We had a teachers’ meeting this week at our school. I didn’t attend. I was at school, but busy helping fix lunch for the 60 teachers who attended. Chicken curry, rice, fried chicken and raw hot dogs. We covered the fried chicken and hot dogs with catsup.
The teachers told me I should be at the school at 4 a.m. Yeah, right. It was a shock when I woke up at 6 a.m. to see the lights on at the school. I headed over with gifts in hand. I took Milo (like Ovaltine, from NZ) bread, peanut butter and jam. I also took a huge chocolate bar. I was welcomed warmly.
Teachers from other schools began arriving about 8:00 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. meeting. I was wearing one of my best puletasis because I didn’t realize I’d be frying chicken and swatting flies for five hours. Midway through the meeting, I saw two of the teachers leaving in a car, so I ran and hopped in. We went to the store for the catsup and some dish soap then to a teacher’s house for the niu (young coconuts) she had chilling in her refrigerator.
Sadly, we ran out of fried chicken but there was plenty of curry and rice. As I helped plate food for 60 I didn’t realize until mid-way through that it had become normal to me to rip the stem off leaves before I used them to line a “plate” made of woven coconut fronds. Those were the plates for all but the principals. No cost, disposable and some of the leaves had been washed,which was a good thing.
Instead of bottled water, which is expensive, we served niu – young coconuts. Popular, healthy and tasty. The fact that they are free is a bonus. The “juice”of the niu tastes like water with a hint of coconut.
I’d shared a fried drumstick with two other teachers as we cooked. I’d been around food for hours and just wasn’t hungry. I passed on the plate of food each of our teachers received after the meeting was over. But not accepting food is troublesome here. I was asked repeatedly what was wrong. “Are you unhappy?” “Nope, just full.” “You want to take food home?” “No, thanks, I don’t care for curry that much. Better for you to take it.” “You must be unhappy.” No, really, I just wasn’t into the chicken curry.
The fact that they’d left the raw chicken at room temperature overnight was also a tiny concern. Mostly, though, I just wasn’t hungry. Two of our older teachers participated in the meeting and ate a full lunch with the other teachers of the district. Then they ate another full meal with the rest of us. They can’t understand why I’d turn down food. I went home and ate an apple. Talofai, as they would say here. Sad that I would eat fruit instead of chicken.