Thursday, December 27, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Merry late Christmas to everyone, and to all the Pohnpeians reading my blog, Merry continued Christmas!  You see, Christmas isn't just one day in Pohnpeian; it's a whole month.  To be honest, I'm kind of sick of it, but let me tell you how the past month has been.

On the first day of Christmas my Peace Corps Experience gave to me... being sick.  Yep, more sickness.  A little bacterial infection here, a little sinus infection there.  You know, the usual.

It's been a little weird not being with my family in either Salt Lake City or Colorado for Christmas, but my new family has been extremely great in helping me through this first Christmas.  We've been swimming in the river, fishing for river shrimp, doing the 6 Waterfall hike, having plenty of Christmas parties, secret Santas, sakau, sakau ni wai (alcohol), making fire, reading Paulo Coelho in Spanish, and more practice with a machete.  I've been able to do a lot of these things because I've made the effort to not go to Kolonia on the weekends.  It's been a little tough, but it really has been helping me become more involved with my community.

This month also I've been to two funerals.  I've had to help prepare and carry the yam to take to the funerals, but my responsibilities have been pretty limited to that.  It's truly an experience to see HUGE pigs being killed in front of many people, sakau being pounded in the background, and two-hundred people just sitting down on the ground and on the tops of cars.  Not much is said about the deceased, but everyone gathers and chats kind of like it's just another sad gathering.  Funerals are an extremely common thing here in Pohnpei.  My family usually attends funerals about 3 times a month if not more because we have connections to many families, and it's almost like a full time job preparing for a lot of funerals.  It's an interesting cultural experience, extremely interesting.

We had a big community feast on the 8th of this month.  About 150 people attended.  It. Was. Crazy.  So many yams.  So many sakau plants.  So many people.  Women dancing around dieing pigs.  People screaming like monkeys.  Men carrying huge pigs on hibiscus tree poles.  Kids running around.  It was a little overwhelming.  It was so much that I had to tap out at about 3 pm to take a nap, and then hit it again.  Out of control in a sense, but at the same time completely in control.  Hard to describe.  Sentence fragments. Done.

I've introduced my family to the one thing that makes the world seem right: Dunkin Donuts Coffee.  My stepmom (Thanks Catherine!) sent me original Dunkin Donuts and Gingerbread coffee, and my family's taste buds were shocked.  We usually drink add-to-water coffee which tastes like 'meh' even when you add sugar to it, so when my family tasted this delicious caffeinated drink from the DD Gods, it was kind of like that picture where God is almost touching Adam's (Wikipedia The Creation of Adam) finger.  They were amazed, and I was and still am glad for delicious coffee.

Side note: I'm growing my beard out.  Apparently it looks good even though before I've looked like Scraggy from Scoobie Doo.  Meh, we'll see how long it can go or how long I can last before I get sick of it.

We're selling ice cream now at our family store.  I've got one motto in life: never say no to ice cream.  I've been living up to that motto, a lot.

Blah Blah Blah.  Here are some pictures that might give you a good visual of my life nowadays.  Any questions, you know how to get a hold of me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nick's Picture Montage.

Not much time to post today, so here are some pictures to let you know what I've been up to.

I hope everyone is doing well back home.

Merry Christmas!

 My 7th and 8th Grade Class.
 Kind of funny how I learned this in Spanish first to then teach it in English...
 My running club on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
 An old construction truck abandoned on the side of the road.  A lot can be said from this picture.
The dead water buffalo head I found in the dish washing area when I got back home.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A collection of red, blue, and green dots organized for your viewing pleasure. In other words, Enjoy The Pictures!

 The Disney Channel is stepping it up this year with its new hit soap opera "When the Breast Feeding Ends".  It's said to be filled with drama, knives, and of course, babies on the edge!

 The Thinker has nothing on me.

 A big gun that the Japanese didn't have time to take home after WWII.  I wonder why?
 Projectiles the size of my hand.
And of course 6 barrels.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hear Ye' Hear Ye' o Secondary Projects

In reference to the style of this blog title, thought I'd spice it up a little with some horrible rendition of an Old English Phrase.  In other words, I'm bored right now.

It's funny how one action can start a chain reaction and how many chain reactions can lead to one event.  I've been teaching my students songs that I have on my computer's Itunes thinking that maybe they will remember 2 or 3 vocabs words from the song, maybe the beat, and nothing else.  Boy was I wrong.  A couple of nights ago I was hanging out with a couple ( by couple I mean 4-6) of Salapwukians including my some of my students, and the most amazing thing happened.  They started to sing each song I taught them with perfect timing and all of the lyrics.  On top of that, they had taught the songs to their family and they started to sing along too.  Now the tunes of the Beatles and Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" are common place here.  Who'd of thought...

