Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Sixth-month blues

I'm two weeks away from being here on this island for a full 6 months. I just heard the other day that at the sixth-month mark volunteers often go through a down period. I think I'm there, which might be surprising given my last entry. There's just a bit of uncertainty now with my assignment. Last week the prinicipal at my school was terminated by the board of directors. The principal is also the one I was working closely with and it was she that requested a volunteer in the first place. The school is very very small and without her there really is no one else there to be my counterpart and make my work sustainable after my 2 years. There is some hope however, as the board is re-thinking their hasty decision. They've been meeting to discuss their issues with the principal but as of yet she is not hired back. It's quite possible that I'll be looking for another assignment if she is in fact gone for good. On an upnote though, I did start attending a class to learn New Zealand Sign Language. I had my first class last night and it was uplifting to see successful deaf Samoan citizens in the community working. It's a fun group of people and I was able to talk with a New Zealand women who works for a disabilty advocacy group here. She has a lot of ideas and I think I might be able to have a good secondary project with her organization. I'm going to work hard at getting out of my "funk". Homesickness is just kicking in full force right now. I have been receiving some amazing packages lately. You all are way too good to me. I can safely say that I don't think I'll be needing any nice smelling lotion for awhile. I have been given just about the entire bath & body collection (well, not exactly, but close!) Thank you Thank you Thank you for all the love and the wonderful comments you are leaving.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Best Working Day thus Far

Yesterday, by far, has been the most rewarding and uplifting days at my job assignment. I have been working at the school close to two months now and rarely feel as if I accomplish much but I had a moment yesterday when "it was all good". The school had a field trip to the beach to collect shells for the arts & craftts class. We loaded up our 30+ students into our big new bus and away we went. Upon arrival at the beach we unloaded and started to serve lunch. The students were eating on woven mats we brought. The teachers did not bring the wheelchair for one of our students. I was shocked when I learned that he would not be eating his lunch outside on the mats with the other students. He was served his sandwich inside the bus alone. I sat and ate my lunch with him and asked if he wanted to eat outside. He replied that he did not. After the lunch some of the students began collecting shells and swim. I went to assist with both these activities. I came back to check on the student in the bus. As I came into the bus he says "Ema, 'ou te fia ta'ele i le sami" (i want to go swimming). Although, I had some reservations about taking a student who has no lower body control and can't sit up independently to the water, I thought "we can make this work". I said to the student "Ta o (let's go!). I signaled for another student to help me carry him to the beach. This student was so excited he just wanted to lay in the sand and feel the water crash up onto his face. I was a little nervous about him laying face down in the sand with the water every so often encompassing him so I had him sit leaning against me in the water. Though I first recieved some funny looks from the teachers, all began to see how happy this student was. I asked this student "E se taime muamua ta'ele i le sami?" (is this your first time to go swimming?) he said "ioe." (yes!) (he's 21 yrs. old and lives on an island and has never been in the ocean) I immediately yelled for a teacher to get my camera from the bus and take a picture. (Hopefully, this pic will be posted soon! I'll be mailing the film to the states by the end of next week). Today in school it was all this student and his teacher could talk about. Everytime I saw him he had a huge smile on his face. If I accomplish little else but this one thing in the next 2 years, I will still remember what happened yesterday and how thankful I am to have been there to see this miracle.