Reciprocity: the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.
It has been quite the adjustment living on a tropical island. After eight months, I am beginning to feel settled and integrated into my community. My favorite part about Fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way) is reciprocity. The people are incredibly generous with their food, money, time and friendliness.
So many aspects of my daily life have changed and I will highlight a few here:
I live in a fale (fall- ay) in front of my host parents and I cook all of my meals using my “makeshift” kitchen of a water kettle, rice cooker, hot plate and blender. Though I live on the big island, this is not the main island, so food supply is inconsistent and making a grocery list feels pointless. It is fun to see what random items make it on to the island. My most recent exciting find was pesto and almond milk! Staple foods for me now a days are canned lentils, chick peas, beets, eggs and fresh tomatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, ginger, eggplant, potatoes, and carrots. I find it incredibly interesting that the chicken most people eat here is Tyson chicken, that kind of freaks me out.
On Sundays I eat To’onai from my family. This is usually chicken soup and taro or pumpkin soup (my favorite). My family loves when I bring food to share with them. A few things I enjoy cooking are potatoes and eggs, chickpea and eggplant tacos, and soup, and I make a smoothie atleast once a day.
OH MY I want P Terrys and Chick Fil a. Eating out is not really an option. There are a few hotels around the island that serve decent food and some nice bar drinks, but those are a ways a way from me and my volunteer budget doesn’t support that. There is a fish and chips place that I thought was good, but when my two best friends were here, one of them got intense food poisoning from it. womp womp.
The only picture I have of a bus.
Walking throughout my village is a rewarding experience. I have noticed that any time I try to walk anywhere, I am offered a ride by someone. Sometimes I graciously accept while other times I tell them that I am training. The village people are always interested in where I am going, whether it be to church or to the shop.
At least once a week, my teacher friend, SiliVali offers to bring me to Salelologa to go grocery shopping. I am so grateful for her and her company because it is just not fun taking the bus to grocery shop. SiliVali says she enjoys taking care of me. I call her “Big Momma” and she always gets a huge kick out of that.
Taking the bus is an experience. Despite feeling like they are about to fall apart, the buses are always blaring the tunes and usually get me to where I need to be. It is no surprise if a 40 passenger bus has 80 people on it, with the island rendition of Purple Rain blaring. Do you see why I am completely grateful to Silivali and the hospitality of Samoan people?
Since Peace Corps Volunteers cannot drive, and my school is located a couple of miles away, I was issued a bike! Having a bike gives me a lot of freedom and it’s a great exercise. Recently, the tire popped, and I have not been proactive at all in getting it fixed. The past few weeks I have been walking to school and I enjoy chatting (in my extremely limited Samoan) with people throughout the village. The other day one of my students, Opeta, and his dad showed up and fixed my tire. I was so grateful and enjoyed throwing the frisbee with Opeta while his dad worked on my bike.
It’s pretty common of Peace Corps Volunteers to have a lot of free time. At first I thought I was going insane but quickly learned to embrace all of this time. I have read 26 books (See what I have read here! ) and binged many TV series. I have written over 25 letters to friends and family and my newest hobbies are adult coloring books and at home Yoga. Today I sent eight more letters and the mail lady said that out of the entire island, including Samoans, I send the most mail- I’ll take that as a compliment.
It has really been an experience of growth and embracing it all is hard. Going with it is challenging at times but in the end, rewarding.
Cheers to blogging more!
my two best friends, Layne and Maggie visited in April.
Group 89 at a training.
In May, we received books from Darien Book Aid and the Apia Rotary Club.
Weekend beach trip with my friends Lena and Whitney.
Sunset at Falealupo.
A room full of coconuts for a Rugby tournament at my school.
Faith and Lita learning K.
Fishing at sunset.My sweet nephews in their Samoan shirts. My host sister made them.