School started this week. Some things are the same as last year, others are different. Last year, I was nervous as a cat and wore my best puletasi. This year, I wore a skirt and t-shirt (which was dressier than what several other teachers wore) and left so late for school that my host dad stopped by to ask if I was going to school. Yes, I was, but I was not going to be the first/only one there. Instead, I arrived 45 minutes late and was the third teacher there out of 11.
Only about ¼ of the kids showed for school, most not in uniform. The new Year 1 kids are so tiny and scared. One was hitting his classmates and I called him to me (sheer terror, for him) and explained, in Samoan, that we don’t hit. He followed me like a puppy for the rest of the day.
I get the language barrier, so I was very empathetic to a new Year 4 kid whose only English is “My name is John.” Ask him anything and that’s the answer you get. I totally get it. I’m looking forward to working with him, since his smile is radiant each time he says the one phrase he knows in English.
Like last year there was no teaching today. We had assembly. The kids cleaned the classrooms while the teachers gossiped. I was the only teacher to go to my room, where I pulled out some books and magazines and kids read for half an hour. We had interval for the kids while the teachers continued to gossip. We had ending assembly. We left. I know that 2 teachers won’t be here for the first few months. I don’t know if I’ll get to keep my classroom. I guess I will until the last teacher arrives in April. Imagine a school system where your kids have no teacher for the first three months. That will either mean I’m a substitute for Year 7 (I’d be a stellar teacher of the Samoan language, don’t you think?) or there will be classes of over 70. Not good in either case.
Tragically, a couple was killed in an accident recently when their car was swept off the road at a river crossing. They tried to follow a bus, which had crossed successfully, but were killed. They were the host parents of a Group 82 RPCV who left a month ago. They also hosted a previous PCV. The Group 82 volunteer asked if I would attend the funeral and take a floral arrangement. I was saddened at the reason, but happy to do my best to represent her.
After school on Monday I went to Salelologa to buy the arrangement. Artificial flowers in the forms of wreaths or arrangements are the norm here. Fresh flowers are used for many special events but people buy and treasure artificial arrangements for funerals. I selected a large wreath, with many cheerful colors as requested. The volunteer said they were a bright and happy couple so it seemed that vivid colors would be most suitable.
I took the wreath with me to the grocery store, where I needed to pick up a few things. There was very little surprise at the palagi with the wreath. They all know me now and just asked how much it cost and who it was for. (Yes, I teach English and yes, that sentence was grammatically incorrect.)
I got onto a crowded bus to come home with my backpack of canned goods and the wreath. Again, no looks of surprise, except from the 8 month old who gawked the whole 45 minute ride. She would have been staring with or without the giant wreath.
I’ve been in my fale for the last couple of hours. Working on a Peace Corps report and making dinner, mostly. There are a bunch of kids next door. Their fascination with me has not dimmed. There are 12 kids who live on either side of my fale. I teach all but the toddlers. They saw me all day. Yet they’re still standing out there hollering “Hi, Nancy. How are you?” Still fine, thanks.