A Travellerspoint blog

Something Tropical This Way Comes

Well it’s another beautiful, hot, power-outage day here in the Marshall Islands. I am using what is left of my computer power to write a blog post in an effort to not get too far behind like I did a few weeks ago.

This week marks the first holiday I will be spending far from home. Halloween is this Friday, and it is obvious that this year is going to be unlike all of the rest. In anticipation of feeling homesick over the holidays I came equipped with some classic holiday films. For this spooky holiday I brought Hocus Pocus…hands down the best Halloween movie ever. Since Friday is also the day that report cards from quarter 1 are released (yay we made it! 3 to go), I planned on treating my students with a Halloween party, complete with candy and an exclusive showing of Hocus Pocus. I assumed that Halloween may be a bit different here than in America (everything is), but my field director invited me to a costume party and I keep seeing signs for haunted houses, so I thought it couldn’t be too different. I soon learned the error of my assumption. I have my students respond to a prompt at the beginning of every class, so today I asked “How do you celebrate Halloween in the Marshall Islands?” A couple of the kids said “Just how you white people do it. We sing songs to people at their house and they give us candy or money” (which… is clearly not how “us white people” do it). Most of my 60 tenth grade English students said that they didn’t “believe in Halloween” and neither did their families because they are Christian and can’t agree with a holiday that celebrates the devil. They also said that the haunted houses scared them…so I guess they aren’t too against it to give the haunted house a try. (One kid wrote that they didn’t believe in Halloween because Jesus isn’t dead and that maybe if he was they would believe in it….to which I say…. I think you missed a major plot point in the New Testament..) So that response took me aback a bit (it also made me start to question my Halloween party ideas). I understand that scary, demonic images may be particularly sensitive here because kids are exposed to all the nonsense that American children see everyday on television. However, I have decided that Hocus Pocus is 95% hilarious and 5% magical so we are watching it. I think it’s a good thing to be exposed to Marshallese culture, as well as a good thing to share a different cultural perspective with them. In other words, Halloween doesn’t have to be scary or demonic. You don’t have to dress up like a demon (which ALL of them wrote about in their journal), you can also dress up like peter pan, or a hipster Disney princess, or Hermione Granger, or Elyssa Ramirez (some of my favorite costumes past)… take your pick. I think one thing that may make some people overly defensive is that they legitimately believe in demons here. Black magic and witch craft is a real thing people discuss in regular conversation and use to explain bad things that happen. As I write this post I am becoming more and more uneasy about showing my awesome Halloween classic…. I guess we will just have to wait and see where the hot Pacific wind blows me.

UPDATE: I showed Hocus Pocus and my kids LOVED it. In fact we didn’t have time to finish it in one of my classes and they insisted on coming after school to finish it. Great success. I watched it three times (in three classes) yesterday and didn’t get sick of it…that’s a sign of a cinematic gem.

