Friday, May 21, 2010

Mollie is slow, but Mom is fast!

Pictures (from January through April) are UP!

Thanks, Mom! I love you!

HOW long has it been?

Greetings Readers!

I am sorry to say that it has been nearly FOUR full months since I wrote anything other than brief weather updates here. If someone were tracking my happenings through only this record, I suppose he or she could reasonably assume that I had been annihilated along with the rest of Pohnpei by some tragic, freak combination of tsunami-drought.

Evidently, this is not the case. I am alive and well. We've just finished the school year, and my eighth graders (all of whom passed the state entrance test and will be continuing on to high school!) are looking forward to their graduation ceremony next week.

Since I last wrote, many things have happened to me:
- Along with other volunteers, I weekended at Black Coral, a picnic island (small island inside the Pohnpei reef). It's a protected zone from fishing, so it was really amazing snorkeling.
- The PCVs had a bake sale over Women's Day (March 8) as a fundraiser for Camp GLOW*. Our favorite concoction was the cocoa-coconut-banana cake. Mmmm!
- We came out of the drought and now are getting our usual wealth of rain (I know you were all worried).
- The Easter Season came and went, as did a relaxing Spring Break.
- I started a Dance Club at school for all grades -- because the response was so big we split into three groups and met after school, once a week for each group. They all learned a dance of 4 8-counts that incorporates 7 or the 8 Movement Elements (I couldn't figure out how to translate "positive & negative space" into Pohnpeian).
- An auditor from the FSM national government came to Lukop School as part of an audit of the Pohnpei DOE. Among other things, I learned that I shouldn't be teaching for the length that I am without having taken the National Standard Teaching Test. The principal is working on helping me take it the next time it's offered. Maybe Peace Corps should get on that, too?
- My eighth graders won the Madolenihmw Science Fair with a presentation on the states of matter.
- The female PCVs have been in full Camp GLOW planning mode--meeting every week with our students and every other week with each other to prepare for camp. (*Not sure if I've already mentioned it, but Camp GLOW [Girls Leading Our World] is a summer camp to empower eighth grade girls as they approach the challenges of high school. Our camp this year will be four days in early June and will focus will be on how a Pohnpeian girl can lead a healthy, happy, and successful life.)
- The neighborhood youth started gathering every evening at the house next door to play volleyball and chat; when I'm not too pooped from school, I go over to watch, visit, or play cards with the kids.
- I ran a 5K put on by the FSM Olympic Committee to celebrate Women in Sports.
- On Earth Day (April 22) the wives of the US Ambassador and the Commander of the Coast Guard came to our school to read a picture book about a sea turtle and to distribute playground and school supplies to the students.
- The Spring found my students taking standardized tests -- just like in the US, except that the date of the tests were last-minute rescheduled a few times.
- In fourth quarter we started a lending library in my eighth grade class, with contributions from me (thanks for the books, Auntie Judy!) and my students. It was a test run to see how borrowing books might work for the whole school. The jury is out until I get all the books back!
- I've celebrated the numerous Constitution Days that exist here (FSM Constitution Day, Pohnpei Constitution Day, AND Madolenihmw Constitution Day are all observed holidays).
- I visited the local Baptist church and had my own "3rd service": one of the families invited me home after church to sit and visit (they actually said "fellowship") over lunch.
- I had my second In-Service Training session, in which my principal, coteachers and I learned new techniques for working as a team that we plan to implement for both summer school and the coming school year.
- I've now seen Pohnpeian weddings -- both a religious ceremony and the more traditional "local marriage" in which the groom's family visits the bride's family, gains permission over sakau, and takes the bride home with them.
- Less traditionally, I've gotten to know the dynamic community of expats and locals who live around Kolonia Town and tend to have a lot of fun gathering together in the evenings. Of particular note was Pohnpei Prom in early May--we made a high school dance playlist and rummaged for formal gowns at the Super Saver. I found and wore a child's Cinderella costume, which was very well-received.
- This past week was the only week all year that Pohnpeians can gather trochus (sea snails) from the reef. In Pohnpeian this practice is called "seisumwomw," and it's popular because the meat is delicious and the shells are worth about $1.50/lb. This is ALL my community of fisherpeople were talking about this week. My family FINALLY fixed our boat, and I got permission from the principal to go out of the water (instead of going to school) on Monday. Trochus is best caught by diving, and there weren't enough masks to go around. So Nohno ended up teaching me how to catch land crabs (pworu) instead. I was surprisingly good at it!
- Our school made it through a few bouts with technical difficulties during finals season--sick computers, broken power line attachments, etc.--to have a lovely Celebration of Learning this past Thursday (a day to present the awards for perfect attendance, good behavior, and good grades ... and also to eat LOTS of sugary food and run/dance around for a few hours).
- My host sibs have finished third grade! Nohno made a cake, Belva got an award for grades, and Iverson enjoyed a good chalk war with his buddies after the ceremony. It was a good day for all.

Overall, I think I've found it hard to update this blog because the more time I spend here the more complex and layered (and hard to relate) my experience becomes. I feel good about the work I've done in class this year, and I'm very proud of my students and the progress they've made. I have become very comfortable with my host family, and I think we understand each other better and better every day. I've made lots of friends, both locals and foreigners, both at site and in Kolonia. I'm improving very much in my spoken Pohnpeian, although I'm hoping the Lukop PTA President will tutor me in the "high," more respectful Pohnpeian that is best to use with my elders (read: everyone but little kids, pretty much).

I have a lot of ideas for the summer, both for school and community, but I now know that I need to approach change gradually for it to be successful here. My host fam also has a lot of plans for the summer -- we're aiming to build a second story on our house BEFORE Nohno leaves in early July to visit our family in Florida for a couple of months(?). Change is happening all over the place, and I'll do my best to keep you up-to-date here. No promises. Just best effort.

But most of all, I really want to express to all of you how grateful I am for your investment in my life here. Huge thanks to all of you who have been keeping in touch--sending me packages, letters, or even facebook posts/messages. Even though I haven't responded to everything, I want to express what an encouragement your support is to me. It has helped me come through some rougher moments over here. I would especially like to thank all of our friends who put up with my loving mother sticking a camera in your face with a "Say hi to Mollie!" I know from experience how awkward it is to say something heartfelt to someone many miles away with nothing but an unfeeling piece of machinery to look into. (Related note: television and screen actors are WAY more talented than I previously thought!) Seeing your faces and hearing your voices really touched me and made me feel so much closer to home. Thank you for that!

So, full of love and good intentions, I think I'll bring this post to a close. Momma, please upload those most recent photos so our friends have some new visuals to go with all of these new words.

Be well & please keep on keeping in touch!