I can honestly say that this has probably been the fastest non-holiday week I have had since I've been in Samoa. The days kind of just flew by for some unknown reason – which is really nice to experience towards the end of the school year. Anyway, yesterday (Thursday) we said goodbye to our New Zealand guests from St. Patrick and St. Katherine with a 2 hour fiafia full of singing and dancing and a lot of laughter. I thought this was going to be a nice little school farewell deal but we ended up having the local TV crew out again to interview the leader of the group (they also came to the school the day this group arrived) and we had some visitors from Virgin Cove Beach Resort come watch it (the parents of a student owns Virgin Cove and I guess came to support their daughter). I was very impressed by the friendship that developed between the kids of Chanel and St. Pats/Katherine over the course of the two weeks – you could tell they were really going to miss each other. As Samoan tradition, the students gave a few going away gifts to the New Zealanders and the NZ students gave some gifts to the Chanel Community (money, fabric and a TV antenna – maybe I can get ESPN with that thing!).
So one day after having a farewell celebration, we had an appreciation celebration. Today (Friday) is Aso Faiaoga (Ah-so Fy-on-guh) which means Teachers Day. I guess it's a day where students brings gifts to the teachers to show their appreciation for teaching them over the past year. Unlike Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Kids Day (aka White/Colorful Sunday) there was no day off automatically attached to this special occasion. But it did give me pause to think that I have been a teacher for 10 months now – with a lot of highs and lows to go with that experience. The one thing that this experience as a teacher has shown me is that in order to get kids to experience their full potential you have to know when to push and you should be able to make them laugh – laughter gets rid of a lot of tension and apathy. In fact, in one of my senior classes today they were just dead tired – mainly from keeping the NZ guests company until they left around 2am – and did not want to participate in class at all. I tried be serious and that didn't work at all, but once I brought out the humor they started to perk up a bit – it didn't last long but it was something. Just have to be able to read people very quickly here – which is a trait I've mastered since being here. In a passive aggressive society, knowing how to read someone's body expression to see what they are thinking is highly important here. So on this teacher's day, I just sit back and think – hopefully I've impacted these kids lives in some way other than academic, mainly by giving them confidence to believe they can do whatever they put their minds to. As I always say, I'm where I'm at today because someone believed in me – someone said 'You can do it, I know you can'. While I may never know for sure, hopefully I've made that kind of impact on some of these kids. Then that would be the greatest gift any of these kids could give me on Aso Faiaoga.
Ah yes, btw this time last year I was just getting done packing – nervous as can be. Wondering if I was really ready for what lay ahead of me – what this year long experience has taught is that you never know if you're ready until you're pushed to be ready. With Group 77 in the same boat right about now – my piece of advice is 'You're ready – You can do it, I know you can'. L8r.