I took the day off from school today. Luisa and I are on Savai’i this weekend, and I wanted to take the fancy new boat, which leaves weekday mornings at 8. So Wednesday afternoon I walked into my pule’s office and asked if I could miss school today.
As with many other aspects of life in Samoa, this type of request evokes contradicting viewpoints of tradition and modernization. I think the old mindset used to be that having a guest in town completely justifies dropping everything to roll out the red carpet. I’ve heard other PCVs have had no problem gaining permission from their pule to miss school when they’ve had guests in town.
On the other hand, by so-called modern standards, the simple act of hosting a guest justifies very little. The longer I work at my school and talk to staff, the more I’ve come to see my pule as someone who was brought in to whip some discipline into my school. Even the difference between last year’s mindset and this year’s seems like a pretty big (albeit gradual) step toward discipline. Thus, whereas other volunteers would get no push back when asking to miss a day of school, I had to justify myself a little.
In the end, my pule treated the situation much in the way one of my parents would. When I told him I wanted to miss school on Friday, he put it back on me. “Well that’s up to you, huh? Do you think you should miss school on Friday?” Guilt. Well-played, sir.
I explained the situation further, and he nodded. “If all of your classes are on schedule, then it should be no problem. Are all of your classes on schedule?”
My year 9 science class is going to be manic next week. Mid-term exams begin the following Monday, and we’ve still got most of the “Micro-organisms” unit and the entire sweeping “Living Things” unit to get through.
Yet my conscience is clear: I don’t teach year 9 science on Fridays. And I told my pule as much.
He nodded. And then he told me it was fine if I missed Friday. But the message was clear: we mean business.
I hope you’re well. Picture below.
I found the above-the-fold picture on the computer in the Peace Corps Office in Salelologa. This is another.