I didn’t eat at the grownups table at breakfast! The Year 7 teacher is responsible for saying the prayer for the Year 8 kids before they take their test. He’s the newest teacher, but I think he gets the honor because he’s male.
He’s been riding with one of the visiting teachers, so has come in a bit later than the rest of us a couple of times. On Monday, I wandered upstairs before breakfast and gave the kids a pep talk, did some stretching exercises with them and said a prayer. The other teachers were shocked. Happy that I did it, I think, but very surprised that I would think to pray for the kids before the biggest test of their lives. Personal views aside, I’ve been teaching here for almost a full school year and I kinda get the drift that prayer is a big part of school.
Today when the Year 7 guy was late again, I was asked to go upstairs and pray with the kids. Since I’m still a palagi and girls just want to have fun and I don’t believe anyone wanted to pray for the hour we had to fill, we also sang a couple of hymns, did some review, played Simon Says and did the Hokie Pokie. Yes, 13 year olds still like to Hokie Pokie here. Of course, I change it up a bit for the older kids. We put in body parts like navels, nostrils and bums.
I knew that the other teachers had all arrived, but I figured if they really wanted me at the first seating for breakfast, they’d send someone for me. I was much happier playing with the kids than having breakfast. About 10 minutes before the test was scheduled to start, the supervising teachers came upstairs, thanked me for handling prayer duty and took over.
I went downstairs and saw no food. I knew the “grownups” had eaten, but did I miss the second seating too? Did even the kids get their plates? Was there no huge breakfast for me?? I realized at that moment that next week is going to be very hard. Monday was tough, facing full meals every two hours. Now, my body expects, no, demands banquets every few hours. Next week I’ll be back to a boiled egg for breakfast, ramen for lunch and a chicken leg for dinner. It won’t be pretty.
Luckily, the other teachers waited for me to start their breakfast, so I got to pig out. And I sat with the grownups for lunch so got my fill then, too. The food was very much as I’ve described for the first two days. There’s not a lot of variation in the diet. One change was barbequed chicken for lunch instead of fried chicken. Barbequed in a sauce of soy sauce, onions and sugar – it’s what every single barbeque stand in Samoa uses. And every single house that barbeques. Like I said, not a lot of variety here when it comes to food. We did have pie for breakfast. Desserts are rarely served here, although sweets are very popular. The pie looked like lemon meringue, minus the meringue. It tasted very sweet and had chunks of fruit cocktail in it. It was topped with chopped peanuts.
I enjoyed a great hour of snorkeling in the afternoon. I want to be fit and ready to chow down tomorrow. I’m hoping they’ll let me hang with the kids again in the morning. I miss being in the classroom.
By the way, villages used to be responsible for providing meals like the ones we’re having this week to teachers every day, for the entire school year. Each family would take their turn bringing the food for the day. The Ministry of Education recently banned the practice, although some villages still do it. It became too competitive and a hardship on many families.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are eating the best food in the village this week. Families take pride in bringing the best they can, even when they can’t afford it. The pie, for example, cost at least $60. That’s big money here. The 3 lb cans of pisupo (corned beef) that’s tucked into each visiting teacher’s daily take away bag is about $50. The Samoans are very proud of their generosity. They’ve demonstrated it in spades this week.