Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faces in the Crowd

Sorry about the blog silence over these past few pivotal weeks. Settling into life as a full-fledged Volunteer has taken much of my energy, and I had little left to tell you about it! Even now I'm only going to give you an overall sketch because I've got to get on with my lesson plans for tomorrow.

But, on the whole, the thing about making a home for myself here is that my sense of belonging is coming in very slowly even though I have to jump right into family/teaching/life. Maybe it has to be that way for me to make strong connections that won't wear out over two years?

This feeling of nowness is so very different from training because the expectations of me are preceding my adjustment (training gave me nothing but time to adjust, I felt). But here, I land with a new family and am expected to belong to them for two years before we've found any kind of rhythm for living together. I get the same feeling at my school: I'm torn between wanting to get the lay of the land and needing to hit the ground running.

And the most disorienting part of all for me is not quite knowing the people of my community. For both my town and school I feel a little lost in the welcome of a large, interconnected group of people who all know who I am but who I don't yet know. There are easily a hundred people every day who can greet me with "Hello, Mollie" (or, more popularly, "Peace Corps!"), but to me most of them are just vaguely familiar faces. The heavy work of adjusting is forming those individual relationships--those friendships--that will help light my way to familiarity with my community here.

Those kinds of friendships are slow in coming, and it's still too soon to say who my support network is here. My immediate family, my principal, my counterparts have all at least made formal commitments to help me or to work with me. And I'm happy to say that a few of the other teachers at my school and a couple of the other women in the community have been warm and welcoming. So that gives me a handful of people here who I hope one day I can call friends.

I suppose it’s obvious that the urgent need to feel settled clashes with the slowness of relationship building. It’s also probably redundant to point out that this dilemma leads to some pretty serious homesickness. But the wonderfully good news is that just as I was feeling this loneliness the worst this past Friday afternoon, I had a chance to stop by the Peace Corps office and check my locker, which was overflowing with mail from home. So thank you for writing! Thanks EJ and Annie for giving me identical sentences of news (“The Yankees won the World Series. (boo)”). Thanks Britty for the package that finally arrived. Thanks Mrs. Ottoson for the great seasonal greetings & encouragement. Thanks Ruthanne for the note stuck in my locker. And thanks Mom & Dad for never letting up with the steady stream of letters, photoessays, and encouragingly silly tidbits. You all continue to remind me why I’m out here doing this, and that I’ve already got a pretty swell support network who loves me very much.

So thanks for that! And more on the mail front, it looks like my family has its own PO Box that you can use to send me mail more directly. So feel free to send mail either to PO Box 9 or to PO Box 1773, depending on if you want me to read your letter at the PC Office or at home.

So thanks for the encouragement and the love. I’ll be sure to let you know how it’s going after I’ve had a bit time here … today was my first day of classroom teaching, after all!

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for this challenge, partly because it makes me that much more thankful to have you all in my life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

OMG! My school has internet!!!

Since last Friday I have officially become a PCV, I have moved in with my permanent family, and I have begun observing classes at my new school (today is my very first day!). I have so much to tell!

But I can't tell it in this blog post because I don't have any of it organized yet; I was working off the assumption that I wouldn't be online until the next time I went to the PC office in Kolonia.

Therefore, all I can say in this post is that when I arrived at school and reported for duty in the main office I was greeted by air conditioning, two computers, a functioning printer and copier, and internet access! It's dial-up and I have to use my own Telecom card, but this is NOT what I was expecting when my site was described as "remote."

Here's to rolling with it!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pictures are Up!

Thanks to Mom-the-longsuffering, you can see photos from LAX to Deketik here:


Musically Missing You!

Yesterday I made a psych-up playlist on my ipod. It is an array of up-tempo songs that make me glad, both for their groovy rhythms as well as for the people they make me think of while listening. Originally made to help me wake up in the morning, I found out yesterday that it doubles as really excellent afternoon walking music. It even works as lopwolopw music (aka: pounding your laundry on a rock with a club). Thought it would be fun to share!

“The Opposite of Hallelujah” Jens Lekman – EJ!
“1901” Phoenix – thesis dance parties with Pat
“Chicago” Sufjan Stevens – reminds me of this summer’s roadtrip
“Raspberry Beret” Prince – brother, again
“Dark Side of the Moon” from Mulan – the album is identified as “Misa’s Disney Masterpiece,” so I think that one would be obvious.
“Familia (Guy Sigsworth Remix)” Mirah – Hooray, FAP!
“I Want You Back” Jackson 5 – Pops, and CityStep, equally
“Heartland” George Straight – Papi
“Friends in Low Places” & “We Shall Be Free” Garth Brooks – ditto; “Friends” has an EXCELLENT beat for lopwolopw!
“The Bitch is Back” Elton John – The next three are Mama & her eclectic wonderfulness; I miss your LPs!
“Spanish Bombs” The Clash
“Beautiful” Carole King
“Short Skirt Long Jacket” Cake – Although friends here claim Cake is all about irony, I’ll continue to listen to this one and feel unironically empowered & awesome.
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” & “Rosalita” Bruuuuuuuce – Mama, although 10th Ave is also a Pat dance party song
“California Girls” Beach Boys – From Erin, but encompasses all of home & high school
“Red Sweater” Aquabats – EJ, circa 1998-99

