It’s been a crazy couple of days.
Have you noticed that most of my blogs start out like that? Obviously, my life/Samoa is just insane in general.
Yesterday was amazing; I took my kids on a field trip to the National Park of American Samoa in Vatia. (Of course. Once a Park Ranger, always a Park Ranger.)
This sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but it absolutely was not. The principal at Leone made me jump through all sorts of hoops to get this thing approved. So for weeks, I have been in contact with Park Rangers here in American Samoa, and they have come to the school and everything, trying to get this field trip approved. It’s been a hellacious process.
There were a couple of issues. First and foremost, I was told I needed three teachers as chaperones. I enlisted Abby, and we also got one of the truancy officers, Louis (who is cute, but that is neither here nor there.) So: teacher chaperones, done.
Then I was told that three teachers weren’t enough, because my kids are all Mainstream (read: the “bad” kids.) In all actuality, while I do have many, many of the kids that are suspended kind of regularly, I also have a lot of kids who aren’t considered smart just because they can’t speak English that well. And Mainstream kids are often overlooked, and never get to go on things like field trips. Which I find colossally unfair. Just because they aren’t super geniuses doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get to have a quality education. Sorry, ranting. Moving on…so, since my kids are Mainstream, I was told I needed to get four parental chaperones in addition to the teachers. So: I got four parents to come.
THEN, I was told that we needed a special bus to go to Vatia, because the village of Vatia is on the back end of the island, and you have to go over this thrilling/scary as hell mountain pass to get there. Apparently, the Vatia school bus has, like, superpowers or something, and it can make it over the mountain without blowing up on the way up or losing control on the way down. So, this was a bit of an issue, because they don’t really have any spare school buses in American Samoa, so you have to get the bus when it’s not busy dropping off elementary kids. That was a crazy challenge, and as of Monday at 3pm, I STILL didn’t know if we got the bus or not, so I had to tell all my kids to come prepared for both school and the field trip. FINALLY, I got our school secretary, Rita, to call the school bus people. Rita is super aggressive and kind of scary and totally awesome, and if you want something done at Leone, she is the one to talk to. She gets on the phone and ten minutes later I have my bus. Yay!
So, fast forward to Tuesday morning, Field Trip Day.
First thing is, the principal apparently forgot that Abby was coming, and there for a second, it looked like maybe she wasn’t going to be able to. But that crisis passes, and the bus got to the school. That’s when things went to Hell in a hand basket.
As it turns out, the Principal was super paranoid about this whole thing, because the last time Leone took a major field trip, some kids went swimming and two kids drowned. That was seven years ago, and mine was the first major field trip since. The other major problem was that the principal basically doesn’t trust me to be capable enough to handle my kids out in the world. I don’t know if it’s because I am young, or because I am not Samoan (Samoans kids do tend to listen to other Samoans better than they listen to palagis.) But it is super irritating and totally unjustified. I literally have class rosters that make seasoned Samoan teachers flinch when they read them, and I have been handling those kids just fine. So, there should be enough faith that I can handle these kids on a field trip. But no. In front of a school bus full of kids waiting to leave for the field trip, and right in front of the office full of my coworkers, the principal starts telling me that I shouldn’t be able to go, that I wasn’t going to be able to handle my kids, and that these were bad kids and I didn’t “know them.”
That’s went I kind of lost my temper.
I kind of let loose about how he didn’t trust me and he didn’t think I was a competent teacher, and that yes, I DO know these kids, because unlike him, I see them every single day, and I totally trust them. And then it turned into this whole “I’ll go back to the States” if anything happens on the field trip. And all of this stupid, stupid argument happened in front of all my kids. It’s was so awful. BUT, eventually, we were allowed to go, and let me just say: my little devil children? SO. WELL. BEHAVED. Like, it wasn't even them, but some sort of pod people that looked like them. I’m feeling pretty good as a teacher, because I’m pretty sure that my kids heard my argument on their behalf, and it would appear they really don’t want me to get fired because they were so good. It was amazing.
We left the school and headed across the island. We had to switch to two smaller buses in Tafuna, I guess so that we could make it up the mountain. Then we picked up the Park Rangers in Utulei, and headed over the mountain to Vatia. Going over that mountain was pretty intimidating, because the bus had to completely floor it to get up it, and I was pretty sure the engine was going to explode. And then coming down the other side, there are all these hairpin, switchback turns, and we were kind of flying around them at an alarming speed. My kids, of course, thought it was great gun, and accompanied the turns with exaggerated leans and “WOOOO” noises, like they were on a roller-coaster. A roller coaster that clings to the side of a volcanic peak that shoots 4000 feet up from the ocean.
Anyway. There’s a point on the road called Afono Pass. It’s at the top of the mountain, and from this point, you get a birds eye view of pretty much the entire island. It’s amazing. We stopped the bus at the pass, and the kids got out to take a look. Most of them had never been up there before.
Let me just say: Every headache, every argument, every minute of stress was completely worth it at that moment. Because the look in their eyes as they took in the beauty of their island from 3000 feet up? I’d fight with every school administrator in American Samoa to see that look.
Here’s what they saw:
While in the National Park, we did a small hike to Pola Island, and the Park Rangers led us. It was great, and the kids had the best time. Afterwards, there was a lot of them saying, “Seki a” (which means awesome). And today in class, a lot of them told me I was the only teacher to ever care enough to take them somewhere like that and that I was the best teacher they ever had. I’m sure that’s not true, but it sure did make me feel all warm and gooey inside.
Some pics from the trip: