Friday, April 8, 2011

Scuba Diving and Silly Thoughts

This last week I got a last minute text from a fellow volunteer about a great deal to go diving at Aggie Grays resort quite close to my village. I new that Samoa had great diving but hadn't really gotten my mind around to it with all the other things going on. But this just seemed to great to pass up, so I jumped on it. It was perfect, spending my six month anniversary under the water in awe of the beauty my new country has to offer. I have been certified since I was twelve and haven't actually gotten a new card so I am technically still a junior diver. So I strutted up to the desk and handed over my dive card complete with picture pre-braces. The instructor looked at me and said “your older now right.” I guess she didn't read the date issued 2001. But after the technicalities were sorted and all the gear was fitted it was time to rock and roll. It had been three years since I last dove and there is always that fear that you have forgotten how to do it. A couple minutes in the boat and that fear was squashed it was just like riding a bike. The smell of the wet suites and all that rubber brought me back to all the great dives I have done with my family and by the time I hit the water I was in total dive mode. The water was beautiful. It was warm enough to only wear a swim suite but cool enough not to feel like bath water. The coral was a clash of a million different colors, some I swear I have never seen before.... neon orange coral, I swear. The formations were incredible we did several swim-throughs and the were valleys, canyons, and mountains of coral everywhere you looked. I saw I first bat fish, which was enormous and even a giant clam the size of my dog back home. It was all the way open and we could see its beautiful skirt swaying in the tied. It was all over to quickly as it always seems to be. So back on dry land time to grab a quick beer at the resort then off back to village life. It was a wonderful way to celebrate six months and a great day.

Some things you would never see in America

Kids carrying knives... big ones-
All the kids at school carry little razor blades or switch blades at are super sharp because this is what they sharpen their pencils with. They always cut the grass with machetes so there are always plenty of those around. This is not age restrictive I have seen year one and twos, the equivalent of first graders with machetes.

Kids carrying beating sticks-
When teachers are busy or just not at school which is very common. The leaders of the class, usually the more advanced students take over the role of enforcer. This comes with all the perks of a teacher meaning they get to beat their friends. Last Thursday four of our teachers were absent and so the majority of our classes were being taught by either the advanced kids with in the class or a student from a high year that had been sent to control the younger children. At lunch time I counted eight children carrying beating sticks administering punishments. Its quite shocking enough when teachers do it, but imagine institutionalized bullying.

Contagious Kids-
When a kids even gets the sniffles in America they are quarantined and everything is disinfected. I have seen rampant cases of lice, pink eye, and a million different skin infections of funguses. Schools here are a breading ground for any and all infectious diseases. Attendance is spotty for kids as is and usually if a kid is feeling ill the parents just keep them home as coming to school isn't really that big of a priority but things like pink eye and lice are so common that they don't even register. Gaping, seeping infected wounds... no big Dady has one that worse.

Teachers eating kids food or taking kids money-
Everything in Samoa is about the respect food chain and listening to your elders. There is a clear higher archy even with in a classroom as all the students are ranked. So when you teacher asks you for you snack or takes your snack money, this is totally acceptable. They are not only your elder but an authority figure so its a no brainer. For example I have been giving out silly bands to my kids who come for my walks with me and practice English vocab. They never have the bracelets the next day and I was beginning to wander where they were going. Then I started noticing that the older kids at church all had my bracelets and even some parents had then. This is the food chain at work... you are welcome to anything that belongs to those lower then you on the chain. The flip side of this is you are also responsible in every way for anyone below you on the food chain. There are seven and eight year old that are literally the care givers to their one or two year old siblings.

No teachers in the classroom-
If the teacher doesn't come to school today... no worries the kids take care of themselves you just let them be. If you have taught your lesson and the kids are doing an activity no need to supervise go have a coffee. The incredible part about this is that it works the kids are so trained to be self sufficient a classroom with out a teach... not actually a huge problem. Could you imagine what would happen in America?

There is a million things I could list but these are just some that strike me all the time as illustrating how different the kids are here. In some ways this system seems so alien and backward and at times it just seems to make perfect sense. If you put American kids in any of these situations the out come would be so incredibly different!

