Saturday, April 26, 2008

what happens when you try to find a waterfall

this one is courtesy of rachel.

Village of Abaca, Fiji. the western side.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

always carry dog rocks, dog rocks are rocks for throwing at dogs when you spy them galloping towards you.

This was taken shortly after we met our Samoan mothers. Me and Taylor were out by the matafaga (beach) traipsing around in the leis our families made for us. My mom made me a little head piece too! Those flowers (pua) are found everywhere here. The English call it frangipani, Americans call it plumeria.
Lolling around on the beach with my two of my nine sisters! They are such badasses. They were always taking me to the shop to buy cigarettes and candy. You can purchase cigarettes here individually for 40 sene a piece! Pall Malls are really gross through, I never smoke them.
Hello dear readers! I am feeling very pathetic that I am halfway through my stay in Samoa and I've only posted twice on my blog. Nevermind. Here will be a super update. We came back from our village stay in Lotofaga which is on the south coast of Upolu, Samoa. My family was HUGE. My samoan mother is a traditional healer and my father works in construction in the capitol, Apia. He stays in the city all week while working and returns on Saturday to be with his family. His work is the only source of income my family recieves aside from remittances other members abroad send home and the salary my sister makes working as a chemistry school teacher at Lepa College. There was a steady influx of villagers with an assortment of pains visiting my mother during the day. She was massage them with some Samoan coconut oil in the way she had learned while chatting with the person's family. Once, I saw a family carry their son over to our fale (traditional open thatch/wood beam house) and watched in horror as my mother massaged him and the little boy writhe in pain. I inquired and apparently he hadn't been able to go to the bathroom in a couple of days. Sometimes people try to bring Tauveve gifts of food and money for her services and but she never accepts them because it would be innapropriate for her to take money for a gift that was given to her by God. This other time, I watched her pick some leaves, masticate them, and spat them back out into a leaf which she promptly wrapped and gave away to a visitor. She said it was for treating "mumu", which is a kind of red rash. I wish I knew what it was.

One of our assignments was to make a kindship diagram or family tree of our Samoan families. I underestimated the complexcity of the assignment. My mother and family have seven daughters and one son. In addition, we also have two adopted daughters and another son. That makes eleven brothers and sisters. In addition to that, about three of my sisters had children of their own. My kinship diagram was so big I couldn't fit it all on one page. I'm really proud that I managed to remember almost everyone's names.

Some nights my family would gather in the open portion of the home and watch this horrible overly dramatic Filipino soap opera called Gu Long. That was when I would retreat back into my room. Gu Long is really popular here. I saw some people wearing lava lavas (its like a unisex wrap around piece of fabric skirt thing that most people wear in the South Pacific) printed with "Gu Long" on it. The samoan paper, the Samoan Observer, had a two page spread devoted to the soap opera. Its really cringe inducing.

I had one really annoying little adopted brother that would constantly be teasing me. He is nine years old. When I first came to stay with the family, he would do really sweet things like pick "wi" ( a kind of green and extremely solid pacific version of an apple) from the wi tree for me and skin the fruit and bring it to me on a plate. When I would walk places, sometimes he would follow me and tell me where I should go. After we became more familiar with eachother, he would run up to me and slap me or otherwise play really rough with me. Samoans, especially the children, are really physical with one another so I tried not to take it too personally. But then it started calling me "saiga" instead of "Sona", my samoan name, and it became really irritating. The is a considerable chinese diasporic community here and many of them have been here for several generations and speak Samoan fluently. The word for a chinese person is "saiga" (prounced sigh-nah or something close to that) and it is merely a physical descriptor. Its something I have to get used to. In the states, calling someone by a racial descriptor is rude but here, nothing is meant by it. There are no offensive racial stereotypes attached to the descriptors. Anyway, my brother would always be calling me saiga saiga saiga. I was walking down the road once, telling my friend how annoying he was, and he popped out of a tree next to the road and yelled "SAIGA" as loud as he could before laughing hysterically and falling off the tree.

