Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spelling Bee

Brad, myself and all the top spellers of our district.
Super nervous
Spelling Bee

One of my favorite projects I have done here in Samoa! There are 5 schools in my school. Brad and I went around to all of them and gave a spelling test for 5th to 8th grade. The top 2 students in each grade were able to go to the spelling bee. The kids LOVED the event! We invited parents and more people came than we anticipated.
While I was giving the test in some schools the teachers were telling the students how to spell the words. Luckily that did not happen at the actual spelling bee.
One problem we did run into was the SRO helping us with the event kept giving chances to some of the students. At times one student would get over 3 minutes to try and spell a word. "One more chance," he would say. Then, "What do you think Ms. Mati? I say, once more. One more chance." It was rather funny but the teachers complained about it later.
Hey it that is the ONLY thing they complain about it then I feel it was successful!
While Brad and I were putting the event together the teachers would ask about food and who is going to prepare it. (It's Fa'aSamoa or Samoan tradition to have food at EVERYTHING)
Ms. Mati- it is your program. You must provide the tea. (Tea meaning meal or food).

I told them it is my program so I will provide the event. However, it is their Fa'aSamoa so they must provide the food.
More laughter.
After them grumbling a bit about it in a joking way, I then said the Spelling Bee is for the children, not for their stomachs.
Laughter that ended the discussion. There was no food at the event.
Super creepy Pule

All the students involved got a certificate and a prize for participating. 1st, 2nd and 3rd got bigger prizes and a student at the end I overheard say, "This is awesome!!" in perfect English!
I do not think any of these students have ever been to an event like this. I hope it encourages them to study their English spelling. I know they will tell their friends about the even and will encourage them as well.
Brad and I are going to do the Spelling Bee again next term. Hopefully we will get other Volunteers and Districts involved.
Eventually have a Spelling Bee for the whole island of Savai'i!
My winners
Proud of them all

Some parents who came to watch

The next day at school.
Prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place
On our way to the Spelling Bee!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Community Day

Community Day

The purpose of Community Day is for the parents to come and observe what is happening at school and ask teachers how their child is doing in school. I think a lot of schools in Samoa followed that program, however, mine did not.
It was a full day of Samoan skits, songs, dances and turned into a Tausala (charity to raise money). It was a lot of fun of course but... when MESC showed (Ministry of Education) they were very confused. Not surprised but confused.
Some parts of the program was educational. The older students showed what they did for their Science Fair and the younger students sang an educational song in English... past that though it was all dancing and raising money.
The entire week students did not have class and teachers did not teach. The entire week was focused on practicing for Community Day.
My Principal asked me to be in charge of the P.E. and Health section of the program. SO- of course I did yoga. It's funny, at times I have to walk Samoans through their own thinking process. P- "Yes Mati you do the Health and P.E." Me- "Great! So can I start teaching the kids Yoga again?" P- "I think you should start that next term." M- "Okay cool. What day is Community Day?" P- "September 19th." Me- "Nice. Hey what day does Term 4 start?" P- "October 6th. Oi! Mati, you should teach the kids Yoga before next term!!" Ya, I know... She did the same thing with the length she wanted my section to be.
Teaching the kids Yoga again felt really great! The students pick up on it very quickly and I know they enjoy it. It's something new and a great workout for their bodies. Plus I give them at least 3 minutes to settle and breath. I hope it expands their minds for them to look more into it when they are older and I am gone.
The students love Yoga! I teach them a few times a week and at times at my Homework Center. They are so impressive and catch on the poses quick. They make me so proud!
My Teaching staff plus Ake!

Ready for the show
They learned the poses so quick!
Year 7 ad 8 doing Yoga

Science Fair Project
Community Day Schedule

With my Year 7 students

Monday, June 10, 2013


Exam week.
Typical day at school
Sadly school, teaching and education is not much of a priority in Samoa. During exams week it felt even less of a priority than before.
I normally teach 3 hours of classes a day, which is good compared to the 4-5 hours I am there for. During exam week my students are busy with the tests and I can not pull out my reading groups. So, instead I either plan for next term, roam around, read my book or ask teachers what I can do to help them.
Whenever I lock myself in my classroom
I've observed the year 2 teacher  during the first day of exam week. I was in her class typing up some lesson plans while the students finished their exams and sat at their desks. They literally did nothing but sit there. Nothing to read, no games to play just had to sit.
Eventually the students got bored enough to get up and play around, once the class got out of control she stood up with her ruler and pretty much herded them into the corner where they had to sit and again do nothing. I was only in there for 2 hours and she probably had to do this 10 times. She is correcting exams, getting up herding them into the corner and then once again going back to correcting exams.
She must not understand their lack of attention span and amount of energy these kids have. Poor things.
Year 1
Year 1
Later in the week my Pule (Principal) asked me to watch year 1 since the teacher was not there that day. As much as I do not want to babysit I agreed since I was not doing anything else anyway.
Never again at the end of the day I thought to myself.
We colored, sang songs, made noise like rain and I read them stories... That took an hour. We played games and colored some more. It was hard keeping control of the students but at the end of the day I was exhausted yet felt accomplished.
The next day I was asked to watch them again... I felt like I was going to cry! But of course I said yes, I was not doing anything really productive so of course I can help.

