Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review - aka My First and Last Attempt at a Videoblog

Note to self: It's awkward talking to a camera when you're by yourself.
Here are some pictures of my most recent project: making coconut oil. Also I threw in a picture of a newphew of mine playing Nerf basketball with me, a countdown to the Microgames, and a bonus picture of Boulder. Good times.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Only Constant Thing is Change

Vosotros sabíais que este día vendría. Un post en Español. Lo siento. No pude resistir...

No quiero desilusionaros, pero este post no tiene una manera excitante de relatar mi mes pasado. En vez de empezar a excitaros como yo siendo el Jack Bauer de Micronesia, voy a decir que este mes ha sido como una ola de sine (para los que no son buenos con las matemáticas, digamos que sea una línea de garabato.) En este momento quedo en el parte al abajo de esa línea, pero ojalá que vaya para arriba en el tiempo que viene.

Intentaré explicaros.

Al principio de este mes me encontré muy feliz. Yo recibí de nuevo mi título de "entrenador". Por suerte, un equipo de chicas de un colegio aqui necesitó un entrenador. Ya tenían un hombre de unos cuarenta años, pero les dije que me gustara ayudarles un poco como un asistente.

Bueno, quizás los Pohnpeians piensen que un ayudante significa ayuda gratis, y a muchas personas les gusta violar la ayuda gratis…

En tiempo, el entrenador principal empezó a no venir a los partidos, y yo mismo tenía que ser el entrenador principal. No estoy enojado por eso, sino que estoy enojado por la manera en que el entrenador principal me informó de ése. Cinco minutos antes del primer partido, el me viene y me dice, "Bueno, me tengo que ir a otro partido de baloncesto. Puedes tú dirigir este partido de baloncesto?" Por claro, dije que sí, pensando que esa vez sería la primera y última.

Me equivoqué. No fue la última.

Ahorita no sé lo que va a acontecer con mi equipo. Tenemos un tornamento que viene este mes, y vamos a ver como va.

He entrenado para una competición de pista y campo que pasará este 15 de diciembre en Madelonihmw en el sur de esta isla. He entrenado por el 800m y el 1500m. Hace una semana que logré correr una milla, casi 1600m, en 5:48, pero sentí que pudiera hacerlo en menos de 5:35. Ojalá que mi 1500m en el dia del evento pueda ser menos de 5:15. I hope....

Además de eso, tres amigas mías de Peace Corps fueron expulsados de Peace Corps. Había mucha drama por ello. Estamos tristes por sus salidas, pero vamos a continuar sin ellas. Eran buenas voluntarias, y deseo lo mejor para sus vidas.

Tuvé dos Thanksgivings aqui. Sí. Repito. Tuvé dos. Uno pasó en la casa de mi Nohno (mi madre en Pohnpei), y el otro pasó en la casa de nuestro director asistente de Peace Corps. No voy a mentir. Tener la oportunidad de comer el pavo dos veces.... mmm. joder... jaja.

Y bueno, un mes de Peace Corps no puede pasar sin enfermarme.

Hace casi una semana que he tenido el gripe. No duermo bien. No puedo entrenar para mi día del atletismo. Como un estudiante nuevo de espanol diria, "No es bueno!" Sí, amigo chiquito. No es bueno.

Ya acabo de escribir en este post.

And oh, if you don't speak Spanish, please take this post to Google Translate para que puedas enterarte del bueno que es mi vida. jaja.

Digamos que puedas leer este post como Antonio Banderas, si quieres.

Un saludo.

- Nicolás

Friday, October 18, 2013

Time Is Not On My Side

And so began the countdown. 274 days left. Hell, it's even posted next to the Governor's Office how many days left I have until I get back on a plane to the U.S. (or where ever I'm going...). Well, that's kind of a lie. It's really about 300 days left. The countdown sign is for the start of the Micronesian Olympics, which coincidentally, also has a part to play in this post. I just got the random idea to have this post like the old t.v. show 24. You know; the clock. Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. Let's keep that theme.

Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. 17:54.06 hours.

One day as I stumbled onto the track on a Saturday evening, I noticed something peculiar. There were children. There were children running. It was amazing. The track and field had somehow sprung to life from the nothingness and soccer players that it once was. I knew something was up, but I had no clue. I saw the kids were running 400 meter dashes around the track and the track coach was timing them. I had every intention of running with the kids to show my support for them (and of course to show them who's boss). So I lined up with one group, and they sort of looked at me funny. "You want to join," one asked. "Let's do this," said a boastful Nick trying to pump up some indifferent teenagers. So we raced around the track and much to my surprise, I was fast. I was faster than I remembered. I ended up running the 400 meters in 1:04, which is decently fast. I beat the kids by about 100 meters, but they beat me in the aftermath. I thought I was going to faint. The world got dark and fuzzy. I couldn't stand. I sat down and tried to focus my remaining energy on not dying. In this deathly state, the track coach came up to me and said, "Okay Nick. You're on Red Team."