One thing that has been on my mind lately is how thankful I have become that I don’t have a host family. At first, it was really troubling that I didn’t feel connected to the community at all and felt like my experience here was being wasted without a host family. Now that things have started to settle down I am happy to be a lone agent. Erin (my friend from colleg, for those who don’t know) is living with a host family on the other said of my island and hearing about her life solidifies my feelings. For the few friends who read both of our blogs, feel free to skip this paragraph (I’m sure she is writing about her family in more depth), but it’s still a story worth telling. Living with a host family has its challenges along with its benefits. For starters, the food opportunities are quite different for the two of us. While my stipend is small and makes buying health food challenging, I still have the freedom to buy and eat the food I want. I have been trying really hard to eat healthy food, eating beans and veggies whenever I can. Erin is stuck eating the traditional Marshallese diet (ramen noodles, spam, corned beef, white rice, doughnuts and bread. A LOT of bread). Eating such an unhealthy, sodium and carb filled diet completely effects how a person feels physically, which I imagine effects how they are feeling emotionally. I am very thankful that I am living on my own, in Majuro, and have healthy food options available to me. In general it’s a hard situation, because you are likely to get annoyed and frustrated with your host family, just like you would your family in America, however you can’t really react naturally because these people aren’t actually your family and they are opening up their lives and homes to you. Her baba (dad) is a very sweet and well intended man who would drive anyone up the wall. The family doesn’t have a lot of money (they went a week and a half without electricity last month) and he is the only one working in the family. However, he often doesn’t go to work if he is hung over from drinking with his friends (which is pretty common) and he often asks Erin to contribute to paying for things that the money world teach gives him should be covering. Now I don’t mean to make baba to be some horrible, mean alcoholic, because he truly is so sweet and loving and well intentioned. However, cultural differences and a different way of life make this adjustment a hard one to swallow at times. This society is very patriarchal in the sense that the man is in charge of the house. Homes are passed down through the women though. Many of my students have written in their journals about how “if you respect your man, everything will be ok”…which the feminist in me is like….ok I’ll respect the men if they respect the ladies…. So in Erin’s house, what baba says goes and what baba does, goes unquestioned. Last week he was diagnosed with diabetes (probably because of how bad the Marshallese diet is and how often he drinks). Erin took that opportunity to try and explain to him how much sugar he eats and drinks. They drink primarily soda in their everyday lives, so she tried to explain to him how many grams of sugar were in one can of soda. It turns out he has never learned how to read a nutrition label so he has never bothered to look. In these moments I am so thankful for the education we receive in the United States that we take for granted. I don’t remember ever learning to read a nutrition label….it’s just something I know how to do. Even after she explained everything to him, he couldn’t quite grasp the concepts. Saying things like “I can’t drink soda, ok….what about sprite? That’s fine right?” Additionally, no one in the Marshall Islands really exercise, probably because it is too hot. This combination has made diabetes one of the leading diseases in the country. Another source of frustration is an inability to manage money effectively. Baba recently came home and informed the family that he sold their car for $2000.00 (which is a pretty fair price, since the car was pretty awful). Erin was hopeful that they would be able to put that money away, save it for occasions like last month when they didn’t have enough money to pay for energy, or use it to pay for baba’s medical needs. However, baba went out and had a shopping spree. He bought 6 giant bags of white rice, 6 cartons of eggs, a huge amount of soda and other unhealthy foods at the grocery store that Erin had just informed him probably gave him diabetes. He also decided to buy a 6 foot speaker with a disco ball at the top for $600 from a friend (who “gave him a great deal”) which is now sitting in the middle of their living room. Again, poor Erin is left in the awkward situation of feeling like she should get involved and educate her family on ways to responsibly handle money, but is also technically their “daughter” and living in a society where respecting your elders and holding your tongue are the norm. I’m sure not all host family situations are like this, and Erin does have some amazing benefits of living with them. They are so loving and welcoming, even to me, and she has fun with them quite often. However, these sources of awkwardness and frustration must take their toll.

Speaking of Erin, her and I have been working on a surprise for our friends in the Musical Theatre Club in Geneseo and have finally started recording our video. The details are a secret so stay tuned (but get excited).

