MJ Live

Monday, December 10, 2007

Coming Together (Written 12/9/07)

This past weekend it finally hit me – this is my last full week in Samoa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. While it has hit me, it has not really sunk in yet and I just know that this week is going to feel like it's blowing by amazingly fast. But before we get to this final week, let me tell you what happened over this past weekend.

Earlier in the week I arranged to meet Cecil, a friend who I met through this blog and is currently living in Samoa, for lunch over the weekend. When he first arrived in country in July we were suppose to get together for lunch but it didn't work out – so before I leave, he wanted to have the lunch so we could talk. At around 10am on Saturday, he drove up to my compound and we drove into town to have lunch at Seafood Gourmet. While I have talked to Cecil in the past, this would be the first time that we sat down and had a long conversation together. I did give him my language material which I received from the Peace Corps – hopefully it will help him improve his Samoan language skills during his remaining time here. In case you don't remember, Cecil is not a Peace Corps volunteer but is working at a church on Savaii. He's been here since July and it was interesting talking to him now compared to talking to him when he first arrived – you could see that he had gained a deeper appreciation of the culture and he can now see the real Samoa…not the one tourist see when they stay here for a little bit of time or in tourist guides. We talked about many things that make up living in Samoa – it was like talking to another Peace Corps Volunteer. At first he was only thinking of staying one year, but may extend his time to two years and simulate the entire Peace Corps experience. I hope he does because I did not really appreciate Samoa until my second year and it's the experiences I have gained during my second year which will make me miss this place the most. We talked for about 1.5-2 hours but he had to leave to catch the 2pm boat so we went our separate ways at around 12pm.

While we were at the restaurant – Matilda, Jewell and Tiffany showed up for lunch. Now this was interesting because I rarely see them walking out in the streets of Samoa, so I was a bit taken aback. It was Matilda's birthday and they were taking her out to lunch…it was so special and of course I gave her the customary Marques birthday hug. After stopping by ClickNet to see how the day was going, I headed back up to my house for a little cleaning up.

On Sunday, for the first time since my mom was here I didn't bike to church. Instead I took a taxi – which leads you to ask 'Why would you do that?' I did it for 2 reasons: 1) It was raining and I didn't feel like trying to bike down a hill at a high speed in the rain and 2) I had an appointment for a special to'ona'I after church and didn't want to have to deal with transporting my bike back up to my house. So when I arrived at church, I saw Matt (Group 79) there – sitting in the front row of the church. Neither Sara or I knew he was there until he introduced himself and this was our first time seeing him at Peace Chapel.  After the service, Sara and I came up to him to welcome him and see how he liked the service. He will be stationed out of the Apia town area but hopefully when he's able to come to town on a Sunday he'll come to service at Peace Chapel. Once the service was over Sara and I spent some time chatting with folks from New Zealand who are here for Lorna and Zonder's wedding at the end of the week (i.e. the main reason I am staying an extra week in Samoa). After that – Sara, Lati (a man from the Solomon Islands who goes to church with us) and I were whisked away to our special Sunday brunch.

It was a special brunch because the Phillips Family (Paul, Vivi, Jewell, Matilda, Grace, Jorim, Nathaniel) and the Pati Family (Pati, Teuila, Edwina, Tiffany, Rachael, Elisha) made it for us as a way of saying thanks for being a part of their family for the past 2 years. While we were assigned to Samoan families when we first arrived in Samoa, the Phillips and Pati families have been our real Samoan families while in Samoa – and they are a big reason it will be hard for me to leave. A part of me really wants to stay to watch these kids grow up…especially Nathaniel (who is only 4 months old). Now what made this to'ona'I extra special for Sara and I was the location: we had it at Teuila's house. Now Teuila NEVER allows Peace Corps Volunteers at her house and to not only invite Sara and I into her house but to serve us a meal – words can't describe what that meant to both of us. We were taken aback by the gesture and truly felt like we are a part of these two families. While volunteers have been over to Jackie (our former Assistant Country Director) and Kim's (our Country Director) house – Sara and I are the only volunteers to ever set foot in Teuila's house. Now that's a memory that will stay with me for a long time. Of course we had all the traditional Samoan helping of food and I was extremely stuffed – it's a good feeling to have. After the main lunch, there was of course dessert and pineapples…it was all so much and so great. We stayed there for about 2-3 hours just having a good time talking with and hanging out with one another…just like families do. Afterwards, Sara and I got a ride home from Pati.

