A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: gabbyfo

Outer Island Outings

sunny 87 °F

Yokwe aolep!

As usual, this blog has been neglected over the past several weeks and now I am slightly overwhelmed with how much has happened and deserves prime spot time. I may have to shorten sections to save time, I apologize in advance and will try my best to give you the interesting RMI blog post you deserve!

The last time I wrote I was anticipating visiting my parents and grandmother in Hawaii. That trip was amazing. It was so nice to see them and spend time with them. It was nice to see some changes in elevation (rather than flat coral land everywhere you look). We went on some awesome, beautiful hikes (my favorite part) and experience some fun touristy luau time. We had an incredible view in our fancy hotel. It was kind of overwhelming to be around such an over populated, touristy place. There were more stores in our hotel complex than I think there are in the entire country of the Marshall Islands. While it was awesome to see my family, I was not eager to jump back into a hyper consumerized society and anticipate the culture shock back in America to be quite jarring for the first few weeks. I had hoped to spend much more time depicting the awesome experiences I had in Hawaii, alas there is far too much ground to cover in this blog post and since it is primarily Marshall Islands focused, Hawaii stories will have to be cut off early, my apologies.

The fourth and final quarter has begun (at this point it is almost over) and my students are ready for summer vacation. The attitude level has begun to steadily rise (along with the searing hot temperatures) and the level of caring has plummeted. That being said, I have really come to enjoy most of my students and will miss seeing them when I leave. I will not miss teaching and am very ready for that to be over, but I look forward to seeing most of my students every day and wish we could just spend time getting to know each other instead of boring each other over adjective clauses. Finals week is May 25-29th so the end is near! The seniors have finals week several days early so I have very limited time with my government class (which is a pity because I enjoy teaching that one the most. It allows me to go off on animated tangents related to sociology and things I actually studied in college). There have been some fun celebrations in the RMI the past few weeks. Constitution day was on May 1st, it celebrates the day the Marshall Islands Constitution was signed and they became a self governing nation. School was canceled and there was a HUGE parade with everyone in Majuro, plus several representatives from outer islands. The day began with all of the schools, government offices and companies in Majuro marching down in an opening ceremony. The students at my school sang and had a nice time, while trying not to melt in the scorching sun. Afterwards, my friends from World Teach and I went to line up for the driven parade, we spent the night before making posters to decorate Todds truck for our “float.” When we got there and saw the other floats we mostly tried to hide our faces. All of the trucks were built up to have several levels, were covered in pam tree leaves, coconuts, handicrafts and everything beautiful in the RMI. Theirs looked amazing, while ours looked like a preschool craft. Then in started pouring down rain, which was hilarious because many of us where sitting in the bed of the truck and got soaking wet, and most of our posters were made with washable marker and the ink started bleeding down the sides of the truck, making our craft look even more sad and pathetic. I personally couldn’t stop laughing and thought the whole fiasco was rather entertaining. Eventually Todd decided to abandon our sad excuse for a float and we joined the Ministry of Educations float. We threw candy at the kids as we passed and they went CRAZY. It was so fun, I’ve never really had a huge desire to be in a parade, but now I realize that throwing candy to eager children is pretty much the most fun anyone can have. There were supposed to be fireworks, but the weather made that impossible, which was disappointing. My boss Todd says that the RMI constitution day fireworks are the best that he has ever seen in his life, including all of the shows he’s seen in America, so I was really looking forward to them. Oh well, life goes on.

I have been missing many friends in the US lately as my friends who are currently seniors get ready to graduate and join the professional world. The Musical Theatre Club had their semesterly show a few weeks ago and Erin and I were able to skype in and see the great performance they put together. I really wish I could have been there in person to support my friends. My friends from my improv troupe have a “roast” where they make fun of the graduating seniors at a party at the end of the year. One of my friends asked me to “roast him” and make a video, so I had a lot of fun putting that together to send along. Its nice to think that I am missed/thought of at times, even though we are all too absorbed in our own lives to really keep in touch regularly. I look forward to seeing them this summer and can’t wait to catch up and laugh again.

In other US news, I finally decided which graduate school to attend this fall! I am very excited to report that I have accepted the offer from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the dual MSW and MPH program. While the program is more expensive than SUNY Albany’s (which ended up being the other school I was seriously considering) the program at Temple was much more in line with my future goals and interests, and the location offers a new adventure where I feel I can continue to grow, rather than feel like I am headed back into a familiar lifestyle. I love Albany and enjoy visiting and seeing all of my wonderful friends who live there, but I wanted to start a new chapter in graduate school and be encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends. Philadelphia seems like a great city and the perfect place to start this chapter of my life. One of my best friends from college, Megan Killea, has been working in Philly this past year and will be moving in with me this summer. I am so thankful that she is there and will make this transition fun and easy. I am also happy that I only have one person as a resource ,forcing me to make new friends and put myself out there. I will be moving to Philly this summer and could not be more excited to jump into this new adventure!

