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Gray Skies are Gonna Clear Up...

put on a happy face

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Yokwe and good tidings,

This post will hopefully be much more positive and much less whiney than the last one. Thanks for putting up with me. I want this blog to be honest and unfortunately sometimes life is unpleasant. This week has been much better and I feeling considerably more positive and optimistic than during my breakdown last week.

So what has sparked this change? Well, for starters, I don’t feel as overwhelmed with the amount of work I am expected to do. I have decided for the first few weeks to just take everything one day at a time, figuring out general plans for the long term future and specific plans in the short term. I still actively dislike teaching grammar, but I’m trying my best to make it clear so that all of the students can so their best. I have made a ridiculous amount of comparative charts over the past week. Also, literature is getting better. I’m giving my first quiz this week, so we will see what these kids have actually retained and what they were sleeping through. I think it’s mostly that I have started to get into the swing of things and figure out what works and what doesn't work. I’ve made seating charts to curb some of the talking and it has absolutely worked...so at least I’m trying to be more strict.

I love teaching my new government class. They contribute, they speak, they have ideas, it’s amazing. Also I am way more interested in discussing government than I am discussing the future tense. Last class we talked about the Articles of Confederation, its flaws, and began working our way towards learning about the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Before we started to discuss the way the Constitution was written, the compromises and the outcome, I broke the class up into 5 groups and asked them to make a constitution for this class. They would act as the colonies and I would be the national government. I asked them to create a preamble for their constitution, the basic rights all citizens in the classroom deserved, and what rights I should preside over and what rights they should be in charge of (I warned them of course that they may not get their way, but encouraged them to write whatever they thought was the best way to handle the class). They got SO into the project and insisted I give them more time next class to finish. I’m hoping that their constitutions will have some items that we can compromise on to lead us into the discussion of the Great Compromise and the 3/5ths Compromise. I saw that one group wrote that they should get ice cream every Friday, my compromise plan for that is to promise that at the end of each quarter, if all of the students in the class get a B or higher, I will buy them all ice cream. I’m especially excited for that one, and yay for incentives to get good grades! Positive reinforcement, y’all, thanks Geneseo Psychology Department. Hopefully there are more compromises I can come up with, we shall see. I also got to research the Marshall Islands government system (because this is in fact a comparative government class) so I am learning a lot too. For the most part, their Bill of Rights and constitution are very similar to ours. They main differences I have found is that guns are illegal and the death penalty in illegal in the Marshall Islands, also I think the government pays a decent amount of money for general health care. It seems like there is a lot less serious crimes going on in the Marshall Islands. Petty theft is still an issue and domestic abuse is certainly not handled in the best way, but otherwise there have been no cases of homicide that I have found yet. One really startling thing I found was that the minimum wage here is $2.00 an hour. WOW, I have been to some restaurants where the waiter is working literally from 9:00am to 11:00 at night, making minimum wage. Most people in America would quit if that was the set up they were given. It’s really crazy, because the cost of living here is actually pretty high since everything is imported. No wonder people have trouble paying for healthcare...I’m looking forward to learning even more in the next few months

Additionally, because I am teaching the government class permanently, the Vice Principle allowed me to give up my 11th grade composition class during the last period of the day. This class was essentially my worst nightmare, most of them never came, the ones who did slept, made rude comments or just dazed off. They are a pretty large reason for my classroom cry last week. I do feel bad for the 2 or 3 kids that are sweet and seem to want to try to learn, but I couldn't be happier to be rid of most of them. Especially the fact that it is the last period of the day, makes everything more difficult to control. So Monday was my last day of teaching them and I say, good riddance.

Also, I finally got the wifi password for the school, so I have internet in my apartment! It’s amazing, makes lesson planning so much easier, and makes it easier to stay in touch with the people I am missing. Maybe one of these days I’ll finally find the time to start thinking about/researching graduate schools. The internet speed is pretty horrible, but beggars can’t be choosers. One tragic discovery is that Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and virtually every fun video/music thing on the internet doesn't work here. I didn't even consider that when I came, I thought the internet was everywhere.... boy was I wrong. Now what am I going to binge watch when I am procrastinating my work? OH THAT’S RIGHT... I have the entire season of Planet Earth. So logically I have been watching Planet Earth pretty much every time I have a free hour. I forgot how amazing this series is, I recommend everyone try to find an awesome store in their community that illegally downloads videos and sells them for $2.

On a sad note, I’m pretty sure the guy who lives next door gave my puppy friends away. I haven’t seen them since my last post and it is breaking my heart. You will be missed, Copper and Ghost.

On Saturday a few of my friends and I walked to some near by islands, when the tide is low you can easily walk from Rita to the island, and when the tide is high it’s a pretty shallow swim from one to the other. It was really beautiful, a lot less populated than the main Island. I also went snorkeling near this sunken boat that had a bunch of coral growing all over it and fish weaving in and out. It was very cool. Hopefully I am going to go to an island this coming Sunday that has a sunken World War II ship that I can swim with! It’s fun walking through the jungle, surrounded by coconut trees and banana trees. It makes me wonder what my students would think if they walked through one of the forests near my house.