I've started a running club at my school that consists of any student who wants to run in the evenings 3 days a week.  My goal is to show the kids that there are free ways to exercise and stay healthy.  Diabetes and obesity are a huge problem here in Pohnpei due to overuse of salt, a lot of sugar, and minimum physical activity.  The extremely sad part is that most of these problems (I would guess about 80%) are bared by women.  It's an extremely interesting dichotomy of how the men here all have six packs and the women are mostly not in good shape.  I believe this is starting to change with the younger generation as they learn more about staying healthy, and I'm hoping to have some impact on that change.

I've become extremely frustrated with some things that I take for granted in America that absolutely do not exist here.  The biggest one is Special Education for students with disabilities.  In the U.S., it's assumed that if you have a condition like slight retardation or a speech impairment, there is a trained personnel at most elementary schools or someone in town from whom you can receive extra attention.  Throw that out the window here.  Some of the students at my school are in 3rd grade and are not even able to write their own name, and there's no one who bats an eye at it.  With a particular student, I'm spending time with them after school to help that student learn how to write basic letters.  It's been 3 days now, and I now can say that I have been completely humbled by this experience.  That is my most challenging secondary project: teaching an 8 year old student how to write their own 4-letter name.  I now respect every person who has worked in Special Education because of their amount of patience.  Patience, now that's a word.

We Peace Corps Volunteers had Thanksgiving dinner a little early on Sunday November, 18th.  The U.S. Ambassador invited us and some Army soldiers stationed in Pohnpei to eat at her beautiful villa outlooking the Pacific Ocean.  All I can say is that your tax dollars went to work that day.  I ate.  I ate some more.  I ate until people started giving me that look of, "Dude... The toilet is that way."  No, I didn't puke.  I actually never felt full even though I ate 2 plates of food and a whole pie.  It was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving by eating turkey and stuffing while gazing out at the Pacific Ocean.

I've picked up the task of trying to keep myself intellectually stimulated, which is tough.  My conversations here with my community consist of sex jokes, trying to find me a wife, more sex jokes, food, and lesson planning for English classes.  So instead of turning my brain into complete mush, I've decided to start briefly studying for the GRE with a GRE test book that is conveniently in my school library.  I've also started to read the book The Lazy Intellectual which I thought fit me perfectly.  It's tough having come from a college town with interesting topics and ideas in a language I can perfectly understand to listening to me being talked to like a child in a language I barely understand.  The range of topics on an island are pretty limited, and definitely more limited in a isolated town with no Internet nor television.  Reading/studying will save me; I hope.

I feel like I've covered just about every topic I need to in this blog post.  To all of my friends and family back home, I love and miss you all.  Thanks for all of the support in the form of care packages, FB wall posts, emails, and prayers.  This is a tough job, but I believe it's what I need to be doing with my life right now.  It's almost Christmas season.  Maybe Good Ol' Saint Nick will send you a present.  Leave me your address on Facebook, and I might send you a post card or a coconut.  Either way, you win.

Nicol├ís Antonio Canfield

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Salmonella, Worms, and Progress

Thought I'd do a picture/video update along with a short blurb of the past 2 weeks.

Last week, I had a salmonella infection.  This caused me to not want to eat for a week, have diarrhea, and feel overall feel like shit.  Two days ago, the worst whole day migraine of my life accompanied with vomiting and the discovery of intestinal worms was such a treat.

I also have been learning the intricacies of the word mwemweit (to go hang out at someone elses place).  Living in an isolated community in the mountains means that it's a good walk to go hang out with others, but it's worth it to see some new people

My family is probably the coolest in the world.  During the past two weeks of a constant feeling of being punched in the balls by a headache and diarrhea, they've been really helpful. 

Boulder is finally looking like a dog instead of a puppy now.  He's still bitting people occasionally and jumping on tables for food, but he's learning.

I showed my family how to make smores and banana pancakes last week since they've never heard of neither.  They had fun making the poking sticks and setting the mallows ablaze.  My brother had so much fun with it that he took the left over marshmallows to school to show his friends.  Peace Corps Goal #2 = smashed.
Care packages have been awesome, and I thank my stepmom, aunt, and grandma for supplying the goods.

Trying to make friends with people of the same age here is pretty difficult.  They're all really shy and don't want to be seen with the only white guy for miles (yes, I stick out like a sore thumb plastered with white paint).  I only go to church on Sundays to hang out with others, but it seems like the other side isn't willing to make the effort.  Fuck.

Okay, video and pictures:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Jungle Boys

I'm trying to stay more connected with people back home, and this blog post is an attempt at that.

I'm now oficially the only white person (okay... let's say American since the people there have light skin) in Salapwuk.  The other volunteer just finished her service last Sunday and took off to the world outside of Pohnpei.  It's been fun having another person to take notes on and talk to, and I'll try to continue the good work she's done.