Cosmo in the Classroom

So I made a great sacrifice this week, I cut up my cosmo. Two of my best friends sent me a particularly juicy cosmo a couple months ago, which I have read over and over. It was a fun way to pretend that I  was back home and get lost in the stupid frivolousness and materialism of it all. The pages of cosmo couldn't be more foreign to be life here, but still it was a guilty pleasure. I could look at it and lust over the fashion and beauty products of my past. After weeks of guiltily stashing it and trying not to think about all the visual aides lurking on its pages, I gave in. I went through and cut out a million pictures, trying to avoid all the inappropriate articles and pictures. In the end I had a nice big stack of pictures, which yesterday my advance class used create word collages. They had to stick down the images I gave them and write any relevant vocab words next to them. It was a huge success. Everything is so geared toward copying and repeating, the kids never get to do anything artsy or let alone come up with their own words, so it was completely new and exciting. The posters turned out great and  you could just see the pride on their faces. Not all the words were correct and it wasn't the highest level of language but it was theirs and you could tell they loved it. So bye bye the ten best tricks to smooth legs and hello  “girl and naked leg.”  

Getting to Actually Teach!

Its been a great week so far. I'm getting to spend a lot more time in the classroom and I feel like Im actually teaching the kids something. I have started my advanced class and its a raving success. Last week we wrote letters to some children in Australia and made pretend phone calls to America to ask questions. My music is also still a big hit with the kids. The older children have learned, “Aint No Mountain,” “Let it be” and the more recent “Just the Way you Are” by Bruno Marz. The younger kids have learned “I'm a little Teapot” “Marry Has a Little Lamb,”and the Barney song which in inorperated sign language. Next week we are doing “Ill be there for You” from friends and “Three little Monkeys.” I have high hopes for both. I have pushed my way into year seven and am actually getting to plan and execute some lessons. I have memorized about seventy five percent of the kids names and it is helping tremendously. The ducklings that tail me on my walk are quickly picking up the vocab I drill them on as we walk and also becoming more confident in the classroom. I seem to have more company everyday and yesterday had my record with nine kids following me. I stopped them and four flowers though as I feel I just don't have enough hair to pull off nine, and that is saying a lot as I have a lot of hair. The kids are starting to respond to me and because I am making relationships my “disapproving looks” are becoming more effective as classroom management. I have discovered a look can be just as halting to a kid as a smack if the kids cares about what you think of them. I am starting to take on more in school and really tackling lessons when I get stuck subbing instead of playing games. I was so nervous and unsure in the beginning but I am beginning to see that I do have something to offer the kids here. Even if I teach the exact same lesson that the regular teacher would teach, as a native speaker I can offer something new. Then add a little exuberance and some funny faces into the mix and the kids are sold. I hope that this progress continues and maybe by term three I will start to actually feel like I know what I'm doing.

Mama's Always right!

This week I have been thinking a lot about the things we are told as kids that we never listen to but as we get older ring true over and over again. Here are somethings that my mother has always said to me that I have found to be so true in my life here. Water really is a cure for pretty much anything. Exercising really does make your day a million times better. Getting out in nature is essential to happiness. Sometimes its really is better not to say anything (these last two are more my dad). Eating well is also a key to happiness. Veggies can taste good. These realizations came about when I was thinking about all the drastic mood swings we go through here. Its the nature of our work here and our situation that we are constantly on an emotional edge. One minute our ecstatic and the next your depressed. Looking at my days I realized that the days I don't go for a walk are the days that I feel most sluggish and low. The days I eat the greasy and starchy traditional Samoan food are the days I want to curl up and ignore the world. The times I try to explain too much or control things I get frustrated and angry. My best days are those I go with the flow, get outside for a nice walk, and eat fresh veg or fruit. Most of all the days that I drink lots of water, which seems to keep the constant headache at bay. No one can be happy with a head ache! Who would have thought that are parents actually new what they were talking about.

Other cool thoughts of the week:
1.   This is my life now! WOW
2.   The craziness here has stopped surprising me. This is now my normal!
3.   People are people no matter where they are in the world.
4.   True happiness is a choice with in yourself so you can find it anywhere.

Thanks for reading! And don't forget if there is anything you want me to write about shoot me an email or make a comment.