Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Leaving Manunu


Just when you think you can’t take anymore celebrations and goodbyes, the village has a huge ceremony the next morning for our departure. The village paraded out to us and to our amazement, we were presented with all kinds of food, including a freshly slaughter cow (a major honor), a huge cooked pig, many smaller cooked pigs, taro, canned mackerel and corned beef. Then there was another round of tears and hugging and kissing. We all were overwhelmed and exhausted by this final event.

On August 22, we again return to Manunu for our swearing in ceremony. Who knows what awaits us?

Villagers Parade Towards Us

A Village Orator Makes Presentation

Our Gifts of Food

Yes, It's a Whole Pig

Holy Cow! Is That a Cow?

It Takes a Truck to Make a Meal

Good Byes.

Last Manunu Fia Fia


For the past two weeks we have been practicing for our going away fia fia, never quite realizing just what a night is was going to be. Our ladies had to learn a traditional Samoan dance to the song “Red Hibiscus”, our men a traditional Samoan slap dance, and together we rehearsed a short religious play spoken in Samoan. As you may see from the practice photos, we were not always in sync.

The actual fia fia is really a huge event done outside in front of the church. It seemed that everyone in the village either sang or danced. It lasted for over two hours. The dancing and singing were truly amazing. The men’s performances exuding strength and virility, the younger women beauty and grace, and the married women sang traditional songs. Each group would pull some of us out of the audience to join them. The men tended to favor our younger female volunteers while the married women grabbed our males. The unmarried woman Samoan girls just remained lovely and elusive. I was pulled out and suddenly this woman jumped up on me, knocking off my glasses. It was that kind of night. A night when traditions ruled and inhibitions tabled.

We in the Peace Corps seemed to thrill the crowd. Each villager bragged about the performance given by their “Pisikoa”. Unfortunately, the lighting was terrible and the flash on my camera not strong enough to capture the event. Well maybe even if I could have taken pictures, it still would not have captured the night. As they say, you just had to be there.

Ladies Practicing "Red Hibiscus" Dance

Men Practicing Slap Dance

Ready to Perform

What Can I Say?

It's Showtime!

Friday, August 17, 2007

LPI, Final Language Test


Today marks our final and most important assessment, the Language Proficiency Exam. The Peace Corps wants us to score at least at the Intermediate Low Level of the LPI index. This level is one in which we should at least be able to survive on out own. We are to be able to tell people about ourselves, find our way around on buses and the ferry, shop for food and items, and ask other people about their families, etc.

The test is conducted in 20 minute sessions by an independent tester and is recorded. Our group all passed. Of course, they are many who greatly exceeded the minimum level. The pictures may give you some idea of the tension as we awaited our term. Mary was the first to go, and had the rest of the day to relax.
P.S. Everyone passed, even the old people!

Arriving for the test


Mary, the first to go.

Shuraleff's New Village


We learned that we have been assigned a new village for our permanent assignment. The name of the village is Iva. It is on the island of Savaii which we have to get to by ferry. It is all we know at the present time. Peace Corps still must make some final checks.

Queen of Sheba


Ever wonder what sleeping in the tropics is like?

Now, you know.

The Bushes are Alive


We are within a few days of permanently leaving our training village of Manunu; the friendships that have been incubating are beginning to hatch into full fledged romances.
Some romances are between Peace Corps members; others are between Peace Corps and villagers. Who can resist these wonderful Samoans and this magical setting?

There are predictions as to who first marries a Samoan. Whether volunteers get married here or not, Samoa will be a hard place to leave.

Being the oldest in our group, I am enjoying watching the comings and goings of our younger members. I am glad those years are behind me.

Painting Manunu Primary School


Today marks another major event for both the Peace Corps and the villagers of Manunu. About three days ago, a young couple from Denver, Colorado, Shawn and Jennifer Meyers, and heir two children, Makela and Jake, came into the Peace Corps office in Apia. They are on a 15 month sailing trip to Australia and want to do a helpful project in which their children could participate. They leave for Tonga on Monday. Would the Peace Corps be interested?

When presented with the proposal, we jumped on the opportunity. We developed some ideas, presented them to the village leaders. It was decided to paint and make repairs at the local primary school. The Meyers would pay for the supplies; the village and Peace Corps would provide the labor. Only it all had to be done that Saturday afternoon!

