Upon arriving in country we were deemed trainees and went through ten weeks of training before we could become Volunteers. There were daily classes for Language, Safety & Security, Medical, and Life & Work with Language taking a large precedence. Although I know more Samoan now than Spanish I’m definitely not fluent. Training leaves us with enough language to get through daily situations (shopping at the market, getting a ride in a taxi, having short introductory conversations) and enough material so that we can learn more about grammar and sentence structure as we go along.
There were 16 trainees in my training group. We met during staging in LA and have spent all of training together. Our training was split between Apia and a village called Ma’asina. The first two weeks were spent in Apia where we stayed at Apia Central. After that we moved to the village for a week. During our village stay we were split amongst the houses in the village so that we could learn more about everyday life. We still had lessons nearly every day but we ate meals with our host family and participated in family activities. Some of which were very religious.
The family that I shared with my roommate Molly was Catholic. We went to church every Sunday and spent the rest of the day resting. We pray before every meal and in the evenings we participated in Lotu. Lotu is basically prayer. Our family would get together in the main room, read from scripture, sing hymns, and pray together.
Along with the lessons we learned in class, there are many skills we have picked up outside of class. We have learned how to weave baskets from palm leaves, how to spear fish (well, we’re still working on this one), how to kill and cook a pig, how to distinguish edible plants and leaves, and how to husk and open a coconut using only a stick and a rock (take that Survivor).
When I am in the village my knees and shoulders need to be covered at all times. I usually wear a t-shirt and a lavalava (basically a sarong) that goes down to about my ankles. On Sundays, special occasions, and in professional settings I wear a puletasi (pooh-la-ta-see) which has a long skirt or lavalava bottom with a tailored top made out of the same or similar pattern.
For those of you who remember the term, Samoa is a shame-based culture (versus the States which is a guilt-based culture). There is a police force but most of the legal system is based off of what the Matai say. The Matai (ma-tie) are the Samoan chiefs and they have a very strong say, especially within the villages.
Right now the students are on vacation (like summer break). The next school year begins around the end of January. There are three terms in the school year with little breaks in between. I’ve been assigned to be the computer teacher in Siumu.
If you guys have any questions, please post them.