When we first thought about volunteering for the Peace Corps it was all fire and brimstone. Images of mud huts, in 100+°F, ROUSes, constant sickness with even more common death from starvation, malaria, and AIDS, combined with a corrupt government that quietly rules the country with a tight fist filled our thoughts concerning Peace Corps service. Amazingly, enough it turns out that not all Peace Corps experiences are like that. Our experience has been filled with small furry things
, easy access to fresh produce, well-stocked stores in the city . . . and a tropical paradise island. Sure, we live in a grass roof cottage that has some bugs, but it also has electricity, appliances, curtains, a queen-size mosquito net, and Internet. The only difference from my teaching experience last year in NYC to this one is that here it is warm, there is a nicer beach, and there is little need to lock the door… that is if you have a door in the first place.
Lets rewind to Mothers’ Day. Karen and I (mostly Karen) made a cake for Lusia. It is not uncommon for the water to go out, and since it had rained the day before no one was surprised. Garbage often washes into the pipes and clogs them up after/during rain. The people on our road spent about 1-½ weeks digging up joints in the water system along the road trying to find the blockage. Occasionally, we would get a small trickle, but the problem was not solved. At this point, Karen and I had to go to Apia for our Early Service Conference, which lasted 9 days. We went home only to find out that the water was still not working. Karen made a call to the Samoa Water Authority – and this is what we found out. Three weeks ago, the water authority turned off the water to every village in our district. They want everyone to go to the city, file an application for metered water, pay an installation and application fee, and then pay monthly bills for water. Fair enough, says you; nobody told us, says I. After speaking to our family, we visited some people in the village who work for the Samoa Water Authority. They had no knowledge of this happening. When I went to the main office to file an application, THEY had no knowledge of this happening. The representative to our region insists that ads were run on the radio and television, yet somehow no one in our entire district heard or saw it. The Samoa Water Authority wants $20 as an application/survey fee, and then $200 to install the meter. While our village has yet to have their monthly meeting where they will discuss this matter, it seems like they are going to fight the government on this issue as the water source, tank, and facilities in general are all on village land. For the time being we are going to play the SWA game and file an application for metered water as it is a good idea in the long run. However, you have to tell the people you are going to do this to BEFORE you do it. This has been the first event in Samoa that has made us drastically change our life style. We can get water and the walk isn’t very far, maybe a ¼ mile at best. On the bright side, we are getting a bit more exercise carrying 5 gallon buckets back and forth.