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Cockroach Kingdom and New Beginnings

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Yo, yo, yiggidy, yo

So firstly, one of the volunteers in my group filmed a TON of stuff during orientation and made this amazing video about our experience. Here is the youtube link, you should give it a watch, it’s a great visual representation of my journey thus far. (plus I sing in it) here’s the link!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCYzpu4DA58&feature=youtube

A new chapter has begun in my Marshall Islands journey. This week I moved into the dorms that I will be living in for the next 11 months. Along with my other roommates and about 10 other “guest” volunteers who’s planes/boats don’t leave for their islands for another week. This dorm is quite a wake up call as to how good we had it during orientation. This dorm is right on the campus that I will be working and has been uninhabited for the past 2 months. To say that it is filthy is an understatement. There are 8 bed rooms, one large common room and a common kitchen. All the rooms come with their own bathroom which is nice…However, it seems that some volunteers from last year left their rooms much cleaner than others. I was lucky enough to pick a room with a very clean and conscientious previous owner. They left a small sewing kit and air fresheners in the closet, bathroom and two in the main area. I spent a majority of the first few hours sweeping and disinfecting every inch of my space, then the next day (after I bought like $25 of cleaning supplies) spent 2 hours attacking my bathroom. While it was hard, gross work, I actually think it looks and feels very good and I have never been more proud of a cleaning project. I will say, all my friends who complained about the state of our college home should never ever complain every again. This dorm makes the “Mansion” look like a 5 star hotel. The place is crawling with cockroaches, who have seemed to be enjoying having a party house all to themselves the past 2 months. My friend John and Kelsey have decided to have a cockroach killing competition, last I checked John was up to 65 and Kelsey was up to 33. They are both going to be leaving for the outer islands in a few days and I am dreading losing our protectors. I’ve never really considered myself much of a wimp…but these cockroaches fly and never, ever die. Therefore I usually scream and call for John and Kelsey when I see one headed towards me. I think I’m going to need to face that fear asap. John has compared this war to a zombie apocalypse because the cockroaches are everywhere, they are almost impossible to kill and they eat each other. I think its clear that in the event of a zombie apocalypse I would be a gonner. When I say that these creatures never die, I mean it. I have sprayed so much Raid and in the moment it seems to do absolutely nothing. At one point I sprayed one cockroach directly for a full minute, enough for a white layer of raid to accumulate on the top and it acted as if it was taking a refreshing shower. Even when you crush one it keeps moving until you crush it about 5 more times. As gross as these things are, they are pretty impressive survivors. Lara (our assistant field director) told us not to trap them under a bowl or anything, because they send out a call and more cockroaches will come to help their pals…however if you kill one and don’t remove every piece of the body, other cockroaches will come and eat the body…. Aka zombies.
I think the Raid has a later effect, every morning we wake up to about 10 corpses on the kitchen floor of cockroaches that no one has seen before, who knows how they got there…who knows how they died. The mystery continues, updates to come.

After I cleaned I was able to spend time decorating and setting up my room. It’s so nice to get my things organized how I want them, and put pictures on my walls and my tapestry and other art on my walls. It really feels like a home, which is really important for me. I am someone who really needs to feel at home in my space and its been amazing to walk into a room that feels like mine, although the walls are still way more blank than I am used to….

There was supposed to be 5 volunteers, including myself, living in the dorms. Joann, Suzy, Rachel, Davina and myself. However, last night I found out that the three deaf volunteers (Suzy, Davina and Rachel) will probably be moving in with another deaf person who works in the deaf center. So Joann and I may be living in a giant 8 room dorm completely on our own. At first, this idea sounded kind of scary and daunting, however the more I think about it, the more appealing it sounds. First and most importantly, 2 of us will use significantly less water than 5 of us would. Right now, during the rainy season, we have already run out of water, both drinking water and tank water. We caught a cab in order to fill up the 5 gallon tanks of drinking water, but can do very little to get more tank water for showers, washing dishes, toilets ect. Hopefully is rains today so that we can shower before school tomorrow….ew. Also, 2 people will be better at keeping the place clean, using less food and ideally keeping out fewer pesky friends. We have plans to make one room a craft room, one room a music room, one room a (very empty) gym and maybe open up a hostel. (perhaps these plans will fall through, but for now, DREAM BIG). We also plan on getting a cat in order to scare away the cockroaches and any potential rodents (we haven’t seen any yet….but that doesn’t mean much). Kittens are always randomly around and apparently belong to no one, so that plan is actually quite possible. Pretty pumped about the cat situation.

I start teaching tomorrow morning. However, I still don’t know what subject I’m teaching, or what grade, or what classroom… I have to get up and try to find the principal at 7am to ask them all these questions and then start teaching at 8. Needless to say, this inexperienced teacher is feeling pretty overwhelmed and terrified. I’m sure my next post will divulge all the tragedies I face and hopefully a success or two. I guess time will tell. Hopefully I can at least find the classrooms.

