Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trying to put emotions into words...

It’s been a rough go of it this time around in Samoa. I have found that a lot of the little things that used to amuse me about Samoa are really annoying me. I know I’m just in a low point, and I will start loving it again, but one of the reasons I haven’t blogged is because I know my blogs would be super negative. And I really do love this place.

The main problem I am having is missing last year. I especially miss Quinn and Abby, Amanda, and the Class of 2012. Quinn and Abby and I were so very different, but we complemented each other and Leone very well. I really like Sara and Kristina, my new WT friends. But I went through all this stuff with Quinn and Abby and I wish they were still around to share things with. I feel like we three had such a special bond with the kids. Honestly we had a blast coming to school most of the time. I never once woke up last year and didn’t want to go to school. I talk to Quinn and Abby via email and sometimes I call them, but it’s hard, because I want to share everything with them, but I know they miss this place and I don’t want to make them miss it more. So even though I want to share every hilarious thing a certain kid did, I resist. It’s different this year, because Sara teaches juniors and seniors, Kristina has all freshman, and I have sophomores and juniors, so our kids hardly overlap. 

I miss Amanda, too. She was my best friend on island last year, and even though she taught at a different school, I spent a lot of time with her. It wasn’t until she wasn’t here that I realized I used to spend EVERY SINGLE SATURDAY with her. Most of the time we didn’t even do anything important. Several times we went out with the intention of doing sometime ambitious like a hike, and ended up drinking pina coladas at Tisa’s or Sadie’s. Sometimes we did actual stuff like snorkeling or going to the beach, but a lot of the time we just ran errands together and then watched history nerd shows on our computer. I miss her!

And finally, I miss the Class of 2012. I loved the seniors last year. I like my kids this year. There are a couple that I really like. But last year, almost all my kids made me smile just by coming into my room, and this year there are maybe four kids like that. I KNOW I wasn’t supposed to get so attached to my kids last year, but to be perfectly honest, they may have been my students, but they weren’t that much younger than me and they were sort of my friends, too. Actually, a lot of them were more like little siblings, I loved them that much. They made me love Samoa. I found my calling in helping them with their future and just listening to their problems. I still see them, but I miss seeing them EVERYDAY. In a way though, it’s nice that now when I see them I am not in charge of them, so I don’t have to yell at them for doing stupid things. Although…I still do that. Lol. One of my kids jokes that I am the annoying little person on his shoulder telling him not to do stupid things like get into fights. I claim that as a success!

I will never really be able to explain my attachment to these Samoan kids. They are just so much more open with affection then the “too cool” American kids. They are impossible to explain unless you actually meet them. Then you will understand. Ask my parents. They didn’t get it until they basically adopted Peni and Sili this summer, and now whenever I talk to Mom, she always tells me how much she misses the boys. That’s what she calls them, “The Boys.” Like, “Have you talked to the boys?” lol.

Anyway. This year.

I really love teaching World History. I just love history. My lesson plans are so easy because I really enjoy what I am teaching. U.S. History is okay… the kids in that class had made it their mission to make my life miserable, and there are SO MANY of them (I don’t even have enough desks for all of them), but we all had a little heart to heart. After making 5 of my bad boys cry (I gave them the ol’ guilt trip), things are MUCH better in that class. The other day they were actually all listening in rapt attention as I told of Washington crossing the Delaware in the dead of night on Christmas.

Of course, they could have all been stoned. Also possible.

One major thing that’s different this year is that I literally NEVER ESCAPE my children. I have no anonymity. Sometimes this is okay, but more and more it’s been driving me crazy. I moved to an apartment that is more in the actual village of Leone, and it’s closer to the “main” road, so it’s a lot easier for former and current students that are walking by to pop in for a visit. And by visit, I mean they come in and tell me they are hungry and eat all my food. Lol. That’s a major difference between the States and here. In the States if you see your kids outside of school, you can get into major trouble. Here it is seriously impossible NOT to see them. It is a very small island, and people are very fond of visiting.  One of the football coaches lives across the street from me, and therefore there are always football players stopping by because they “saw my lights on.” It’s gotten to the point that if I don’t lock the door, people just come on in. Which: part of me loves it, I’m not going to lie. It’s nice to be popular, and I am a very social person. But SOMETIMES I want to be alone, and at this point, if I want to be alone, I have to turn out all my lights, lock the doors, and hide in my bedroom reading by flashlight so no one knows I am home. Lol.

And Lord knows that I can’t walk a hundred yards down the street without someone shouting my name from somewhere. I can’t even leave my curtains open because inevitably I will hear “AMMMMMBERRRRRR” screamed from the back of a truck driving by.