The weeks have gone by really fast.  I find that Monday through Thursday fly by; by the time it's Friday, it's time for Kolonia or some adventure out in the jungle.  Around Kitti, one of the names I've heard my family and the Salapwuk guys being called in the Jungle Boys.  I makes me feel a little bit like Mowgli from The Jungle Book, just without Baloo.  Here's some imagery for you: machetes, deep hikes into the jungle, 50 foot cliff dives, blisters without a reason, green leaves for miles, and no cell phone coverage for days.  When you think of Nick in the Jungle, think of that.

My students hate me because we just had our 9 weeks test.  One of my bonus! questions was the following: explain the idiom "When pigs fly!".  I feel that if anything, my students will forget that idiom when pigs fly.

I'm becoming more comfortable with my host family.  We're starting to eat together more at the same time, and we're starting to think of each other as peneinei (family) and less of each other as brown people vs. white people.  Cue the song "Ebony and Ivory". 

I just voted online in the presidential/local elections for Colorado.  I can only imagine the noise that's going on in the States right now about it.  Part of me misses it, and part of me is relieved; kind of like a bladder with no piss.  It's not really participating, but it feels relieved.  Do you get my metaphor?  I don't...

If you'd like to know more about what I'm doing, send me an email or leave a comment.  I need to know what my audience wants to know.  Let's call it 'market research'.  Thanks CU marketing professor.

Dejando mi amor con vosotros,

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pictures for miles

Haven't posted pictures for a good amount of time.  Here's to changing that!

This is where I live.

This dog's name is Saddam Hussein. One of my soon to be students' name is Bin Ladin.

Fixing the town's waterpipe.  We then proceesed to carry the pipe a mile into the jungle and fix the break in the pipe.

The jungle.

Sliced open pig being dueced to by my host brother.

My new house.  Sorry about the lighting.

My 5th&6th grade class.  We combine them into one classroom.

Starting a coconut fire with a soldering iron.

The friendly pig that I rode in with on my way to town.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Country Livin'

Top o' the morning to ya folks. (Since I live in the country of Micronesia, I have to start saying this all the time).

More and more I'm starting to feel like a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The enduring trials of slow progress, horrible attemps at pronouncing a foreign language, and monotone diet are a constant reminder that I'm not in America anymore.  Rice, canned meat (Spam, Spaghettios, compressed beef, mackerel...), bananas, pig, and fried everything.  When I mean everything, I mean everything.  It's not the most healthy of diets, but I manage.  The way I describe it is that I'm getting in the best 'worst' shape of my life.  Let me explain.

The past 3 weeks have been filled with me doing hikes in the jungle, 50 foot cliff jumps into water, swimming on the weekends, learning how to make a local fire, becomming well versed in the use of a machete (for chopping down just about anything), mixing concrete by shovel, and (insert random physical activity here).  These people are tough as nails.  We walk around in the jungle in flip flops.  FLIP FLOPS!  Not to mention everything is muddy and extremely slippery, but no one seems to fall.  It's amazing to say the least.  This being the case, Lepen has been getting a lot of physical activity in, but it's nothing in comparison to the extent that my fellow Salapwukites go.

This is my daily schedule: wake up at 6:30am (the sun rises at exactly 6am every day), do some pushups/pullups/situps in my room, eat breakfast with cinnamon bark tea, maybe shower, walk to school, teach from 8:30 to 12pm, go back home to eat lunch, come back to school to grade papers/read to the 1st and second graders/ conduct PE for the 7th and 8th graders, lesson plan at the school, go back home to play basketball until the sun sets at exactly 7pm, watch a movie, rest on rice bags, eat dinner, go to bed.  It's a pretty good daily routine, but I might need to shake it up a little.  Sometimes monotony is well... monotonous.

Now for the part you've all been waiting for: how's my puppy doing?  Boulder is starting to become one of the many dogs at the house.  He plays with the other big puppy, picks fights with the bigger dogs, and gets beaten up pretty bad by one of the older dogs.  By the way, one of the dogs is named Saddam Hussein.  I laugh inside everytime Saddam does something bad.

The construction on my new room is finished, and I'm moving in soon.  I'll be sure to post pictures of the finished house once I get a chance.  It's a beautiful 10' X 15' room with a good breeze going through it.  Tin roof and a sturdy wooden floor.  I can't wait to move in.

2 more months until the election.  Let's see if I can get my absentee ballot sent of fast enough.

P.S. I just taught my 7&8th graders some cliche's and idiomatic expressions.  So as my students would say:

Hasta la vista, baby.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lepen Gets Married

Top of the morn' to ya.

