Well. Things just got away from me for a while there. After having some mentally rough weeks, the thought occurred to me, "Ah. This is culture shock. It is normal and ok and things will be fine." And things are fine. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me that we might have an adjustment period, I guess I figured I could handle Belize and Fiji I could handle any tropical country. And also we were so busy worrying about other things, like visas and adoptions, that I never took time to sit down and learn a bit about the country we were traveling to. The thing I love about Samoa, but which has also made adjusting a bit more difficult: Samoa has an amazing, deep culture. There are traditions and rules that are fascinating, and also good to know about lest you accidentally offend someone. I am very grateful to the patient Samoans we have met, who have answered many questions and not taken offense at our ignorance, and also laughed at us a bit.
|Ice cream made from Samoan chocolate|
I'm very glad we landed in relatively cushy circumstances in Fiji as our first stop over in the South Pacific, because if Samoa had been our first stop I most likely would have had a breakdown, just because our situation here has been much more sink or swim. In Fiji, we were in a fully furnished and equipped house, steps away from buses and shopping and everything. That was the ideal way to start, get rid of jet lag, and learn a bit about life in the Pacific. USP Samoa ushered us to little house on campus that had obviously sat vacant for a while (read: fairly filthy), and was mostly (completely) empty. Our total household furnishing included: 2 bed frames with a 3 inch foam "mattress," 1 table, and 4 curtains. We did some frantic shopping (and I did frantic curtain sewing after I realized that there are 15 windows in our house and all our neighbors are male students) and now I'm actually kinda enjoying living with the absolute minimum. It's fun to think about what I would add, if I could, and how small the list is: a mixer, an oven (we are using a 2 burner cooktop), a cushy armchair. Maybe a large cutting board. I plan on making a list of everything we have right now so I don't forget: these are the absolute essentials, life really doesn't require much more.
|preschool game day|
Also helping with my new, improved mood : our house now seems relatively luxurious, because for a month we had to share with a bunch of roommates. It's amazing the attitude adjustment that can happen when you think, "things can't possibly be worse" and then things get worse. When everything goes back to the way it was, it's wonderful. I'm not saying our roommates were rough, in fact we loved them a lot, they spoiled the girls rotten and we had so many great conversations. The problem is our house is TINY (a 12x 16ft common area, four 10x8 bedrooms, two 10x10 kitchen areas, and two bathrooms. Two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom are "ours," and all the rooms are arranged around the perimeter of the common area, so there is no separation of living areas.) At one point I think there were about 6 extra people living in the house, joined for almost every meal by at least 6 more people. I don't really even know how many people were staying here, which is SO Samoan. Sharing is a huge, huge part of the culture, and personal space and privacy aren't at all what we are used to in the western world. An example: Daniel and I were surprised to be asked by multiple people (including random taxi drivers) the first weeks we were here how much rent we are paying, and how much money Daniel gets as a monthly stipend. Here, this is not a rude question. I also quickly learned that our bedroom isn't considered private; if you have the door closed, expect a quick knock and then the door will be opened, ready or not. So anyways, the point is that people who needed a place to stay (teachers taking an accelerated course here on campus, placed in our house by administration) just bunked in together in the 2 spare bedrooms and made big communal meals for those staying elsewhere. Every night we were presented with a huge plate of food, even if we had already eaten, because, "that is the Samoan way." The girls were fussed over and presented with a special treat every time someone came back from an errant. The girls learned more about sharing in the last month then I've been able to teach them in the last 2 years, and are actually much better about sharing with each other now. (They rather unfortunately have also realized that if they want something another child has, they just hold out their hand and ask. If the child refuses to share, a mama or teacher will swoop in and scold the little one. Since I'm not too big on giving the girls chips and candy, they often take ruthless advantage of other kiddos at preschool snack time.) All in all, I'm really glad we got our crash course in Samoan life, but also really glad we have our house back to ourselves for a while.
|new best friend|
Before life got away from me, we were going on lots of "adventures," as the girls like to say, and I have tons of pictures which I will post soon. I also have lots more to say about some of the challenges of life, but we will leave that for another time :)