I feel settled in for the first time since arriving here. I’m not sure when it happened, exactly, but I wake up mornings feeling at home in my bed, familiar with my routine and comforted by the ocean outside of my window. I am not homesick, though I do sometimes struggle with bouts of exhaustion that make me miss specific comforts of home: like being able to call family and friends more conveniently and frequently, having internet access (which provides me with world news, valued blog updates and email), and a hot shower would be nice once in a while. Otherwise, I love the kickbacked island lifestyle. This laidback way of living can create problems with administrative inefficiencies (like sometimes randomly letting school out 20 minutes late or early depending on someone’s mood). It can make it hard to plan and keep the kids in order when the world around you seems chaotic. But, once I walk out of the classroom door and make my way through the warm air of the grassy courtyard and take in the deep blue of the ocean and sky surrounding me, I let go of the type A Northeast mentality of my home’s culture and embrace the fa’a samoa life I am now a part of.
I’ve been working extremely hard in the classroom (ok, I can’t let go of my type A work ethic completely!). KC (a fellow WT friend who teaches 8th grade at our elementary school) and I often pull 10-12 hour days (for no paycheck- we’re crazy!). Our weekends are spent planning and grading, and even six weeks into school, my bulletin boards still seem too empty. I’m trying to accept that teaching is a never-ending job with its own learning curve- otherwise, I’d go crazy trying to feel “done” with my work. It’s just impossible. Since I’ve accepted it, I am now loving the constant work of teaching more than ever. My students are fairly well behaved, and I’m confident with my classroom management abilities (thank you Behavioral Psychology!). Everyday, I figure out new and creative ideas for lesson plans. Not having internet access is tiring because I’m sure there are these great lesson planning ideas out there for what I’m teaching, but I have little to no access- so I often feel like I’m reinventing the wheel…my kingdom for daily internet access! Otherwise, I’m fairly surprised and (dare I say) impressed with how naturally I’ve become a teacher. I really love it! Maybe it’s not too surprising considering how I’ve always been passionate about my own education.
Education for these kids is so important (well…education for everyone is, but specifically…) because as US Nationals, it opens up a world of possibilities for them on the mainland US that they wouldn’t otherwise find here on this island. It gives them another opportunity to leave so they don’t have to rely on the military to “get off the rock” as they often dream about to me and KC. English fluency can provide a pathway to academic and occupational possibilities that would not only enrich their lives, but also bring economic and cultural advancements back to Samoa. I try to be careful saying and thinking about this because these are fairly US ideals I’m talking about here and my agenda is always a biased one, not matter how objective I try to be. This country is beautiful and rich with its own cultural interests. People here doe not necessarily need to buy into a capitalist, “climb the ladder” mentality. But, fluency and literacy creates opportunity- and what they choose to do with that opportunity is any free (free as an US territory’s population can be) person’s choice. It’s a lot to think about. I just hope I can be successful bringing knowledge to these kids and inspiring a love of life-long learning.
I am also gaining so much from Samoan perspectives and traditions. Samoan culture is so beautiful and strong- I hope I can dutifully bring what I will know by the end of the year back to the states so people from the mainland can see how lucky the US is to be connected to such an amazing place. This experience IS a cultural exchange after all.