Things take time out here on the islands. It seems that the isolation and continuous tropical weather has allowed time, or the local peoples’ perception of it, to slow down. Karen and I are doing
our best to adapt and are beginning to internally know when things will happen. This post however is not about how we are slowing down but more an example of how slow some things can move.
my school last year, though I had never seen any box of books. I asked around, sent some texts and a few emails and finally turned up a phone number. My Samoan skills are not proficient enough to field an
inquiry about a box, so I passed the number on to my pule (principal). A few weeks later, he told me that the box was being held in Apia and there was some untold amount of money due to acquire the box. I
was then put back in charge of locating this box and convincing the company it should be given to the school for free. However, I could not locate the office. I went to my SRO (School Review Officer) at the
recommendation of some other Peace Corps people. He seemed excited about the box and promised to take a look. After a month, he returned to say. “I couldn’t do anything because the guy I wanted to do the job didn’t get voted into parliament. So I have no power.” This sort of nonsense continued until last week. After my trip to Tafaigata, I stopped off at MESC to get the final paperwork and go to customs. After a lot of hurry up and wait – about four hours worth – I was able to finally locate and obtain this magical box of books.
One of the difficulties with learning another language is the daily ambiguities one deals with. Before seeing this box of books, I understood the word pusa to mean box. You can combine it with other words to make different meanings. Pusa aisa/refrigerator (literally box of ice). What I learned that day was that pusa can also mean crate – a 750lb crate to be specific. Thankfully, I came prepared with a pickup truck and a school committee member to put up the money. Once the forklift deposited the crate into the bed of the pickup, we were off, but not yet ready to make our trip across the island. We stopped first to get hot dogs and ice cream (a real treat when you live in the village). Once we finished, we started on our one hour journey home. The pickup only had room for two people, so the school committee member rode in the back. This is very common here and neither the driver nor I thought anything of it. About three minutes into our drive, I found it odd how quickly the sky was changing. A few minutes after that I was sure we were in for it.
Thankfully, the school committee member was not the Wicked Witch of the West and he did not melt. I think he actually enjoyed it. Luckily, the contents of the crate remained dry.
What was in this magical box of books? Kathleen and Bill – and some friends of theirs from home – had sent almost a complete set of National Geographic magazines from 1980 to the present. In addition, the box included maps, children’s books, beginning dictionaries, and other assorted materials. One book was a bit too hard for the students (The Diary of Anne Frank) – but our host mother seems to be enjoying it.
Right now, the books are living at our host family’s large guesthouse. Before we can deliver the books to the school, we want to make sure the magazines and books are clearly labeled and we can make a quick index of topics that coincide with school curriculum. But at the beginning of the semester, my classroom and my school will have a great new resource for the kids and teachers to use.
Thanks to Kathleen and Bill and all their friends!!