Friday, January 26, 2007

fai se miti malie

It’s the beginning of a new year at Paul VI College. The first official day of the school year started off with heavy rains and a cyclone scare. Ryuta and I both received calls from the JICA office and Peace Corps that we were on a standby for emergency should the weather get worse. We sat on our balcony and ate pasta while sifting through the language barrier between us. Ryuta is pretty cool. He just got back from Australia last week and he brought me a few housewarming gifts. I gratefully received a kangaroo pen that has boxing gloves like a rock’em sock’em robot, a few candy bars and a post card with the backs of three naked women with sand on their butts that read, “Australian Beach Bums.” Izumi Miyazaki, my other roommate will arrive in a few weeks and I think I should find something funny to give her as tradition follows. I’ve been keeping busy with my artwork and exploration of the village. Aside from the many curious looks I receive I have felt very warmly welcomed into the community. Lately I’ve been granted the roll of a fix-it man in the village because everyone seems to have something that needs to be fixed and often it involves simply plugging it in. I find that I can understand much more Samoan than I can speak and perhaps this is because my confidence isn’t strong enough to take many chances but these things improve everyday. I enjoy sitting on my roof and playing guitar or ukulele and I’m starting to be recognized as the guy on the rooftop who brings music. When it became real that I was going to join the Peace Corps I decided to pack light and to use my guitar as a form of integration. Now this simple tool is blossoming and I am beginning the task of forming a jam band. Sister Fatima, the pule at Paul VI, is very interested in continuing a music program at the school and the two of us play guitar together in our free time. She offered for me to come by for happy hour after school on Friday where she will trade drinks for guitar lessons thus making my Friday antics in town that much more fun. The students here are quite shy and I think it is kind of cute. Their energy is cool when they are feeling it but many of them are new and not interested in standing out. Sometimes at night I sneak out and swim in the ocean even though technically you are not supposed to swim at people’s property without permission. I enjoy the sneakiness of it though and it reminds me of back home when me and my friends would sneak into people’s pools at night. Tutia, the heavily tattooed man, and I are becoming good friends. He’s a bit loony and I enjoy the trouble he brings into the mix. Things have been mostly well although something is wrong with my arm. Near my left elbow it is swelling up and I’m told that I was probably stung by something; no worries. I’m fortunate to have chanced upon a growing collection of art supplies that ranges from pencils and highlighters to decent drawing pens and acrylic paint. I’ve felt a surge of motivation ever since that night a few blog entries back when I had my moment with the stars and all. Although you’d think this would have been a given, art has never really been a form of expression for me like it is now. I used to create art simply because I enjoyed the act of creating however now I feel like my emotions can be translated through a very powerful force. It’s getting close to night time. The sky is on fire and everything is orange, pink and red. Manuia le po ma fai se miti malie!

Take another sip of this here potion and watch the black clouds roll in. Night time is falling upon the islands and I sit under the shelter of my balcony to hide from the storm. With the wind comes many dreams, each more mysterious than the one before; I am alone but I am happy. She whispered pieces of music to me, the night, and just like any other dream I can never quite recall what she has spoken to me or why but I lie in bed being very thankful that she has spoken to me. Each night I wake up two or three times and stare with wide open eyes into the darkness as if I am still dreaming. With every waking moment my dreams fade into questions about their meaning but I am too tired to solve such riddles and my eyes do not stay open long enough to care; but they keep coming. All I can do is keep dreaming and travelling through the world of the otherworld and hope that others out there can feel one day what I feel now. The wind kisses me goodnight and I sit still in my cargo shorts and crossed legs waiting to see where she will take me next. This is where I stay and where I belong until the alarm on my cell phone awakens me from the subconscious world and reminds me that I have been blessed with another day to live. Until then I lie here and dream in colours that no paintbrush could recreate. Fai se miti malie, make a sweet dream, and don’t ever forget that somewhere out there others are dreaming just as you are right now.


