Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Day the Cafeteria Blew Up

So, our cafeteria exploded on Wednesday.

This led to the whole school being dismissed early because if you can’t feed a Samoan, you might as well send him home. Lol.

Per usual, my kids knew of these happenings before I did and the conversation second period went something like this:
Student: Miss, are we getting out early?
Me: What?
Student: We are getting out early.
Me: What?
Student: The cafeteria EXPLODED.
Me: WHAT?!

Of course, the cafeteria did not literally explode, but my English as Second Language students couldn’t quite find the right words for “The septic tank backed up and now the oil and grease runoff from the kitchen is coming out of the faucets and up out of the drains in the floor.” So, it turned into “Miss, the cafeteria EXPLODED.” Which works.

So, anyway, about half way through second period, the news came on the brand spanking new intercoms (we are all, teachers and students alike, still very amused by the intercoms) that we would be dismissed early because of an “incident” in the cafeteria. After that, it was impossible to keep my kids under control, so I just helped the few that needed help with their study guides and let the others celebrate. It was definitely the most interesting reason for dismissing school early that I have ever experienced.

Speaking of the study guides, I gave me very first test of the year this week, in Earth Science. Before I curved it, not a single one of my kids got an A on the test. I was trying to figure out why, and I think the blame lies both with me and my students. On one hand, some of the students that did poorly never take notes, don’t do homework and are generally lazy. On the other hand, I think I overestimated my students’ ability to speak English. From the clarification questions I got during the test, their English is actually a lot worse than I realized, and I should have known that. So, somehow I have to make these multiple choice questions in simpler English. But still, many of them didn’t even TRY to do the essay, and I had several questions that they needed to draw diagrams for, and they didn’t even try with those either. So, I will shoulder the responsibility for the poor grades of the kids that I know are trying really hard but just can’t understand half of my words. But I will not take the blame for those kids that I know haven’t put much effort at all into getting a good grade. Hopefully, their failing this test will be the wakeup call they need to get on the ball. We shall see.

We had “parties” in most of my classes today, since we just had a test and it’s Friday. And let’s be honest, even though I’m the teacher, I didn’t really feel like doing anything either. So we had a dance contest in two of my periods, which was hilarious and I’m really going to try to post the video of. Also, my students showed me the haka, or war dance, and it was awesome.

While Abby and I were in my room eating lunch, this happened:

Student I don’t have but vaguely recognize runs into my classroom and throws himself in a desk, breathing heavily.
Me: “Um, what are you doing?”
Student: “I’m running from that guy. He’s trying to kill me.”
Me: “Why is he trying to kill you?”
Student: “I threw a rock at his head.”
Me (at this point in my time in Samoa, totally unsurprised by this confession): “Why did you throw a rock at his head?”
Student: “I hate him.”
Me: “Uh-huh. Get out of my room.”

I mean, in a way, it’s kind of refreshing that everything is so cut and dry. Why did you throw a rock at him? I hate him. Simple, to the point, and extremely honest. These kind of things happen all the time here, so I wasn’t even mad at this kid or disgusted by him, I just wanted to eat my lunch in peace, so I ousted him.

These sorts of occurrences seem to be the norm here. In fact, my very worst behaving student, the one I actively can’t stand, did something violent to a construction worker on campus, and is apparently expelled now. I hear he also threw a rock, but I’m not sure if that is accurate. But this was his last chance, and he’s supposedly out for good. I can’t say I feel too sad. Without him, my first period devil class, the one I cry about sometimes, is SO MUCH BETTER BEHAVED. It’s like he brought the worst out in them. Of course, I saw him on the way home from school, and he said he’ll be back next week, even though the VP said he’s out. We’ll see next week, I guess.

I have to say, I love my kids. Even if they are little hooligans.
For you viewing enjoyment:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Creepers in the Laundromat and Other Island Adventures

Look at that picture! Yep, that’s right, the Leone Lions finally won a game…is was very exciting. Granted, it was against the sucky private school, but I am hopeful that this win will give the boys the confidence to win a couple more. Our previous games have demonstrated that we have the skill to win, we just need to get our head in the game. You’ll notice that in regards to all things Leone High, I now use the royal “we.” Lol.
Also: check out those new green uniforms…those were bought for us by none other than my NFL boyfriend, Troy Polamalu. He is just so great.

