I mean, REALLY. I hate throwing any sort of celebration and just planning a kid's birthday party causes me lots of anxiety. Is anyone going to show up? Am I going to have enough food, or do I have way too much? I also don't like dealing with the less-than-stellar mail service here (or lack of), and it's not like you can run down to the party center, the discount store, the grocery store, or the craft store to get supplies. So you are at the mercy of mail service that, well, sucks.
A plus is that in 3 years I have learned to be resourceful, if nothing else, and I was fortunate enough to work with kids who are also resourceful and creative + hard working to boot.
This is how everyone pitched in to make a prom happen at a school with less than 50 high school students:
- Instead of ordering very expen$$$ive cardboard cutouts for photo props, we had the Seabees make them. They donated the materials and lots of time, plus they drew half of the props themselves. A group of high schoolers spent 4-5 hours one Saturday designing the other ones. These will then be recycled for drama and music productions.
- A couple of ladies from JTF volunteered their time, materials, and talents to paint the props for us. They also picked them up and dropped them back off at the school.
- The youth director from the chapel volunteered his time to pick up the props from the school and transport them to the Bayview restaurant, the location of the prom.
- A group of parents, staff members, and members of the community helped with the set up of decorations and the take down at the end of the night.
In addition, we had help financially, as well. You don't get a blank check from any school to buy what you need for prom; it's always the job of the Junior Class to raise all the money.
A prom for 40-50 people and a meal shouldn't be that expensive, right?
Maybe in the States, but not here in GTMO.
Because you are having to ship in everything via the barge (as in "it's on the barge"---yes, that barge) or via plane, catering is super expensive. And because trying to coordinate something other than using catering on base requires way more planning than I am capable of doing, you pay what you pay. It's the same with facilities---we were limited as to where you can serve 40-50 people and have space for a dance floor.
It's not just limited resources and the expense of everything here that's difficult---there is the money factor. Unlike schools in the states, we are limited in the amount of fundraising (both the amount and the number of fundraisers) that we can do by our district and by the base JAG. As a result, we worked 3 times harder to raise probably 1/10 of what we would have raised in the US. People on base are very generous (especially when they hear that it's for a prom). We had lots of half or all-day fundraisers, and every time we finished, we would count the money and I'd think, well that's another platter of sushi. Maybe this will pay for some decorations. Money doesn't go far here, but every single dollar mattered.
Despite working our butts off, we still came up short, but thankfully we had groups all over base that donated money (and one group donated the proceeds from a carwash they held with the students).
|photo: Brian Teal Photography|
I can't imagine some of my former high schools allowing students to attend prom in casual clothes. Here attire ranged from a tux to jeans---I told the kids that the dress code was "something clean." We live in a place where you can't run to a clothing store to get traditional prom attire---it requires a lot of planning and hoping that the mail service works efficiently (which it doesn't) and that the clothes fit. Remember, we are behind a fence and can't just drive over into Cuba any old time to get clothes. It's also ridiculous to have a strict dress code because we are on a military base----several kids either just recently got here or are in the process of leaving and have all of their dress clothes in transit---so I told them to wear what they have, but please come. And they did. (And they looked fabulous, regardless of what they wore).
So for all of my worrying and fretting and hand wringing and sleepless nights, it went well.
Will I do it again?
Definitely not next year. I am not the sort of person who has the confidence or foresight that what we are doing now will pay off many months from now. Flaky mail service, the added expenses of anything you do here, the inconvenience of having to plan something months and months in advance because you can't do anything last minute at an isolated, small base, created so much anxiety that I honestly wasn't able to enjoy everything until an hour or so into the prom, when I realized yes, this is going to work. I need a break and I'm looking forward to spending some of those 100+ hours I spent on the prom with my senior next year (I am still in denial), his cute little brother, and my baby-daddy, who was a good sport and was my prom date.
To depend on what Tennessee Williams called "the kindness of strangers" in Streetcar ----having people you've never met volunteer time, talents, and money to help, many of whom have no connection to the school other than they want the school to have a successful prom---was both an eye-opening and an humbling experience for me. Seeing my son and his classmates work together so well to make this work---did I mention that there are only TWELVE students in the entire junior class?!?---made me so very proud of them.
After prom, I went home quite exhausted, with aching feet, but with a full heart. https://librarianwanderlust.blogspot.com/2015/05/party-like-its-1999-or-kindness-of.html