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!

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