Report of the Comenius trip to Tahiti, March 2018
Over the Easter holidays Mrs Woodend, Ms Haran and Mr Shepherd took a group of ten students to visit our partner school Taaone in Tahiti, French Polynesia. The trip was for ten days, with two days of travel to this remote island in the middle of the Pacific.
Students were selected after successfully submitting an essay on the topic of ‘Why is it important to be internationally minded in 2018?’.
The trip was largely funded with grants and awards from the British Council and European Commission, including €37,555 from the Erasmus+ programme. This meant we were able to heavily subside the cost of roughly £2600 per student to just £150, with other funding also available if students were unable to meet the costs.
The trip formed part of one of our Erasmus+ project titled ‘Languages for Future Employment’. Mr Shepherd and the MFL department have taught lessons linked to this project, and students have been working hard on the project since it began in September 2016.
After spending a brief time in Paris as the stop over before the flight to Tahiti, we landed in the evening of Saturday 24th March 2018. We were greeted by students and staff from our partner school who performed traditional songs and dances to welcome us.
One of the highlights of the trip was an excursion to Tahiti’s sister island of Mo’orea. Students were stunned to discover some of the students of Taaone would get the 6am ferry from Mo’orea every day, walk to the school from the port before napping outside of the school building whilst they waited for their first lesson of the day. In Mo’orea we took a boat tour around the outside of the island to learn about its geography, wildlife and history. Students were given the opportunity to snorkel in the shallow waters, much to their delight! We stopped at a motu, or small island for a barbeque which included traditional Tahitian dishes. One that became commonplace in the group was poisson cru, which is raw tuna cured by lime juice, with onions and coconut milk. The students were quick to try a bit of everything, and not shy about going back for seconds and thirds!
Students also explored the island of Tahiti. A favourite was Pape’ete market, where Mrs Woodend was asked to join a local band and temporarily showed off her ukulele skills! It is traditional for families to go on a Sunday morning to get the ingredients for their Sunday dinner, but students used it to buy mementos and gifts as well as an opportunity to practice some French. We also drove to the east of the island to see the Arahoho blowhole and the sunset over Mo’orea from the Pearl Beach resort. On the west coast of the island we visited a grotto and the Marae Arahurahu, or sacred temple for the Tahitian people. We discussed how many were destroyed by missionaries as part of the colonisation of Tahiti, and told students how they were used in ceremonies. This gave the students the opportunity to reflect upon why the French language is so far reaching, and the history of our relationships with other countries. The scenery was spectacular, and students were overwhelmed by the tranquillity and importance of the area.
Students sat in on lessons and were expected to speak in French or Tahitian. The Tahitian students would then reply in English, with many of our students commenting on how much their new friends wanted to talk in English, and how much they enjoyed practicing it. They also noted how highly the Tahitian students valued their school, their teachers and their education.
The benefits of such a longstanding relationship between ourselves and at a dinner hosted by the school’s international coordinator, Richard Deane, in his own home. Richard welcomed all 13 of us, as well as some of the staff and students from Tahiti, with a traditional Tahitian buffet. His extraordinary generosity, and the dancing and singing lessons with remain with our students and staff for the rest of their lives.
Mauruuru (Thank you!),
Ms R Haran