One thing that I am still not used to is how shy and mild mannered the Marshallese are. (Unless of course if they are a male watching a female American go on a walk... then it's all bets off and all kinds of harassment). In class it’s hard for me to get people to participate a lot of the time because they are embarrassed to be the center of attention. People are very scared to do simple things, like take a piece of cake at a party (not a joke). Something may be happening to them that they feel very upset or outraged by and they will just sit back and allow the situation to continue without saying anything. They do not engage in conflict, even when it may be necessary. I think that may be one reason things don’t run particularly well here, people are never willing to question the original plan and suggest a better one. For those who do not know me as well as others, I am a very outspoken person (probably to an obnoxious degree) and this is a norm that I am having a probably accepting. My roommate (who is American) is also very opposed to conflict and will hold back her feelings and opinions to keep the peace. While her and I don’t ever fight or disagree really, I have observed situations with both her and other Marshallese people, where they were completely in the right and had valid concerns to voice, but they chose to sit back and let the other person win. In those moments, all I want to do it shake them and get in the middle of the situation to encourage a dialogue to begin. I am trying to learn how to hold my tongue during this year, which is going well for the most part (although it is killing me inside). However, I am doubtful that I would hold my tongue if I was in a situation where I felt outraged by something going on around me…in fact I am positive my outspoken nature would emerge and the opposing party probably wouldn’t understand what to do. Alas, patience is a virtue and in general, everything in moderation seems to be a good motto to live by. (I wear ying-yang earrings everyday here, and they keep reminding me that for harmony you need both the calm and the storm. A theme I have been embracing daily here)
One developing world quality that is starting to irritate me (and making me feel like a brat) is the constant power outages we seem to have on my side of town. This week alone we are having power outages on Thursday, Sunday and Monday. However, they only ever seem to take place on my side of town, on extremely hot days. We are supposed to have a teacher meeting day all day, but it keeps getting canceled and rescheduled because of the planned power outages (which I really don’t understand why they are getting planned and occurring in general), which is confusing everyone in the school about when the students need to be here. Also, it is impossible to sleep in my sauna of a room without a fan or AC, so I am exhausted the following day (not to mention gross and sweaty). At night you can’t really do much because you can’t read without a light, or go on your computer without an outlet or cook without appliances. I am worried that all of my food is going to go bad during the Sunday-Monday power outage, which for a poor volunteer like me would be a really tough loss financially. Also, whenever the power is off the water pump doesn’t work so all of our plumbing also is down for the count. I know I shouldn’t be complaining. Many people on the outer islands don’t have any electricity all year round and don’t have the option to eat food that is refrigerated what-so-ever. This is the type of “roughing it” life I signed up for this year and these are the challenging life situations I knew I would learn from. Ultimately, this is far from the end of the world. However, in the moment, its hell.

Speaking of hell, I started applying for graduate school this week. I have decided to apply for programs that offer a dual degree in Masters of Social Work and Masters in Public Health. I think that program would be incredibly interesting and important work that I would feel good about. The health conditions here are horrible and have made me take an increased interest in the health industry (lice, leprosy, measles, TB are all around, just to name a few). Also mental health is in my (psych major) opinion, equally important and should be given adequate attention. There is a staggering number of teen suicides in the Marshall Islands and it is a topic that is hardly ever discussed. Also, teen pregnancy is huge on the island. It probably because there is nothing to do here except play the ukulele and fish…so kids find better things to do with their time, and the sexual education and birth control options are minimal. To my knowledge, early termination is not an option what-so-ever here, so if you get pregnant, you are having a baby. It’s odd, I kind of see babies as pets here. There are SO many children around all the time, because people just keep having babies. Since this is a communal society, every generation of the family lives together. So adding another baby to the mix is just another mouth to feed. Anyway, it is for these reasons that I have taken an interest in Public Health. I have done a lot of research in the past few weeks and think I have my school choices narrowed down pretty well. I have a lot of work ahead of me (many essays and contacting people, not to mention applying to two different programs within each school in order to get into the dual major). I have also realized that my credentials are not going to really help me a lot when it comes to Public Health programs. I have little to no math and science experience in college (because I didn’t plan on going into any field that would require it) and I am worried that is going to work against me. I studied really hard for the math section of the GRE and actually did significantly better than their average test scored indicate…but my verbal section was neglected due to all my math studying and I am less impressive in that realm. Hopefully my GRE test scores help my case and I can write a convincing essay. I just hope that I don’t pile on all this work on top of my academic workload here for nothing. I am trying to keep the outlook that everything happens for a reason and if I get in somewhere that’s meant to be and if I don’t get in anywhere then maybe that’s not the direction I am meant to go in at this moment. I will admit, getting in no where would be disappointing. I guess we will just have to wait and see and hope that I can pull everything together in the next couple months.

On a completely Marshall Island-less note, I finished the “Song of Ice and Fire” series last week (better known as the Game of Thrones series…even though that’s only the title of the first book). I have bee working on the series since before I left for this trip and finishing it was bitter sweet. I am very anxious for the next book to come out and I can’t imagine how people who have been reading the books from the beginning must feel. I usually listen to the audiobook when I am trying to fall asleep to help with my insomnia and I spent about a week tossing and turning without any kind of story to lull me into a calm sleep. I finally caved and restarted the Harry Potter audiobook series, just to help me sleep at night. It is amazing. Starting the first book made me feel like a little kid again and I am very pleased to be taking this magical journey again. Now all I wish is that I could go back to Harry Potter world when I return to the states.