"I'm on red what?"

Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. 17:58.33 hours.

Then it all came into focus. I stood up and realized that my running the 'race' was signing up for the Nett Constitution Day celebration at the track, but I wouldn't be racing against kids. (Yes, Nett Municipality has its own Constitution even though it already existed before the Constitution was written. Anyhow, it's a day off of school, and there's athletics. I can't complain.) I'd be racing against, eh, let's just say some of these people went to the Olympic Preliminaries in the London Olympics. So I started training for my 800 meter and 400 meter race. I trained. Ha. No. I jogged. But, I held my own at the competition. My estimate is that 1,500 people showed up for the Constitution Day celebration. I ran a 59.75 second 400 meter and a 2:23 800 meter. I checked my times against some others online. Apparently if I got into an 800 meter foot race with the fastest 10 year old in the world, I could barely beat him. This feat actually got me some street cred in town. People now wave and call out my name on the road. "Teacher Nick!" Yep, that's me.

Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. 19:33.22 hours.

Then I got the craziest idea in my head after the race. Could I, an extremely WASPy WASP (minus the Protestant), do more with running. Could I, an average runner back in the U.S., be a part of the Micronesian Olympics in July 2014? I had just finished my second 100 meter dash at practice on Monday when I asked the track coach this preposterous question. Could I? Mr. Obama, please do me the honor. Yes. You. Can. For the past 4 days I've put my body through what I consider to be a moderate sprinters workout. I'm training for the 800 meter and probably the 1500 meter (almost a mile). I only have one question.

Will the Olympic torch be a coconut husk on fire?

Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. 20:13.09 hours.

School has been going well. My co-teachers and I work well every day, and oh how those kids are learning their letters. I've made it a personal vendetta to make sure every 6th grader knows the difference between D/T, B/P, G/K, F/V, and when to say the "huh" sound at the beginning of words that start with H. Pohnpeians don't usually differentiate between these letters which makes their English bad. Really bad. I mean the difference between craB and craP is huge, right? [They liked that example :)] The students have responded in a way I couldn't have imagined. They now take daily spelling class as a personal challenge to get better at their letter pronunciation. My students can now hear when their classmates are saying the letters wrong. Even my co-teachers are learning the differences. Spelling letters has now become fun, and even competitive. It's an all out war. They're saying the letters so well now, it almost makes me cry. Okay, now I'm crying.

Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. 22:35.22 hours.

I've recently started to write a book. No, it's not one of those touchy feely emotional books about my life's struggle through Peace Corps. It's an action/thriller book. All I can tell you now is that it's the story of a recently released convict who is now being set up for a crime he didn't commit. He now has to race to not be caught by the police and to prove his innocence by finding the people who set him up. It's turning out to be a great project. If you would like to be a book reviewer/editor, I'm all up to send you a chapter or two. I plan to publish this book. Ya, it's serious.

Bum. Bim. Bum. Bim. 23:55:52 hours.

Since Jack Bauer is about to solve the crime, I guess it's time to log off this post with some pictures. Enjoy, but not too much.

My students hard at work.

My bed is quite comfortable.

Lili - the wonderful woman who makes sure I get fed fried chicken, rice, or ramen for under $3.

Students attending to the school garden.

Recess is quite uneventful. The children are discouraged from playing and running. They mostly just go buy their food for lunch. Yes, I'll take one diabetes and 2 of those new obesity orders on the menu.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Picture Update.


A sidewalk on Param Island.  Probably the most difficult one I've ever had the privilege of walking on. 

I let a little deaf/mute girl play with my camera for a while.  We had a good time.

Some people might even call this paradise.

Apparently Micronesian women wear head scarves just like Muslim women.

Our new Peace Corps Volunteers!

Oreo Pig.

Double-stuffed Oreo pigs.

The patrol boat that I graced to go fishing with the President of the FSM.

The.  Best.  Sashimi.  Ever.  It was literally swimming in the sea 3 hours before this picture was taken.

My kids.

Recently taught the kids how to play thumb war.  They were a little confused at the start.

Coteacher Dennis looking philosophical. 

Coteacher Joe teaching the difference between B/P, D/T, and G/K.  I taught the first 3 classes this lesson because he was learning the differences himself, but he taught the 4th class like a boss.  It was one of those times when I couldn't stop smiling.  I had taught a teacher something, and then immediately that teacher taught students the same thing perfectly.

Peace Corps staff loves when I come stop by unexpectedly.