This weekend was really great because I got the chance to visit an outer island and see a different way of life in the RMI. This past Friday I set off with my boss Todd and friend Erin to take a trip across the pond to Arno, the closest outer island to Majuro. While it is closer than the other atolls, it is one of the least modernly developed. No electricity or running water. The trip started with a stressful morning of running around and waiting around for information. The weather wasn’t great on Friday, the sky was overcast and raining sporadically, and it was rather windy. Todd didn’t think the boat would end up traveling to Arno because of the weather so we went next door to get a quick breakfast and wait for the captain to make a decision. As we were waiting for our food we saw people loading the boat and we grabbed our food to go and ran. We ended up getting onto the boat and eating our breakfast quickly as we waited. At first, the boat ride was so fun, the waves were high and splashing up high, making us soaking wet and causing Erin and I to double over with laughter and joy. However, about 10 minutes into this 90 minute boat ride, the constant turbulence became horribly unpleasant. Instead of laughing at the water, I felt my recently devoured breakfast making its way back up. I was the only pathetic American to throw up on the boat, but it wasn’t too awful. I made to the back of the boat and managed not to dirty anything. Then I felt Todd rubbing my back, which was nice and bracing me so I didn’t fall over (I found out later…that it wasn’t Todd because he couldn’t get to me fast enough and it was a strange Marshallese man hahaha). Once we finally got off the boat we waited about 10 minutes and boarded an even smaller boat to make our way to Ulien, an island in the Arno atoll. This second boat ride was much smoother and much shorter, so it was a breeze in comparison. Our friend Cari is teaching in Ulien, which is a very isolated island, so she hasn’t seen any visitors all year due to the difficulty volunteers have getting there (it pays to go on a trip with your boss). Cari didn’t know I was coming and was very surprised and excited. The first thing I noticed when we arrived was how quiet everything was. Everywhere you looked was dense jungle, with a house made of plywood, weaved palm tree leaves or thin sheets of aluminum. There were also tons of chickens, chicks, pigs and piglets roaming around everywhere you looked. In Majuro there are stray dogs and cats around every corner, but there were very few there. Cari’s host family was so warm and welcoming, they went out and caught us fresh lobster for lunch and made us delicious coconut rice, coconut breadfruit and fresh bananas. I have never eating plain lobster before but it was one of the best things I have eaten all year. Apparently the lobsters here are sweeter than the ones we are used to eating in America and don’t require any extra sauce to make it delicious. The community of Ulien has had a World Teach volunteer for the past several years and were generally very friendly. I think the fact that they are used to seeing ribelle’s in their community made them less scared of us. They still stopped and stared at us no matter what we were doing, but they also waved and said hello. The beaches were sandy, and everything was generally too beautiful for words. At night, you could see the glow of Majuro from afar, making it look much more epic than I usually view it as. I suppose if you have spent your whole life living on an outer island, Majuro would seem like an epic, exciting city. People don’t really have jobs on the outer islands. A very limited amount of people teach at the school. The classrooms are combined grade levels (1st and 2nd grade together and so on) so only 3-4 teachers are necessary for the school to run. Otherwise, men make copra and women make the handicrafts to sell to Majuro. Cari’s family owns one of the only “stores” on the island (which is mostly a closet in their house where people can buy rice or flour when they have some). I really enjoyed seeing Cari and exploring her town, however it seemed like her house was constantly surrounded by people (children, local men just sitting around and her huge family). I imagine that privacy is extremely hard to come by. On Saturday morning we took the small boat back to the main strip of land in Arno. We had to wait a very long time for the truck to pick us up to drive us to our next location, so we had an island photo shoot and took some amazing pictures on the beach. Eventually the truck showed up and we started to make our way to the opposite end of Arno. We stopped again for a couple hours at Arno’s main dock because that is the only place on island that has any internet and the volunteers from Arno wanted to stop and make some plans for their departure while they were in the area. Todd and Erin and I continued our epic photo shoot and swam a lot in the crystal clear blue water while we waited. (Erin should be putting our model shots online sometime this week). After a while we took the truck on another 90 minute drive to Madeline, the village at the very end of Arno. Charmaine is the World Teacher volunteer in Madeline. Her host families house is HUGE in comparison to the other houses on island and beautiful. It was made by her host grandfather and is my favorite Marshallese home I have ever been in. Her host father was off island, her host mother was nice but I think a little overwhelmed by having 3 more ribelles in her home. We brought our own food to cook and share, but Marshallese customs make it so that they feel obligated to cook for us. I felt bad that she was doing so much for us, but I appreciated the delicious and fresh Marshallese food we devoured all weekend. Charmaine has three host siblings, including a 2 year old sister who was adorable and played with me all weekend. They also had the tiniest fluffiest puppy. Generally things were cute as can be at Charmaine’s house. I woke up every morning to the sounds of baby chicks walking around me and chirping. I loved being in Madeline because houses were very spread out. The land was beautiful and it was easy to find people in the community if you walked a little, but it was also easy to find privacy if you wanted some. We spent Sunday walking to the end of Arno to see the smaller islands. We stopped by the school Charmaine teaches in on the walk. Only two teachers work there and the school is small and falling apart. The classrooms were about the size of my shed in my families back yard in New York. The ceiling had huge holes in it, so anytime it rains the school floods and class is canceled. The “textbooks” they had were falling apart. Apparently there are so few students there that the Ministry of Education hasn’t prioritized the school. Next year they most likely will not get a World Teach volunteer and the school renovations don’t seem like they will be happening any time soon. I feel sad for the students in Madeline, who will probably not get a chance to go to college or leave their communities. There are so many opportunities we take for granted, even the students in Majuro take for granted, compared to those on outer islands. The rest of the walk to the smaller islands was long and hot, but the water was so clear and the fish were amazing. This is the first year Madeline has had a World Teach volunteer, so the people there were a little more wary of us. Todd, Erin and I are also quite an “entertaining” bunch, constantly dancing, belting out songs in unison and making loud jokes. I think we naturally draw attention to ourselves with our ridiculous sense of humor, but the people in Madeline definitely thought we were crazy (which we probably are). On Monday we left Charmaine’s and took the truck back to the Arno dock, we shared our truck ride back with another Marshallese man carrying two living chickens. We waited a long time for the boat to come, with our fingers crossed that it actually would (no telling what will happen when you are in the RMI). Eventually we saw the boat and rejoiced, only to become disappointed as it anchored near by while people fished for at least an hour. Eventually it came in to dock, but the tide was high and the waves were strong, making it impossible for the boat to line up with the dock. Eventually they got it so that the tip top of the boat was close enough to the dock to get somethings across. They unloaded their cargo and got the people off. Each time a wave came the boat shot backward away from the dock and then would come crashing toward the dock so that people had to push it to keep it from colliding with the cement. After a long time they started loading on the huge amount of cargo from the people returning to Majuro. Todd thought the captain would change his mind, decide it was too dangerous and come back tomorrow. However, the boat continued to wait for passengers. When it was my turn to get on I happily survived my death jump and made it onto the boat in one piece, with Erin right behind me. Those moments are the only ones in which I am happy that Marshallese men think I am incapable of doing things and require help (because in those moments I do). Poor Todd is a boy so they leave him to accomplish these hard tasks alone. As he was about to jump the boat hit a big wave and started to drive off. Erin and I had all of his money, clothes, food, everything and were convinced that the boat was abandoning him there, which was so ridiculous that it was simultaneously funny and horrible. Eventually the boat came back, Todd made a death jump onto the boat, they threw a chicken and a baby on board (not a joke) and we took off. The boat ride back was much more pleasant. We laid on the front of the boat and lounged like we were on a high class cruise. No vomiting or complaining, just a docile chicken at our feet without a care in the world. Overall, the trip was a success. I am really happy I got a chance to spend some time on an outer island. I think if I had been placed there I would have made it my home, however, since I have spent the year in Majuro I was happy to return. I loved being surrounded by nature, waking up to the sounds of animals and the generally relaxed environment in Arno, but I also appreciate my constant ability for privacy, diversity in my diet and ability to utilize technology. It is because I am based in Majuro that I was able to apply to graduate school and have a plan for next year, see my family in Hawaii, and keep in touch with loved ones at home. Even though I was initially disappointed with my placement, I have found that everything happens for a reason and works out if you look for the positives in the situation.

