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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Surviving Savaii (Written November 4, 2007)

After a busy week at school, one would think that I would be able to dedicate this weekend to just relaxing and getting into the mindset of I don't have to teach classes anymore. Well you would be partially correct – I am in that mindset, but this weekend was only partially relaxing. Friday was Arbor Day in Samoa – a day to plant trees and do some lawn work (which is why it's a national holiday) but most people probably just took it as a day of relaxation. That's exactly what I did – just kind of decompressed from having to be a host for 3 days. On Friday morning, some members of the Next Generation group (the Peace Chapel Young Adult's ministry) headed over to Savaii for an end of the year camp. I stayed behind for 2 reasons: 1) I needed some time to myself and 2) Sara was doing something with her school on Friday and wanted someone to go over to Savaii with her. We could have gone on Friday, but that would have meant rushing to catch the last boat of the day and on a holiday that's not such a great idea – so we just decided to wait until Saturday morning.

This idea worked best for me anyway since Chanel was holding it's entrance exam on Saturday morning and Kevin wanted me to setup a few of the computer labs so the potentially new students could play around on them. Last year, when this happened I woke up to it unprepared – this year, I knew about it but I wouldn't be here to watch over the labs. So I setup Labs 2 and 3 for them to use before heading down to the food market to catch the 8am bus for the 10am boat. So it was Sara, myself and a guy named Uaea ("Why-uh") who travelled over together on the 10am boat. This was my first time taking a bus over to Savaii in about a year (the last time I travelled to Savaii was by car and before that it was by bike), so I kind of forgot how long a ride it was. Fortunately, the bus was not full at all so we weren't smashed into together like sardines which was a nice benefit of travelling on an off-day (since I presume most people going to Savaii on holiday left on Thursday or Friday). So we made it in plenty of time for the 10am boat (we took the small boat over) and the shocking thing was that there was barely anyone going over with us. In fact, this was my first trip where there were no cars travelling on the boat – coincidently, this was also the smoothest boat ride I've had during my stay in Samoa.

We arrived on Savaii at around 11:30am and Sara called Janita to find out which direction we needed to go. The camp was located in Salealoga (the wharf area in Savaii) but it would be our first time there. We walked about 10 minutes from the wharf and ran into Janita and Charlotte waiting for us at the gate to the "resort" we were staying at. I say "resort" because it is in the process of being built and still has a kind of rustic feel about it. The place doesn't have a name yet, but Junior (a Samoan friend of ours and fellow Peace Chapel member) arranged for us to use the place for our camp. Now last year we did a similar type survivor camp at Aganoa Black Sand beach on Upolu and that was truly roughing it. This place was paradise in comparison – we had a stove, enclosed area to sleep and a outdoor shower…compared to Aganoa, this place was heaven. I was most happy about the enclosed area to sleep – that way if it rained we didn't have to worry about anything. Joining us for this Peace Chapel Survivor camp was Janita, Charlotte, Uaea, Tim, Carissa & Anton (new Peace Chapel member), Sara, Junior, Justin (Group 78) and I – not quite as big as last year, but still plenty of people.

Of course the first things I did once I arrived was to get out of my clothes and go for a swim in the ocean. This was my first time being in the ocean since my mom was here in May – amazing how living on a tropical island can make you take such simple pleasures for granted. After enjoying the lagoon area I was swimming in, the group decided to go to a nearby waterfall for a dip. This would be the Olemoe falls which are located close to Julya's village. I have been there quite a few times but this was Sara's first time going to the falls. Since the last time I was at the waterfalls (which was for Group 76's Early Service Conference) they built a road that goes from the main road all the way to the waterfall, which means easier access to it and no more having to climb down a steep and dangerous cliff face. When we first drove up to it, I was thinking it was a different waterfall because I remember it being more enclosed and that being the reason why you had to climb down to it. Somehow they figured out a way to connect it to the main road and now the local Samoans are able to easily get to it (whereas before, only tourists dared climb down the steep cliff face). To Sara and I surprise, we saw Samoans we recognized at the pool: Father Joe (a Marist priest associated with the Chanel priests), Analosa (a teacher at Chanel) and Esera (the principal of a nearby Catholic high school). With this new road, the waterfalls were busier then I had ever seen them – so I guess it was a success. We hung out at the waterfall for about 2.5 hours before heading back to the campgrounds.