Ups and downs.  My Micronesian life is full of them.  It's sometimes hard to put emotions into words, but imagine a feeling of disappointment, happiness, tiredness, sickness, diarrhea, fright, excitement, and more diarrhea.  Add a week of school and a pinch of eating salty food and you have my last week.

Last weekend one of the Peace Corps girls wanted to come see my awesome set up in Salapwuk.  Micronesians have very interesting views on how non-related men and women hang out.  They assume that if you spend time with a girl that you're married with her.  This is what happened to me and my fellow Peace Corps girl.  I made sure that my family understood that we're not married, but nonetheless, my family still couldn't help to poke fun (while partially being serious) about men wai and their weird hang out habits.  So breakfast time comes, and the man who gave me my title asks me in simple Pohnpeian if my wife was not hungry anymore.  It caught me off guard, and I had to explain to him that no, we're not married.  Nonetheless, my family thinks I'm partially married now, partially...

This weekend we've all been hanging out in town enjoying hot showers and air-conditioning.  It's been good to compare notes on the experience, and it seems like everyone is enjoying their time at their sites.  Wireless internet has been good, and speaking English has never been better.

My students this past week have been a hassle. The concept of asking to leave the room is foreign; students scream out answers to questions they don't understand; students speak Pohnpeian in front of my face even though I ask them to solely speak in English while in class.  It's like I'm in the Wild West trying to break a wild stallion that I don't know how to break.  I'm hoping to start seeing some slow progress over the next few weeks in behavior and English, but that's probably ambitious.  Seeing progress over 1 year seems absurb, but I'm trying to maintain a mental picture of my students now so that I can compare in 1 and 2 years from now.

Boulder is getting into more fights.  I came home on Tuesday to find him with a hole in his ear and one in his chest.  I tried to clean him up with some salt water and anti-bacterial cream, but there's not much I can do.  Being a dog owner here is a struggle between caring for my pup while at the same time being culturally appropriate (keeping dogs on a lever way lower than people).  I'm still trying to find the balance.

Family back home: I want you all to know that I love you and miss you all.  I might not be able to call all the time and I might not be able to get in touch, but you all mean the world to me.

Have a good week.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Training = Smashed

We just finished our training, and all that's left is swearing in as Peace Corps Volunteers this coming Wednesday (Tuesday night in the States).  We've all got our matching shirts for us two guys and skirts for the five girls.  We're going to be looking snazzy.  Pictures to come.

The past 10 weeks have been probably the most interesting in my life.  Teacher training, language training, culture training, numerous cultural anecdotes, and plenty of drunken sakau nights have filled my days.  Delicious and questionable food has been passed my way, friendships made, and puppies taken care of.  It still is new to me, and it probably won't completely hit me as 'foreign' until I return to the U.S.  Culture shock, here I come in 2 years.

Boulder, my puppy, has an interesting medical case.  On Friday morning, I saw that there were little white strings all around his sleeping area.  With further investigation, I concluded as a medical professional that the tiny white strings were actually round worms.  Translation: Boulder has worms.  So being the awesome pet owner that I am, I researched a little more with the locals and with Google to figure out what to do.  There are no veterinarians on the island, so that wasn't an option.  I figured out that there are some non-prescription pills to removing round worms.  Googled it.  It checked out.  Went to the local dispensary.  Paid $1.20 for the pills.  Boom, best pet owner ever.  5 more pills to go over 2.5 more days.  I hope it works.

On Monday we're going to be staying at different sites than our future school sites.  I'm spending the day/night at a current volunteer's place on the eastern part of the island, and it should be a good time seeing how that community works differently from my future home. 

I'm starting to make a name for myself here in Kolonia.  As I walk down the street, it seems like a taxi driver or a kid knows me.  Semi-celebrity status is always appreciated.

I'll try to call everyone on Wednesday after swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I hope you all are kicking ass and taking names back home.

P.S. Apparently Boulder and I are men wai (white people) since we both have the same color hair.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More Training, a New Family, and my Micronesian Puppy

This past week has been really difficult on me.  I'm slightly having a self-identity crisis, and sleepless nights have been the result.  I think I've got it figured out, and I'm hoping that tonight I'll get some sleep.  I have no doubt in continuing my service, and I can't wait to start teaching.

We've been doing more and more language training along with other sessions dedicated to stuff that D.C. requires every Peace Corps Post to conduct.  I'm learning more and more Pohnpeian every day, and I'm actually now decently comfortable in making small talk and asking/responding to basic questions.  All of the other trainees are picking up the language pretty fast too, and hopefully we'll all just be speaking to each other in Pohnpeian by Christmas time.

