8-3 Children’s Day

Getting salusalued is embarrassing.

International Children’s Day is July 24th. I don’t ever remember celebrating it in the US, but here it’s a big deal. Schools have the day off and boarding schools do a special meal for the students, parents take it as a day to celebrate their kids usually in the form of small presents, salusalus (like a Hawai’ian lei) and treats like cake and it is conveniently a week before Independence Day.

This year, we got involved in the celebrations. We were in Melsisi because Tuesday is Jason’s normal day to teach, though school had been cancelled. We’d set up plans to drink kava with one of the other teachers on Monday night. (We try to adhere to a policy of no kava on school nights. Sometimes we fail in that.) On Monday afternoon, the school administration called a very timely meeting about what it was doing for Children’s Day. They decided that every student should get a salusalu. No one had made the salusalus yet. Lisa volunteered to go get started on that because it meant we could sit in her house and drink kava. Which we did, while sewing up salusalus. A handful of the year 8 girls sat and helped, which lead to the awkward moment of drinking in front of the students. Hannah bribed them with bubble gum.
Delicious steaks! (For those of us that enjoy them)
A side note on salusalus: Those are a TON of work. If there are no flowers in season, we make them out of brightly colored leaves. The first step is stripping a tree of half its branches and carrying them to wherever you plan on making the salusalus. Then one person tears off each leaf and rolls it while a second person strings the rolled leaves on a thread, like making popcorn chains. It takes about half an hour to make one. We were supposed to make about 100. We ran out of kava at 11 pm and decided we’d had enough, though we’d only made 40 salusalus.
The next morning, I helped make a few more before it was time to go hang them on the students. Luckily, a few other groups had come through with more salusalus and we had enough to go around. The students had a special mass to celebrate Children’s Day. (Catholic school. Special mass would not be a celebration for me…) We hung the salusalus on the students and they went to mass. We all went back to bed. Another group of teachers had been up past midnight (they had more kava) cutting and tenderizing meat to marinate over night. That group got to the kitchen to start cooking around 9 and cooked straight through until 1 pm when we ate.
The kids were excited by the meal, since it was fresh beef, kumala and rice. All of those are hard-to-get items and thus a special treat. The students get fed a lot of tin meat and cabbage with either rice or taro so fresh beef and kumala made them very happy. We should have done a cake, but we weren’t that organized.
Candy from Save the Children Australia

People here don’t really celebrate birthdays. I’ve been to a birthday for a one-year-old, which was a big deal and there is a bit of kastomthat happens around one year that marks that birthday but after that, they kind of get lost. A lot of kids don’t know their birthdays and the older adults don’t know how old they are. I think that Children’s Day sort of takes the place of the birthday celebrations here. It gives everyone a day to celebrate their children specifically as well as the children of the community. Isn’t that what we do on our birthdays? We use the day to mark the importance of being us or to spend a day appreciating a person. International Children’s Day is just one big birthday party. Now, where’s my birthday hat…

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