MJ Live

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Drop-off (Written 11/29/05)

Today was one of the more anticipated days of training because it was basically sink or swim time. So what is the drop-off? It's basically a day in which we are dropped off in pairs across the island of Upolu and we have to make it back to our training village. My partner for this task was Diane, who is the oldest person in our group. So we had to wake up this morning at 5am in order to leave the school fale at 6am. There were 6 groups split between the PC van the and Land Cruiser so some of us went to the west part of the island while others went to the east part of the island. While we were in the van (Diane and I went to the west part of the island) we were blindfolded so we would have no idea where we were or what village we were close to. We were the second team that got off the van and we were literally dropped off in the middle of nowhere and we had to find the village of Poutasi.


Where we were dropped off


Diane and I


So since we had no clue where we were or which way the village was we just started walking west. As we walked were able to flag down a car so we could try to hitchhike (which is okay to do in Samoa) and the driver told us we were headed in the wrong direction so we had to go east and regain the ground we had lost. Luckily, since it was so early in the morning the sun was not complete out so we were able to do a lot of walking in the cool morning. Did we use a map to see where we were? Nope, because Upolu is so small its impossible to really get lost so no map usage was done during the actual drop off. So as we were walking east the first village we came upon Saleilua [Sally e lew uh] which the village next to Poutasi. As we were walking, we past the entrance to the Togitogiga Waterfall which is suppose to be a really nice waterfall – unfortunately we had no idea how far we were from Poutasi and how long it would take to answer the questions we were given. So we ended up having to walk  across the entire village of Saleilua which became harder as the sun decided to come out in full blast. As we were walking, 3 school boys decided to join us on our walk – their names were Aso, James and Poino.


James, Poino and Aso.


They kept us company for a majority of our walk because they were heading to their school which is in Poutasi. We were talking in English and Samoan, so it was a good confidence booster that I could talk to someone I just met in Samoan (not long conversations but enough to get my point across) and I knew Diane had to be happy because she also spoke a little Samoan to them. We were having a nice time until they decided to throw the 'n' word into the conversation – jokingly of course – and I don't think I've ever switched emotional gears so fast. I went from happy to angry frustration in the blink of an eye but I quickly remembered that they don't know that term is bad. So I quickly told the kids that's a bad word and not to say it – call me black or American (if I would have said African-American they would have said 'Oh you're from Africa!' its happened to other volunteers). Diane also helped by reinforcing the fact that I am from America and that the 'n' word is bad. So once that storm blew over the rest of our walk went smoothly. While walking with the boys we found out that Poutasi was once a training village for Peace Corps (Group 70 – a VBD group) so they knew what Peace Corps was. It took us about 45 minutes to walk the entire village of Saleilua and finally make it to Poutasi (and by this time the sun was in full effect).


Us at Poutasi


As soon as we walked into Poutasi we tried finding people who could answer our questions about the village. Luckily, there was a family sitting on a porch that we just went up to and asked them to help us fill out the sheet. So we were invited to sit down and rest a bit while they answered our questions which we were more than happy to do. By this time it was 8:15am so we had made very good time and the next bus headed to Apia left at 8:30am (which in island time means 9am) so we headed to the bus stop which was not to far away from the house we stopped at and we waited for the bus. The bus stop was right next to the only store in the village which had a bakery connected directly to it so they made their own bread there. The bus finally showed up on time at 9am and we got on a pretty crowded bus heading to Apia. The bus ride was an hour and 10 minutes in length and we took the cross-island road to Apia so it wasn't very scenic (but we did pass the waterfalls we saw a few weeks back) but it was an experience – the buses are built for quantity not comfort. Once we got to Apia around 10am, we just hung out, did some shopping, got on the net for a bit (hope you enjoyed the mini-update) and had lunch. We finally left Apia at 1:45pm for the ride home to Falevao. It was my first bus ride in which the bus got less crowded the closer I got to my destination. We were supposed to be back in Falevao at 4pm and we got back at 3pm – so everything went as smooth as possible. So what this activity taught me is that you can never get lost in Samoa (all buses go to Apia), Samoans are very nice and hospitable to strangers and going back to Apia was a nice break from the village. It was fun and adventurous from the perspective that my language skills while not great can still get me around the island safely. So that's on anxiety gone – now I can get from point A to point B on Upolu (now Savai'i awaits!)


Questions from our village questionnaire (Poutasi-Falealili):


1) What time does the last bus leave for Apia?


2) Who is the pulenu'u (mayor)?

            Seumaalii Leipa

3) Who are the high-ranking chiefs?

            Tuatagaloa, Meleisea, Tuataga

4) Are there any schools in the village?

            Poutasi Primary School

5) Is there a hospital in the village or nearby?

            Poutasi-Falealili District Hospital

6) Are there many traditional healers in the village?


7) What churches are in the village?

            EFKS (Congregational Church), Catholics

8) Are there any tourist sites in the village or nearby? What are they?

            Tafatafa Beach

9) Is there a curfew for the village? What time and for how long?

            Yes. 6-7pm

10) How many people live in the village?


11) How many stores in the village?


12) Is there a legend about the village? What is it?

            Tala I le lupeuluiva

13) Who is the village's representative to parliament?

            No representative

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