Yesterday, I got to meet my new host Nohno (mother) along with the principal of my elementary school.  I'm going to be working in Salapwuk, a small local community on the highest mountain here in Pohnpei.  The people in Salapwuk love to joke around and have a good time, and I partly think that was why I was assigned there.  My Nohno seems very kind and willing to make sure I'm fed and happy here.  Nohno and I are going to be co-teaching at the elementary school together, and I can't wait to start my new job of teaching 5th-8th grade.  Fun fact: They say that you can see your own breath in Salapwuk in the morning (aka it actually gets cold up there!)

So I was hanging out at the sakau bar (the local watering hole) when my neighbor John asked me if I'd accept one of his month-old puppies.  I had to think about this for a bit.  Dogs are seen differently here in Micronesia (more as property rather than pets in some communities), but I think that raising a puppy could be a very rewarding experience.  Of course, I won't be able to take him home once I finish my service, but I can raise him to be a good dog for my new family.  I asked my Salapwuk Nohno to make sure that bringing a dog would be okay.  She said yes and that her family has plenty of dogs and would love another.  (Cultural note: Sometimes 'yes' means 'no' in Micronesia).  To make sure that she wasn't just saying 'yes' to say 'yes', I really made sure she knew that she had to be 100% sure that it was okay and that I didn't want to put an unnecessary burden on my new family.  She said yes again.  (Cultural note: Sometimes 'yes' means 'yes'.)  So having received approval for my Nohno and weighed the pros and cons, I've decided to raise the puppy until I leave in August 2014.  I'm naming him Boulder, and he's probably the cutest puppy on the face of the earth.  

2 more weeks of training and then I'll be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I'm ready for the hardest job I'll ever love.  I hope everyone is doing well back in the states, and I'm sorry/disgusted to hear about the Aurora shooting.  I'll be sure to call everyone this Sunday (Saturday afternoon in the States) to check up on you all.  Pwong mwahu, and I'll be sure to update my blog again before heading to Salapwuk on August 15th.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to Post a Comment

I heard some people need a quick lesson on how to leave blog comments.  Here's the 101.

Go to the end of a post.  Click on the link that says "comments".  It will then take you to the individualized page of that blog post.  Go to the bottom and click "add comment".  Type what you like.  Please put your name somewhere in the post.  Then click "submit" or whatever link, and it will ask you to type the text of a picture.  Then, viola, blog, post, comment, boom!

If you need help with this, just post a comment to this post asking how to post a comment....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Team Pohnpei!

The word for American in Pohnpeian also means Sneaky and Slow

It's been 5 weeks in Pohnpei, and I really can't see myself doing anything else with my life right now.  I'm pretty happy that I live in the Pacific ocean helping children to be able to speak English.  Everything is peachy.

Apparently the pressure is on for me to get married.  There's literally been about 10 comments about me getting married while I'm here in Pohnpei.  The girls here are all quite nice, dark skinned, small, pretty, and can cook.  If you know me, that's kind of my cup of tea, so we'll see what 2 years does to Mr. I'm Not Getting Married Until I'm 30.

Eating the local food is quite an adventure.  The concept of washing hands and serving with spoons (not hands) is lost here, but I'll be immune to about every known bacteria/virus after living here.  Ants crawl all over the table at all times.  Flies land on the food.  If your food hasn't been touched by ants, you've probably eaten quickly.  My favorite food here has been sashimi skipjack tuna.  Mango runs a close 2nd place, but fresh skipjack caught on the same day is without comparison.

I fixed up my current guitar (my uncle from the opposite of the island is lending me his).  Since it was missing the 6th string and because I wanted to say 'thank you' in some way, I put new strings on it.  It plays like a champ now after the new strings, cobwebs removed from the inside, spider removed, and random papers removed from the inside.  I'll once I move to my main site in late August, but for now that Fender is all mine!  I tried to teach the song "Sarah Beth" to my host sister AnJanet today.  She kept saying "Serepein" (girl in Pohnpeian) instead of "Sarah Beth".  It was adorable.

I'm learning more and more language through practice all the time, and I suppose in 6 months I'll be at a level where I can understand the general meaning of every conversation, at least that's my goal.

OH!  I just unlocked my blackberry, so I'll be using that for local phone service here on Pohnpei.  I'll be sure to send people the # just in case you want to get in touch with me quickly.  Just remember, I live 7 hours behind you but a day ahead.  Screws with your mind, right?  It does to me.

I can't think of anything else to post, but if you think of anything you want to know, just post a question in the comments section.  I'll be sure to get on it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Home is where you're sent.

