Today began much like every first day of term I’ve experienced so far. I didn’t get up early since I didn’t have the keys to the school and didn’t want to just sit on the playground waiting for everyone to show up. Instead, I lounged, swept and ate granola cereal I brought back from Auckland. It was a treat.
I got to school about 7:55 a.m. It is supposed to start at 8:00 a.m. About half of the teachers were there, along with half of the kids. I was talking to a couple of the kids when a girl came running over to tell me that the teachers wanted to see me and I’d better run. I strolled to the room where the teachers were impatiently waiting to be greeted, in Samoan by “Where are our gifts? Did you bring us presents? We want our gifts now!” This was accompanied by hugs, kisses and giggles.
I explained sweetly that of course I’d brought gifts. Because I love them, I’d brought ramen noodles. “Chocolate. We wanted chocolate! We told you to bring us chocolate!” “Yes, you did, but I’m a very poor palagi and had no money for chocolate because I spent it all on food in New Zealand for myself.”
We were all laughing by this point because we all knew that I wouldn’t dare to come back from overseas with no chocolate. I told them they would have to wait to see what I’d brought them.
We went to assembly during which no one got hit, which was a good start. The principal announced that there will be teachers’ meetings for Years 7 & 8 the next three days so those kids don’t need to come to school. That means they’ve been out of school for 5 weeks between terms. Crazy. I got to announce that the reading center is finally starting and is open to all children in the village. We’ll hold sessions from 4-6 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday. Sort of like Happy Hour for the Where’s Waldo set.
After assembly, the kids were sent to clean up the classrooms and sweep up the lawn which was cut with machetes over the weekend. The teachers moved into the kitchen to prepare the ramen I’d purchased. Before showing them the chocolate, I showed them the good quality butcher knife I’d brought as a gift to the school. The only knife we currently use has ½ a handle and is a pain in the neck and dangerous. They were thrilled.
I also gave them the tubes of lipstick from Janey, who I’d stayed with in Taranaki. I figured a couple of them would like the lipstick but they all went nutso over it, trying them on and having serious discussions over who got which color. It was quite fun. At the bottom of the bag was $50 worth of New Zealand chocolate. There were more hugs and kisses.
There was no teaching today, other than me leading Years 2 and 3 in some action songs. The day was spent cleaning, doing yard work and for us teachers, cooking and eating. There was a principals’ meeting at our school, so we made their tea. Have I mentioned I’ve developed a real fondness for butter and saltine sandwiches?
The shock of the day was that Lofi, the three year old daughter of one of my favorite teachers apparently decided over the break that I was her favorite human being. She’s been coming to school every day since I arrived. Her older sister adores me and gives me lots of hugs and attention but Lofi wanted nothing to do with me. By the end of last term she would speak to me but barely.
Today, she raced up as soon as I arrived and threw herself at me. Luckily, I caught her and got a bear hug. Then a kiss. She remained glued to me for the rest of the day. Literally, the only time she wasn’t touching me, hugging me or sitting on my lap was when I peeled her off to use the bathroom. I asked her mother what had changed and she just shrugged. I’m glad she’s joined my fan club but hope the white heat of adoration turns down a notch because it will be hard to teach with a three year old appendage.