Friday, January 19, 2007

I saw the view once from space

After spending an extended stay in my new village, I’ve finally touched base with my new roommates from Japan. Ryuta Takeda works as an agricultural studies teacher here and my other roommate, Miyazaki, works as a home economics teacher. There are a lot worse things out there than living with a Japanese gardener and a Japanese chef! On a bit of a concerning note, I came walking down the main path from my village to my secluded home by the school and I was suddenly surrounded by a pack of nasty wild dogs. They’re like demons. They circle you and their faces are terrifying. Typically this type of situation is avoided by shouting, “alu!” (go away!) and throwing rocks. The act of picking up a rock usually does the trick because the dogs know what is coming but for some reason I choked. They were closing in on me when suddenly one of my students who lives in a local fale came running outside hurling a series of well-aimed stones at the demons causing much yelping and panic. When I first got here I would have felt bad about this but your mind eventually changes once it gets real. Something comes over the dogs at night and it’s almost like they become werewolves. That night I lay in bed listening to the awful noises the demons made from under the moonlight. From now on I am much better prepared for such encounters. So yeah. These days I’m groovin’. I really enjoy my school and the people I work with. I’m bad with names but there is this one guy who is an aged surfer who knows all of the breaks in Samoa. There is another guy that also surfs who acts as my counterpart that would be considered scary to look at by conservative standards for he is covered with tattoos on every part of his body including his hands and the side of his face. He really is a great guy though and I think the two of us are becoming good friends out here. My dining room has become a pretty rad place to center myself. It looks a bit like an art studio with drawing and painting supplies spread out everywhere and random bits of art that I’ve created laying around. Yesterday I built thirteen computers out of spare parts lying around and declared the storage room of our school to be our new computer lab. This village is a bit bigger than Ma’asina and integration is a much more tedious task whereas I can walk into any fale in Ma’asina and be well taken care of. My friend Bob from Peace Corps and I took it upon ourselves to sit at an ‘ava circle the other day without knowing anybody there. This, as you might imagine, is an excellent language experience. Outside of Apia, people talk fast and are not as sympathetic to those who do not understand the language. With only a few embarrassing errors I managed to slide through the typical conversation of, “do you have a girlfriend? Do you want one?” I like to respond, “Yes, I have one on Upolu, one on Savai’i, one on Apolima, and one fa’afafine (cross dresser)” This usually gets a few laughs and something like, “wow, you’re really out there man.” I think I was stung in the foot by a centipede too. Something got me then took off like a coward but it was dark and I didn’t get a close look. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and frankly I’m quite torn these days. 49.5 percent of me wants to continue forever down a humanitarian volunteer path traveling to places like India and Africa so I can donate all of my energy to the good of humankind. 49.5 percent of me wants to go down the path of the experimental explorer who vanishes into the wilderness of the world and finds himself in extremely dangerous situations and lives to write a book about it. The other 1% wants to live on the beach and draw pictures. The point is that I feel a fire from within and as I approach one quarter of a century of age I simply refuse to stop. My only fear is to end up like one of the many weirdos that I’ve met along the way who are so out there that they are annoying and they no longer have any sense of reality (sorry James, you’re odd.. I love you but you’re pretty out there). I suppose I’ll probably find a common ground between my three options. Regardless, Samoa is my home now and I am very happy here. The sun is falling over the ocean as it does every night and a beautiful rain is falling on my roof. The mountain behind me has vanished meaning that it is going to be a stormy night. Cheers from Leulumoega!

Rockin the 'ava with Lop-nugs

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Instructions on a pure green light

