We've had nothing but Open House on the brain for about a week now. We've been planning the refreshments, preparing the children, and perusing grades to put together a comprehensive report card for each pupil. We invited the parents, relatives, or guardians of all the children to come and see what their kids and their classmates have been learning this quarter. There was more to do than what could have been accomplished in the legendary month of Sundays. I helped where I could, but I'm afraid I couldn't be the stress-reliever I wanted to be, since so much had to be done by the individual teachers.
Yesterday was the last practice day. Once again, the children lined up and marched in through the side doors, giggling, pushing, scolding. It did not go quite as well as was expected, which left teachers biting their nails and thinking, "Is this how it's going to be tomorrow?!" They coached their classes tirelessly throughout the day, hoping that some little smidgen of knowledge would stick in their minds for the program. We also cleaned the school, the yards, and the church. I pulled weeds behind the school (yes, I did, Mom!) and mopped almost the entirety of the church. I was pretty exhausted by the end of the day, you'd better believe! Miss Emi and Hannah were having trouble seeing straight, they were so utterly whipped. So we all went to bed.
Several of the teachers rose at the crack of dawn--no, before the crack of dawn--this morning to prepare the refreshments. Yes, we're talking at 4:00 am! They made up a Samoan treat, a sort of pudding made out of cocoa and rice boiled together, and set up 'stations' along the school veranda where it could be served to the parents and students. Many of the parents were going to have individual sessions with their children's teachers after the program, so each room was set up for a mini PTA meeting. Hannah thoughtfully had a packet of M&M's and a small bouquet of flowers for each of her students.
I did not get up at 4:00 am, as I have no idea how to make cocoa-rice (don't ask me for any when I come back!). But I was up at 6:00 am, dressed and pressed. I was wearing the blue dress Cololla made me in the first couple weeks of my stay. Imagine my surprise when I got down to the school and found out Cololla had made matching pula tasis for Hannah and me, in honor of the occasion! I had to go up to the house and change into my new orange-and-blue ensemble (pictures below). Yes, for those of you who have been counting, I now have five pula tasis (and a dress)! Lucky for me that I love them! :)
So, anyway, I went back down to the school to 'hold the fort' while the teachers went back to their houses and changed. Soon enough, children started coming, big smiles on their faces, skips in their step, and many 'Good morning, Miss Anna!'s for me. I kept them contained until Miss Emi arrived. Since many of the children don't come to our church, most of the kids had never seen me in my Samoan 'Sunday-go-to-meetin'' clothes. The little girls sidled around me, touching my new pula tasi and saying, "Pretty pula tasi!" The little boys just stared. Miss Emi came over and draped an oola around my neck--all the teachers got to wear these sweet-grass creations for the occasion.
Before long, the parents arrived and seated themselves, and the program commenced. Despite the qualms of the previous day, I thought the whole thing went off really well. Hey, it's pretty hard to fail a program when the performers are cute kids and the audience are proud parents! :) The K-3 and K-4 groups recited letters of the alphabet and sang 'Oh Be Careful, Little Eyes, What You See'. The K-5 group sang as well, but they had moved on to easy words and sounding out vowels. The 26 children in first and second grade had a more extensive slot in the program, with songs, readings, and simple grammar presentations. The 3-5 grades were last; they introduced themselves in English, recited a poem, spelled words, and discussed grammar. Oh, yes, they sang too. Hannah was the dedicated pianist throughout.
So far, everything had gone according to plan. But there was a little extra something in the program that took me by surprise. After the children had presented their knowledge and been seated, Miss Emi made a small speech to thank all the teachers for their hard work, thanking me specifically for teaching the Health Class this quarter. She then called me up on the platform so that all the parents could see me! This was a bit embarrassing, as you can imagine! Then I was really floored; it seems that the parents of all the children had gotten me various gifts to take back to the States, and several of them now came up, single file, to give them to me. Then I made a small speech myself, thanking the parents and Miss Emi for giving me the opportunity of teaching at the school. I added that I would miss every child when I went back home (which is true!). Then the program went back to being regularly-scheduled, and I had a mountain of presents to take back to my seat!
Afterwards, I got to talk to some of the parents who had attended the program. All of them wished me good luck in my travels, and many said to carry their best wishes to my family. Several came to ask for Samoan Bibles--Pastor Jim and I were more than happy to give them out. Parents and students milled around the property, waiting to talk to teachers, sipping cocoa-rice out of Styrofoam cups, visiting with each other. I took the opportunity to say goodbye to many of the kids. That was the hardest part of the day!
Eventually, the last parent had met the teachers, the last cup of cocoa-rice had been drunk, and all there was left to do was to clean up. Hannah and some of the other girls swept the church out, while I took care of Pastor Jim's office. It's amazing how much sand can get tracked in in just a couple hours!
So the Open House was officially closed.
P.S. Sorry this post has been so long in coming! Something has been going on every day, so I haven't had much of an opportunity to sit down and write out the events of the day. Thanks for your patience!