Sunday, February 1, 2009

What's up!
I wrote Pauly a letter giving him the rundown of a few days in the life of me (here in Samoa). He said it was not what he expected. Here is selected excerpts from that rundown.

Today I:

Woke up at 6. I slept really well last night. I haven’t been using a bug net for a month because it can get stuffy and with a mosquito coil burning, the flying bugs stay away. But, the crawling bugs don’t and I was bit by a centipede, in my sleep, last week. It took until last night to round up my bug net and spray the vicinity with Mortein. Sigh. Relax. I slept well. And centipede bites really (effing) hurt by the way. I was in a dead sleep and I must have felt something crawling on my wrist and tried to brush it off. When it bit me I awoke yelping and confused. It burned for 3 hours and I have welts where his pincers got me. SOB!

Today (one day later) I:

Woke up at 6 again. And built shelves for my cooking and cleaning supplies. Kind of. I jimmy rigged some kind of shelving system. I don’t have a hammer, so I used a rock. Everybody that walked by thought it was hilarious that I was trying to do physical work. They think I am really weak, and also about 3 years old. I think my arm muscles have completely atrophed from lack of use. They won’t even let me change a light bulb. This is Samoan hospitality combined with me being a small physical specimen…. And it is something that has to change! I finished that and fought to do my own laundry. It has been raining, so we have enough water to spare. When it doesn’t rain for a few days, the tank leaks out all her water and I have to get water from the neighbors tank (maybe 1/8th mile away). Someone always does this for me, though I really want to help. I do laundry with 1 bucket. (I had to be taught this) You add soap to the water, throw in the clothes, and hand washed each piece, piling them up on the buckets lid. Then you dump the soapy water in the back of the toilet, refill the bucket and rinse each piece. Hang them on the line and let them stand for about 2 seconds while the blazing sun does her job. A small bundle of clothes take about an hour. Whites turn gray and brown even if separated. I have new (relaxed, way relaxed) criteria for what is an unacceptable “hole” and “stain”.

Later today I:

A **ing centipede fell right on my face! It fell out of my roof which is thatch and they apparently love to live in, out of the thatch right onto my face where it clung to my right eyebrow. After my last incident, the Samoans taught me to quickly sweep away pedes, so they don’t have time to pinch. So I did that and it landed on the collar of my shirt. I shook it off and killed it slowly with my new can of death (Mortein) and a flipflop. These things are big too. This one was only 4 inches long, but that’s a big thing to have stuck to your face. Oh, and also, I have headlice. These teenage girls worked for an hour to pick the eggs and bugs out of my head, but I’m too infested. I need the shampoo. It have been itching for days. Not a good week for me and bugs.

Today (new day) I:

Got a puppy (actually 3 days ago). She’s about 3 months old and a mess. Fleas, ticks, malnourished, and mangy. She’s a mut. The dogs here seem to grow as big as your generosity with food grants: meaning, Palagi dogs get big, tall and healthy while under (or not at all) fed Samoan dogs remain scrawny. I plan on building a beast…. As soon as she can sleep through the night without crying. I’ve had her on a chain for 2 days, as she kept trying to wander back to her old house. After feeding her and cuddling her for just 48 hours, she has repledged her loyalty. To me. Sellout dog! The Samoans named her Uisti (pronounced Wistey), which is almost a kind of cheesy snack chip. Oh, and this was a second choice to Barbie. They were really pushing for Barbie. Since Ts and Ks are interchangeable in the Samoan language, and because she is the same color as a full bottle of JD… I’m calling her Whiskey. The Samoans thought I was out of my mind for holding her. I probably am. I probably have ringworm and typhus now. However when she cried for an hour the first night, and the ladies employed their technique for making things shutup -- hitting and throwing rocks, and that didn’t work, and then I cuddled and cooed her to sleep, I was given a rare compliment, and called poto o le maile. Dog smart. A lot of tough love here in Samoa. Also yesterday, I completed a mini project I’m working on. About 6 weeks ago, we cultivated land for a massive garden at the school. The school is one of the rare spots in the village, through government funding, that has more than enough water tanks… and therefore, water. The garden only has a few laupele plants growing in it, from local cuttings. Laupele is kind of like a hearty spinach substitute leaf that endemically grows on bushes. Its basically the one of the only 2 leafy greens I’ve eaten in the village. To supplement that, I got some seeds from the Samoan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. All sorts of seeds (eggplant, peppers, radishes, beans) that are supposed to grow well here. Some people made me planter boxes (because I am incapable of doing something so physically taxing myself) and dirt that is 99% rocks. I sifted the rock dirt and planted my seeds yesterday. Hopefully in a few months we can transplant some seedlings into the school garden. I want to start a garden here at the Womens Committee, too. And what I really want is to teach my Samoans (that’s what I’m going to start calling the people of my village) about, is harvesting the seeds to promote seasonal planting and sustainability. There could be opportunity to grow vegetables here that won’t grow anywhere else in Samoa; the climate is hotter and drier here than the rest of the country. At the very least, fresh veggies will supplement a diet that often times consists (very) primarily of protein and starch. Pork, taro, fish, pork, taro, fish, taro, taro, pork, spam, spam, spam. So, I planted some seeds and we’ll see what happens. This morning I woke up to find the ladies had re-chained Whiskey to the tree that shades my seed boxes. Whiskey was trampling all over my hard work. Why there, ladies? Why that tree and why re-chain her at all? Aua le popole. Sa lou maile manao le paolo. “Don‘t worry, it‘s cool…. Your dog wanted to go in the shade” Yeah right, the shade from the 6:00 am blaring sun? I don’t understand.

Out of the 400 people that live in my village, 5 have jobs. 5!!! 4 are teachers at the school and 1 works for the government for like 5 hours a month. There is just no job opportunity here. We are too far away from everything and the bus runs sporadically (and painfully slow). And no motivation. People can get every thing they need to survive from the land and sea. They can make houses from nothing but coconut trees. One plant. One plant! I am just so amazed by this.

That’s all.

My lice are gone, but I had to resort to spraying my head with Mortein (which is apparently the most usefull thing I own). My vegetable seeds sprouted and it was pretty much the proudest day of my life. No wait! 2 days ago when they survived a series of torrential downpours, that was the proudest day of my life. It was like being a proud mother watching your kid win a playground fight. Whiskey has run away to her original home so many times I have given up on retrieving her. The Samoans all made fun of her anyway, calling her a chicken-eater and floozy and ugly skinned. Malosi taa tama lou maile. “Your dog has strong urges to hang out with the boy dogs.” Yep, being an unspayed female… that is biologically hard to deny. It was only a matter of time. Yesterday was my birthday. Moe and Seuula, the couple in the village that have taken me in as one of their own, threw me a party. They brought me Samoan donuts (panikeke) for BFAST, a pig and icecream for LUNCH, and for DINNER: I had to put on my brand new garishly awesome Puletasi that Moe made me. Then Seuula read me a verse from the Bible about the King’s (damned in the eyes of God) mistress having a Birthday and her Birthday wish being the head of John the Baptist. Umm. Seuula told me he hoped I would come up with a better birthday wish than her! Ummm. I think/hope it was just a last minute choice with something about a birthday in it, with no hidden significance. Our dinner was fried chicken, chicken soup, chicken and noodle soup, taro, breadfruit and palusami. Pepe, a nice old lady, gave me some fabric for a dress. My neighbors gave me traditional Samoan war weapon called a tableau “8 spear”. It’s a crazy flat club with 8 points. Totally badass. Then we took pictures and I went to bed at 9:30. Click on my flickr link to see new photogs. XO

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