The Mark of the Jandal

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Little Things

My PowerBook is the first Mac I've ever really used. Since I got it, I've found lots of really neat things that Apple thought of that really takes advantage of hardware. For example, when it is booting I can hold down the 't' key and instead of booting into OS X it will become an external hard drive. I can connect my laptop to another computer via the firewire connection and transfer files between the two computers.

Well Bryan and I are house sitting for a coworker. She has dialup on her computer at home. While I can check my email through the gmail interface, it's much more useful for me to use my computer. No worries, I've got a modem and I can use her dialup account to connect. However, Apple discontinued internal modems in their laptops, so Bryan is out of luck. I thought about it, and I was pretty sure I could set my computer up as a wireless router sharing the modem connection. I've done stuff like this in Linux, but it normally involves me poking around on the Internet for an hour or so to "remember" how to do it.

I thought, Hum I wonder if I can do this easily. I started poking around in the system preferences (like the control panel in windows). I type in 'NAT' (network address translation) and the 'Sharing' icon is highlighted. I select 'Sharing' and notice that there is an 'Internet' option which looks to do exactly what I want. I just tell the computer I want to share my connection from the 'internal modem' to computers using 'Airport'. There I have it, I have a computer setup to do wireless NAT.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pathetic

Bryan and I are sitting down to breakfast when we hear this rather meek kitten outside. At first we think our neighbors kitten has escaped, and we go outside to collect it. While they look similar, this is definitely not our neighbors cat. It has a gimpy rear leg, and is clearly starving.

It's ironic that many of Darwins observations came from an island in the South Pacific, and if anyone has a chance I'd encourage them to read Sex Lives of Cannibals. While the entire book is interesting, in this context I'm referring more specifically the part about the dogs of Kiribati which I think extrapolates well to both dogs and cats in Samoa. I think its a bit underwhelming to say that island life is less than ideal for animals that require large amounts of protein in their diet. As a result, many of the carnivores here lie on the verge of starvation, and the competition for protein can quite literally lead to a dog eat dog situation. The resulting animals are also the most robust.

So when this pathetic kitten starving and damaged arrived on my doorstep my first thought was to kill it. Unless someone is willing to step in and make up the balance of its energy deficit, that will be its eventual fate in the next week. Fortunately for this kitten, the Peace Corps is full of people who tend to anthropomorphize and get all emotional when they see a starving kitten. So my second thought was to keep the cat alive through the Christmas holiday, present it to some volunteers and tell them to take it or I'm going to snap its neck.

The cat could obviously smell our breakfast and quickly came in when I opened the door -- as quickly as a starving kitten with three fully functional legs can. Our cat Griselda, seemed to object to the little visitor. She began to grumble and hiss a bit. I assumed she was just laying down the law: "this is my house, watch yourself, etc.", something along those lines. Griselda clearly has the advantages: ten times the weight, she is healthy, flea collar, the entire place smells like her, etc. Well the kitten was, as I assume many animals who are starving to death are, undeterred. The kitten took a step forward, Griselda hissed one last time, her hair flared up, and she ran away.

In that moment Griselda redefined pathetic. This is the point where it is obvious we treat her too well. To protect Griseldas delicate self esteem, and to prevent the kitten from giving her any diseases she might have, we took the kitten outside to our shed and gave her some food. She's safe until after Christmas unless there is someone out there who wants to sponsor a cat: For just as little as a quarter a day, you too can provide this club footed cat with the life saving food and flea collars it needs to survive:

The Land of Bye Bye

Prophecy: a pilgrimage will be made about the largest island of Savai'i.

