Friday, October 8, 2010

Learning Samoan from Superman


Exhausted. Sick. Sweaty. Overwhelmed. Awed. Humbled. Excited.

It is now the end of the second day of Pre-Service Training (PST). Lying on my hard bed in my small hotel room in the capitol (with air conditioning!), I find it hard to decide where to start. The beginning?

Monday. Frosted fields of Minnesota. Last time I’ll see that for a while. Left Minnesota around noon and arrived to a rainy, overcast LA. Monday and Tuesday were basically consumed with orientation stuff. Surprise of orientation: all piercings are to be removed; all tattoos must be covered. Wow, wish I’d known that before. We had one person drop before we left LA. The only moment where I was close to crying was boarding the plane to Samoa. My carry-on was too heavy, so at the last minute I had to check it…but my flute was in it. I was able to take it out, but as I was walking down the aisle with my flute in hand, I started thinking about all the places my flute has enabled me to go…especially Eastern Europe last year with GWO. Remember…

Early Wednesday morning, we arrived in Samoa! Our plane got in around 6:30; roughly fifteen minutes later, the sun was in the sky. Minnesota humidity is one thing; Samoa’s got it beat. A quartet of Samoan men provided our first taste of Samoan music. After lugging our way-too-heavy bags around, we finally got to meet some of the PC staff! Each of us got a lei. Most pleasant surprise after arriving in Samoa: piercings and tattoos should basically be flaunted! Thought so. Samoan tattoo…probably going to happen. We had about an hour long bus ride from the airport to our hotel. We started training right off the bat; already have some Samoan under our belts. First, we had the traditional Samoan welcome ceremony: the ava ceremony. We were given lava lavas, the traditional Samoan “skirt” and sat on the ground in what would become our classroom, while PCVs from group 81 (we’re 83) and other staff performed the ceremony. We then had to drink some of the ava from a coconut after saying our first Samoan phrase: Lau ava lea lea toa, soifua….or something along those lines. All of us now have cell phones. Message me on facebook for my number and I’ll text it to you. After our dinner of a whole roast pig, most of us went down to one of the bars nearby and hung out with some of the 81 PCVs.
We all have Samoan names. Mine is Sema, for Samantha. In English I go by Sam, but if I wanted to go by Sam in Samoan, I would be Samuelo…a boy. My group’s Samoan teacher, Joe, is a bit of a celebrity in these here parts; he’s played Superman in TV commercials. And another one of our trainers, Sa’u, was on a reality show in Holland where he posed as a Samoan prince to try to meet a potential wife. In short, our staff is great and incredibly funny. For lunch today, a few of us went to a restaurant next to our hotel. Before I go any further, the views are amazing! It kind of looks like “Jurassic Park.” Anyway, after classes got done today at 4:30, I felt so sick; I felt sick yesterday too. Long story short, I think I’m officially the first person from Samoa 83 to throw up. Quite the distinction. And moving on. After dinner, we just sort of hang out on the porch where we eat. A guitar was pulled out tonight and the flute even made an appearance.
A little bit about our group. There are twenty of us and we’re hoping it will stay that way. We have two married couples and about 90% (I really don’t know; I’m bad at math) are in our twenties. It’s surprising how much we all seem to have in common. A few are from Colorado and two of us are from Minnesota. One of the 81 girls is also from Minnesota.
There’s so much running through my head. I know there’s more stuff that’s happened that should be in the blog that I’ll probably remember later. 

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