Thursday, September 29, 2005

Is a teacher supposed to protect the kids?

I'm just going to throw this out there. For all of you who I gave my address to, I gave you the wrong one. I didn't give you the wrong address but instead the wrong zip code. The correct one is...

Pacific Horizons School
P.O. Box 326
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 (instead of 97699)

In about 2 hours I will have been in American Samoa for a whole week. It feels like so much longer than that. It could be that I haven't seen the "tropical paradise" weather yet. It has rained on and off since I arrived, but it has rained non stop for the last 36 or more hours. All I can hope is that Mother Nature is getting all the rain out before the weekend. As long as we have a pretty Saturday I could care less. We have big plans for the beach this weekend. One thing that I have been told about the beaches here is that to get to the good ones there is quite a hike, but I don't care. I have a great backpack that has been waiting for "outdoorsy" action, and I think this will be a great opportunity. It will also make me look really cool. The only bad thing about the rain is that rain = more mosquitoes. I don't know if I have any skin left that hasn't been bitten by the swarms of mosquitoes here. I am doing my best to protect myself. I start spraying myself down with off when I get out of the shower in the morning which basically cancels out my shower, I take Off towellets to school so that I can reapply during the day, and I spray myself down before I get in bed at night. I should be bite free, but these are smart suckers, and they will get you the second you let down your guard.

So today I had a somewhat entertaining morning at school. I discovered how far I will go to protect the kids in my classroom, and it's to the closet to hide. Our school is a series of old barracks with a lot of windows, but we have to leave the doors open for circulation. The door is on the left side at the front of my classroom, and this morning I was at the back of the classroom grabbing something when it happened. A huge bird flew into my classroom. It was confused and got out after a few laps around the room. The kids started screaming "it's a bird" and I actually ran into the closet. If there would have been a kid in my way I am positive that I would have taken them down (and not thought twice about it). I don't know what surprised the kids more...a bird in the classroom or me running to the closet. I tried to play it off like important math stuff was going to fall of the shelf and I was the only one who could stop the destruction of so many important lessons, but I'm not so sure they bought it. For those of you who don't know, birds are my biggest fear in life. I know it seems illogical, but one incident with a family of Blue Jays and you will be in the same boat. I have been known to hit the ground after hearing the sound of threateningly close wings.

I have a girl in my class that is teaching me a lot about the Samoan people and culture. We eat lunch in our classroom, and I was talking to this group of girls and I asked one of them what their favorite food was. I don't even remember what she said she liked because she immediately started talking about how her mother loves to eat horse. Yes you read it I was trying to not act shocked, but I asked her if you can buy horse at the store so that I could get more information. You would think it would be an absurd question, but you haven't been to KS mart. (the main "grocery store") She said that they don't buy the meat because the grandad killed the horse, which I guess is supposed to make it so much better. They are actually Tongans, and let me tell you that they will eat, cat, pig, chicken, dog. I don't know how authentic this is, but someone told me that they like black dogs the best. Something about black dogs having the best meat. I'll have to take my picture of Stella down before the mom comes in for a parent conference.

Last night my team teacher came over to talk about stuff for school (she lives next door, so she didn't come far) and when she was leaving she left me with some disturbing information. She said that she noticed that I turned my porch light off at night which I do because electricity is 3x's electricity in the states, and I am poor. She proceeded to tell me that I needed to leave it on because when they moved here three months ago they had a problem with someone trying to get into their house at night. That's just what I wanted to hear because I live by myself in a land of the largest people I have ever seen. I have felt really safe up to this point, and then my sense of security was crushed. The Ashleys have a large gate around their property in the front, and bushes between the house and the golf course in the back so I think I'm okay. I would think if the bushes or gate wouldn't stop someone the dogs would. All I know is that I was temporarily freaked out. When I got ready to go to bed I took everything of any value, put it on my bed, and locked my bedroom door.

I can't get my camera to work with my computer so I can't post any pictures as of yet, but I am working on it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I have found my calling...