I also just saw the preview for the Into the Woods movie that is coming out in December. For those who don’t know, Into the Woods is my second favorite musical of all time and they are making it into a magical film, that from the trailer actually looks amazing. I am SO excited to see it and am seriously depressed that there is no way for me to see it when it comes out here. One of my strongest “first world” regrets since being here. It anyone wants to smuggle me an illegal copy, feel free.

Well this post seems quite long enough. I want to thank you all for continuing to support me and give me a reason to write these very long blog posts. I hope they are somewhat insightful and don’t sound too much like a lecture.

Thanks for reading!

Posted by gabbyfo 02:22 Comments (0)

Long Time, No See

Sorry for the hiatus

sunny 84 °F

Wowza,

So it’s been awhile, I realize I have been seriously neglecting my blog followers and I apologize profusely. Things have been crazy over here in the Pacific and I have gotten a bit carried away in my own life. Now I am going to attempt to squeeze in everything that has been going on in my life over the past few weeks.

1. I got a cat :D My room mate Joann and I have been discussing our desire to gain a furry friend, both for companionship and to intimidate the bugs and potential vermin looking to move in with us. Well, a miracle happened a few weeks ago when I was having lunch at Tide Table (a favorite rebelle restaurant on the island). I met a woman named Lori who told me that she was the President of the organization for animal welfare in the Marshall Islands and that if I had any friends interested in giving a cat a home, to let her know. In about 3 seconds I confirmed with Joann that she was on board, and ran to tell Lori that we were interested. Within the next hour I had been put in contact with a gentleman named Andy who was moving back to Taiwan and wouldn’t be able to bring his beloved cat along with him. Joann and I picked the name “Charlie Darwin” because its survival of the fittest out here with animals…plus Charlie is a cute name to say on a regular basis. The only major downside is that now I have the horrible song “Cheer Up Charlie” from the old school Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in my head all the time….(there it is again. Damn.) Charlie is amazing. He is sweet, affectionate, healthy, litter trained and over all the best free cat I have ever gotten overseas. I’m not sure what’s going to happen when my year is up, it seems like bringing him across the world would be very expensive on my non-existent budget…but for now at least he is loved and has a safe home. Animals are treated really poorly here and I would be heartbroken to subject any animal to that life if I could help it for anytime at all.Summary: Charlie is the bomb and I love him.
2. I got a ukulele! I have been hemming and hawing over the possibility of getting a ukulele for the past few weeks and one day I walked into E-Z Price and saw that they were on sale! I found a beautiful one that I immediately fell in love with on sale for $40 and decided to take the plunge. Although I am a poor volunteer, I am happy I spent my money on this instrument because it has already proven to be worth its price in terms of sanity. There really isn’t much to do in the Marshall Islands…. Everyone I meet (both foreigners and locals) pretty emphasize how little there is to do here and I am starting to realize how true that is. (That’s probably why the men sit outside and cat call 24/7, they literally have nothing better to do). Getting this ukulele has given me a fun activity to do and goal to work towards. It’s harder than I expected, I am definitely giving my guitar playing friends more credit than I used to. Regardless, I am loving it. I am still not very good, but I have figured out how to play “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and “Almost Lover” by a Fine Frenzy by heart (they are the exact same chord progression, don’t be too impressed). The other day I learned “Prettiest Tree on the Mountain” by Ben Sollee and “Down on the Corner.” Hopefully, by the time I am back in America I will be a ukulele extraordinaire and will be ready to perform at birthday parties and weddings alike (at a cost of course… did I mention I’m a volunteer)