What were accidentally left of are “Shine Shine Shine” & “Box of Rain” for Laura & Emma. (Also, “I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress to Keep Dancing” by Mike Doughty, which has become a recent—and likely overplayed—anthem.) Although I did turn on “Box of Rain” sometime last week and accidentally triggered a heavy rainstorm, so I’ve got to watch out. I’m more powerful than I thought!

Anyway, I love and miss you all. You’re on my mind and I hope you’re doing well!

Highlights from the Final Weeks of Training

Fun at Home
My favorite niece Vannett turned 13 last Tuesday, and over the course of the week we had a lot of weeknights where I was home with the kids/teenagers. One night I made dinner!—a can of black beans, chicken, and salsa sent by Mom from Trader Joe’s served over the omnipresent rice. It was delicious and the family liked it! The other evenings we tended just to hang out, play with my ipod, cards, or camera. There were a couple of good photo shoots which revealed both new camera settings and unusual Pohnpeian proclivities (namely, that Pohnpeian boys like to goof around by dressing in drag). [Photos to be included if the internet will agree to load them!]

Schooling the Teacher
Last Thursday we had a teaching practicum. My partner, Amanda, and I were assigned to a 7th grade class of about 40 kids. We did a lesson about parts of speech and parts of a sentence, and then had some time left at the end to play a few games. The last one we played, Amanda put the words “The Federated States of Micronesia” on the board and we had them make as many nouns as possible using the letters on the board. While I was expecting stuff like “chair” and “ears,” the kids came up with a bunch of proper nouns, many of which were names of other countries and continents. So they taught me that Africa, Asia, America, Canada, etc, were all contained within the FSM.

Lukop at First Sight
On Friday, the day after the practicum and a week before swear-in, the trainees split up to shadow one of the 5 current PCVs on Pohnpei for the morning (Erica and I went to Awak to see Kate’s school). On the way home, we spontaneously decided to stop at our sites—Saladak for Erica and Lukop for me. By the time we got to Lukop, which is a ways off the main road around the island, it was almost 2pm on a Friday afternoon. Pohnpei is not known for having full days of school on Friday, so I was incredibly surprised to arrive to classrooms full of students quietly listening to their teachers. I talked to the principal briefly, and he told me that school goes until 2:30 every day. I was over the moon!

“Block Party” Kamadupw

On Saturday I went to another kamadupw on Temwan, but this time I got to see a kinder side to the ritual. The Nanmwarki was not there, and it seemed to be a smaller gathering all together. Ruthanne and I decided that this was more of a “block party” affair, since everyone seemed more relaxed and there was significantly less to-do: people got there later, the food was already ‘individually’ packaged, and there were NO pigs to slaughter! Also, there was catchy music and dancing, and lots of sitting around with sakau. Needless to say, we all had a great time.

Coming Up This Week:
Language Proficiency Interview on Thursday
Swear-In (with a traditional dance performed by the Trainee-Volunteers) on Friday
Meet & move in with my new family immediately after Swear-In.

A Pohnpeian Word

We got dictionaries a couple of weeks back, and they have rewarded us with some hilarious new additions to our vocabulary (see “A Pohnpeian joke” and use your imagination for the types of words you might find in a Pohnpeian-English dictionary). Here’s a favorite new word of a different variety [linguistic note: “Mw”s are pronounced like a deeper, longer “m” sound; same with “pw”s]:

mwenemwenei – to jiggle up and down like the fat on a fat person.

An explanation here is that it is considered beautiful and healthy to be “fat” (mworourou), which is anywhere from pleasantly plump to obese. So this word makes sense in the cultural context. And it’s an onomatopoeia, which I love.

A Pohnpeian Joke

I heard this one today in language class (told in English, not Pohnpeian. I’m not that good yet!) by my instructor. A necessary disclaimer: people eat dog in Pohnpei. I haven’t seen it done yet, but there are lots of dogs on the island, and it is seen as a viable source of meat.

So, the joke:

A Pohnpein man walks into a restaurant in Kolonia. He looks at the menu and sees “Hot Dog,” which makes him happy because he could really go for some dog meat for lunch. The waitress takes his order and brings out his food. He looks at this place confusedly and then up at the waitress. “Excuse me,” he says, “but we don’t eat that part of the dog here.”

I suppose now would also be a good time to mention that, aside from dog meat, Pohnpeians also love dirty jokes. :)