Saturday, June 26, 2010

Scary host family news

Dear Friends,

I just found out from Nohno that Pahpa has had a stroke and is in the Majuro hospital in critical condition. The doctors say the stroke was caused by undiagnosed diabetes. Pahpa was off-island for a professional conference, and although that distance makes the news harder on us, he will likely get better medical care there than here.

Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are incredibly prevalent and fast-growing killers in Micronesia. They're all the more tragic because they are usually preventable through diet and lifestyle changes and regular checkups. The rising statistics have been making me feel depressed and frustrated since I've been aware of them, but this development has brought those emotions to a much more raw and personal place.

Please pray for Pahpa. We're all very worried about him right now.

Thank you,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stories from the Start of Summer

The last day of school was exactly one month ago, and time has been flying since then. The key word of this post is “surprise” … I’m learning that wonderful things happen when I relax and just let them go.

The first notable event after the end of school was graduation. My kids graduated the morning of May 27, the Thursday following the end of school. For a month we had been rehearsing their entrance, songs, exit, and other troop movements. From all of that I thought I knew exactly what to expect. But I was wrong. Graduation day found me surprised. It was a rainy morning as everyone arrived, and I was surprised to see how well—and in coordination—all of my students had cleaned up. All the boys were channeling the Blues Brothers in white oxfords and black ties—many with fly shades and all with spanking new kicks of the sneaker variety. The girls looked radiant in white silk dresses, fancy jewelry and hair, and makeup! (a first for many of them) Our graduation was much like a wedding—it was held in a church, we had two flower girls, and there was a receiving line afterwards with all 29 graduates accepting congratulations from everyone in attendance. After the first moment of the ceremonies—except for maybe when each student accepted his/her diploma along with mwarmwars/leis and hugs from family onstage—my surprises became less enjoyable. I was surprised at how hot & stuffy it got in the church, at how many people were crowded in. I was very unfortunately surprised at how long and inanely the guest speaker’s address was, and I was hungrily surprised at how quickly and voraciously the refreshments were horded and devoured by everyone but me. (I was trying to take pictures! Silly!) But my students were radiant and all 29 of them passed the high school entrance exam and will be continuing their education. The best surprise was perhaps how honestly proud of them I felt.

The next big news after graduation was Camp GLOW, a girls’ development camp led by the female Pohnpei PCVs from June 8-11. The week between the two events was spent running around soliciting donations and following up with guest speakers and participants. The camp was free(!!!) and open to the recently graduated 8th grade girls from each of our schools. Eleven girls came from Lukop—my most surprising cancellation was from one of my girls who couldn’t go because she was recently married! Camp was held at a beach park outside of Kolonia with enough space for all of the girls to sleep, play, and listen to speakers (all local professionals) who regaled us on various points of interest. Our focus was health—particularly mental, sexual, and making healthy choices with their futures. The girls also got to do the typical camp activities like arts & crafts, swimming, and immediately bonding with their new friends from around the island. We even had a talent show in which we PCVs/camp counselors made fools of ourselves with a Camp GLOW rewrite of an ABBA song—everyone loved it. I was particularly in my element and I may have overused my megaphone privileges. At separate times all of the other PCVs mentioned to me that my calling in life might just be that of a professional camp counselor.

Since then things at site have really taken off … and completely unexpectedly, too! We started the four weeks of summer school on Tuesday (only 3 days a week), and I am confident that my co-teachers and I will find a good rhythm for planning and teaching our 1.5 hours of English for each 7th and 8th grades. But also this week I was invited to participate in my community’s women’s group – next Wednesday all the women’s groups in Madolenihmw will come together to perform dances and compete in local games like “push a tire” or “juggle noni (small fruit) & run” faster than everyone else. Although I joined initially to learn local dance styles, my group elected to dance the “bus stop” (Pohnpeian for “electric slide”) and … the Macarena! It has been fun and very silly. By contrast, I was also invited to the evening revivals held every day this week at the local Baptist church. This evening is the final potluck fellowship & service. Both opportunities have been fun, new ways to interact with my neighbors, and I believe I might actually be making lasting friendships!

Writing from a happy whirlwind—