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Fears, Friends and Frolicking

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Hello my eastern time zone friends,

I have survived another exhausting (and exciting) week in Majuro. This week we were working on our practicum projects for orientation. We were split into different groups based on the age group we will be teaching this year, came up with a unit plan and for three days each of us spent a few hours teaching lessons to real students from the area. For most of us, who haven’t had formal teaching experience, this was a pretty scary task. My group decided that they wanted our unit plan to focus on health, nutrition and the human body. I took on the task of opening up the first day and teaching students about vocabulary associated with the external human anatomy and the possible injuries and related remedies for any and all of those ailments. Not the most exciting lesson topic but I did my best, making up fun games to help students stay awake and be engaged in learning the vocab. Our group was supposed to be set up for “9th graders” but all the high school students they brought in for the different high school groups were from the ages of 20-25. I wasn’t really feeling nervous before the day started, but as soon as I realized that my students were primarily my age and older, it made me feel a little intimidated. It’s hard to find the right balance between not using vocabulary or topics that are over their heads, but also not using topics that are juvenile or way below their maturity level. Also the range of abilities is HUGE in the classes. Some students will know everything you are saying and be ready to move on almost as soon as the assignment in described and other students in the same class won’t be able to read or write. It’s making the idea of lesson planning seem so much more taxing. You have to be ready to make assignments that interest the students but can be modified 30 times for 30 different levels of ability. Hopefully I will get the hang of this early on, but it will definitely be a challenge at first. I will be teaching very soon actually. The school starts officially on the 13th of August and our orientation ends on the 15th of August (miscommunication between world teach and the ministry of education) so we’re all missing the first few days of school already. I will move into my permanent home on the 15th and start teaching on the 18th. I asked my field director when I would be able to talk to the principle and find out what grade I am teaching and what subject I am teaching and he said probably on the 18th……So I will be starting my career as a high school teacher completely unaware of who or what I am supposed to be teaching. Hopefully they aren’t expecting too much that first week. I am excited to get this part of my journey started, but will certainly feel less nervous once I have a better grasp on what I’m actually doing.

We also went to a Chinese restaurant/ Karaoke bar as a group this week. It was SO fun. My field director Todd is fabulous and belted out some great Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, making us all look bad. We had some great group sing alongs of Billy Joel and the Beatles. Erin and I showed off some MTC dances (Don’t Stop Believing) and really raised the bar. A lot of the locals ended up peering in at us through the windows and laughing as we made fools of ourselves all night. The Marshallese have a word for when someone spies on you from outside a window, or through a gate, or something like that. They call it “cornbeefing.” I don’t know why, but I love it and its hilarious. I’m certainly bringing it back to the states with me.

One thing I’ve had to get used to here is dealing with the animals and how they are treated. Honestly, I have become more frightened of dogs here than I am of sharks. If I saw a shark in the water I would probably swim in the other direction pretty casually and mind my own business. The dogs here are almost constantly on high alert and ready to attack you for looking at them weird. I’ve never been scared of dogs and I hate that this trip has made me scared of every dog I see. Honestly, there are a lot of them that are sweet and probably wouldn’t hurt you, but there are so many that freak out when they see you that it’s hard to tell the difference. I can completely understand why these dogs are the way they are. I’ve seen a lot of animal abuse the past few weeks and its really hard to watch. The kids will kick young dogs and cats and toos them around carelessly. There are A LOT of stray cats and dogs and chickens and pigs and I guess the locals think of these strays as a waste of food and resources so they aren’t too kind. Its hard to watch regardless of the reasons. Apparently almost all dogs and cats you see outside are strays unless they are specifically guarding a house. I saw two of the smallest, sweetest kittens ever a few days ago and used all the self control I have in my system not to take them. Apparently the apartment I am moving into has a lot of rats….I think I have convinced my apartment mates to get a sweet, stray cat in order to catch/scare the rats away. That way we can avoid the rats, love a cat and give some sweet cat a nice year. There isn’t any rabies on this island so all we need to worry about is treating fleas. We’ll see if this plan works out, I sure hope so, because I have some stellar cat names in mind.

As much as I am scared of dogs, I am easily most afraid of coral. Which may seem weird because coral just sits there, doesn’t approach you, doesn’t bark at you. Why am I so fearful of this docile creature? Because it is a vicious, fun sucking demon that lurks everywhere you step in the ocean. When you think of living in a tropical island surrounded by ocean, you think of lovely sandy beaches. Here there is just coral everywhere you look. Which you would assume wouldn’t be an issue if you wore proper footwear. The issue is, if you slip (which I tend to do A LOT) and you just barely scrape your leg on a piece of coral the teeny, tiny spores from the coral will lodge into your leg and pretty much 90% cause an infection that is nasty looking and makes the infected body part blow up to a ridiculous size. I have already watched this happen to 4 volunteers, all of whom needed antibiotics. So far, coral has been the universally most dangerous creature on the island.

We went to Laura beach yesterday, which is one of the only sandy beaches close to us. It was so beautiful. The weather here is almost always picture perfect. Which is not the best for those of us who burn easily, but my sun screen obsession has kept me safe thus far (I can’t say the same for some of my other volunteers). I had a fun time splashing around in the ocean with Erin watching a storm approach from afar. You could hear the rain storm hitting the ocean and see the grey clouds approaching, but still enjoy the sun and blue skies on our side of the water. Swimming and snorkeling here is seriously amazing. We were supposed to go to an outer island today and swim with sunken WWII ships and planes, which would have been AWESOME. Unfortunately, our boat got canceled and we couldn’t go. However, I am on Majuro so I will ABSOLUTELY be planning a trip there asap. Most of us went out and enjoyed the Majuro Bar scene on Friday, the night before we went to Laura. So many of us were… a little tired on our day at the beach. I ended up taking a truly lovely nap in a huge tree. I’m really loving living in nature. Showering in the rain, sleeping in a tree, swimming under the stars, all seem to fit quite perfectly into my daily routine. My nap was eventually ended when 5 little Marshallese boys came over and started whistling in my ear trying to get me to wake up, and running away as soon as I started to stir. The kids here are adorable, and so fascinated by us whenever we are around. They love dancing around together so that is usually my game of choice. They also love just climbing all over me, so that’s one of my favorite games as well because I don’t have to do anything. All the little boys (and many of the adults) have rat tail haircuts…. So as long as you avoid getting smacked in the eye with an unreasonably long rat tail, you’re ok.

We also successfully located a “Settlers of Catan” board game. (For those of you who don’t know, Settlers of Catan is a great board game that seems complicated, but really is not. You should all give it a try, you will be hooked). So we’ve been ending a lot of nights with some nice ukulele music and a game of Settlers. I’m a two time champion so I’ve been sleeping pretty soundly.

Anyway, that seems good for now folks. Please send me some letters so I feel loved when everyone here gets letters from home. Yokwe!

Posted by gabbyfo 20:04 Archived in Marshall Islands

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