My idea of a vacation typically involves moving my rather robust rear end around the edges of the country on a piece of aluminum and two tiers. As I spend more time in and around the Apia area, I really start to get restless. I am fortunate that Candice, a fellow volunteer from my training group, also has a taste for such silliness. So to quell this restlessness, I planned a trip with her to bike around Savai'i. The plan was to leave on the 15th of December and tool about in Savai'i, staying with other volunteers and corrupting the fine peoples in the far reaches. It's just our luck that such reaches are paved and sport stores which stock large quantities of water, salty snack food, and canned tuna. Of course the following sounds much more adventurous if one pictures a deserted island covered with foliage and bicycles equipped brush clearing devices. Some time between the initial planning of the trip and the time we actually left, others thought such a bike trip sounded like a good idea. I did my best to discourage them: I described the extreme dehydration, the occasional necessity of cannibalism, and the ritual sacrifice of small children along the way to the god of firm tires and overcast skys (strangely enough this duty is delegated to the same god). In the end three others would not be abated. Candice and I were joined by Jordan, Stephanie, and Jame all from group 76. Jame is pronounced like 'Jamie' except in New York City the socialists banned the letter 'i' in names hoping to reduce individualism and encourage collectivism.

On the 15th, group 76 was celebrating the birth of one of it's members, Vik, in his village Sale'auala on Savai'i. The goal was to ride from Apia to the wharf, take the ferry to Salealoga, bike up to Viks village, and enjoy some hot dogs. Well, I was focused on the hot dogs but others may have focused more on other carbon based consumables. The Upolu side of this leg is a little over 20 miles and the Savai'i portion is around 30. If one averages about 10 miles per hour, not an unreasonable number given much of the land is flat-ish, that's only five hours with a firm piece of plastic covered in faux leather crammed in ones nether-regions. Leaving at 7.30 we could be at the wharf in time to catch the 10am ferry, arrive at Savaii around 11.30 and make it to Viks around three. Well that was a plan, not 'the' plan because definite articles are to be used sparingly when planning more or less anything.

For instance there is a subset of folks who feel that leaving sharp pieces of cable in the streets of Apia to be a good idea. So we started with a flat tire about 1/4 of a mile from the Peace Corps office. This also happened to be across the street from a couple of bars and attracted the attention of a drunken individual whose slurred Samoan was especially difficult for me to understand. I balanced my time between changing the tire and intercepting his touchy feely intentions. Ten or fifteen minutes later we were back on the road and we could probably still make the ferry if we didn't stop.

The ride from Apia to the wharf is really pleasant. It runs along the coast and any changes in elevation are modest. I was expecting a relatively benign trip to the wharf. About 2/3's of the way there Jame says she needs to stop for some water. We stop, drink a bit and she says she needs to sit down. At that point she faints, though she contends she didn't faint because she never hit the ground -- next time I'll forego catching her to make it official. At this point my mind shifted from catching the 10 o-clock ferry to wondering if we should call the trip off. See, this was supposed to be the easy part, and taxi vans are easily to come by.

We sat for a while under a tree in someones front yard filling her with rehydration salts, food, and other pleasantries. She said she wanted to keep on going, so I gave her my water bladder to carry in her backpack and we trudged on. I rode in the back to keep an eye on her, and I just kept imagining her collapsing while riding. I know, I'm always called the pessimist, but really I was being an optimist. If she passed out and was run over by a car, we could use her bike for parts. Otherwise we arrive with no problems: Either way I win!

Sadly enough the rest of the trip to the wharf was uneventful. We got there in plenty of time to eat, catch the noon ferry, and get a shot of a more or less typical Samoan bicycle. Candice used her feminine wiles to convince a gentlemen with an empty truck to let us put our bikes on the back which saved us 5ST per bike. I laid down on the floor of the ferry and slept (completely socially acceptable here) most of the way there.

The wharf on Savai'i is located in Salealoga. The Peace Corps maintains a small office space across the street from the wharf. We were picking up Jordan, who made the 10am ferry, before we continued on to Viks place. When we arrived there were a few volunteers there who were cavorting about and undoubtably up to no good. It turns out a few of the guys from the new group who swore in a week or so prior cannot move into their sites until January 15th. Their organizations have put them up in a beach fale for the time being, and they were hanging out at the office where Internet access flows as freely as it can through a modem.

