Thursday, December 23, 2010

Woman not a Girl

I have come to realize that one of my biggest challenges will be my age here in Samoa. The fact that I am twenty-two, very smiley, very giggly and love to play with kids can some times equate to the perception that I am a child. This is greatly compounded by the fact that for all intensive purposes in Samoa I am a child. I need help with everything. I don’t know or understand anything. As you can image this means that for my first couple of months here in Samoa I was put into the kiddy category. Even though we are honored guests and receive a lot of special treatment it seems that doesn’t automatically equate to adult. Knowing that this status would greatly hinder me as a teacher and as a volunteer I was determined to learn some tricks to stop this from continuing in my permanent site. Some tips I have learned; don’t participate in youth groups, it’s a great way to integrate but you are automatically categorized as youth. Don’t play with children too much, otherwise you will be perceived as a child caregiver, a role in Samoa mostly reserved for teenage girls. Reserve the chatter and giggles for when you get to know some one, a more formal first impression leads to a more professional over all image. Don’t offer to serve food or help clean up after meals; this again is pretty much reserved for teenage girls. These are just some things that I have learnt and hope to apple in my new village to try and avoid what I call “year eight girl” syndrome. Year eight is the last year of primary school and the year eight girls are given jobs around the school that cant be given to the younger children, like preparing food, serving, and even looking after the young kids if teachers are gone. Most of my fellow volunteers haven’t struggled with this syndrome and could probably do all of these things with out much trouble but it seems I may have a natural predisposition. This has been an interesting lesson for me to learn as I have always chosen to seen the world with child like optimism and joviality, but usually people quickly realize that this is a conscious choose instead of naivety or ignorance. These nuances don’t seem to cross all cultural and language barrier. So although I hope to never loose my smiling and giggling I know that to be perceived as a professional and as an adult I will have to alter my behavior, especially in the beginning.  

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