Friday, July 29, 2011

My Vice Principal's name is Viper, and other sundry facts about my life on the Rock.

Hello all!

It's been some time since I've posted. Things have just been a whirlwind around here, and I keep meaning to post, but alas, I have not. Let's see, where did I leave off? Ah, yes, I believe it was right after the island tour and the tuna dressed as Polamalu. So, nothing terribly interesting happened during the week last week, at least not that I remember (or maybe life here is just SO interesting, that I can't possibly remember all the awesome.)Oh! I think it was last week that we did a short, steep hike up to Blount's Point, which was this totally amazing WWII cannon site. You're just climbing up a mountain in the jungle and oh, hey, heavy artillery cannon! Of course, being the history nerd that I am, I had a mini freakout. And the view from up there, OMG (or as that say in AmSam, "OKAAAAAA".)

On Saturday, however, a couple of friends and I decided we wanted to kayaking. So we get down to Pago Harbor and rent a couple of kayaks to take out on the ocean. Well, my friend Kasey and I are in a two person kayak, and we get pretty far out in the ocean, and we begin to realize that our kayak is getting more and more water in it. Soon, there's only about one inch of kayak left above the water line. Yep. Our kayak was sinking. It was very soon after we realized this (and had JUST gotten our stuff into Jessica's kayak), that we both took a lovely, unintentional dip into the ocean. We knew we couldn't both get back into the kayak, being as how it was of the sinking variety, but we had to get it back to shore, so Kasey got back in and straddled the center section and somehow paddled that thing back to sure. I, on the other hand, had to hoof it back to shore. Or rather, swim it. I was really far out. To my everylasting shame as a Park Ranger, I am terrible at measuring distance, but one of the other girls told me she thinks it was about a half mile out. Anyway, I did receive some assistance for the other ladies, especially Erin, who literally threw me a line. I didn't really freak out too much, because I was desperately trying not to think about what was underneath me in the ocean. I love water (LOVE!), but as some of you know (Hi, sister!), I have this weird fear of thing IN the water. Not fish or sharks or anything like that. I don't like things like the rusted out anchor that I swam by in Pago Harbor. (I keep wanting to put a "u" in Harbor. What's up with that?). Anyway, I can't explain why, but man made things in water freak me out. So I was just swimming on back to shore, blissfully pretending that there aren't things from like, WWII, at the bottom of Pago Harbor.

Anyway, kayaking was a lot of fun, and now I can add "sinking a kayak in the Pacific Ocean" to the list of improbable things that always seem to happen to me. (Sometimes when I tell people some of the things that have happened to me, I can tell they don't believe me. Then I think, hell, I probably wouldn't believe me, either. Lol.)

I should mention that on the way back home, we saw the same blue kayak sunk again, with different people. So it wasn't just us.

I didn't do crap on Sunday, and it was glorious.

Monday morning we got to go check out(ha!) the public library on American Samoa. It was totally sweet and probably the cleanest place I've seen on the island. I was super excited to go to the library, and they showed us all the awesome stuff the library has to offer, and then they are all, "Oh, yeah, it's great, but BTW, you can't get a library card because you're not a permanent resident." So, what some people are doing is getting an American Samoan drivers license, and then they'll give you a card. Seems a lot of hassle, I know, but we all know how far I will go for the opportunity to have unlimited books at my disposal.

We talked about International Development on Monday afternoon (at least, I think it was Monday, all the days blurr together). I, of course, was really into that class. I had so much to say, and I am absolutely sure I irritated all my classmates because I just kept talking, but it can't be helped. Internationl Development and History are my first loves.

TUESDAY WAS AWESOME. What did we do on Tuesday morning? Guesses? WE WENT TO THE NATIONAL PARK OF AMERICAN SAMOA!!!!!!!!!!!! The Park Rangers gave us a little Interp talk and the slide show included a pic of Grinell Glacier in Glacier NP, and I got all excited. And then I got sad, because I was kind of feeling like I should have been up there in the ol' green and gray, talking about natural resources and the endangered fruit bat (native to Samoa!). Plus, I miss Glacier, and I would be there right now. Anyway, I had an amazing time with the Interp Rangers. I really, really tried not to talk about how awesome the park service is, or act like a know-it-all about the park service to all my fellow WorldTeachers, because I know that's obnoxious, and a trait I do tend to have. I'm not sure I was entirely sucessful (I keep reminding people that the Park Service and Forest Service are not the same thing, and Park Rangers do not work in National Forests, and I'm sure that's getting irritating to those around me. But hey, at least I'm self aware, right?! Lol.)

