MJ Live

Friday, November 02, 2007

OJT Classic (Written 11/2/07)

This has been a very full week – from the expected and unexpected side of things. On Monday, the Apia area was scheduled to have a tsunami drill in which the main town area was basically evacuated. Everyone would have to close up shop and "head to the hills" of Apia – by walking, not driving. No one knew what time the drill was suppose to start as to give the drill a sense of unpredictability. One of the evacuation sites for the drill is Chanel College, which meant that I did not have to go anywhere for the drill. The interesting part was when people start showing up at the school – it was kind of just a few people at first and then all of a sudden we had like hundreds of people on the school grounds (we kept school going, so you know it was a major distraction). For the most part, all the people who were at the school walked up from the Apia town area which is about an hour walk. Also joining in on the walking fun today was Group 79 – since they were staying at Apia Central (instead of the village) they had to participate in the drill as well and they walked all the way up to Chanel. Now they have been to Chanel before for the Fiafia, but this was their first time coming up here during the daytime. Of course when they got here they were tired and beat up from the sun, but one of the trainers fared a bit worse. Leata, one of our language trainers, walked up with the group and got something stuck into her foot and was in a lot of pain. She said that once she started walking, she realized she should have walked in her tennis shoes and not flip-flops. So we went to my medical kit and got some bandages for her foot and I refilled her water bottle with cold water. I also keep a few ice cold bottles of water in my freezer in case of emergency and gave one to Leata, one to Onafia (another trainer) and the last one to the trainees. It was just something to help cool them down since their water was probably extremely warm by that point. The trainees also came into my lab to see what my computer labs looked like and how I interacted with my students – that's probably one of the best parts of having new volunteers visit at this time of the year. Since they are new faces, the students are automatically interested in who they are and thus their energy level goes up. Now it was also on Monday (but before folks started coming up for the tsunami drill) that we found out which of the new volunteers would be assigned to Chanel – it was a guy named Michael Curran. I didn't remember who he was when Kevin (my principal) told me about him, but he did and he told me that Michael was one of the older volunteers and the vibe that Kevin got from him was that he was more focused on vocational stuff rather then computer stuff. When Michael came up with the group for the tsunami drill, Kevin brought him into our first computer lab and you could see the kind of shocked/glazed over look that comes when someone sees something that's a bit out of their field of expertise. So when Michael came up during the afternoon, I knew that he would be coming to the school over the next 2 days to get a feel for the place and see if he belonged there.

Side Note: For the tsunami drill, we were supposed to get text messages on our cell phone to let us know that the drill was in effect and tell us when it was over. I never got a text message, even though I was expecting it. I asked HP, who had a cell phone, if he got a text message for the drill and he said no. So I'm guessing that the two main ways folks knew to start walking for the hills was by way of the radio and coconut wireless….which STILL has better coverage then any mobile carrier in this country. So there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out of this system before a real tsunami comes.

It wasn't until later on Monday night, while I was talking to HP (the language training manager) that I found out that Michael would be staying with me for the next 3 days/2 nights. I had never heard of this being done – when I had my OJT (On the Job Training) it was come to the school during the day, go back to the hotel at night. Basically this OJT was also a volunteer visit (because Michael would be staying with me and seeing what I do once school is done). That was a bit of a shocker because since I found out at night time, there was no way for me to go shopping or given Kevin a head's up about buying food for him.

On Tuesday morning, Michael arrived by the Moamoa bus. I bet that was quite an experience simply because the bus is just so jam packed with people in the morning – I think they are packed tighter then sardines. One of the perks of being an older person in Samoa is that you will always get a seat on the bus, so even on this ultra crowded bus Michael was able to get a seat (whether or not it was comfortable is up to debate). I was there to greet him as soon as he stepped off the bus, had him drop off his stuff in my house and then we were off to class. As I was explaining to him about our class schedule and the computer lab, Michael brought up that he didn't really feel comfortable about the assignment simply because something like computers is not his primary skill. Once he said that and I revealed to him that we (Chanel) kind of felt the same way, it turned from being about teaching him how to work at Chanel to teaching him how to work with Samoan kids (i.e. we talked in more broad terms). You would have thought that since he wasn't going to work at Chanel that his interest levels would be down but instead it seemed like his interest level actually went up. During the course of the three days, I just tried to give him nuggets of wisdom that I have learned over my two years of teaching. And I learned a little bit about his background – he's primarily worked as a carpenter all of his life, he's from a town called Ogden in Utah and this is his first time outside the continent of North America (and he's over 50 years old). So Tuesday was mainly about observation and seeing how I handle a class (we are doing revision right now, so he couldn't see exactly how I teach a class) and once school was done, we did what I normally do on Tuesday night – help out at ClickNet. I wasn't able to stay as long as I usually do (because while I can find thousands of things to do online, I understand that most people can't) but it was a chance for Michael to get access to internet (since he had been in the village last week). Once we were done at ClickNet, Eugene (the owner) was kind enough to give us a ride back home. Along the way, we stopped by Don Bosco (A Catholic vocational school) to show Michael where it was located – one of the other volunteers in Group 79 is being assigned there, I think his name is John. So we got back to Chanel at around 6pm and had about an hour before dinner would be served – we ate with the Marist Fathers. After dinner we had a good long talk with Kevin about a variety of things and Michael learned a bit about what has been going on in the South Pacific Islands recently – we told him that now that he's in Samoa, the goings on of these small countries you've never heard of before will become big news.

