Monday, April 20, 2009

A Ceiling's Going Up

So today we decided to take an off-day. Dan has come over and worked every day since last Tuesday (with one day off ). We went to Lusia’s on Saturday to celebrate Briony, from Group 80’s, birthday, and AJ came and stayed the night, offering his help with the roof the next day.

On Sunday we woke up pretty early, had some breakfast, and got to work right away. We tried to work without Dan’s guidance, and did pretty well. Dan came a bit later after attending church. We worked all day until the sun was about to set, with only one lunch break. I made pasta and dhal curry (from a can). It was delicious.

Around this time, AJ decided that he’d stay and help even though he knew that he wouldn’t be able to catch a bus back to his village until the next morning. So I was very appreciative of him staying, knowing that he’d have to get up extremely early to catch two buses back to his village to be at his school on-time.

Nearing the end of the day yesterday, I went back to my house across the field for to get liquids for everyone, and ran into some soles, or guys between the ages of 16 and 25, who’s primary job is hanging out. They called me over to the fence, and asked what I was doing. I told them about my friends and me putting up a ceiling, just to find out that doing such work was not allowed. I knew that particular villages have certain rules for Sundays, like riding your bike on Sundays is not permitted in some villages, but these rules tend to vary from village to village. They were not angry, nor mean about it, but more informative. At this point it was already half past five, so we finished up some things, cleaned up, called it a day, and headed back to my house for dinner.

I had bought ground beef in Apia last time, and froze it. So I thawed the meat, got bread, and some baked beans from the store across the street from the school (which is opened on Sundays, only in the evenings after church). I made burgers with cheese and a side of beans. It was good.

This morning I had some kids help me set up the room again, knowing that we wouldn’t have to move the computers for work today. I thought it was a good idea, since the Year 12 kids have their next CAT (Common Assessment Task) in about two and a half weeks. And they’ll have the chance to use it again tomorrow before we have to move the computers to be able to continue work on my lab again after-school tomorrow.

This is a picture of my ceiling, taken before work started last Tuesday afternoon, April 14.

This is what was put up on the April 14, and this picture was taken before work began on the 15th.

I didn’t get pictures on Thursday or Friday, but this Dan working on Saturday before we went to Lusia’s

Taken as we were finishing on Sunday, April 19th. AJ hammering away. Dan supervising. A wall board has been put up in the back right corner of my room.

Also taken yesterday…All of the frame going up-and-down have been put up, now we’re working on the last two going left-and-right.

Kind of a bad picture, but only had a few from Lusia’s. From left to right, that’s Phil (81), Dan(81), Paul(81), the birthday girl, Briony (80), Jacob (78) to her right, and AJ’s head (81). (The numbers in parenthesis are the PC group each person's in.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April Update!

Although it was only a four-day week, the week seemed to go by slower than any other. Last week as you all know was Easter. We got Good Friday and Easter Monday off, making it a four-day weekend. I managed to leave on the twelve o’clock boat on Thursday getting me into Apia at around half-two. That Thursday we had a special Easter program in which all the Form (Homeroom) classes had to participate. We had to put on a performance pertaining to Easter, and present it for the entire school. My Form class, 11B, reenacted Jesus struggling while having to carry the cross to be crucified, and also the actual crucifixion. In addition, we decided to do a dance. So the co-teacher for 11B and I had to come up with dance moves for a song that the class selected. You guys know how I feel about dancing, so I was of little help. But we had a good time practicing – lots of laughs, good student participation, and positive student-teacher interaction outside the academic setting.

Apia was relaxing last weekend. Everything was completely closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday, except for the market next to the Peace Corps office, run by Asians, of course. We’re such hard workers (just kidding). This is also true in Spain. After living there for a year, we learned to always rely on the Asian-run markets to be opened on Sundays, late, and on holidays. But anyways, there were random restaurants opened on Easter Sunday surprisingly. We did not eat out too much this time around learning to better budget our money.

It was a pretty low-key weekend. There was a lot of cooking in, card playing, we got a couple of games of Monopoly in, but also went out one or two nights too. Usually when in Apia, us teachers from Savai’i have a hard time rushing around to get things done. We tend to get the two o’clock boat, making it to Apia at about four o’clock on Friday when everything is about to close. On Saturdays, stores are only opened until about noon, and everything is closed on Sundays.

