Oh no biggie…just whale watching and sun-bathing in September.

Wow, I haven’t posted anything in a while! Don’t worry; I’m still here!

Today started out as not-the-best day. My Kindle died yesterday. My watch stopped working this morning. I barely got any sleep last night because I kept hearing the rat scurrying around in the kitchen and I started worrying about a million different things. But then…I got to school early and contacted Amazon customer support and they are going to replace the Kindle for free and pay for shipping! And then, we had chicken nuggets and tatertots for lunch! And then, Sano (the 7th grade teacher) came in to my class to tell me to look at the ocean and I saw a whale’s fin sticking like 3 feet up in the air about 30 yards from the beach! And then, both of my light-based science experiments worked and my kids correctly explained the experiments and the results to me! So yea, it’s been a good day.

We were off yesterday for the Labor Day weekend (since the schools are under the DoE they observe all federal holidays). I love my kids but it was nice to have a 3-day weekend. I decided to walk down to Lionel’s store, and then down to the end of Faleasao, and then up the road to a lookout, and then into Tau, and before I knew it I was at Erin’s house (it’s about a 45 min walk). I felt like Forest Gump. Just couldn’t stop walking. I was going to walk home around 11 (and it gets dark here at 6), but Evans (the 6th grade teacher) saw me walking in the dark and immediately got her dad’s truck to drive me home. Apparently, it is not safe to walk at night here. Not because you might be attacked. Not because there aren’t any lights on the windy mountain road between Tau and Faleasao. Not because of the wild dogs that will try to kill you (actually, it’s the domesticated dogs that are the worst). No, it’s not safe to walk at night because of the ghosts. Evans explained the mystery of the aitu to me–if you are walking at night and feel a chilly wind followed by a warm burst of air, that means you’ve walked into a ghost. She explained that the only way to scare the ghost away is by smoking a cigarette (which explains why everyone smokes like chimneys at night). Uh huh.

Saturday was a lounge-y, lazy day. We ate, read, ate, and read some more. We also watched a movie that one of our Samoan friends let us borrow. It’s called Kill the Irishman and it’s definitely one of those straight-to-DVD flicks you hear about. I don’t really know what the movie was about, but it was so nice just to watch something. We also played some Settlers (and I won…no big deal), and then we took turns spear-fishing in the wharf after dark. Wes caught a lobster and a crab, and Mitch killed a little reef fish (haha murderer!). I didn’t get anything, but I saw an eel, an octopus that followed me around in the water, and a stone fish (apparently kinda poisonous? yay). Snorkeling at night is kind of scary. You can only see where you point your flashlight, so you spend the first few minutes just pointing it everywhere, convinced that any second you are going to turn around and be face to face with some enormous sea-monster. But it’s also kind of (forgive the cheese) magical. I was so absorbed by the octopus that I stopped paying attention to the other fish. Just watching it glide on the sea floor and change colors wherever it landed was incredible.

Sunday was the 181st anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in American Samoa. There was a beautiful church service where we had communion with our new church family. They also sang “How Great Thou Art,” which is one of my favorite hymns, in Samoan. Afterward, we had lunch at Trish and Tautua’s. Everytime we eat there we eat like kings! We had breadfruit, fa’i (boiled bananas covered in coconut milk), chop suey, and wahu (a kind of tuna that is somewhat of a specialty here). It was sooo good.

Speaking of food… last week, the DoE visited our school to see what sort of repairs/supplies we need. (The head of elementary education interviewed me and one of my students on camera in my classroom I’ll post the [surely embarrassing] video if I can ever find it!) So my school had a huge luncheon for the DoE. Ya know those big, black, plastic serving trays that you use to make a veggie platter for a large function? Those were our plates. For each person. Samoans surely know how to eat! People were piling their trays with enough food to feed 15 people. It’s insane!

Back to Sunday–we also put the new garden in (thanks to my mom and to Mitch’s parents who sent us seeds!). The previous volunteer, Josh, put in a nice garden last year, but since he left it got really wild. I’m bummed that I didn’t take any before and after pics because it looks so great now! I’m excited about experimenting with so many new plants. We’ll have carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, several peppers, cilantro, chives, squash, and some other stuff I’m forgetting I’m sure. It’s going to be so nice to eat veggies!

Oh, and I cut my hair. We don’t have a proper mirror, just a little 5×7 hand-held that broke in the move to Ta’u. So I used the broken mirror and a pair of child’s blunt-point safety scissors to cut it. Ladies, you haven’t lived until you’ve had such a luxury!