We ambled along towards to Viks place stopping as necessary for breaks. As we ride around the country the large roads all run through different villages. If one grew up in Arkansas or any other place where there are rural areas, and by rural I mean lacking conventional plumbing, you might appreciate the spectacle of having a bunch of non-native looking people passing in front of the house. People here are friendly, and will try to get your attention as you pass through. A common, and quite effective, method of obtaining someones attention here is to make kissing sounds. Also, it's also common to say 'fa' (the Samoan word for 'bye') as you meet someone in passing. So we pass through villages we get lots of kissing noises (from adults) and lots of 'bye bye' (from the kids). Based on anecdotal experience, the amount of 'bye bye' and kissing sounds seems more frequent on Savai'i than on Upolu. It also seems to drive some volunteers kind of crazy. I just look at it from the perspective of people who live in a small community who think "hey a white dude on a bike I'll make a kissing sound to say "what's up"" -- more or less a friendly greeting. So when we would stop for our breaks, I'd try my hand at small talk, and a lot of the people here really enjoy having their picture taken. (It's also probably useful to mention that children are sometimes told that white people will eat them.)

We rolled up at Viks, I believe, around five. At this point my arse is a little sore and I'm giving off a pungent ripe smell. The rest of group 76 is already there, and seem somewhat relieved that we made it. His house is really nice. I was a little confused by the flagpole in the front until Vik told me half of his house is going to be the first pulenu'u (village mayor) office in the country. I made a point of telling his host father/pulenu'u how nice the place was. I eventually made my way to the shower where I also washed my clothes. I then had hot dogs, baked beans, and other tasty goodness.

I think the days riding curtailed any party intentions my fellow riders may have had. I don't think they even realize it now that they rode close to 50 miles in one day which I think was quite an accomplishment. Eventually they spent most of their time laying around while Candice gave out back massages.

The following morning Neocon John (oh to be a neoconservative in the Peace Corps), inspired by the back rubs from the previous night, asked if someone would walk on his back. I was happy to oblige him.

It was decided that a break was needed and Manase, a touristy village with beach fale's for rent was just around the corner. I had made arrangements for us to spend that night with another volunteer named Maka. His family in the states owns a meat farm in upstate New York. Since he's from the rural part of the state I don't normally refer to him as a Yankee though he's probably close enough to be mistaken for Canadian. During training we are sent off for a "Volunteer Visit" where we spend a few days with a current volunteer. I spent my visit with Maka and his Samoan family. I wasn't eager to spend the 50ST on a beach fale, and I kind of wanted to hang out with Maka. So I left the ladies at the beach fales and pushed on.

I rode along the coast for a while before I headed into the mountains and eventually the road passed across a lava field made in the early 1900's after what I speculate was an unsatisfying sacrifice of some Tongans. While the first day was nice and overcast, this day was decidedly not so. I could always see storm clouds and eventually I did catch up to them, but most of this leg was bright and sunny. The benefit of this was a very picturesque ride.

Maka lives in Papa Sataua which lies above the village of Sataua on a substantial hill. I tend to stop a lot and take pictures, and I was in the process of doing this when a boy walked up and asked me where I was going. I thought to myself this is my opportunity, I could get this kid to push me up the hill. I started telling him how strong he was and asked him if he could push me up the hill. Another boy who spoke English helped me convey the message I was trying to get across. Of course I was only joking with him, but I believe he was committed to pushing me up the hill toward the end of the conversation.

At the top of the hill across the street from the road leading to Makas place is a little fale folks sit under when waiting for buses. As I approached I noticed that there were about five young men sitting around drinking. They began to take notice of me, and their first question was something to the effect of "where are the four girls?". It seems Maka had told his family and it didn't take long for the word to get out that four Peace Corps girls were coming... oh yeah and some guy. Needless to say, they were a little sad to see only me.

I arrived at Makas a little tired. After taking a shower he made some coffee and appetizers. We hung out and talked for a bit, and eventually his brother Malo showed up. The pictures below don't really do justice to his hands. Years of husking coconuts coupled with superior genetics have given him some huge hands. Malo showed up with a bottle of vodka in hand. The better part of the bottle had already been consumed with his friends, and when they passed out he snuck off with the remainder. He too was expecting some ladies. He'd already become smitten with Peta, Jordans Samoans name, even though he had never met her.

