Thursday, May 10, 2012

Last Day, Term 1

Today was officially the last day of the first term.  It’s also my last day in Savaii before leaving tomorrow on vacation.  My boss, the teachers and kids acted as if I was leaving forever.  I kept reminding them I’ll be back before school starts in three weeks.  Nice to know I’ll be missed.  One of the teachers reminded me to bring gifts.  I told her I was bringing her Ramen noodles, which is what we eat for lunch every  day.  She told me to bring chocolate instead.

I was the first teacher at school.  The few kids who came early joined me in the office.  They thought they’d get to continue watching The Lion King but I had a surprise.  I downloaded the photos and video I’d taken during Sports Day and we had a slideshow, followed by videos of the sack races and tug of wars.  The kids enjoyed them.

Today was very low key.  No decorations, no dancing, just speeches and announcing the top students in each class.  Things started about 8:15 a.m. when I was told to start singing with the kids.  I led songs and controlled mayhem until about 8:45 when I ran out of impromptu ways to amuse 250 kids and parents.

The ceremony itself was typically casual.  People talking and wandering around.  I took photos while the rest of the teachers huddled together to finish their grades and report cards.  Mid-way through the program, the principal drove off.  Seems he left his cell phone at home.  One teacher arrived about an hour into the program, just in time to announce his grades.

After announcing the grades, each class was supposed to perform a song or poem in honor of Mother’s Day.   One of the teachers was absent the other day and I was subbing so got the opportunity to teach them a poem.  I wrote it and they learned it, all in less than an hour.  Two girls recited it first, then the class recited it together.  I was very concerned but they were stellar.

After the ceremony, most kids went home.  Year 8 stayed to help with cleanup and a few of my fans hung around just because.  I headed to the office to upload the photos.  I wanted to get them off my camera before I go to New Zealand.

As I was packing up my stuff and getting the office cleaned up, a kid came and told me it was eating time and I should go downstairs.  I hadn’t seen any food so was a bit surprised.  The School Resource Officer had purchased fish or chicken plates with coleslaw and fries from the only fast food restaurant on the island.  She said she did it because I was leaving.  It was a very generous gesture and although my fish and chips had been sitting out for a few hours, they were tasty.

After too many rounds of goodbyes and hugs, we headed our separate ways.  I decided to go to the post office in town.  About 30 seconds into the ride I realized I’d made a huge mistake.  I thought an early afternoon bus ride would be relaxing.  I hadn’t considered it was the end of term for everyone plus big crowds doing Mother’s Day shopping. 

I thought the bus couldn’t hold another person when we stopped to pick up 13 high school students.  I was in the front seat, crammed in with my knees pressed into the metal bars in front of me.  As the kids got on, several had to stand on the stairs in front of me.  A couple were forced to lean over the metal railing so they were halfway in my lap.  Two guys were hanging out the door, holding on by looping their arms through the window next to me.  It was cozy.

That’s when it hit me.  The Post Office was closed for lunch.  Hmmm, what to do.  I could get off and just stand around for 45 minutes until it reopened.  But it was hot.  I could stay on the bus to the market and just wait the 30 minutes or so until it started the return trip and get off then.  Or, I could take the bus to the fast food place and get an icy cold smoothie.  Yes!

When I got off the bus, I noticed the parking lot was jammed and there were a lot of police standing around.  Had there been a robbery?  Fight?  Nope, just a bunch of people in the mood for fried chicken.  I stepped inside and saw there were no empty seats.  I looked at the row of tickets hanging in the kitchen, waiting to be served.  I knew that even though I just wanted a beverage, my ticket would be taken after all those ahead of me.

What the heck, I had to wait any way, I might as well be rewarded with a smoothie.  While I waited, I chatted with a woman who lives in a nearby village where there is another Pisi Koa (Peace Corps Volunteer).  She asked how old I was and when I told her, said “That is too old.”  I get that a lot.  Too old for…?  Working?  Living?  Living in Samoa?  Maybe I have an expiration date stamped on my forehead that I never noticed.

After waiting almost an hour in the crowded restaurant, which is not air conditioned, I got my smoothie and headed to the road.  A few minutes later, my “good” bus came by and I hopped on.  I considered the fact that I had a seat and a smoothie.  I would check mail another day. 

Now I’m home and I’ve already taken a quick shower to rinse off the sweat.  Rap music is blasting from the house closest to me.  The house in front of me has the TV on at full volume.   Based on all the activity in Salelologa today, I’m guessing that tomorrow morning, which is normally the big shopping day for the week is going to be a nightmare.  But if I want to get to the ferry, I have to catch a bus.

It will make the quiet and luxuries in New Zealand all the sweeter.

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