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,