So on Friday, Julya and I got a ride with Glenn and Gardenia (two members of Next Gen who also attend Peace Chapel) over to Aganoa. We left from the church at around 6:30pm and had to go pickup two more people – so we really started our journey to the beach at around 7pm and thus it was pretty dark. We traveled over the cross island road – which was the first time I had done that during the night time – and there was a thick layer of fog that covered the area. It was pretty creepy stuff and something you don't see to often at the sea level of Samoa. Aganoa is on the south side of the island, so once we reach the south main island road we traveled for a bit before turning onto the unpaved road which led to the campsite. This wasn't a dirt road – it was a rocky road and could really only be traveled by using a 4WD vehicle. We were sitting in the back of a truck and we just being bumped all over the place – add to it the fact that it was dark and there were no lights other then the headlights of the truck and you could understand why it took us a pretty decent amount of time to get to the site. There were a whole bunch of dips and dives and the truck even stalled going up one of the hills – it was that steep and rocky. But we made it to the site safe and it had already been setup with canvas's, tents, a cooking area and a nice little fire to eat around. So once we got there and got our stuff settled it was dinner time – and we were definitely not lacking in food – there were burgers, casseroles, sausages, it was definitely a feast. I think this was my first time really camping, so it was definitely a memorable experience from the very beginning.
The theme of the camp was based off of Survivor (the CBS show, which Julya does not know how to sing the theme to it) in which we had little survivor games in between reflection sessions from some people from the group (including Sara). The reflection sessions were very nice and it was definitely a good way of just realizing that when I came here I didn't think I would have the kind of Christian fellowship I had back at UT (Tennessee, not Texas folks!) but this weekend it felt like I did. Plus, getting away from it all and just hanging out with Christians – real Christians – was a good experience in and of itself. So after our first reflection session and a game to determine what kind of survivor you are (I'm a flexy survivor – not crazy enough to be hard core, not conservative enough to not get out of the house), we roasted some marshmallows which was a lot of fun. What was even more fun was teaching the non-Americans (we have people from Samoa, New Zealand and Australia in the Next Gen group) how to roast marshmallows – even here, we're sharing a piece of our culture! A Peace Corps job is never done! I got to sleep outside on the first night and the mosquitoes went to town on my body – I woke up every hour because of the mosquitoes biting me all over the place. At one point in the night, as I was waking up from the bites, I heard one of the girls yelp so I went over to see what was going on and a tree branch had fell into our camp fire area (luckily no one was hurt – but it was pretty close to the head of a person sleeping). At another point, it started raining a lot (there were two flash rain storms in the night) so the people who were sleeping outside moved under the canvas area I was sleeping under and we had to hold up the canvas to stop the water from seeping in (although the water did fall on my bedding area twice during the rain storms, so we weren't all the successful). So to say I had an interesting first night of sleeping outside would be kind of an understatement – I learned my lesson though, if you're going camping bring a tent!
Somehow I woke up on the second day with some form of energy – so I was pretty good for the better part of the day. We had a reflection session in the morning and then got to play some survivor games (we even had 'tree mail') such as making up some form of team identification for ourselves using cloth (my team was the color blue – don't know why I keep getting the color blue in this country! – and our team name was Pirate Punks. Once you see the pictures, you'll understand). Another survivor game we played was where we had to guide a blind folded teammate to coconuts lying in the sand using only our voice – it was quite difficult, but my team ended up winning (although, in the end we didn't win the overall prize). But the best part about the second day was the amount of time we got to play in the ocean. Apparently, this beach has no reef on it (compared to the other parts of Upolu which have a coral reef out towards the sea) this meant that the waves broke very close to the beach instead of out at sea. This made for some interesting tumbling actions and fighting against the sea in order to make progress out in the ocean. Another interesting thing about this beach was how close the coral colonies were to the beach itself – I mean these were some quite beautiful coral colonies that looked like you could dive between like you were going through the Grand Canyon. Heck, the fish were literally swimming on the beach when the tide came in – that's how close this colony was to the beach. I had never seen anything like it before in my time in Samoa – it was simply breath taking. So the big event for the second night was trying to get the fire to actually light up and stay lit – apparently the firewood we got on the second night wasn't that good and it kept dying on us (except the times when someone pour kerosene on it – then it lit up like a Christmas tree!). Since I'm not an outdoorsman by any stretch of the term and we had 3 very capable people taking care of it – I decided to have a lie down on the beach and I literally dosed in and out of sleeping for at least an hour. There were times when I woke up and I had literally forgotten where I was – this is the result of not getting any sleep because of those stupid mosquitoes the night before! At some point they decided the fire was as good as it was going to be and we had another reflection session, after which I went straight to bed. "And you had another miserable night outside, right?" Nope – this time I got to sleep inside of a tent because another person was kind enough to offer me their tent while they slept in a hammock (they slept fully covered in clothing). At first it was a little odd sleeping in a tent after sleeping outside, but my body got use to it and I just crashed – didn't wake up until 6am the next day (probably went to bed at around 10:30pm) so it was a HUGE difference from the night before. Woke up refreshed – heck, didn't even want to leave the tent! So once again – lesson learned: Going camping, bring a tent!
We had a little reflection session on the Sunday morning and had to'onai (i.e Sunday Brunch) as a group. Overall, it was a very refreshing weekend – not only physically for me since it had been a while since I left the Apia area but also spiritually as I finish off my first year in Samoa strong. As I said before, it was also nice having some Peace Corps there to share in the experience – but the best part of it was having all the Christians from Group 75 there. We've all done our own growing over this past year and just being able to still come together as a Christian family outside the 'normal' activities was pretty cool. Let me see how far both Julya and Sara have come since we were all trainees – we're all progressing, not regressing which is very good and shows how we have held each other accountable. We not only survived this weekend – we survived the first year together and we're ready for Year/Round 2!
This was also a good practice for New Zealand, because Josh wants to do a little camping while we're there. As long as he has a tent to sleep in, I'm up for whatever. No tent, no go! Lesson learned…..L8r.