The day started for me at 6:15 a.m. when the two youngest boys in my family knocked at my door. I wasn’t planning to leave until 6:30 and wasn’t ready. I gave them some sweet rolls I’d bought at the market the day before and they waited patiently.
We walked through the darkness down the main road toward the edge of the village. We passed the man blowing loudly into a large water bottle. His job is to wake up the men and let them know it’s time to go fishing. He usually has to blow the alarm for about an hour.
There were a lot of kids waiting in front of the hospital. There were no other teachers, though. The first teacher showed up at 7:20 a.m., twenty minutes after we were supposed to begin marching toward the school. The other two teachers arrived about 7: 40 and we stood around for a few more minutes before we started walking.
The kids were singing a song about teachers and were in a great mood. We hadn’t walked far when the first people approached the Infant Supervisor, handing her money. She announced who they were and how much they’d given to everyone nearby.
As we walked, more parents came forward to hand her money. It took me awhile, but I realized that the whole purpose of the day was to solicit money. The other half of the kids and teachers were walking from the other end of the village, also soliciting money.
Once we got to school, I assumed we’d start the program but was incorrect. Instead, the kids played and teachers sat around. As usual, I wasn’t sure why were just sitting around. I think we were waiting for more parents to show up.
Eventually, everyone was crowded into one of the classrooms and the program began. After each class performed, music blared and the kids and teacher danced. Again, the goal was to solicit donations for the teachers.
I didn’t dance until Year 7. The new teacher, a single man, was playing to the crowd. He’d taken off his shirt and covered his chest and back with coconut oil. One of the other teachers started dancing with him. I decided it was time to give the crowd what they wanted – a palagi acting the fool.
I made a big deal about going over and pretending to punch the other teacher, dragging her away from “my” man. The crowd went crazy. Kids, parents and teachers were howling and cheering. Another teacher came over to dance with “my” guy and so I had to punch her out, too. The dancing, fake fighting and hilarity continued through that dance and after Years 7 & 8 performed the rap that I’d worked with them on. Two of the parents got into the act, and I was forced to wrestle them off my guy. By US standards, it was wrong on so many levels, but days later, people are still talking about it. I demonstrated that I was into the Samoan humor and spirit. Teachers and parents seemed very happy that I let my hair down.
The day ended with ice cream. The Year 7 teacher who moved to New Zealand came by on Monday with 20 gallons of ice cream. Ice cream here comes in 5 gallon containers. The kids had been told to bring a cup or bowl or something and they did. They each got a huge portion and between the dancing and the ice cream had a lovely time.
One of my Year 7 boys came up to me as we were leaving and said “Wasn’t this a perfect day?” Yes, it was. BTW, the teachers collected $500.