Today, is a glorious day for many reasons.
No, the cinnamon rolls were from a last weekend.
1. It is grey, rainy, and beautifully drizzly outside.
2. I wore a rain jacket for the first time in a year.
3. I had Chai tea with milk and honey.
4. I awoke this morning, yoga-ed, breakfasted, packed lunch, and found out that school was CANCELLED TODAY!
Why you may ask? Well, we are in the middle of a massive storm cloud that could develop/has developed into a tropical depression/ cyclone/ thunderstorm situation and the Governor declared a State of Emergency for Pohnpei in response to that situation. His decree came with a request that all schools, both public and private, be closed for the entire day of Friday, October 3. We giddily made School Canceled signs to post at the gates of school jumping around in glee. (and by “we” were jumping around … I think it was mostly me) It is not that I didn’t want to teach today, I was all set for Friday, but it was the excitement of something new and different. The weather was different. The mood was different. This has never happened for me here. It felt like Christmas and a snow day all wrapped-up in one.
Next, everyone is safe. For the most part, the weather just feels like an elongated version of the typical rain the island experiences on any given day. If any place in the world can handle heavy rain all day, it is Pohnpei. The island is an expert in water drainage.
Last weekend on a Sunset Cruise with KJ (Peace Corps), Emily and Me
I feel like most of the things that are newsworthy in my life this past month are not things that I want to go into depth about via a blog, such as the various parasites I have come to host in my body or on for that matter, the latest cockroach catch that was indeed caught on film, or the new method I am trying in regards to successfully cleaning my underwear. One thing that I would put on the safe to talk about list is the haircut I just received. I have always been one for the professional hairdresser, and for some reason don’t mind cutting off massive amounts of hair with said professional because somewhere in the back of my mind I know that that person KNOWS what they are doing. Whether that be the reality or some illusion I have created inside of my head, it just works for me.
Last Monday, I was musing about getting my hair cut really short again…shorter than the last time I had it short about a year or so ago. So, I walked down the main drag in Kolonia and waltzed into the place where my roommate from last year, Brian, would get his hair cut. (when I say waltz…I really mean dripping with sweat after a day of teaching) The dialogue went as follows:
Me: Ummm, I wanted to get my hair cut really short. Do I have to make an appointment. (As I say this I look around the small space and there is no other person in the salon and the lady is watching television…I don’t think you need at appointment)
Hairdresser: No, I will cut it right now for you.
Me: Oh (this is too sudden…do I really want my haircut that short)…I… I mean I want it really short. (panic seeps through me) Can you do that? (Of course she can cut it short Meredith…she is a hairdresser)
Hairdresser: Yes, I will cut it now. You look very hot (temperature…there was nothing hot about me in the other sense at that time).
Me: Umm.. how long will that take? (Panic in my head…definitely not ready for this)
Hairdresser: 15 minutes. Come and eat bread with me. You look very hot. (hairdresser pulls pieces of bread from mysterious location)
Me: Ohh it’s ok….how much will that cost? (IT ONLY TAKES 15 MIN. TOO DAMN FAST)
Hairdresser: $5.00 Come and eat. Sit here in the air-con. You look very hot. (ONLY $5….too cheep at least say $10).
Me: Yeah, I know I walked here from the mission.
Hairdresser: From the mission!!!!, no wonder, come and eat bread.
Me: I think I need more time…I want it really short.
Hairdresser: Come and eat. I will cut your hair.
Me: Can I come back on Thursday?
Hairdresser: Yes, we are always open 9am to 5pm.
Me: Ahh yeah….it is only 15 minutes and $5? (I am probably the weirdest customer she has ever had…sweaty and panicky)
Hairdresser: Yes, are you sure you do not want to eat bread?
Me: Oh, I am good….I will come back soon. Thank you. (stumbling out the door)
I exited the building and headed home a little in shell shock and skeptical of the quality of the haircut for $5 and wanting more control over the actual cutting process. By the time I got home, I was thinking that I should have just had her cut it…it would be done by now and if I were to get a bad haircut at ANY time in my life…this would be the ideal time. So, instead of doing the reasonable and returning to the cheep professional down the road where I would get a haircut and bread and TV for at least 15 minutes, I decided to sit down on the stool in our kitchen and have Kristin, my roommate who has NEVER cut anyone’s hair before, chop off 9 inches of hair with a our sharpest pair of scissor in our apartment while referencing a youtube video on cutting curly hair.
