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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mangos, Milestones, & Multicultural Day

It's mango season in Pohnpei. As we've been gifted bags upon bags of mangos the last few weeks, we've perfected the art of eating a mango. The first, and most essential step, to easy mango eating is proper placement: if possible, stand over a sink (for easy clean up post-mango eating). Once you slice or tear the skin off it becomes a juicy, messy mango free for all. Floss is normally involved, at least in my case, to get all the mango out of my teeth. I've started bringing my floss to school because more than likely I'm going to be offered a mango throughout the day.

Besides the mangos, its been a week of milestones. Last Tuesday, I celebrated 18 months in Pohnpei and it was the 100th day of school! My students and I celebrated with lots of 100 themed activities. My favorite activity of the day was our old men/women craft (the boys thought that putting a mustache on their old man was the most hilarious thing I've ever told them to do) and accompanying writing. The students filled in the sentence: "When I'm 100..." with some comical responses. My favorites were:

When I'm 100...

-I'll be ugly
-I'll drink so much coffee
-I will be old like a grandma
-I will drink sakau
-I won't be able to see when I drive and I will get into an accident.

We also started a brand new big concept this week...long vowel words with Silent E! We used magic wands to introduce the topic of "Magic E" and they loved it. It's exciting to see how much my 1st graders have grown since August and be jumping into the world of long vowels.

The last week of January ended with another big milestone: our Multicultural Night! PCS is a very diverse school and we celebrated the different cultural heritages of students with a night of songs, dances, and food from around the world. I helped out with the Hawaiian hula group and the Pakistani group (we have 2 sisters at our school who are half Pakistani and half Pohnpeian) and was so proud to see the culmination of all of our hard work. For a few weeks, all of my breaks and lunches were filled with group meetings or practices. It is safe to say that I'm happy this event is over and was a success! Other performances included Pohnpeian, Yapese, Chuukese, Japanese, Kosraean, Cameroonian, and Tahitian songs and dances. I took a few videos when I had the chance to document the night!

First we have the Pohnpeian boys doing a war dance. Legend tells that when Pohnpeians first came to the island, they fought with the ghosts living here using this war dance!

Next up is a Chuukese welcome dance. They performed this dance in Chuuk a few months ago when the Archbishop visited!

This is the Hawaiian hula group that I helped oversee/coordinate. I could only record a bit before I had to go back and help my next group. The girls did a wonderful job - I wish I could move my hips like they can!

These Pakistani sisters did a beautiful job with their dance! I was so proud of them for rocking the stage just the two of them!

The next 2 clips are from the Yapese dance. The Yapese have a way with entrances - the biggest part of their performance was getting everyone on stage in such a loud, excited fashion! I loved the Yapese flower mwaramars, too. So beautiful!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

15 Things I Learned in 2015

My Year of Micro (all 365 days of 2015 spent in this tiny island nation) has come to an end. Here are 15 things I learned in 2015!

1. Persistence. I have had a plethora of opportunities to learn the sacred art of persistence this year. That lesson didn't go as well as I would have liked? I will come to school tomorrow and try again. Feeling baffled by Pohnpeian culture and habits? Keep learning, keep having an open mind, keep humbling yourself. Not sure where you fit into your community of JVs? Keep being yourself. Keep looking for how you can be a good community mate to those around you. Persistence, persistence, persistence.

2. Patience. It's true that patience is a virtue, but it's a darn hard virtue to have. How did I grow in patience this year? Through purposeful, daily practice. If you want to be patient, you have to work for it. Patience to listen when my students want to tell me something supremely important right as I sit down to take a break for lunch. Patience when I arrive 'on time' and have to wait around for others to arrive who have strong 'island time' tendencies. Patience as I'm trying to understand how my community mates operate. Patience for others and patience for myself.

3. Try the food. Sashimi, ramen with kool-aid, dog, green mangos with kool-aid, unique cuts of pig, breadfruit, yams, coconuts, bananas cooked in a million different ways - I've had some unique food the past 17 months. I firmly believe that wherever you are, especially if you're staying for long periods of time, try the food. It shows that you are open to learn and leads to some great conversation starters...and some pretty good tasting food.

