Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Simple Life

After four days of a lovely get-a-way in American Samoa I'm back on my own turf. American Samoa provided me with some much needed time away from life as a volunteer. The two countries are still quite similar to each other (tropical islands, Samoan ancestry, common language, etc.)but because it is a U.S. territory the standard of living is considerably higher there. It was even a bit overwhelming at times after becoming accostomed to the simple life here in Samoa. I was able to change my Tala in for American dollars, I saw a Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken, there were parking lots, hot showers, and don't get me started on the grocery stores....okay, I'll tell you about them. I was completely overwhelmed shopping in air conditioning, navigating my way through more than just two aisles, using a shopping cart, and seeing freezer cases. But, luckily, I was able to cope and bought a suitcase full of groceries.
I stayed with my friend Colin and his lovely wife, Andrea and their two kids. Colin trained with us for 3 weeks in the village to learn Samoan. He works for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in Pago Pago. I stayed in their very American home, slept in air conditioning and ate great food. They took me hiking to a secluded beach. I did family things like celebrate their 5 yr. old son's birthday at McDonald's and attend his school talent show. I felt relaxed and comfortable but I have to admit when my flight back landed in Apia, I felt like I was returning home. I like it here in Samoa. Even despite the lack of some modern comforts I like my life here more. I like not living in a consumer based society. I can even more truly appreciate the subtleties of a simple life. Granted it ain't the simple life an African mud hut (so maybe, I shoudln't make the simple life sound that great) but it is my life and I'm happy to be spending it here on this tropical island.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Tu'ua le 'Aoga (School's Out)

Expect to see some more frequent posts over the next three weeks because I will be having a lot more time on my hands. The first term of school has just finished and I have a three week break. I still have other projects, meetings, and trainings to attend but I definitely will have more time to come in to the office and play on the computer. This Wednesday I will be taking some leave time and am flying to Pago Pago, American Samoa. I'll be staying there until Saturday and will most certainly write a post about my adventures there. So stay tuned.
As for an update on the last month....My school is still without a principal which has been particularly frustrating as this leaves me without a job description and the other teachers and staff have been fairly unmotivated to teach. I'm hoping that the Board will have hired a new principal by the time of the next term. I have a ton of projects that I'd like to start on but I feel it's necessary to keep my ideas inline with the vision any new leadership has for the school. The last thing I want to be is this young Westerner coming in with all these big plans and not have it be in the direction the school would like to move in and I of course, would also like to have someone to pass some skills onto.
This isn't to say that I haven't accomplished anything in the last month. I feel like I had my biggest success two weeks ago when I was able to get one of my students enrolled in a regular high school. She has cerbral palsy and uses a wheelchair but doesn't have an intellectual ability. She came to our school this past year because she was too old to keep attending the school for physical disabilities and no one thought a "normal" school would accept her. Well, with a few phone calls and some help from another volunteer at his high school we were able to get her enrolled. With a few more phone calls I was able to find her a sponsor for the school fees and transportation costs. The high school was so thrilled to have her that they didn't even want her to wait until the start of the next term. They let her attend the last two weeks of this first term for free. She is now in my fellow peace corps volunteer's computer class at the school. He gives me frequent reports on how she's doing. Apparently, she's one the brightest in his class. (I take a certain pride in that as I worked with her on the computer every morning before school started since she came to school early) It's been a great experience for the other students at the high school as well since many of them have had no interaction with anyone who uses a wheelchair. She's become very popular and everyone wants to push her around. (Shortly I'll be writing a post on disabilities and Samoan Culture to illustrate the need for education here on Special Needs.)
She's happy at her new school and I couldn't be happier for her. My other project the last month has been an attempt to acquire a wheelchair for my 21 year old student (who had never been the ocean before) for home use. (Currently he spends his days lying on the cement floor in his open Samoan fale.) If all goes as planned he should have one soon. Again stayed tuned. So yes, I'm on break from school and will be enjoying my time hanging out on this tropical paradise but hopefully, still accomplish a thing or two other than "tafou" (hang out)