3. Erin and I met a very interesting person that I am calling “weekend friend Paul” because his name is Paul and we were only friends for a weekend. He approached Erin and I while we were swimming last weekend at the Marshall Islands Resort and we began chatting about our lives. He is currently coming to the end of his journey around the world. He got his MBA from Harvard a few year ago, worked for two years saving up money, quit his job and is now traveling the world writing a blog, specifically about different countries that he feels that American opinion doesn’t necessarily match the reality in that country. He’s been to Pakistan, India, Iran, basically all of Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific. He was a very fascinating man to talk to and I really enjoyed our two days of friendship. Talking to him made me feel extra self-conscious about not having my life completely figured out…granted he’s almost 30, I’m really not that much of a screw up… but never the less I started avidly researching grad schools the past few weeks. I’m having a hard time making concrete decisions here because on one hand I feel drawn to social work, which is what I planned on applying for, but on the other hand, living without the means to buy basic groceries that I want has made me hyper aware that I am not anxious to live close to the poverty line ever again. My solution has been that I have decided to apply for programs that only offer a double degree in Masters of Social Work and a Masters in Public Health. My thought behind this is that I can make myself more marketable, give myself more options and continue to work in a field that I believe is important. At the moment I am looking at schools in Colorado, Oregon, Albany, Michigan, Ohio and NYC, I was also considering Northern California but after being this far away from my friends and family I’m not sure I want to be settled so far away for more than a year. We’ll see what come of this. Being a teacher is unbelievably busy and applying for grad school is also quite time consuming. Hopefully I find a way to balance the two tasks with grace.

4. On a sad note, we had to move back to the dorms from hell last week. The Ministry of Education convinced the maintenance people to finally fix the plumbing problem. As soon as the pipes were replaced the MOE packed us up and moved us back in order to avoid paying extra money in apartment costs. I was concerned that my air conditioner was going to be broken still (because mine was the only one that didn’t get fixed). After I reminded my field director about my AC situation the maintenance people hurried to fix the problem, however my unit started leaking obscene amounts of water all over the place whenever it was turned on. So my floor was covered in water yet again and again I was feeling grouchy and gross. I reminded my field director about my hardship and it got fixed in the next few days. However, I did receive a well-deserved email reminding me to not take my Majuro luxuries for granted and complain so much. It’s easy for me to see everything I take for granted in America, but I have been losing sight of the things I take for granted just being on Majuro compared to the outer islands. The fact that I have any AC unit, or refrigerator or ice in my water or toilets connected to real plumbing is more than a lot of my fellow volunteers have and I need to continue to remind myself of that before I start whining. Joann and I have started saying “Majuro Problems” whenever we are about to complain about something ridiculous. Similar to “First World Problems,” but with a twist. Turns out you can still end up being a spoiled brat even when you’re showers entail pouring a bucket of cold water on your head.

5. On a positive note, I went to an island this weekend with my world teach friends Joann, Erin, Aras, Bobby and Andy. This island is pretty close to the main island, but still requires a boat to get there and is much more isolated and beautiful than Majuro is. We swam all day and explored the island, climbing coconut trees along the way for snacks and collecting shells. We grilled chicken and ate peanuts and reapplied sun screen like 500 times (it didn’t matter, we still got burned). We read our books quietly and just enjoyed being in such a beautiful place with beautiful people. We stayed over night and planned to have the boat come pick us up at 10:00 am the next morning. Once it got dark we swam out the floating dock and laid down to stare at the stars and talk about everything and anything. The water was filled with these small invisible specs of bugs or something that lit up when you touched them, so while you swam, little lights were popping up all around you. It was magical; I have never felt like a fairy princess more in my life. The starts were amazing, so clear and bright. The Milky Way was picture perfect. For a space nerd like me it was incredible. Eventually, we heard the rain approaching quickly and got to swim around in a rain storm, enjoying the bright lights popping up all around us and enjoying the blissful joy of that evening. In college I learned to love the rain because playing in a rain storm with your friends provides more entertainment than anything money could buy, and that principle holds true in the Marshall Islands. Eventually we got sick of the rain and swam back to our little shelter. Bobby and Aras were smart and brought hammocks that they hung up to sleep in (if anyone finds a cheap fold up hammock I would be happy to take it off your hands), while the rest of us laid down on the picnic tables to try and catch some shut eye. I had a bit of low moment to say the least. I forgot my medicine, which I have done every so often in the past without repercussion, but I guess my body couldn’t handle all the changed going on in my system and I ended up having a seizure around 1:00am. Joann heard me making some scary sounds and woke up around the tail end of my convulsions. She woke up the others and they were great friends. I haven’t had a seizure since I was a senior in high school so when I finally woke up I was pretty confused, but as they explained I quickly realized what was going on. The next few hours were pretty awful (as per usual) and my heart rate was racing up and down and my muscles kept tensing suddenly, making me anxious that it was going to happen again. Usually the 3 or 4 hours following a seizure is the most unpleasant part for me. Unfortunately, we were kind of stuck on this island. If something really serious had happened we could have called my field director and he could have jumped through some hoops to get a boat out to us but I knew I would be fine (and I was). I’m pretty sure I bit my tongue pretty hard though because it is killing me today and has a pretty nasty gash on the bottom of it. Alas, epilepsy problems. Needless to say, I plan on being overly cautious about remembering my medicine at all times (especially on an isolated island). I was woken up in the morning by the wild pigs and chickens roaming around the island and knew all was back to normal. (Side note: there are a remarkable number of pigs and chickens just randomly roaming around these islands, many more than I ever expected to be here)