After the park, we went to a place called Fagatele Bay, and it was so beautiful. The hike down was slippery and slidy and the hike back up was a bitch, but so worth it. I started to go snorkeling way out in the ocean deep, but I don't have fins yet, so I stayed right were the coral reef drops off into the ocean. It was so amazing to snorkel there, but unfortunetly, where the coral reef ends is also where the waves break, so I got totally beat up. I kept getting smashed against the edge of the coral, and coral cuts are not something to take lightly. My legs look like I took a cheese shredder to them. But luckily, none of the cuts look too deep, which is good, because coral can actually GROW INSIDE YOU if you get in in a cut. Gross.

For the last two days we have been doing fake lessons in front of real kids, which has been...okay, but a little bit boring, I'm not gonna lie. It's a lot like preparing an Interp program for the parks, really. But it's been cool to get meet some of the kids.

First thing today I got to meet the Vice Principal of Leone High School, where I will be teaching. His name is Viper. I am not kidding. The funny thing is, I've only been in American Samoa for three weeks and I'm already so accepting of the bizarre, like, "Oh, of course one of the administrators at my school is called Viper. I mean, why wouldn't he be?" He was telling the group that those of us going to Leone are in for a good time at the staff parties (there was something about pole dancing in there, lol.) So, I am really super stoked after meeting him to get out to Leone and meet all the teachers and just be a part of the village.

Tonight is Thursday, which means it's Flight Night (planes only come into AmSam twice a week, and it's a bit of an event. People get dressed up and go watch people arrive off the plane.)One of our field directors, Alison, is leaving, so we all got gussied up and went over to airport and did the whole Flight Night thing and it was ridiculous and a lot of fun. We were watching the arrivals and two girls that were in my fake lessons came up to me and were all, "Hi, Miss Amber" and was really cool. I guess now I understand how my mom feels when her students see her in the grocery store or somewhere and make a point to say hi. Anyway, these girls were waiting for a cousin to get back from the States, which could be their actual cousin, or could be their seventh cousin six times removed, because family (aiga) is the end all and be all here. It's kind of nice, since I, too, come from a huge family with a rather loose definition of what it means to be family. We just let anyone in, lol.

While we were watching the arrivals, this family came out to greet their dad, and the little girls were crying, they were so happy to see them, and it was just so beautiful to see and it reminded me of the beginning of Love Actually and oh, it was just lovely. As my friend Mitch said as we watched it unfold, "I hope my kids will love me that much." Sigh. The whole thing was so cute. I'm such sucker for familial love. Or, let's be honest, any love. I am surely a romantic.

ANYWAY, I digress. Flight Night was good fun, and I walked back from the airport with Lisa, Jillian and Katherine, and per usual, being in their company was just one solid hour of hilarity and fun. Then I took a shower (did I mention hot water is not even an option on this island?), and I talked for a bit to our night watchmen ( his name is Samoa Samoa. The names here, I swear.)He actually played for the Bengals during the Steel Curtain days of the Steelers, and he got to play against Terry Bradshaw, Lambert, all those guys.

I'm beginning to think that every tenth person on this island has played professional football. And why not? Samoans are massive. Not necessarily fat, but just gigantic. I found out that the US military had to add a special "Samoan Weight Class" because it was like impossible for the Samoans to fit in the standard weight class without looking like they were sick and starving to death. I find this both hilarious, and also completely badass. I should mention that Samoans are way into the military, but this post is already hella long, so that is a post for another day.

Until next time,

Manuia le po!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A tuna fish called Polamalu.


Been a crazy couple of days. Most of Thursday was composed of training on things like How to Teach with Textbooks. It's pretty intense trying to learn in three weeks what education majors spend four years of college learning. I went with Rosa and Julie to Bank of Hawai'i to open an account. The only two banks in the country are Bank of Hawai'i and ANZ, a bank from New Zealand. I thought it'd be easier for me to deal with an American bank. Plus, I had a Bank of Hawai'i account when I lived in Hilo.

We had another Samoan language class on Thursday. I should mention that most everyone speaks English here, but their first language is Samoan, and their English skills are hit or miss. I really want to learn as much Samoan as I can, but it's a really difficult language. I think part of it may be the way we are learning it. I don't do well just learning random phrases, I need to know what each word in a sentence means, so that I can make new sentences by myself. It's driving me crazy, the way we are learning the language.

