Last Day in Faleasao, again

Ha! I totally should’ve known that the boat wouldn’t be here today. Of course! So we get to spend one more beautiful day in the village; we should be leaving tomorrow morning though.

Last week I found a pack of water balloons that I’d forgotten about, and there was still 1/2 a bag of candy in my fridge from graduation, so this is how we chose to say goodbye to the village kids:

Waterballoon Fight!

Faleasao water balloon fight!

Faleasao water balloon fight!

Running for cover

Running for cover

Water balloon fight

Water balloon fight!

Aiga + Lagi

Man I'll miss these two

Man I’ll miss these two

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Tofa Soifua, Manu’atele

Tonight is the last night we will spend in our house in Faleasao. Our bags are packed. The boat is (supposedly) coming tomorrow. Oh gosh are you guys crying? You should be. It’s real sad.

We turned in our classroom keys this morning and then spent the rest of the day trying to enjoy our last day in Faleasao. We went over to To’a with Jackie and Sasha (and the dogs, of course); it was a beautiful, sunny day—a perfect last day on the island. Then we came home and finished a few chores around the house before heading over to another of my favorite spots in the village. We’ve said our goodbyes and given away almost all of our possessions. There is nothing left to do now but sleep.

Tomorrow we will haul our bags out the front door and say goodbye to the house that has been our home for two years. We’ll walk down to the wharf where we’ll be surrounded by the community that took us in three years ago. The wharf will be bustling with the regular commotion of a visit from the MV Sili—barrels of diesel and pallets of goods will be unloaded, and all of the passengers will rush on board to claim their seats. It will be a normal day–business as usual–for everyone but us. And then we’ll throw our bags on the boat and look back out at the island one last time, watching it as it slips away on the horizon, until it’s a small mound of green atop the endless blue, until it’s finally no longer visible. Until it’s gone.

If I close my eyes I can see every house in the village, name every person who lives in each one. I can hear my neighbor’s laughter filtering in through my windows, the sound of children running by, the excited bark of the dogs at every moving shadow. I can smell the umu, the salt water, the reef. I have been practicing this retention–attempting to recall at will the memory of these sensations. I’ve been preparing for a life without them.

I do not have the words to express what I feel when I think of leaving this place, this community, these people. The only solace to be had is in the belief that we have changed each other for the better.

So thank you, Manu’a. You have been a fine teacher, a generous host, and a dear friend. It hurts me so to leave you, but I will hold each and every face, every memory, every detail, in my heart forever; I am sure of it.

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Desk Threat: or, What a Mice Surprise!

Today as I was rummaging around in my top desk drawer (which I really only use to store packets of oatmeal, confiscated earrings, and batteries), I noticed that my last oatmeal was eaten open. Ah, the oh-so-recognizable sign of a rodent.

“Dangit. A mouse was in my desk!”

My students, completely nonplussed, suggested I check to make sure it wasn’t still in there. Before I could respond I noticed that the small plastic container of pushpins I keep in the drawer was completely empty. I picked it up and marveled at the idea that a mouse had eaten through the plastic and then meticulously carried each pushpin to wherever-it-made-its-nest. And I encouraged my students to join me in bewilderment:

“Why aren’t you guys freaking out about this?! It took my metal pushpins! This is really weird!! Look! These things are just metal and plastic! They’re pointy! That’s terrible nest material! Hello? Don’t you guys think this is weird?”

Shrug shrug shrug until finally one girl screamed with me “Oh my gosh Miss that is so weird! I’m freaking out now!” and I was temporarily appeased.

Then, when I returned to my desk and opened the drawer again, I noticed that several of the papers I’d placed in it yesterday were eaten up. And then I saw the pushpins! They were deep in the back corner, forming some sort of weird nest. I started pulling half-eaten strips of paper out, oh so carefully, until suddenly a half foot of fur came flying out of the drawer.

I’m no stranger to rodents. I’ve seen my fair share of scurrying mice and rats. I’ve found their hoards of scrap garbage in the corners of my kitchen, underneath my stove. But I’ve never seen a mouse fly out of a desk drawer. I screamed. Like, a lot. I screamed and jumped and then laughed hysterically as the furball scampered into the closet a few feet from my desk.

It was a pretty entertaining site for my students. When we’d all stopped laughing, they were all about me cleaning out my desk. And when I started pulling out each sheet of paper (copies of finals I’d placed in my top drawer for safe keeping–all of which are now full of little rat-tooth holes), I saw something moving. Some little eraser-sized, pink, squealing, see-through thing. And then I really freaked out.

It was a baby mouse! After I got over the shock of seeing this weird fetus-outside-of-the-womb creature, I scooped it up to show my students. They were also grossed out at first but then we were all ohhing and ahhing over it’s teeny-tiny, cutesy-wootsy-ness. (I also took it over to The Beard’s freshmen science class for a minute.)

Desk Threat

Unfortunately, Mama isn’t coming back so I don’t think Baby Mouse will make it. I tried to put it near Mama’s hide out in the closet but so far she’s still MIA. Eh. Nature and what not. All of my students want me to throw it into the jungle-bush-area beside the school (it’s a mouse, after all, bane of my existence and such), but I can’t bring myself to do it.

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Memorial Day Weekend in Ofu

A few weeks? months? ago, we loosely “planned” a trip to Ofu with our friend Alison (a previous WT field director who now works at a university on the main island). Since air and sea transportation have been particularly unreliable lately, we didn’t really cement anything for this weekend. We just sort of held it in the back of our minds that we might have a nice weekend trip if the plane started flying anytime soon. Then Alison found out on Thursday that she had a seat on Friday’s flight. She got to our island around lunch time and then we spent an hour or two calling around to get a boat (alia) over to Ofu.