In the spirit of the Jesuit Volunteers, here’s to taking risks, finding comfortable in discomfort, and finding God when you feel more vulnerable …even after your friend cuts off all of your hair.
AFTER CUT : Has since been trimmed and modified just a bit. For free…I might add.
On Thursday we had our orientation for the elementary school. This year, I have moved up to the 8th grade classroom as the 8th grade homeroom teacher! With great power comes great responsibility right? At least that is what my mission is for this year. Let’s break it down shall we:
Last year Brittany and I were both first year volunteers at PCS when usually there is one first year and one second year and had no clue what was actually happening at the school for most of the time. We each had a homeroom, me in 7th grade and Brittany in 8th grade, yet we taught 6-8th grade only two subjects each. We called this departmentalization….so yes…that means as a first year teacher…with sooo much teaching experience I was sometimes referred to as the “head of the science department” bahhhhh.
So this year, Brittany moved up to teach math at the high school, I have moved up to the 8th grade classroom and our new volutnteer, Emily, is teaching the 7th grade. Instead of having the teachers switch classes and each teacher only teach two subjects which was quite chaotic and overwhelming at this particular school, we have now switched to a more conventional elementary system of teaching where each teacher now teaches 6 subjects to one class. So, this year I get to embark on the wild journeys of teaching not only Language and Science which I taught last year, but also, Spelling, Reading, History, and MATH. (which I LOVED teaching this summer) I also spent a lot of time cleaning and scrubbing the floor of my classroom trying to make it look really nice. My theory is, if I make the classroom really welcoming and beautiful, the students may respect the space a little more and keep things more orderly and unbroken. I am going to be much more strict and expect much more of them this year as ….they are in the 8th grade! The top of the food chain at this particular school! LEADERS for all the students that look up to them. I am anxious to see how things go this year and see if I can manage to create a better classroom culture this year compared to last year.
Some new additions to the classroom expectations list include, bathroom passes (only twice a quarter may you leave during a class to go to the bathroom), pencil sharpening policy (have a sharpener that you can use at your desk, or you get to stay after school with me!), STAR class (STOP TALKING AND REFOCUS! – from 3:30 to 4:05 after school), homework is due at the start of the day no matter the class (cheating was an issue last year), communal textbooks that don’t leave the classroom(we lost a lot of books last year), DEAR program (Drop everything and read) among a few other things. I am excited to see how it all goes this year. If I fail miserably…well at least I know that i tried my best!
I will add a photo of the classroom in a few days.
Last weekend we had a retreat at this little picnic area in Awak near where my host family lives. Above is a picture of my host mom, Rita and my host brother Alex enjoying smores for the first time! It was a huge hit with my brother who scrapped the chocolate and gram cracker and just went for the toasted marshmallow by the end. But why did my family here on island join us for the retreat? My dad fixed us up with a version of the hobo pouches we enjoyed in Ely a few years back, but with some reef fish he had caught earlier that day! In each tin foil pouch was a fish, carrots, onion, and some butter. It was delicious! I can’t wait to try to recreate it for dinner one evening!
Here are some photos from the retreat spot that we chose. There is a small bricked-in area that has some interesting fish and a turtle to look at. We always feel bad that the turtle is never let out. To commemorate the retreat we each got turtle necklaces made from a local ivory nut.
Here is our attempt at spelling JVC with a person jumping at the end! It sort of worked. As you can see this is a very beautiful place to have a retreat. The more I think about it especially when I go to my host family here, I think it is going to be very hard to leave this beautiful island and all the people who are really making it feel like a new home.
One of the parts of Emily’s orientation to Pohnpei was to attend a few Micro Games events. We managed to make it for the last half of the women’s basketball (Pohnpei v. Guam) and stayed for the first half of the men’s basketball (Pohnpei v Chuuk). Both were very thrilling games. I think it was just fun to see all the people in the stadium cheering on the teams. Pohnpei women’s team lost to Guam and Pohnpei men’s were winning at the half. Both teams did very well.