We had our site placements yesterday on Friday June 6th, and apparently Peace Corps thought I'd be a kickass 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teacher here on Pohnpei, Micronesia!  I'll be stationed in a small community with less than 150 people (isolation anyone???) and in an elementary school with 70 or so students.  Here's what I know about my placement as of now:
I'll be living on a compound with 20 or so family members whose names all start with the letter J.
My house dad is the 2nd highest chief on the entire island of Pohnpei (extremely important).
My house brothers are apparently extremely good-looking (The current female volunteers apparently have huge crushes on them).
It's an hour's drive from Kolonia to my site in Kitti (pronounced /key-chee/)

I move to that house and start working at that elementary school on August 15th ish.  I'm really going to miss living with my current host family because we've made a good bond.  I'm excited to continue learning Pohnpeian because I've already learned a fair amount of it.  I'm also excited to start working and stop training.  I'm excited to make really good connections with all of the other Peace Corps Volunteers who are stationed on Pohnpei (I believe there are 6 of us).  In general, I'm excited/anxious to start my service instead of being in tourist/trainee mode.

I haven't been getting too homesick, but there are times when I miss you all from back home.  I've been trying to limit my Facebook/internet time to once per 2 days since I have it at my current house, but it's hard to keep to that.

We've been running a 2 week summer school called Model School for about 200 Pohnpeian elementary students, and we just finished our first week.  I'm working with exactly the age group I'll be working with in the future, and I believe that I can really have a good impact on some students in my future community.  Teaching 11 year old kids isn't that bad, and I actually have kind of enjoyed this week in teaching them.  One part that does suck is planning (Lesson planning would die a slow death in the burning pits of hell if I had a say in it).

In all, my first month of Peace Corps has been exciting.  They call it the 'Honeymoon Phase', and I definitely have been aware of that.  The next phase is supposed to be a little easier in some ways and harder in others, and we'll see how I do in that.

Well, it's Saturday night, and it's time to go party.  Pwon Mwaow (goodnight)!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

He runs, he shoots, he scores!

This week/weekend has been one of pains and small victories.  Last Friday, I went to the local club here in Pohnpei called Flamingo after having drank some sakau with Ben, a Peace Corps bud of mine.  They sell Bud Light in cans for $3, and the partying doesn’t start until 2am.  I pooped out by 1:45, but it was good to see how the young Pohnpeian crowd gets jiggy with it.

Starting on Friday, I had a sore throat which I knew wasn’t going to turn out well.  Sore throat + sakau (google it) + local water +  alcohol + late night = sickness.  Saturday morning my Nohno (mom) and I went around town helping unload fish from a boat, got wood for a coffin, and checked out my house dad’s office.  That’s when I found my guitar, but my Nohno says that she might already have one for me at a relative’s house.  Anyhow, Saturday was then filled with rest.  Sunday was filled with rest.  Then I went to training the past 3 days feeling slightly shitty, and today I finally copped out at went to the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Office).  I’ve had the runs since June 11th which apparently 5 days longer than usual.  They gave me some medicine for my congestion, and they’re taking a look into the runs situation. Poop seems to be a big topic now with Peace Corps, but enough about poop

I joined an international soccer team that plays right across the street from my house.  They play every Tuesday and Thursday.  Yesterday Peace Corps bud Ben and I played, and I scored my team’s only goal!  On the other hand, I did allow 2 goals out of 7 or so shot attempts when I was goalie, so that evens out, right?

Everyone here is freaking out about their final island placement, but no one can really control where they’re finally placed.  We can have a ‘preference’, but the final decision is made by the Peace Corps staff on where they think our skills match up the best.  No one really wants to go to the Mortlocks, the outer islands in Chuuk, because of the isolation.  I too don’t truly want to be placed on an outer island, but I’m sure that if I am I’ll figure out how to deal with stuff.
More pictures once I get around to it.  As for now, bom mao (goodnight). 

P.S. I’m catching on fast to the language here.  Thanks Mr. Genetics for a good language brain!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My host sister (AnJenette) and her friend.  We rocked out on the pink piano.  She also loves Sponge Bob Square Pants.  She's awesome.  For more pictures now, see my facebook!

And so it begins...

I'll try to keep this blog post shorts seeing as how I could probably bore you for hours with my travel stories.

Our group did our 'staging event' in Honolulu, Hawaii for 2 days and we had a good time.  We went to Waikiki beach, bonded with each other, and got to swim in the Pacific.  The group of PC Volunteers seems like a nice bunch, and it'll be fun to see how/if we all stay together on these diverse and distant islands.

After a horrible 10 hour plane ride from Honolulu to Phonpei (yes, it's called Phonpei.  It has no volcanoes.  That's the Italian one...) we were immediately handed coconuts fresh from the tree to slurp down their delicious milk.  All the coconut milk from the U.S. I've had sucked.  This stuff is off the charts! 

