Thursday, July 28, 2016

Talofa Samoa

On the flight over-- Miss M's mind is blown when she is served a giant pink marshmallow.  For breakfast.

View on the drive from the airport
Pacific Islands seem to be my thing, because I really like Samoa.  We've settled in a bit now. We know our bus route, the girls are attending a preschool a few days a week, I have a library card, and we've found 3 playgrounds.  Samoa is very different from Fiji.  For starters, Apia is a bit smaller city, and we are living on the outskirts on the USP campus, which has animals.  Daniel is so happy.  Whenever the cows graze in the field by our house it feels just like Belize.  As promised, the people here are super friendly.  It seems to manifest the most in a chatty curiosity-- most everyone (even those encountered for a few minutes, like grocery store tellers or taxi drivers) want to know where we are from, where we are staying, how our day is going, what our plans are, and how we like Samoa.  Everyone is super curious about Miss M and Lu, and how we ended up as a family.

Ocean front playground

Lu coordinates her flower with her outfit

Miss M prefers flowers the size of her face

The thing I enjoy most so far is the creativity of the people of Samoa.  There are so many beautiful crafts.  Every single grocery store sells fabric-- bright, beautiful tropical prints.  Samoa is known for the intricately printed designs painted on fabric, which are sold everywhere and worn by men and women both.  There is also a lot of weaving.  We bought a woven mat for the girl's room that makes the whole room smell like freshly chopped hay.  Everyone uses baskets woven from coconut palm leaves to carry produce at the market, and I am dying to learn how to make one.  They are so common that they are thrown out just like plastic bags.

beautifully printed fabrics at one of the markets
It is much more hot and humid here—probably due to the huge jungle covered mountains that project like fingers through the settlement of Apia. (funny aside-- before we got here, I looked at google maps trying to figure out the distance of a school for the girls from where we are staying.  There is a big blank peninsula- shaped space on the map, right between where we are and where the school is, with no roads shown.  I figured the map was incomplete and the roads were small.  Turns out, that "space" is a huge mountain.  You have to go around it.)  Because of this climate it seems a majority of daily living is done in open air buildings called Fales.  Fales are  like palapas-  an earth or concrete base, with poles supporting a thatch or zinc roof.  Most lots have a fale, and in many the fale is the center of activity, with a small house crouched behind like an afterthought.   The other architectural feature that is predominate is churches.  In the half hour drive into the city from the airport, I counted at least a dozen huge, beautiful churches.   Religion is very much a part of everyone’s life, in fact on Sundays most everything is closed and buses don’t even run.

The buses are great-- they are brightly painted and decorated and made of wood!  The chassis are apparently from the 1950's, and the whole bus structure, from floors to seats to roof, is wood.  There aren't any windows, and when it rains there are pieces of plexi glass that you can lift into the window frame.  The bus costs 1 tala a ride (around 40 cents US) and don't run on any timetable, they just loop around their route all day.  That means if you aren't lucky and just miss a bus, you have to sit and wait for another to show.  The most I've had to wait on our route is about 1/2 an hour.  I'm glad so far we don't have any set appointments we have to reach on time, cause you can't really predict how long it will take you to get  somewhere by bus. Since the buses don't run on Sunday, though, we have to take a taxi to church.  Taxis are really expensive here, the same route that costs 1 tala by bus costs 10 tala by taxi, so we try to take the bus when we can.  But the absolute BEST part about the bus is that when it gets crowded, people sit on eachother's laps.  I had read about this before I came, and told Daniel, but he thought it was just something people told to tourists.  NOPE. It's totally a thing.  One day we took a trip into town just as the 2 all boys high schools down the street from us got out for the day.  Normal capacity for the bus is maybe about 35 with 2 people per (small) bench seat.  That day, we found out people don't wait for the next bus, they just squeeeeeze in.   2 guys would sit on the bench, and then 2 more guys would sit on their laps, so now there are 4 people crammed into a maybe 3 ft by 1 1/2 ft space.  Then everyone squeezes into the aisle, and when absolutely no more fit, people stand on the bus steps, and the poor guy on the end hangs on the the door frame for dear life.  There were 15 people in the 3-seat area around me, and well over a hundred on the bus. Everyone is pretty blase about it, I had to laugh thinking about the fistfights that would inevitable break out if you tried that with Belizean highschoolers! I did make the mistake of traveling when school let out by myself another day, and ended up with a very heavy 10 year old on my lap! So, pro-tip:  travel with a toddler on your lap, so you don't end up with a very close seatmate!

Much more to come, we have been going on lots of adventures, but internet is painfully slow and sometimes non-existent.

Friday, July 1, 2016

off to Samoa!

My Mom, who took the picture:  You look like an interesting family
Me: Mom,  we ARE an interesting family.
Mom: well... (remains unconvinced.)
On Monday we leave Fiji for Samoa!  We are fairly sure we will be in Samoa until December, and then return to Fiji for 2017, but us + planning ahead = HAHAHA

Anyways.  It has been such a wonderful few months in Fiji.  I think this time abroad is exactly what our family needs.  This summer Daniel and I will be married 8 years, and this is the first time we have been out of Belize for an extended time.  Every aspect of our lives has been different here--  city living, a big house, no getting up at 5am to milk cows..... we were living under so much pressure, which we didn't even realize until we left.  Farm life is nice in some ways, but it is also unrelenting, Now we have a chance to put our heads up, take a deep breath and look around.

We have found Fijians as a whole are so friendly, but when Fijians find out we are traveling to Samoa, they all say we will love it there because Samoans are super friendly. I'm expecting some epic levels of friendliness.  I am going to miss Fiji, but I am so excited to be able to visit another island in the South Pacific.  My serious lack of geographical knowledge means that I keep getting surprised by countries.  Someone will mention they just came from Kiribati, or New Caledonia, or Vanuatu, and I have to google it.  I'm also spending time googling small local airways, looking for bargain fares between islands, because even though we have no budget for side trips I am dying to experience some of these places.  How fun would it be to visit a country you didn't even know existed a few months ago, right? Crossed fingers.  

I am sad that we won't be in Fiji for the Olympics though.  This is the first year that rugby will be an Olympic sport, and the #1 ranked 7's rugby team in the world is.... Fiji!  Rugby is SO major here, that even I follow it now.  It's hard not to when you have 2 tv channels, and 85% of the time both channels are showing rugby.  People here follow rugby the same way Belize follows the World Cup:  when a game is on, you don't need to watch it to know the score, because you can hear the cheering/ groaning from everyone else up and down the street. We live right up the street from the stadium, and know whenever the team is on the move because they get an official police escort, including sirens on and speeding through red lights.  Anyways, we are going to miss a major party in August, but we will be cheering Fiji on in Samoa!

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