22.02.2015 86 °F
It’s been a sunny February on my side of the world, I doubt the same can be said for most of you (sorry to rub it in…kind of). Time has continued to fly by, I am in disbelief that my time here will be ending in a little more than 3 months. I feel very grateful that I have been given this opportunity and have gained a plethora of knowledge and sense of appreciation for my life and the lives of others. This experience has been nothing like what I expected and I look forward to the surprises the next 3 months will bring.
That being said, it hasn’t been nearly as eventful as the holiday season was. I still feel very busy. My roommate and I were trying to estimate how many hours a week we work for school. Including actually teaching time, prep time and grading we averaged around 50-55 hours per week… That means I’m getting paid about $1.60 per hour. One of the many things I have gained a new appreciation for is the beauty of minimum wage. In the RMI the minimum wage is $2.00 per hour. While the citizens don’t pay rent for the most part, they are still paying huge amounts of money for food, gas, clothes and basically every imported good. What I wouldn’t give for some good old fashioned New York State minimum wage over here...One thing is for sure… I will never accuse a teacher of having an easy job.
We had another power outage today at school. It seems that the power outages always are focused on Rita (the neighborhood where I live and teach). The windy season is over and the stagnant air makes the heat even more unbearable than usual. When the power goes out, my measly two classroom fans stop working and the students become impossibly unmotivated. I’ve been trying to use the option of having class outside as a motivator to do the work in the first half of the class. The only problem is its not much cooler under the coconut trees. I know most of you will resent me for saying this, but I miss the cold (maybe not snot freezing cold, but a little light snow would be welcomed).
While the heat seems to make the students lazier, the troupes of youngsters still manage to find ways to have fun. Since teen pregnancy is so high and the average woman has 5 children in the RMI, there are babies EVERYWHERE. You can’t walk more than 2 minutes without running into a street gang of children with no guardians in sight. Usually they are playing some game that involves hitting each other with some piece of trash, but recently I observed a creative new game being played by 3 little boys. They were probably around 5 or 6 years old and each wasn’t wearing any pants (which is pretty common here, I’ve seen more baby butt this year than ever before in my life). Their game (or what I gathered from it) was trying to pee on the other two, while simultaneously attempting to avoid the other streams of urine. They were having a great time and it was easily the most entertaining portion of my walk.
I’m still helping with the Guys and Dolls production. Erin is doing A LOT more work than me (I don’t think she anticipated being as involved as she is.) I am helping with props and sets and working with the Adelaide’s on their acting. It’s fun to watch the kids having so much fun, and the crew seems to be enjoying the show, so I think it will end up being a hit! Some things are still unbelievably unproductive. I like the professor who is directing this show, but I don’t think he fully appreciates the realities of working with Marshallese students (or honestly basic directing concepts). He tends to speak very quickly and doesn’t explain things very well, then yells at them to do whatever he asked without checking to see if they understood. I think he thinks he is being strict in demanding efficiency, however efficiency is one of his weakest directing qualities. I know I can be obsessive about my experience in Musical Theatre Club, but Erin and I often find ourselves discussing how much smoother things would go if we just ran this show like an MTC show. I think Dr.Garrod was probably a fun (a little crazy) and enthusiastic education professor, but a rather dreadful director. However he is giving students the opportunity to explore the wonderful world of performance and the citizens of the RMI the chance to watch a play that is in their language, so I admire his work never the less.
Last week was “education week” in the RMI, which is a HUGE deal in the schools. (I don’t know if we even have a national education week in the USA, but its certainly not as big of an event as it is here.) There were nation wide science fairs, spelling bee’s, math competitions and different presentations and field days within the individual schools themselves. Ironically, several schools stopped having classes and just did fun activities all week. However, my school chose to have (painfully) long morning assemblies everyday that were scheduled to last through first period but often went on through third. They asked me to coach the debate team, which was surprising due to my lack of debate experience. I met with the “team” (the four students who were willing to speak in public) every day for a week and worked on the debate topic. The resolution was “The Marshall Islands should incorporate external migration into its national plan for climate change.” Each team needed to come prepared to argue both affirmative and negative sides of the resolution. Debate has a lot of specific rules and time constraints, but we came up with arguments and strategies (which I was kind of making up as I went along) and headed to the national debate competition bright and early Friday morning. We agreed that if they won the coin toss we would choose to argue the affirmative side of the resolution, and assumed most groups would do the same. However, we found that we were the only group choosing affirmative, which we were surprised by. The other teams were thrown off by our affirmative arguments at first and we gained momentum early on. Both of the teams I coached ended up making it to the Semi-finals and one of my teams made it all the way to the final round. The judges told them as they were approaching the stage for the final round that they wouldn’t be allowed to bring their notes for this argument. The lack of notes made one of my students incredibly nervous and while he consistently began to make great points, he fumbled over this words and his nerves tended to take over. His teammate was calm and eloquent and I was very proud of both of them. In the end my two teams ended up taking home first and third place! I was flabbergasted! So clearly I am the best debate coach in the Marshall Islands (lies, I was just blessed with incredibly hardworking students).
