The official opening!
I had no real idea what to expect of the school opening. But it was an incredible day.
Stephen and I travelled to Ostico with Kirsty – it was wonderful to have so long to talk to someone like her. We travelled along the coast for a lot of the way, past beautiful white sandy beaches with perfect blue water. Just before the town of Baucau, we turned inland and drove for about 20 minutes along a single lane, rutted, dirt road.
We drove past some very basic huts and houses and arrived at the school to see 350 children in two lines from littlest to biggest all standing waiting for us. We walked up between them and they started clapping – very hard not to start crying at that stage! They’d erected a shade structure for the day with bamboo poles and palm fronds and had seats for us and all the people there to watch. There were speeches from the Education Minister, Kirsty and me…. then they presented us with the woven scarfs called “tais”. They have our names on them and apparently take the local ladies a month to make each.
Kirsty and I cut the ribbon and then there were lots of dances and songs from the children which they’d written specially for the day, to thank us. The word I kept hearing was “abrigadu” which means “thank you” in Tetum.
After that we had lunch (the builder had donated a buffalo!) which I’m told would be the best meal the villagers have all year.
Things relaxed a bit after lunch and we were able to wander around among the children. We gave all the books and the soccer balls and skipping ropes to the principal (a very impressive lady who has the kids jumping when she speaks).
The kids loved the balls and skipping ropes and the books are now the first of any books in the school. We are doing a bit of work to make a mini library in one of the extra buildings with some cushions and a rug to sit on and arranging some training for the teachers. Once that is done the government will be able to provide local language books to go with our books.
The school itself looks wonderful. There are now 4 beautiful looking classrooms and the tin building (now insulated, ventilated and with a verandah added) is being used for a library, for the teachers to work in and for lunches.
It was quite strange being the centre of attention. I think everyone is still rather bemused as to why these strangers from the other side of the world decided to help build a school in their little village. I am glad we did – it was an extraordinary day.