Not to be dissuaded and adapting to new conditions, Malo decided that he and Maka should share the rest of the fagu malosi (fagu=bottle, malosi=strong). As dinner rolled around, Malo decided we should eat at Makas place instead of the fale with the rest of the family, and he brought dinner out to us. It was typical Samoan food: taro, a couple different soups, and cocoa. His family tends to cook good food. As the night wore on, the strong bottle began to get the better of Malo, and he and Maka began to dance in a sitting position which I read somewhere is common among Polynesian folks.

The following day was pretty laid back. The others arrived in the afternoon to little fanfare. Maka and I rode to the bottom of the hill to provide moral support and carry any heavy stuff up the hill for them. The young men who were there waiting for me lost interest in the span of a day and were no longer there. Everyone was pretty funky so baths were in order. We had dinner with Makas family that evening and made them happy by eating large quantities of food. The best way to be a good guest here is to have seconds or thirds at meals. We stayed up late that night and slept in a bit.

Our next destination was the beach fales at Satuiatua where we were going to stay the night, but we were going to go a little out of the way and spend lunchtime at Falealupo. Falealupo is the village on the western most chunk of Samoa and it also has the distinction of being the last part of land on this side of the international date line. So many colorfully refer to sunset there as the last sunset on earth. This is where many of us are planning on spending New Years Eve, and Maka wanted to confirm reservations with the proprietor of the beach fales so he accompanied us. We spent lunch time at the fales allowing the hottest part of the day to pass us by.

One of the more interesting sights around Falealupo is the Catholic Church below. It was blown asunder, as the saying goes, along with the village around it by cyclone Ofa in 1990. After the heavy smiting the village was moved inland, but some of the more permanent structures like foundations and this church still survive.

Across the street from the church is a grave which is uncharacteristically open (as can be seen behind Candice). Inside are the remains of several people who died long enough ago such that only their bones remain. I'm not sure why this is, but I do know that Samoans look at graves a little differently than most folks back home do. Many families have graves in their front yard for highly respected members of the family. It's also common for Samoans to hang out and sleep on graves or even to use them to dry their laundry.

After leaving Falealupo, Maka returned to his village and we tooled along to the village of Satuiatua where we were planing on staying at beach fales for the evening. It was overcast and we were rained on a bit, but it was more or less uneventful. Since we didn't call ahead, all that was available for dinner was fish and chips but that didn't matter since I knew this place would have cereal for breakfast. I know it sounds strange but I never really have cereal here, and I really like the stuff. It's not lack of availability, but my own personal lack of self control -- an open box in the morning will probably be empty the next day. The cereal offerings are New Zealand/Australian variants of the standard stuff you'd get back in the States but the names are much better. Really, Frosted Miniwheats is so banal. Now Frosted Minispooners, that's a name that just rolls off your tongue.

We were planning on staying the night with a married couple, Jan and Ray, who also came with group 76. Between Satuiatua and their village is the village of Taga which is know for its blow holes. These are channels in the rocks created by cooling lava which connect breaking waves to the surface. As the waves crash into the shore the energy pushes water into these channels and forces it out the other end. Jan biked there and met us so we could all do the touristy thing together. We were charged 5ST to get in and then when we got to the blowholes a gentleman named Tofa tried to charge us 1ST per bike to "park" them. After we declined and told him we'd "park" the bikes on the road, he relented.

Dead crabs littered the beach, and I speculate they had the trip of their lives through the holes which were quite loud and impressive. After some substantial gawking we went to a fale along side the road for lunch and a nap.

The next destination was Jans place in Vaiala. It was a couple hours and a flat tire away. We stopped a few times for water and I speculate to alleviate the pressure created by the bike seats.

