Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Heading To College (On Accident)

When we left the United States for Cook Islands, we knew we wanted to visit a school.  So we visited our first school, Avarua Primary, less than 24 hours after arriving in Rarotonga.  What we didn't know was that we would LOVE IT!  We loved it so much my family had me book two more schools on Rarotonga.

Upon arriving in Aitutaki, we realized we didn't have a school lined up so I looked in the phone book and made a phone call.  We were set for 10:00 am the next day to visit another primary school.

We moseyed around the next morning until we found a school building.  We pulled up, and parked (by the by, there's no parking lot, just lawn so it seems like you are doing something wrong right out of the gate).  We met up with the principal, he asked us a few questions about our travel, how we liked the island and what we wanted out of the visit.  We told him about the other three schools and said we were up for anything.


It started with a tour of the school.  Ironically, the principal grew up on the island of Aitutaki, moved to New Zealand to teach, then came back to Aitutaki at the same school he grew up in.  As the other schools, sports were played at recess.  Unlike Rarotonga where soccer was played, the students here were playing volleyball.


We noticed the students carrying buckets of water.  Aitutaki is known for not having the greatest water system in Cook Islands:  enjoycookislands.com/aitutaki-travel-tips-water.  It's best if you drink bottled water or boiled water.  Most of the resorts provide you with containers of water in the fridge for drinking.  So despite having large drums containing water, we were told that it would take about $15,000 to fix the water situation at the school.  Until then the students carried water back and forth in containers.


Water Storage

We (again) went into a classroom - this time full of teenagers.  (Wait, somethings not right, but it's not clicking.)



So we did the whole get-to-know-you thing and did a lot of question and answer.  The students started getting much more comfortable and I got to step out of my "teacher role" because the students wanted to hear from our teenage daughter, Kira - "This is a question for Keedah..."  they would say.  Kira really had to break out of her shell and be the center of attention (not her favorite thing).

We all had fun and we got invited to dinner at one boy's house.  It was an icebreaker my husband started at the first school.

Husband to the Student:  "What are you having for dinner tonight".  (Really, this started because my students in the States wanted to know what Cook Islanders ate.)

Student(s): "Chow Mien", "Chicken with Curry", "Spaghetti"...

Husband to Student:  "Cool, now ask me what I'm having for dinner tonight."

Student:  Giggling, "What are you having for dinner tonight?"

Husband to Student:  "Chow mien/Chicken with Curry/Spaghetti, because I'm coming over to your house for dinner."

The whole class would bust up with laughter (I would cringe - are you kidding, you just invited us over to their house for dinner?).  But it worked - it started the question ball rolling because, really, can you get any dumber of a question than my husbands?

(Oh, by the way, make sure they know you're kidding if you do this because they will set a place at their table and await your arrival!  It's another part of these lovely people.)

Where was I?

Oh, school (sidetracked by food yet again).

At one point we were standing outside with the principal and a small-ish boy came up to us.    He said something to the principal and the principal nodded.  Rushing, the boy put something in both Kira's and my hand and then sped off.  It happened faster than it took you to read that.  Kira and I looked in our hands and he had made two boxes out of the leaf of the palm tree.  It was a small box, no bigger than 2" square - with no end.  He had tucked the fronds in a way that you couldn't tell where the strands stopped and started.  We were told that it was a traditional craft they made on the island.  We were just impressed that this young man had done this for us and wanted to gift us with something, yet not be acknowledged for his gift.


Again, the students were awesome, the principal was awesome and the experience was awesome!

When we finally left (four hours after we arrived), we were filled with a great sense of pride of the island people.  We were invited to the school vaka races the following day (Kira was invited to participate - you'll have to read up in the next couple days to see if she did).

Okay, now what about the accident part that's in the title?  Well, as we drove out of the parking lot we noticed the other set of buildings.  We were told it was the primary school building where the younger students are.  When this was mentioned, we didn't think anything of it... until we left.  That was when I realized I had called and made the appointment at the PRIMARY school.  The principal at the college had no idea we were coming - hence his questioning at the very beginning.  The Principal at the primary school is probably still waiting.  Hopefully I never need to apply for a job at that primary school because they probably think I'm a flake.

Whoops.  I guess God had a plan for us to be at college.   Thanks to Araura College for putting up with us.


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