... in which I kill time by the hour ...

Sep 27, 2012

The Thulhaadhoo Chronicles - Part 3

Long overdue post about the last minor details of my Teaching Practicum, but I still want to blog about it.

This post pretty much covers all my feels related directly to teaching itself. But more than learning how to implement proper teaching strategies to adolescent brats - and when I say strategies, I mean holding-war-councils-to-plan-out-your-world-domination-battlefield-fighting strategies - the real deal of the whole TP experience, in my honest opinion, is the subtle journey I took with the brats where we actually established a warm understanding relationship between us.

Warning: sentimental shiz ahead. 

Perhaps relationship is too strong a word, considering I only knew them for a month, but heck, they are 'my brats' and - false modesty aside - I daresay we TP teachers built a remarkably strong bond with our respective students within that short time. More than most teachers can boast of, anyway. 

What started out as winning the students' hearts one by one during the measly 35 minute lessons per day we had somehow escalated to, I kid you not, actually 'hanging out' with each other outside of school activities. And here, hanging out translates into our brats seeking us out at our sharehouse on their own initiative without prior invitation, which results in either them hanging out at the house talking and playing card games with us or dragging us out in the evening to take long walks until the sun sets. 
No, seriously, imagine that - some fifteen or so teenage kids on the sandy island roads, marching their teacher along, rambunctiously telling their life stories to him or her while simultaneously giving overly-detailed histories of every nook and cranny to be found on the island. That is not a scene you can witness in Male'.

Yet, it is one of the most heartwarming things I can reminisce about Thulhaadhoo. Not only did it give me the chance to witness these different children in an environment where they were more relaxed and more themselves, but it was also a demonstration of the level of ... well, affection they had for us, I suppose. When we were out on the beach or roads and I saw how much fun my brats were having and how animatedly they talked to us and how genuinely happy and unrestrained they were outside the stifling atmosphere of the classroom ... well, just, feels OK. Of the warm fuzzy kind. Like, it was a reality slap to not only how positively fond they were of us, but how much they trusted us as well. 

I mean, how often do you go for walks with your teacher and actually feel comfortable doing it? >.> That barrier between us was broken. In extension, those newly laid foundations of trust and affection led to better classroom environments and I can honestly say I really enjoyed my teaching experience. There is nothing really like it.

In retrospect, I guess I can safely say what they're teaching us at Uni is some real good quality shiz. I mean, we're putting that into practice and it is freakin' working! Not only do the kids get what we're yakking about when try to teach them something, but they enjoy it and they actually like us and open up to us on a level most students don't. To teachers, I mean. It reminds me of the handful of teachers I actually really loved and opened up to during my school days. Maybe I can be like them, too. ^^

I must also say we were really lucky in that the island residents are a good hospitable lot and the school staff are really kind. (I mean, they are seriously kind; they had reason enough to totally despise us because, to be brutally honest, the students were not at all subtle about how much they adored us and they doted on us and there is no way every freaking teacher in the school did not notice how entire classes would gather around the staff room just to talk with us whereas none of the real teachers got that kind of attention from their students, but they were helpful and understanding and treated us like actual colleagues without any prejudices whatsoever. Though, sadly, from some of the stories I hear from some other TP groups, their island teachers were not as kind and did end up hating them and made life Very Hard for those TP groups due to these same reasons).

