15.09.2014 83 °F
It’s been another eventful couple weeks in the Pacific Ocean.
School has continued to be difficult, but I feel like I’m getting a better grasp on it every day. Grading takes forever, the students don’t study and never stop talking. It’s safe to say that I finally appreciate all of the teachers who have tried to back my brain full of information. For those who say “those who can’t do, teach”… you are blatantly wrong. I am insanely capable of “doing” a lot of things. I can write college papers, speak the English language with ease, read epic novels; but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to teach this in a way that is actually interesting or informative. I sincerely apologize for when I was being as much of an asshole to them as some of these kids are to me… On the other hand, as soon as I feel like I’m going to explode from frustration, there is one kid who will raise their hand and ask for help and all of the sudden it all feels worth it again.
I went to another Kemem (first birthday party) two weekends ago. (wow I can’t believe I haven’t written since then. My apologies blog enthusiasts) It was fun, it was on a sandy beach and was really beautiful. There was less dancing at this one than there was at the last one I went to. The food was amazing. I think I ate the most delicious bar-b-q chicken I have ever eaten (soy sauce, lime juice, garlic and coconut juice marinade). They also had rice cooked in coconut oil. Some delicious brown stuff that I couldn’t identify, coleslaw, pork, more rice, spam, hotdog, cooked coconut meat, these weird desert ball things (it comes in a piece of plastic wrap, you poke a hole in it and then suck out this like gelatin-ish stuff. I guess its supposed to be sweet… I don’t really think it tastes like anything) and turtle stew. Yes I ate turtle. Its apparently a very sacred animal here, and they always cook it for very special occasions. My first bite was horrible. It is hard to describe. It was difficult to rip off a piece because it was so tough, however, it also had a very squishy, gelatin feel to it. The texture was too unappealing to even focus on the taste. Then one of my friends said it tasted like steak…. What kind of steak do they eat at home?? So I took a bite of theirs, and it really did taste like delicious steak, with the same, familiar texture. I’ve decided that turtle is very dependent on which part of the body you are eating. ( took a picture of the meal because my mother was asking me about the type of food that is eaten traditionally… so take a look if you are interested).
The same weekend as the Kemem we also went to Laura beach to visit our other friends and hang out on the beach. Laura is probably an hour away from Rita (where I live), it was hard to find a ride there.. but once we got there it was all worth it. It is truly beautiful there. You wouldn’t even know you were on Majuro, it feels rural and jungle filled. It is calmer than the city and beautiful. We met up with Andy, Aras and Bobby, who are all teaching in Laura. It seems like they are loving life there. Bobby especially has an awesome set up. He lives with a host family on a huge chunk of land, with fresh fruit growing all around him. He has a ton of coconut trees, papaya trees, lime trees, and trees that grow this fruit called a wax apple. We ate like kings, with all the fresh fruit and it was amazing. Tip* if you are ever eating fresh papaya, squirt fresh lime juice on top of it… this is how papayas were meant to be eaten. I’m sure of it. I hope we get to go to Laura again sometime soon, it’s a little far to make the trip a lot, but the fresh fruit and fun friends are worth it.
