Sunday, April 29, 2007

ch!cken poulet!

Somehow I fell asleep on the bumpy bus ride home today. When I woke up I was in a faraway village halfway to the wharf. Shit. Fortunately with the aid of friendly pick-up trucks and overcast clouds I made my way home. I also walked about three miles which was good. It is a good day to walk. I have many things on my mind. The question is whether or not I should reveal my thoughts entirely in this journal or roll around in them like a sleepless night without a pillow.

My neck hurts.

The ocean is a wonderful thing. I love the view of Savai’i from my side of ‘Upolu. I love how the sun sets behind it these days and I love how fiery the sky gets at dusk. I’m trapped here – if I want to look at it that way. I’m happy on my island but in many ways I feel that the dynamics of ‘island’ are beginning to apply to me. There are hazardous boundaries on every side and if I don’t put a cap on my feelings I could drown. All one can do is sit by the ocean side and watch the tides change. Or laugh at the moon. I’ve done that a few times too.

You are a box of glow in the dark stars..

What the hell am I going to do? So I think to myself what happiness is. Happiness is surfing. Happiness is singing songs on the sea wall with my friends. Happiness is.. happiness is twisties and Sin City.. damn..

You know, I was on the bus today (before I fell asleep) and this Samoan song came on that I’ve heard about a thousand times. At first I noticed people mouthing the words but then some people started singing. Before long almost everyone, including myself, was singing. The spontaneity inspired me but it ended just as quickly as it began.

Build a canoe and travel far. Bring your sketch book and draw pictures of everything you see. When night comes, stare at the stars and make a wish for every shooting star that passes. Don’t be afraid because worries are wasted. Be bold..

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Aidan Christopher Smith

Dear Aidan,

First, let me welcome you to this crazy plane of existence! You were born with a shining star in both of your eyes, each passed down from the two most beautiful people I know. Through the miracles of science and makeshift internet connections I finally got to see what you look like from thousands of miles away and it gave me goosebumps - I could only imagine what your parents feel each time they hold you. They are so proud, Aidan.. I hear it in your father's voice when he talked about you before you were even born. Your mother is a wonderful soul who seems to instinctually know how to care for you and there is no doubt in my mind you will make a perfect family.

I have regrets. I regret not being around for your parents' wedding. I regret not being there for them while they waited for you and I especially regret not being there now.. But we'll meet someday. I want you and your parents to know that even thought I might be thousands of miles away I will always be there for them. Many years from now I'll be around to see your birthday parties and bring you fun things from around the world but until then I want you to know how sad it makes me that I am not there today.

I just want to let you know how fortunate we all are to have you with us. You have quite a ride ahead of you. It is a very crazy world and sometimes you'll get lost or feel like the weight of everything is too much but there are lessons to be learned and they will sort themselves out over time - everything happens in time. It's nice here on this planet though. There is beauty everywhere and many wonders to endlessly keep you focused on whichever path you chose. It really is a beautiful place and you are at the beginning of a wonderful journey. Just want to tell you how happy I am for you, your parents, and everyone lucky enough to be around you. Cheers Aidan - our paths will cross one day.

Your friend, Chris

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The get up and go that got up and went


Namua Island: Jam! Didn’t bring a camera – probably a good thing. The weekend jolted my wanderlust and made me want to visit more and more islands. I’m tentatively planning a trip to Niue in my head. I hear that around the time of the South Pacific Games there are cheap flight/ship tickets to Niue via Tonga. Team Peace Corps Tonga will be visiting in a few weeks and staying with me and perhaps I can work out a place to crash for a few days in that part of the neighbourhood in return. Niue is very intriguing to me. I’ve met random people from there and from what I hear it is a super tiny island with only fourteen hundred people or so. The pictures I’ve located are beautiful and I hear there is a washed up surf community that consists of visitors to the island that never wanted to leave. This is all tentative of course but I’ve been motivated by the motions of other volunteers who have taken initiative to save for and travel to various countries including Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Asia. I think I’ll save my Asian adventures round two for life post-Peace Corps but now that I’m Pacific bound I gather it is time to do some island hopping. I love my fair country here though. There is much to see and I feel at home. I’ve passed my six month mark and I’ve got the pleasant looniness of any other salty sea creature that expatriated themselves ashore here.