Midway through the week, Jackie, our academic director, organized a lesson around food and making food (fai le mea'ai) and making the umu, a type of underground oven constructed of hot hot hot river rocks. The umu is made and filled with delicious Samoan foods like taro, breadfruit, palusami( coconut cream with tiny bits of onions wrapped in taro leaves wrapped in banana leaves wrapped in breadfruit leaves. You only eat the taro leaf and coconut cream part though. Sort of like a pacific version of turducken except vegetarian), and a whole pig. The umu is then covered with more hot rocks using the stem of the coconut palm as tongs to move the rocks. The rocks are covered with green banana leaves, slightly less green leaves, old leaves, and finally old pandanus mats. The food is left in the pile to cook for an hour or so and then ta-dah! FEAST!! I have a video of the pig being strangled to death for our epicurian pleasure but I'm having some difficultly loading it to youtube. Meanwhile, I have a few photos of me and Pisa pounding the roasted Samoan cocoa beans into the substance that is used for making cocoa samoa, a yummy dark chocolate drink that makes my heart race.

In other news, my back is peeling into a butterfly shape from too much exposure to the equatorial sun. I swear I'm not sunburnt though. I'm just peeling. Its not the same.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

53 mozzie bites on my left leg

It has been too long since my last post. I don't even know where to start.
Lets start with pictures.

Left top: eating a radish at a taqueria with Jason in San Francisco.

Right top: I had the nerves on the flight from Oakland to Hawaii so I busted out the pink play-doh I was saving for desperate times and made a tiny elephant. The man who sat next to me was crazy and was wailing on our black woman flight attendant for "being rude". He finally settled on telling her to "Be Quiet! Be Quiet!" as an effective way to deal with her. Back to the elephant..

Bottom Left: I met Meredith at the airport and we took a taxi into the hostel in Honolulu. At this point, it was 3pm and I hadn't eaten since the previous day. Needless to say, food was an order before we could proceed with anything else. People in Hawaii have a different sense of direction. Any inquiry into the direction of "food" was met with:
1. Sorry. I am a tourist.
2. That way. (points in some general direction)
3. Walk that way. (point) and then that way (point).
It helps to know which direction is the mountains (mauka) and the ocean (makai). I might've just totally butchered those spellings but you intent there. Meredith and I walked this way and that and finally found an adorable sushi place and gorged ourselves. On the way back, we saw our first and second rainbows at the same time!

Botton Right: Our hostel. Aloha! It was next to student housing for the Uni of Hawaii, Moana so every other day, a dashing young man would ascend the coconut tree to fetch a few coconuts to drink and eat. yum! Oh! And I lived with 3 other SIT program folks plus one or two other travelers.

My time is up at this internet cafe so you will have to wait until next time!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Leaving Hawai'i

Tinned Fish and Breadfruit Trees and so starts the beginning of my travel blog.
Today is my last day in Oahu, Hawaii, the most populated island of the Hawaiian island chain. About 75% of the population resides here, probably because of the agriculture and tourism industry. Agriculture does not have as much as a stronghold as it used to, approximately 5% of the world's pineapples are produced here today. Huge sugar plantations were once part of the Hawaiian landscape but today those are no longer in operation due to variables such as competition from cheaper labor employed by sugar processing corporations based out of South Asian countries. And so goes the colonial trajectory... I can't even say post-colonial because the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown and annexed and remains so today. We had a speaker who came to talk to us about the Hawaiian sovereignty movement just the other day. As someone who is very interested in land issues, it surprises me that Hawaii is rarely, if ever, mentioned in college classes about land movements, even though it is in our backyard so to speak.

I should probably mention the purpose of keeping a blog. I'm traveling to study abroad in the South Pacific with the School for International Learning. I am here with eleven other American students. A point of intrigue is that there is only one male student. A lecturer the other day mentioned that as far as study abroad programs go, the more remote or dangerous a program site is, the more skewed the gender ratio is towards women. Huh...? Most of us are from the Northeast though there are some from the Midwest, South, and Northwest parts of US.

My academic director has really urged us to distance ourselves from technology, our families and friends, and our old habits in order to really immerse ourselves in the South Pacific and especially Samoa. If I am to do that, I think my blog posts may be few and far between. I really want to share all of my experiences and insights with everyone but I think I will have to keep a few of those to myself. I hope my blog offers a glimpse into South Pacific life that cannot be obtained by internet, youtube, or television.

I'm hungry now. Fooding time...