And my TP group was simply epic. Apart from the Thulhaadhoo girl who is my friend, the other three people were total strangers to me until the day we left Male'. Yet, somehow, we clicked together so easily. It was not hard at all talking to them, getting to know them, becoming actual friends and having just so much fun together. Lucky us, that we all had the individual mindset to get along with each other from the very beginning and that we actually worked for it.
Since my friend was staying at her husband's place, it was us remaining four rooming together in the sharehouse and let me tell you, three girls and one guy living together is all sorts of insanity and hilarity and inconvenience. xD

They were some of the best experiences ever. Like all four us congregating in the kitchen everyday to cook our meals and how so much crack just gets automatically involved. From snarky teasing to blatant trolling to subtle perverse humour to shameless self-pimpage to sickeningly sweet look-we're-cooperative-helpful-goody-goodies-that-get-along-together-and-can-make-do-with-anything, those hours spent cooking in the kitchen and dining together at the same table spawned so many memories and inside jokes and just good times
And the after school evening hours spent in the sitting room with the TV open to some cheesy soap opera we all make fun of while simultaneously helping out each other to construct our teaching aids for the next day were just as precious. 
And the little things like dividing the household chores between us and taking long walks by ourselves in the evenings and actually going on a mas dhathuru during Ramadan which involved fishing under a glorious full moon with no other light and the long days spent leaping at every chance to make a teasing crack at each other and us girls loudly plotting to lock the guy out of the house for a couple hours everyday so that we can get some much needed semi-nude freedom and ... yeah ... just, awesome memories OK.

We still keep in touch. :) 
(And realised that, OH-EM-GEE, we actually go to classes in the same buildings of Uni, why didn't we notice each other before alkjshajfh?! Pfft. >.>)

One of the greatest highlights was having my family come over halfway through my TP. Or it was more like they took the advantage of my being already there to plan a weekend trip to Thulhaadhoo and basically setting a rah kudakurun mission.

It had been three weeks since I last saw their faces. That is longer than the time I spent away from home in Malaysia 2010. I actually took leave from school earlier to rush to meet them and it was just this huge explosion of joy in my gut, seeing them again in the flesh after so long. Certainly much better than only being able to call them over the phone every day and growing homesick to the bone at hearing their voices.

It was one of the best feelings, being able to tramp around an island with my insane family again. We have always been one to take over the whole freaking island during such weekend trips. I think it's a genetic thing :P But we are loud, rambunctious and near-bordering on shameless when we're together like this. To put it in the common vernacular, no fucks are given to public reception.
It felt so good to let loose again, even if just a little. Like I mentioned before, talk spreads faster than wildfire in these little islands. Everyone there knew in less than 24 hours that my family visited. Comments concerning it were made to me in school after my family left, including eye-witness accounts of what we did on a certain day at a certain time at a certain place. They're always watching ... and talking. >.>

Of course this meant I had to exercise some self control. I certainly beat down those natural urges to monkey around on trees with my dad, though I was dying to so badly. But I did allow myself to relax a bit and have fun, showing my folks around the island, making jokes and laughing together and having a good time just like we always do. I could not care what other people would think at seeing me so ... loosened up. I might be there as a teacher, but I am human too and I hate having to be calm and collected all the freaking time. I was determined to have fun and be at least a little bit crazy and weird when hanging with my family. So I did.

Thankfully, it did not backfire. My dignity held and along with it, the respect of my brats and peers. ^^

Hanging with family means taking a ton of pictures, but I'll just make a separate post for it if I can be bothered to later. After the fam left, the next two weeks passed by both agonisingly slowly and yet so fast. Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and leave. We'd long planned to treat the senior teachers and staff at the school to dinner as our thanks before we left, so on the last Thursday, we began cooking up a storm as soon as we got home.

Cooking for 20 people ... This TP was the first time I'd ever cooked alone for us four people even, but now we had to cook for twenty people. Won't lie, I was intimidated. We had to work out what to cook, how much to buy and how much time it'd take. It was one big blur, all that cooking and going insane in the kitchen, but again, it was one of the best memories. We ended up dividing the tasks between us and - oh my, it still gives me chills to think of it - but I actually managed to pull off making enough devilled fish for twenty freakin' people! Got the guy to cut up the fish into cubes - "you might as well make yourself useful, yo" - but I had to fry it all without it being under- or overcooked. And I had to prepare the sauces and make sure the taste was just right and aklsjakdlsfjaslkjsfjfhsdfkh. 