Like I was saying, this week has dragged by very slowly. I thought it was be a quick week, especially because we had Monday, the day which I have the most classes, off. It could be that my body was getting used to the relaxing weekend, and is ready for this term to be over. We’re now three weeks out from a much-needed three-week break. It could also be the number of hours I have put in this week. As I have mentioned in prior posts, I have been having a lot of trouble with my computer lab. One, is the number students to available computers ratio. My sometimes ten, usually eight or nine, working computers for a class of 40+ does not work that well. Secondly is the lack of cooperation I get from the principal and the school committee. The former is the person who I should relay any concerns or needs to, while the latter is the one in charge of all of the school’s money, most of which they ai tupe, (literally meaning, “eat up the money”) in the words of the staff and villagers.

It was rough at first with the principal, but it has gotten much better. I understand that in his situation as a new principal, needing to gain the trust of the entire staff and committee, while having to run a completely unfamiliar place could be difficult, hence the lack of care for my computer lab. But through various meetings that took place here both here on Savai’i and in Apia, I got to know some of the higher-up staff in the Ministry of Education to whom I expressed my discontent with the actions of the school to assist in making my classroom a viable place for computers. The Ministry responded by offering to send me to a school in the village of Asau, located in the northwest part of this island (Savai’i), where they do not have a computer teacher, but a lab. I told them that I would feel guilty leaving all the students at my current school who signed up for this novel class, then suddenly abandoning them because of the committee’s inept handling of the school’s money. But if I were to go to the school in Asau, I’d have it good there with a completely set up computer lab (thanks to a former Volunteer).

I’m not entirely certain, but I think it was the higher-up people who got the principal to starting working with me. That and the Ministry’s threat to entirely cancel the Computer Studies program because of the state of the lab. So the principal has recently bought one ceiling fan for our room. We came to the conclusion that a ceiling must be put up first before the fan, as birds, lizards, insects, etc. enter via the roof. So I spoke with Dan, another Volunteer living about a ten-minute bike ride away, about the situation. He is a carpentry teacher at his school, but his school lacks the tools and wood needed to conduct such a class. So I proposed that he bring his kids to our school, where we have loads of wood and tools from the Design Tech class that we used to have, and have them work on the ceiling. This would simultaneously help out his students, while helping me out. Problems with the logistics and the timing of the project deterred the realization of this plan. But Dan has been coming to take on this project himself. We started work this week every day after school for a couple of hours, hence being extra tired this week.

The week leading up to Easter was the first of four national practical exams called CATs (Common Assessment Tasks) for all Year 12 students taking Computer Studies in Samoa. Since we got such a late start in setting up the computers, my students were really behind. All working computers were only set up two weeks prior to this test. The reason behind this was that I thought that the committee would be more motivated to go out and get a cooling system if the computers weren’t being used, but that didn’t happen. Anyways, before-school, after-school, and Saturday classes were held so they could catch up. The extra work paid off because most of them did very well. The average was twelve out of fifteen “marks.” My kids were very happy. CAT 2 is coming up on May 8th, so I’m hoping the ceiling will be done soon, so that the classroom could be put back in order, and the kids could get back on the computers.

During one of my after-school classes some of the kids were instructed by the principal to clean out the back room of the computer lab where lots of the school’s wood is stored. As they were cleaning, one kid stumbled upon a litter of kittens. You probably wondering how a cat could get in. Well, this back room is actually an enclosed area that is fenced in, but opened to the outside.

We decided to leave them there for the mom cat to come back. I check up on these kittens on a daily basis, but have only spotted the mom cat once in the morning about two weeks ago. So I have recently started bringing milk to them. I try to feed it to them but they don’t ever open their mouths, so I just now milk in a tray for them. And I come back in the morning, and it’s gone. I don’t know how appreciative they are of this act of kindness because they still hiss at me. There is one black one and two tiger-stripped ones.

Here are some pictures:
The boat is approaching the dock at wharf in Salelologa on Savai’i. Cars are lined up waiting to get on the boat to ‘Upolu island.

This is Dan hard at work in my lab.

Through those doors are where the kittens were born. See how the ceiling is open.

We were practicing creating and saving files. And one of the students saved this file, so I took this screen shot of it.

Random fruits and veggies in my house one day. Starting on the left, going clock-wise outer items: coconut, bok choy, tomatoes, grapefruit, two vi’s. From left to right inner items, going clock-wise: cucumber, avocado, rambutans, and two starfruits.

As I was doing laundry yesterday a huge gust of wind blows into my house and my mirror that I have propped up next to my kitchen sink fell. So I’ve decided to glue it back together as if it were a puzzle. And that’s my kitchen floor. (I just realized that I have yet to put up any pictures of my house…next post?)

After day one of Dan coming to build my roof…wooden beams put up.

These are the kittens.