Anyway. That was Friday night. Quinn and I went to the game, Abby was sick and stayed home. After the game, we walked to KSMart to get a few groceries, and on the way there we kept getting passed by all these Leone people heading home from the game. Every other truck is like, “Hi, Miss Quinn!” “Hi, Miss Amber!” Quinn remarked that it was like a parade. Made me feel like a rock star. I love this place, especially our little side of the island. WEST SIDE!

In other news, I spent Wednesday and Thursday in the hospital. Apparently, I have fish poisoning (also known as Ciguatera), which is this serious thing where you can literally get poisoned from eating toxic reef fish. I spent two days in the hospital, which is a little sketch, I’m not gonna lie. The room was kind of dirty, and you can be sure I was watching like a hawk to make sure the needle they used for my IV was brand new. (It was.) Anyway, fish poisoning is super weird. Here is a description from the internet:

“Ciguatera is a foodborne illness caused by eating certain reef fishes whose flesh is contaminated with toxins that adhere to coral, algae and seaweed, where they are eaten by herbivorous fish who in turn are eaten by larger carnivorous fish. Predator species near the top of the food chain in tropical and subtropical waters, such as barracudas, snapper, moray eels, parrotfishes, groupers, triggerfishes and amberjacks, are most likely to cause ciguatera poisoning, although many other species cause occasional outbreaks of toxicity. Ciguatoxin is very heat-resistant, so ciguatoxin-laden fish cannot be detoxified by conventional cooking.
Researchers suggest that ciguatera outbreaks caused by cooling climatic conditions propelled the migratory voyages of Polynesians between 1000 and 1400.
Hallmark symptoms of ciguatera in humans include gastrointestinal and neurological effects. Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually followed by neurological symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, paresthesia, numbness, ataxia, and hallucinations. Severe cases of ciguatera can also result in cold allodynia, which is a burning sensation on contact with cold.
The symptoms can last for weeks. Most people do recover slowly over time.”

So, yeah. THAT’S fun. My symptoms are already going away, so they should be completely gone in a week or so. The kicker is, I don’t even know how I got poisoned. I eat fish quite a bit here, but I don’t remember eating any of the fish mentioned. I guess red snapper are especially notorious for this…when I got back to school on Friday, I told my kids I had fish poisoning, and they were all, “Oh, did you eat the red fish?” And I’m like, “Um…maybe?” And they say, all sage-like and wise, while shaking their heads in chagrin, “You shouldn’t eat the red fish.”

I love them.

They told me if they had known I was in the hospital, they would have come visit me. I’m thinking to myself, “Uh, yeah, I wasn’t wearing any pants while I was there, so that would have been awkward.” I did not, of course, say this to them.

Saturday I did not do much of anything. I was going to go into town with Quinn and some others, but I still wasn’t feeling up to par, so I stayed home and just relaxed. (side note: many times when my kids come into class, they’re like “Just relax, Miss? Just relax?” Then they act (fake) surprised that I say no, we have work to do. They make me smile.) Saturday night I went and did laundry at the place about a fifteen minute walk away. I know, I know, what an exciting Saturday night.

Anyway, I was just minding my own, folding my clothes, and this super creepy guy comes in and just starts staring at me. And I hear him talking to his buddy, and I KNOW they are talking about me and they are laughing and making suggestive faces and he was SO CREEPY. He was about fifty, with missing teeth and these gross sores on his legs and he was drinking, and I cannot even describe the amount of creeped out I was. And the weirdest thing was just the staring. I could literally feel his stare. And I was kind of freaking out because I knew I had to walk home and I he was just hanging at the laundromat, not actually doing laundry, and I was afraid he was going to follow me home. Luckily, one of my students was there doing laundry with somebody else, and as I was leaving, they were like, “That guy was talking about you. We’re going to give a ride home.” So, I was really thankful for that (I've included a pic of John, my rescuer.)

I mean, I know creepy guys exist everywhere, but I was living in a state of blissful ignorance here in Samoa, because everyone was just super friendly and I was always walking about by myself with no problem. This is the first time I have felt legit scared by somebody here, and it is depressing because I had kind of put all of Samoa on a sort of pedestal, and it sucks to have that taken away. Especially in Leone, the village that I consider “my” village now. But I guess even in Leone, there are creepy people. Especially if you add alcohol into the mix.

