World Teacher’s Day, or more accurately week, went by in a blur! World Teacher’s Day was October 5, 2018, but I was gone from Monday, October 1 to Saturday, October 6. Below is a summary of each day and some pictures, but if you want the condensed version of what I learned and my takeaways, scroll to the bottom!
On the evening of Monday, October 1, I boarded a ship with hundreds of other teachers headed to Auki. This was my first time on a ship in the Solomons. I was so thankful to be with teachers who had traveled on ships many times and were prepared to save space, share food, etc. We were supposed to leave at 6 pm and arrive at Auki at 10 pm, but as we were boarding around 4 pm the shipping company told us to go on their sister ship, Fair Chief. As often happens in the Solomons, our departure was delayed. We left the wharf around 9 pm. Our new ship was much slower than the original ship, Fair Lady, so we arrived in Auki as the sun rose around 5:30 am. Altogether, those of us who were on time were on the ship for nearly 12 hours. I tried to sleep for about 5-6 hours of the 8-hour ride, but it was quite restless sleep as the floor was hard and crowded. Despite exhaustion, my first look at Auki as the sun rose was beautiful!
After we disembarked, we loaded into lorries and were driven to our home for the week at Aligego Provincial Secondary School, a local boarding school. I stayed with eight ladies who are teachers at the school where I am doing research in one of the classrooms. After a quick shower (or swim as it is called in Pijin) some of us took a bus back to Auki to buy some supplies and things from the market. This was followed by a nap upon our return. The World Teacher’s Day events kicked off in the afternoon on Tuesday with a parade of teachers around the field at Auki Community High School. We were welcomed by children performing local Malaitan dances. This was followed by welcome speeches and an address from the Permanent Secretary of Education. The event ended with more dances and songs performed by children from the local schools. We returned back to our school and all slept early that night!
Wednesday was the first day of workshops. I am slightly ashamed to say that I skipped out. One of the complaints about where we were staying was that water for showering, toilets, and washing was limited. We had one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening where the water ran for everyone to shower. Because it is so hot and humid here, Solomon Islanders love to “swim,” often twice a day, to cool off and be clean. Since water was so limited and we were all feeling hot and dirty after Tuesday, we decided to go swim in a natural pool not too far away. One of the teachers had family that lived nearby and told her this pool was open for anyone to use. We took a bus to Kilufii Hospital and then took a 15-minute walk down a path to a beautiful, deep pool. We swam there for an hour or two. The cool water was so refreshing that by the end we were all a little cold! I had my underwater camera with me, so some of the teachers enjoyed taking pics underwater for the first time!
We also enjoyed jumping from the log from into the deep water, as well as actually being clean. By the time we returned, most of the first session was finished. We had a late lunch and I sat in on the open Q&A forum in the afternoon.
That night was one of the highlights of the trip! On both Wednesday and Thursday night, teachers from each province performed kastom dances. A few weeks before, the teachers at my school asked if I would join them in dancing. How could I say no? So on Wednesday night, we performed three dances. One from Isabel Province, one from the Russell Islands, and one from Western province. Unfortunately, I did not get photos from the dance, though I have a video I can show next time I see you if you ask! Because of the dancing and festivities, we did not sleep until after 2 am.
Despite the late nights, every morning we were up by 6 am. Thursday morning there was supposed to be a session, but the speakers arrived so late that it conflicted with our sightseeing time period. All the teachers from Malaita were asked to stay and listen to the session while the teachers from everywhere else were driven around to look at some local sights. We stopped at the beach near Gwaunaruu airport, Fiu Bridge over a big river, Kilufii hospital, and drove by the police station and Prison (CSS Auki), the Provincial Chamber, and wharf. We also stopped briefly at the market. The afternoon was a sports day but unfortunately, I missed out on playing volleyball with the Honiara team because I didn’t know what time it started. Thursday night was another night of watching the other groups dance and perform. That night was filled with hilarious performances one of which included three male teachers from our school.
Friday was officially World Teacher’s Day! The day began early with a parade of teachers all around Auki. Many people knew who our school was because I was one of the token white people at the event and had danced a few nights before with the school! One of the teachers paid for me to have a shirt tailored in the fabric that all the teachers from my school wore. I love the shirt. It fits perfectly! I just can’t gain any weight while in the Solomons!
The parade ended back at Auki Community High for the closing ceremony. The local children were back performing kastom dances. There were more speeches, including an emotional one from the local Teachers for Life organization and an encouraging one from the Deputy Secretary of Education.
The event closed with a Chupu ceremony where the teachers from Guadalcanal and the teachers from Malaita presented each other with gifts to build a lasting relationship and to account for past wrongs. This included kumara (yams), pigs, betel nut, and other produce, much of which was used during our feast Friday night. The ceremony ended with everyone shaking hands with each other.
The closing event was a feast and dancing. Unfortunately, the feast took so long to prepare that we didn’t eat until after 10 pm. I was told to take food from the guest of honor table (none of whom came since it was so late). My table had pork, chicken, fish, rice, kumara, taro, slippery cabbage, and fruit.
That night I joined in a few dances with some teachers, but we were all quite tired after a long week so tried to sleep around 2 am. The dancing continued all night! So our few hours of sleep were quite restless.
Early Saturday morning we headed back to the ship. This time we were on the faster one, Fair Lady. We had a final trip to the market and then set sail back to Honiara. Pineapples were so cheap (3 Solomon Dollars each, less than 1 USD) as we were leaving Auki that nearly everyone returned with six! They also sold out of baskets, which unfortunately I had not bought the day before! This time I stayed awake on the ship talking with teachers from my school and other teachers. This ship had air conditioning inside but I chose to sit outside where I could feel the breeze and see the beautiful islands we passed by. Thankfully, the seas were calm both days we traveled and I didn’t have any sea sickness!
When we returned to Honiara, I came back, showered and took an hour nap. Mike and I went out for dinner and then I was falling asleep again by 7:30. I went to bed by 8 and slept until 8 the next day. I was quite exhausted, but it was worth it!
So in Summary… The trip was fun! I loved the opportunity to see part of Malaita and visit a new province in the Solomons! Malaita is beautiful – the land and the people! I overcame my fear of traveling on a ship in the Solomons (at least for now). I didn’t learn much from the workshops (since I missed some and some were canceled), but it was a great chance to build relationships with the teachers at the school. We are now all Facebook friends and friends in real life too! You can see many more pictures of me from the trip on Facebook since they tagged me in so many! I was surprised at how active they all are on Facebook! I shared many laughs with these women, many stories, and made great memories. I am so thankful for this opportunity and the way these teachers have welcomed me into their lives and school!
We don’t tend to celebrate World Teacher’s Day in the US, but it is worth celebrating, or more accurately, our teachers are worth celebrating. Teachers are so very important to our success in life. I am so thankful to teachers who encouraged me, pushed me to learn, supported me through tough times, and inspired me to pursue my dreams. I would not be where I am today without each one of you. So if you were my teacher or professor and you are reading this, I want to say thank you. Thank you for how you invested in me and so many other students. Thank you for training me so I could be in the Solomon Islands today! And to all my friends and family who are teachers, what you are doing makes a difference. You are inspiring your students each day. You may never know the way you helped a child grow and develop, but know you are changing their lives! Keep up the hard work and thank you for all you do!