Things are feeling a little crazy as school comes to a close. I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks before I am able to return to the US. I promise to create at least one more blog post to bring this great experience to a close, but for now this will have to suffice as my update. Thank you for continuing to have patience with me and being interested enough to read my babbling accounts of life in the RMI!

Posted by gabbyfo 15:30 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

Random Hodge-podge of activities

sunny 86 °F

Yokwe, yokwe,

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.

Posted by gabbyfo 01:13 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

Walking in a Choral Wonderland

sunny 85 °F

WHOA,

So this has been an even longer hiatus from blogging than usual. The busier I get the more daunting the task becomes, but I will do my best to pack it all in. This will mostly be a holiday post so gather up all the holiday spirit that hasn’t been sucked out of you in the past month and enjoy.
First of all, I have never before realized how seasonally dependent I am to gauge the passage of time. Living in New York for most of my life has made me expect painfully cold days preceding the holidays. However, living in a constant state of summer has disoriented me and December seemed to come out of nowhere. I know everyone reading this in the Northeast will resent me, but I miss the cold (to a degree), I wish I could have just one day of snow when it is beautiful and pristine. I am sick of being sweaty and all I want is to bundle up in an adorably oversized sweater. I have a feeling I am going to be an even bigger wimp that I usually am about the cold next winter, but initially appreciative (I’m sure it won’t last). Try to appreciate the nostalgic value of a snow storm next time you are cursing the weather.

For those who do not know me well, my birthday is on December 24th, Christmas Eve, and consequently I have always been quite obsessed with the holiday season. The music, chilly air, food, family and friends is enough to make my heart swell with joy. Needless to say, this holiday season was quite different than all of the rest. My birthday was lovely, I went to my field directors house with the other world teach volunteers and had a holiday party (but lets make this about me and pretend it was a birthday party). We ate and they bought me a cake (very sweet of them) and Erin even bought me an apple pie because she knows that’s what I always have on my birthday  Erin, Todd, Rebeka (another volunteer) and I danced A LOT while the rest of the lame people watched us (feeling only envy for how fun we are, I’m sure). It concluded with everyone watching the movie “The Holiday.” Overall it was a very successful evening.

