

So I'm in Apia right now, supposedly picking up the check for our community garden project, however things being often misunderstood around here, we were actually just coming in to sign the paperwork to receive the 5,000 tala. That's alright, although now I'm back in Apia, where I really didn't want to be again until St. Paddy's Day. Oh well, back to the village tomorrow.