Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Samoa Visit

Hi Group 75 Supporters:

I too am home from Samoa and along with Carla and Jack, Al and I would like to share our exciting news. Mari and Andrew are officially engaged and plan to come home to Southern California to be married in fall 2006 before heading back to Samoa for their second year of service - quite the extended "honeymoon"! This was the big news of my visit to Samoa and definitely colored my week there.

Overall, my visit to Samoa was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing where and how Mari and Andrew work as well as having a too brief glimpse of their non-work lives (shopping, commuting, hangouts, homes, friends). Like Carla, I found it very hot and humid, but very beautiful. I'm usually very energetic, but Mari, wisely, saved the long hike up the mountain behind the Robert Louis Stevenson homestead until my last day when I was a bit more heat acclimated. I'm amazed at the energy of many of your volunteers - bicycling round the island, running, walking miles each day, etc. and also understand and appreciate the slower Samoan pace of life that they're beginning to adopt.

On a typical day in Apia, we ran into at least half a dozen volunteers between the Peace Corps office, the waterfront walking area and the market area. I think this is fairly common for our Apia-based volunteers to have these casual encounters on top of the planned ones. Even those out in Savaii have similar experiences on the weekends when they come to town. The community they've formed is quite exceptional, fun, supportive and dedicated. Everyone I met was delightful and seemed to me to be thoroughly enjoying the overall experience in Samoa. It's a beautiful place and quite an exceptional posting.

My favorite special activities besides visiting with Mari and her friends, students, coworkers and Samoan family were snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, the market (try the palusami and taro!) We spent the weekend on the south shore of Upolu at Coconuts resort which was very beautiful and highly recommended if you have the time. (Look at the links on Mari's and Andrew's blogs to photos from the trip to see all of the above as well as their engagement announcement.) I've also posted two brief videos of a sitting "Siva" her students did for me which was incredibly special, particularly considering that Mari's students are all developmentally challenged with about 50% of them having Down's Syndrome. They were a delightful group and she thoroughly enjoys interacting with them.

Links to videos:

Like Carla, I'd encourage you to visit for yourself if possible to see what your son/daughter/significant other is doing firsthand and to meet the generous Samoan and Peace Corps communities they live among. I found it extremely interesting and reassuring. I'm so proud of all of them!

All the best,
Rudi

Monday, April 24, 2006

Home from Samoa!

Hi All!
We had a great time in Samoa. We met several of the Group 75 members. They all look very well and happy. They all seem to be enjoying their stay in Samoa. It is a very beautiful place. Extremely hot though. It was in the 50's when we left Los Angeles and almost 90 when we arrived in Samoa. Quite a temp. change. We had lots of fun. We rented a car and saw the whole island by car. We went to a couple of the beaches and really enjoyed their Fale's on the beach. Snorkeling was fantastic as well. We experienced a tropical depression our first day. It rained non-stop for about 20 hours. It was really sticky. The temp. dropped to about 80 during the rainstorm, so it was still hot. The living conditions are pretty good for most of the group members. On the whole, it is quite populated throughout the whole island. Everyone was quite nice and very friendly. It was a good trip. If you can make it there, you should really try and go. You will enjoy yourself.
Carla

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Going to Samoa

Hi Everyone!
We are headed to Samoa April 11th. If any of you are interested in sending anything along with us, please let me know. Andrew has sent me a long list of items that he feels that he cannot live without, so we are taking an extra suitcase dedicated to things needed by PCV's. I am anxious to meet all of our loved ones and see their new environments.
Blessings upon each of you,
Carla Lansford

Monday, March 06, 2006

Visiting Samoa

Hi All,

I hope 2006 has gone well for all of you so far. I'm going to visit Mari in Samoa at the end of the month (for only one week, sigh...). If there's anything special you'd like me to bring to your PCV there, please let me know. I'm really looking forward to meeting all of them and seeing their lives in Samoa first hand.

All the best,
Rudi

Saturday, January 14, 2006

From a Group 73 Mom - Re Phone Cards

Hi! My daughter Cecilia is Group 73, been on island for a year. I noticed your Group 75 parent blog link tonight and the mention of mail and phone cards. Thought I’d share from experience:

Phone Cards: I frequently use the 24/7 TCC card available from www.leancard.com . There are many cards available on that site, but this one gives you 26 minutes for $5 and is best used for one call only. I have success with zaptel.com also, but the leancard site is the cheapest.

Mail: I tried every way possible, and it is such an adventure! Know this, no matter how long it might take, the package really will get there. The day after Cecilia left in Oct 2004 I mailed three small boxes US airmail. Two arrived within 15 days; the third box arrived in April 2005. It was intact, although the Halloween candy melted into a brick of candy corn. It was all good, she said, you could cut it with a nifi. I sent an M-Bag (the cheap-rate surface mail intended for books, but everyone stuffs other stuff in there) that also took about 6 months to get there. Look up M-Bags on the USPS website, very specific rules to follow in packaging. I sent DHL Jumbo Boxes – DHL has a very special rate for up to 55 lbs in one special size box, called an international jumbo box. Flat rate of around $185 to send that, AND it IS trackable and it WILL get there within a week (but not at Christmastime). You have to contact DHL directly to arrange jumbo box shipments, and you cannot arrange that shipment online.

I must say that after we visited Samoa last June, my care packages now only contain items she requests. I now weigh the cost of the item plus shipping versus buying that same item there. I was very surprised to visit her favorite grocery store in Apia, and find it is air-conditioned and carries a limited variety of normal grocery store items. It is fascinating what products get shipped to Samoa and what do not.

Cyclone season begins for Samoa in January – here are some links to monitor the cyclone activity (miraculous last-minute turn last year spared them from a direct hit by Olaf). Peace Corps will evacuate all of them to hotels on higher ground.

http://www.meteorology.gov.ws/forecast.htm

http://www.prh.noaa.gov/pr/samoa/

http://www.osei.noaa.gov/Events/Tropical/S_Pacific/

http://www.npmoc.navy.mil/jtwc.html

http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/91762.html

Enjoy the adventure along with your daughter!

Anita Fly

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holidays from Virginia

It is the night OF Christmas and not a creature is stirring not even a mouse...and I find myself with a quiet moment to send our greetings to all of you..the families of Group 75. Many times today as we shared in our family traditions I would pause to wonder what Ryan and each of our young people were doing to celebrate this holiday season. I know they have learned to rely on each other for support in challenging times as well as to share in the more happy times. We are looking forward to the same with all of you. Happy, Happy Holidays and God Bless. Gail and David

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holiday thoughts and greetings

Hi everyone,
Rudi and I just wanted to wish all of you happiness for the holidays and say that you are in our thoughts. We know that all of us are feeling a little blue with one of our children so far from home and from the dinners and presents and family gathering. It is a wonderful, giving thing that they are doing and it’s truly within the spirit of the season, and we’re all justifiably proud of them for doing it. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, and Happy New Year to you all, and we look forward to a day when they will join us at our holiday tables once again.
Al