I slept at Erin’s house that night and spent most of Christmas with her host family. The Marshallese are very religious (I have a few students who have dedicated their journals to saving my soul…. I don’t know who told them it needed saving, but they are on it) and I knew they spent a long time at church on Christmas. I didn’t anticipate spending every single minute of the day at church into the next morning. We woke up and had a charming breakfast with freshly fried hot dogs and pancakes (a Marshallese classic) and headed off to church for a 3 hour mass in Marshallese. It was pleasant but I had no idea what they were saying, so I ended up zoning out a few times. After the mass Erin and I slipped away to Todd’s house to skype our families. It was very nice to see everyone but also quite surreal not to be there. Also, I find skyping with several people on the screen slightly overwhelming as it is, sorry to my family if I seemed a little dazed. Then we returned to church (the others never left) and they started the beat team performances. Different groups from all around the island practice for over a month every night of the week until after midnight to prepare for these performances. They sing and dance and wear brightly colored coordinated shirts and some guy stands in the front and blows a whistle. Generally, its quite fun to watch, however each performance lasted about 30 minutes, with about 5-10 minutes of material repeated over and over again. It was really fun to watch them dance and even more exciting to hear the Marshallese music, but I could help but think they could have benefitted from an editor. There were at least 14 beat teams, each with about 30 minutes of material and at least 30 minutes in between because no one is ever worried about time in the RMI. If you do the math, you realize that church lasted until around 2am. I was on the executive board of the Musical Theatre Club my senior year of college and a major part of that job was cutting down numbers when they dragged or took up too much time as well as solidifying quick transitions. I couldn’t help but thinking of how the MTC “LadE-board” could help this show move along. Regardless of my production critiques it was fun to see the performances and even more fun to watch the thousands of young children running around without a care in the world or restraints from anyone what so ever. The best part of each performance occurred at the very end. Everyone on the beat team got into a sort of conga line and “step-touched” out of the room while throwing treats into the crowd. Candy, gum, quarters, chips, packages of ramen…you name it, they threw it. All of the kids ran around like crazy trying to collect as much as they could and the rest of us just had to hope that we didn’t lose an eye from the shrapnel. Don’t underestimate those old Marshallese women.. They have the strength of a college softball pitcher. It’s remarkable how painful a gumball pitched at your eye can feel. One group threw out some fruit into the crowd and I managed to save Erin’s host mothers life by catching a rogue orange before it smashed into her face. Am I a hero? Some seem to think so, but I try to stay humble.

Another exciting part of this holiday season was the arrival of all of the World Teach volunteers from the outer islands. It took several days of canceled boats and planes, but eventually everyone made it to Majruo. Even though we only really spent one month together it still felt like being reunited with old friends. Living with people for a whole month without privacy and experiencing something so new and indescribable, speeds up the bonding process a bit. Many of the visitors stayed in my apartment, which was way more fun than it was over crowded, to my delight. It was very strange to be constantly social though. My perspective of this year has changed significantly from the beginning and has become one of comfortable solitude for the most part. I am very lucky to have Erin, Joann and Todd as support systems, but I spend a lot of time on my own reading, playing ukulele and writing. When you are around 30 people who haven’t spoken English in the past four months, the social shock can be overwhelming. A few times, I had to pretend to go to the bathroom and just take a moment to sit in silence. It seems to me that this is a peek into some culture shock I will be experiencing when I return to the states in four and a half months. That being said, it was so fun to see everyone and hear about their experiences. Most had the same complaint, that the food was horrible for you and eating only white rice, pancakes, doughnuts and boiled fish was getting old. I am absolutely thankful that I have the freedom to both live on my own and buy my own food, it has made a huge difference in my health and nutrition this year compared to many volunteers. The type II diabetes and obesity rate in the RMI is astoundingly high and after seeing the common diet, I understand why. After complaining about all of our grievances we were able to spend time together at “mid-service,” which is a three day program funded by world teach that includes staying at the fancy resort, watching presentations and eating delicious meals. Again, hot showers are a thing of luxury and I implore you to never take them for granted again. Also, sleeping on a real mattress was a dream, but still nothing compared to the shower. Overall, mid-service was a great success and I hope that I am able to see some of the outer island volunteers again before we all leave for good.