When I first moved to this village the two (now three) dogs that reside on my compound looked at me hesitantly and in a territorial sensitive manner. Now they run up to me wagging their tails wildly when I come home. Simba, the white dog I posted a picture of a while ago, is my favourite. I take him on walks and I enjoy the confused looks I get from people as I pet him and roll around with him. This behaviour is much different than throwing rocks and shouting. He’s my buddy. His face is haggard and his ear is broken from various epic dog battles he’s been in but he’s a good dog. The dogs out here are vicious if it weren’t for Simba I’d have forgotten that they could actually be pets.

I saw a few sharks, a flying fox, a heavily tattooed Finnish man, a few things unmentionable and a beautiful sunrise this weekend. Namua is a wonderful little island in the Aleipata group inhabited by a single family. The night was filled with drums and dancing around a fire reminding me of parties at home in the days of the Trumbull house. My plans to build a drum are underway and I’ve been gathering and drying out coconut shells for shakers.

Drums.. drums.. drums… Something amazing happened..

I was sitting in my classroom preparing a lesson when two of my students came in to study for their exams. We sat in silence each facing a different computer for a long period of time and I began tapping on my chair. I tap on things, it’s perhaps a nervous twitch but suddenly I heard tapping from the other end of the room followed by a third tapping from a different corner. I picked up the beat and turned my chair inward to add some bass. The two students giggled a little then turned their chairs to face me. The silent classroom had spontaneously transformed into a drum circle and I was amazed at how well the students could hold a beat. The crazy thing was that one of the students was this girl who I’ve never heard speak before. Even when I talk to her in Samoan she sits in silence and shyly waits for me to stop talking. We weren’t sitting in silence this time. I can’t explain where this came from as the drumming seemed to have erupted out of nowhere. That is life on this volcano in the middle of the sea.


p.s. books.. check ‘em out… books.. check ‘em out…

Ryuta Takeda

The man..
The magic..

The Hoo cat..

Cosmos is okay.. just had a rough one.


Monday, April 09, 2007

The Drum Maker

I saw lightning strike so close the other day that it blinded me. It was an afternoon in Savaia where my friend Aaron lives when a few of us had made our way to his neck of the woods via hitchhiking and lifts from ‘family’ friends. This extended weekend was rad because I got to tickle my adventure side and I also got to see where some of my friends live. I think that after seeing the quaint little fales a few of them live in that I feel every home out here is completely unique. Laura has this awesome fale in Tafatafa that is surrounded by huge black lava rocks that seems to be a perfect home for her. The words, ‘You Welcome’ are written on the inside as a greeting to her from her host family and I can’t stop finding the humor in that. Meghan has another cool fale behind a faleoloa in Siumu that once again seems perfect for her. I find it really interesting how each of us is put into such different places and the personalities of our villages seems to stay with us the longer we live there. I really like my home in Leulumoega and I love the people I live with. I think that living with two Japanese volunteers has been a wonderful bonus for my experience here and just as everybody else does, I have a very unique situation.

The weekend was really cool. I rode a crowded bus across the island with Laura and Lopi to make our way to the south end where our tour began. Over the next few days we would travel far west ending up at Return to Paradise Beach, which was actually the first beach I ever visited in Samoa many months ago. Aaron was helping four high school students from the states with a two week engagement they were privileged with. I think it was a really great opportunity for them to see a far off chunk of the world at a young age and I doubt they will walk away from this without taking something from it. This village was hosting a fiafia for the students and we were invited. It turned into a big dance party and I have to say that it was a good time. As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words so I think for this entry I will leave the details of this weekend in the pixels of digital photography.