On the 30th we decided to go to the closing ceremonies. We showed up late at the Pohnpei Island Central School (PICS) track and field as the closing was ending and people were leaving, but we still managed to get a photo in front of the Micro games torch which had not been extinguished. As we were leaving, a women on the street told us to come back later for the dance party. You didn’t need to tell us twice. We went out to dinner for Kristin’s birthday and went back to the field. Even though it was pouring down rain the entire time everyone danced, we still were out on the track dancing away the night. There will be a photo to follow! It was an great birthday for Kristin and a memorable experience for all. Props to Emily, who has only been on-island for 5 days and is super open to do these crazy things. I mean, how many times can a lady say that she danced in the rain in Micronesia with Olympic athletes! Also, they say the way your birthday goes dictates what kind of year you are going to have…I think Kristin is up for a wild year!
(Nett Point Picnic area photos)
On Satuday, July 26, our new volunteer, Emily, arrived via the island hopper. The three of us and Fr. Dave served as her welcoming committee! Following tradition, we picked her up using the pick-up truck from the MMB Sisters and drove back to the house in the back. We started the festivities with some drinking coconuts and light chatting!
After she sat for a second, we took her to a local picnic area called Nett Point where we sat and talked for a little bit. Following Nett Point we decided to mix things up. We headed to a restaurant that we had never been to which supposedly had local dancing during dinner time on Saturdays. We arrived, ordered, and were treated to some hula while we ate. It was a wonderful first day on-island.
This morning we went to Pohnpeian mass where the lights flickered on and off as we are in the middle of a “tropical disturbance” which is a fairly intense rain storm that occurs for several days. The weather was a bit chilly so we all dawned socks and sweaters and are planning on going to see a basketball game later this evening. It is all very exciting! More to come!
On Thursday, I received a beautifully decorated box from the Texas contingent of my family. I don’t think I have ever received such a well decorated care package before! The box consisted of two types of Goldfish, kitchen towels, colored bubbles, twizzlers, nutella, and a few other things. The goldfish, chocolate berries, and some of the nutella are already missing. Thank you Texans!
Today (Friday), I received two boxes from the Omaha contingent. I am most excited about the kitchen towels as it seems we are always out of them. I don’t think we will ever run out again as we have one for each day of the week two times over now. The “Lutheran Sampler” was also sent, which consists of the always-loved Lemon Cookies! I don’t know if those will make it out to the kitchen…I might just keep them in my room to myself.
Tomorrow is the day when our new Volunteer arrives. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she begins her adventure here on Pohnpei for the next two years! We are very excited to welcome her into our community!
The opening ceremonies for the Micro Games was at 4pm on Sunday, July 20. The beginning of the ceremonies started with a procession of the diplomats and high level government officials present at the games. After the introduction, there was a traditional Sakau ceremony to officially begin the festivities.
Following the Sakau ceremony, the athletes processed in according to country or state. The event was held at the PICS High School track which had been newly refurbished for the Games. The states and countries that are participating are all considered part of the Micronesian region. This includes: The Republic of Palau, Nauru, The Northern Mariana Islands, The Federated States of Microneisa (Yap, Chuuk, Kosrae, and Pohnpei), and the Marshall Islands, and of course, Guam.
Each team processed in behind a banner with their country or state name with two girls in local attire followed by the flag for their country, or in the case of the FSM, their respective state flags. I saw one of my 8th grade students holding one of the country banners! Just like in the Olympics, the athletes all had a matching uniform to walk in with. Some of them were more fancy (as I hear Trevor says these days) than others. My favorite uniform was the Palau team. The fabric was very fun!
Towards the middle-end of the ceremonies, they had a Micronesian man who is a member of the U.S. Military parachute into the opening ceremonies. The crows went WILD! It was a huge hit, especially when he opened up a flag stating the opening of the 8th Micronesian games.
The event ended with a lighting of the Olympic torch carried by two more people in local dress and some dancing, which we were unable to see from our place in the stands. It was long, but very exciting to witness!
But then, you decided to BBQ some reef fish and make a boring evening into an adventure with a mini BBQ, coals, and no lighter fluid. I don’t think I have ever started a coal grill before, but man did we figure out how to make it work. Using some rubbing alcohol, dried leaves, and enthusiasm (WE ARE ENTHUSIASTIC…or it may have just been me), we managed to make our pyramid of coals turn ashy grey so that we could slap some fresh reef fish on the coals.
The coal bag said it would take 15 minutes for the coals to turn grey, It may have taken several hours, but we managed to make it work…we just need to replace the bottle of rubbing alcohol that we used to get them going. Other than getting the lengthy process of getting the coals to work, the fish, rice and cucumber salad were great! This is definitely a meal that is going to happen again in the near future with some lighter fluid.