Saturday, December 8, 2012

Halloween in December!

A friend of mine sent me a package that was amazing. It wasn't things for me, it was candy for Halloween. I was able to share my American culture with my family on Moch.

Silly me, I thought I would teach people to knock on the door, say “trick-or-treat,” and walk away. I explained the idea of dressing up and announced we would have Halloween on Friday. It was the first week in December, but who cares?

In the evening, a number of people were milling around the yard. My sister and one of my students had ghostly white faces, they were anticipating the start of Halloween. My guitar was being passed around and I was listening to some of the best harmonized singing I had heard at my house. I decided to get my digital recorder (thanks for the early Christmas present Mama!) because the singing was fantastic.

I went to my room and was rummaging around in the near darkness, trying to locate my new contraption. As I was searching, I heard Samery yell, “Trick-or-treat!”

Before I knew it there was a mob outside my window chanting, “TRICK OR TREAT!!” For a moment I panicked, What do I do? I grabbed the candy and ran to the door of my house while the mob moved to the porch. Clearly I wasn't going to teach everyone to knock on the door!

I opened the door to the crowd of friends and family. I gave Marcia's carefully prepared bags of candy to the white faced ghouls. Meanwhile everyone was trying to get their hands on some of the loot. True to the Chuukese style, I then threw the remaining bags of candy and loose candy to the crowd. Everyone was scrambling to get as much candy as possible, pushing, shoving, and shouting my name. It was so exciting and unexpected I was laughing my head off.
As people were searching the porch and the yard for any candy they may have missed, I slipped back to my room. There was one more surprise.
I returned to the porch and sat down. People gathered around, knowing I had something more and were curious to see what it was.
SNAP! Snap, snap!
I had a bright orange glow stick in my hand, for about 2 seconds, before it was snatched away. Hands were grabbing in anticipation as the rest of the package appeared. Someone grabbed the second package and ran. I jumped up, ready for a chase, not knowing who had stolen the rest.
“It was Samery!”

I ran into the house, chasing Samery. I snatched and grabbed but couldn't retrieve them. As I stood with my arms around her, trying to retrieve the glow sticks I whispered, “save them for New Year's” and she scurried off to hide them in her room.
Halloween in December was amazing. It was not what I expected at all, it was so much better! I couldn't have created a more exciting Halloween if I tried!

Friday, November 30, 2012


When was the last time someone apologized to you? Did you accept the apology?

In America, people apologize occasionally, but excuses are often a part of the apology. People tend to put the blame on something or someone else. Even in the apology, responsibility is not taken for an action. As a result, forgiveness is not really granted and the air is not cleared.

When I first arrived I was surprised to hear people saying, “omasala tipis” which means “sorry for my sin.” People would apologize for things I hadn't even noticed they had done.

Now that I have been here for a few months I really appreciate the apologies. When people say they are sorry here, they mean it. There are no excuses, just a heartfelt apology for an action they did.

I am also learning to apologize. It wasn't until I arrived here that I realized saying I was sorry was not something I was altogether comfortable with. I'm slowly learning that it is much easier to say I'm sorry for something I did than to wonder if the person was offended by my actions. An apology is never offensive, so you can never go wrong by offering an apology. It also means that forgiveness is an important part of my life. People don't hold hard feelings against one another after an apology is accepted.

In America, people say you should forgive and forget, but often there is no apology. Americans seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of admitting they have made a mistake and telling someone else about that mistake. It means making yourself vulnerable and showing a weakness, something that goes against the values of being strong and independent. People expect apologies from others but often are not willing to admit that they themselves have also made mistakes.

Now imagine that every person always apologized for their mistakes because they knew it was the right thing to do. It clears their conscience and the air. It is such a simple and positive behavior.