Art project
Coloring, more songs, more games and chopping instructions in Samoan I left the room for 5 minutes to come back to chaos!
Students were jumping from desk to desk, some climbing the walls, 8 of them were full on crying as if they just lost a finger or something. I even had one student on MY desk swinging a stick from side to side with a wild look in his eyes yelling, his mouth as wide as it can go screaming at the top of his lungs AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I just pictured him yelling, "I AM SPARTAN!!"
I had 28 students all under the age of 6 and they were going wild!
After 2 students got into a fist fight I gave up. I had the other teacher help me manage the chaos. All she had to do was grab the ruler and start walking around. Poor students had fear in their eyes and immanently sat down ready to listen. She did not hit any of them (luckily) but they knew she would. It was an automatic response but not out of respect for the teacher, fear.
Never again do I wish to watch any of the lower grades. Lesson learned.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

13.1. It's a joke right?

Zach, Chris and I chatted the day before the race asking each other, "Are we really doing this?" "This is a joke right?"
I have never ran that distance before in my life. I trained and the most I ran during training was 9 miles, once. My goal for the race was just to finish.
Early that day of the race Zach has already started an hour before us. He was running the whole marathon while Chris and I were running half. We started out steady together in the dark cool morning and within 2-3 miles he sped up where I then started my run on my own.
So impressed with him! 
Amazing supporters!
The first 6 miles were a breeze and enjoyable. I felt strong and confident. As Chris was passing me on the way back he informed me I was in 3rd place (out of the 11 women running). Obviously that boosted me up more and I then got the "runner's high." I could go forever with a smile on my face. A bit after hitting the half way point I started to loose faith in myself. I was slowing down and even started to walk at times. I kept thinking, I'm in 3rd I can not let that woman get in front of me! I could not even see her but that did not stop me from looking back. I was pushing, pushing, pushing to keep going, go faster, can not let her beat me. I got anxiety and was uncomfortable. I had to win! My brain was doubting if I could even do it, my thoughts became negative and I was miserable.
Woot woot! 
I then ran past a village, "Letoge" and it reminded me of my mudra from previous meditations which then kicked into effect. "Let Go."
I took extra deep breaths, repeated the mudra in my head a few times and felt a huge weight life from my body. I completely, "let go," went at my own pace and when the woman passed me for 3rd I could not have been more relieved. I was not running the race to win, I was running the race to finish. That was my goal and once it came back into sight I started to enjoy my run again.
Next year I will have a stronger goal, I will beat my time and can possibly even place but this year I accomplished my first 1/2 marathon!
Christ took 8th place out of everyone (30+ runners) running the 1/2 marathon and his time was 1.50 hours . Go Christ!
For the whole marathon first place was a famous Samoan runner, second place was a Navy guy visiting and third was our very own Peace Corps Volunteer, ours truly Zach!
So proud of both my boys and am VERY excited to run in a relay with them in September!
Ally and Kate met us at the finish line which was amazing to have such support! Thank you ladies! You being there meant a lot more to me than you will even know!
I ended up running the marathon in 2.31 hours. A slow steady pace. I took 4th place and could not have been happier. I finished! I ran 13.1 miles and am ready to do it again!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Birthday the Shit out of this!"

Birthday Jump!
I started my 24th year in this world off right. I jumped off a waterfall! Not just any waterfall but a 50 foot waterfall!
The river hike is something I think anyone who is visiting Samoa and is into intense hiking should do! It is a 3-6 hour hike through a river, climbing up through the trails and 4 falls to jump off of. Each one getting higher than the first.
My mom, Brad, Zach, Chris and I did the hike together while the other PCV marched in the "parade" for Independence Day. ("Parade," meaning, it was an all day wait to walk for 5 minutes with a banner. Oh Samoa).
We all hiked and just the boys and I jumped while my mom took photos and cheered us on.
(However at the end my mom did climb up one fall and jumped through it!! Also scared of heights, go mom!!!)
With each jump I had to go last. I am deathly scared of heights but I do not let it stop me from doing things. I have gotten better over the years and on this hike my eyes did not water once! (well, maybe a little before the last jump but all the sketchy slippery climbs and jumps before I held strong!)
While watching the others jump I had to prepare myself and talk myself into a calm state each time. Getting confidence while watching the others free fall until hitting the water.