I’m sitting at home in the fair village of Leulumoega. The ocean is off in a short distance behind me while a beautiful mountain rests in front of me, teasing me to climb it one day, however for now it sleeps peacefully in the light of the sunset. I am home alone. Ryuta, my roommate from Japan, has been AWOL since before I moved in but I suppose that it is understandable considering that I have spent relatively little time here myself. The first night I came here I was lonely and hopped on the first bus I could find back to Apia but this time I am very happy to be here. In fact, tonight I am very inspired. I am writing this on a terribly abused laptop that was left behind by one of the volunteers who was here before I was. It is frustrating to use and sometimes everything I write randomly deletes itself but at least it has the capability to play the 2 gigs of reggae and dub mp3s that I swiped from the office computers. I feel a strong vibe from far away and the fading sunlight is only fueling my energy. I actually spent most of today by myself; this was much needed. I went for a dive at Palolo Deep for the second time and this time I made it all the way out to the main attracting which is a large section of ocean that tunnels down very deeply below revealing a beautiful underwater world only visited by those who can battle the strong current preventing most swimmers from reaching their destination. I spent a great deal of time staring off into the ocean as I usually do whenever I am in its awesome presence. The feeling of being on a tiny island has deeply rooted itself into my all-being and I have no complaints. I noticed something on the bus ride from Palolo Deep to Leulumoega and I am curious if others have caught onto this yet. I don’t know what it is, be it my status of a foreigner or whatever, but I’ve made a simple observation about something being different during that curious moment of existence when you catch a stranger and make direct eye contact. This usually only lasts a moment before both of you look away as if you didn’t notice, but here it seems that if you don’t look away then neither will the person looking at you. In fact I’ve had instances such as these that last for several moments, even a whole minute if that’s not too much of an exaggeration. On the bus today I stared at someone in the eyes while we both smiled and neither of us looked away until the bus hit a bump causing a perfectly good reason to be distracted. This stare down is incredible. You have to imagine what its like to sit there staring eye to eye with someone just smiling and enjoying the curiosity caused by the energy between you. People don’t seem uncomfortable with these things. In fact bodily contact really isn’t an issue either. I think that it is something that makes people from my culture uncomfortable but rather than hiding behind my own discomforts I embrace it here. That stare down made me feel really good all over like the two of us were exploring each other and this is not the first time this has happened. The bus rides are good for discovering such things because people generally don’t talk much but rather use body language and other human forms of communication. So I sit here in my house taking turns between writing, doing push ups, sipping wine, and staring at the pink sky. There are girls about my age dancing in the compound across from me, I think they are practicing for some traditional dance; their presence makes this wonderful night even better. When the sun goes down tonight I’m going to sneak out for a starlit stroll along the outskirts of the village. The ocean is cool at night because it is the time when all of the nocturnal animals come out. If you sneak up to the water then clap or make a sudden movement you will witness dozens of flying fish scattering and flopping away in a wonderfully frantic escape. In the days to come, before I attend my first school meeting on Monday, I would love to visit Lalomanu for a night or two. I’m going to ask around if anyone wants to come but I really have no reserves about going by myself. There are many people to meet there from all over the world and every time I’ve made it out there some sort of adventure unfolds. I’m dancing on a beam of light from the sky. For those who want to feel what I feel right now, locate the track, ‘Tou le Monde’ by Daddy Ous. Cheers, love Mookfish.


I didn’t see any shooting stars. Tonight I am the shooting star. There is an energy floating through my veins that I have never felt before. All living things exist as vibrations created by the universe and tonight I twinkle and twitch among all that is alive from the leaves on a tree to the humpback whales leaping above the surface of the ocean. At times in the past I have felt from the night a rush through my veins that compels me to write a word or two on my arm in permanent maker ensuring that I feel it when I wake up in the morning but I know now that this is impossible. You cannot hold on to such an energy but rather feel it flow and respect it enough not to try to hold onto it. If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is to treat all experiences in life in the same manner as experiences like I have had tonight. It is foolish to hold onto such things because they will rot inside you and cause much unhappiness. A life cannot be lived with bottles of dead emotions that have been collected and trapped inside, this only causing suffering. After all, there is enough suffering in the world without the suffering which we cause unto ourselves. I will fall asleep tonight with nothing written on my body in permanent marker, this way I can leave room for the lessons which I am meant to learn tomorrow.

The first pineapple from my garden, she gave birth to five brand new pineapples.

Bob loves cock (flavoured soup)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sliding Rocks

Did my first ever cliff jump today from a place called Papaseea (Sliding Rocks) just outside of Apia. I gotta say that theme parks in Samoa are much different then the ones at home and you are definitely playing at your own risk. The first few jumps I took were small ones along the side of the pool but after enough courage was worked up I took a 20+ foot plunge into the fresh water below. The feeling is absolutely incredible. After jumping a few times you really start to feel more confident about the task and it really is a lot of fun. The picture I have here actually shows the lesser cliff as there is a bigger one to the right that takes all you have in you to climb let alone leap from. It was raining on us as we sat at the top of the waterfalls. It is a pretty cool feeling being in the jungle under the tropical rain before you take a leap into the spring below. There are also these cool slides along the smooth rocks under the water flow. You can sit on your bum and ride it like a waterslide or be a bit more bold and stand on your feet and glide to the bottom. Apparently this place only functions during the rainy season and is there for a treat that can only be enjoyed for part of the year – having said this, anyone who comes out here during a rainy part of the year better be prepared to go on a cliff jumping adventure. The last few days have been groovy. Just floatin’ around trying to take every moment in stride. I don’t worry to much about things and I really have no concern about time anymore. Any day that doesn’t go my way will still promise a beautiful sunset over the ocean and nothing can beat that. I’m deeply immersed in my aquatic adventures. As we speak I am sitting in an internet cafĂ© with wet shorts and a soggy head but I am very content. This next week will be as aqueous as ever and now that I have my new camera you can anticipate plenty of beautiful photography from the most beautiful place in the universe. I almost jumped the gun and made the long hike to Lake Lonoto’o the other day. I’ve made promises that I’d wait but my adventurous heart is beating and I never know where I’m going to wake up anymore.My favorite alien.