While things have certainly been getting better at school, I’m still feeling pretty isolated. I really like my housemates, but we’ve agreed that its really hard to break into the community when you are living in the dorms in Majuro. We have heard from our friends on outer islands, they said that the entire island cancelled school for the week just to welcome them in and celebrate their arrival, my friends with host families go to parties and have cook outs and live with so many extended family members (plus they have real homes without mice and rats and plumbing that actually works). In hind sight I am very sad that I am not on an outer island and that I don’t have a host family. As much as they make it seem like the Majuro volunteers have it so easy... I think we (especially those without a host family) are suffering in a completely different way. The feeling of isolation from the community is a pretty hard thing to deal with. My dorm-mate Joann and I asked the Vice Principle if she knew of anyone who might be willing to act as a “sponsor family” for us and help us get integrated into the community. Hopefully that works out. If not, we are really going to have to try and find a way to force ourselves into the community. It’s hard, because people here are kind but they are also painfully shy, unlikely to invite you someplace. I am certainly not miserable, but I wouldn’t say I am completely happy either. If I have to spend the next 10 months feeling isolated like this, I anticipate that those feelings will only get worse. I’m trying to address it as well as I can with the limited time I have. The problem is, being a new teacher is hard work and demands A LOT of hours so I’m always working or exhausted. I had the chance to skype with my friend Keegan a few days ago and we talked a lot about how I was feeling. He listened and offered some words of wisdom and encouragement and made me feel a lot better and capable of figuring things out. It’s really nice to have friends that haven’t forgotten about little-ol’-me. I really appreciate him and all of my friends and family who have taken the time to reach out to me, even if they didn’t know how much I’ve needed it. Anyway, more to come on the hunt for Marshallese friends.

In “gross house” news, I spotted a few rats on our porch a few days ago and kind of freaked out. Anyone who has lived with me in college will tell you that I can get kind of frustrated (perhaps an understatement) when things are a HUGE mess or chaotically out of order, especially when it comes to dirty dishes or stuff in the kitchen. Well, here it is even more important because we are sharing our space with 100000 bugs and I REALLY don’t want to get rats in our house. You can’t squish a rat with your sandal, they are giant, they are vicious and they could probably beat me in a fight if they had the numbers. Our kitchen has been a mess and honestly, in this environment its completely unacceptable and really irresponsible. I wrote a grouchy note after I did about 25 dirty dishes that weren’t mine, including a pot full of pasta. Since my rat sighting and aggressive reminder of how to be a decent human being and wash a dish, things have gotten better. The only problem is, when you use any of our sinks, something happens in our horrible plumbing system that floods the kitchen floor and makes the entire area smell like sewage. We asked our field director about this and he basically said that he put in a work order to the problem sometime last year and we have to wait for the city to come try to fix it.... so it looks like that isn’t going to get fixed ever. Our pipe for our showers burst again so that’s getting fixed again today. Its really frustrating living in a place where water is so scarce and precious and having to watch your water pour onto the ground and not be able to do anything about it. Even though I have a working shower head (most of the time) we still all have to keep using bucket showers, because overhead showers waste way too much water and we will run out. This has absolutely been a wake up call for the things I take for granted in America. I can’t remember if I mentioned this in my last post, but I have been feeling very weird about the “ice bucket challenge” I see all over facebook these days. I realize that the people in the videos have a positive sentiment attached to them, but coming from where I am it seems like a huge spectacle that throws away something that we as Americans truly take for granted, while a huge portion of the world holds so dear. In my opinion, donating money to a cause you believe in, is much more impressive than wasting an entire bucket of fresh water to get 50 “likes” on your post in facebook. I don’t mean to sound self righteous, I’m sure if I wasn’t experiencing this side of things I may be oblivious to it as well, but it is a reality I cannot possibly avoid (and obviously can’t help but share). Basically, my general sentiment in this paragraph is to appreciate the enormous resources you have, whether it be 24 hour access to water, an exterminator, a plumber, a refrigerator that is big enough to hold your food or a grocery store that where a majority of the cheese isn’t already expired; and think twice before you complain if you see a mouse in your kitchen (we have one living under our oven and its quite cute, I’ve named her Minnie).

On an awesome note, apparently we have Friday off from school because of labor day (or something like that) and a half day on Thursday so that’s lovely. I am going to my friends host families house for her sisters Kemmem party and am spending the night, so I’m excited for that.

At this point I think I have written quite enough, thanks for reading, until next time folks.

Posted by gabbyfo 21:19 Archived in Marshall Islands

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Nice post Gabby, you are stronger than you know, and have more people behind you than you think! Enjoy your adventure.

by Baj0nes

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