I’m pretty sure I am on the road to becoming the best teacher ever. Being my second day of school I am basically a seasoned pro with everything second grade. I’m just kidding but I really do like my job, and I really like my kids. I personally think they are really funny. For example, today we were talking about flight and the Wright brothers, and the kids were asking questions about when they were alive and when they died. Both brothers were born in the late 1800’s and one of my kids raised his hand and seriously asked they lived before there was color. I thought it was really cute. My classroom is slowly coming along, and I have decided that I am not going to decorate it like I could. I don’t have the energy and the humidity kills everything. While I am on the subject of my classroom let me tell you of 3 extremely disturbing things that take residence there. First of all there are cockroaches. Before coming here I did not know that there are two kinds of cockroaches in this world. One kind comes around because of filth, food, or whatever. We have all seen them in the states. They are smallish and fast. What I didn’t know, however, is that there is a whole breed that comes out to feast on wood and paper. If I was a cockroach I could think of no better place to gorge myself than in a 1st/2nd grade classroom. These on the other hand are quite large. You really don’t see them in the day, but you know they are there. The paper that is left out has nibble marks on it from them. Another scary animal that has taken refuge in my classroom is a wasp. So far I believe that this wasp is flying solo, but you never know. I have always been told with any kind of rodent that if you see one there are thousands behind the walls. I hope this isn’t the case. I thought that the wasp lived in this hole in my ceiling, but when I told the teacher next door she told me that “No, that’s where the rat has been coming in”. What? I know rats were not on the brochure, but apparently they are everywhere. People are acting like I am so naive because I didn’t know the island was infested with rats. We are not talking Stewart Little either. Apparently they are the size of rabbits. I don’t know what any of you would do in a situation where you saw a rat that was rabbit sized, in fact, I don’t know what I will do when I see this allusive and creepy creature, but lets all hope that students are not around. So far animals are the only drawback to my job, so it’s promising, but I’m not sure if it is my calling. What is my calling though is far greater than anything I could have imagined. Polynesian Dancing. Let me just though out there that I started classes tonight. I am not what most would call “good” yet, but I have faith in myself. Those Polynesians really know how to move. I probably wont be able to walk tomorrow, but “no pain, no gain”. That’s what I’ve always said. Until next time…

I broke down and did it...

Apparently this is the week of large purchases for me. First I bought a cell phone that was double what it should have cost. But for the low, low price of .15 cents a minute I can call the States. I set my alarm to get up extra early this morning so that I could talk to my parents. By extra early, I mean like right at 4. It was so exciting. I called both parents and when they answered neither one thought it was going to be me, so that was exciting. Another big purchase I made tonight was at the Korean Market, which could be the coldest place ever. I finally broke down and bought coke. Well Diet Pepsi to be precise. Yes, I paid $3.85 for a 6 pack. I feel surprisingly good about my purchase too. I haven't even opened one yet because I thought that would be a great incentive to get going in the morning. I can not wait.

It has rained non stop since 4 this morning. I am hoping that we will have a rain delay tomorrow, because the roads aren't paved. Let's all just keep our fingers crossed. I am so tired, and today was a trying day at school. Because it rained so hard, the kids were not able to go outside at all. That means that they were bouncing off the wall. It was really hard to try to reign them back in. In fact, it almost didn't happen because of a mutiny that was arising among the 2nd grade girls. They started talking in Samoan and getting louder and louder throughout the day. Of course, I have no idea what they are talking about. I can't even hear where one word ends and another begins. It just sounds like a string of sounds and grunts. Who knows. Tomorrow I may have to outlaw Samoan. Who knows. I should be on cloud nine because I will have put an end to my 7 day spree. I am going to post pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Please tell me this is a movie...