Valentines day was a-typical, but still fun. I spent the day/evening with my field director and crippled friend Ian. He is teaching on one of the outer islands but had to come in because he was having mysterious, incredibly painful joint pain. Don’t worry, 6 treatment trials later they seem to have started to fix the problem. Todd and I made shrimp scampi while Ian watched the movie “Chef” on the couch. Then Todd found out that we hadn’t seen Steel Magnolias and freaked out and made us watch it (I enjoyed it… but it’s no “Fried Green Tomatoes”). I love cooking and always have a great time goofing around with Todd. Thank god I have at least one fabulous gay friend on this island, I think I am going through withdrawals. I’m not really a big valentines day person in general ( with or without a relationship) but I welcome any excuse to cook good food with open arms. The night was a success and the food was delicious.
Speaking of eating, I am trying to eat healthier. My roommate and I have continued to succeed in our New Years resolution to run 5 days a week, which is awesome! However, I have been stressed out and obsessing about graduate school nonsense (updates in the next paragraph) and I am 100% a stress/emotional eater. I have made a commitment to myself to stop buying cheese…. I almost caved this week when I saw that it was on sale, but I managed to pull myself together. I really need to start working out beyond just running. I keep telling myself that “I’ll start next week,” but I never do. I feel so exhausted when I get home from school that the idea of doing any physical activity is overwhelming, I run because I promised Joann I would and I am stubborn when it comes to following through with commitments to others, but I’m much more comfortable with flaking out on myself. Hopefully I find a new burst of motivation soon, at the very least after the play is over (only one week to go!) Now that I am going to be enrolled in a public health graduate program I feel extra pressure to find some personal health before I get there. Anyway, trying to focus on the positives and admire my sticker chart. I am a toddler and give myself a sticker every time I run to keep track, it actually working quite nicely. Hopefully all of your resolutions are coming true for you as well!
Graduate school update time. So I mentioned that I am stressed and obsessing, which would probably make you assume that I have not heard back from schools or have received a number of rejections. However, this is not the case, I am merely insane. I am very pleased to report that I have been accepted into the Social Work Masters programs at Boston University and Temple University, as well as the Public Health Maters Programs at Temple University and SUNY Albany. I haven’t heard back from any other programs so I am 4/4 at this moment in time. You would assume that this success would fill me with joy, and upon the initial acceptance email, it did. However, now that I am faced with choices I am becoming increasingly aware of the incredible costs of graduate school and my impeding mountain of debt. My parents have been incredibly supportive both emotionally and fiscally throughout this process. I am confident that they will support whatever decision I make, while supplying advice along the way. I cannot stress enough how lucky I am to have such a strong familial support system and how many opportunities have been made possible through them. I would absolutely not be able to apply to these schools if it weren’t for their help and I am unable to find the right words that show adequate appreciation and thanks for all they do for me. The cost of my graduate school education will be rightfully my responsibility and I am in the process of panicking over the money that I don’t have and am obligated to promise away if and when I enroll. Most people have debt from their undergraduate education and thanks to my awesome parents I came out of Geneseo debt-free, so I really shouldn’t be complaining. However, my interest in doing the dual program and earning two masters degrees also increases the cost of my education. I have already eliminated BU from the picture due to the astronomical private school cost and an inadequate amount of financial aid. I am very excited that I have gotten into both the MSW and MPH program at Temple University. I really like the idea of living in Philly, one of my best friends lives there now and we are planning to get an apartment together if I am able to afford the school, which would be AMAZING. I also really like the description of the program, the mission statements and the research they are doing. However, I would be paying out-of-state tuition which is a little over $1000.00 per credit. Accounting for the cost of a Philly apartment, travel expenses, utilities, food, books, ect, that price tag is adding up quickly. SUNY Albany has a very prestigious Social Work program and the in-state tuition is incredibly cheaper compared to Temple. I grew up in the Albany area and while I appreciate some of the benefits Albany has to bring (friends, family, a pretty cool state museum) I have a strong desire to see more of the world/country. I still haven’t heard back from the MSW program at SUNY Albany, which is inspiring a lot of my stress. There was confusion about sending in my GRE scores and although I submitted my application two weeks before the deadline, the miscommunication made it so that my application wasn’t marked as “complete” until a week after the deadline. Since the program is ranked 24th in the country and the cost is so reasonable, SUNY Albany receives a huge number of applications every year. I am worried that this unforeseen problem has seriously affected my chances of acceptance into the program. Hopefully I am granted some sort of scholarship or assistantship at Temple to decrease my money woes and receive an acceptance from Albany asap. I keep trying to remind myself that everything will work out, I am choosing between two very good options and all will be well. I keep chanting the Marshallese mantra “Enaaj Emman” meaning “it will be good” and the sentiment genuinely does calm me to a degree.