My living situation has changed significantly. To begin this story I will start by describing one of the worst days I think I have had in the Marshall Islands thus far. So, our dorms didn’t have working air conditioning. This week the maintenance people finally came and fixed all of the air conditioning units in every room…except mine (apparently they ran out). Ok, I tried to keep my head help high, I can handle another few weeks of gross sweat. Then later that day, the maintenance people were messing with our water pump because it keeps bursting and were flushing a lot of water down the drain that always floods our kitchen with nasty sewage water. So naturally the kitchen, living room and my room (ONLY MINE) was flooded with sewage smelling, dirty water. Needless to say, I was alarmed when I walked into my room and found my stuff wet and rancid. I had to spend a long time trying to clean up the mess and without any working AC I got pretty sweaty and gross as I tried to clean up. Then I found a cockroach in my closet in my clothes. At this point I have gotten pretty desensitized to cockroaches. My thought has been “if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.” However, after the day I was having, I was not pleased to find a cockroach trying on my summer dresses without even having the decency to ask me first.(atleast my friends in college texted me first (KATE)) I tried to kill it and lost it somewhere in the laundry. I got so frustrated and ran out of my room to try to find out where it could have gone. When I got out of my room I saw that my housemate was wearing a sweat shirt because her AC was so cold in her room. Meanwhile I am dripping in gross sewage water sweat chasing a cockroach. All I wanted to do was scream. So I did. I screamed “I hate it here. I ******* hate it here” about 10 times. Which actually really did make me feel a lot better. Sometimes it’s good to just let those things out I say. The three boys who have been staying with us, waiting for their plane to come take them to their outer island placement, were hanging out with their Marshallese friend, Martin. They heard me screaming and came in to see if everything was ok. I calmly explained that everything was ok, I was crazy, and was expelling the crazy the only way I knew how. I had a lovely 5 minute conversation with Marshallese Martin, who was nice and made me feel better, then I went back into my room to start the mountain of school work I still had to do. Then, after hours of grading and lesson planning I went to sleep. I was woken up around 12:30 because the electricity went out and my fan turned off, making my room feel like a sauna, but managed to fall back asleep. Then I work up around 1:30 to a loud knocking on my door, I had no interest in getting up and ignored it until it went away. Then I woke up around 2:00 to a Marshallese man standing over me, mumbling something about needing somewhere to sleep. I groggily realized it was Martin…who I had met for a grand total of about 10 minutes, and told him as polite as I could, that he could not sleep in my room and needed to figure it out somewhere else. He left for a few minutes. Then he returned to tell me he was afraid of the dark. Tried to kiss me and crawl into bed with me. In response, I quickly jumped away, probably yelled a few more obscenities and physically pushed him out of my door and locked it. Now, usually we lock the house door so I don’t lock my room door…because I assume there aren’t any strangers sleeping in my home. From now on I guess I will assume there are tons of strangers who have no common sense trying to sleep in my living room. So that sums up one of the worst days I have experienced on Majuro thus far. The next day, the boys who brought Martin over left for their island too early for me to flip out at them, but had managed to draw a number of phallic imaged in permanent marker all over our home while they were drunk the night before. I hate boys sometimes.
As horrible as this story sounds, it does have a happy ending. The next day, my field director had a meeting with the Ministry of education and basically told the Minister that we couldn’t live in a place like that and demanded they do something about it. So the minister agreed to pay for us to stay in the Marshall Islands Resort this weekend until they could find us an alternative living situation while they fix the dorms. Life quickly went from rags to riches; Sleeping on a real mattress, with air conditioning that actually works and a HOT SHOWER. I forgot how amazing they are. Showers really are more incredible than I could have ever appreciated before. I also got to eat salads for dinner every night. REAL VEGETABLES, WHAT? Finally, we also had access to the gym for free and the amazing swimming spot behind the resort. I even made Joann start watching Sherlock with me (she had never seen it) and successfully got another person hooked on the wonderful series. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but to those interested I purchased the first two seasons of Sherlock for $6 total and it is amazing. Needless to say, this was a very timely vacation and it has given me a new sense of optimism and inner peace. Leaving felt like a piece of my soul was dying.
Sunday morning Joann and I got up early to meet our friend Rosie (she is a new comer to the islands as well and works at our high school) to try to hop on a boat and go to this cool island close to Majuro with sunken WWII helicopters and boats. Unfortunately we got confused about the location of the dock and the boat left without us. I texted my field director a pretty sad and pathetic text describing out pain. He was planning on going out on his friends boat with two other guys, he asked them to let him bring his pathetic, sad volunteers along. They agreed, and we had a really epic day. We took a lovely little sail boat into the middle of the lagoon and dropped the anchor every so often to swim in the open water and snorkel at some of the best choral reef’s Majuro has to offer. I will say, I really love snorkeling out here. It’s like living in my own personal aquarium, and I don’t even have to feel guilty about the contained living conditions! I’m really hoping I get to go to one of the closer, outer islands soon. I want to see the jungle and swim with the giant fish. My friend John caught a 70 pound fish his first week on his island. I also really want to swim with those WWII ships and helicopters. Hopefully one of these weekends I get out there. I got a bit burned when I was on the boat, even thought I put sunscreen on 4 different times… The burn isn’t too bad, its already starting to turn into a tan. I am going to have the most ridiculous tan when I return to the states. My face, lower legs and lower arms are going to be more brown than they have ever been in my entire life… but my shoulders, stomach, thighs and chest will be just as pale and translucent as they usually are….
