Yesterday, I arrived in my permanent village for a short visit of three days. My uncle Su’a picked me up from Apia. He speaks such good English, it was a relief for me as I was nervous enough as it was. On the drive to my village, he raved about a new “hotel” called Lupesina so we took a detour to go and have a look. It was one of the coolest buildings that I have every seen. An American family moved here a year ago and bought up land that included a giant tree. They decided to build a house up in the tree that guests could say at. Just saying a house though barely covers it. In the shower, the tree is a part of the wall. One of the branches comes through the living room floor and forms a chair. This place was absolutely amazing. I talked to the woman for a while (she’s from Seattle!). Apparently they are in talks to expand with other trees nearby to create a complex. I would HIGHLY recommend this place to anyone in the area even if it’s just to look at. After that, my uncle took me to my family’s house. I was so nervous about meeting them but I’m so happy now. I have 2 sisters that are about my age who are living with me. Iseta (pronounced like Easter since that was when she was born) is going to a nearby college and Laititi (nickname Kiki) is studying to become a teacher in Apia. I also have 2 brothers who go to the school that I’ll be teaching at. Caleb is in year 4 and Daniel is in year 3. My mom has an ENORMOUS garden all around the house with beautiful flowers and bushes with pineapples growing on them (which I’ve never actually seen before). My dad seems cool and he’s got an awesome mustache. I’m really looking forward to living with them for two years. I also have newborn kittens in my kitchen who’ll be adorable kittens when I return in December as well as two dogs who seem friendly enough. My Peace Corps cat should be a welcome addition.
Today was such a mixture of emotions; I’ll try to set them all down here. When I first woke up I was so happy to be able to look outside and see the garden. I have a large, clean room with netting to keep the bugs out. When I went outside for breakfast though, I looked down at my plate and the food and drink all looked suspiciously like the food the I had bought as gifts for the teachers and my principle. And unfortunately that’s what it turned out to be. It was completely my fault for not explaining to my host family but I did have a moment of panic of what I would do. So I scooped up the remaining instant coffee packets and took those with me. Going to school for the first time was wonderful. There are 8 teachers (7 female, 1 male) and a principle (male) at my school. When I walked in with just the coffee and explained what happened they all laughed and laughed, thinking it was the funniest thing in the world. So it all turned out okay…whew! The teachers all seem really cool. We sat around in the morning for awhile and I eventually asked why and they said that the principle wasn’t there yet because he was still sleeping. That’s the thing about Samoans, if it’s raining, why go to school on time? If you’re too tired, ehn, just keep sleeping. It’s so chill you really have to just go with the flow. So the teachers and I hung out while the kids had free-for-alls in the classrooms and waited for 30 minutes for the principle to show up. Once he did, he took me aside into the library and talked with me about my project. Apparently there was a Peace Corps here several years ago who did a lot of projects and they were hoping that I would continue. One such project is computers. They have a beautiful computer lab full of Macs and PCs from the 90s but nobody uses them. Apparently no one knows how to use computers and they’re afraid that if the kids use them, then they’ll break. So they’re just sitting there. They asked me if I could conduct computer classes for all of the teachers. The principle is super excited because he wants eventually to have a computer in each of the classrooms. I’m definitely more than willing to do this; I just hope it doesn't outweigh my time with Literacy groups with the children.
Once we were done talking he took me to the classroom on the end where all the students were in and introduced me. The kids all looked so excited and I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. They all sang and danced to welcome me and it was quite a sight to see all of them do that for me. The principle kept talking about what an angel and a God send that I was. I have really mixed feelings when people say that. I know that I’m there to help the kids and I’m so excited to do that, I just don’t feel like I’m anything special. It also makes me really nervous that I won’t live up to their expectations. That’s just all in my mind though, so I’m sure it’ll all work out. After that the teachers and I went to have breakfast. Apparently the parents provide breakfast and lunch for the teachers every day. I feel so lucky!
After breakfast it was already 10:00 so I went to each of the classrooms and had the kids introduce themselves in English with their name, age, and where they live. It was odd because years 1 and 2 were GREAT, especially since they were only about 6 years old, and then years 3 and 4 were struggling. I wonder why? There were a few kids in years 7 and 8 who had had the previous Peace Corps as a teacher and were thrilled to tell me so. Their English was quite good, especially 1 or 2 of the girls who came up afterward to talk. After an hour, it was lunchtime so I went back out to eat (I’m going to get fat!!). After lunch there was a PTA meeting so I got to go and introduce myself quickly to them. The PTA is a very strong organization in Samoa with a lot of influence so it was stressed how important is was to work with them.
Now for my favorite part of the day. After the PTA meeting, I was going to go to the library to just look at what kinds of books they had when a year 8 girl who seems to have taken a liking to me came and asked me to go to her class. I thought the teacher wanted to see me but no, they wanted me to teach!! The teacher was apparently taking a tea break so they were all just sitting around. So I got to impromptu teach for 30 minutes. I was so lost at first on a lesson so I asked what they were learning and they said past and present tense. Once they saw I was going to teach they got all excited and rushed to the front to sit at my feet. Haha, I had such a great time just coming up with something on the spot. I don’t think it was the strongest lesson ever and they probably already learned the material, but they had fun doing it.
I’m really excited to begin why I’m actually here in Samoa. I want to start my Literacy and reading programs and to get to know the students. I know I like my permanent host family so that won’t be a problem and my school is obviously thrilled to have me. I’ll be starting in late January and it can’t come soon enough. I’m a little bit nervous about setting up computers from the 90s but maybe once I do, I can find old floppy disks that have games on them for the kids. I’ll have to keep that in mind for a later project. Tomorrow I return to my training village to begin teacher training so I know I’ll attack the work with a ready heart. Can’t wait!!
Update: I was sitting down for dinner later this everning and my new aunt came in. She asked if I had been to the Treehouse Building and when I said yes, she said that she had heard very sad news. Apparently the owner’s son committed suicide earlier today by jumping off of the waterfall nearby. I’m always saddened when I hear of someone committing suicide, but the fact that I had talked to his mother less than 24 hours before makes me feel it even more. I am so saddened for their loss. I couldn’t stop thinking about it last night and will have a hard time forgetting how the woman smiled when she described how her son would go around in the mornings and pick up the owl throw-up around the hotel and say how the baby burped it’s breakfast. My heart goes out to them.