Thursday, November 17, 2011

Work is Play


Literally, today my job was to play.  It was day three of a seminar on the new Health and Physical Education curriculum.  I don’t teach Health and P.E. so why was I there?  Excellent question.  Some battles aren’t worth fighting and which training I attend is one of them.    I think what tipped the scales is that the training was held in our new hall, aka picnic pavilion.  It was a chance to show off the new hall and the palagi Pisi Koa.

The first two days were better than I expected.  In Samoan, but with English materials, so I got the gist of what was being discussed.  One of the two trainers was very enthusiastic and excited to discuss the new curriculum with me.  Because this was for Years 7 & 8, there were an equal number of men and women in the audience.  All good things.

The curriculum is not what I expected.  They’ve taken “physical education” to its broadest meaning – total physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being.  The curriculum addresses current social issues, including self-esteem and physical aggression.   While it looks good on paper, I think it will require a long time to truly be part of the curriculum.

Imagine 1950’s America.  Pregnant women smoking and drinking while pregnant.  Doctors say a drink or two will calm the mother’s nerves.  Smoking calms the nerves and there’s nothing bad about it.  Those views changed, but it took time and a lot of marketing.  Here, it is common for a teacher, parent or pastor to say (in front of the child) “He’s stupid/cheeky/bad.”  Turn that around after one seminar?  I doubt it, but it’s a start.

Today was about what you’d expect P.E. to be:  games!  After prayers, hymns and breakfast, we hit the field.  Well, the playground.  I was dressed in a t-shirt and lava lava (sarong).  I normally don’t dress that way. 

Here’s the deal.  It’s very hot here.  If you wear a lava lava, you need to wear something substantial under it, or you could face a very embarrassing moment.  Wearing a pair of capris is hot enough without wrapping 3 yards of cloth around them.  I’d rather wear a long, full skirt with a pair of men’s boxer shorts underneath.  Ok, I’ve admitted it.  Fruit of the Looms.  They wash and dry like a charm and have lots of room for air.   Sexy?  No.  But have I’m not here for the sex.   And yeast infections suck.

I showed up with my pink t-shirt and my black and pink lava lava, worn over my board shorts.  It got kind of annoying when people kept lifting up my lava lava to see what I was wearing underneath.  I mean really, I’ve been dying to know what Scots wear under their kilts but would never just whip one up to see what was under there.  Unless I’d had a lot of Scotch. 

After doing a review of safety precautions, we hit the field.  I had to chuckle during the safety precautions.  A personal injury attorney would have a field day here.  Because they don’t have a ball, kids use a rock to play rugby.  Bummer if it hits you in the face when your teammate throws it.

We started with warm ups.  Some stretching.  Some bending.   The Samoans were watching me.  I was the oldest there.  I was the whitest there.  I was not the skinniest there.  Our first game was for a line of us to get from one spot to another.  Walking.  Running.  Other ideas?  Skipping! 

Ah, the value of being a native English speaker.   The Samoan teachers assumed skipping was the same as skipping or hopping rope.  Who could do that for 30 yards?  When the teacher asked  “Who can skip this far?”  I raised my hand.  Everyone looked at me as if I’d said I could fly.  The trainer asked me to show the group.  I calmly (and sweatily) skipped 30 yards.  And back.  Then the trainer broke down how to skip.

After that exercise we did a thing that involved numbers, counting and hugging.  Keep in mind that all of the instruction was in Samoan.   I thought I got the directions – women were worth 3 points apiece, men were worth 2 points apiece.  The trainer would call out a number and we had to form that combination with men and women.  All I knew was that the trainer yelled something and the next thing I knew two men were giving me bear hugs from either side.  I’m not good at math, but enjoyed the result. 

Sadly, I was “out” in the last round.  When I pointed out that they were “tagata Samoa leanga” (bad Samoan people) for making the palagi lose, they had a good laugh.  By then we were all dripping sweat.  The lines between Samoan/American seemed to melt along with our deodorant.  It was in the high 80’s and humid.  I kept looking longingly at the beach and praying for swimming class.

We took a break then played a couple more games.  All demonstrated that what I’d been told during training about Samoans not being competitive was a crock.  Samoans, even more than most Americans I know are VERY competitive in games.  They want to win.  There was physicality in the games. This  wasn’t just a “let’s play to learn”.  It was “let’s beat the crap out of each other to win”

Next we played “chain tag”.  One guy was it and as he tagged people, they held hands and went to tag others.  Once 4 were holding hands, they split into 2 groups of 2 and went after more.  I was the first tagged.  And was then dragged around the playground by a very fit, handsome Samoan dude.  Ok, I was the wounded gazelle, easy to tag, but did he not consider that I’d be his anchor for the rest of the game?  Or maybe he was attracted by the beet red complexion and wet hair, dripping with sweat? 

It was a fun day.  Typical in many ways.  Hot, sweaty, with lots of laughs.  I heard that tomorrow is “Jazz Day”.  I’ve been told that means it’s a half day for all government employees.  After work, we’ll do Jazzercize.  Hopefully I won’t be too sore to participate.

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