A Travellerspoint blog

Opening statement and three days across the globe

Hello all! I’m not really sure if there is a “right” way to keep a blog…. So my plan over the next year is to use this piece of the internet as a sort of inner monologue. Ideally it will end up changing and evolving as I do throughout this adventure, but for now please anticipate nonsense anecdotes and thoughts that are swimming in my brain.

So, first things first, what adventure am I referring to? Over the next year I will have the honor of living in Rita, Majuro in the Marshall Islands. At this point I honestly have very few expectations about what this year will bring. I will be teaching at the Marshall Islands High School and trying to share whatever wisdom I have in me (hopefully there is something in there worth passing along). I have a lot of experience working with kids, however, the oldest child I’ve worked with extensively has been 10… So at this point I’m pretty terrified of the daunting task of teaching a gaggle of high school students, especially ones that have spent their whole lives growing up in a culture that I am only beginning to experience. I’m 5’2”. Some of them are going to be bigger than me. I make a lot of jokes, bad jokes, a lot of them. Perfect for a younger crowd, and perhaps not as captivating for a more mature Marshallese audience. The general advice I’ve gotten from friends and family is to hide any fear I have and exude confidence from the beginning. So I will try my best and keep my fingers crossed. I have a feeling that my students will end up teaching me as much, if not more, than I am able to teach them. I have no idea what this year will have in store for me but I look forward to every wonderful friendship and every difficulty as an opportunity to learn something about myself and the world.

Anyway, at this point my adventure has consisted almost entirely of traveling. Before this trip I had not really traveled far out of my time zone and (excluding vacationing in Jamaica for a week in 2009) I have never left North America. The Marshall Islands is far away. SUPER far away. It is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is 16 hours ahead of my home time zone in New York. So I will be living a day in the future from my family and friends back at home (I’ll be sure to give you guys a heads up if the world is ending and give you the final scores of sports games a day before they happen in America, as long as I can collect half of the gambling winnings). Needless to say, I have had a long few days of traveling and have no concept of time at the moment.

On Monday I drove from Albany to Boston with my generous father who agreed to listen to Fiddler on the Roof and Wicked on the way (what a guy) and then met up with my fellow adventurer Erin Girard. She has been a joy the past few days and has made this transition so much less overwhelming, I am very grateful that our paths led us both to this program at the same time. We were supposed to take a plane from Boston to LA at 7:20, but unfortunately our flight got delayed 2 hours. As ‘glass half full’ kind of people (literally) we took this opportunity to drink over priced airport beer and catch up on our lives since we left Geneseo and our thoughts about our lives over the next year. We had to part ways during the flight and suffered our own respective hardships during the ride. Erin had the bad luck of sitting next to the token screaming baby, and I was given the task of trying to survive a 6 hour plane ride next to a sleeping man with the most disgusting breath I have ever come in contact with (and I lived with Joey Visconti). Which honestly doesn’t sound that bad, but considering that he slept with his mouth wide open pointed at my face for a majority of the trip I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to stay conscious the whole time. Finally we landed in LA and met up with Erin’s friend Keith, who was such an incredibly kind and generous host. He insisted that Erin and I sleep in the bed while he slept on the couch because “there’s no memory foam mattresses in the Marshall Islands.” I thought, Fair enough, and didn’t put up much of an argument. The next day we woke up and drove with Keith to work in Hollywood. He is currently working on the set of the t.v show “Castle” and was able to give us a personal tour of the full studio. The attention to detail in each of the sets was so incredible and made the actor in me quite jealous of the people who get to work in an environment like that every day. We even got to see some props from the show “Lost,” so needless to say, it was a pretty awesome tour. We also got to bop around the shops in a less touristy area of Hollywood and had a great time. First of all, there was literally not a single cloud in the sky all day. It was amazing, and kind of unreal how clear the sky was there. Also there were adorable, small, fluffy dogs everywhere you looked.