I was pretty scared throughout the first 4 days including staging.  I was worried that "I'm not cut out for this" or "I'm scared".  I figured out that those were just normal reactions to dropping a whole American life to live on an island for 2 years.  Now on Thursday, one week after arriving in Honolulu and 5 days of being here in Phonpei, I feel good.  I don't feel scared.  In short, I feel like a badass who can kick this job's ass.  And so, here I go!

I'm amazed at how Americanized Micronesia is.  They all have Iphones and cellphones.  Wireless internet is available in a lot of places.  They all speak very good English.  It's like as if I've never left home, right?  My family owns a 'sakau bar', and it's more like a bunch of chairs and tables set out in front of our house.  It is a business though.  Sakau is kind of like alcohol, but tastes even worse.  I'm trying it on Friday.  Can't have a hangover for training!

My house is filled with tiny ants, geckos, and spiders.  Good thing I got over my germ-a-phobe phase a long time ago, because this is not the right place to be for cleanliness (except personal hygiene.  Micronesians, including myself, do a cold shower twice per day, partly for the heat mostly for the sweat.)  My host family is very nice.  My Papa is an ex-congressman from another island called Chuuk, and my host Nohno is a nice woman who works at the immigration office.  She treats me well, and definitely keeps me well fed (Even though my appetite has dropped off because of the heat and anxiety).

I'm done for the night.  It's almost 11pm and it's been dark for 4 hours.  It gets dark early here, and the roosters start crowing at 4am.

Mensung Mao (good morning) to all of you back home, and I'll post again fairly soon.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I have arrived.  I can't be on too long so I'm cutting it short saying that I'm healthy and excited to start.  I was quite nervous and still kind of am, but I'm really excited to be here.

As they say in Phonpei, Kasalelia (Hello).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Wow.  That's the first word that comes to mind as I'm sitting here on this couch in my parents place.  I've waited a whole year to do this job/experience/volunteering, and it's finally here.

Feelings that come to mind: excited, nervous, scared of the unknown, and a little numb in the sense that this whole thing hasn't really hit me yet.

This past 2 weeks have been all about saying 'see you later' to the friends and family, running the BolderBoulder, having a birthday (God I'm old...), and a lot of final shopping for the 27 month job ahead of me.

From here it's 2 nights in Honolulu, 1 day trip to Phonpei, Micronesia, and then training.  If I do well enough in training, then I'll be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer sometime in August.

I can't wait for this adventure to start, and I can't wait to share it with all of you.  These next couple of months are going to be pretty hard on the Ol' Saint Nick.  New culture, new languages, new food (not looking forward to Spam), new Peace Corps and non-Peace Corps friends, and a whole new island mentality.  If you've ever seen the movie Young Frankenstein where Dr. Frankenstein is just about to enter the monster's room and he's giving his speech of "Whatever happens, don't open that door", this is my paragraph for that.  Because in the end, Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster both come out of the room and are just fine. 

I will be tested.  I will probably bitch a little bit about it on my blog.  But I will prevail!

I can't wait to start my actual job of teaching children because I think I'll be pretty good at it.  Also I've kind of been going a little stir-crazy without a job for the past month, so starting this Peace Corps job should put that stir-craziness behind me.

I leave you all with the following Youtube link, and I can't wait to talk to you from Micronesia!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Through the looking glass

I recently got a friend request on Facebook from a guy named Johnny, and he's doing the exact same job that I will be doing in Micronesia on the island of Weno.  He has a blog,, that I've been reading up on.  He's been there since September of 2010, and he has put up plenty of posts to delve into.

I see myself becoming a Johnny of sorts.  He loves basketball and recently just built a basketball court with his community.  He seems like an outdoor kind of guy that likes to get out in the wilderness.  He seems to be having a time of personal growth and fulfillment in his work and in his island life.

A bunch of his posts get into philosophy about time, his purpose of being in Peace Corps, the differences between Micronesia and the U.S., and his growing progress on the island.

This blog has given me more comfort in the fact that I'm just like someone who is doing this job already.  From what I've read, we're both idealistic young white boys that wanted to do something cool after college, and I think that now I know it's been done before, I too can have a great experience in Peace Corps Micronesia or Palau as well.

Recently the conversations I've been having with people have been turning towards my future Peace Corps job.  The conversations usually start and end the same way.  Some worry is thrown in, admiration here and there, and then I tell the person my blog address.  I know that doing Peace Corps is admirable, but recently I think I've been getting too much admiration.  It's a little weird, and I kind of feel like it's undeserved.  I just think I'm going to a 2 year job, an awesome job, in which I'll be tested like never before.  It's going to be a great experience, and I'll hopefully come back from it as a better Nick.

CU graduation just happened (yes, the one I was supposed to be in, haha), and it's been good to see some old friends and new ones graduate like I did.  To think that it was just 1 year ago that I was doing the same thing astounds me.  I remember that feeling of "Well... What now?" that I've filled up with Peace Corps, and I'm sure I'll have it again when I return.