Its been kind of bittersweet saying goodbye to my friends leaving for the outer islands. A lot of them have been going to get a tattoo from this artist in Majuro that is very highly recommended (all of the field directors and other Americans in the area have gotten tattoos from him and assure that his studio and equipment is extremely clean and safe). He is from Japan and has art all other Majuro. His painting and tattoos are all very intricate and tribal and absolutely gorgeous. So far, 4 volunteers have gotten tattoos from him because he is leaving in October and they won’t be back from their islands until December. He does a brief outline of the general shape that they ask for and then free-hands the rest of the design and the outcomes are absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, probably the most impressive tattoos I have ever seen, he is a true artist. Honestly, at this point I think its pretty likely I will end up getting something small before October (sorry mom, I promise it won’t be as big as my last one :S ). They really are truly remarkable and I haven’t heard of any complications in terms of infection or anything with anyone both recent and long term tattoo owners. More to come on that front. (again, please don’t hate me too much mama)

Emotionally this has probably been the hardest week yet. There is this scale of cultural integration that we went over at the beginning of orientation. They first stage involves the individual making cultural mistakes but being blissfully unaware of their mistakes. In the second stage, the individual makes similar mistakes, but is aware of them and uncomfortable. I have certainly moved into stage 2 and I hate it. We went to an outdoor concert the other day that was celebrating the countries success as the Micronesian Olympics and Back to school. The music was beautiful and fun, but all the people were just sitting and watching calmly. They were selling alcohol at the event and people were drinking casually, so my friends and I bought a beer. As we watched the concert, they began playing a Marshallese version of “Summer Loving” from Grease. The urge to dance was too overwhelming so we decided to get up and dance a little bit, nothing to crazy at all, just a few step-touching and bopping. Pretty quickly we became the show and all the children began to approach us.. eventually (and I promise I am not exaggerating) about 300 children were completely surrounding us and watching…not joining in, just watching. Even though we were absolutely not drunk whatsoever, I quickly began to feel horribly uncomfortable. While it is 100% normal for people to dance and bop around at concerts in America, people in the Marshall Islands are generally more shy and emotionless in public. Apparently the only people who dance in public are drunk, and because we did have one beer I realized that the vibe we were giving off was not the one we are expected to uphold as teachers and new comers to the country. Even though we stopped dancing as soon as the song ended, I ended up feeling uncomfortable most of the night. On top of that, a lot of the volunteers are going to outer islands, where drinking is strictly prohibited and are partying hard this week before they give it up. Consequently, a few of them have gotten so drunk that they have gotten sick or made fools of themselves. If we felt as though we were the center of attention everywhere we walked during the day, this only seems to intensify when someone is making a fool of themselves. I realize that my friends want to have a good time, but I am the one who has to stay in this community and deal with the repercussions and negative reputation that they are promoting for “world teach” teachers. I’ve been trying to solve this worry by not going out, but that doesn’t help our general reputation. Especially because I am not living with a host family, and don’t have any direct connection to the community, I am really worried I will feel like an outcast and end up feeling really lonely. Hopefully this is just a paranoia and will blow over soon. I just am really not used to having my every move viewed and gossiped about, as well as being expected to be a role model 100% of the time; Especially in a culture that I am only beginning to understand. I’ll tell you one thing…I am not envious of celebrities what-so-ever anymore.

I was also finally able to talk to my family this week! They called me on my little, dinky phone early Saturday morning (for me at least). It was so nice hearing their voices and being able to really chat, more than a facebook message here and there. I can’t wait to talk them again, hopefully a skype time is in our future. My brother is getting ready to start his college career and I’m feeling pretty bummed that I am not there to share that with him. Generally, as wonderful as it is to talk to them, it also made me realize how much I really do miss the people I love back home. I also skyped with a lot of my friends from college this week. In fact I was able to skype with friends at a graduation party so I saw a bunch of my friends all at once, having a great time, loving and laughing together. Again, talking to them and seeing them was absolutely incredible. However, it left me feeling sadder than ever, seeing them all together, having a blast, realizing that I would have been there if I was still in New York. It was more emotionally overwhelming than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here, I am so thankful to be having this experience and I wouldn’t trade it. It’s just sad to see the people that I feel most connected with and most myself with, knowing that I won’t be with them for many months. The friends I have made here are great and nice and fun, but as I said many of them are leaving this week and its pretty unreasonable to expect friendships that are 3 weeks long to really compare to relationships that I have made my entire life, or the past 4 years of college. It’s not a contest, and its hard to deal with when I actually take the time to sit down and think about it. I know this year will bring so many positive things, experiences, perspectives, friendships. But if I could apparate from here to New York every so often, I would be the happiest girl (and witch) in the whole (wizarding) world.

Obviously some Harry Potter comfort time is my future.

That's all for now folks, missing you, thanks for reading :)

Posted by gabbyfo 21:58 Archived in Marshall Islands

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