On the last jump, the 50 footer I had to go first. It was something I thought about the entire time.
After the instructor jumped I stood at the top and tried to think why I was up there again. Why am I jumping? Why did I make this decision? What the hell was I thinking?
I turned around and saw my friends encouraging to not think about it and just jump. I look down at my mom who is waving with a big smile and the camera in her hand and then I look down, down down down down at where I hope to land. After a few more deep breaths calming my body and trying to clear my mind I turn to the group and say, "I'm going to Birthday the shit out of this!" then I jump.... I fell for what seemed like the forever! (Maybe 3 seconds). You'd think falling would be a flash and you're in the water but I even had enough time in my brain to think, "Wow, I'm falling for a long time. Aren't I there ye.." and SPLASH!
I came up confused and lost.
"I know I need to get out of the water! I can not breath and my head hurts. I think I'm half blind, am I missing a contact? Can't breath! Why can't I breath???"
When I looked down to see how much further I had, the impact hit my head really hard and threw me back. I somehow face planted off the waterfall!!
Even with face planting, which is really funny to say, I'll still do it again! Maybe not next weekend but I will be jumping off before I leave Samoa.
Everyone else landed fine and the videos are fun to watch.
After the shock wore off I felt higher than I was before I jumped. I did it! I jumped off a 50 foot waterfall and lived to tell the blog!
It was an amazing way to start my 24th year in this world! I wonder how I'll be starting my 25th.

Getting ready to jump!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Navy Time!

The American Navy came to visit Samoa for about a month. It was a blast to hang out with other Americans!I was invited out to dinners, parties and even a special event on the Navy ship.
Navy ship
The event was for the Pacific Partnership 2013 opening. It was amazing being able to dress up fancy, be wined and dined and feel like an American for a night! It was a nice reminder to be able to talk about what we as Peace Corps are doing here and interesting to hear the Navy experience here as well.
I got in touch with a friend at the Embassy to see what he Navy could do for my school.
Water Tanks!
Adrain and myself
The Navy brought two water tanks and a sink!
The school was so happy and had a fiafia (party) for them the day they left. We had a big meal for them, songs, dances and a speech thanking them for their supplies, hard work and time.
Captain Eddie
One of the Navy men, Adrien, told me it was one of the most humbling experiences he has ever had.
"I've traveled a lot and have done similar work in most of the countries I visit, never have I felt so honored and humble."
The Navy were a great help to this country and amazing at taking care of us Peace Corps.
Party time with the Navy!
There is a lot of aid given to Samoa, signs everywhere saying where it came from or who supplied it. One thing about the US Military is they do not leave anything behind "proving" their existence. No signs or plaque just their hard work and dedication to getting the job done.
Thank you! Thank you for helping my school, my students and my new country. You might not have any physical proof that it was you who helped us but we will never forget you!!

Fancy dinner party on the boat
Fighting with love! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

They do not celebrate Valentine's Day here in Samoa, I know it is a made up Holiday for money but I still could not ignore the fact it was a Holiday.
I always have a crush or a boyfriend or SOMETHING on Valentine's Day, this year was totally different that I have ever celebrated before and I loved it!
My "private" beach! 
My Valentine's Day was awesome! After school I went to the beach and did a bunch of Yoga, laid in the sun and walked in the water. I rode my bike(!!!) too.
Real food! 
In my Yoga practice I sent love out to the world, everyone I know and cared about along with sending love to myself. Ya know, as a dear friend would put it, "all that hippy shit." But- it made me feel better and it WAS Valentine's Day after all, figured I should do something for my Valentine.
The sun was warm but not too hot, the water was refreshing and my mind felt peaceful.
Later that night I went to dinner with some friends at a resort near my village. Yummmm real food! It was delicious!
So whether you realized it or not I was thinking of YOU on Valentine's Day.
*Be mine! Valentine!*

Guava Day

                                       Guave Day                                                     
Fresh lemons

Tea is not just tea in Samoa, sometimes it is referring to a snack with tea, it can be breakfast (like my oatmeal my host mum calls it my morning tea) or it can actually be meaning just tea. My school has "tea" every morning for the students and teachers. It is usually bread with some homemade jam (my neighbor Lynne makes it, from guave, mango,  vi, whatever fruit she can find. YUM!) and if the bread is not bought Lynne makes SOME kind of pastry full of protein to feed the kids. (Coconut biscuits are my favorite with a dab of jam in the middle).
Guava pickins!

After school one day some of Year 7 and 8 asked me to go picking Guava and lemons with them. Guavas are sooo sooo good! I love every part of it, skin, seeds and all!  it was so fun to get out and into the jungle! After we went to Lynne's house and made jam with coconut biscuits for the student's tea. We baked 120 biscuits!
For a reward Lynne took us for a ride in the car and we had a picnic! Pop corn, sandwiches and Koolaid. The Kooliad was sweet and cold, never thought I would be excited to drink Kooliad before. Oh how my taste buds have changed here in Samoa.