Sun setting behind Ofu-Olosega

Sun setting behind Ofu-Olosega

The Beard got in touch with a guy in Ofu who could pick us up in Ta’u around 3. We left just as the sun was beginning to sink behind the islands. It was the first late evening trip we’ve taken between the islands and it was beautiful. The sea was incredibly rough and we sloshed our way across the ocean for a little over an hour, but it was worth it. (Plus I took a motion sickness pill so I didn’t feel like I was going to die every time we hit a swell.) There was one point, though, when we had to steer hard into the crest of a wave and I caught a glimpse shared between the two Samoan guys working the boat that seemed to suggest “that was a close one” or something to that end. It was a rough ride for sure, but still not the worst I’ve experienced (like that one time the Beard had to help bail water from the alia?).

Cpt. Fau and his catch

Cpt. Fau and his catch

The owner of the boat took us on a short fishing detour after a flock of hungry birds–we only caught one fish, a skipjack, which he gave us as a gift after we got to the wharf. It was already pretty dark by the time we arrived in Ofu, the last little bit of sunlight lingering just long enough for us to climb out of the alia. Beautiful and still and perfect.

The weather hasn’t been great–windy and cold (it’s currently 82 degrees F) with intermittent rain and rough seas–but the company is wonderful. We are staying at Vaoto Lodge with Alison and Karla (another former WorldTeacher-turned-contract-teacher who lives alone on the tiny island of Olosega). Alison has been a great friend to us over the years; she is moving back to the US this year, too, after four years in Tutuila. It’s already been a great trip, just the four of us reflecting on our experiences here and sharing a little about what we will and will not miss.

This is our last trip to Ofu-Olosega (at least for a few years, I’m sure) so we’re trying to soak it all in. I’m sure I’ll have more photos and words in the next day or so. Until then, enjoy:

Holding our mealofa skipjack

Holding our mealofa skipjack

Gotta have that shot of the peaks.

Gotta have that shot of the peaks.

The Beard reeling in a line

The Beard reeling in a line

The mighty Pacific

The mighty Pacific



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Feisty Incoming-Fresh(wo)man Tells It Like It Is

Feisty Incoming-Fresh(wo)man Tells It Like It Is

This is a paragraph taken from a placement exam essay written by an eighth grade student. ASCC is the local college.

I can’t even tell you how happy this makes me (and a little disappointed that I won’t have the pleasure of teaching this girl next year in freshman English).

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The Not-So-Simple Present and Teenage Dreams

The Not-So-Simple Present and Teenage Dreams

I’ve been doing a lot of grammar drills and practice with my mainstream (lower-level) sophomores lately. A lot of these kids are at a pretty distinct academic disadvantage because their English skills are very low. One of the larger points of confusion for most of them is the conjugation of verbs in different tenses. Over the past month or so, we’ve done every worksheet that has ever been created, watched every cutesy video lesson, and played every possible game. Still, when I ask them what they are doing right now they say “I am listen!” and “We listened!” (The one solid thing they seem to have learned about verbs in elementary school is that they get -ed endings. Any verb. Any tense. Just add -ed and you’re set!) We only have two weeks left in the semester (and they’ll have a new English teacher next year. tear, tear, tear), so now we are just drilling drilling drilling.

Earlier this week I asked them to come up with a list of ten verbs. Then I asked them to conjugate each verb in present simple. Once they had a little cheat-sheet written out, they were asked to write a story. They were to use each of their ten verbs at least once, in present simple, and to try to use third person singular as often as possible.

This is not groundbreaking super-fun-time stuff. It was just an assignment they could do independently to help practice using these verbs in their writing. But also, I really love reading their stories. They are sophomores (15-16 years) but they can be as sweet and tender-hearted as elementary students in their journals. Of course, they can also be surprisingly candid and alarmingly violent in their private writing as well. At any rate, their creative writing responses are always good times.

Below is the text of the assignment pictured above. This is a perfect example of something a teenage boy might turn in for this kind of assignment in American Samoa–so tender and then so shocking.

Once up on a time that one night I had a dream. I dream about my self from the future. That one day I am a father and I have 6 children and one baby that crys a lot at night. But my children are old enough to run and jump and even know how to kiss. My older drauther know how to drive the car and also she nows how to swim. But at night we cook are food and we eat together. we laugh together. When my family is asleep someone hold me to not go to my wife that is the room waiting for me to come. Then she came out there two men hold me and one is going up to my wife. He wanted to do something bad to my wife and I was hold down by to men and the man shoot my wife and wake up it was just the dream. And I say to my self I will permit my self that I love my girl friends.

Here is another student’s submission:

Right now I sit inside the English class, and I dream about my Girlfriend. We walk on the beech and she hold my hand. I do not permit her to smoke cigarette or drink beer. We play hide and seek together and play with the sand. She alway’s laugh at me, and she told me that I look like a clown. I drive her at home and we saw her mother is cry because Her Father is dead. And her little sister is swimming inside the swimming pool. I jump inside the car and she kiss at my chick.

And, finally, another:

Everyday I run at the mountain and I saw my girl is laughing. My girl kiss on my lips because my uncle Joe permit me to kiss a girl. Everyday I dream in class and I cry everyday in the class. I hold Ms. Rakers hand today in her class and Joe was very jealousy. Every day I jump up in the sky. (Joe is the IEP teacher who co-teaches this class with me; Ms. Rakers is the other English teacher at MHS.)

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My favorite thing about Mrs. Q’s class is:

My seniors took their last English vocabulary quiz of high school today (sniffle, sniffle). I needed to make the quiz an even 40 questions, so I gave them this gimme question.

Here are their responses:

My favorite thing about Mrs. Q's class is:

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