Friday, October 28, 2011

Term 3

I’d heard that there’s not a lot of teaching going on in Term 3.  That is very true.  Since the start of the term there hasn’t been a single week when I’ve taught classes as scheduled.   Last week was the food extravaganza known as Year 8 National Exam week.

The kids did the two hour test every morning and the teachers ate.  The parents provide all the food.  If you ever get peeved about having to take a couple dozen cookies to Johnnie’s school party, be happy you don’t have to provide a whole roasted pig.  The Ministry has said that requiring parents to bring food to the teachers is against the rules, but it’s still going on.  They outlawed it because it is a financial hardship on many families and creates competition among the village to see who can bring the most/best.  I heard from one friend that some of the parents are angry that they were told they have to bring food.  It says a lot about the culture here that they may not like it, but do it anyway.

This week I was told by other teachers that it would be a regular week of classes.  Hot diggity, I would get to actually teach again.  That has not been the case.  It’s frustrating on two levels:  one, because I came here to teach, not to watch people eat; two, because I never quite know what’s going on, which, as a control freak, tests my patience.

Today, for example, I was told it was a “regular” day.  One of the teachers brought in tea for everyone – koko Samoa, ramen and crackers spread with the leftover peanut butter I’d brought in.  A couple of kids and the youngest teacher made up a plate for everyone and delivered it to our classrooms.  The other teachers eat while the kids do work or sit around.  I actually was interacting with the kids and couldn’t eat.  I figured I’d get to the food after Year 7. 

But, no.  After an hour with Year 7, I sent them back to their regular room, which is our normal schedule.  Two minutes later they came running back in, saying they were told to stay with me.  I went to find out what was going on.  The pule told me there would be an assembly in an hour to practice songs for tomorrow’s party for the grand opening of our assembly hall.  I’d been told there would be no singing, but whatever.  I didn’t get why I was supposed to continue teaching Year 7 for another hour just because afterwards there would be an assembly.  The Year 7 teacher explained that he couldn’t teach a lesson in that time and it was better for me.

After assembly, we broke for interval and I got to eat some of my snack.  Most of it I gave to the boy who always seems to be hungry.  At first I thought he just wanted any special stuff I might have but realized he cadged food off the other kids, too.  I try to bring him something every day.  We keep it a secret since if the other kids knew they would tease him and if the teachers knew they might hit him for embarrassing his family by saying he was hungry.

After interval I went to Year 8 to start my hour with them.  Surprise!  Year 7 and Year 8 were together in the room and the pule looked at me in surprise.  Why was I there?  To teach Year 8.  But the children have to clean the new hall now.  I didn’t know.  I don’t care, I just didn’t know.

After two minutes, the kids came racing back into my room because they couldn’t clean the hall.  The school committee was having lunch there.   Since I was busy setting up files on the new computer and two other teachers were available, I sent them back to their regular rooms.

Five minutes later, school was dismissed.  The kids came to ask me why I was still working.  One of the teachers came by and told me to come back at 3 so we can clean and decorate the hall.  It is now 2:45 and pouring rain.  I’m guessing we’ll start decorating about 4, if the rain stops.  Luckily I can see the hall from where I’m sitting so I’ll know when it’s time to go. (FYI, I went over to the school at 3:30.  The other teachers arrived at 4:00.  We started decorating at 4:30.  Finished work at 6:00.)

Tomorrow will be the dedication of the hall.  I’ve been told there will be prayers by two pastors (that will take about 30 minutes), speeches by the pule and the school committee president (that will be another 30 minutes), songs by the children (another 30 minutes) and I’m not sure what else.  After the formal event, the children will leave (or stay to play volleyball – I’ve been told both) and the teachers and school committee will have a fiafia.

One of the school committee told me this morning there will be food, dancing, liquor, singing, kissing and cuddling.  I believe he was joking about the last two items, but since I was asked  by the guy doing all the shopping if I want beer or vodka to drink, I’m thinking the part about the drinking is true.  Ironic that having a drink in my house is shocking, but slamming back shots in the middle of the day with a group of men at school is ok.  Reminds me of office parties in the 80’s.

***The event was today and I’ll tell you more about it in a separate post.  Highlights – the hall was beautifully decorated.  I received 4 ulas (leis).  There were 3 roasted pigs.  I was honored by being asked (surprise!) to dance, alone, for the crowd – doing a traditional Samoan dance.  No, I don’t know how to do a traditional Samoan dance, so I winged it.  Then I was told I had to dance for each chief, Samoan style.  That was to honor me, I was told.  I danced.

After the formal event, there was a party for the 25 or so teachers, school committee members and men who worked on the construction.  There was a lot of good food.  There was a lot of vodka for the men.  There was a DJ.  There was more dancing.  There was a fistfight.  I was kissed twice.  All of this occurred in the open hall on the main island road.  It was fun.

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