Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Breaking Up with Evan

On September 29, 2009, Samoa was devastated by a tsunami that killed many. On December 13, 2012, Samoa was rocked by Hurricane Evan which has killed three and left eight more missing. I moved to Samoa in October of 2010, a year after the tsunami. I left Samoa on November 17, 2012, almost a month to the day before my very own beachfront fale was damaged by Evan. I escaped both Samoan tragedies unscathed. However, it seems I may have left my heart in that eternal Samoan summer.

            Since I’ve returned to Minnesota I’ve done a little research about the tsunami that hit the south side of Upolu. Little did I know the damage it caused. I didn’t know how many people (including tourists vacationing in paradise) were killed. I didn’t know that one of my closest friends, Tele, saved a woman’s life or that he almost died himself. I didn’t know that one of my favorite places in the world, Taufua Beach Fales, was literally washed away. Then just a few weeks after I said tofa soifua to Samoa, nature decided to hit Samoa again. This post is about what it’s like to not be where you want to be, to not be with people you care about, to check Facebook too many times a day for updates, pictures, anything letting you know that your November goodbye wasn’t officially the last goodbye you would ever have with that place and those people.

            Un-eloquently, it’s hard to be here and not there. Readjustment is hard. Being in cold, boring Minnesota is hard. Give me hot, boring, everyday Samoa. That boredom now doesn’t seem so boring. There was something about the adventure that was the Peace Corps that I miss every day. I see group 84’s (the newest group of Peace Corps volunteers) pictures online and I’m jealous. I’m jealous that they are just starting this adventure and that my life is utterly unexciting now with no solid plans for the future and the feeling that I’m not living a life anymore, the feeling that I’m just biding my time. The feeling that I’m not doing anything with my life anymore. It’s tough and I’m sure it’s what a lot of Returned Peace Corps volunteers feel. Perhaps my feelings are all the more poignant because I evolved from being a person who hated Samoa to someone who just wants to get back there. I think my fellow volunteers and some close friends back home who kept in touch over the last two years would be surprised about my feelings. Even as of last September I was still pondering whether or not going to Samoa might have been the worst decision I ever made. It wasn’t. I can say that now with 95% certainty. With all the drama, pain, and tears I experienced, I wouldn’t trade it for a happier, vanilla experience. Pieces of my heart still seem to be scattered throughout Samoa. Thankfully, those places and those people all seem to have fared well throughout Cyclone Evan. Everyone is alive, even though it seems that every fale has been damaged (including my own).

            Moving on and readjustment will happen once I’m finally distracted again by my own life. After washing my clothes in my Samoan host family’s washing machine, I would hang up my laundry on my clothesline mere feet from the South Pacific. Leaving Samoa is sort of like breaking up with someone. Cheesy, right? But true. These next few lines from a break-up poem fit so poignantly.

                        I give up my clothes which are walls that blow in the wind

                        And I give up the ghost that lives in them.

-          Mark Strand, “Giving Myself Up

Evan, you did not make the ‘moving-on’ process any easier.



            Most of the following pictures come from Seti Afoa’s Facebook page, a man who has done an incredible job keeping Samoans abroad updated through photos. And yes, ou a’u teine Samoa taimi nei. (I am a Samoan girl now.) You can’t live in a place for two years and experience some of the most extreme emotions without becoming attached to a place. A few photos I took myself. Other photos come from everyone’s friend, Google.

This is a link to a video taken by Kyle Kincaid, an RPCV currently living in Samoa. His village was Sauano, just up the mountian past Falefa. The video starts about 1/4 of the way into Falefa and goes over the bridge at Falefa Falls.
View of Apia from Central Bank--Before

After--The pulu trees in front of Central Bank

Central Bank

The bridge near the Peace Corps office and Aggie Grey's Hotel
Log Jam from the River
This river is the reason for the deaths
Burst it's Banks

The same river as seen from Pasefika Inn--Before

The Pool behind Pasefika Inn--Before


After the Flood Drained
Pasefika Inn and the Peace Corps Office next to KK Mart--Before

Cleaning Up--After

Cleaning Out the Peace Corps Office

The following pictures effectively create a map to my village of Falefa
This picture comes from Lauli'i

Cone marking a downed power line

Ingenious use of hubcaps (Hubcaps?)

The bridge in Luatuanu'u

Filling the Hole

This house was just built within the last few months
It is directly across from the ocean

Near Solosolo-another Peace Corps village
The banana palms look chopped in half

In my home of Falefa
This tree fell right on a faleoloa (shop) right next to one of my
student's houses

The tree has been removed and it looks like only minor damage to the roof

The vaita'ele (pool) and falefono (meeting house)
across the street from where I usually waited for the bus
after a day at school to go to town

My usual walk home after school
Mose's Shop--where I did all my village shopping

Right in front of my family's church
Atalani and Salote (two girls who lived at my host family's house)
safe and sound, walking to the faleoloa
My house is just past the car on the road
My Fale--Before


The big white thing toward the right of the picture--
I think that is part of my kitchen that ripped from the house--
waiting for more pictures of my fale

Go Da Manu House--Before

Falefa Falls--Perhaps During or Slightly Before

This woman said hi to me every morning on my way to school

In the middle is my student Gabriel

Home of the Lady Ashleigh Bus--
One of my favorite buses to take to town thanks to the nice bus driver

Where Falefa turns into Falevao

View of Falefa from the mountain
The biggest building is the Catholic Church
Toward the right of the picture is the EFKS church (my family's church),
the church hall, host-family's house, and my fale

Headed East
The palms are decimated

Lemafa Pass
Land Slide

Near Lalomanu
The tree saved the faleoloa from the electicity pole

Tis the Season
to sell taro after a cyclone while wearing a Santa hat

Playing voli (volleyball) in the road

Togitogiga Falls

The Church in Mulivai--another Peace Corps Village

Tafitoala--my training village

Ever-Smiling Samoan Children


1 comment:

  1. Great photos, and awesome to read your personal revelation about your feelings on Samoa. Really thought provoking.

    BTW Seti Afoa is from Falefa... Mose (the shop) is his brother.

    Thanks for sharing!