We did more classroom stuff on Friday, and then I went again with Julie and Rosa to the fabric store and the sewing shop to get some Samoan clothing made. It's a little frustrating, because all the WorldTeach literature we were sent said knee-length skirts were perfectly fine for teaching, and when we get here we find out that skirts need to be at least to right about the ankles. This would be a problem if we had known this all along, but know many of us only brought skirts that hit mid calf or so, and we can't wear them to school. Anyway, since I don't have any long skirts, I went to the fabric store and picked out some awesome green fabric and some blue fabric. I took it and the WorldTeach fabric they gave us to the sewing shop and I'm having three ies (skirts) and one pulatasi (full outfit) made. They should be ready next week, and it's only going to cost around $30.

Friday night we hitched a ride to this cafe a couple of miles away. It was an interesting experience, because they totally segregated the non-Samoans. At first I though I was imagining it, but sure enough, every Samoan that entered got sat on the side with nice cloth tableclothes and decorations, and all the non-Samoans were on the side with no tableclothes and crappy chairs. It was crazy. I'd never experience anything like it. I wasn't really offended, more like shocked and amused.

Yesterday was completely awesome. We had two hours of class on classroom management (which I'm most scared about). And then we did an amazing island tour for the next five hours. It's was so amazing. This place is so beautiful. I saw the house I'll be living in in Leone, it's so cute! And we went to this place called Sliding Rock over by our house in Leone, and it's so amazing and beatiful. I'll post pictures when I figure out how.

But the most excellent thing I saw on this island tour was a tuna fish dressed as Troy Polamalu. Yes, you heard me right. A tuna. Dressed as Polamalu. The main employer on the island is Starkist tuna, and across the street from the factory, they have a giant statue of a tuna fish. And he's dressed like Polamalu. It's pretty much the best thing ever.

Anyway, it maybe Sunday, but I still have class in twenty minutes. I'll catch you on the flip side!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today I paid a dollar to ride the bus 400 yards.

Talofa Lava! (Greetings!)

Second day of training today! I can't believe I've only been here three days, in some ways it feels like forever. I think I feel comfortable here because it reminds me a lot of Hawai'i, especially Hilo. On the other hand, I still need to figure out my way around the island. For instance, today Julie and I paid a dollar to ride the island bus to the cell phone store, which turned out to be 400 yards down the road. Literally as soon as the driver finished accelerating, he had to hit the brakes for us to get off. Lol. We looked so stupid, I'm sure. I should mention that the island buses are so awesome, all painted different colors, with music blasting, and all a little shady. But it only cost a dollar, even if you go the whole way across the island!

I did get a cell phone! It works like this: I put money on my phone, and I can call the U.S. for 11 cents/min. However, if someone from the Mainland United States wants to call me, it doesn't cost me a thing. I don't know how much it costs YOU, but my number is 684-733-5909. Feel free to call, but don't forget that I'm 7 hours behind Eastern Time! In fact, American Samoa is literally the last place in the world to see the sun set everyday. We're right on the International Date Line. (Technically it's Western Samoa right now, but they are switching over the Dateline in December so they can do business with Asia.)

Training has been much like training for the Park Service, actually. At least, all the Interp training we went through at Glacier. We did some example lesson plans today, and I'm getting excited about teaching science. I mean, Earth Science is pretty fun, and pretty much what I've been doing as a Park Ranger anyway. Tutuila is a volcanic island, so I'm really gonna teach as much geology as I can.

We've been having some Samoan language lessons. I am usually really good with languages, but man, Samoan is hard. I'm really determined to learn it, though, even if I sound a fool.

I really like all the other WorldTeachers. I mean, I guess it makes sense, since we are the same sort of people, those who would pack up and move to an island in the South Pacific for a year to teach. I'm so used to getting the reaction of awe when I tell people all the places I've been and the things I've done. It's kind of refreshing that no one here is all that impressed, because they've been awesome places as well. It's like, "Well, I see your living in England and I raise you a childhood in Slovenia." Lol.

Dinner soon, but first, some important news!

HARRY POTTER IS COMING TO AMSAM! A bunch of us are going to see it either Friday or Saturday. The only movie theater in the country is only about a half mile down the road. It only had two screens and looks a little sketch, but I just totally do not care. HP! Super excited.

I guess you can take the girl and put her on a tropical island, but you can't palm tree and sunshine the nerd out of her.

Anyway. Until next time!

I'm kinda of a big deal in American Samoa...

Crazy busy day today. We took a bus into Pago Harbor (it should be noted that we didn't actually drive into the harbor, we drove to the town by Pago), and did the usual "My name is Amber and I like aardvarks" icebreakers that you always do in new groups. Of course, we got to do it in a completely awesome setting with mountains and palm trees and oceans, oh my!

