Since I had no responsibilities for today’s celebration, I allowed myself to sleep in a little. I showed up at 8:00 a.m. to a campus all abuzz. Students were strewn all over the place, most of them chatting, shooting the breeze. A few occupied the other end of the spectrum; they walked from the teacher’s lounge to the canteen to the great hall with urgent focus.
While students and staff alike seem to enjoy my presence, they all seem hesitant to entrust me with even the most menial of tasks. So with nothing to do and a fair amount of time to kill, I faked my own focused urgency and walked from place to place seeing what everyone was up to.
In preparation for today’s event, students were told to bring gifts to present to the Congregationalist Church’s Education Committee, which in Samoa means bar soap and laundry detergent. The teacher’s lounge was converted to a sorting station where boxes and bars were organized by type and then divvied into individual allotments. While there clearly seemed to be a system for this process, I could not figure it out.
I walked down to the canteen, where students and staff were assembling lunch plates. Every plate was adorned with 2 orange wedges, one large banana or two small ones, one hot dog sliced down the middle the long way, one corned beef sandwich, and one egg salad sandwich. Once the plate was complete, it was covered with foil and neatly stacked.
The new art room itself was quiet and void of people. Decorative wood carvings, balloons and streamers, and a bright red ribbon across the threshold made the place feel like the dolled up debutant ready to make her grand entrance.
Eventually the bell rang and students arranged themselves—by gender, of course—in front of the podium on the lawn. There was singing and praying and a sermon and more singing and more praying. A line of parents and other spectators sat in the shade of the second floor’s balcony. Finally, the whole crowd moved to the art room for the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The ribbon-cutting had 2 more formal speeches. There is only a small corridor between the art room and the school, and even though students were toe to toe, many were quite far from the speaker. At one point someone randomly started cheering and because no one could see, everyone started cheering. But the speaker was still mid-speech. And then when he finally went to cut the ribbon, no one cheered, and the whole thing was pretty anticlimactic.
Overall though, the event went over well, and my staff and the Education Committee all seemed satisfied, which was pretty good considering there was no Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
The soap sorting crew.
Librarian Sesa and the canteen assembly line.
Ulas ready to be distributed.
The ribbon cutting was so fast I could only get this after-shot. Also, it came out blurry. Sucks.