Monday, March 28, 2011

Relearning Samoan

March 28, 2011

Samoan lessons during my initial Peace Corps training was shear hell. Everyday going to the classes taught by Samoans was wrought with terror in hopes I would not be called. Nothing made sense and no one could understand even the few phrases I spoke. I did end up just passing the final exam with a "Low Intermediate" proficiency rating.

Now I am reviewing and teaching myself. Amazingly, I can't believe how well I am doing. I get 100% on my self-corrected exercises, even my pronunciation is flawless. A+ is what I give myself.

Who am I kidding?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Digs

March 25, 2011
While I am living in a one bedroom, cinder block house in Apia, Samoa, Mary is going to be moving into our just purchased 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 3 level , 2 deck, 2 car townhouse in the Lake Calhoun/Lake of the Isles area of Minneapolis. Her 2 1/2 year search has finally ended.

We did have to make some compromises from our original "must" requirements, which were:
-Be one level to accommodate our projected infirmities. It does have 3 levels, we aren't infirmed yet.
-Have a deck for Mary's potted plants. We have two decks, front and back.
-Be in the city, close to walking paths and public transit. That it is.
-We only plan to keep our one car, but you never know.
But anyone who has ever made a big purchase understands, makes plans for the future, or falls in love, you need to be flexible and let the "force" be your guide. Now, Mary can do what she really likes to do, redecorate.
As to our present condo? We haven't decided what to do. Maybe rent it, sell it, or keep it vacant for unanticipated long-term guests or relatives. All I know is we close on April 6th and I leave on April 10th.
Here is what our new digs look like:

Front View

Front Deck
Rear Deck,

note park for future grandchildren
Master Bath, note flat wash basins.

Not shown an open shower and a Jaccuzi
(Wonder who the previous owner was?)
"The Wall", main level view
"The Wall", from upper level stairs

Food and Drink Preperation Area
Main level towards street
Main Level towards park

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Working Unemployed

March 24, 2011

This past week has been hellish.

There is the pressure of waiting to see if our offer on a townhouse will be met. The sellers have already given us a couple of "final offers", but we stand pat. There is a certain power in the word "cash".

I am officially not a Peace Corps Volunteer until departure on April 10th, but I find myself up to the yazoo in coconuts trying to understand what may be in store. There is a constant barrage of emails trying to define goals, objectives, etc. for this year and determine what exactly did happen last year. Email is fast and cheap, but nothing beats eyeball-to-eyeball for anyone wanting to get something done. I feel most of my Samoan contacts are on board. I just don't know if we are all on the same ship.

I purchased 5,000 (50lbs) of Bubble Gum colored vinyl wristbands to affix on Samoan wrists to identify the participants in my health project. Can't wait to see what happens.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Some things are just not fun. Negotiating is one of them. It pits one party against the other, each wanting what the other has.

We are now in the midst of negotiating for a townhouse. Our bid is considered reasonable by our realtor and a "waste of time" by the seller, a large company who took it over on a foreclosure.

Our position is a cash offer with no contingencies, immediate sale, based on the fact that townhouses in this complex are simply not selling at all. Their position is ??

I am leaving for Samoa April 10th.

Negotiating usually boils down to money and who blinks first.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is Samoa Challenge III?

March 17, 2011

Samoa Health Challenge III

"Look Better, Feel Better,

and Be Better"

What is the Samoa Challenge III?

The program helps adults of Samoa to “Look Better, Feel Better, and Be Better”.

The 10-week Challenge is a fun and easy way to control weight through nutrition and exercise.

Why is the Challenge Needed?

Everyone wants to “Look Better, Feel Better, and Be Better”. The easiest way to reach these goals is through weight control. This is difficult because of changing Samoan lifestyles and diet.

Failure to control weight not only makes you feel bad about your appearance and loss of energy, but also greatly increases your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases are a huge cost to families in having to take care of affected persons, but also drain away funds from the National Health Service that could be used to treat other sicknesses.

How does the Challenge Work?

Each participant is asked to sign a “Samoan Challenge III Pledge” which states that they will try to: “Exercise and walk more. Eat less fatty foods. Eat and drink fewer sweets. Eat more local fresh fruits and vegetables”.

To help in their efforts to lose weight, every participant gets a pink plastic wristband to remind them of their pledge. Each participant also is part of a group made up of their friends, family, coworkers, women’s committee, church, village councils, school, youth group, or organization. Each group should have at least 20 members and a group leader.

The group is lead by their group leader who is given training and support materials. The group is to meet at least once a week to exercise and learn about ways to control weight. Men and women 21 years of age or older can join the group at anytime. Scales are provided to measure a person’s progress.

Why is it called the Third Challenge?

The first Challenge was held in 2009, and the second in 2010. The Challenges were very successful, with many people losing weight, decreasing waist measurements, and decreasing their blood pressure. Since the people of Samoa like challenges and want to “Look Better, Feel Better, and Be Better”, Challenge III was created to help even more people.

What is the Role of Women in Business Development?

Women in Business Development, a Non-Government Organization, has been a key part of Samoa Challenge I and II. It is also organizing Samoa Challenge III along with he United States Peace Corps.

How do I become a Group Leader or Join the Challenge?

To enter the Challenge you must be part of a group and have a group leader. If you want to Register a Group or be Group Leader, pick up a registration form at any of the advertised locations, from a representative of Women in Business, or Peace Corps Volunteer.

Awards Ceremony

At the conclusion of the Challenge, groups and group leaders will be recognized and prizes awarded for things such as the greatest level of participation in the Challenge and the highest achievements in regards to weight loss and physical fitness.

Returning to Samoa

March 16, 2011

Who would have ever thought that Samoa and this blog would reenter my life? But they both have.

Last December, 2010, Dale Withington, the Samoa Peace Corps Country Director, sent me an email with pictures about an awards ceremony held at the end of an event called, Samoa Challenge II, in which the Peace Corps was the prime mover . The Challenge was a ten week program starting with about 300 rural village women and ending with 89 about the perils of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension through weekly meetings on diet, nutrition, and exercise. A few days later, he asked me if he could lure me back to coordinate a Samoa Challenge III. I took the bait.
Winners of Samoa Challenge II

I now find myself with a ticket for an April 10th departure on a 25 hour trip back to Samoa, via New Zealand, as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer with the title of "Samoa Challenge III Coordinator". The return date is an ambiguous, end of August.

Of course, I am not alone in this world and life does not happen in a vacuum.

First, there is my wife, Mary. She her approval for me to go solo on the condition that if she found another place to live while I was away, she could buy it. I said "Yes". As of this moment, we are awaiting the results on an offer to buy a townhouse which is three times larger than the condo where we have been "temporarily" living for the past years. If accepted, this would end her 2 1/2 year daily quest of real estate listings.

Second, there is my youngest daughter, Kim. After trying to get pregnant for the past two years, she is now expecting her first child, a boy due June 25th. There is only one way a future grandfather can ask for forgiveness about possibly being away during the birth of her child and that is over Sunday morning donuts, our favorite time together.

Third, there is my son, Nicholas. He is now established in both a career as an accountant at US Bank and as a significant other, sharing a Minneapolis condo with his female accountant friend, Heidi. As long as the University of Iowa and Michigan State University continue to play sports, we shall never be at a loss for conversation.

Fourth, there is my oldest daughter, Teri, and my 17 year old grandson, Sam. They both find themselves living alone in their State College, PA home while her husband and his father seeks a new life.

So, it is not without some reservations I reactivate this blog for the challenge of Samoa Challenge III. However, those whom I leave realize you don't get many opportunities in life to do something big and probably understand me better than I understand myself.