Bula! So I think this week I'll organize things into my top 4 most interesting/exciting/heartbreaking/generally-noteworthy moments. I recognize that 4 is a weird number to choose.. I started with 10 but I wrote more than I was expecting to so I kept it at 4. Y'welcome.
1. I finally got started on my literacy project with the Sunshine Special School. On Monday I went with Candice to visit the school and gather more information to begin my project. They gave me a list of all of the students enrolled, with the name of their disability listed next to it. We were shocked to see the different reasons the children are considered "special." Probably the most shocking disability listed is ADHD... undiagnosed. Parents can pretty much decide that their children are too hyper for normal school, and sign them up for this school! After visiting a couple of the classrooms we noticed that one of the little boys is in the school because of juvenile arthritis. He does not struggle academically---he's 2 full grade levels above his class mates---but they still feel that he requires this attention. It was heartbreaking to see him surrounded by peers with more extreme learning disabilities.
I am really excited to get started on this project. The children at the school are so sweet and tender. They are so shy and excited to see us! One of my favorite part is the way they look down and blush and giggle when I say hi to them. I really cannot wait until they know my name and are more comfortable talking with me! I will be working with kids with 3 different issues: reading/comprehension, phonics, and blending. I'll be taking the kids in pairs, and sometimes individually, and workings with them in 30 minute blocks on whatever their struggle is. I've struggled a lot with feeling like I am qualified to work with these kids, but after talking with Shelley about it she said something that I've decided I need to make my mantra for the project. She said that the biggest thing to remember is to love the kids, because chances are they won't learn everything they could possibly need to know from me. So if the best I do is love them and make an ounce of improvement, it was a success! It was such a helpful thought to realize that although I may not sky rocket their reading abilities, I will make a change in their lives.
2. I organized the library at the Sunshine Special School! For the second half of this week I didn't have an excess of work, so I noticed after touring the school that the library could use some help. I spent Wednesday and Thursday going through the books and putting them where they belonged. It was nice to see the space become more clear and organized, and I had the best time reading some of my favorite books (special shout out to one of my favs- Boney Legs)! I couldn't help but think about my days at good ole Patton, and the fab library there. One of my favorite times at school was our bi-weekly library trip! I loved wandering a few rows over to the advanced books and imagining the day that I could pick any book in the whole dang place and read it. I never realized how lucky I was to be at a school with rows of books, and teachers who had the resources and time to help every child read. The Sunshine Special School library consists of one wall- 4 shelves divided into 3 sections. And each shelf is about 3/4 full. I'm hoping to start a book drive of some sort for their school so that these kids can have more books. It's an overwhelming idea when I think about how much work it will entail, but one wall of books just does not cut it for a school full of children---it's probably a great indicator of the literacy levels of the school.
3. They found the cord for the piano at church! They have an electronic piano, the same one that is in the Relief Society room at home, in their chapel, but they haven't been able to find the cord pretty much since they got it, which I'm pretty sure is around 5 years ago. Once they found out that I can play, they set out to find a cord to replace it... and stumbled across an old radio cord that fits. It officially plugs in and works, so, naturally, I was the ward pianist on Sunday! There is a great picture that one of the girls took of me when I was playing...there were kids all around me! They stood and stared and stared and stared up until the meeting started and the moms told them to sit down. And even then, during each hymn I had at least one munchkin getting as close as they could to stare. They had a good time flipping the page to any page in the book for my prelude and seeing if I could play it, and every single child requested I Am A Child of God at least once. One of the most tender moments happened when one of the older boys (around age 9... they're always the most embarrassed to be seen talking to the white girls) stood right next to me so that his whole body was pressing up against mine and was quietly singing the song I was playing at the time. I couldn't stop myself from tearing up listening to him almost breathe out the words to I Stand All Amazed. I'm so blessed to play the piano. I feel like I spend so much time at home complaining about having to play, but it was beautiful to get a chance to think about how wonderful music is, and how lucky I have been to take lessons and be able to play at the drop of a hat for anyone who needs it.
Just a quick little story about music at church on Sunday. Last week the Bishop asked if we would be willing to do the special number during Sacrament meeting this last Sunday that we just had and of course we said yes! We practiced on Saturday afternoon and evening to sing A Child's Prayer. It was simple and we didn't put too much time into it, but we were totally excited. The Bishop announced the program for the day and for the special number he announced the primary choir would be singing..... they forgot about us. Womp Womp. So we're singing next week. Also they asked me to speak... yikes.
4. I finally got a new mattress!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No, that many exclamation points does not cover my excitement. Allow me to explain the bed situation here. The beds are all bunk beds. Pure wood, and the support for the actual mattress is wood slats. Of all different shapes and sizes. The mattress is foam. As in a 3 inch foam slab... nothing else. Just a little foam hunk. I'm guessing you can figure out how LUXURIOUS the beds are after pressing a 3 inch foam mat into wood slats every night. I feel like I can lay on my back and figure out every single bump and grain of the wood using my back skin through the foam, it's that uncomfortable. So... Nikki and I splurged on Thursday and got mattresses. Granted they're still foam slabs, but we sprung for the 5-ish inch pads that we stacked on top of the 3 inch ones, that will function as more of a filler for the spaces between the wood. I slept like a rock last night! Also, we went to this restaurant in town called BBQ Chicken before our mattress extravaganza... it was divine. I had chicken without bones in it for the first time since I got here! WOO! Oh, and one last note that I'll tack on as an addendum to number four... we're obsessed with The Vampire Diaries. We watch about 2 episodes a night... 3 if it leaves us on a really intense cliff hanger after 2 episodes. It's so fun to all sit down after dinner and chores and watch them!
I think if you had told me a few months ago that I would be living in Fiji, excited about foam mattresses and chicken without bones and spending my free moments pondering ways to bring more books into the library of a special education school, I would not have believed you. But alas, here I am. And I'm LOVING it. C'est la vie!