I complain, but honestly I would rather it this way than no one ever coming to visit. It does make me feel loved. And it makes my day when my former students come to visit me in school.

I seem to remember feeling this way a little bit last year before Christmas break, and then I spent all of my time in Australia driving Darcee and Jill crazy by talking about Samoa and how much I missed it. Lol.

Me and Kristina at the Halloween Showdown

Stuff for the Championship game. Green glitter, green face paint, Leone ie, poster, green and yellow ula, green and yellow shoelaces, yellow slippers, green and yellow pom pons, even green eyelashes. I WAS READY.

The football players brought me food on Friday on the most tropical plate EVER.
Championship Pep Rally

Just started helping this kid apply for football stuff for college.

In my two years on island, I've never missed a football game.

Three of my students.
Anyway. This is a super long entry. But last Saturday was also the football championship and LEONE WAS IN IT! We got soundly beat by Tafuna (giant mutant children that they are), but it was still a big deal we made it to the game at all. And Tafuna does have almost a thousand more kids than Leone. But seriously, the game was so fun. I have always, and will always, love school spirit. I know some people are all hipster about school spirit and waaaay too cool for it, but not here in Samoa. Games are insane, in the best way possible. Of course, a Tafuna/Leone game often ends in violence, so the police were on hand in riot gear, lol. Teaching here really is a little like teaching in the inner city sometimes, only with palm trees and a super love of Jesus keeping them from actually shooting each other. (Well, that and there aren’t many guns on the island.) I mean, they could still knife each other, but for Samoans it’s really more about punching each other in the face with actual fists then using actual weapons (although they do throw a lot of rocks.) 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I'm baaaaaaack!

I've been back in Samoa for a month now, and for the first time since I've been back, I'm starting to feel like I did last year when I was in love with this place. The first few weeks were awful, because missed last years seniors so much. But I'm really getting to know my new kids, and I'm starting to love them. Maybe not as much as I loved last year, but it's getting there.

 I especially love my sixth period. They are a little cheeky, but I love them. Last year, I didn't really have a favorite class, just favorite students in each class. This year, I definetly love sixth period. I love every single kid in that class. They are so funny and actually seem to like listening to me teaching about history. They speak up and share their opinions, and I love them. They are of course mainstream, but you know I love them best.

Things haven't changed too much at Leone. lol

They may have graduated, but these crazies still come by to visit me.

Some of my boys

Sarah was all, "I'm pretty sure I don't know a single kid that wanted to get this picture taken." Ha! Welcome to being a bid deal. lol

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Lost Blog Posts: Part Two

This is part two of the lost blogs from my year as a WorldTeacher. I have put a disclaimer here and say that I am writing this in retrospect. And also let you all know that I am back in Samoa, having decided to sign a DoE contract and stay on as a teacher. It is going to be a little difficult writing this because I’m in the middle of my second week back at Leone, and I am so sad all the time, because I miss the seniors and I miss Abby and Quinn and I wish it were last year. So maybe writing a blog about two of the saddest events of last year—Baccalaureate and Graduation--, is not the best thing to be doing in my current frame of mind. But I can’t start writing about this year until I update about LAST year, so here goes.
So, the Sunday before Graduation was the Senior Baccalaureate ceremony. This year it was at the Catholic Church in Leone. Amanda and Rosa came with Abby, Quinn and I, which I was really happy about, because I love that they have become a little part of the Leone family, too. They’ve spent so much time with me in Leone that they actually know a lot of my kids and they kind of get how awesome Leone is. It’s actually pretty funny, because originally Rosa was supposed to teach at Leone…in my mind she is just such an elementary teacher now that I can’t even imagine her teaching high school. There is not a whole lot to say about the ceremony, like most church services in Samoa, it was in Samoan, and I have only a general idea what they even said during the ceremony. However, it WAS a beautiful ceremony, and the kids looked SO GREAT in their clothes they had made for the ceremony and graduation. Here are some pictures of the clothes:

Beautiful girls in their Baccalaureate/Graduation outfits

Good lookin' crew

During the ceremony, the seniors sang several songs, and it was amazing. The voices of multiple Samoans raised in song is just not something I will ever get tired of. I am going to try to post a video of it here.

