Cyclones and Tattoos and Adventures… OH MY.
By Maggie Yurgielewicz, WorldTeach American Samoa Volunteer 2015-2016
Well, I can officially say that I have less than one month left on this beautiful island. I keep saying it, but it feels surreal. How could have 11 months passed so quickly? I have learned so much during my time living and teaching in American Samoa. I am extremely thankful for this experience and wouldn’t change it for the world.
What will I miss the most? Wow. The thought of trying to make a list of all the things I’ll miss most is way to stressful… there are just too many!! I love this place and I have had an amazing year. Yes, of course there were some serious bumps in the road…especially with school, but overall I can honestly say that this island has changed me and I am a better person because of it! On that note, I’ll name a FEW broad things that I’ll miss just so I don’t leave anyone hanging.
1) Island life: Living on a tiny island is unlike any experience I’ve ever had, and there are many aspects of this life that I will miss. First I will miss “island time”. Yes, it certainly took some getting used to, but island time has grown on me. I will miss the relaxing, go-with-the-flow life style of living on a small island. Another thing that took a while adjusting to is, for lack of a better word, how popular I am here. I can’t go anywhere or do anything on this island without people knowing. I go to the mart and the next day at school multiple students will tell me not only that they saw me, but what I bought and what I was wearing. Yesterday I went on a short run and a total of 13 people called out to me from their cars and villages, “Hi Maggie, Hi Teacher or Hi Miss Maggie.” At first this new found popularity and lack of privacy was unnerving. Now I sort of love it. It’s nice to feel so appreciated and recognized as not a foreigner or “palagi” (which is what I was referred to as in the beginning), but as a teacher and member of the community.
2) Living in a tropical paradise: I’m not going to lie… living in a permanent summer, with palm trees, plumeria flowers, lush mountains, tropical birds and bats, and the clear blue ocean everywhere I look definitely has its perks. It’s beautiful, and although I have been here for almost a year, I still find myself in awe of it’s beauty. I can’t imagine how much I will miss it during one of those long New England winters.
3) The people: I will miss my students, coworkers, island friends, paddling team, and my fellow WT volunteers so incredibly much. Thank you thank you thank you to all of you! You have made my experience here in AmSam unforgettable.
I have met some truly amazing people here. Samoa truly has some of the nicest people in the entire world. I can’t even count the amount of strangers I have come across who have gone out of their way to help me and do things for me. Acts of kindness EXAMPLE: My friends and I were stranded on the far east side of the island because we missed the last bus. We had no choice but to start walking… within 20 minutes we were asked if we needed a ride (again getting rides from strangers is very normal and safe here). Not only did this wonderful couple bring us all the way to our house (which was out of their way), they also stopped at a mart and bought all six of us drinks and chips! ANOTHER A.O.K. EXAMPLE: One day my friends and I decided to walk all the way to the far North side of the island. We completely underestimated the amount of snacks/water we should have brought. By the time we reached the village of Vatia we were all exhausted and thirsty. We found a tiny mart where we all bought some water. This random Samoan family saw us chugging the water, so they told us to sit down at their table and proceeded to give us free water. We got to talking with this one kind women, and before we knew it she brought us out fresh oranges and apples and homemade wahoo pasta salad. We had only known this woman for 10 minutes and she was feeding us a full meal.
Alright alright, no more talking about things I’ll miss!!! I still have almost a whole month to explore, adventure, learn, teach, laugh and make even MORE unforgettable memories.
SO, what’s new with me??? UPDATE TIME!
1) I survived Cyclone Amos. THANK YOU to all who contacted me and worried about my safety. Luckily the category 3/4 cyclone decided to weaken and at the last minute change course. American Samoa only had minimal damage!
2) 10/12 National Park hikes completed. The mountains here are beautiful and very different from anything we have in the United States. I made it a goal of mine to complete all of the AmSam National Park hikes before I leave here. TWO more to go!!!
3) Finally started paddling again! Super glad I get to finish out my time here spending as much time out on the ocean as possible.
4) Ran another 5k road race!!
5) My friends and I are knocking off as many things on our bucket list as possible! We try to explore new parts of the island as often as we can! (Along with continuing to hit up all our favorite places one last time!) This past weekend was my good friend Kait’s birthday! We celebrated island style by sleeping in a fale on the beach. This was definitely one of the best weekends I have had here on the island. From the moment we got to the location, we had a wonderful time. The owner of the fale was the best host ever! We got to swim all day, play beach volley ball, have a bonfire on the beach, sleep under the stars, eat fresh bread fruit that was hand delivered to us, and wake up to the sound of the waves only a few feet away .There were only three fales on the whole beach. Per usual… we were the only ones on the beach for basically the entire time. (It’s going to be very difficult to go back to the rest of the world where I have to share the beach with other people…). We are definitely going to try our best to go back here one more time before we leave the island.
6) School has been good! There was definitely a rough patch there in the middle… but I’ve grown so much as a teacher and as a person because of this experience! It was all worth it. The last day of school for the kids is June 3rd! SO SOON. The kids are definitely ready from summer vacation
7) Watched “Three Wise Cousins”. Great Samoan made movie!
8) I’m always making new critter friends…. This is Mr. Cockroach. He likes to visit weekly. His friends’ the termites and ants and disease carrying mosquitoes are around daily too. Even some lice paid me a visit recently…
9) My neighbors like to treat us with some delicious fresh Samoan food!
10) I GOT TATTOO #2. I mentioned in one of my first ever blog posts that tattoos are very popular here and a big part of the Polynesian culture. I couldn’t leave this place without getting a little piece of Samoa to take with me everywhere I go.
I’ll be back on July 10th! Have a great start to the summer!! I know I will. See you soon. Read more about Maggie’s time in American Samoa at http://maggieamericansamoa.blogspot.com/