Jan and Ray have a nice place. Across the street is a pool where we bathed shortly after arriving. Candice and I went to the store to pick up some food so we could have French toast, or Freedom toast if one prefers, for dinner. Ray has been experimenting with the normal Samoan fare and he made some tasty meat balls with corned beef and ground taro. I must admit that I'd never eaten corned beef before coming here. My host family preferred to eat it straight out of the can which produced a gelatinous cylinder like a huge can of cat food. Being psychologically challenged by the texture, I never actually ate it until they snuck it in by putting it inside of a toasted sandwich which was actually pretty good. Though sometimes I stare into the corned beef and try to read the future like tea leaves.

Jan and Ray are interesting folks. They joined the Peace Corps 20 years ago shortly after getting married and served in Morocco. I suppose they enjoyed that experience because after their kids grew up they joined again. I really look forward to talking to these folks in the future.

That night we slept in the open fale surrounded by mosquito coils, or as I like to call them "Samoan incense", and took our leave the next morning after a satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs and hot dogs. It was about 45 minutes to the wharf.

On Upolu, Jame and Stephanie decided the bus was better to take back to Apia. Candice, Jordan and I biked back and we made it home by around two in the afternoon. I went home to clean myself up. After almost a week of hand washing clothing and drying them on the back of my bike while we rode, I had developed a pungent, yet self assuring, smell. I also got a bit of sun and cultivated what I like to refer to as the "used car salesman tan" which qualifies me for membership in the "Rick Delkemp Fan Club".

And to provide a little contrast:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Say Old Chap.

It's time for a lovely excursion out to the countryside.

Bryan and I decided to take a trip out to see our host families and to spend some time with Josh, another volunteer living on the south eastern part of Upolu. We left Sunday morning around six so that we could get into Falevao, our training village, before church started. We made pretty good time and arrived around 7.30. Since church starts at nine, I had plenty of time to take a shower and put on my Sunday best, a white linen shirt and a nice lavalava. In the States I never go to church, and those who know me would find the following to be an understatement: I'm not a particularly religious person.

However, church seems to be pretty important to the folks here, and my host mother really seems to enjoy it when I go. I don't mind much, though some sermons can be a trial of will. Since most of the service is given in Samoan, and I understand less than my two-year-old niece, the preacher could be fomenting revolution for all I know. Since I don't have a clue about what is being said, I just sit back, think, joke with my host sister, perplex the kids out with my flexibility, and listen to the music. I like the music most of all, though my vocabulary being what it is, I really don't know the specifics. I am able to get this: God and Jesus are quite amiable folks and seem to deserve a lot of praise. The best part is that most of the songs are sung to music played by a guy using a synthesizer. I know many are not familiar with the tormented genius of Wesley Willis, but every time I hear the guy at church fire up the synthesizer, Wesley Willis is the first thing that pops into my mind. I imagine him singing something like the following (note this will only make complete sense if one is familiar with Wesley Willis is and also spent some time in Samoa):

It was a rockin' show at the Falevao lotu
The sermon really whipped the pigs ass
The faifeau really rocked the fale
He read from the book of Iosua
Fa'afetai Iesu
Fa'afetai Iesu
Fa'afetai Iesu
Fa'afetai Iesu
Rock over London, Rock on Chicago
Samoatel, Top it off.

At least that is what goes through my head, but in reality the people in the church are much more harmonious:

2006.12-samoa-upolu-5.mp3

2006.12-samoa-upolu-3a.mp3

For the village, church is the big event of the week, everyone gets gussied up. Standard fare for guys is an ie faitoga (think dress skirt), a shirt, jacket, and a tie (all white). Andrew's host family gave him a nice pink tie to wear the first time we went to church during training -- think 80's new wave band. The ladies will normally wear white dresses and large hats. These are a few pictures I took in training.

After church, we went home and had To'ana'i, the Sunday afternoon meal -- think thanksgiving-like consumption every Sunday. I subsequently passed out for an hour or so. I have a grandmother in the village who is suffering from Parkinson's disease. She has a little area of the main fale that is hers, and most people leave her alone in that area. While she seems pretty nice to me, whenever I tried to talk to her during training there was one thing I always understood: my Samoan is bad. She always seems really excited to see me. I believe this is because she is pretty lonely.