After the ceremony, everyone just kind of milled about outside the church, and there were tons of pictures and tons of hugs and tons of candy ulas and maybe I cried a little because I knew how much I was going to miss these kids. Did I mention all the hugs? Because there were about a million, which was GREAT, because I freaking love hugs. I have to say, I think of all my kids at Leone, Fale probably wins for best hugs. Although Noke and Justin come in as close seconds. Lol. Anyway, after much milling about, we headed back home and took some lovely photos, which I will put right here:
The Leone roomies! I love these girls.
My BFFs from WorldTeach.
Okay, moving on to Graduation. Oh, graduation. I don’t really have words to express the way I felt that day. I was so happy, and so proud, and also so, so sad, to see these remarkable people I had grown to love graduate and move on with their lives. Just to see Fale, Aladdin, Peni, Paisano, Noke and the Tap Boyz get up there and receive their diplomas was amazing. Especially since it was a little touch and go for some of them for a while. Lol. God love ‘em.
Me and Aladdin and Sili...the Originals, as I like to call them.
 The first kids to really give me a chance.
The day of graduation, it was hard for me to put into words the way I feel for these young adults that I have had the privilege of knowing. From hindsight of three months, I recognize the feeling as love. I love those little shitheads like they were my own family, and I can’t wait to see what they do with their lives. As I took photos with all the boys that drove me FREAKING CRAZY the first few months of school, I kept thinking, “Wow, we’ve come a long way, baby.” Lol. If you had told the Amber of August 2011 which kids would be her favorite in June 2012, she would have just laughed and laughed in disbelief. Hahaha. Oh, how this year has changed me.

Troublemakers, God love 'em.

Pasiano and Aladdin!

Pan and Fausaga
After graduation, I went to Taputimu to Fatima’s graduation party. I grew close to Fatima the last few months of school, and I was really happy to be invited to her graduation party. Her family was such a good time, and in all honesty, reminded me a bit of my own family, drunk uncles and all. After Fatima’s, her and I headed across the road to Mata’s/Fred’s graduation party/some random guy’s birthday party. Which fazed nobody in the least, because: This is Samoa. At her graduation party, Mata asked me if I would ask her dad if she could get a tattoo. She tried to convince me that if I asked, he would say yes, which I was hesitant to believe, because I am just not used to having that kind of influence. But sure enough, I asked and he goes, “Because it was you that asked, I will let her.” Lol. Who knew?

Fatima buried under all her candy ulas.

So, sidebar: that next week, before I left Samoa, Mata came over to my house with a friend of hers that does tattoos, and got a tattoo IN MY FREAKING KITCHEN. I had not realized that was part of the plan, but I just went with it because, again: This is Samoa. The best part was Abby and Quinn coming home from wherever they were and being completely unfazed by the student getting a tattoo in their kitchen. Because: T.I.S. I know I say that a lot, and I know I stole it from Cat (hi, Cat!), but it really is just the best reaction to most of the insanity that happens here.

Prayer during graduation

Anyway, the rest of my last week was kind of crazy. Rosa spent much of the week at my place because she wanted to get off Aunu’u early just in case the weather turned bad and the boat didn’t run the day of our flight. It was nice to have some company, because I was little bit bereft after Abby and Quinn left for New Zealand. Plus, it was good to have someone to help me pack! J
Grad party in Taputimu.
Also that week: the Tap Boyz came over and cooked dinner, because we had all this extra food and I figured the surest way to get rid of it was to feed it to Samoan teenage boys. And Sili and his girlfriend came over one day to help me clean. It was a very surreal week, because I couldn’t believe I was actually leaving, and I couldn’t believe I was actually taking Sili and Peni with me, and I was so excited to see my actual family and so sad to leave this family and looking back, it was all a blur. A blur that culminated in the third saddest time of my life, the day I left Samoa.
But that is a topic for another blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Lost Blog Posts, Part I

Hey hey hey!

So, remember how I was all, "Oh, I'll totally write this summer and keep you all up to date on my life?"

Yeah, THAT didn't happen. I know I need to jump back into this blog thing, so I'll start with the Lost Blog Posts, and then play catch up.

This is Lost Blog Post, Part I: Prom.

A long, long time ago I promised you all a post about Prom and Graduation, and I never posted it. (I need to take after Quinn more, that girl is a blogging fiend.) Well, here you go!

Prom first. How to explain Prom in American Samoa? Well, for starters, the only thing it really had in common with my prom was the fancy clothes and the "Promenade" part. My prom went like this: wear pretty dress. Go to high school auditorium. Walk across stage in pretty dress with date. Go to country club and PAAAAAAARTY! Dance the night away. Leave prom and go do stuff you shouldn't do. (I'm looking at you, Gregory Bean, and your idea to skinny dip in the Clarion River.)