Another extremely fun event in the Marshall Islands is “Block Party” which occurs on New Years Eve. On the night before new years, when all of my American friends were gathered around the T.V to watch a shiny ball slowly descend, the people of the Marshall Islands shut down the main road (basically only road) and set up a concert area and booths with food and booze. Everyone come out and parties in the street together, eating, drinking, dancing and laughing. It was SO much fun, probably one of my favorite nights of the year. It was especially fun getting a chance to party with all the volunteers. We also made some Swedish friends who were super cool and I hope the universe makes our paths mysteriously cross again someday. They were Alex, Henrick and Christian, all under the age of 30 (Alex was only 20, having just graduated from school the year before) and sailing around the world. The boys had saved money after graduating as Engineers and decided to buy a small boat, learn how to sail it, and sail around the world. They had been out at sea for a year and a half and had seen more countries than I can count. Alex went to New Zealand with the intention of living there for a year and working, then she met the guys and they invited her to sail with them, so she ditched her New Zealand plans and is sailing around the world instead. Imagine telling your mom that you met these two guys and decided to sail around the world with them on a tiny boat…at the age of 20. My mother would not be down, (honestly even a risk taker like me would second guess that decision), but her family seemed to take it in stride and she’s having a great time. Sweden in general seems chill based on my fast friends.

That sums up most of my holiday endeavors. Now that school has started I am back trying to convince myself that I am teacher and stumbling my way through the year. A retired professor from Dartmouth and a current junior from Dartmouth flew in a few weeks ago to start working on a musical that will be performed in March. The professor, Andrew Garrod, was a teacher in the education department for 25 years, then retired and now travels around the world bringing youth theater to populations that would otherwise go without. He has directed several Shakespearian plays and musicals in the Marshall Islands as well as Romeo and Juliet in Bosnia and Rwanda. He is a fascinating man and I am happy to say that I am a part of the production team for this years production of Guys and Dolls. It’s a wonderful, cute musical that I was lucky enough to perform in several years ago, so I am excited to see what happens with the show. I’ve led a few improvisational warm up games and am helping where ever they seem to need me the most. Dr. Garrod actually has a documentary coming out about his production of Romeo and Juliet in Rwanda entitled “Rwanda and Juliet.” It sounds really interesting and I hope I get a chance to see it when it comes out, keep an eye out for it if you are interested!

I have also been stressing out lately due to the amount of work surrounding graduate school applications. I have decided to make the most of being on Majuro, rather than the outer islands, and utilize my access to technology to try to take the next step in my academic career. I am applying to dual masters programs in both social work and public health. If I get into both programs at the same school I will be able to integrate the course work and emerge in 3 year with both an MSW and MPH. I think the program would be a great fit for me and my future goals. The trouble is, you have to apply to the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health separately for every University, so it doubles the work and the stress. I have decided to apply to Ohio State, SUNY Albany, Boston University and Temple University. I spent basically every second of Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week finishing my essay for each program and am happy to say all of my applications have been successfully submitted, well before each deadline! This is only possible because I am privileged to have very supportive parents who agreed to not only support my decision emotionally, but also financially. I sincerely want to thank my parents for all of their help throughout my whole life and in this specific situation. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for the opportunities provided by you. While paying for graduate school tuition, books and living expenses is reasonably my sole responsibility, they agreed to pay for my application fees, which are very expensive and add up quickly. I planned on applying to the University of Colorado as well, but the cost was getting ridiculous, so I removed it from my list. Now I am just playing the wait and worry game. Hopefully I find out before I leave here. Whatever happens is for the best and if I am unsuccessful in terms of acceptance, I’m sure I will find something worthwhile to do in the meantime while I figure things out. As they say in Marshallese, “Enaaj Emman,”meaning “it will be good.” If you are interested in the specific areas I am interested in studying and pursing long term I have posted my essay for the Temple University MSW program before this entry. If you are not interested in learning more, don’t read it and rest assured that I am not offended.

This seems like a good update for now. Until next time folks!

Posted by gabbyfo 15:08 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

Excerpt from my Graduate School Application Essay

Only for those interested...

WARNING: this has very little to do with the Marshall Islands (although there is a few references). This is an excerpt from the personal statement I wrote for one graduate school program and rather than go into depth about my graduate school goals and bore many readers, I thought it would be wise to just pass along my explanation for those interested. Feel free to ignore this post and scroll up to the next one, which details my holiday endeavors and island shenanigans. Otherwise, here is a piece of my essay and a look into my future goals......

"My interest in pursuing social work has stemmed from several experiences working with low income populations. During my sophomore year of high school, I traveled to Tijuana, Mexico and helped build a house with the organization Amor Ministries. I quickly fell head over heels in love with the 5 year old girl whose house we were building and we managed to forge a bond that rivals many of those I have made in America. It was the first time I was able to truly appreciate the kind, funny and hardworking individuals that make up each piece of the statistics on “impoverished populations.” I spent the next three years of my life traveling to Tijuana every spring break, meeting new people whose lives I was blessed to play a small role in. Those experiences inspired me to pursue a college degree in psychology and a concentration in sociology.