I'm told she was quite the disciplinarian back in the day. I've heard some good stories about her accuracy with rocks implying that her reach did not stop at the end of her arm. This brand of negative feedback fits in well with my own experiences outside of my family and from what I've heard from other volunteers.

Aside on child rearing
Some of the other volunteers are convinced that any form of corporal punishment for kids is just evil. I personally have no problems with it. I recall one January when my father drug me outside, stripped me to my underwear, and hung me upside down from a tree. He then went and gathered my friends and hosed me down with a water hose as they pointed and laughed... No, my dad didn't do this, but I remember threatening my sisters with this when they were younger. I'm sure the benefits from such a treatment would far outweigh any emotional scaring. Basically, I don't really have any problems with beating kids when they deserve it. It's just wrong to do it for fun. However, if you enjoy beating them when they do deserve it, well that's just part of the human condition. Basically, child rearing here hasn't been denatured like it has in the States. Of course the lady who threw a stick at her kid and killed him, it's true, I read it in the news paper, probably needs more guidance when it comes to dealing with kids.

Well, back to my grandmother in the village. I always say hello to her when I arrive. She always asks when I'll be leaving and when I'll be coming back -- of I don't feel any pressure with this ;). Old folks are taken care of pretty well here. Best I can tell, my grandmother has four daughters and one son still living. She stays at our house where my host mother's family takes care of her which is I believe how the elderly and infirm are taken care of here. Because she is the matriarch of the family, she's given a large area of the main fale. Most of the rest of the family spend time in the smaller fale where the cooking is done. For special church services there are performances (Christmas, Easter, etc.) and communion (first Sunday of the month). The church will send people out to the houses of the infirm to give them communion or perform for them. Given all of this, she still spends a significant amount of time alone. So when her grandson came over to take her out for a drive she was pretty excited. I think that was the first time I've seen her leave the house area.

After that, we had a little dinner and watched "Golden Stars", the Samoan version of star search. Following that was something with "Hiphop" in the title. This is a show where people do dance sequences to mixes of popular songs. I know this is going to date me, but if anyone who grew up in the 80's remembers the show "puttin' on the hits', combine that with "You Got Served", and throw in a little break dancing and you have the Hiphop Show. As the evening went on, kids from my end of the village started to collect around the tv. After about 45 minutes of the Hiphop Show it was time for bed. Marques was going to meet Bryan and myself, and we were going to Josh's village.

Bryan showed up at my fale around eight or half past and said that Marques had called and he was fairly close. Marques arrived a little exasperated asking for water. I gave him my spare niu which he vigorously consumed. We left Falevao around nine. Much to Marques' chagrin, we spent the first 45 minutes to an hour going uphill. After this there was another large hill before we reached Josh's village. The most humbling moment was when a sixty to seventy year old woman chopping down a tree, about a foot wide, with a machette told us how we were string bike riders.

Josh teaches carpentry at the Aleipata Secondary School which is located in the village of Saleaumua on the eastern tip of Upolu. He lives in a house at the school with two other Samoan teachers and a student. Josh is living what I would call the "Peace Corps Dream". He's living with host country nationals, electricity is uncertain, and the only running water he currently has comes from the PVC pipe in his front yard. The water is pumped from one or two villages away, and I believe the pump is broken so the water literally comes out in a trickle. I'm pretty sure the pump is at a lower elevation because if he lifts the pipe off of the ground the trickle stops. So for water Josh walks a couple houses over with a couple five gallon buckets which he uses to fill his toilet and water filter. For bathing Josh goes to the public pool which is a natural spring which mixes with sea water. See what I mean? "Peace Corps Dream"

I don't think most people appreciate how important water can be. Back home one turns the valve and it pours out of the faucet clean enough (in most cities anyways) to drink. I've been in a few situations here where I was staring at water thinking to myself: "Self, do you really see anything in there, it wont kill you. There's no such thing as microbes, it's just evil spirits. If I get sick I can just rubs some leaves in coconut oil on my belly and it will fix it". Self would always reply with sound advice protecting my intestines. Understanding the importance of water, Josh quickly filled out the paperwork for a grant for tanks to store rain runoff. As it turned out, the grants went through and he just needed a truck to get the tanks from Apia to his village.