Prom in American Samoa went like this for the students: Get pretty dress made or sent from Off-Island. Go to high school gym. Walk across stage with date. Dance while ALL YOUR PARENTS AND FAMILY WATCH YOU. It's crazy. I can't imagine if my parents would have watch me dancing at prom. I can't think that they would have approved. Then after maybe a half hour of dancing, everyone goes home. Of course, I wasn't with them the whole night, so who knows what happens after. I know for a fact some of them were drunk at prom. Just like I know for a fact that some kids were drunk at my prom, and probably every prom in the history of time.

I should, of course, mention the AWESOME shiny shirts the boys are so fond of in Samoa. Seriously. Green satin. WIN.

Quinn, Abby and I's American Samoan Prom went like this: Get dressed up. Debate pros and cons of Quinn's sweater cover up thing. Debate whether my dress is too short for prom (this is the dress I wore for my sister's wedding, so it's wasn't indecent. But after a year of ankle length dresses, you get a little self conscious showing your legs). Try to find ride. Usual ride is lame and already at prom (ACE...). Debate whether we can walk in the pouring rain without ruining our look. Go over to host family's house and ask son in law for ride. Get to high school. Sit at table where everyone's parents stare at us (palagis!). Freak out about how adorable our kids look all gussied up. Take a MILLION pictures with students. Get ride home from Abby's BF (by the way...thanks, Tala, for all those rides this year.)

Anyway, Prom was fun, but it was less a dance and more just a chance to show off all dressed up. But as with everything, we three had a blast. Even if we did have to dance the Cupid Shuffle for the 1500th time.


Thug Life. (Dave and Panweichi rockin the baby blue.)

One of my best girls, Mary Ann. She is so beautiful.

It's Electric!

Me and one of my girls, Fatima. She had that dress made on island.

Always gotta throw up the signs.

My buddy Fale!

Satin Swagger.

Best Leone WorldTeachers ever? I think so!

Q and A and their gangstas.

Justin and I

Love this girl.

The one and only Aladdin.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How can it be over?

I still have to post about prom and graduation and the last few week of school, but I leave Samoa tonight, so now is the time for Part One of my reflective entry on Samoa. Part Two will come after a couple of week in the States, when I can more accurately judge my time here objectively.
First of all, let me just say that right now, I am an emotional wreck. I haven’t made up my mind if I am coming back next year, and I just can’t stop thinking that this may be goodbye.
I’ve had some students over to the house in the last few days to help me clean and eat all my extra food (two Samoan talents, lol), and we’ve been chatting about how I am now and what I was like those first few weeks of school.  The general consensus is that back in August, I was this scared white girl who didn’t know how to handle the cheekiness and insanity of everyday life teaching at Leone. I knew no Samoan. I had the Mainstream kids and I HATED them. I envied Abby her little Proficient Freshmen and Sophomores.  EVERDAY after First Period I wanted to cry. I couldn’t control my students, I didn’t like most of them, and I wanted to quit and leave Samoa because I was never going to be able to do this.

I look back with a year’s perspective, and I don’t even recognize that person I was before.

Yes, I’m still white. But this palagi now has a Samoan tattoo, wears flowers in her hair and rocks the lavalava in public. (“Miss, you are getting a little more Samoan every day.”) I use Samoan in everyday conversation. I love Leone High School, and I would never want to teach anywhere else. Leone is one of the only places I’ve truly felt at home (the others being Texas, Western Pennsylvania, and Montana.) I was SO HOT when we got here last summer, and now I put on a sweater is the temperature drops below 80.

But most importantly, much more importantly that all of that, is how I have been changed by my students. Abby can keep her proficient kids. Give my little hooligans any day. Those very kids that made my life miserable in August? I love them now, and I know that they love me right back. Some of my favorite students have admitted that they went out of their way at the beginning of the year to try and break me. But they didn’t, and I’ve become a far stronger and caring person that I ever thought possible. I’ve said it before on Facebook, and I’ll say it again on here: Who would have ever thought that a bunch of punk-ass Samoan seventeen and eighteen year olds would completely change my life?
Sometimes when I break down my life in Samoa, it seems a little insane. What have I done during my year in Samoa?
·         I joined a gang. (TAP BOYZ!)
·         I broke up some fights.
·         I learned how to swear in Samoan.
·         I got a tattoo in a rusted out shipping container.
·         I’ve eaten eggs that have sat out in the store unrefrigerated for a couple of days.
·         I’ve poured out a bowl of cereal, seen that there were ants in it, shrugged, and ate around the ants.
·         I shook my thing to the Pussycat Dolls in front of an entire school.
·         I learned how to Wobble, and have failed miserably at doing the Dougie.
·         I learned how to open a coconut on a door jam.
·         I am no longer fazed in the least by seven-year-olds running around carrying machetes.
·         I got a neurotoxic disease caused by eating poisonous fish.
·         Consequently, I’ve learned not to eat the red fish.
·         I’ve gotten scars on my legs because open wounds never really heal here.
·         I’ve learned the proper way to tie a lavalava.
·         I’ve become absolutely immune to rain. Like, sometimes I don’t even notice I’m standing in it.
·         I’ve created a Sweat-o-meter, which 1 being a normal amount of sweat for your average summer day of grueling work in the States, and 10 being OH MY GOD MY CORE TEMPERATURE IS 300 DEGREES AND I AM  GOING TO MELT.
·         If I feel something crawling on me, I casually look down, and as long as it’s not something deadly, I generally ignore it.
·         I’ve accepted that expiration dates are really more like suggestions.
·         I’ve full on beat dogs with umbrellas, sticks, and rocks to keep them from biting me.