Thank you so much Al for these wonderful pictures!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Kolisi o Pope Paulo o Ono

Then a mason came forth and said, "Speak to us of Houses." And he answered and said: Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls. For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone. Your house is your larger body. It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? And dreaming, leave the city for grove or hilltop? Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow. Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments. But these things are not yet to be. In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields. And tell me people, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors?
Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power? Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind? Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses? Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master? Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.

Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron. It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh. It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels. Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral. But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed. Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast. It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye. You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down. You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living. And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing. For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.
-Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Being depressed is like shedding your skin. It is a process that is unpleasant but necessary in order to reveal something brand new and beautiful. In reality, the process is unavoidable and rather than denying that it is there and believing that it doesn't affect you, one should understand it and see it through. I feel awake. I woke up this morning thinking about all the things that make me happy. Last night I had some terrific vegetarian chinese food. That made me happy because it is hard to be vegetarian here. I started eating seafood again when I first came here in order to not starve to death but after a long talk with an Australlian volunteer who opened my eyes to a few alarming facts about the rapidly decreasing fish population due to overfishing (if you're interested, click here). I also found a half used package of insence that smells the temple I used to go to. I must say that if there is one place I'd love to visit it would be the Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara where I used to seek spiritual refuge and insight. I made good friends with the monks there too. I'd very much enjoy speaking with them about my adventures through the islands or even one day visit them at their homes in Sri Lanka. I've always admired my friends Ian for his trip their among many other things. I don't know what got me down in the last few days but whatever it was, I'm over it. Sometimes it just takes a long contemplative walk to work these things out and leave some skin shed behind. To me this came in the form of a walk in the rain. There is a certain part of the day when all of your obligations are finished and the only plans you have are to curl up and watch a movie. You don't need to impress anyone because you don't care enough what you look like and you don't plan on being anywhere that requires dry clothes so you walk in the rain and smile. I don't know if I've been sleepwalking for the last few days but last night I felt myself wake up. I didn't just walk in the rain, I was dancing. I've really tried to put into words whats been getting me down lately and one way or another I think I blamed it on homesickness or the holidays but that really isn't the cause. Something just needed to be figured out inside of me and what has needed to be done is complete. Today is a brand new day and it is a new year and I feel like a flower in bloom. I've realized that part of the cause of my unhappiness was my greatly due to my ignoring of all the lessons I've learned in the past. For some reason I was under this impression that being here was a whole new life of starting over but you can only think this way for so long. In reality we are the sum of all our experiences. One should not take for granted what they have learned or try to disregard it but rather build upon it. This is, of course, what becomes our story to be told. For now I'm still in Apia pursuing the surfer's path. It feels a bit like being on a snowboard trip up to Boyne with Dan. In many ways surfing is like snowboarding. Besides the dynamics of the board there is the same feeling of conquering a challenge that would knock you on your ass if you fail. Just like when you fall while snowboarding and get up to a sitting position to look at the mountain below, wiping out on a surfboard is followed by this calm moment of sitting on your board on contemplating what went wrong. The ocean is much like the mountain in that it is a powerful force that cannot be taken for granted. The moment you begin to think that you are bigger than they are, you are thrown like a ragdoll helplessly. But for some reason you come back every day that you can because you are obsessed with conquering the challenge. The time comes when you do not feel bigger but rather 'one' with it in a very spiritual sense. I feel awake. I feel like my skin has shed and something brand new has been revealed. This is only the beginning.