Today I went to Tonga High to be assigned to my classroom. Since we were expecting that Alexa and I were to create an art program on our own, we planned out what we would teach during the eight weeks of being here last night, and we brought along some of the art supplies that our instructors brought for us. We got to the school, and since it was Monday, it was a school-wide assembly outside under a pavilion, of sorts. They opened with the school hymn (which was really intriguingly beautiful) and prayers and spiritual thoughts. A student would read the lyrics of a verse, the students would sing it, and then that same student would read the words of the next verse, and so on. There is a woman pastor who is at the school who spoke, and there was a specific man who prayed twice in the assembly. After that, the vice principal assigned us to teachers. Alexa and I were assigned to Creative Technology teachers. I didn't know exactly what that entailed, but I came to learn that it is similar to an art course, teaching drawing, printmaking, carving, etc. My teacher is very quiet and, like it is with most Tongans, it is hard for me to understand her accent sometimes. Her name is Ofa.
Instead of an A and B day block schedule like in Utah, Tonga High divides the schedule into 6 different days. Day 1 has 5 periods, Day 2 has five other periods, etc. But the kids aren't taking 25 different classes - they kind of shuffle the schedules around.
Ofa teaches Math and Science courses. In science, the students came in as Ofa wrote down notes on the board for the students to copy down. That day's lesson was on friction. So she copied down what was in the book, writing about what friction does and what would happen if we didn't have friction. It was a few paragraphs of writing that the students were to copy down. Ofa then came to the back of the class and talked to me as the students were left to write the notes. That was their science class.
In between math and science, Ofa went to get a science book. Some students were chatting, and there was one girl who was standing outside of the classroom talking through the window. She caught my glance and asked me, "Can I talk to her?" referring to a girl in the room. I walked over and said that I am not the teacher, so I don't know - that I'm not the person to ask. Then she responded with, "I was just showing you respect." That caught me off guard because she knew I wasn't a teacher, but she recognized that there was authority there. So I asked her if she should be going to class right now, and so she ran off to class.
Another little girl, Ramona, came up to me and asked where I am living. I told her that I will be meeting the family I will be living with today. She asked enthusiastically, "Do you want to meet MY family??" I said that yes, I would, someday. Ramona got so excited and asked, "Really??" and I realized that she'd probably meant that she wanted me to meet and live with her family. She was really sweet.
At the end of the day, we were finally able to meet our home stay families. Ana is the mom, who greeted me with a hug and and maternal enthusiasm. Her daughter is 18 and in Form 7, and her name is Cathy. Her two youngest kids are Manu, 7, and Christine, 5, who doesn't speak English. Later on I met Ana's husband, Suni. He is a member of Parliament, and he works on a nearby island every day. Later on I met another son, Lolo, who is in Form 5 and he is 17. There is also a 22 year old son and a 21 year old daughter who don't live here on this island.
Because the husband is a member of parliament, the family seems pretty well off. However, they live in a very humble home/a "normal" home, as Ana put it. There is also hot water, and internet when we need it, so that is extremely wonderful since I wasn't expecting either of those. I have my own room and Ana contiually tells me to make myself at home and to eat whatever I want. The dad said that if I don't like what they cook me, that they should buy me food that I like.
Tonight was the first real night of being homesick. I kind of felt homesick other times, but tonight I cried a little bit. The whole day was kind of emotional, so it caught up to me when I turned in at 8:45. I think the emotions combined with catching up jet lag wasn't the best combination, but it's fine. It's nice to finally be settled in somewhere with people who are caring and willing to help make me comfortable.