Well, it's about time for my Vegas trip, some Salt Lake City goodbyes, packing up, running the Bolder Boulder, and then hitting the air.  I'm immediately reminded of this song, and yes, time is on my side:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1 month before Peace Corps

2nd blog post: Here we go!

I just got my plane ticket and itinerary for my staging event in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The flight is 7 hours long from DIA to Honolulu, and I pray to (insert your God here) that I won't have to sit next to a really large Finnish man who spills over into my seat (reference: see Nick's Spain blog). That's right; I'm going to be on ANOTHER island for a couple of days before going to my island. 

The staging event is jam-packed with 'ice-breakers', getting to know more about the Peace Corps, and DEEP reflection on the commitment about to be had.  It'll be fun to meet the volunteers with whom I'll be spending the next 2.25 years, and I'm sure Honolulu won't be too bad of a place to do it.

I'll also be hanging out with a friend from high school who lives in Honolulu.  It'll be good to catch up with her.

The months have been counting down for me.  It's kind of a like a really long countdown of a space shuttle launch.  5 months to go: ah, let's wait before I get scared.  4 months: doing calculations.  3 months: Oh shit, is this going to happen?  2 months: Oh shit, this is going to happen (see past blog post).  1 month: Hell ya, it's about to happen! Then lift off.

This past month has been quite the ride.  Giving 2 weeks notices, throwing in my bakery apron, meeting new people, recording Youtube songs like there's no tomorrow, and just trying to enjoy my last month here in the good ol' U S of A. 

Well, be sure to stop by and give me a huge bear hug before I take off on June 6th from DIA.  And make sure that I get your physical address so that I can send you post cards from my future home.

1 month away, and I can't wait to start.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2 Months Before the Journey

So here I am sitting nice and cozy in my apartment in Boulder, Colorado on April 8th, 2012.  In exactly 2 months, I'll be sitting in a hot house eating delicious fresh fish on some island in the Federated States of Micronesia.

I'm starting this blog now (before I even take off for my trip) so that later you and I can see the changes of Nick before, during, and after the journey.  This blog will also be a good way (on top of Facebook, Skype, long distance 3am calls, ...) to keep in touch with my great family and awesome friends.

This past week has been one of pure unadulterated doubt of who I am and what I'm doing.  I've been contemplating on why I'm joining the Peace Corps, what else could I be doing, and all the 'what-ifs' that make sleeping nearly impossible, but I've come up with some good answers for these questions.

Question: Why am I joining the Peace Corps?
First, I was born a Mormon boy, and I'm proud of the morals and character that that religion has provided me.  As a Mormon, you're expected to go on a 'Mission' for 2 years to teach the word of God and of the Book of Mormon.
Now if you know me, you'll know that I've left the church.  I don't believe in the Book of Mormon, but I do believe in service to others without expecting anything but a smile in return.  I'm one of those people who likes to help others even if I don't get paid.  As long as I have clothes on my back, food in my stomach, and some project for me in which to help others, I feel pretty damn lucky.  I see the Peace Corps as a perfect way of helping others.  In a way, I'm calling this experience my "Non-Mormon Mission" to help others.
Second, I'm doing Peace Corps to learn more about who I am and how far I can go.  Up to this point in life, I've graduated from high school, lived in Madrid, graduated from college in three years, and provided for myself for a year (with some help from family of course).  Hell, I even ran with the bulls in Pamplona!  Although these are all great accomplishments, they haven't really tested me.  I haven't been pushed to my limits.  Peace Corps Micronesia will push me to my limits physically, emotionally, and mentally.  I can't wait for the challenge.
Third, Peace Corps will set me up for future opportunities.  Working in the Federal Government, becoming a teacher/professor, or doing some other cool profession are all possible paths after August 2014.  The brand of Peace Corps and the experience that I'll have gained will allow me to pursue multiple courses after this experience.

These reasons have been fighting against the doubts/missed opportunities of doing Peace Corps such as I could be making a lot of money here, it's such a long time commitment, I could fall in love here, I could go to graduate school, what if I don't like it, blah blah blah.

But a friend of mine this week had a great quote for me: "If you're not scared shitless for a big life changing event, then you're probably not ready for it."  And anyways, who in their right mind would turn down an opportunity to live abroad for 2 years, teach English, and learn a whole new culture?  On top of that, doesn't that description sound exactly like a Nick thing to do?  Too many people have told me that they've wanted to do an opportunity like this, but guess what? I'm actually doing it.  I'm living what other people dream about doing.  I'm not going to be the one 40 years down the road saying what if I had done something else, because I am doing that something else. 

I'm going to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Federated States of Micronesia or Palau, and I can't wait to tell you all about it.