After exploring the surrounding Hollywood area for a couple hours we were off to LAX to meet most of the other volunteers that we will be working with this year and switch time zones yet again. I was pretty anxious about meeting everyone but those nerves were quickly calmed when everyone was so friendly and outgoing. I’m excited to get to know them and learn about all the amazing things they have done and have plans to do. Our plane left LA at 7:30 and flew into a golden sunset, heading toward Honolulu, Hawaii. Our flight got in at 10:30 in Hawaiian time and we had to be back at the airport at a charming 4:30 am. Woof. We woke up at 3:00 and groggily enjoyed our last shower for a while. (We will be doing “bucket showers’ over the next month…which is exactly what it sounds like.) It took the hotel shuttle 3 trips to get all 30 volunteers to the airport but eventually we all made it safe and sound. While I didn’t get the chance to see much of Hawaii the airport was surprisingly lovely. For the most part all hallways were open and let in a refreshing tropical breeze. It made me want to stay for longer on our way back a year from now to see more of the island (if the airport is beautiful…I imagine the rest of the island is pretty impressive). Also, as my close friends will tell you, I LOVE airport art. I was actually planning on having an airport art section of this blog post but I was disappointed to find very little art in the Boston and LAX airport. Hawaii however had beautiful statues and a beautiful mosaic of constellations on the main floor (WOO!) and some recreations of the islands natural foliage. Overall, the airport absolutely convinced me to explore Hawaii more. Then we were off to our final destination! Along with a few dozen Marshallese natives rocking some sick muumuu’s and offering constant friendly greetings. I ended up chatting briefly with the flight attendant who actually grew up in the city that I will be teaching in. When I asked her for some “insider tips or island secrets” she told me that every Sunday the community has a picnic at one of the islands and that you can hop on any boat and go eat and mingle with everyone. She warned me that there are no malls or establishments that I am used to in America and I quickly proclaimed that I would rather have a picnic than a mall any day. So I’m pretty excited for that!

The pilot announced that we would be landing soon in the Marshall Islands and immediately we all got excited and starting peering out the window trying to snag a glimpse of the place we would be spending the next 11 months. We were surprised when all we saw was the vast blue ocean that we had been flying over for what felt like forever. (I knew that most of the world was covered in ocean..but I don’t think I truly appreciated what that meant until this trip. WOW there is A LOT of ocean) Slowly we starting to see the thinnest strip of land I have ever seen in my life with small ant sized islands surrounding it. You could feel the excitement on the plane rise, especially from the world teach volunteers who were all trying to snap the perfect picture behind the flight attendants backs (“ALL ELECTRONIC DEVICES AWAY PLEASE”), making some Marshallese enemies before we even landed..great. I could feel the air stick to you as soon as I stepped onto the stairs leading out of the plane. The breeze made the heat feel warm and welcoming and the smell of sea air was intoxicating. Walking through Marshallese customs consisted of a man sitting at fold out table looking at my passport and welcoming me to the island. Then a forklift manually (and slowly) moved our luggage from the plane to the waiting area while I started to sweat like I have never sweat before. I didn’t realize that the tops of my feet were even capable of sweating. 10 minutes after landing and I was learning new things about myself already. I walked around the near by area and was overwhelmed with the beauty of this tropical oasis. The island is so thin that you literally can see ocean on either side of you at all times. The water is the clearest blue green I have ever seen, and SO warm. Even the trees are amazing, palm trees with coconuts ripe for the picking and so many others …if I knew more about trees I would tell you what they are, maybe in a few weeks I will compose a more educated tree post. Eventually we all piled onto a school bus with our luggage and headed for the orientation site, where my 3 days of traveling would come to a close for the most part. With that I am closing this travel post and will write more about life here in due time.

Yokwe! (An interchangeable word for Goodbye, Hello and Love  )

Posted by gabbyfo 16:58 Archived in Marshall Islands

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