Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Week 5

Hi! Finally have some internet at school- it doesn't really work at my apartment which is a huge bummer. Sorry its taken me about a month to update my blog. Life has been crazy busy! I’m teaching at Tafuna high school, home of the warriors, and it kinda looks like a prison. Two weeks ago I was at school sweeping, mopping, moving furniture, etc. to set up my classroom- it was the sweatiest process. But I finally have AC in my room- thank goodness because I would have roasted.  

I’ve met most all the staff. My department head is great, she is like my mom. She has taken me shopping all around town, driven me home (which is two bus rides away), and took me out to lunch. There are 4 other teachers in our department. I heard that the other 2 business teachers are rejects from their former departments. Soooo, I pretty much work with slackers who don’t like to show up to class to teach- but they are really nice and have taken me under their wing.

School started last Monday, I’m teaching 2 classes of accounting and 3 of financial record keeping. My class sizes are about 30 but I only have 25 desks. Students have to sit on the ground until my stuff comes- which who knows when that will happen. I’m on “Samoan time” now and it takes forever for stuff to get done or its not done at all. All of my 120 students are really nice, friendly, and love the fact that they have a white teacher. I have to lock my door b/c I have boys coming in just to stare at me and ask if I’m married. Apparently I look like a cheerleader, Britney Spears, and a model to them b/c I’m “pretty” and have blonde hair which cracks me up!

Every day we walk a mile to and from school (along with a few mile long bus ride) which is nice to get some exercise but again we get so sweaty.

The school admin here at school is a bit unorganized. We were told not to start teaching until second week of class which started yesterday. Half the junior class didn’t even have schedules the first half of last week b/c their counselor didn’t feel like doing it. So last week we go over rules, play games, or whatever we plan. The teacher next to me decided that since it was “too hot” one day she just wasn’t going to teach. As volunteers here we were told that we would 10 times harder while getting paid way less and it is totally true.

Classes are 50 minutes long but sometimes the bell goes off too early or too late. The bell at all school is an old oxygen tank that is hit by a metal pipe. Sometimes you can hear it, sometimes you can’t. It’s just whatever here which kinda drives me crazy but I’m learning to just go with the flow. The first month of school we have to be strict and mean so students will respect and listen to us. They use corporal punishment here. But as a “white” teacher, students know we don’t hit so they think they can get away with anything. But I’ve discovered that they love the point system so when they are misbehaving I can just deduct points from their grade. For some of my big classes, I have to be the meanest person ever. I’ve also been told to call their parents/pastor or send them to the office if they get out of hand. Students fear this b/c they’ll get beaten so bad they can’t come to school the next day. Therefore, I’m planning on trying to solve all problems in class.

Another problem has to do with student and teacher absences. Twenty missed days in a semester is normal and homework is not given b/c students have so many chores and church related events going on. I did ask that everyone bring a notebook and pen to class and about 95% did which is very impressive. I have already given a couple quizzes and students love to cheat. I caught one kid cheating and took his test, ripped it in half and then threw it up in the air in front of the whole class. He then had to pick up the pieces thrown them away which was totally humiliating but they next day the kid was an angle. That sounds so mean but it works and that kid will never cheat again in my class.

Moving on… The bug situation is ok.  I have about 20 bug bites and the itch gets overwhelming at times. I’m just waiting to see how many scares I’ll get from being here. It gets dark early here, around 6:30 and then all the bugs come out. The family whose property we’re on has a million trees so we see bats at night and they’re massive. We also have to watch out for spiders and centipedes. I was bitten on my forearm (as well as my lip and chin) by something the first couple of weeks here. The bite on my arm took over as my whole forearm was swollen.

I live in an apartment with two other volunteers, Lauren and Peter, who also teach at my high school.  Lauren teaches science and one English class and Peter teaches math. We all have our own bedrooms. Mine is painted purple, has hot pink curtains and bedding, and has gold glitter on the ceiling with a light and a fan that works! At dusk my room gives off a pink glow- I love it! I also have a bed but the mattress is hard foam and is painful to sleep on but on a positive note I have a huge closet. I finally was able to decorate somewhat and have a bunch of pictures and a small mirror up. We’re on the second floor of our building which nice that I don’t have worry about toads coming in. My room has a door that leads to a wrap-around porch (we do abs every other night out there- hopefully I’ll come back with a 6-pack). There are 2 bathrooms also brand new and a small kitchen and couch. The family also has a treadmill which is really nice since there are some mean dogs that live nearby that are known to attack. (One of the volunteers had her skirt ripped by a dog that came after her.) Our apartment building also has 2 other apartments with 5 other volunteers there as well. It’s nice to have all 8 of us there.

Also here are cockroaches, flying cockroaches. I’ve never seen one before I got here and they are massive and just plain gross. I was looking for a band aid one day under our bathroom sink which of course has this huge open hole. As I’m taking a bag, there comes straight at me this huge roach. Of course I scream bloody murder and run out the room and they bug crawls away. Later that night we’re eating dinner in the kitchen and this bug decides to join us. I again freak out and am screaming at Peter (as I’m standing on my chair which is pointless b/c it can fly) to kill it since he is a guy. After a few minutes of chasing it around it is finally killed and bug guts go everywhere- they are the nastiest things ever!

At the new apartment the family who owns it lives right next door and they finished building it like a week before we moved in. Two Mondays ago, they had a party/ family get together. Their Pastor came and blessed us and the apartment. We're now apart of their family. We call them Aunt Ese (pronounced Essay) and Uncle Jack. They're an older couple and Jack was just named the High Chief of their village. Their youngest daughter, who is about 30, lives with them. Her name is Tata and she is engaged to be married next month. The family also has their own personal seamstress and servant- Olie and Cara. Olie made my school uniform. The fabrics here are so hot. I feel like I sweat and stink all the time here. Another family helps Jack and Ese out. They have 4 kids that are fun to be around- Lesha (my age and also a teacher), Fulo (15), Lelo (is a cousin of theirs and also 15), and Theresa (8). We helped them set for the party- it was a lot of work. Every move you make here you just sweat and you sweat a lot. Stinky in Samoan is u'u and that's me all the time.

During the "ceremony" or the blessing of the new building, the prayer was 45 minutes long and in Samoan. While the pray was being said we were sitting on the cement ground in a fale- a traditional house that has a roof and open on all sides. We were also in matching skirts and my leg fell asleep b/c I was sitting cheerleader style. The whole time I was praying that the prayer would end.

We’ve been to airport beach which is literally next to the airport. It was a bit of a walk- every place here is. It is a bit secluded but beautiful. To get there you have to walk on these huge rocks that the waves crash up onto and have blowholes- in some places you had to walk at the right time or get soaked to the bone and/or get swept out into the ocean. But at this beach there is white sand and pieces of the coral that have washed up. You can you swim and snorkel and not have to worry about the currents being too strong. We saw a bright blue starfish, lots of little fish, and crabs. When lying on the beach, little hermit crabs were all over. I tried picking one up but got a little freaked out. This was a nice escape and distraction to the fact that classes started the next day. Our goal is to go the beach once a week, get some sun and play!