Speaking of “Enaaj Emman” I got a tattoo a few months ago. I can’t remember if I mentioned it in my last blog. My parents have agreed to still love me even though they have an inked up hoodlum for a daughter. It’s a beautiful Marshallese inspired wave on my foot with the words enaaj emman. Basically symbolizing my ability to face any task, even as the waves crash around me and it seems like all is lost, trust that it will all be good in the end. The image itself is beautiful, however it ended up being a bit bigger than I anticipated, but alas… enaaj emman
I am very excited for March because I will be getting a taste of American life and some highly anticipated family time in Hawaii. My grandmother, mom and dad will be flying into Hawaii the third week in March and I will be flying from one island to another to meet them. I’m very excited both to have a bit of a break and to spend some time in paradise with my family. It was wonderful when Erin’s parents came, but it made me miss my family even more. I’m also looking forward to the hot shower and mattress and yummy luau food. I anticipate a Hawaii themed blog entry in a month or so, so stay tuned.
I’ve recently discovered exciting news about my return to the US in June. One of my best friends from college is moving to LA to pursue a career in improv comedy and acting. I was under the impression that he was leaving in late June BUT he told me yesterday that he is moving in mid-to-late May, so now I have a friend to stay with in LA and I get to hang out with Luke. I think I will plan on staying in LA for a few days, now that I have a friend to visit. I probably won’t get a chance to see Luke for a while so I want to make the most of it while I can. I’m also a great friend and am making him some LA connections. My assistant field director went to college in California and has several friends who are working in the improv group Upright Citizens Brigade and one who works for Tim & Eric (a comedy duo that Luke happens to be obsessed with). I asked her to help me set up a connection and exchange emails with Luke and her friends. Hopefully everything works out and I play a role in helping my friend become famous. It would make our annual college friend labor day get-togethers very exciting if we had some ritzy Hollywood home/friend to visit and make fun of.
Two of the volunteers on Majuro have Asian heritage (one is from Vietnam and the other has family living in Taiwan), and they wanted to celebrate the lunar new year this weekend. So most of the Majuro volunteers got together and made some delicious Asian inspired cuisine. We made authentic spring rolls and dumplings (with the help of our seasoned lunar new year party goers). I made a spicy Tai peanut stir fry that came out delicious. We had a lovely time and the food was wonderful.
Finally, this Saturday the Majuro volunteers traveled to the other side of the island and visited Laura Beach. Our assistant field director, Lara, is leaving the island 3 and half months early to start a new job in Hawaii. We just found out about this last week and she leaves next weekend so we wanted to do something fun with her while we still could. We all brought yummy snacks and barbeque things to share and spend the day swimming in the warm, clear water and chatting on the white sand beach. I’m very sad to see Lara leave, but she has been given a great job opportunity. I’m glad we got to spend a day in paradise with her. On the way back a lot of us sat in the bed of the truck (I can’t believe that is illegal in the US, riding in the back of a truck on a warm day is one of the best feelings ever). I played some ukulele and enjoyed the ocean breeze. These are the types of days I will be missing the most. I love slowing down, enjoying the moment and the beauty I am surrounded by. Please Enjoy this video of Erin and I jamming out on the way home from Laura: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzUV16_IMoE&index=9&list=PLA24GSIdcGDYrMOlQeoJ1dGdxDS48m2t3
Well I need to go help get things ready for opening night of the musical. I hope this blog post didn’t feel too disjointed! Enjoy the rest of your winter my northeastern friends.