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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Recent Happenings & Random Facts

October and November have been full of holidays, trips, and excitement! 

Hammock + beautiful waters
Black Coral: In October we went to a small picnic island called Black Coral! We took a little boat out to the island and along with the Peace Corp and World Teach volunteers, enjoyed a few days of relaxation and fun on our own private tropical island. What do you picture when you hear "private island?" If it's something like the following pictures, then it's not only in your head, but real life here in the Pacific!

So beautiful and picturesque. Crazy that this really exists and I get to experience it!

Fun with glowsticks!

The group

Men cutting the pig
Kamadipw: I experienced my first feast (kamadipw, pronounced comma-tip) a few weeks ago! It was Meredith's host grandfather's birthday (he's also a chief) so we got to experience the feast at the front of the nahs. Everyone is seated in the nahs based on their title/rank. As American guests, we were given a very high place of honor. Anyone who sits in the nahs (all the kids and some of the guests hangout outside the nahs) has to remain seated until the person with the highest title at the front stands up. Pohnpeians are champion sitters! We were given our place to sit, a plate of food, and hung out. We heard some speeches in Pohnpeian, got to dance a bit, saw a traditional sakau ceremony and the process of sakau being distributed according to a person's title. We were also presented with gifts to adorn our head and hair! They brought forward several huge pigs and dogs, which were cut into pieces before our eyes and distributed to the guests. Dog is considered a delicacy, so dog was only given to individuals with very high titles.

Britt and I after being rubbed down with coconut oil

Kristin and Mer

Visiting an old hotel called "The Village" after the feast

 Sue Ann: I have an incredible co-teacher three days a week!! Her name is Sue Ann and she is a postulate on her way to become a nun. She is Pohnpeian and finishing her teaching degree at College of Micronesia. But on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays she and I get to teach together! It's a huge blessing to have another pair of hands and eyes around the classroom. We are able to differentiate our teaching (especially in reading) to reach the students at their level.
Sue Ann (left) with Sister Sophie (the religion teacher)
Another Month, Another Waterfall: While Rose, a friend teaching on Chuuk, was visiting we took a trip to the other side of the island to experience another waterfall! I think this one is my favorite so far!
Walking through the jungle to get to the waterfall
Mer and I!

Halloween: I played up Halloween so much with my 1st graders. We had lots of fun doing math, reading, and art projects all related to Halloween! On Halloween students were allowed to wear their costumes if they wanted to. We did math with Skittles, ate candy corn, and enjoyed celebrating! 

Enjoying candy corn for the first time

November Fun: Now that all of our Halloween decorations are gone, we had to decorate for the next holiday - Thanksgiving! We've spent a lot of time talking about the gifts that God has given us and having an attitude of thankfulness. We also learned the story of the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Native Americans. We did a very complicated Native American craft with an accompanying writing project. I was worried how they'd do with so many little pieces and kept playing up how complicated the project was. They did a great job and were so proud of the finished product!

Random Facts: I've been wanting to share some of the random cultural facts/happenings that I've become accustomed to over the past few months, so here goes!

-Driving: Sometimes when I drive, I dodge potholes like a Mario Kart driver. We never go above 40 kilometers per hour because you always have to be on pothole patrol. Most cars here are imported from the Philippines, so the driver is on the right side of the car and the front seat passenger on the left. The controls are also all reversed, so for the first few weeks when I tried to turn on the turn signal, the windshield wipers would go! Honking is also a very nice thing here. No one honks to be mean or aggressive, if I hear the tap of a horn it's just a friendly "hello" someone is saying to a friend or family member they see driving.

-Nonverbal Responses: In Pohnpei, you can respond 'yes' by saying yes or raising both your eyebrows. When I'm talking to a student one-on-one and ask a yes or no question, there's a good chance they'll choose to raise their eyebrows instead of say yes!

-Proper Greetings: Walking down the street in Pohnpei is never boring. It is culturally appropriate to say hello to everyone you meet, whether you know them or not (it's very rude if you don't acknowledge someone). So a trip to the grocery store will be filled with many nods of hello or the following greeting:
                                            Kaselehlia (hello to one person)
                                            Kaselehlia maing (hello to one person in a formal way)
                                            Kaselehlia maingko (hello to 2 or more people in a formal way)

-Cash Power: The power situation here is unlike any I've experienced. To buy power for your house, you go to a green drive-through window. You tell the person your house ID number, how much you want, and they give you a receipt with a really long number. Once back at your house, you go to the cash power box and enter the number in. Upon entering it successfully, a happy tune plays and a smiley face appears, along with how many units of cash power you have. If we forget to check our cash power meter and it runs out, which has happened a few times, we'll wake up in the morning sans power and have to go buy more. The generators that power the island are also turned off at different times throughout the day (I'm not sure why). So, an average of 3 school days per week there'll be a four hour chunk of time where we don't have any power. Luckily our rooms have plenty of open windows, so it doesn't affect us too much. Normally I'll just acknowledge, "oh, the power went out!" and we'll continue on in our lesson.

Thank you for going on this little tour of random facts about Pohnpei with me! I love being able to share my experience and this incredible culture and new way of life with so many of you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Letting People Love Me

            As a teacher, I spend my days helping 28 exuberant students fill their brains with knowledge. Most days include a generous helping of chaos and at times a sprinkling of tears, but 3:30 always manages to roll around and we’re all there, smiling, in one piece. My students see the world with a joy that is contagious. “Teacher Emily, a FLOWER. This is a FLOWER!” Besides soaking in their childlike awe and excitement, I witness their daily light bulb “aha!” moments when they realize that they actually can read that word or they can do that math problem.

            I had an “aha” moment the other day, too, while skyping with my parents some 5,500 miles and many oceans away. Before the conversation even began I could guarantee you that sometime, mid-conversation, my Dad was going to ask me, “Em, what can we do for you? How can we help you?” As sure as there'll be 90% humidity and sunshine in Pohnpei this week, my Dad will ask that question. As someone who would rather help others than ask others to help me, my brain immediate wants to say, “I’m great Dad, no help needed!” But, honestly, there’s not one ounce of truth to that statement. I’ve just moved to a foreign country thousands of miles away from my family. I am in my first year of teaching and I'm pulling together my own curriculum for a grade I've never taught before in a country I've never lived in. Lets face it, I need all the help I can get.

            In this particular conversation we chatted about my students and my weekend at my host family before the inevitable ‘how can we help you?’ question came up. And that’s when it happened - I had my light bulb moment. I may be the one physically in the FSM, but he and my Mom and so many others are playing just as important a role as I am. They love me and support me, which makes me able to teach and love my students. My parents? They get it. They are here with me. They are part of God’s plan by being so eager to hear my stories, pray for me, and send school supplies for my students. And it’s not just my parents but so many other friends and acquaintances sending everything from homemade jam (thank you Bertolucci's!) to cards, care packages, and letters sharing what they're doing in life and asking how I am. The fact that there are people out there willing to do that? Willing to pray and read my blog and walk through this teaching abroad journey with me? That is wild. That is the Church. That is community. And that is God incarnate.

            We were created by a community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:26 (“let us make man in our image”) and designed to walk through life in the same way. Even though I am on a tiny island in the North Pacific, God doesn’t ask me to be an island. He gives each of us many unique callings and missions throughout our lives, but he doesn’t expect us to do them alone. We can only fulfill these callings by leaning on the Holy Spirit and by letting people love us. By really letting myself soak in the support and encouragement that I’ve received since starting my JVC service, I am a better teacher, a better community mate, and am becoming more and more like the woman God made me to be. I am learning. Learning to be better at letting people love me and am finding that, in return, I am better able to love others.