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.