October 16, 2015
Moving from one school to the next is hard. Every school is different. You have new kids to deal with; new teachers and you have to start the friend making business all over again. All that is a pain in the butt, yet eventually it all turns out fine. Starting up at the school in Taiohae was a little different for my brother and me. It’s all French and we don’t speak French.
Our parents brought us to this island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and threw us in school. We had no clue about the Marquesan culture, what the kids would be like, and the hardest part was we had no idea how to communicate. In a nutshell our parents enrolled us in a school, on a remote island, without us knowing the culture, the language or other kids, then told us how long we were going to attend – one year! That’s what I call a little bit of a challenge.
On our first day of school we woke up at 6 in the morning since school starts at 7 a.m. We quickly got dressed and ate breakfast, drove our 8’ inflatable dinghy to shore then started our 20-minute walk to school. We walked up to meet the principal and to check out the school: where the restrooms were, lunch would be, basketball courts were, etc. The bell rang so it was time to find my first class. The vice principal told this random girl to lead me to my class. We arrived in a classroom. The teacher looked at my schedule book and pointed to the class I had to go to. It was math class with Monsieur Evain. He spoke to me in English, telling me to sit next to a boy across the room whose English was okay. His name, I learned, was Phillip. He was really nice.
We were the first Americans to ever attend this school. Everything you did or said they thought was what all American kids did or said. In a way, we represented all American kids. It was like we were celebrities and everything we did they thought was cool. The reaction I would normally get arriving at a new school in America would have been much different: no one would have noticed me or cared to know my name or try to make me feel comfortable. But in the Marquesas, it seemed to be the opposite. It was, “Oh, you need help? Let me help you.” Practically on our first day of school everyone knew our names. After math was Physics and then History/Geography and following that was Physical Ed. We played basketball. The kids here are terrible at basketball. I am probably the best player in 7-9th grade! At home, I was just passable.
After P.E. we had lunch. Phillip led me over to the lunch line. For lunch there is a different protocol than the schools attended in Southern California. You grab a metal tray; slide it on the rails in front of the kitchen while servers place fresh food on your tray. That first day we had rice, lentils, grapefruit and a piece of French baguette. When I saw the spread I thought, “Geeze, this is so good, and it didn’t come out of a bag!” When I was done there was not a crumb left on my plate. It was so delicious – like rich kids’ food. After lunch, surprisingly, I was finished with school. That’s when I started thinking, “Man, this is the best school ever. Fantastic lunch, school finishes at twelve most days, and I’m treated like a celebrity.” This school was really turning out to be a great experience for the both of us.
By the time this week was finished, my brother, Trent, and I were top news for most of the island. Everyone was giving us greetings when we biked down the street. Random people saying, “Bonjour,” “Salut,” “Hi!” In sum it was looking really good for us. People we had never seen before knew us.
The next week was even better. During our morning breaks, we had pretty girls asking if they could be our girlfriends. But after awhile it got a little annoying having people pulling you over into their group and examining you, asking the same silly questions. At the same time, I liked the attention. For the first month, this was the normal day. Then the attention started cooling off. People were getting used to us, which was a bad thing.
Now during school I have to watch my back because everyone wants to fight us, putting up their arm saying, “I’m gonna fight you!” I never know if someone is going to pounce on me, and every time I turn around there’s at least one person giving me the finger or shouting, “F-you, Bryce!” On top of that, everything got harder. Now I’m expected to understand everything being said in class and I have to do homework in French. Fortunately, after school I go to a tutor for help with my French.
A few times now I have had trouble with a couple kids. One day before my English class, this kid named London all of a sudden came at me and said, “Shut up, be quiet!” then put his chest against mine and peered down at me like he was going to hit me. Then I said, “Go, go, come on. Allez, allez, viens!” In my head I was thinking if this guy hits me, he would have more pain than me once it’s all over. Since the village of Taiohae has a small population of 2,000, everyone would know he’s the one who struck the American who doesn’t even speak French, for no good reason. Plus his parents and the school would be very mad. As this was going on, a teacher came out and the kid cooled down. It was over and he apologized after class. Anyway, it’s happened a few times after that before it totally ended. It is now resolved without any physical confrontation.
After that first month, the college turned into a bit of a wild school and hard to handle. You can’t even leave your backpack alone without fear of some kid rummaging through your stuff and picking out what he wants. The way I look at, it’s just a few more months before it will all be over. So, in the meantime, just toughen up and deal with the problems straight up. Attending this school has been a crazy new experience. At the moment it seems worth my while. Although I do have to say, I can’t wait until it’s all over and things go back to normal: homeschooling with mom and dad.
by Bryce Rigney