Hila Sukkar: Hila Sukkar’s CommUNITY News no. 1

Greetings from Nila, Shortlands!

It is approximately 5 to 10 pm and I am enjoying a chat with Sr Rebecca about the Chief line, around the vinyl kitchen tablecloth that has colourful blue and peach bears. She is adorable, kind and friendly with a good sense of humour.

Sr Rebecca and I just chose a record to play – Harry Belafonte, Calypso. Absolutely love it. So does Sr Reb. It’s old music, a cross-section of songs based on the traditional melodies of the English speaking islands of the Caribbean. It’s funky but still gentle. I dance to it in the record/sitting room and Sr Reb just sits and giggles. I love track one, Day-O!

I can sing the Beatles’ I wanna hold your hand in pijin – Mi laekem holem han blong yu.

In Gizo, I briefly taught at St Peter’s Kindergarten. I became very fond of the children, they are extremely playful and have a burst of happiness. Especially after school, when they’ll see me at the markets, they’d call out Teacher! Teacher! and I would play tips soccer and me hide hide, you seek seek. Often I will see some of the children, usually the boys, play marbles in the dirt. I have befriended more children than adults-must be the teacher in me, or the child in me.

Students from St Anne's Rural Training Centre
I have so much respect for the Dominican sisters from across the Solomons. I do have some favourites! One, Sr Jenny from Choiseul – Sirovanga. Her passion towards her faith resonates. I loved listening to her sing and for her to share her stories about her life. She taught me some pijin. I can sing the Beatles’ song I wanna hold your hand in pijin; Mi laekem holem han blong yu.

Nila is beautiful, yet quite quiet, which is actually good for a change. I’ve been teaching at St John’s Primary for almost two weeks now because the teachers haven’t returned from their holidays!! Imagine that happening in Australia. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoy teaching them, even though it’s very hard work. Their learning hours are 8 – 10:30 but I always extend the hours – and the children are always keen to continue. I’ve been teaching survival things that they need to know in English, Maths, Health and Science. I use drama as much as possible. I can’t believe the extreme difference of resources and learning environment compared to Australia. And to think how some students and teachers take for granted the education given in Australia. Thank goodness I have a creative side of me, otherwise I would be well and truly stuck! Hopefully their teacher should return at the end of the week and I can commence teaching at St Anne’s Vocational Centre. I am waiting for the students to arrive, twenty students to be exact.

I will be teaching the girls English (introducing Drama and Visual Arts into their lessons), Nutrition/Cooking, Drama (addressing self-esteem, confidence, social issues, interpersonal skills) and typing as well as participating in their choir practices and culture night. Culture night is held on Thursday and it gives the girls an opportunity to unwind/relax and have a dance. I personally can’t wait for it.

I can’t believe the extreme difference of resources and learning environment.

I am also teaching Kindergarten at St John’s on Fridays and Primary years 5 and 6 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The students are really great. I can already see their improvements in behaviour and application to their work. It’s funny how you grow attached to them so quickly, but they are really a wonderful bunch. They absolutely love drama, so I make an effort to integrate it in as many lessons as possible.

Music, light and even food are becoming luxuries, or should I say special treats on Nila. I look forward to certain days of the week when I know we have enough diesel to run the generator so that we can have power, and hence, light and active powerpoints – music! I was thrilled to watch some FIFA World Cup Soccer games that were burnt onto a DVD. Unbelievable! This Friday we are watching Shrek, minus the pop-corn, chocolate, chips and dips. I miss these treats, but can do without them. And doing without them will enable me to remember these nights at Nila and appreciate the gifts Nila has to offer.

I know it’s premature to say, but I do like it here. I do like how it’s quiet and away from the buzz. It enables me to concentrate on my work 100%, get to know the people (as well as learn their language) and enjoy Nila for what it is.

Much love,
Hila

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Don't listen to the World Bank. Listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world. - Bunker Roy