My undergraduate experience further developed my passion to work with vulnerable populations. During my junior year of college, I was fortunate enough to acquire a job working as a counselor at the Mount Hope Family Center in Rochester, NY. The program focused on working with children who lived in low socioeconomic areas, many of whom were victims of abuse or neglect. The difficult situations these children were facing led them to seek negative attention. My job was to create lessons that aimed to help the children discuss and handle their emotions in a healthy way. I heard stories from these children daily about their heartbreaking living situations, describing toxic environments with parents who were suffering from substance abuse, mental illness and STD’s. Many of these situations led to developmental disabilities or emotional problems that limited the children’s ability to succeed in school and impeded their future potential. I also met a number of young women who were submerged in the world of teen motherhood without many supportive life lines. These situations occurred often and it was not uncommon for me to come home from Mount Hope feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. Despite the taxing nature of the job, I still found myself eager to return each day. I was driven by the prospect of a breakthrough. The exhaustion always felt worth it when I saw a child attempting to control their anger by utilizing the strategies we worked on during a group lesson. I find purpose and passion in playing a part in these tiny miracles.

Presently, I am working as a volunteer teacher in a low-income high school in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands on a yearlong contract. My experiences here have bolstered my ambition to work with low socioeconomic communities. It has also increased my desire to study social welfare issues in at-risk areas with focuses on mental health and sexual health. Teen pregnancy is remarkably high in the RMI, leading dozens of girls to drop out of high school each term, many of which are my students. However, sexual health is a taboo topic that is rarely discussed within families or schools. Similarly, youth suicide rates are alarmingly high and nationwide surveys have indicated that families seriously underreport them due to cultural stigma. I have made these issues a priority and I am currently organizing a two-week intensive seminar to educate my students about sexual health strategies. Additionally, I am creating a program that will educate students and community members about the realities of mental illness and the suicide statistics in the country, in an attempt to start a dialogue concerning these issues, provide resources and offer myself as a source of support for students suffering from depression. My experiences in Mexico, Rochester and the Marshall Islands have impacted my life on a personal level and subsequently a professional level, inspiring me to pursue a career in social work.

I am most interested in studying stigmatized social issues including mental illness and sexual health in vulnerable populations. Stigma surrounding mental illness stems from the unreasonable expectation that mental illness is a matter of personal strength and that suffering individuals should “toughen up and get over it.” This mentality leads to decreased self-esteem in victims and a de-valuation of their problems. In the Marshall Islands, even when grieving the loss of a loved one, it is highly discouraged to exhibit feelings of sadness or depression. Similarly, the students I worked with in Rochester found it difficult to discuss their emotions for fear of appearing weak. Mental health is not considered to be as legitimate as many physical ailments. It would be unreasonable for someone to claim that a cancer patient just needs to change the way they think about the world and “toughen up” as the sole treatment option, however it is a common suggestion for those suffering with mental illness.
Stigma surrounding sexual health issues are most detrimental in the lives of women raised in vulnerable communities. These individuals often have little access to sexual health education and resources, increasing their chances of STD’s and teen pregnancy. Society often expects women to accept criticism and sole responsibility when dealing with these issues, ignoring their cultural context. My Marshallese students facing social stigma due to teen pregnancy are exclusively young women; the fathers are rarely involved, escaping the shame and long term repercussions of their actions. Despite the astoundingly high rates of teen pregnancy, social stigma has led these young women to remain uneducated about basic genital anatomy, birth control and sexual health in general. Society condemns these women, holding them solely responsible and offers no resources or means of support, largely due to the “discomfort” that surrounds discussion of the topic.

Overall, the realm of mental illness and sexual health includes social stigma that projects feelings of shame. This shame leads the victims to de-legitimize their own problems, viewing their troubles as a sign of personal weakness that should be hidden and ultimately perpetuating the stigma surrounding the topic. Members of vulnerable populations are already faced with oppression in terms of inadequate access to resources and societal de-valuation of individuals. Women, immigrants, racial minorities, disabled and homeless individuals must prove themselves as legitimate and capable, as opposed to privileged groups who are assumed to be so. This de-valuation leads privileged groups to assume that the aforementioned populations are merely trying to gain government resources and sympathies when they are faced with mental illness, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, STD’s or single motherhood. The generalization of these groups is detrimental to the wellbeing of these individuals, yet the contextualization of their lives is necessary to consider when addressing their hardships. The lack of awareness concerning cultural influence and discomfort surrounding these topics leads to social stigma that not only prevents support from society as a whole, but also impedes discussion and support between victims within these communities.

Recognizing the influence social systems have over the lives and struggles of individuals, especially in vulnerable populations, is the core reason I am so passionate about dedicating my life to the pursuit of social justice. Social justice is only possible when facilitated by others and I feel that I am most capable of achieving this goal through a career in social work. I believe that working with individuals concerning stigmatized mental health and sexual health struggles by legitimizing their problems and encouraging self-respect is necessary. However, only working on the individual level is not truly addressing the root of the problem and is placing a band aid on a gunshot wound, so to speak. Cultural influence is an equally important issue to address and social support is necessary while striving to increase the overall wellbeing of these victims. My professional goals are to create and implement community outreach programs that address issues of mental illness and sexual health in an attempt to facilitate conversations surrounding these stigmatized topics and provide resources that can be shared and utilized. These programs could act both as preventative measures as well as supportive means for victims. Opening up the possibility for community support could lead victims to seek the help they need and emerge from the isolated depths of shame that society has projected on their situations. I believe that the combination of individual therapy and community outreach is necessary when seeking social justice for vulnerable populations dealing with mental illness and sexual health, and I would like to spend my life facilitating this union."