6. Finally, the first quarter of the school year is coming to a close this week. Finals start tomorrow and conclude on Friday. I have almost survived the first 1/4th of being a real teacher and none of my students have died or cried in my class yet. So I’m considering it a success. The amount of time I have to devote to grading every day is absurd and I seriously appreciate every single teacher I have ever had more words can possibly express. I’m also the leader of the debate team, because I’m “an American and American’s like to argue.” Even though I don’t feel qualified what-so-ever for this job, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m planning on eventually building up to controversial topics like gay marriage and the separation of church and state….but for now we are starting small with “should homework be banned from schools,” more to come on how that goes. I’m feeling optimistic that I only have 3/4th to go, hopefully if I get into a solid routine time will move even faster. I’m enjoying my time here, but also am anxious to see my friends and family back home (and taste greek yogurt and fresh salad). I anticipate that by the time I leave here I will find it hard to adjust to the culture shock in America. Already I know that I am going to hate how attached everyone is to their smart phones and social media. I have really enjoyed severing ties with my iphone and not having to feel like I have to constantly be checking something to see if I matter to someone. Also, the constant consumerism being shoved in your face is something I really don’t miss and imagine will be overwhelming when I am surrounded by it again. I also am guessing that I am going to get more and more comfortable with the slow moving lifestyle here and will probably find the fast paced nature of American culture to be somewhat overwhelming. However, we shall see if these predictions hold true in the next 9 months.

On a frustrated note, the school has banned facebook except from the hours of 7:00-8:00, which is completely pointless if I am try to contact anyone on the Eastern Time Zone. Additionally, the wifi that I would normally use (also through the school) hasn’t been working for the past few days so it looks like my communication with the outside world is going to be at a low for a little while. Wa, wa, wa, Majuro problems.
That seems to cover all the essentials at the moment. I hope you are all having great success in wherever your lives have brought you. Stay tuned for more Marshall Islands updates, hopefully the next one won’t take me so long to accomplish!

Posted by gabbyfo 00:15 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

Gotta Keep on Movin

semi-overcast 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.

Posted by gabbyfo 23:31 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

Gray Skies are Gonna Clear Up...

put on a happy face

87 °F

Yokwe and good tidings,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by gabbyfo 21:19 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (1)

Teach Woes (and a dash of puppies)