That night Eric, another volunteer living down the road, came over. He finished training around August/September, and was living with a host family. He had been pushing for a Faleo'o, a traditional Samoan fale with a thatched roof. He had the money for it, but getting it built was something different. Matai meetings had been held and Eric said that tomorrow looked like the day. I thought this would be pretty neat to watch and possibly help out with --- westerners here are like delicate flowers and may be easily broken by physical labor.

When we showed up the next morning, Eric was out in the jungle with the fellas gathering up thatching for the roof. I sat back and watched the machette artists do their work.

As I understand it, the Swiss Army has their own knife, and I hear the generals even get one with a remote control. Really though, who needs some special attachment two open cans that's just going to get broken? The machette is a single blade of metal that can be sharpened until all that is left is a letter opener. From the day it's made in China until the last molecule of iron is oxidized it is a hammer and everything else is a nail.

Sitting in the fale with a woman named Taula (If I recall correctly) She looked to be unscrewing a copy of Street Fighter II. I asked her if it was broken and she told me they needed the tape for the roof of the faleo'o. I hope Eric appreciates the sacrifice host family was making. Honestly though, I really do appreciate how much gets reused around here. Notice the toothbrush used to thread the tape through the thatching.

By the time we had to leave, they were finishing up the outline of the roof. By the end of the day they had the skeleton of the roof finished and a good portion of the thatching. This whole process sort of reminds me of a barn raising. A communal effort to distribute the workload over several capable individuals. It would have been nice to stay a week while they finished everything.

We went to visit the head of the local church, a former language trainer for the Peace Corps. He's a Catholic, but not a priest, but like a priest except he has a wife and quite a few kids; I think the word he used was catacyst. He fed us, basically any time you go into someone's house here they feed you. The highlight was a lime juice drink sort of like limeaid.

Later, after returning to Josh's house, a truck was driving up with three water tanks and some cement. The truck from the village was having mechanical difficulties. It was just as well because it is small and would have taken three trips. The pule (short for puleaoga or principal) hired someone to transport the tanks. It worked out well, and I'm sure Josh is really excited at the prospect of having fresh water close at hand. I got Bryan to take the second picture because Heather says the only pictures she sees of me is when I'm at the beach or at a party. Yeah that's Marques taking pictures of me. See he didn't want to get his Best Buy shirt dirty. I think it was the special Windows XP release day shirt. That evening we played a mean game of scrabble and went to bed relatively early.

We left the next morning at sunrise. We rode along the cost for a bit before heading inland. Between me getting a flat tire and stopping for a snack and some water, it took us about four hours to get from Josh's place at the northern part of the eastern tip of Upolu to the cross island road by my house that bisects the island. So we started at about 100 ft above sea level at a little after ten in the morning. It took us about three hours to get up to aroud 2500 ft. Along the way the wet season caught up with us and dumped copious amounts of water from the sky. Some would say the rain gods were angry, but I actually welcomed the water over the afternoon sun. Close to the top of the hill we arrived at Papapapaitai Falls. On that day the humidity had the clouds hanging low.

I've ridden down this hill, but I've never gone up it. However, once I saw the railing on this hill I recognized it as the last hill (or the first when going down), so I paused to take a picture.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Smell of Death

Some days you're laying down on a mat in your living room and you think to yourself: "It sure smells like something died." Perhaps one of the starving dogs succumbed in the sugarcane outside your window. You may look up at the volunteer visiting you and say, "do you smell something rotting"? He replies in the negative and you think you're imagining it. As you get ready for bed, you pull off your shirt and think: "Man I'm sweating something quite fetid and rank, this just isn't normal". Ants seem to come to you where they didn't before and you think: "Have I died and just didn't realize it?". Then you notice the pillow you normally lay around on smells pretty bad, you pull the pillow case off and a decomposing lizard missing it's tail falls out. The missing tail tells you that was its last refuge taken while fleeing from the cat. All is well, you have not died and are not going slowly insane.