Sunday, October 25, 2009

Filipo in Happier Times

Filipo is the young man in the CNN video below talking about the tsunami in Poutasi. Here are some photos that I took last year of Filipo scraping the skin off a breadfruit with a tuna can and making freshly squeezed coconut milk for a village celebration.

New Posts to Come

I'm waiting to hear back from Poutasi to see if they would like to rebuild the homework center. The church hall (the homework center was in a former store room in the back of the church hall) is damaged in the front of the building, but the building still stands. If it is structurally sound, I would like to raise funds to restore the computer/homework center and go back to facilitate that happening next year.

It's been an interesting year. A good year with lots of travels - but not in the South Pacific. There is definitely a readjustment process returning home from Peace Corps.

I'll be back in Hawaii soon and will post more about all of the above and more.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


By now most everyone has heard about the earthquake and tsunami that hit Samoa and American Samoa on Tuesday, September 29th. The quake, with a magnitude between 8.0 and 8.3, struck at 6.48 am Samoan time on Tuesday and locals said it lasted up to three minutes. According to news reports, eyewitnesses said that over the next 20 minutes there were four giant walls of water, between three and nine meters high.

It's very hard to get news. The phones don't work. But I have heard via email that my village of Poutasi was one of the hardest hit. Initial reports are that it was devastated, flattened. One Peace Corps volunteer in country says that there are possibly 50 dead in Poutasi (in a village of 325 people). I heard by email from the Peace Corps country director that one of my family members was killed. Her body was found washed up in a tree after she tried to help some children get to safety. I don't know yet if the others are safe.

It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t had the experience what it means to live in a Samoan village with a Samoan family for 18 months. You’re out of your comfort zone, far away from what you know. They take you in and love you. It was my village, my home, my family. I know everyone in the village and they know me. I was their pisikoa.

I’ve kept in touch with my Samoan family since I came back. The father of the family works for a government ministry and has email at his office. Hemara, the 12-year old daughter, who is very dear to me, sends me letters, and just last week I sent a box of gifts for the children in my family for White Sunday (Children’s Day – the second Sunday in October).

I'm a weeping mess. It will be a very hard day again today. I slept very little. Every time I closed my eyes I could only see my beautiful village as it was, and imagine what must have happened. And I see the children of the village, and know that their lives are changed forever.


Fa'afetai tele ia le Atua mo le puipuiga o lo'u aiga Samoa. (Thank God for the protection of my Samoan family.)

I was able to contact a Peace Corps volunteer in country who contacted Niu's workplace where someone said that Niu, Saina and the children are safe. Niu, Saina and the kids are the nuclear family in whose home I lived in Poutasi. Tuatagaloa Joe and his wife Tui are cousins who lived in the house next door to us. Joe is the chief of our extended family, and also the high chief of the village and the entire district made up of several villages. Joe is in the hospital in critical condition.

Tui was killed in the tsunami. She and I were good friends. She was close to me in age, of German and Samoan heritage. She was educated in New Zealand and spoke English very well. She had many "Western ways," and yet was thoroughly Samoan. We often sat on her deck overlooking the ocean and had a cup of tea together. She was very well known and respected throughout the islands. If you Google her name you will find much has been published already about her death. Here's an excerpt from one of them:

Former Miss Samoa Tui Annandale, wasn't one of the lucky ones. Annandale and her husband Joe were having morning prayers at home in the village of Poutasi when the earthquake struck. Annandale tried to flee the wave by car, but she was sucked out and drowned.
Tui's funeral, held on Wednesday night, was attended by Samoa's Prime Minister, the head of state and also former rugby player and relative, Peter Fatialofa.
Tui's friend Leiloa was on foot behind the car and miraculously lived. "The wave picked me up and threw me into the church. I held onto the pillar until the water passed," she says.

CNN Video from Poutasi