Wednesday began with a double period for one of my year 12 classes and I used it as an opportunity for Michael to teach the class about whatever he wanted to. This was mainly done so that he could tell what his comfort level was in talking to and interacting with the class (of course with me walking around as Sheriff, things didn't get too out of control). He did a good job and improvement and comfort will come the more times he does it – but as with most of the volunteers, he's never taught before so this first test wasn't all that bad. Wednesday was also the last day of classes for this year, so I gave my students my last pep talk to get them ready for their national exams and told them that this was the last time that I would be talking with them in this class – a few of the students actually seemed surprised (I guess the staff haven't told the students I'm leaving, because the staff does know this is my last year). Next week the Senior students (Year 12 and 13) start their national exams and the junior students (Year 9, 10 and 11) start their final exams. We only had 4 periods on Wednesday; the last 3 periods were dedicated to singing practice for the closing mass on Thursday and for moving desks for the entrance exam to be held on Saturday morning. I sent Michael to the singing practice while I went around and shutdown all the computer labs.  After I had done that, Michael found me and told me that Peace Corps was coming to pick him up and show him another school he could go to – I was just a tiny bit worried, because I had a tutoring session with the faatuatua kids later on that afternoon which meant if he came back late I would not be at school. He went out to Paul VI (another Catholic school) to see what their vocational program looked like and was back at Chanel in plenty of time. At around 2:30pm, Vivienne and the kids showed up to pick me up for the last tutoring session.

While Vivi and Michael were talking, she found out that he had a background in construction and of course she asked him about a particular type of house she is looking for to use in building the Phillips family dream home here. So they automatically had a talking point that interested both of them which was a great blessing because I think it helped Michael feel more at ease. Vivi also told Michael about the church building that Peace Chapel is doing (designed by her husband, Paul) and we passed it as we were driving to her house. So once we got home, they were talking about buildings while I was conducting my last tutoring session which worked out great – now I was officially done with all my school work and it is just time to pray that my students all do well on their exams in the next few weeks. After the tutoring session, it was just time to hang out with the kids until HomeGroup/Bible study later on that night. I gave Michael a book to read about Samoan history since I think he wanted something to do and since he didn't know the kids all that well, it was the best I could do. Once Paul (who is an engineer) got home, he and Michael talked for a bit about construction and that helped in Michael feeling more comfortable because it was literally someone who could speak the same jargon as him – I'm sure he didn't expect to encounter that in Samoa.

So at around 7pm folks started showing up for the bible study and were introduced to Michael. As far as I could tell he enjoyed it and he also enjoyed the fellowship that comes after the bible study i.e. the food! Before sitting down to eat though, Teuila (our Medical Officer) brought out a birthday cake for Vivienne – Tuesday (October 30) was her birthday. It was a good night overall and we got home at around 10pm.

On Thursday there was no school, but we did have to go into town for the end of school mass at the Catholic cathedral. So we left the school at around 8:15am and the service started at 9am. It was a nice affair in that a majority of the students showed up (on time to boot), we had a few former students show up as well and even students who were in school this year, but haven't been seen for a while. The Year 13 class did a dance for the school and after that we were done. It was only after we stepped out of the church and I was saying goodbye to my students that I realized for 2 straight years I have had another volunteer with me at my end of school mass – which was odd. I also later found out that 3 of my students went to ClickNet after the mass to enjoy the internet time I gave them, so there's hope folks!

After the mass, we went to check on the school magazine (it's done; last year we didn't get it until like the last week of school) and then headed back up to the college. After hanging out for a bit and enjoying the freedom that comes with the end of classes, Michael and I took a taxi down to town for lunch. We went to Seafood Gourmet (which is a sponsor of Chanel's school magazine) for lunch and had some good conversation about where Mike was from, why he joined Peace Corps and found out that scuba diving is one of his favorite activities (we have had quite a few people get their diving certificate in Samoa, so I found that interesting). After lunch, it was time to say our goodbyes – Michael went on to Apia Central while I headed to the Peace Corps office for a bit.

Overall, Monday – Thursday went pretty well…there were no big hiccups or anything like that. Like I said, once Michael and I knew that he wasn't a right fit for Chanel College we were able to focus on ways to improve him for wherever he's going. It was a good time all around. Now today (Friday) is Arbor Day, which is a national holiday in Samoa. So while Group 79 is in Apia doing their language training, I will be enjoying the quiet day. L8r.


Anonymous said...

What is wrong with the college? Is your service in that site an issue?

They always need a volunteer?

setefano said...

Thank bro for your service for the past two years. I wish a many blessing for your future endevour.

God bless you


Marques Stewart said...

It's not that the school always needs a volunteer, it's just a matter that we need a volunteer to continue the work that has been done here. If you read my blog post earlier in the year, we lost the person that we were preparing to take over this position and it's not exactly easy to find someone who has enough computer knowledge to handle the amount of computers we have. My service here has never been an issue - regardless of how great I make Chanel sound, realize that it is a school that is struggling to stay open and the computer department is one of its most important pieces.