I hope that when I return to America I can teach the art of apology to others. I just hope that people can also learn the art of forgiveness. Accepting an apology is just as important as making it. If a person cannot accept an apology, that is also a weakness. I encourage you to try it. Say your sorry for something you have done, big or small, and see what happens. Don't make excuses, just do it. I think you will feel better. The funny thing about offering an apology is that you may find you get one in return.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Welcome Party

I am currently sitting and listening to the high school students rehearse songs in preparation for the welcome party that will take place this afternoon. One of the seniors is playing piano, another is leading the songs, another organizing students, still others are bringing in tables, chairs, and desks. The remaining high school students are sitting on the floor, singing so loudly it is both exciting and a little painful on the ears. The singing is both nasal and chesty, creating a sound so intense I can't compare it to anything I have heard before. Perhaps it is a combination of South African and Bulgarian styles?

Earlier, students and staff swept the school grounds. Tables from my chemistry classroom were lowered over the balcony railing and brought into the main meeting building. The tables have been covered with table cloths and set up at the front of the room for the honored guests. Desks have been placed along one edge of the room for the male staff members.

The welcome celebration is in honor of the three Peace Corps staff members that will be visiting. I feel lucky that the community on my island cares so much. Yesterday and today were both half days of school to allow students to rehearse songs and for the staff to prepare food. I am looking forward to when the Peace Corps staff arrives so they can experience the appreciation, songs, speeches, and food that awaits them.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'm an Aunt!

I can't resist telling everyone that I recently became an aunt! My brother and his wife back home gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on October 4th, 2012. My mom was wonderful and sent me many email updates once Evan and Sasha headed to the hospital. I have also received a few pictures via email. It's not quite as good as being there, but I feel so lucky that I have the internet.  Without technology I might not even know that I had become an aunt!

My nephew's name is Jesse Calvin and I cannot wait to meet him!

Ways of Life

Every now and then it dawns on me just how different my life is here. I've decided to give you a glimpse into my days. These things seem so normal to me now, but are so vastly different from life back in America.

My walk to school- My favorite part of walking to school is using the shortcut that goes by the taro patch in the middle of the island. I look out over the taro field and enjoy the view of the big leaves shining in the morning sun, surrounded by coconut trees. The short cut opens into someones yard where I see my favorite pig on the island. Why is it my favorite? It's big, spotted, and snorts its greeting to me every day. One morning a chicken was perched on the edge of the pig's bowl eating the pigs food; the pig was foraging in the trash while snorting at me, the intruder; and a cat was sitting with its back to the chicken and the pig, clearly thinking it was superior to both.

Washing dishes- The dishes are washed outside either under a tree or near the well (an open hole in the ground). We have one large bowl to wash for washing and another to rinse in. While washing the dishes, chickens come and eat any leftover rice off the plates, cats look for bones and fish, and flies buzz around and land on anything they desire.

Showering- Step one- go to the well and fill up a bucket with water. Step two- lug the bucket to the bathroom, preferably with the help of someone else. Step three- use a container to pour water over your head and body. Step four- shower as usual. Step five- rinse off using the container to dump more water over your head. Note: only Samery and I shower in the bathroom. Everyone else showers outside. Girls wear a shirt pulled up under their armpits and guys shower in shorts.

Eating- Meals take place on the floor in shifts. I'm not sure if there is an order to the shifts or not. I may have my own plate of rice or I may share with others. There are multiple plates of rice then plates or bowls of whatever else is available (fish, breadfruit, taro, ramen). All eating is done with fingers, no utensils are needed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Family

My family here does not have the typical family structure. Rather than having host parents, I live with three sisters. Samery, my oldest sister and host, is 30 years old. It seems very special to have a sister here the same age as my brother back home. She is a teacher at the school. Sandra is 16 and is a junior. Samery has started to call us twins, which I find quite amusing. Sasa is 10 years old and is the youngest of all the sisters (there are more I haven't met).

When I first arrived Samery was on Weno, so another sister, Maxie, was my host for the first ten days or so. I believe she is 24. Maxie is married and she has a son, Martson, who is around quite a bit. I think Martson will be three years old in a month or so. Martson understands more Chuukese than I do and I wish I knew what he was saying when he talked to me! Maxie was a great host when I arrived. I thought she lived in the house too and it wasn't until she said goodbye, after Samery arrived, that I understood she lived in a different house.

