Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sewing Machines, Diabetes, and Animal Land

The Peace Corps encourages or requires us to do village surveys. As village based development workers, it’s good to get to know our neighbors, introduce ourselves, and assess general needs and wants of the community. I did my survey way back in September when my language was very weak. It was one of most intimidating things I’ve ever done: walking into strangers houses, awkwardly introducing myself, and then asking a bunch of (by American standards) personal questions. The village overwhelmingly needs access to fresh water and wants sewing machines. We’re still in bureaucratic limbo with watertanks but we did get sewing machines.

Two members of the Women’s Committee and I wrote a proposal to the New Zealand Aid Agency for 10 new hand crank Singers, fabric, and thread. The request was granted and we’ve had the machines for about 6 weeks. They are permanently housed at the Fale Komiti and will be available for use to all residents of the village. Next week we are having a sewing workshop taught by 4 expert seamstresses from the Committee and myself. It will cover the basics, like threading a machine, and will work up to sewing togiga and puletasi (school uniforms and dresses). The machines are a great way to save time (hand sewing being the alternative) and money (paying someone to sewing mandatory school uniforms). I’m really proud of my ladies for realizing how important it is to provide education and not just the machines. The 4 experts are also taking a full week out of their lives for sewing school. I’ve been preparing for SS all week: greasing up the machines and making posters. I’m excited to see how it goes.

Fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Nick Shuraleff, came to Tufutafoe to do a diabetes and high blood pressure testing clinic. We tested around 50 people in a day and a half. It seems that my village has a very high rate of (possible) Diabetes and HBP: compared with the other villages Nick has tested. Also in comparison, Tufu has a low obesity rate. It kind of throws a wrench in Nick’s “just, look at these numbers, there is a direct correlation between HBP, Diabetes, and Obesity” argument. Nah, Tufu is a just a fluke: it‘s genetics. There is a direct correlation between HBP, D, and O. Check out Nick’s blog. There is even a bit about my African Giant Snail genocide mission. People that had dangerously high blood sugar or pressure were referred to the hospital where they can be retested and put on appropriate medication for, I’m assuming, an affordable sum. I know that an epileptic boy gets his medication for $4 WST (or less than $2 US) a month. The testing made me realize what a prominent problem the diseases are here. Samoa has the worldwide 2nd highest rate of adult onset Diabetes. Diet, exercise, and awareness are key in fighting the diseases. Nick ended the first day of testing by making a giant cauldron of low sugar pineapple preserves; awesome with fresh bread and good for you. At night, Nick stayed in my bed and I took to the mats next door with my ladies. Since they stay here to protect me, I got to sleep wedged in the middle of a Samoan people fortress. Obviously learning nothing from the first night’s snore decibel reading, I forgot to grab my earplugs the second night.

I wrote about Whiskey, my first dog. I thought Whiskey ran away for good so I got a new puppy. Yogi! Fat little flea infested Yogi. The same day village girls showed up with Yogi, Whiskey instinctually returned from her 2 month sabbatical. I guess she was jealous. Whiskey was back for good and decided that she should become viscously protective of me and Yogi. She started attacking everyone that walked by on the road and then started nipping at kids, wee kids. My house is a busy place: the Fale Komiti is the villages main meeting hall. This behavior was not cool! Then she started following me on my daily trips to the school and biting kids there. It was awful. All the buildings are open here, there is no way to keep her out and I wouldn’t be able to go to Apia to buy a chain for at least a month. I was upset and asked some older respected Samoans what I should do. They saw no problem and complimented Whiskey’s violent nature. They said she would keep the bad people away at night and keep the kids from bugging me. Then people started asking if they could have Whiskey. After the whole village called her a scrawny chicken eating floozy for months, Whiskey had turned into a swan in high demand. I gave her to a recently robbed teacher from a neighboring village. And…… It took Whiskey 4 hours to find her way back. We tried again today, this time with a chain and confusing bus ride. I hope it sticks. Hmmm. I may miss Whiskey. But, she smelled just awful, so maybe not. And she’ll probably come back. I also seem to have acquired a festering footed cat named Cat. Anyone that’s seen The Incredible Journey knows I have the major players. And I am not willingly taking 3 ill-behaved animals back to America.

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