86 °F

This has certainly been the most exhausting and emotionally taxing week so far on my adventure. This week I started teaching, and I have been in a whirl wind of frustration, fear and trying my best to figure things out. On Monday morning my fellow volunteer and living companion, Joann and I went to the Vice Principles office, like we were told to find out what subjects we would be teaching, what grade levels, get our schedules and generally just figure out everything anyone could possibly need to know about the simple logistics of working at MIHS (Marshall Islands High School). The school day starts at 8:00 so when we got to the office at 7:00 we were disappointed to see that no one was around, the office hadn’t even been opened yet. Needless to say, no one was there to meet us at the door and welcome us, with an orientation packet or even a school mailbox with our name listed under it. About 7:30, as teachers came and went, introducing themselves to us briefly, the Vice Principle finally showed up, looking more clueless than anyone I had met so far that morning. We introduced ourselves and asked him if we could have our schedules. He looked as if we were asking him for some top secret government file that he couldn’t possibly have any access to. At this point, the principle, the Vice Principle of student affairs and about 10 teachers had told us that this was the man who had all of our information. I’m not sure he knew what day of the week it was. Needless to say, we did not receive our schedules. He asked us if who wanted to teach 11th grade and who wanted to teach 10th. Neither of us cared, so I took 10th grade because I was hoping they might be slightly smaller in size. We then had a 90 minute assembly that consisted of all 1000 students lining up by class, a local preacher being called on stage to do a full out sermon, a few Christian hymns being sung by everyone on campus. Coming from my American, public school educational background, this opening was quite bizarre to behold. After I mispronounced at least half (probably all) of my students names, in the process of telling them which homeroom they were in, we were off to start my very uninformed and under qualified teaching experience. The door was locked to my classroom. Great start. We finally got the door unlocked and I started doing “get to know you” games, with a painfully shy group of 15 year olds. I tried to break out some silly improve and orientation games. Eventually I ended up playing the Geneseo classic “WA” and it got them laughing at least. The first day was mostly ice breakers and was pretty painless, except for the fact that no one bothered to tell me the schedule for orientation day. Apparently I was supposed to stay with my homeroom class from 9:00-12:00…but I didn’t know that so I let them go when I thought the period ended at 10:00. So I quickly lost 85% of my class on the first day. The few who came back were sweet and fun to get to know.

They split each grade up into different homerooms based on academic achievement level. For example classroom 10A is composed of the highest achieving 10th graders and 10K is composed of the lowest. I think it’s kind of strange that they openly rank classes like this. I am lucky enough to have 10B for my homeroom class, so all of them are pretty motivated to do well. However, I imagine that being placed in the obviously low letters must weigh down on a person’s self esteem and motivation after a few years. I am teaching English composition and literature to 10B, 10D and 11H and I can see a HUGE difference in motivation and attitude on each level. I only have the 11th graders for a composition class, but it is easily the most exhausting part of my day. I have them for the last period of the day and over half of them don’t come to class to begin with. The ones who do won’t stop talking, unless of course I ask for participation, then they all act as if they have just had their tongues removed.

Anyway, we finally received our schedules on day 2, so I knew the classes I was supposed to be teaching a few minutes before I was expected to start teaching them. The head of the department has been a huge help. She met with Joann and I and gave us textbooks and an outline of the expectations necessary for each grade level. However, she also informed us that we were expected to hand in 3 weeks of lesson plans this week. For those of you who haven’t ever made a lesson plan, they take a LONG time, especially for a silly psych major like me, who has absolutely no training what-so-ever to be a teacher.

This expectation, along with feeling misinformed started to make me feel pretty overwhelmed. As I started to make lesson plans that would be informative and engaging I was faced with the reality that I have bad grammar….really terrible, terrible grammar. In fact, I hate English grammar and I always have. Now I am expected to teach it and make it seem like it’s not the horrible subject that I know it to be. So usually I have to spend time making sure I really know what I’m talking about before I can even plan a lesson. It’s hard to make learning grammar fun for others when I don’t think it’s fun at all. Additionally, I just found out today that the text book they gave me to plan my lessons around is the text book the kids used last year, so they have known everything and have been bored to tears for all of my lessons. Hopefully it will get a little better now that I have the correct text book.

I like teaching literature, but the only problem is they don’t have the resources for the students to read real books in class to discuss, all I have is 15 text books to share amongst 27 students with snip its of writing from unknown authors, with boring, bland subject matters. We are learning about different types of fiction, so I thought it would be fun to read a Greek myth. I printed one out and was excited to try and do it together, but I think it went over their heads and led to general chaos. We read one of the stories from the text today and I think they understood it more, but it was a super lame story. No wonder they don’t like reading, they are only able to read crappy nonsense. I’m trying to find things that are interesting and age/ability appropriate. I’m still getting used to the differences in ability level. It seems like some kids understand my directions immediately, while others will look at my blankly, or just stare at a blank piece of paper for 15 minutes. When I go over to these students and try to help them, they always act as if they don’t need my help and would rather crawl into a cave and die than listen to my suggestions. I feel lost in this moments, I can’t grab their hand and physically force them to write if they don’t want to, but I don’t want to be walked all over either.