Of course, I’m not the only one who has changed. I’ve seen Abby eat around a bug that was baked into her donut. Quinn can now expertly judge when a banana plant is ripe for the picking. I’ve heard Amanda debate how exactly how smelly a shirt must be before it is TOO smelly. I’ve seen Rosa barely raise an eyebrow after being informed that the boat from Aunu’u might sink and she might have to swim to shore.
Actually, that last one pretty much sums up life here.
This is Samoa. Sink or swim.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fiafia Night: Seniors Shakin' it for Money

I walked into the school library this morning to see the sophomores making the faculty members grilled cheese sandwiches with a waffle maker. For breakfast.

This slight randomness prompted me to write a blog, not really about grilled cheese at all. Lol.

Hard to believe that May is just about half way over. Abby and I counted only 12 school days left. And the seniors only have 7. In fact, this is the last week of actual classes I have with the seniors, as next week they take their finals and the week after that is Senior Week, where they go do fun things like beach BBQs and such. AND, only 28 days until I leave The Rock…and in 30 days I’ll be in Sweet Home Alabama. I simply cannot believe I’ve been here for almost a year.

I am so excited to go home. I miss my family and I miss America. I love Samoa, of course, but I’m excited for driving, and speed limits over 25 and being able to go more than 19 miles without hitting an ocean. I’m excited for 24 hour convenience stores. And real milk, not the long shelf life kind.
I’m excited for a lot of things, but I’ll get to THAT in a later blog.

THIS blog, I want to talk about Fiafia Night. Fiafia Night is a fundraising night put on by the seniors to raise money for Senior Week and Prom, etc. Basically, each village is assigned a “country” (Hawaii and Africa are not countries, but whatevs), and the seniors from that village perform a dance from that country. It was so much fun! I mean, everyone knows I love the seniors anyway, but it was just so cool to see all the different dances. The breakdown of villages and countries was as follows:

Malaeloa: Africa
Poloa, Fagamalo, and the far west villages: India
ATL (Amanave to Leone): New Zealand (Maori)
Mesepa and Faleniu: Fiji
Aoloau (Alaska) and Mapasaga: Hawai’i
Leone: Jamaica
Pava’i’ai: Mexico
Taputimu and Vailoa (holla!): Tahiti

Here are some photos from each village:

The villages from the End of the Road (Poloa, Fagamalo) performing as India,

My Tap Boyz rockin' it Tahitian style!
(That's my field director in the orange shirt. He just went up and threw money at them. That's what they do here in AmSam: throw money at people like they are strippers.)

ATL doing their Maori thing.

Viva Mexico!

Quinn's Snow Boyz and girls from the village of Aoloau. They were the "country" of Hawai'i. Lol

Mesepa and Faleniu as Fiji. They did really well.

Vailoa and Taputimu for the win!

My Tap Girls...shaking it like the Tahitians.

Sili! And House!

Jamaica...this was the point that they were passing around a giant fake joint.
You know, to properly represent Jamaican culture.
Only in Samoa can you get away with that at a school fuction. Lol.

Malaeloa doing their Africa thing.

One more of Tahiti.
Man, I'm going to miss boys wearing flowers in their hair.

I have to say that of course I like Tahiti the best, because Tap is my honorary village, and Vailoa is home to a lot of my favorites. The boys were of course hilarious, but I was actually really impressed with the girls. Tahiti is where that fast hipshaking type of Polynesian dancing comes from, and I was really impressed with the girls ability to shake it. I could tell some of them were a little shy about it, though, since it’s so different from traditional Samoan dancing, which is much more fluid.

Okay, I'm going to try to upload a video of Fiafia Night later. For now, enjoy the pics!