This weekend, I was able to snorkel for an afternoon with Kate and KC. We walked for 45 minutes to one of the prime snorkeling locations on the island. Airport Beach has incredible coral reefs with marine life that pales only to the great barrier. The water is transparent with a soft, turquoise hue. We were in a quiet cove that resembled a pool more than the Pacific Ocean, though only 100 yards away there were 15-20 ft waves crashing on the other side of the reef. We were protected by a wall of volcanic boulders, which allowed for the calm waters and visibility to the ocean floor- which where we were was only about 20 to 50 feet. Inside these coral beds, there were more species of fish than I am capable of identifying, but the few I did know were some beautiful zebra fish, a giant blue starfish! and the biggest stingrays I've ever seen, with tails measuring over 6 feet long. It was terrifyingly awesome- and no I did not get Steve Irwined. I don't have my own snorkeling equipment (mask, snorkel, fins), but Kate let me borrow hers. It was probably the coolest afternoon of my life (though I feel like I could say that everyday here so it might get cliche real quick).
Yesterday (Wednesday), I had my first teaching practicum, which consisted of me teaching a classroom of elementary school kids a lesson about Action Verbs in 10 minutes. Probably the longest and most terrifying ten minutes of my life. Teaching is impossibly hard. I respected my educators before this experience, but after this year, I will kiss the ground they walk on. You have to be an actor, entertainer, expert, authoritative dictator, friend and parent all at once. My lesson plan was simple- introduce myself, ask anyone if they can define an action verb (no student could) and then explain the definition. I then had the students play action verb charades and hopefully, by the end of the ten minutes they would be action verb experts. It did not quite go according to plan- BUT I think I was able to teach some of them something haha. Not bad for my first try I suppose. I have probably the least amount of experience here- many of the volunteers have education degrees, masters degrees in their field or both. I continue to have faith that they saw something worthy in me b/c apparently there were 1,200 applicants for these 33 positions. We shall see...
Next Thursday, we are supposed to fly out to Ta'u (I say supposed to b/c apparently it is common here to book a flight one day and fly out three days later...we call it Island Time or 'I.T.' for short). Classes then start the following monday. I was told by my principal on the phone yesterday that I should be teaching fifth grade. I think that's a good age, so I'm excited about my placement. I also found out that I will be living in a home-stay with a local mother and her daughter. The mother, Aso, is apparently the person to know on the island, so hopefully we'll get along just fine :).
My adventure from yesterday is quite blog-worthy. KC and I had the day off after we taught on Wednesday, so we decided to find some trails to hike on the other side of the island. We hopped on a bus (which will take you almost anywhere on the island for a dollar) and ventured towards Pago (pronounced Pongo) harbor. Note: We had no idea where we were going or what we were doing= best way to have an adventure. About halfway there, the bus driver told us that he couldn't go any further, and so we realized we had to now find another bus. After trying to figure out what the bus driver was saying (he really only spoke Samoan w/ some very basic english) and which bus to catch next (he also insisted I take his phone number and call him on Friday night...note to self: Palagi (pronounced palangi..means white) women are quite the catch). Luckily, a really nice local guy, Henry, decided to help us find our next bus. He also then insisted we go on HIS hike, which ended up being a 45 minute 90 degree vertical climb to the steepest point imaginable. Samoans are the nicest, most generous people in the world- but they are also very set in their ways. So they will be glad to help you, but it will be the hike THEY want to take. At least I got a good workout in and saw a breath-taking view of Pago Harbor. Henry also taught us some more Samoan words, some oral history and we learned he was Matai (which is like being a Prince on the island). His family is very well respected, and he will inevitably be a Matai leader one day. The Matai system is tribal and is incorporated into their island gov't. It's part of the historical chief system that's hundreds if not thousands of years old. He also bought us our bus fare back and showed us a great local spot to eat (we had delicious tarot covered in coconut and banana chips). My group of friends might even hang out with Henry tonight if we all go dancing. Henry is enlisted in the army and will be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan this February. Almost every single family on the island has someone serving in US military. It's incredible how patriotic this island and how they can sacrifice their lives for a country that won't even allow them to vote in the presidential election.
Well- sorry for the long post- I try to keep them short, but I've learned so much in just one week- it's hard not to share it all! Fa Soifua <3