We then had to go into town and do a scavenger hunt that consisted of things like, "Take a picture of the Courthouse," and "Try not to look like too much of an idiot palagi (new word! Means 'white person'.)"

While we were doing our icebreakers, this tv crew from a local station came over and interviewed two of us: me and Mitch. (Mitch is the previously mentioned Canadian.) Now, I'm not sure just what channel these people work for, but who know? Maybe Mitch and I are soon to be kinda of big deals in American Samoa. Lol.

We also had our first Samoan language class today, but for me, the best part of the day was when we road one of the island buses back to our school, and the windows were down, the breeze blowing, the ocean just being...there, and island music blasting from the speakers. It was epic.

In other news, I'm beginning to get used to communal showers with only cold water and no real pipes, just PVC. I DID check to see if the water drained the opposite way down the drain than in the Northern Hemisphere, just to make sure all those elementary teachers that told us that weren't lying. They weren't. It does.

Anyway. I'm super tired. Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

This is what I woke up to this morning, how about you?

Yep, that's right. For perhaps the first time in my entire life, I woke up with no assistance just before 6am, even though I only have to walk downstairs for training and it's not until 8 am. I kept looking at my watch like, "Is this really right?" Lol. Has to be the time zone thing. After all, it's noon at home.

Since I'm got some time, I'll give you the details on my experience thus far. On Sunday, I traveled from Atlanta to Dallas to LA. Watched the US women's soccer team beat Brazil in Dallas, so that was fun. Got to LA around 2:30 pm, and headed out to meet the promised shuttle to the Holiday Inn Express we were staying the night at, courtesy of WorldTeach. Unfortunetly, no one told us we had to call for the shuttle (all the other hotels just kept circling the terminal) so like an idiot, I stood there for 45 minutes until I finally called the hotel to see what was up. So I didn't actually get to the hotel until 4:30, where I promptly fell asleep.

Spend the night in LA bonding with the other 22 volunteers, and they are all totally awesome. A couple of Western PA peeps, and even some from around where my parents are in Alabama! We were supposed to have a meeting at 9pm with someone from WorldTeach, but they never showed. Hopefully that's not a sign of things to come, lol.

Woke up yesterday morning and heading to LAX at 7am. No troubles checking in, and soon we were off to Honolulu! Haven't been in Hawai'i since I lived there back in 2006, so even though it was only for four hours, it was cool to be back in the ol' 808.

Next thing you know, we're on the place for Pago Pago! We got here around 9:30 pm, and I breezed through Customs (the Canadian amongst us was not so lucky, he got "pulled aside" into a special room where he had to pay an immigration fee.) The airport in AmSam is hilarious. All these locals show up when the plane comes in on Monday and Thursday, just to see who's coming in. It's like entertainment. Someone told me they even have a local show called Flight Night, that documents all the arrivals to Pago Pago. Made me feel kinda like a Rock Star, not gonna lie.

Apparently, I missed Troy Polamalu visit to his home country by two weeks. Which is probably a good thing, 'cause I might have embarrassed myself it I had met him. And by embarrass myself, I mean something like throw myself at him and beg him to have my babies. :)

Anywho, we got on a bus and they took us to the town of Nu'uuli, where we will be staying that school there during the three weeks of training. Pretty they just showed up a room with a ton of mattresses and said, "This is your room. Have at it." It was all very America's Next Top Model. Lol. But all things said and done, I slept really well, and even woke up completely by myself at 6am. Then I headed outside to see the view and holy crap, what a view! That's the photo above, basically right out my window. All and all, I think I'm gonna like it here.

Training starts soon, and I need to grab some breakfast, so until next time, enjoy your life that's probably not on a tropical island. :)

Just arrived!

Well, guys, I'm gonna keep this pretty short and sweet, cause I'm crazy tired. We just arrived in American Samoa after a five hour flight to Hawai'i, a four hour layover in Hawai'i, and another five hour flight to American Samoa.

We are spending the next three weeks sleeping summer camp style in a high school on foam mattresses on the floor. Should be interesting. Tomorrow we start training at 8am. It's almost 1 am now.

I'm totally gonna post more about the trip and my first impressions later, but for now, I'm hitting the sack. I can barely keep my eyes open to type this. Just wanted you all to know I alive.

I'm going to try to get this blog going the whole year, but we'll see. I'm not really a blogger. Lol.

If you are bothering to read this, I'm sure I miss you!