I’m not putting this into words very well, but I guess I feel sort of betrayed by Am Samoa for not being quite as safe as I thought it was. Which is ridiculous, but there it is. Disillusioned, you could say.

I know it was naïve and stupid of me to get lured into a false sense of security, so I guess this a wake-up call.


Today I went to church and it was a good time.

At church, I saw the same student (John, see picture) that rescued me from the laudromat, so that means I have seen him every single day this week. Lol.

I am going to join the church choir, even though I don’t speak Samoan. I just miss singing. (For those of you who don’t know, I used to sing.) I can learn the words, even if I’m not sure what I’m saying. Anyway, apparently word has gotten around that I want to join the choir, because last night doing laundry this person was like, “Oh, you’re the one who is going to join the choir!” And at church today, everyone was coming up to me all excited that I’d be joining the choir. Made me feel welcome, which was really nice. I probably won’t join until after White Sunday, which is in October. They’re in the midst of preparations for it, so it’d be hard to catch up if I joined now.

Anyway. Melinda’s spending the night at our house tonight, which is nice, because I haven’t seen her in many, many moons. I’m gonna peace out and work on some lesson planning.

Manuia le po!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Tale of a Whale

Ah, Samoa. My life here is so full of happenings that I can never remember where I left off in my blog. Let us start with Friday, September 2.

That was the day of our first pep rally at Leone High School. To say it was insanity would really be putting it mildly. There was no use teaching class, because the kids were so wound up and involved in preparations for the pep rally, it was impossible to get them to concentrate. Plus, classes were really short because the pep rally was taking up a good chunk of the afternoon.

Let me say, pep rallies in American Samoa are not quite the same as pep rallies in Western Pennsylvania. I remember maybe thirty minutes devoted to the football team/volleyball team/basketball team/whoever didn’t totally suck that year. The cheerleaders would attempt some sort of new stunt, usually unsuccessfully. We in the band might play Cat Scratch Fever and another tune or two. The players would go up on stage, we’d be excited for the game, and then it’d be over and we’d all go home.

Well. Here in American Samoa, pep rallies don’t just celebrate all the sports teams; they also serve as class competitions. So, the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior classes are all competing against each other in categories such as “mascot,” “banner,” “cheer,” and “overall performance.” And they prepare for it all week. The cheers are the best part in my opinion, because they are weird blends of pop music, Samoan song, traditional Samoan war chants, and your usual high school “we will rock you” kind of chants. The kids combine them all together into this 8 minute super cheer that is so amazing to hear. I’m going to try to post a video, but I don’t know if it will work. I should also mention the dancing. OMG, these kids love to shake it. I have included a picture of the junior boys, dressed to the nines as women, dancing to the junior class cheer. I have about half the juniors. These are my students. Lol.

After the competition was over, they announced the winners. In this case, the seniors won. And then promptly lost fifty class points for being overly rowdy and not listening. Lol. I also teach a good chunk of the seniors. Just saying.

It’s after the winners have been announced that things went from completely insane to absolute chaos. They play some music, and two advisors from each class have to dance, and of course I was chosen, and I was challenged to whip my hair, which I did. And the kids went freaking CRAZY when I did. They loved it, and I got a headache. Lol. And then teachers are dancing with students and students are dancing with alumni and everyone’s singing and busting a move and it’s just absolute anarchy.

It’s amazing.

Saturday morning, Quinn, Abby and I went to the football game, Leone High against Faga’itua High. (All the football games are played in the same stadium, so they have them Thursday, Friday and Saturday.) Leone really showed up for most of the game, and we were actually up 14-0 in the first quarter against an undefeated Faga’itua team. And then it all went to hell. WE CANNOT STOP WITH THE TURNOVERS. Gah, it’s killing me. We threw THREE interceptions in the endzone. They would have been our touchdowns if we had run the ball four yards instead of trying to pass. Anyway. We lost, 23-14. And I hear the Stillers are having turnover issues this week as well.

Saturday night was the Leone High Staff party. There was cake, there was tequila and there was the electric slide. Nuff said.

Monday, Labor Day, I went with Amanda to Sliding Rock, which is on the ocean not far from our house. It was a great time, and we had a blast sliding on the rocks with the waves.

