All big celebrations took place in the village maneaba between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Lasting for days, families brought sleeping mats and took up temporary residency watching imported Chinese movies with German subtitles late into the night. Camcorders, VCRs, and VHS movies, gifts from returning seafarers flooded village maneabas at sundown. Some movies were personal bootleg recordings easily characterized by moviegoers entering and exiting the picture. Our last movie for the first night ended abruptly as what seemed to be a security guard interrupted filming. The movie ended with us being walked to the parking lot. With the film ending, power was cut and everyone laid down for the night.
Sleeping in the maneaba with the village was uncomfortable the first night, but surprisingly relaxing the second as ocean breezes caressed our bodies while babies tussled into their mother’s arms, and fathers snored in unison.
Constant activity throughout the village quickly ushered in New Year’s Eve. To celebrate, all PCTs and staff planned a night away from the village. I, along with the other males set camp in the bush just outside of the northern village. We set mosquito nets while others collected firewood.
Typically, families collected firewood for cooking. Collecting wood for anything but cooking did not make sense to our trainers. However, despite a lack of purpose, the bonfire was a success, keeping all awake to see 2001.
By the end of January, all had survived severe bouts of homesickness, days of utter confusion, a plethora of cultural and linguistic mistakes, sickness, one typhoon (we think), and three months of bootakis.
Sworn in as the class of K-27 on January 23, 2001, it was now time to pack our bags, and move on. The start of the school year was right around the corner when we left. Many of us would have one week or less in Tarawa before flying off to our new homes and assignments. As such, several families sent their children with us to make their way back to school on Tarawa. Having them along for the ride smoothed our departure as we began this new chapter.
On the boat, I was assigned to the Unity of Tateta Primary School as a teacher trainer on the southernmost portion of Abaiang Island!