Wednesday, July 25, 2012
It was a warm, beautiful morning in Visale as we walked to mass. My friend Dominic was the altar server. Sr. Vero, Cayla, and I ate a quick breakfast and started our busy day. I went to the library and began the tedious task of alphabetizing, labeling, and dusting every book. The job was quite daunting, but many helping hands filtered into and out of the library all day. Agnes, the English teacher, and her 2 year old son Gerard, were a huge help. She came in on all her breaks to assist me and even enlisted the aid of her Form 3 class. The students made the work load a lot lighter. I was glad that they took part in the improvement of an important aspect of their school.
Slowly but surely, the books were organized on the shelves. It was very hot in the room, since there wasn’t much breeze today. Cayla came in after her morning at the clinic and was an enormous help. I took a quick break to grab some fruit and a drink for lunch. Sr. Vero came to the house and asked me to join her in one of the classrooms. The teaching staff, nurses, and our hiking guides sat at tables around the room. A separate table in the center was set for Cayla and me. There was a bountiful buffet of sandwiches, fruits, and drinks. Again, I was speechless and so happy. I have only been here for three days, and the people of Visale are so grateful. They don’t realize that they have given me new perspective and memories that I will treasure forever.
Several people stood up and shared kind words of thanksgiving to Cayla and me - the principal, the head nurse, Agnes, and Sr. Vero. Agnes started crying when she expressed how much the library means to the school. Now, they do not have to seek a librarian to come in and organize the books. The primary and secondary schools will adapt new schedules that incorporate a library period. English is a third language for the students, so reading is crucial. If they continue practicing and reading, there is sure to be improvement in the English skills. Students must pass tests mandated by the state every year or two in order to move on to the next form. Usually if a student fails, he or she will not continue their schooling. English is a large portion of the exam, so it is critical for them to get comfortable with the language. Cayla and I said a few words of thanks to them for their generosity and spirit. Cayla very insightfully told them that we were so happy to come to Visale and help in the school and clinic, but they way they live is perfect. After the speeches, we were presented with beautiful shell necklaces on behalf of the school, parish, and clinic. Then, everyone enjoyed the meal and the company.
I returned to the library to plug away at the work. It took a long time to label all the fiction, young adult, and children’s books. Cayla and I wrote the genre and a number on small labels and taped them to the binding of each book. This will make it easier to keep track of which books students’ borrow. They will also be able to return it to the correct place on the shelf when they are finished since it’s in numerical order. Sr. Vero scooped us up from the hot room, and we went for a walk. She took us through the area where the sisters of Sacred Heart parish live. We followed the path to the beach and sat on the shore to watch sunset. I took an absurd amount of photos. I never want to forget the beauty and serenity of this tiny island. One of the sisters was out on the beach and brought us a few coconuts. When she left, I said dou bongi (goodnight), and she was so surprised I knew some Pidgin. She started cracking up and shook my shoulders with laughter. “Dou bongi!” she replied.
The sun went down and I went back to the library with Cayla. We worked in the darkness using a few flashlights and a lantern. I had some help finishing up from another teacher, Cidrella. An adorable baby and a bunch of kids were hanging around outside the door in the dark, very interested in the action. We invited them inside and got them to cut tape and stick on labels. Sr. Vero hung the curtains, and I unrolled a few mats to line the floor. I put signs over each section and left a note on the door. Cayla and I took a few victory photos in the room and were very satisfied with the work we had done. I felt like a proud mother seeing the progress we made in such a short time. I am so excited that I was able to help get the library started. I think it will be a lasting resource for the school and Visale community. It was quite a transformation from a dusty, disorganized room with more rat droppings than I have ever seen to a neat, welcoming library. I hope children and adults will go there to learn and explore their imaginations.
Cayla and I took showers before our last dinner with Sr. Vero. She made a delicious meal, and we enjoyed our time together recounting the events of the day, asking questions, and joking around. We said evening prayers, cleaned the kitchen, exchanged contact information, and went to our rooms to get to bed. As I sat down to write this blog entry, the house started shaking - earthquake! Cayla and I froze and looked at each other. Then we jolted up to get out of the house. Sr. Vero was about to take a shower (which is underneath the house), and raced inside in her towel, frantic that we’d have to evacuate and she’d be running down the street naked. At that point, the major vibrations of the earthquake were over, and we spent ten minutes recovering from laughter at the absurdity of the situation. We listened to the radio and learned that it was a 6.5 earthquake and the epicenter was just south of Guadalcanal. What a way to end these crazy few days. Sr. Vero will drive Cayla and me to the ferry at 5:30 tomorrow morning. We’ll try to get some sleep before another day of travel tomorrow. I’m very sad to leave Visale. I wish we had more time here. I promise myself that I will be returning to this tropical heaven where I have gained so much perspective and made lifetime friends.