The Samoan people are very interesting. A few nights ago I went out to eat for a birthday, and we ate at this place called "The Reef". The food was good (I had a cheeseburger..not roots) and so was the service. The fact that they don't tip here made the night even better, but when I thought my night was at its apex a fantastically entertaining thing happened. Half of the restaurant burst into song. It was a notch below a musical. It was magical. They were singing some church songs which made it even better, but I am still a little confused as to how the song was chosen and the pitch was set without any suspicious dialogue. The Samoan people have very good voices on a whole. They also love to sing (which could account for a lot), however, the thing that surprised me was how loud they sing. It is almost deafening which is a good segway into church on Sunday morning. Let me begin with this. I walked into church Sunday morning by myself because Mara was still at the car and we were running almost late. I felt like I had 3 legs or something incredibly deforming about me because people were staring. It was like they had never seen a white person before. I can’t imagine how they would gawk if I didn’t have somewhat of a tan. Church was good though, but these little kids (maybe 11 or 12) sat behind me and sang as loud as they could. I, in fact, have never heard such volume from a tyke. It was kind of a catch 22 because it was really sweet that they were so enthusiastic about worship, but on the other hand I value my eardrums. Another thing I noticed about singing at church is that they sing the same songs that I have known for years but they don’t sing the same notes I do. They have basically made up a line of music, and being an outsider it is hard to follow. You also never know when they are going to bust into Samoan, which does not sound like actual words but grunts. I am trying to pick up something but it’s harder than I thought. Heck, I can’t even pronounce Samoa correctly. It’s Sa (like saw) Mo (like the o in cold) an. I’m trying to get it down, and I am going to work very hard and try to be semi fluent when I come home in June. Until next time…

It's my first day

Today was my first day of school, and boy was it a dewsey. The actual day went really well, and the lessons went smoothly. I was able to fake competence in the subject areas, and they totally bought it. I have 11 1st and 2nd graders. 4 are 1st grade and 7 are 2nd grade. It’s more difficult than I thought to cover lessons that catch both grades and allow them to do quality work, but once I get into the swing of things it will get easier.

I have always thought that I was supposed to be a thin girl because my ankles are quite small, but after a day of school I officially have cankles. (For those who don’t know what a cankle is it’s when your calf blends right into your ankle…it’s a more passé way of saying thick ankled). It seriously looks like I have 2 grapefruits shoved in my skin. I am wishing that I didn’t make fun of the teachers who dressed up in their skirts with tennis shoes in my past. I am seriously considering becoming one of them.

Pacific Horizons is an English speaking school, and all my students are fluent in the language but there is a big problem. The problem is that we speak different forms of English. I, of course, speak Texan so they have no idea what I am talking about sometimes. For example, tomorrow they are going to go outside for P.E. so at the end of the day I said “don’t forget your tennis shoes tomorrow.” They all whipped around and looked at me in bewilderment. I have learned that they call them sneakers. Another thing is the trash can. Some of them call it a rubbish can. The only time I have actually heard rubbish in a real conversation was on Harry Potter. It’s funny to see the difference in language between Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, and Texas. Let me go ahead and say there is a big one.

I am going to try to post pictures of my classroom and my students within the next couple of days. Until next time…

Monday, September 26, 2005


There are a lot of things this true blooded West Texas girl is having trouble getting used to here in American Samoa. I have decided to put these minor to major differences in list form.
1. The geckos on the walls. I know I have stated this many times, but something isn't right when you turn on the light and they scatter all over the walls. I am glad they are here for 2 reasons though. A). They eat mosquitoes. And b). They are company when I am holed away in my apartment by myself. In fact, there is a small greenish gecko what looks minorly deformed that I have named Gimp.

2. The time change is a major downfall. My body is having a hard time adjusting to the time. I am ready to go to bed at 5, but I force myself to stay up until at least 9. The bad thing about that is that at 4 am I am up and at em. I have always been a little on the last minute and lazy side and I am having a hard time accepting that I am up before the birds and the sun.

3. The humidity. I really don't think I have to do much explaining. Right now we are just starting Spring in A.S. and it is only about 85 degrees outside. Coupled with the 100% humidity makes it a different story though. My body is trying to adjust although it's having a hard time. My deodorant isn't working and I actually stink when I come home at night which is a pleasant thought. I would spray myself down with perfume but the humidity changes the way that it smells on my skin to an unpleasant musk.