Makela, the Meyer’s daughter, when asked if she had ever been to school like the one in Manunu, she replied in horror that she had not. It was in that much need of repair. The school has four rooms, 50 students, two teachers, eight grades, almost no supplies.

At 1:00 pm we all gathered and started. The Meyers were great, helping to organize, direct, and dig in with everyone else. In one afternoon, the entire school was painted, both inside and out, new linoleum flooring was laid, and minor repairs made. Some volunteers helped keep the children occupied with crafts, while the rest of us grabbed paint brushes.

I will let the pictures tell the story for this impromptu project. We all went to sleep early that night feeling that we all had accomplished something worthwhile. We were Peace Corps.
Shawn, Jennifer, Makela, and Jake Meyers
Boulder, Colorado

Getting Organized

Getting Started

Iusi and Sani

Cati Entertains Kids with Crafts



Keveni, Lini, and Malia with Manunu Officials

Jennifer, Paulo, and Boy with Knife
Lini and Maleko
Ikopo aka Jakob

Maleko and Keli



Niko, the Photog

Keveni, School Project Organizer

Children Singing to Us

School Front Before

School Front After

School Back Before

School Back After

Meyers Receiving Gift Mats from Village

At the End of the Day

"It Won't Be Long"


“It Won’t be Long”
Lyrics & Music
Tusi Magugatai

It won’t be long
You will be leaving here
It won’t be long
You’ll be going home
Counted years as month
Counted months as week
Counted weeks as days
Any day now,
You’ll be going home

In Samoan
E le’o toe umi
Ona outou tu’uu lea
E le’o toe umi
Malaga ese atu ma Manunu
Faitau tausaga
Faitau masina
Faitau vaiaso
Ua lata
I o outou aiga.

Last Sunday in Manunu


8:30 am Service

Today marks our last Sunday in Manunu and also Samoan Father’s Day. For those of us whose families attend the EFKS (Congregational Church) in Manunu, it is quite a day as the church bids us farewell. Several Peace Corps members participated in the service while four of us spoke to honor our fathers. I may add that some Peace Corps volunteers go to the local Mormon Church in the Village of Sauniatu because of their host families.

At the conclusion, or more properly the extension, of the service, we all got up on stage and were given ulas (leis) made of candy by members of the village. This recognizing of Peace Corps, our trainers, host families, fathers, and anyone else in the community lasted for over an hour. It worked something like this: You come up, the villager’s parade by, giving you a kiss and an ula. You then reciprocate by placing one of your ulas on some one else. At times you are heavy with candy, at other times light.

Over the weeks, I have noticed a change in the pastor, and us. The pastor has come face to face with many non-believers and has found us to not be so bad. He has even accepted and even welcomed our secular speeches in front of his congregation. His tone is much more welcoming than the initial commanding rhetoric. I think we in the Peace Corps too have come to recognize the importance he and the church plays in the life of Samoa. Maybe this last Sunday is some sort of reconciliation by us all. Maybe.

Lisi and Maleko Getting Ready to Speak

Lini with Candy Lei

Reception Line

Kissing and Hugging Continues

Morning Service Group with Leis

4:00 pm Service

Just when you think your emotions can not handle any more, the EFKS church shows once more their sorrow about the Peace Corps leaving during a 2 ½ hour program performed mainly the Youth Group. Fortunately, those three Peace Corps Volunteers who went to the Mormon Church in the morning and missed the morning EFKS service, were able to join us in the afternoon. The Meyers family who donated money for the school project on Saturday and some of their sailing companions also attended.

The feelings of loss one felt as the Youth Group sang, danced, and did skits, was felt by all. The final song was especially written by Tusi, from our host family, for the occasion.
There was hardly a dry eye. (See “It Won’t be Long” post for lyrics).

At the end of Youth Group Program, we all got up on stage and again formed a line as each church member hugged and kissed us goodbye.

Safyia Singing

Youth Choir Performing

Skit about the Evils of Alcohol

Meyers Family Being Recognized for Donating Money to Repaint School

Reception Line after Afternoon Servive