Wrapping up the last few weeks of school was fun, but also exhausting. Because my time on Manu’a was dwindling at nearly the same speed as that of school, I had to crunch everything in; work, family, friends and community.
It all started Saturday, May 25, 2013 when the family was prepping an umu to distribute to different families in the village in celebration of Feagai’s graduation. I’ve seen umu’s before, so I wasn’t expecting much, but boy was I in for a surprise. Like everything, the family went BIG. There were two umus—one for the recently slaughtered family pigs, including my beloved Wilbur, and then one for the typical veggies. Also, there was a frying chicken station, girls in the kitchen making salad, and about everything else you can imagine. Here are some photos of just how much food there was. After we made all the food, we went around family by family and distributed the food.
Then on Sunday, May 26, 2013, we had Baccalaureate for the seniors, the reason we were making all the food in the first place. It was a beautiful ceremony taken place in Ta’u. We all went to church as a family and took many pictures afterwards. Here are some family photos, the boys wearing all white with a little black are the graduates.
Baccalaureate essentially kicked off a week of parties. School was a joke, we watched movies and cleaned. I was fine with this because I wanted to spend as much time with these guys as possible. On Tuesday, Papa took me and Madeline out to Saua, the place where we go fishing that’s off the National Park. The tide was low, so fishing with the net was out of the question—we went Octopus hunting instead. We didn’t catch any, but we did come across two mullusks. Papa bashed one open and we just ate it right there on the spot. While we were there is started storming and it was so nice to just stand in the rain, look over the oceans and mountains, and know that this place is truly amazing and I’ve experienced to it’s fullest. Here are some photos of my last trip to one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
On Wednesday was 8th grade graduation. There are only 5 8th graders, so it was a quick and painless ceremony that actually made me sad. I realized how quickly the end was approaching. I was so proud of the 8th graders and how far they’ve come this year.
The next day was Thursday and high school graduation. The high school is for all of Manu’a and there were only 17 kids in the graduating class this year, 7 from Fitiuta, including my brother Feagai. Charlie- the youngest in the family was serving for the color guard, so it was great to see them both in their glory. A little different than graduations back home, but on the walk out of the gym, the graduates get mauled with candy ula’s and it was funny to see some of the ula’s go all the way to the top of their mouths. That day we made another two umus, but this time with 2 gigantic pigs. It was a day of celebration and it was wonderful. My papa and I shared a Vailima (Samoan beer), while sitting back at the umu waiting for the pigs to cook. It was so nice to spend some quality time with him before I left.
That Friday (this past Friday) was the last day of school and our staff party. This was by far the hardest day I’ve had here. The morning started out like all last days of school—a lot of fun. We had a field day, ate a bunch of junk food, and watched a movie. The hard part came when it was time for our awards ceremony. After giving away the awards to the kids, the principal recognized me and Madeline and then insisted on us doing a traditional Samoan siva as the students sang our school song. This is when everything hit me. I was leaving for a long time and I was leaving some people who mean so much to me. As I was dancing and tearing up, I realized how much pride I have for my school and my village. Immediately following this, the principal gave us time to say anything we wanted. If I get emotional, I don’t like talking because then it gets worse. As I stood up to say my final goodbyes and to say thank you I was overcome with so much emotion, gratitude to those who’ve helped me, love for the friends I’d made, relief that I actually made it through the year, and sadness that everything was coming to an end. It was really difficult to hold it together, but somehow I managed to get a few words, including a few Samoan words that made everyone laugh. The staff party was a much more celebratory mood, with lots of food and laughs. I received a few gifts that I will be bringing with me back to the States. While their were times that I wanted to pull my hair out this past year, I love so many of my coworkers and I’m so glad to have met them.
Saturday was spent packing for the first time and cleaning. Disaster. That night I had my choir going away part, and as always it was great to spend more time with friends.
Then came yesterday. A really hard day and a day I will remember for a very long time. The day I had to say goodbye to Manu’a, my beloved island. The morning started out with Mama insisting I come over early so that she could make us a goodbye breakfast. We had eggs, toast (!!), steak, and my favorite suafa’i. We went to church as a family and pretty much as soon as that was finished we had to leave. I was really sad and so I didn’t bring my camera for obvious reasons, but there are some farewell photos of me at the airport on my facebook. Fortunately, some of my family will be here on the big island this week so I can spend time with the before I leave, but I did have to say goodbye to Papa for a really long time and that was hard. I love so many things about Manu’a and so much of that is because of him. It was hard saying goodbye, but that makes me look more forward to when I will be coming back and seeing him again.