Sunday, June 20, 2004

Photos from Savaii and Apia

Photo Link to Roll 4 Picture Gallery

So, I finally finished this roll of film. I actually took these picture
back in March. Unfortunately, these pics are just now getting up
here...better late then never. This roll spans from February thru
April. There are pics of I took standing outside the Peace Corps
Office. Some of my travels to Savaii over Easter Weekend (we swam with
huge sea turtles) and lots more. The photo gallery pictures don't all
have captions but I'll be sending Todd some in the near future.

As always, the photos from all my other rolls can be found on the left
in the 'Photo Gallery' section.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Take the Good with the Bad

Do I ever think about quitting? Yes, actually, I do! Sometimes this experience just plain sucks and I wish I could go back Stateside close to family and friends doing something productive and efficient and in English.But then I have nights when I’m out paddling with my team and I get to glide across moonlit water set against a pink and purple sky bordered by palm trees and I think, “God, could this be a more perfect moment?”

So, lately things have been difficult. The school is still without a principal (although, we’ve been told one is coming soon) and the teachers are as unmotivated as ever. They don’t teach their classes. They mostly sit around and maybe pop in a video for the kids. Sometimes the mornings are good if my suggestions are accepted. I’ve been working with a high school down the road, St. Joe’s, to let us use their sport’s field so we can have some space to do our sports and games. Today, we went there and had a grand ol' time playing around. A teacher from the school also wants his students to work with our students to learn about working with the disabled. After my school finished I changed out of my sport’s day clothes into my Puletasi (traditional work clothes for women) and walked back down to St. Joe’s to be a guest lecturer in this teacher’s class. St. Joseph’s is an all boys school and I had a ton of fun talking to these guys about what they can expect when working with my kids. I’m really hoping this program will work out. It will of course, be aninteresting program for my kids and will no doubt promote awareness of intellectual disabilities on the part of these high school boys.

So the morning and this lecture, I guess, were productive parts of my day, but the afternoons continue to be less than even what I would consider sub-standard. I guess the morning just tired out the teachers too much because they just did NOTHING! I’m trying to teach them computers, I’m trying to have them decorate their classrooms, I’m trying to have them teach interesting lessons, but I can’t do it for them. Last week, I made a cultural blunder, when I stated that we were just sitting around too much. Well, that was a mistake, because I insulted the older teachers (This is a culture where age is respected above all else). An older teacher accused me of being disrespectful and told me I was not the pule (boss) and that I am only a volunteer. Man, did I feel crummy. After apologies and tears on both sides things were worked out and the teachers started to work a little bit more (but not too, much). So, I’m not goingto motivate them anymore by being so direct (We Americans can be so direct, but here, it just doesn’t work that way) I think I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and mostly model and make suggestions in a real round-a-bout way. Of course, this is extremely tricky and exhausting.

I really don’t like my job now. But I know things will get better when a new principal arrives and everyone is motivated to work again. I love paddling and I love my sigh language class. I’m going to focus on these positive things and remind myself that life could be helluva lot worse. As always, there are about a million things I could write about why this experience can be so difficult and why it can be so wonderful. Now, that I have password protection on this site I’ll be giving a more candid description of what life here is really like.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Malo le alo! (Good Paddling)

Yesterday I had my first ever competitive paddling race. It was an all day event of races, BBQ, and getting lots of sun in the harbour. Three different paddling clubs competed with two women's only teams. My club's name is Nafanua and we had both junior and senior female and male teams. Our only gold was taken in the 250 meter sprint by none other than our Senior women's team. We won it by less than half a second. It was by far one of the most awesome feelings I've had here. Of course, even if we hadn't won any races the day still would have been a spectacular cultural experience. I participated in a traditional Samoan sporting activity and was fully integrated with my community of Samoan paddlers. They are an awesome group of young Samoans who love the sport and are welcoming of outsiders who also want to share in their culture. My decision to join the paddling team continues to be one of the most positive ways in which to spend my free time. School break ends and tomorrow it will be back to my normal routine. The break has been awesome but it will be nice to get back to working with my teachers and students again. School during the day and paddling in the evening...can life be any more sweet on this tropical island? It'd be hard to imagaine...