Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I haven’t posted a blog in months. Things have been busy.

Sewing School: Aoga Suisui

It was a success! We had a five day sewing school at Women’s Committee house. 4 experienced village seamstresses taught informal classes and I assisted. By the first day of sewing school, beginners were sewing dresses, bedcovers, and school uniforms. There was some initial confusion about the purpose of the machines. We started the first day with numerous ladies dropping piles of cloth in front of me, explaining the type of garment they wanted me whip up. When that was rectified, the ladies did a great job of staying focused, sharing limited equipment, and being very productive…. Most of them completed at least 2 items for every 1 day session. The ladies pulled a couple kids out of school for the week to thread needles for them. Something I found distressing, yet useful. Sewing school ended later and later every day, until we were kicking people out at 9:00 on Friday night.

It’s been a few months since the school and all 10 machines are still living at the Committee House. I have cleverly thwarted requests from various people in the village to keep the machines as presents. The ladies have devised a schedule to establish equal use of the machines for everyone. Each of the villages 4 groups is given a week during the month when they can come to the Committee and use the machines AND every Thursday is village sewing day when anyone can come. I see at least 1 person using a machine every day. The Chinese Singers have the odds stacked against them. Right out of the box, only 7 out of the 10 machines we received were in working order. We were able to repair the other 3. So, if the machines can make it with their own cheap parts, they next have to deal with the tropical climate. The machines are kept in a room that has simple paneless windows in a location prone to heavy rains and high wind. And each machine must be pulled out of it’s cubby, then out of it’s box, then carried by a handle to the Committee house. The Committee house is quite close to the room BUT the hinged locks that hold the heavy machine base onto the handled lids are undependable. They just don’t fit together right and the heavy machines tend to slip away from the lid and fall on the ground, down the stairs, on your foot, or on a slow dog. So machines that didn’t work that well to begin with, often get wet and beat up. That’s Samoa.

Nofoe and Yogi

Muta'aga and Vatiana learn how to wind bobbins.

All the ladies with their new duds on display in the background.

Fiji: Fiti

I went to Fiji with the Group 80 girls: Briony, Erica, Karin, and Liz. Check out Liz and Erica’s rundowns at: (liz) and (erica). Because, why reinvent the wheel? But here is a picture of a cool place Erica and I went outside of Suva.

Primary School:
I’ve been teaching at Tufutafoe Primary School. I didn’t come to the village to teach, and have had no teacher’s training. I’m scrambling to pull together lessons: a big reason I’ve been so busy. The village has been encouraging me to teach since I got here a year ago and I’ve been fighting it. The Peace Corps and it’s Samoan counterpart, the Samoan Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development have both been adamant about us trying to focus more on village wide projects: like water tanks, technology centers, the sewing machine school, community gardens, etc. I felt like I had many village-wide projects completed or in the works, and I’d grown a bit bored. So, I decided teaching would be my extra project. I am the “reading in English” teacher. I go to the school Monday through Thursday and relieve the multilevel teachers of half their class to read and play word games. I’m starting Where the Red Fern Grows with the Year 7&8 kids. I have free range in the classroom as to where I want to take my teaching. I would like to do projects about diversity, organic gardening, photography, and geography. I started teaching 2 months ago and this is how my schedule has gone. Week 1 and 2, AOK. Week 3 and 4, all public schools were shut down to prevent the further spread of Fulu Puaa: Swine Flu. Week 5, Monday was a holiday, the rest of the week, no classes for teachers training, Week 6, AOK. Week 7, midservice Peace Corps Meeting all week. Week 8, last week, I was back at the school. It was my fourth week of teaching in 2 months. Next week the whole school is going to Apia for a national Song and Dance competition about road safety. This is concerning the upcoming road switch, where, as of September 7th, all drivers will switch to the driving on the left side of the road. It’s a story in itself. And so is the fact that tiny little forgotten Tufutafoe, Samoa’s most remote village has made it into the finals for the Song and Dance Competition: only 4 villages out of hundreds make it to the finals. I love a good underdog. The song is awesome. My favorite line is “people in this country is our biggest industry”. It refers to steady export of Samoans to developed countries to work and send home remittances which constitute the majority of village families incomes. So, with that in mind, practice road safety vigilantly. Less than 2 weeks till Switch Day.

My Year 6 reading group.

Little Year 2 boy name Fa'aopo

The Road Safety Song and Dance competition. Fa'aluma, the boy in the white leads, the kids.

Composting Toilet:
Fellow PCV, Benj Harding, got the ball rolling for a composting toilet project before I even got to Samoa. He did his research and worked to get other volunteers interested in the project. It stuck with me. Last week I was informed that I would receive funding for a demonstration toilet through the program Appropriate Projects. I am going to have a few people help me build the new toilet at the Committee House. A composting toilet is a toilet that composts human waste into a humus or topsoil that is suitable as soil enhancer for tree crops, such as pepper, cocoa, banana, nonu, breadfruit, coconut, mango, and star fruit. As well as providing non-chemical fertilizer, a composting toilet dramatically decreases the amount of water the average person uses daily flushing a toilet. For reasons illogical, but consistent with western standards, water-scarce Tufutafoe has adopted tank flush and pour flush toilets. I flush my toilet once a day. If I don’t go for a full shower I use 1/3 of my total daily water supply on flushing the toilet, if I do the full shower, ¼. That’s a lot of washing, cooking, and drinking water wasted. The composting toilet I’m building doesn’t use any water beyond a half liter or so for weekly cleaning of the bowl. Also, there is not a public human waste disposal system in Tufutafoe. People dig pits and sculpt a concrete cover overtop for their flush toilets… Or just dig a deep tight hole and throw a toilet shed on top. Either way, human waste and pathogens are seeping into the ground and, therefore, into local groundwater. This creates unsanitary conditions in our couple of freshwater springs. They are used by 7 families for washing, cooking, and bathing and by the whole village for swimming. The composting toilet decreases ground water contamination by sealing raw waste in a concrete container where it heats up, such is the composting process, killing dangerous pathogens. So thank you Appropriate Projects. You can see the project here and other projects here.

Finally here are some photos, mostly of Yogi.




Getting bigger, but he won't be full grown for months. Quite stout for a Samoan dog.

Nearby Falealupo's church ruins. The church was destroyed by a large hurricane in 1989.

Bones of unknown people that were ungraved during the same hurricane.

My 8 year old neighboor draws a picture of me.

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