November 13, 2003 - Greenville Online: Clare Trapasso is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in (independent) Samoa in the South Pacific

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Samoa: Peace Corps Samoa : The Peace Corps in Samoa: November 13, 2003 - Greenville Online: Clare Trapasso is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in (independent) Samoa in the South Pacific

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:50 am: Edit Post

Clare Trapasso is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in (independent) Samoa in the South Pacific

Clare Trapasso is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in (independent) Samoa in the South Pacific

Peace Corps an option for those who want to help others

Posted Thursday, November 13, 2003 - 10:50 pm

By Clare Trapasso

Clare Trapasso is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in (independent) Samoa in the South Pacific. She attended Riverside High School and the Fine Arts Center and graduated from Wade Hampton High School in 1998. She graduated from SUNY Purchase College in New York with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2001. Readers may write to her at

I decided to join the Peace Corps for a multitude of reasons, all of which I forgot on my first day in the training village. I was sitting cross-legged on a woven floor mat in a large hall with 16 other nervous Peace Corps trainees, waiting to be picked up and taken to the family I would live with for the next two months.

The Peace Corps sounded like a great idea for a recent college graduate in a bad economy. I couldn't find any work in my field of journalism, besides a few freelance articles here and there, which hardly paid the bills. I wanted to travel. I didn't want to go to graduate school just yet, and most importantly, I truly wanted to help others. I wanted to be the kind of person I could be proud of. And the Peace Corps sounded like an excellent solution.

So I went through the 12-month application process, and in early June 2003, I found myself on a Polynesian island in the South Pacific.

I stared at the men facing me, mostly shirtless and displaying elaborate tribal tattoos, wearing the customary weathered i'e (what Americans call sarongs), and staring just as hard at us. As Peace Corps staff spoke with the men, I noticed the ocean peeking through the windows, and as the hall filled with the beautiful voices of these men engaged in Samoan song, miraculously, I felt myself start to relax.

I was the last one to get picked up. Peace Corps staff had to explain to my new "family" that I was a vegetarian. Vegetarians may be uncommon in the American South, but they're unheard of in Samoa. All the while, a dark-skinned man with a pronounced beer belly was laughing, pointing directly at me and slapping his butt. I thought of my cramped but cozy New York apartment and my family's home in Greenville, with my own walk-in closet and thought to myself: "What am I doing in Samoa?!"

Luckily, the house wasn't too far from the hall, which would be transformed into a school for the trainees to learn Samoan culture and language. Most importantly, my new house had walls and an indoor shower. This was not the case for several of the other trainees, mostly in their early to mid-20s, who showered outside in i'e and lived in houses supported solely by several beams.

When I got inside my house, I was surrounded by what was to become my new "family." They started speaking very quickly in Samoan to me, but I knew less than 10 words in Samoan, so they gestured for me to sit on a mat on the floor. I later found out that the family had slaughtered their best pigs and chickens for my arrival, which may be why we just sat there and looked at each other until a meal was brought out.

The food looked strange and didn't smell too appetizing, and besides, I'd been having unpleasant digestive problems since I arrived in Samoa. I think at that point I might have traded my soul for a single slice of Barley's Taproom pizza. Yet, they sat next to me fanning my food with a woven fan and motioned to me to eat, which I did. After the meal, music was turned on, and the family started to dance. They motioned for me to join in, which I did, and as we were all laughing I was surprised to realize that I was actually having a good time. Most of my nights in the States were spent bar-hopping in uncomfortable shoes, and here I was without an ounce of makeup on my face goofing around with people I could barely communicate with.

Later, they took me to my room (which was walled!) and I got into my bed that smelled strongly of mildew with a mosquito net hanging over it. They tucked the mosquito net under the bed, smiled at me, turned off the light, and left to sleep on the floor mats outside my room. Again I questioned my 27-month Peace Corps commitment. I was supposed to be doing community development work, but that is where my job description ended.

Yet the people I had met had been so warm and welcoming, and the country, although scorching hot, was absolutely beautiful.

Eventually I fell asleep to the pigs and dogs fighting outside my window, and when I woke the next morning it was my 23rd birthday.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Greenville Online

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Samoa



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.