Not all things went according to plan either. So many little things were going wrong, but somehow we managed to bring everything together and I was quaking in my clothes when the teachers started coming in but I DUNNO SOMEHOW WE APPARENTLY SUCCEEDED IN OUR MAD ENDEAVOUR BECAUSE THE FOOD ACTUALLY TURNED OUT GREAT AND THE STAFF LOVED IT. 

WHUT. 

I DON'T EVEN. XD

A moment I will always remember - 
Guy teacher: Yo, who made the devilled chicken?
Me: Um, sir, there is no chicken up there. It's all fish.
Female teacher: Haha, dude, you don't even know what you're eating, do ya. xD
Guy teacher: *ignores* THAT THING RIGHT THERE IS DELICIOUS!
Me: O///O excuse me while I die and go to Heaven

Never thought I'd see the day when people would actually like my food. As in, real food. Not just desserts. And the sight of some teachers refilling their plates more than once - yeah, all five of us, we were on cloud nine XD

We cleaned out the entire sharehouse before leaving, and the night and day of packing up our things were chaotic and mad as heck, which also involved chasing after a rogue cockroach. xP Up till then, almost every household in the island had been inviting us to roadha villun and tharaavees every night and we had had no reason to cook at all for more than a week straight (until our feast for the teachers of course lol) XD The sweetest thing ever was when my brats held a tharaavees for us on the last Friday night of our TP. They brought food over to our house and gave us presents and ALKJSFHJKDASFHJ and I recall we got so full that night 'cause we had tharaavees at like five different houses too and some other students took us to eat ice cones as well and DID I MENTION THESE PEOPLE ARE EXTREMELY KIND AND SWEET? 
But that was nothing to the day we actually left. That morning, the whole sharehouse was in chaos. Students kept showing up and showering us with more and more gifts and souvenirs and teachers showed up to collect our luggage and I swear, an entire congregation of school staff and students gathered at the harbour to see us off.

(On the way there, we bumped into the new Japanese sensei, whom the school hired as a PA teacher on the very day our TP officially ended. We stopped a moment to say our first and last hello and goodbye to her, who was very nervous about teaching in Maldives. She demonstrated her limited Dhivehi to us - and I swear, that accent and all is the cutest thing ever - and, on a sudden bold whim that came out of nowhere because what did I have to lose at this point anyway - I demonstrated right back to her my limited Japanese. She was Very Impressed - "SUGOOOOOIII!!!" - and we actually held like a four-word Japanese conversation between us. #ForeverRelevant)

I don't think any of the students actually cried, but so many of them looked genuinely sad to see us go. I distinctly remember a girl who had taken to coming over to our house almost daily (though none of us ever taught at her class) told me that day that the reason all the students loved us so much is because we were all so close and friendly with the students. Apparently our teaching is great, too. Up until then, all of us had been individually and collectively begged by them to come back and visit Thulhaadhoo again (a boy in my class had asked me to come and permanently teach in Thulhaadhoo, on four different occasions ^^;). 

I'd wanted to avoid sentimental goodbyes because who knows I'll ever be seeing these kids again, but I can't deny the farewell did some funny things to my heart.

Overall, this TP trip taught me so much and gave me so many experiences and a level of independence I've never reached before. So many good times and memories and I am so glad I came out here to Baa atoll. It will always be for me, I think, the starting point of my teaching career.

Le Epilogue >.>
(More than a month or so later, I returned to Baa atoll again, but this time to Hithaadhoo. It was for a bio trip to the neighbouring uninhabited Maamaduvvari and Olhugiri. During that weekend trip, I could always see Thulhaadhoo on the horizon every time we were out on the dhoani, but it was not part of our destination. The whole time, all I could think was how my brats were just a boat ride away and how close they were to me, but I wouldn't be able to see them again. ;A; My gosh, I've really fallen for those kids~!)