Posted by gabbyfo 15:02 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

Humid for the Holidays

overcast 81 °F

Yokwe, Yokwe,

It’s been awhile. I fear that these long hiatuses may be an unavoidable reality during my journey this year. I apologize and ask that you are kind to me, as much as there seems to be “nothing to do here” I am remarkably busy. The longer I put off these entries, the more daunting the task seems. I will do my best to cover the most exciting parts.

Firstly, the holiday season is upon us. I am a big fan of the holidays; I love the warm spirit that goes along with the cold weather, and the happy holiday songs around every corner. I am a huge fan of decorating and holiday traditions. Living in the tropics is really throwing me off this year. It seems very bizarre to me that we are in fact in December.. I’m realizing that I really do mark my understanding of the passage of time through the seasons. I have always lived in a place that had some sort of seasonal change (even when I lived in Georgia…winter felt different than summer). My New York residence for the past 11 years of my life has made my bones ready for chilly, snow covered nights. The sticky heat does not coincide well with Christmas music in my opinion. It has turned into the rainy season so it’s generally windier and rains a lot, which is a welcomed relief from the heat. It makes the water very rough though, World Teach has been prohibiting people from being out on boats in this weather. About 5 years ago, when my field director was a volunteer, one of the volunteers on an outer island went out on his families fishing boat and was never found again. That tragedy led World Teach to be extra cautious about boat safety, understandably so. It’s very humbling to be constantly surrounded by water and to be aware of the strength water holds on this earth. I have sat on the Ocean Side (rather than lagoon side) a few nights in the past month, with the roaring 6-7 foot waves providing the background noise and scenery. The strength of each crashing wave is overwhelming. I find waves to be a fascinating thing here. They are simultaneously symbolic of both change and consistency. The pattern and repetition is something you can count on, yet the water never stays in the same place for long and doesn’t return in the same exact way ever again. Watching those waves it is easy to see how weak and temporary I am and how strong and eternal the waves are. Long before humanity found its place on the earth, waves were here, and long after humanity has ceased to be, the waves will stay. The Marshall Islands are disappearing (sea levels are rising at an alarming rate every year) it is very likely that the islands will either not exist or be uninhabitable in the next 15-20 years. No matter how temporary the land is, or people are, the waves stay constant. That being said, the strength of water can be rather scary and intimidating, which leads me to my first anecdote.

So last month, the Musical Theatre Club in Geneseo (which Erin and I were heavily involved in throughout college) had its Fall semester show. Thanks to the wonders of technology Erin and I were able to skype in and see the show, which was such a joyous and bitter sweet experience. I missed my friends, and wished that I could be there in the front row with the other alumni making a fool of myself and supporting the current club members. There is a very strong alumni following and usually the alumni will write good luck emails to the club during the long and exhausting tech week that precedes the performances. Erin and I decided to go over the top (mostly because we miss being a part of the club) and make a musical video love letter to the club. We re-wrote the lyrics to a musical theatre song “Two Nobodies in New York” and made it relevant to our lives on Majuro and a general sentiment to the club. I am very proud of it and encourage you to watch the video even if you have no idea what MTC (Musical Theatre Club) is. We spent a long time recording the videos and audio and cutting the footage. When we were filming a lot of the outdoor shots we decided to walk to a small, uninhabited island at the end of Rita (where I live). At low tide you can easily walk from the main island to the smaller islands that are sprinkled around the Majuro Atoll. Joann (my roommate and our camera woman), Erin and I forgot to check tide times and decided to head to the islands mid afternoon one Saturday. When we got there the tide was kind of high, but manageable. We decided to cross it and film quickly so we could cross back before the tide got too high. We landed on the island, goofed around and got some good shots and made our way to leave. When we returned the tide had gotten so high and strong that there was no way we could cross back to the main island (which was a tempting 20-30 feet away, so close, yet so far). We found three Marshallese men fishing on the island we were on and asked when the tide would be getting lower. They said around 7-8pm…at this point it was about 3:30…. So we accepted that we were stranded, might die out there and set to snorkeling around. The men then called us over and invited us to eat with them. It turned out that they had caught each of us a fish and started cooking it over a fire they just whipped up. They also collected 100000 coconuts of all varieties for us to eat. They rescued us, suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel got fainter and fainter and I was confident we would survive the ordeal. Eventually we waved down a man in a small boat and convinced him to take us to the main land. He was equally amazing and stopped on a small piece of land right in front of our house. It truly is a blessing to be surrounded by water everywhere you look. So this film was made in the midst of an adventure and near death experience, enjoy ! Two Ribelles in Majuro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKWg-HC6zp0

