Friday, April 20, 2012

That Was The Week That Was

Anybody remember that title?  Was it from Laugh In?  Yes, I’m older than most rocks.  Anyway, it’s a lovely, warm late afternoon on Friday.  I thought I’d share the highlights and lowlights of the week.

To kick off the week, a couple of lowlights.  Having a rat run across your legs at 2 a.m. is not a great way to be awakened.  Last night, my bed fell apart at 3:15 a.m.  An explanation – my bed is a frame, on which several sturdy boards are placed.  On top of the boards are some mats and then a 3 inch thick foam rubber mattress.  During the night a board somehow fell.  That started a domino effect and more boards fell.  My ass and the mattress were dangling over a gaping hole.  As annoyed as I was, I had to laugh.  Then I realized that everyone sleeping around me had heard the boards hitting the floor and were now listening to me giggling.  I’m betting they were watching to see the guy leave my house.  Nope, just my large ass.

The best highlights today were when Year 7 gave me a round of applause at the end of class.  I introduced 80 irregular verbs to them on Monday.  Today, they had a “verb bee” against Year 8.  They lost by two words but were very proud, deservedly, of how they did.  The majority of kids now know the present and past tenses of those 80 irregular verbs.  After the applause, as I was leaving the room a girl came up to me and said “Thank you for loving us.” 

The other teachers didn’t seem to think much of my “verb bee” idea but the kids went nuts over it.  Year 8 is busy cramming for a big test in two weeks and their teacher is trying to get through all the science and social studies so I didn’t have class with them this week.  Instead, I helped them prepare for the Verb Bee before and after school, at their request.  On Monday, after five minutes with them I informed them that Year 7 was going to eat their lunch.  Then I tried to explain what that means since they were taking it literally.  They got the drift and knuckled down.

I ran into a mother of one of the Year 8 kids today and told her that her son did well and that his team won the Bee.  She said he’s been studying for hours every night to prepare.   Just goes to show that these kids are not stupid or lazy – they just need the right motivation.  The prizes for the Bee, by the way, were stickers.  Because everyone worked so hard, both teams got stickers.  Nice ones for the losers.  The winners got tiny jewels with sticky stuff on the back.  They were over the moon excited and used them as earrings.  Thanks to my friends for making it possible for me to see their excitement in selecting the perfect “jewel”.

The low light today was when one of the teachers disciplined some 7 year old boys with a thick yard stick.  They were punished because their hair was too long.   Let’s just say there were a lot of tears and the yard stick was broken during the discipline.

I’m not alone in my concern about corporal punishment.  A child died recently after being beaten at school by her teacher.  She had a heart defect, which was ruled the cause of death, but the teacher pleaded guilty to assault and is awaiting sentencing.  Today the headline in the paper was that another child was beaten in the same district.  Both villages are where our group of PCVs did our training.  I taught for 2 weeks at the school where the child died.  Some parents seem concerned that their children are being abused and it is against the law to hit a child here.  However, it is traditional and I think it will be very hard to change.  The editorial cartoon in the paper shows a parent saying “Sole (Dude) when are you going to bed? Our CashPower (electricity) is running out.”  The kid’s response is “Papa, forget the CashPower.  I’m more worried about the teacher’s stick if I don’t do my homework.”

Another highlight is that I finished my 3rd round of antibiotics today and the “crater” on my leg is starting to heal.  Crater is the official medical term the PC nurse used to describe the hole in my leg.  It was a good description.  Once it’s healed, I’m supposed to take once a week baths (using a bucket) with water and bleach to kill the bacteria on my skin and keep from getting more of these sores.  A friend was shocked when I told her then commented that I will smell like clean clothes. 

After school today I walked to the Tuisivi store for some exercise and shopping.  I took the bus home, the long way.  That means passing my house and riding 20 minutes up the coast.  Almost empty bus, beautiful views and a nice breeze.

This morning one of the teachers brought me some pe’e pe’e or coconut cream.  If you’ve only tasted the canned crap, there is a HUGE difference.  Imagine the difference between canned peas and fresh peas.  Fresh is infinitely better.  Since I have the fresh coconut cream, I’ll be making Panang chicken curry tonight.  With rice and a marinated bean/cucumber salad.  I realize the salad is not exactly Thai, but this isn’t exactly Thailand.   I just tasted the curry and it is awesome.  Thank goodness for the curry paste sold at Farmer Joe’s in Apia.

Another highlight has been in the mornings before school.  I’m usually the first one at school.  I’m also usually the last one to leave.  I’m also the only one not being paid to be there but that’s another discussion.

I started using a video I found of the 3 Stooges doing an alphabet song.  It is unlike any alphabet song I’ve ever heard and involves combining all the consonants with all the vowels.  Trust me, it is catchy and I hear it in my sleep.  I was only teaching the older kids because it’s a bit tricky.  I had to watch the video several times before I could sing it.

Now in the mornings, the littlest kids are showing up in the office asking to hear the “B A Ba” song.  They will stare at the computer screen and sing along for as many times as I will restart the video.  They love the song and are fascinated by the women in the video who look like American women did in the ‘50’s, since it is a very old video.  This morning, a timid Year 1 girl marched in and sat in front of the computer.  She was the only one there.  She just stared at me.  I said good morning and her response was “B A Ba”.  After she said “please” I turned on the video for her viewing pleasure. 

I view that as a triumph.  A timid kid willing to screw up the courage to ask the palagi to play a song she loves and wants to learn.  The other teachers view it as my lack of ability to get respect and inability to discipline the children.  She should not be allowed in the office and should not be asking a teacher for anything.  As Samoa moves forward in improving their education system, there are some fundamental beliefs that are being challenged.  Lord knows, I’m not always right, but in this case I think it is splendid that a kid’s desire to learn has been piqued.  I have to admit, the fact that it’s the 3 Stooges who did it is just funny.

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