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Friday, 22 January 2010

Volunteering Abroad: The Quiet Moments of Life in Samoa - Page 2

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 pick up the student dictionary on my desk and wander over to their classroom (their teacher, also the principal, is busy elsewhere). A group of half a dozen students or so huddles around the table as I demonstrate the process of looking up a new word: “observe,” find o-, then ob-, obs-, observe. And so on.

Near the end of the day, some of the Year 8 girls don’t have any schoolwork to do and come into my room to hang out with me. I have them help me make posters to explain the library’s book classification system, teaching them the difference between fiction and non-fiction classification as we go. My job is anything but glamorous, but I have learned to appreciate these quiet moments. My Samoan students never fail to be energetic and curious, and I can take quiet pleasure and joy from their enthusiasm in the simplest lessons or opportunities I can offer that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

At 2 o’clock one of the Year 7 boys clangs a rock against the empty gas-tank, which serves as a makeshift school bell. The kids all begin their exodus home for the afternoon. I hop on my bike and maneuver my way through them to a chorus of, “Fa Lis!” and, “Toe feiloai!” (“See you later!”)

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 arrive home, I take a cold shower and then take my afternoon nap (part of my daily routine, this is very much the norm in Samoa).

The Quiet Moments: Life in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, Peace Corps volunteer, life in a Samoan village, teaching in samoa, Elizabeth GartleyLater in the afternoon, I take my nail polish remover with me to the front step of the house and carefully remove the pink polish from my toenails. Seven-year-old Fu’a, one of the gaggle of children of the household, watches intently. While Fu’a and I chat (she likes to quiz me on my Samoan vocabulary), I replace the pink with silver. Fu’a never takes her eyes off my pale white toes.

With a fresh coat of silver nail polish on my toes, I take my bottle of pink polish and tell Fu’a to give me her hands. She eagerly spreads her fingers out on the cement step and watches me tenderly paint each nail. “Oh, aulelei,” I say, “Very pretty.” When Fu’a smiles, her whole face smiles, her eyes close and turn into upside-down crescents.

I notice a cow wandering through our front yard with its tether trailing along beside it.

Since most people in Samoa (both Samoans and expats) tend to be bilingual, I’ve taken to speaking a kind of Samoan-English Creole.

“Who’s povi [cow] is that?” I ask Malae.

“That’s our povi,” she says with some chagrin.

 

 

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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