200 pounds of yam: $50. 2 gallons of gasoline: $10.50.
7 people packed trying to ride a 6cylinder truck up a hill with no traction: priceless.  

It's Kamwadipw (party) season!  Almost makes me want to watch Wedding Crashers again.

I told him to stop working until he was sure he was covered by his employers workers' insurance.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Life in the Fast Lane on the Slowest Lifestyle Island

I've been slacking off on the whole blog thing for a while. I could lie and say that I've been busy with school and things, but honestly, when people say things like "Oh I've been busy" it just means they haven't cared enough to do that thing. So let's skip the lying and jump right into the action. Light man, are you lit? Cameraman, are you clothed? Director, are you done checking your Facebook? Then let's kick this pig!

Some weeks ago the other volunteers and I found ourselves in the President of the FSM's office being thanked for our volunteer service. The President gave a nice speech about how his life and his countrymen have been positively affected from many years of Peace Corps Volunteers, Japanese Volunteers, Jesuits, World Teach Volunteers, and other groups. At the end of his speech, he proceeded to shoot himself in the foot (maybe); he said, perhaps just as a gesture of gratitude, that he would do anything to express his appreciation by anything such as organizing a fishing trip for us and himself. I waited impatiently until the end of his speech to talk to him to hold him to his word. I wanted to go fishing, bad. I had yet to go deep sea fishing, and what a better opportunity than to go the first time with a President. Right as I thought I was going to be the first one to test the President's waters on if he was sincere about his offer, two other volunteers from other organizations beat me to it. Good. So we signed up for a fishing trip, and within 10 days I was waking up at 4am to meet the President on a police patrol boat to go trolling for tuna. Now this boat was a monster. A true quarter horse of the seas. It was cruising flawlessly over huge waves at 40mph heading to Pakin Island about 18 miles from Pohnpei. The boat cabin was insane with air conditioning and a ridiculous GPS system that I’m sure the NSA was snooping on. We proceeded to have not much luck at all. The next 4 hours was as close to pure boredom as possible. I can't imagine being a sailor or a pirate if that's what it's like. Yo ho yo ho; screw that. I did however catch the most awesome yellow fin tuna possible. After multiple head droopings and slobber attacks after catching the tuna, we headed back to Pohnpei and sliced up the two tuna that we caught as a group. I can't put into words how amazing that sashimi was. Literally caught three hours ago, it was the tenderest succulent meal I've probably ever had (on par with buffalo steaks). If there were some hash tags for my fish deep sea fishing trip... #Doubledrool #Theonepercentproblems #Wheresthebeer?

School just started two weeks ago. Sorry, I just laughed myself there a little bit. Let me correct that statement. School just started one week ago. For our first week of school I was hoping to establish myself with the students, build up some good working relationships with my co teachers and staff, and do my job of co teaching and co planning. We started on Monday, August 26th. The first thing I noticed was how well my kids (yes, they're my kids now) could speak English already. It was clear as night and day the difference between Salapwuk English and Nett Elementary English. I would say that 30% of my students already speak English fluently with American accents. It blew my mind how I could say something funny like a joke or a play on words and they would understand me. It was incredible, but short-lived. School ended at 11:55am, a half day. I thought to myself, "Great. It's an easy day to ease the kids into the school life again. We'll hit it hard tomorrow." I should have known better. The next day there were rumors of a half day. Even the teachers didn't know the truth. Magically at 11:30 we heard the news. Half day again. Okay, maybe the kids needed two days to ease into it. Next day, half day. Oh, and the next, GUESS WHAT?! Half day. All the way through Friday the word "half" became "whole". The reason I came to figure out of why they were having half days was because there were transfer students going in and out of the school, but how does putting new kids in a class have anything to do with the amount of school in a day? Nothing, that's what. After the Monday half day, I figured out the real reason. "Well we had a half day yesterday. Why not today too?"

Enough complaining. I must say that Nett Elementary School's staff is excellent. The students have been wonderful. The facilities are awesome. People seem to care about their education. The students want to do their work. Behavior issues have been minimal. It's been a dream job for the past two weeks.

After school I've been keeping plenty busy with sports. I just finished up playing in a basketball tournament and a soccer tournament. My basketball skills have been long gone, if I ever had any. Honestly, I think I did a way better job at coaching my team than playing in one. I think it's that teacher's mentality that I've come to acquire after tutoring in college, teaching in Spain, and Peace Corps. However bad I might have been on the hardwood, on the grass I actually held up my own. I played with a mixture of Americans, British, and Pohnpeians on the Sokehs team, and we finished up third in the tournament. I have to say that I've really come to enjoy playing soccer over my Peace Corps service, and I've gotten a lot better at it than before. My best game in the tournament consisted of me putting 6 balls behind a goalie and into the net. By the end of the game I was tired of scoring. I kept telling my teammates to stop giving me good passes towards the goal. It was fun, too much fun. There's another soccer season coming up this fall. My name will be on the registration list.