After leaving MIR on Monday, we finally got to move into our “temporary” housing. We are living in an apartment a couple miles away from our school. Joann and I are in one apartment and the deaf volunteers are in another apartment. It’s a cute little place, perfect size for two people. There are definitely some pro’s and con’s with both the dorm and this new apartment. Here are a list of some pro’s and con’s associated with the new apartment. PRO: living with just Joann is going to allow the apartment to be so much cleaner than it was at the dorms with 8 people… (6 of whom have clearnly never cleaned up after themselves in their lives). PRO: less people means less people drinking and using the water, woo! PRO: working air conditioning units. CON: The Ministry of Education isn’t paying for our electricity anymore. SO, the way electric works here is a “pay as you go” method. You purchase an electric card with a certain amount of money on it and plug in the code to a little unit in your house to increase your balance. World teach is giving each volunteer $50 per month, so Joann and I get $100 per month for our apartment. However, electricity is expensive here and get used up fast, especially with Air conditioning units… so even though we have AC, it doesn’t look like we are going to be able to take advantage of it as often as we would like to… CON: I spent so long making my room feel like my own space at the dorm, and now all my pictures and tapestry and personal items aren’t surrounding me, making this room feel sad and foreign. PRO: I get to escape from that campus prison every day. CON: we have to take a taxi to work… $1.50 a day isn’t too much, but it adds up quickly when you are working on a volunteers salary. PRO: We have a giant fridge that we are just sharing with two people, instead of 8 people sharing a mini fridge. PRO: we have neighbors! (and potential new friends). CON: now we have a whole new space to clean and de-bug as much as we can. PRO: there isn’t any sign of sewage water flooding the apartment… CON: now we don’t have any free internet (or really internet in general). So that pretty much sums up my new apartment. We don’t know how long we will be here, the Minister said “anywhere from a few weeks to a few months” and that’s on Marshallese time.. so maybe we’ll end up being here all year.. who knows.
For my final shpeil in this blog, I am responding to a request my mother asked me about a while ago. (if you have specific questions you want me to answer, feel free to ask. I will dedicate some time to stop whining about myself and inform you about life in the Pacific). She was wondering what people do to make a living out here. Unfortunately I don’t really know… I have tried to research this for my comparative government class, but haven’t found many websites that have any information about the Marshall Islands. It’s important to remember that the Marshall Islands is very collectivistic and land ownership is important to them, so for the most part people live on the land that their family has owned for hundreds of years and don’t have to pay rent, or a mortgage or anything like that. They are really only making money to afford to pay for over priced food and basic needs. From what I have seen, people usually work for the government (those are high paying, prestigious jobs); teach (but only in the lower elementary schools from what I’ve seen, most of the high school teachers I’ve met are from Fiji and the Philippines); work in the small shops that their family owns, selling drinks and candy or drive taxi’s. Apparently the men who drive taxi’s don’t actually own the cars, the company is owned by a Chinese family, and they use the cars and have to pay the family a certain amount of the money every day, no wonder they only put gas in the tank when it’s on empty (and only fill it up about $1.50 at a time). A lot of the businesses are owned by Chinese families that have immigrated here. This has created a pretty racist environment between some Marshallese people and Chinese immigrants, because the Marshallese feel angry that the Chinese have taken business away from the locals. It looks like you can find hateful sentiments between groups of people pretty much everywhere you go, even sunny Majuro.
Well that seems to be enough blogging for one day, until next time friends (hopefully the wait won’t be as long then)
P.S two of my favorite musicians came out with new CD’s (and I just found out) so I have been having an amazing musical weekend. If anyone is interested, check of First Aid Kit’s new album “Stay Gold” or Ingrid Michaelson’s new album “Lights Out.” They have been filling my ears with joy all weekend.
P.P.S quick tidbit of Marshallese trivia that I didn’t know. Geckos make a sound, it sounds like a bird chirping kind of and its very loud. Who knew? (not me) now I hear it every night from the 100 geckos that live in and around my home. They are cute. I don’t mind.