I think there may be a conflict of interest in terms of my general “love everyone for who they are, accept them, hold their hand through things, support them and listen” attitude when it comes to the classroom. So far I have been 100% myself around my students, making jokes (a few people seem to get them) and being understanding when things aren’t exactly as they should. I’m worried that I have already set a tone that I am a push over. The problem is, in this situation, I kind of am a push over. I feel like I am going to have to dive into an unnatural part of my personality to discipline the classroom the way it needs to be and I am really not looking forward to it.

Working with High Schooler’s is such a different ball game than working with little kids. I can discipline young children, I understand how to be firm and they respect me as an adult because that’s what I am in their eyes. I can put a sad face next to their name when they are acting out and most of the time they will start trying to impress me again. I can promise them a lollypop at the end of the week and they will suddenly be completely attentive. I have no clue what I’m doing with these High schooler’s, who see me as their age and know I am completely uninformed about everything going on in administration (or at least that’s how it feels). I would say that I could use Bonus points as a motivational tool, but these kids really aren’t motivated by grades for the most part. I have always been the type of student who wants to succeed and tries to do well, which is making it even harder for me to really understand how to work with the kids who are so different from the environment I am used to. I really enjoyed World Teach orientation, but I feel that it focuses almost 100% on elementary school and out island life, leaving the high school teachers (especially those living in Majuro) to fend for themselves. I do not feel any more prepared from our hours of lessons, unless that is if these 10th graders want me to teach them the alphabet again under a coconut tree.

Additionally, almost all of my friends from World Teacher are leaving or have left for their islands, and my Majuro friends are with their host families, being a part of the community and getting showered with affection. Meanwhile, I live in a dirty, smelly, hot dorm, with no real connection to the community and a mountain of school work that I am feeling unbelievably under qualified to achieve. Needless to say, I cried in my locked classroom on day two. Only for a few minutes because I realized how completely pathetic that it, but still, it happened. I think the combination of feeling in over my head, saying goodbye to the people I have become comfortable with here, and feeling extra home sick the past few days has led to a bit of a slump in the Marshall Islands paradise. I know myself enough to know that this is not forever and it will go away, but all I’ve been wanting the past few days is to go home and sleep in my fluffy cloud bed, see my loved ones and not worry about nouns, tenses, or unmotivated teenagers.

Today we had a meeting where the Principle and Vice Principle informed us that they were short teachers and that “more were coming soon,” but for now they needed to find teachers to fill about 30 classes. So apparently I’m teaching a senior “Government” class tomorrow. Which, honestly I’m pretty excited for, but I will be receiving the textbook 20 minutes before class starts.. so we’ll see how day 1 goes.

Also, I have my students start every class by writing in their journals. I usually give them a choice to either use the new prompt that I put on the board each day or they can just “free write” about any topic they want. It’s been nice, because I’ve been able to see where their English skills are struggling the most in a low stress environment. However, one that I read today was entitled “Sexy Lady, a Love Letter” and was a, very flattering, but very uncomfortable profession of love from one student to me. So now I have to do deal with that situation.

I think, at this point it is safe to say that I am not going to be a teacher. Perhaps things would be different if I was teaching little kids, but I am not the type of person who is made to teach high schooler’s. Hopefully I prove myself wrong, but I am not making any plans to apply to any teaching colleges any time soon. I also have a much more developed appreciation for the work that teachers have put into my education, and am truly grateful and impressed by their abilities.

Sorry this post has been such a sad sack of woe, but I will end on a happy note. There are two puppies living underneath the trailer that is next to my apartment and I play with them every day. They are in the soft, puff ball stage and I am in love with them. I haven’t seen any owner, so I’ve taken the liberty of naming them “Ghost” and “Copper.” They are a shining star in my life at the moment. I am excited to keep playing with them over the next 11 months.

Posted by gabbyfo 03:04 Archived in Marshall Islands Comments (0)

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