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Friday, 22 January 2010

Volunteering Abroad: The Quiet Moments of Life in Samoa

Written by Elizabeth Gartley
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I set my alarm for 6 a.m., but since the roosters wake earlier, I’m generally up by 5:30. After a year and half, my life as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Samoan village has in many ways become familiar and routine – but naturally, there are plenty of surprises always waiting to sneak up on me.

The Quiet Moments: Life in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer, life in a Samoan village, teaching in samoa, Elizabeth Gartley

I set my alarm for 6 a.m., but since the roosters wake earlier, I’m generally up by 5:30. After a year and half, my life as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Samoan village has in many ways become familiar and routine – but naturally, there are plenty of surprises always waiting to sneak up on me.

I roll out of bed, and with my eyes half open, I stumble outside to the toilet, croaking out, “Morning,” to my host mom, Malae, on my way. The sun is just starting to shine through the coconut and banana trees, and the chickens all cluck and complain as I walk through them to the outhouse.

The Quiet Moments: Life in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer, life in a Samoan village, teaching in samoa, Elizabeth Gartley

When I come back to the house, I fix a cup of instant coffee and gradually start coming back to life. Then I enjoy my breakfast of cornflakes with sweet Lady Finger bananas.

The Quiet Moments: Life in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer, life in a Samoan village, teaching in samoa, Elizabeth GartleyAround 7, I start for school on my bike. As I ride along, I pass local kids walking to school in their white and blue school uniforms, “Fa Lis!” (“Bye Liz!”) they call after me. I get the same greeting from a couple of villagers carrying a bucket of Samoan-style pancakes to sell at school and men heading out to taro plantations for the day.

I carry my bike into the school library, my classroom, when I arrive. My first class today is with Year 4 students, who are finishing drawing their posters in observation of the International Day of Peace. They work diligently in groups, and the posters show common themes of pretty flowers and trees and smiling people.

The Quiet Moments: Life in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer, life in a Samoan village, teaching in samoa, Elizabeth Gartley

At interval I join the other teachers in the staff room for a meal of impossibly bland Samoan curry and boiled taro with cold coconuts to drink. The other teachers like to tease me for being a picky and finicky eater because I refuse to eat the skin, fat or cartilage of my chicken or any other meat.

In the afternoon I have another class working on posters while I write lesson plans. Later on, the Year 7 students are working on their homework, defining English vocabulary words. In groups of two or three, they come into my classroom to ask me to define certain words. This becomes tedious very quickly, so I decide this would be the opportune time to teach them how to use a dictionary.

 

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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