The drum maker.. I miss my drums at home. Over the last few years of college, even extending back into my senior year of high school, I have gathered an impressive collection of drums. I have maybe four djembes, a toumbek, some bongos, a dhalk, and many more. With those I have fond memories of my room at the Trumbull house full of friends and strangers drumming loudly into the night. It hit me at the fiafia that this was a feeling I really miss. We spontaneously decided to perform our sasa from our last fiafia as a group and although it was sloppy and spur of the moment I think it was kind of fun. I got to be the drummer this time and I played this wooden cylinder drum with two sticks (I typically prefer hand drumming) and something about drumming for a room of people woke up a great feeling inside. So I’ve decided that I want to make a drum, maybe a few. I think I can start simple with the many coconut shell resources available and ideally it would be cool to carve out a piece of wood as a base. We’ll have to see how this story unfolds. Being stuck in my village all week unleashes strange behavior. Some weeks I feel like an animal, sometimes like a nomad, but other times I feel really motivated to create and I see between the lines of the ordinary and the surreal. One time I stared at this stain on my ceiling for perhaps a half hour and eventually it began to look like a human face. This became a picture I made many times until I was able to draw exactly what I saw in my mind. Something strange is happening lately. Just like being able to see the surreal in the ordinary I feel like lately I’ve been able to see the rhythms in the things we would normally consider silent. I haven’t felt this since Detroit when my friends and I would spontaneously drum or make beats on tables and cups. It is a form of communication and a language I feel that everyone can speak if they try. This time around I might be speaking that language to myself for a while but you never know.. maybe that spontaneity will one day wash up on the shores of this fair island.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Where the dew tastes like honey and the trees bear the fruits of love

Just dance, you know? If you can’t dance that’s cool too just don’t hold still for too long. Life is a game of uncertainty and chance and the best way to find happiness is to explore and avoid complacency, so I find. Perhaps some people find happiness in security but I think it is the lack of security which gets my juices flowing.

I love the view of the ocean out of the window of a bus when travelling into town. I listen to good drum n bass and get lost in the wonderment of how many times the waves have ever crashed into the shores of my friendly island, perhaps a trillion in the last year alone. One time I had my headphones on quite loud and I was lost in the beautiful nothingness of tropical sunset and I felt tempted to walk into the ocean and never come back for all the right reasons just to see if my gills had fully evolved yet. I could live among the sea creatures and learn their ways, what they use for currency, what they consider poetry, art, how they determine their leaders, how they see in the dark.

Life on land has been pretty rad. This weekend was amazing. Uncertainty and chance did me well and through a series of unpredictable events I had an absolutely stellar night on Saturday. It all began by sitting on the rocks in the harbour with good friends singing loudly to the ocean while ignoring the rain and the night ended with a long contemplative walk by myself as the moon cracked free from the dark clouds to shine on me. Everything in between was simply otherworldly.

We have a short school week because of the holiday and with the last few days here I am working overtime on my video which I have promised to friends back home. I’ve got some good footage that I wont spoil by talking about and hopefully the project will be done this month.

I had an intense dream last night about an enormous sea vessel with people from all walks of life crowded on board. Of all people I even saw baby Aidan, who wont be born for a few more weeks I gather. Dan and Beth, I am so stoked for you guys that it is leaking into my dream world. I don’t think the vessel ever saw dry land which is interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt simply of a ship before.

Last weekend also yielded yet another tsunami evacuation. An earthquake hit about 45 km off the coast of the Solomon Islands killing maybe 20 people and sending a 5 meter tidal wave aimlessly into the Pacific. We were put on a stand by and ordered not to leave a consolidation point until the all-clear was announced. I’m not worried about tsunamis, it is the ungodly cyclones that worry me. Fortunately we are coming out of cyclone season but we’ve caught the edges of a few that hit Tonga and they really don’t mess around.
Kiss the pseudo-Japanese chef!

I think I’ll float for a while. This next few days promises adventuring through the south part of Upolu and I’m personally down with which ever way the wind wants to take me. There is no force of uncertainty and chance greater than the wind and I’m not going to offer any resistance.

Red sharpes: seriously.