Fast forward the week; it was just another week in school. My kids and I seem to have settled into a delicate balance with each other. Grades were due this Friday, and I was super amused watching these kids come up to my desk to see their grades. Some were nonchalant, some were resigned, and some looked like they were headed to the gallows. I could literally hear the funeral march as they walked. Some of my kids were super excited to get As, and they deserved it because they actually did all their work and tried hard. Some kids just did not understand why they were failing. I’m like, “Well, see this class assignment? You didn’t do it. See this other assignment? You didn’t do it. See this quiz? You didn’t take it. This is your problem.”

Friday night I went with the Tafuna peeps and the Samoana peeps to Aunu’u Island for Julie’s birthday. Aunu’u is a small island just off the coast of Tutuila, the island I live on. Aunu’u is way over on the east side, and I’m pretty solidly West Side (I’m flashing my West Side sign at you), so I had to leave straight away from work on Friday afternoon. Caught the bus to the market, caught up with Peter, Kasey and Lauren, and then we got the Tula bus the whole way to the wharf for the Aunu’u boat. All told, it was about 2 hours on a bus, which is a lot considering the island is 13 miles long. Once at the wharf, we had to catch the little boat over to Aunu’u. That boat is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you. You bounce all around crossing that strait between Aunu’u and Tutuila.

Aunu’u was amazing, and I had a blast. We ate delicious food on Friday night, and then on Saturday we took a short island tour with Rose and Julie. We saw the elementary they teach at, and the beach right by their house, and walked around part of the perimeter of the island. You can walk the whole island in an hour, apparently, so you get an idea of how big it is. It’s a really beautiful place, but I am glad to live in Leone. I don’t think I have the patience to teach elementary, first of all. I have my issues with my juniors and seniors, but I realized this weekend how much I love them.

Also: Aunu’u was very, very nice, but So. Small. As we walked around, EVERYONE was staring and wondering what the heck all these palagis (white people) are doing running around. Leone is a super small village, but people aren’t quite as up in our business. I still feel like a Rock Star sometimes in Leone, just because there are like 6 white people in the whole village. But it doesn’t seem as intrusive as on Aunu’u.

One very exciting thing: While were were waiting for the boat back to Tutuila, Kasey goes, “Oh my God, a whale!” And sure enough, just chilling in the channel between the two islands, not too far from where we were standing, are a couple of whale, just frolicking and having a grand old time. We aren’t sure what kind. They were probably humpbacks, because they migrate this time of year. But they seemed to have a dorsal fin, and looked like orcas from the distance. Either way, it was amazing to just be chilling on the beach and all of the sudden, OH, THERE’S A WHALE. I’ve including a pic of Lauren on the beach and a whale jumping out in the distance, but I’m not sure it will show up well.

We came back from Aunu’u on Saturday, and we ate at Rosies in Fagatogo, and I had the best sandwich I have ever eaten. I’m not a foodie at all, but MY GOD, this thing was good. It was grilled Wahoo (which is a fish), and it was so amazing. I want to go every weekend.

Today, Sunday, Quinn and I went to church in Leone. I think I’ve mentioned before that Samoans are super religious, and over 90% of them go to church. I figured it was about time I started going, and some of my students asked me to go to their church, so I did. The church is called the Christian Congregationalist Church of American Samoa, and the way I understand it, it was founded by the London Missionary Society back in the 1800s. It’s the oldest church in American Samoa, and it is so beautiful. I have a photo of the outside, but I need to somehow take one of the inside. And also I want to somehow record the Samoans singing in church, because it the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. And I am not exaggerating.

The service is in Samoan, so I did zone out a little. I know they were talking about September 11th, because the Samoan lady beside us told Quinn. Plus I heard the words “Trade Center.” Hard to believe it’s been ten years. It’s also hard to believe that it’s so important to these people who live half a world away from the United States.

I was sitting there, kind of not paying attention, and when all of the sudden I realized the paster was speaking in English and everyone was staring at us. They were just pointing out that we were the WorldTeachers and welcoming us to worship with them. I want to join the choir, even though they sing in Samoan. I’m gonna work on that. Lots of my students go to this church, and the history buff in me likes that it’s the oldest church in American Samoa, so I think I’ll stick with it for the long run. And it’s right on Leone Bay, but miraculously didn’t get touched by the tsunami. Pretty amazing. Well, you’re all caught up. Manuia le po!