In addition to all my sisters, there are four high school students living with us, three girls and one boy. There are only two high schools among many islands, so high school students from other islands live with sponsor families for the entire school year.

Having so many people at the house is wonderful. At first I thought it might be odd to live with one of my students, but it has not been an issue. I think everyone here are so used to having people overlap into different parts of their lives that they don't even think about it. It makes me wonder if I'll live and work in same community in the future. I enjoy it here!

Every day there are many other people that visit and sleep at our house in addition to those I previously mentioned. I think most of these people are cousins. The majority of the visitors are male, ranging in age from elementary school to about 30. At any moment they might be chatting, drinking coffee, cooking, playing ping pong, relaxing, sleeping, or singing and playing ukulele. I will never have to worry about being lonely with all the people at home.

One day I asked Samery why she was willing to host so many people. She has five extra people in her home between me and the students. Her answer was simple and warmed my heart. "I like to care for people," and she does a great job. My family includes so many more people than my sisters and I am happy to be a part of the family.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My New Home

I arrived on my island three weeks ago and I love it here. I am currently sitting on the second floor balcony of my school. There are no hallways so the balcony serves as the hallway. I am overlooking the courtyard where chickens are wandering and people are sitting. The ocean is visible behind the security building. We had a little rain this morning, so it's overcast and breezy. I can hear the breadfruit leaves as they hit the ground. I still have difficulty differentiating between the sound of rain and the sound of the wind in the coconut leaves. When the leaves hit against themselves it sounds just like the pitter-patter of rain.

The view from my home new is beautiful! When sitting on the front porch I can see the ocean 75 feet away. Looking at the ocean is very different here because of being in a lagoon. The waves don't come crashing to the shore like they do in Maine. Instead, they crash on the reef far from the shore and the water inside the reef is calm like a lake. There are a number of "coral bars" between the reef and the shore (it's like a sandbar, but made of coral; I have no idea what that is actually called). We have a stone wall rather than a beach and I enjoy sitting on the wall at sunset. There are many coconut trees along the wall, finishing out the tropical view.
view from my porch
In my yard are two local huts made from sticks and pandanus leaves. These huts let the breezes pass through and are great places to take a nap or play cards. The volleyball net is used in the evenings when it is not quite so hot. We have a cook house in the side yard where the majority of the cooking takes place. Any cooking in the cook house is done over a fire. Much of the food prep is done there as well. I have helped to grate taro and have observed someone mash breadfriut. We also have an oven made from an old barrel in which delicious bread is baked.

My house itself is made of concrete. All of the floors are tiled and are swept every day. Houses here typically don't have a lot of furniture and mine is the same. We have one table in the main room. Sitting and laying down on the cool tile floor is how we relax. In my room I have a table and a bed frame with a foam mattress. I feel very spoiled to have a bed. The first week I was here I slept on a woven mat and had adjusted to the hard floor by the time the bed arrived. Most of our time is spent outside or on the porch. People don't need furniture in the house or windows that close when it is never cold!

my house

The island itself is quite small. The main road is a loop and I was able to jog the loop in ten minutes. This leads me to think the loop is about a mile around. I say the main road, but it is more like an extra wide path made of crushed coral and sand. Many paths criss-cross the island, going between houses and the taro field in the middle of the island.

Overall the island is very quiet. The first week here I felt like I was living in a campground. There are no cars and the sound of voices echo through the trees. If I hear a rustle in the leaves I look to see a hen with her chicks, a little lizard, or a pig. The pigs are typically tethered to a tree and snort a lot. Hearing the snorts always makes me grin. There are also a number of roosters around. I am thankful that no roosters live in my immediate vicinity, so they have yet to wake me up. It seems like roosters crow any time they are disturbed.

I am enjoying life here very much. It is certainly a different way of life and it is nice not to have the rush and clutter of America. I do have the internet here which such a luxury. I think it is one of three islands in the whole state of Chuuk with internet. I feel so lucky! Life is good!