So here I am…one week away from being done in Samoa. It's amazing really – in 2005, I was nervous being one week away from leaving my home for 2 years. Now – in 2007 – I'm nervous being one week away from leaving my home of 2 years. After the lunch, I went to do some work in the computer labs, getting them ready for next year. I went into lab 3 and just walked around it for a bit – remembering the first time I walked into this same lab after I had been sworn in as a volunteer. When I walked into that room, there were busted computers sitting on top student tables, the windows were busted and the place was just a total mess. I thought it would take me forever to get that lab up to a decent standard – it didn't. And that was when I learned that I could do a lot of things as long as I put my head down and I'm committed to the task…Lab 3 is a testament to that. One question that Cecil asked me on Saturday was 'Did you do everything you wanted to accomplish here?' I thought about it and laughed for a second and told him 'No – I did a lot more then what I wanted.' I have done things, helped people, been in situations I could never have conceived before coming here. I'm thankful that I didn't limit myself to just my job and 'being a Peace Corps Volunteer'. I became a part of the community, gained two families and a lot of friends here – I helped in the restoring a school's pride, stood as a beacon of light in a culture encroached upon by darkness (and I'm not talking about the Samoan culture), and helped a few small business along the way. Everything I wanted to accomplish was done in the first 6 months of me being here….the rest of my time has been about seeing what God has in store for me. So here we are….one week….am I ready? Probably not – but that's never stopped me before. L8r.  



I was reading your "Coming Together" until the end,, and I can't find anything related to the Topic except a few lines that usually doesn't give me any peace.. I am very familiar of what you do and where you come from,, but what I want to ask you is that why do you choose the South Pacific to come to?? I now reside in California and I am here witnessing an inland war that needs people like you to bring you mission to.. "I helped in restoring schools pride, stood as a beacon of light in a culture encroached upon darkness".. What exactly do you mean by that?? I'm in the light,, you are in the darkness..

Marques Stewart said...

Can't say that I understand your part about 'Why did I come to the South Pacific'. If you want to clarify your statement I will be more then happy to answer it. As for the the culture part - like I said, that had nothing to do with the Samoan culture or even the culture in the States. If you want clarification on that section - you'll just have to email me directly.

Anonymous said...

Marques, I think that person has taken what you said out of context.
I congratulate uso on a job well done. Your ethics, your heart, your constanance (spelling?), your values, your love to help people...malo lava le fa'amalosi, you've done a great job for the folks back in Samoa. I am 1/4 Samoan, 1/4 Tongan, Irish and German. I was born in the states, but lived in Samoa for 4 years during my teens. I know what they lack and what wonderful things the Peace Corps, and various religious groups have done for countries like Samoa and I applaud you. I have caught your blog from time to time and I must say that you are a stand up guy. You have a heart of gold along with your great family values and Christian upbringing the people of Samoa are much better for the love that you and the Peace Corps have done. Service wheter it be in the South Pacific, Asia, Africa or South Central LA is needed all the time. It doesn't matter where you serve as long as you are able to give your share of charity. Big props to you Marques. God Bless and have a safe trip home, and Best Wishes in your future endeavors wherever our Heavenly Father sends you. Go Hawaii and kick Georgia's rear!!!! I know your a Volunteers fan, but I just wanted to throw that in there. Much alofas.

Kem Carroll
Salt Lake City, Utah