4. The dogs. The dogs in American Samoa are heartbreaking until they attack with deadly force. I am going out on a limb here, but I think that there may be more stray dogs that American Samoans. The sad thing about this is these are not the cute and cuddly dogs. These look like a cross between dead and hyena usually with all sorts of painful ailments. Its hard to see dogs without legs and with tumors all over their bodies waste away to skin and bone, but these things are vicious. These dogs fight with a vengeance that I have never seen. I am woken up 3 or more times a night because of it. It is scary. I don't go anywhere near them if I can help it.

5. Tuna. Both Starkist and Chicken of the Sea process and package all of their tuna here. They package it in a string of warehouses. I went on a tour of the island and had to drive past the 5+ warehouses, and I was nauseated. It is a stench that is worse than anything I have ever smelled. All of the workers are outside rotating though breaks so you don't want to hold your nose while you are driving though, and it's too far to hold your breath. So inevitably you end up breathing it in. Even if you happen to breathe it in your mouth, you taste a rancid smell. I really intended on coming here and being open to new foods, but tuna isn't one of them. I know you are never supposed to say never, but I can almost guarantee that I will NEVER allow tuna to touch my lips.

6. Coke. I am using coke as a broad term here for any caffeinated beverage. I went to the knockoff Sams (Cost U Less) yesterday fully intending to purchase a Coke product of some kind, because I have not had a Coke since I stepped foot off the plane. That's 4 days for those of you who were wondering. Anyway, a 24 pack of Coke here is 18 US Dollars. That comes out to 75 cents for 12 ounces or 6 cents an ounce. I just can't do it. Mr. Pibb was even like 15 dollars for a 24 pack. Who drinks Mr. Pibb?

The island is great though just different than I am used to. I am so thankful that I am here though. Beautiful scenery and friendly people. I am really excited to live and learn this culture for this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Longest Day

I never thought that I would become a blogger, but I have succumbed to its easy accessibility, wealth of information, and use of time. Most of you are painfully aware that in a whirlwind decision, I packed up and moved to American Samoa. The island is so small that it looks like a miniature discoloration on the map, but maybe that is a good thing. It keeps tourists away and lets those of us who actually live here get an authentic experience.
The flight here was long. I boarded the plane in Lubbock at 5:30 am, and had to sit by a very interesting fellow. He was on his way back from medical leave from basic training. He knew that his last hours of smoking were upon him so he took the liberty to smoke 7-12 packs before boarding. He was also a gimp. This kid, literally, had his arm in one of those post surgery sling things that force your arm to stay at a constant 90 degree angle. I felt semi sorry for him but that doesn't mean that I wanted his arm as a chin rest. After I said so long to him I got an even more interesting experience with a male softball team. Somehow I was placed in the center of a middle aged male softball team. Sounds innocent enough, but this team was full of those creepy high school coaches with a second agenda. Never the less, they kept me entertained for 5 hours with stories that I am still trying to decide the authenticity of. The flights from there on were fairly routine, and I was lucky enough to get the row to myself from Honolulu to Pago Pago. I just knew that I was going to have to sit next to one of the biggest people that I have ever seen, but instead I was able to lay down and sleep.
Getting off of the plane was an interesting experience. Because the airport is poles with a roof, you have to walk down the stairs and hike to the airport. The minute I stepped outside the plane I felt like I had been hit a wall of humidity. I can not stop talking about it because I have never felt anything like it. On the other hand, the humidity allows American Samoa to be breathtakingly beautiful.
I took a tour of the island yesterday, and it is amazing. I went by the school and saw my classroom and met my kids. It is going to be such a great learning experience for me and hopefully them too. I also saw "downtown" and the tuna canneries. I said that I would be more open minded and less picky about food while I was down here, but driving by the tuna factory changed my mind. I can almost promise that I will NEVER ever allow tuna to touch my lips. I can't wait to experience all of the adventures that this island is promising to provide. Until next time....