As I mentioned before, the holiday season in the RMI is different for me than it has been in years past. Although, Thanksgiving was remarkably fun, so much so that I wasn’t as aware of everything I was missing at home (I am doubtful the same will be said of Christmas). All of the Majuro volunteers and other “ribelle” folks that are friends with my field director came to his house and we had a huge, potluck style thanksgiving. About 45 people piled into his house and had a great time. Todd agreed to make the turkey, and the large number of party goers required him to make two. Erin and I agreed to help the poor man out and slept over at his house the night before the festivities, drinking wine and cooking up turkeys up the wazoo. We also skyped in to the Macy’s Day parade thanks to Todds friend at 2:30 am while we made the first turkey. It was magical. We took naps on and off from 2:30 am- 9:00 am, waking up to baste the turkey. Side note: I have never actually been a part of the turkey making process before, it was fun. We used butter, onion, garlic, oranges and apples and it was truly amazing. During the actually party I had a blast dancing to some diva-licious Christmas music in the family room and eating way more food than is recommended. It was a great thanksgiving. I even got the chance to skype in with my family in New York and see their winter wonderland! As great as Thanksgiving was, I am concerned that Christmas is going to feel a bit more lonely. I am excited to see all of the cultural festivities here, but the Christmas music on the radio and in the grocery store (and basically everywhere I turn) is making me feel very nostalgic for home. It’s good to appreciate some of the things I take for granted every year. I’m sure this will be a Christmas that I will never forget.

I have been playing a lot of music lately on my ukulele. It’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day in a productive, fun way. Erin and I have been playing a lot of duets too. We play on the weekends and spend a comically long time trying to figure out harmonies (we both struggle a bit with learning harmonies so our practice sessions can be rather rough and always hilarious). We’ve decided to learn a number of songs to perform for our volunteer friends when they come in for mid-service in a few weeks. We are calling our band “The Woo Girls”…because we “woooooo!” a lot when good things happen… and that’s what our team name was whenever we played games together in college. Check out our latest musical attempt. It’s a cover to a First Aid Kit song entitled “Ghost Town”. Also, notice the adorable kitten that makes an appearance in the video. My housemates found this kitten abandoned and half drowned a few weeks ago and couldn’t handle the idea of leaving it, so they brought it home. I’m still not sure if it’s a girl or a boy so I switch between the two. We have an adorable gender neutral kitten that switches between the cutest, sweetest creature in the world, to the most annoying monster I have ever met. Apparently they are looking for a new home for it, so we will see where that goes. Ghost Town: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYZ9ZmesEBY

I’ve also been reading a lot. I read “Slaughterhouse Five” for the first time a few weeks ago and found that it was both intriguing and extremely different than I expected it to be. I also just finished the memoir “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a thirst for adventure and is interested in a woman’s self-growth. It is insightful and interesting throughout the read. I also read another book of hers called “The Tiny Beautiful Things: Dear Sugar”, which is a selection of her anonymous advice columns (anonymous until this book was published) that is equally thought provoking, if not more-so. I highly recommend these books. “Wild” has also recently been released as a movie starring Rese Witherspoon, I have heard great things about the film and am really bummed that I won’t get a chance to see it in theaters. However, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE. So go!

Generally, my life consists of lesson planning to the best of my ability, reading books leisurely, playing my ukulele and having interesting philosophical thoughts about life in general with my few friends on island. To some, this lifestyle may sound boring and uneventful, but I am finding that I am thriving in it. I love people, I love hearing what they have to say and allowing their thoughts to inspire mine. I relish deep conversation and find that being disconnected from my phone and social media is a welcomed relief. I feel that modern society is missing out on a fundamental element of human happiness; being comfortable simply existing with another person. To spend time without apps to laugh at, movies to watch and events to plan, just simply listening to what another person has to say and allowing the endless conversational possibilities to take control. I have been thinking a lot lately about what I am calling “scrolling culture” (A term I am doubtful is original but I haven’t heard it before…so I’m coining it as my own) Basically, the idea of “Scrolling culture” is associated with the mindless scrolling (which we all do) through facebook, or tumblr, or Instagram, or twitter, ect where we are just scrolling down the list, not looking for anything in particular, sucked into the vortex that is the addictive world of technological media. We are constantly scrolling through, mindlessly looking for the next thing that is going to make us laugh or pause to read a headline. As soon as we have found something that we find amusing we pause for a second to enjoy it and then immediately launch into the scrolling, looking for the next best thing to entertain us. Rather than truly stop to appreciate things for what they are, we are only interested for about 60 seconds before we are searching for something better. Scrolling culture makes it so that we are never truly satisfied with what we have, we are always convinced something better lurks somewhere just a bit further on. Living in the Marshall Islands has forced me to slow down in many ways. My limited technology and unreliable internet has transformed from an inconvenience into a blessing. I am truly not looking forward to the culture shock that I will inevitably be confronted with in June when I am immersed in a population of chronic scrollers. I anticipate the potential for mildly pretentious sounding comments, and I apologize in advance, please know that I am not trying to be condescending, but merely have been developing a different set of values and priorities during the year in my isolated paradise.

This feels like a satisfactory update for now. Tune in next time for a first-hand account of Christmas in the Marshall Islands and mid-service festivities with world teach 2014. :) Happy Holidays!

Posted by gabbyfo 23:40 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

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