Once we got back to the camp, everyone took a break because we were so tired from all the swimming before doing MORE outdoor activities. Some of the folks were playing volleyball for a bit, but apparently Justin and Sara were pretty good so they had to switch games. Someone had brought a rugby ball to camp and Justin and I started throwing it around like a football (which was kind of hard, but eventually we got the hang of it) and the Kiwi's (nickname for New Zealanders) challenged us to a game of US Football (using the rugby ball). At first we (Sara, Justin and I) thought they were joking, but they were serious – so we tried to explain the rules to them as best we could and of course had to modify it because of the fact we were playing street football instead of real football. So the teams were the Americans (Sara, Justin and I) vs. the South Pacific Nations (Uaea, Janita, Carissa and Anton). I only brought a pair of flip flops with me, so I decided to play barefoot – only after living in Samoa for 2 years would I have considered that an option (especially because we were playing in an area filled with coral and rocks). The SPN team was basing all of their knowledge of the game off of what they've seen from football movies, so we had to do a bit of correction of their knowledge. We (the Americans) scored on our first drive and stopped the SPN on their first drive. But then they started to use their numbers to their advantage – with them having a one person advantage over us, whenever one person would rush the QB they would just throw it to the now open receiver. They used this tactic multiple times and at one point the score was 7-21. Now you have to keep in mind that all of their knowledge of the game of football is based off movies and (maybe) watching real NFL football – so one of the things they did well was excessive celebration. Once they scored 21 unanswered points against us, they kind of got a little bit out of hand when it came to their celebrations. It was at this point that we Americans did what we do best – take back what's ours! We realized that we could not beat them being one man down (since they would just double cover one receiver) so we recruited Tim (who's an Australian) to play for our team. He also just had a vague idea of how to play the game, so we just told him to run where he wanted to – catch the ball and then run for the end zone. On the first pass, Tim caught the ball in stride and took it to the house. I was amazed by his speed – it took everyone by surprise. And that was the spark that allowed us to come back. On the SPN's next play, we intercepted their pass and then scored. In fact, we stopped them 3 straight times and went on to score 21 unanswered points – thus winning the game. Or so we had thought? Apparently when I announced that we were playing to 28, the SPN team didn't hear me and said that we had to play to 35. We were like "okay" and played another drive. Unfortunately, that was one drive to many because on the next drive Anton tripped on a rock and tweaked his knee. In the end he was alright, but it brought the game to an abrupt end.

After shower, we had stir-fry and curry for dinner and ice cream for dessert. After dessert, we had the bible study portion of our camp (talking about how to properly face fear) and the worship portion. After that full day, I was pretty much tired and hit the bed at around 11pm.

The next morning (Sunday) I woke up kind of early and took a walk along the road just to kind of clear my head a bit. I also wanted to check on the boat times but no one was at the counter when I went to it.  After my walk, I had breakfast and hung out for a bit before going to the wharf to catch the 10am boat ride back to Upolu. The other group members were leaving on either the 12pm or 2pm boat, but that was kind of late for Sara and I so that's why we took the early boat. Justin also joined us on our journey back over to the mother island. This time we took the big boat back over and it was packed with cars, but not with a lot of people. I was expecting the boat to be packed to the gills with people, but it was fairly spacious. We got back to Upolu at around 11:30pm and then we had to go our separate ways (Justin was getting off at his village, which is between the wharf and town / while we were headed to town). Again, the bus ride into town was fairly empty. It was probably the emptiest bus ride I have ever taken from the wharf to town – which means we came home at the right time.

While the break was short, it was needed – I don't know if I will have time to go over to Savaii again before I leave and I definitely needed to get out of Apia for a bit. It was also a good rejuvenation in my walk because God's amazing invisible qualities can clearly be seen by what has been made. And nothing brings that point home like watching a sunrise over a tropical island – one of the few perks I'm going to miss about being on a tropical island. We survived Savaii, now to survive the next few weeks!

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