4. I (and you!) can do hard things. It might sound romantic and wonderful to live on a tropical island, but 99% of the time it's just a whole lot of hard work and a whole lot of sweat. I've learned that I can do hard things. I can create my own curriculum, I can learn about a new culture totally different from my own, I can live in a new climate and learn to thrive. We can all do hard things, but it takes time to adjust and persistence to keep doing those hard things.

5. Take time to reflect. Setting aside time to reflect, set goals, and give myself mini pep talks has made all of the difference. When I really stop to think and reflect - about my teaching, about all I've learned about Pohnpeian culture, about how I've changed and grown since arriving in the FSM - I realize how close God has been and how much He has guided me through. I always leave my reflection times feeling proud of myself and ready to continue working hard.

6. Let others help you. I might live on an island, but as the saying goes no man is an island. I've learned now more than ever before that I am not alone, and that is what has given me the most strength to give my all everyday. For everyone who has prayed for me, sent me mail, or asked my parents how I'm doing, thank you. I could not do it without you.

7. Find a good work/life balance. Leaving school by 5 pm, and not bringing any work home, has been a life saver for me. I can't be in work mode all day, and by creating that balance now, I know I am setting myself up for future success trying to find a work/life balance back in America.

8. Transitions take time. If I could go back in time and tell Emily who just arrived in Pohnpei one thing, I'd tell her to be gentle with herself. I'd tell her she's going to be just fine. That she's going to thrive in her second year. I'd tell her that transitions take time. Moving to a new place, starting a new job or a new phase in life, every transition takes time.

9. Relationships take time and energy. If you want to be friends with someone, or fit in with some group, it's going to take time and consistent energy and engagement with those people. I have been able to benefit from the fruit of great friendships in my second year because I put in a lot of hours and some awkward moments my first year. Friendships don't happen overnight, and you have to put in the time and effort to really be friends with someone. 

10. Accept change. I put myself on the Pride Board this year (see #14) for how well I accepted the changes that were coming. From my three second year JVs leaving to welcoming visitors and new JVs, I said many hellos and many goodbyes in 2015. By accepting that these changes were coming and allowing myself to feel whatever emotions they brought forth, I was better able to navigate each situation.

11. Don't be afraid to slow down. By removing myself from American soil and American culture, I've realized that we are a people constantly seeking entertainment and stimulation. We are afraid of slowing down. We are afraid of turning off our phones. Why? Don't be afraid to slow down. Don't be afraid to entertain the ideas that come to your mind when you slow down. Don't be afraid to ask your soul how it's doing and really listen.

12. Read, baby, read. Open up a good book and see where it takes you. There's something out there for everyone! My current reads: The Martian by Andy Weir (fantastic book so far and a great movie!) and On A Hoof and A Prayer by Polly Evans (about a woman's stories and experiences riding horses through Argentina).

13. Have an open mind, don't judge what you don't understand. When I don't understand what's going on or I am confused by someone's actions, I remind myself how different humankind is and how beautiful that makes our world. Different cultures emphasize different character traits or teach different skills, so just because I don't understand doesn't mean I need to judge.

14. Put yourself on the pride board. "But I'm learning to stop and celebrate an inch of progress, even if there are miles to go, to cheer myself on for staying in the ring, even though I can't seem to land a punch. We might make more progress if we celebrate each millimeter, instead of shouting at ourselves for not covering more ground. If you've covered any ground at all: Pride Board. If you simply didn't give up: Pride Board. If you tried and failed but are trying again today: Pride Board." 
-Shauna Niequist
Read her whole Pride Board blog post here:
15. Look higher, dream bigger. I've spent the past months dreaming some really big dreams and I'm in the process of pursuing some big possible opportunities for life after Micronesia. Do I know if they are going to work out? No, not yet. Is it ok if they don't work out? Yes, because some doors have to close for me to have just one door to walk through. But the thought, the action of dreaming really, really big, has allowed me to articulate where my future career goals are leading me.

What did you learn in 2015? I'd love to hear from you!