Sunday, July 29, 2007

We got our village assignments!

I'm back in Apia after being in our "training village" for three weeks. There is no internet access there so while back in Apia I'm trying to catch up. We got our assignments this week for the villages we will be living in for the next two years when we finish our training. I will be living in Poutasi. It is a small village of about 400 people on the south side of the Island of Upolu on the ocean. It is a half hour bus ride from Apia, so my internet access will still be limited to when I am town. But I will have more control over when I go to town when I am on my own. I trust that cell phone coverage will be better at the coast.

I’ll be going to the village for a visit later this week and will know a lot more about it then. I will take some photos and hopefully put them on my web page before I go back to Manunu next Sunday for two more weeks. I do know that I will living in a house of my own right on the beach. Sweet! The village wants gardening, fishing, and tourism projects. I don’t know anything about fish, but I could learn enough to help perhaps. And there are other volunteers who do have marine science background. Oh, and they want a new school building! The main thing I could do on that would be to help them apply for a grant to get some funding. In two years as volunteers we can only do so much, so I’ll see what happens. Sometimes they say they want something and it turns out that there’s something else that gets accomplished instead that they didn‘t identify. Our first few months in the village our job is to integrate and learn to know the village and the people, and then identify projects we might be able to do.

I’m having a great experience so far! I think those first few days in my new village will be somewhat of an adjustment. The sixteen of us have been together as a group for training since June 4th, so we’ve bonded and gotten to know each other well. And we’ll definitely be needing to use our language skills! Learning the language is going pretty well. I’m doing better than many in the group. Probably partly because it is very similar to the Hawaiian language and also because I’m trying very hard and am committed to being as fluent as possible.

It seems like everything in my life so far has been training me for this -- growing up on a farm (with limited amenities at times) and gardening all my life, my religious background, loving and living in rural Hawaii (with limited amenities at times), my managerial experience, my teaching experience, working with the group tours and native plant projects at Volcano Art Center, and my community volunteer experiences. I love to discover and learn new things and there's plenty of that! I am blessed to be able to do this and doubly blessed to be in Samoa.

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's July Already!

July 1, 2007

We are back in Apia after our first two weeks in Manunu, our training village. It has been an intense, but good experience. We are here in Apia for one week (well, sort of - more on that later) and then we go back to Manunu for three weeks. I think we are all having a very positive experience thus far, language challenges, strange food encounters and all. The village of Manunu is beautiful. It's inland, but there is a river with a waterfall and natural pool to swim in nearby.

I have come to know and like my family and I expect that I will want to keep in touch with them as long as I am here in Samoa. I fit in very well being in the pastor's home. I can call up all my early life experiences. There is a lot of church. We have Sunday morning service of course, and Sunday afternoon service at 4:00 pm. And every evening there is prayer time and Bible study at 6:00 pm. It all helps to learn the language though.

On that note, the language learning is going well. I got a good grade on my first oral competency exam (interview). I just need to continue to practice and memorize. I don't totally understand the grammar, but bits and pieces are falling in place. I find myself getting to learning plateaus and then having a break through of sorts when something clicks and then I can go to the next level.

A typical day starts with a walk down the road if I get up early enough. It doesn't get light until 6:30 am. Then breakfast and get ready for class. Class for the day starts at 8:00. Each day of class is language and/or work and life classes, medical classes, or safety and security classes. We have a half hour tea break morning and afternoon and an hour and a half for lunch. Class ends as 5:30 pm. Then there is homework to do each night. And studying vocabulary and preparing for tests.

On Tuesday this week we go on Volunteer Visits. Meaning we go to visit current volunteers in their villages for three days. Then back to Apia on Friday and back to Manunu on Saturday. I'm going to Tafitoala. The village is on the south side of the island at the beach (Apia is on the north side).