Spoiled in Paradise

On Friday, we went to the island of Manono.  Manono is the third biggest island in Samoa – about a mile and a half wide at the greatest point.  While going for a walk along the island, I had the opportunity to spend more time talking to one of the American Peace Corps staff than I have before.  What did we talk about?  Mainly how lucky the Peace Corps in Samoa are to be here.  Not lucky because it’s a beautiful tropical island with gorgeous beaches and wonderful, warm, welcoming people – but lucky because we are not experiencing the true challenges that some Peace Corps out there face.

Some of our blog posts in the past weeks have been about how upsetting the practice of corporal punishment in Samoa is – and we have a right to be upset about that.  But in other Peace Corps countries, our students might be dying of malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, or one of many other diseases.  We might be unable to give them first aid treatment without worrying about our own health or catching a blood-borne illness.  Sure, some of my students might not have a varied diet and they might be hungry sometimes – but no one is living on one meal a day, and none of my students is dying of malnutrition.  In the context of things, a whack over the head with a broom every once in a while doesn’t really seem that bad.

When we got back from Manono, the plants needed watering.  When we turned on the hose to water them, the water was out.  Dave started muttering and fuming about how sick he is of the water being out or the pressure being bad.  But in fact – we are lucky we have indoor plumbing at all – if we were in other Peace Corps countries, we might have to walk miles each day to fetch water and we would have to strictly ration our water consumption.  Here in Samoa, Dave and I both take three to four showers a day; we use the hose to water our plants when they get too dry; and we drink as much water as we want everyday.  Granted we have to filter our water, but only the drinking water.  We cook and clean and brush our teeth with unfiltered water.

A PCV from Samoa signed on for a second term and is now somewhere in Africa.  (I have not personally met this person).  From others, I have heard that she is now in awe of how easy we had it in Samoa.  She went from living in a nice Samoan house to living in a tent with a dirt floor.  Forget about the indoor shower, toilet and cooking area.  Just a dirt floor.  And some of the volunteers here complain about not having a refrigerator.

And sicknesses – the biggest health problems we really face here are dog bites and the occasional bout with dengue fever.  But we are not going to get malaria or any of the other diseases that are so common in other posts.  Maybe a little skin fungus (but who doesn’t have skin fungus in Samoa).  One of my friends in Africa has apparently already had malaria and dysentery.  So far I’ve had an upset stomach once after I ate palolo.

I only bring this up because I know that sometimes our blog posts and letters home can get pretty negative.  If I’m having a bad day, I might say that I hate it here and I want to go home or I can’t believe how inefficient everything is – but really, we have it pretty damn good.


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