Yesterday on our day off we went swimming for a few hours, and that was pretty much it. I’ve been reading all the Sookie Stackhouse books (well, not anymore since my Kindle died), which are silly and obnoxious but I can’t put them down. I also finally read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s brilliant. Chauta told me about it a year or two ago but I never got around to it. I knew it was really similar to The History of Love (one of my favs), but I think it may be even better. I cried a loooot reading it. Mitch, Wes and I are in a competition to see who can read the most (by page count) while we’re here. The death of my Kindle really puts a damper on my game, but we have a lot of paper-backs at the house. Since August 4th, I’ve read The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Color Purple, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Extremely Loud, and books 1-6 of the Sookie Stackhouse series. If you have any recommendations, please send them my way!

Last week, I attempted to introduce natural resources to my kids. Social Studies is a lot harder to teach that I thought it would be, mainly because most of the materials you find are geared toward children in the U.S. (Erin also had trouble with her 1st graders when she tried to explain what a river was; they’ve never seen a river, so it’s hard for them to understand). My kids did not understand “natural,” to start with. I tried to go the recommended route, but kept ending up with confused looks and those quick “we understand, teacher!” responses that I know are pepelo! (lies!). So instead, we talked about the Niu (Coconut tree), and all the things families use the Niu for. It turned in to such a fun project! Each student picked an item to make and they all brought them to school. I had to frantically change my bulletin board to reflect our new project (“What can you do with a Niu?”), but it turned in to my favorite thing we’ve done so far. Here’s a picture of my kids with their items. (One girl didn’t bring her item in, and another boy brought in a coconut but I took it home so they are holding other kids’ things):

They brought in baskets, hats, a pe’ape’a (it’s a little windmill toy), a salu, a coconut (for eating & drinking), and a toy boat. You can also make mats, purses, fans, etc.

And here are some pics of my classroom and my students (we talked about emotions today, so they are making all kinds of faces):

Tomorrow is Wes’ 30th birthday. I’ll be 28 next month. Ten years ago, when I was turning 18 and he was turning 20, we never could’ve imagined that we’d be living on a small tropical island, finding out how incredibly hard and incredibly worth it teaching is, and still enjoying each other’s company. I’m sure every woman feels this way about her husband, but sometimes I truly marvel at how blessed I am to have such a strong, intelligent, God-seeking man to spend my life with. He’s pretty much incredible. I mean, I’m cold, he chops wood and builds a fire; I’m hungry, he grabs a spear and jumps in the ocean. Oh, to be loved! :) Really, though. Please call/email/facebook him to tell him Happy Birthday and let him know just how wonderful he is!

About Cat Q.

For three years, I lived on a tiny little island in the South Pacific called Ta'u, where I taught elementary and high school English. Much of this blog is a chronicle of my time there, and of the travels we were able to do while we were on that side of the world. Now, I'm doing a different kind of travelling in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two children.
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3 Responses to Oh no biggie…just whale watching and sun-bathing in September.

  1. Mike & Susan Betzler says:

    We are thoroughlly enjoying your pics and journals – thank you for sharing!

    We especially want to wish Wes a super B’day wish, on his special day, in this special life experience and place! We remember how supportive ya’ll where with son’s 30th (Chris Betzler, at Shawna’s Formal, Pirate theme celebration…), and while, this year might be a bit more tame, but, definitely way more eventful!

    Surprised that you didn’t try to plant peanuts! (For your boiled peanut cravings). They grow about any where, even up North. Q. Can you make boiled peanuts from raw, shelled peanuts, like they sell for school fund drives?

    Have you tried to do any underwater photography? (re. various suggestions and ideas)

    “DoE” makes me think “Dept. of Engery”, or perhaps, “Dept. of Environment” …?

    Keep up the faith and postings, AND A SPECIAL HAPPY 30 TO WES!
    mike & susan

  2. Amy Evans says:

    i love it. everything about it. what is it? your blog, your classroom, your view, your kids, your octopus awe, your you. love. it.

  3. Jonathan Renz says:

    You jam packed this one didn’t ya! Wow, ya’ll are doing amazing things and having incredible experiences!! I could picture so much of what you wrote about the way you described it. I LOVE watching animals so I’d be right there staring at that octopus too; although I’d DEFINITELY be looking for sea monsters! That’s a funny way to scare a ghost by the way…

    You are a lean mean reading machine Cat Queen!! Man I wish I could read like that! I have not been online a lot these past many months and really wish I could’ve done more for Wes’s birthday awhile back. I truly am glad to be reading these and miss ya both!

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