I find myself smiling a lot. I feel integrated. I feel like I'm slightly making a difference. I feel happy. This year is going to be a ton easier than my last year, and I'm scared that it's going to go by too fast.

Here's to living life in the fast lane on an island with the slowest paced lifestyle in the world. Cheers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Officially a Pohnpeian Man

In 6 days, I will have been a Peace Corps Volunteer for a year. Damn. That's a long time. People keep asking me how long I've been here, and I keep astounding myself when I say it's been a year. Part of me can't believe that it's been a year, and the other part can't believe that it's been only a year. This comes back to the concept of island time, no seasons to mentally mark a year, and a long drawn out summer. Without a doubt, it's been the best year of my life.

I also have to brag here for a bit, so pardon the slight ego trip. People keep telling me how good I am at speaking in Pohnpeian to the point where it's slightly getting annoying. I'm tempted to just start speaking in English and manokehla lokian Pohnpei. I do feel like my fluency has increased dramatically over the summer along with my vocabulary even though I'm now in the main town rather than in Salapwuk. It's a little counterintuitive, don't you think? Maybe I'm more confident now I'm here in town than in Salapwuk because I know I can rely on English, and I think that this confidence (or maybe I should say lack of being scared of making mistakes) is allowing the words to flow easier. Along with the increase in language has come a slight enlightening of Pohnpeian culture; people now say that I'm a Pohnpeian man because I act and sound like one. This makes me feel awesome because it's part of what I came here to do: integrate into a community. When people tell you that you are not "American" and that you're "Pohnpeian", you know you've come a long way. Smiles all around. [End ego trip]

After my spectacular Malaysian vacation I arrived back in Pohnpei with the fear of being caught in a web of boredom. Luckily I had some boredom evaders on hand. I got to coach a basketball team for an FSM wide tournament held here in Pohnpei. I got to hold the title of "Coach" for a little while, and it was probably the most enjoyable secondary project I've done with my time here. After coaching ended (some swift kicks in the pants in the form of lost close games), I needed another project. [Cue the National Geographic theme song] That's when some guys from Living Tongues, a linguistic team funded by National Geographic, came to Pohnpei. I got to help them create online talking dictionaries for two outer island languages by verbally recording speakers' speech and inserting the best English letter spellings into an online database. Here's the link to it: Online Talking Dictionary. It was my dream job. The Living Tongues guys are my heroes. I can now die knowing I got to be a linguist for a short period of time. After that another staring contest with boredom occurred until I got the chance to assist the Pohnpeian language training for the new Peace Corps Trainees (soon to become volunteers on August 14th!). My main goal was to take their sometimes confusing language handbook and from the dust create activities to make sure the words don't slip out the trainees' ears. It's been fun, and it's been even more fun to confuse the Madelonihmw trainees with my Kitti accent.

To conclude this brief message I've been winning the fight against boredom. I've had a great summer, I've met some awesome contacts, and I'm excited for the upcoming year. To all my homies back in the States, I miss you like a fat kid misses candy at fat camp. Sorry, let me pc that statement. I miss you like an obese child misses sweets at Wellspring Camps. Look it up.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

From Malaysia, With Love.

Top of the morn' to ya folks.  I just came back from my trip to Malaysia, and it was probably the best time of my life.  I met so many cool people from all walks of life, ate a LOT of good food, and I saw a bunch of good touristy/non-touristy spots.  To sum up my trip, I'd like to share some things I've learned and experienced there in numbered points.  Bear with me...

1. No matter where you go, English is the international language of communication. 
There were too many times where I would be talking with people from Germany, Finland, America, Malaysia, and other countries at the same table, and we were all communicating and having a good time through one means of communication: English.  Although we all looked different, had different cultures, and economic backgrounds, we were all able to come together through our common language.  That was very comforting to me, not only because I didn't have to worry too much about miscommunication, but because it shows that our world is becoming more involved with each other.

2. Western Culture is everywhere.
There were multiple times where I was walking past Starbucks on a marble floor in a huge mall watching women run around in short shorts (I miss short shorts).  The consumerism culture is HUUUGGEE in Kuala Lumpur; buy, buy, buy!  At first it was absolutely overwhelming to me.  I was kind of getting used to escalators still while were were looking at which Samsung Galaxy was cheapest (almost bought a tablet).  The reoccurring question of 'which place is more western?' kept coming to me, and I honestly believe that Kuala Lumpur is more 'western' than Denver.  Crazy, right?

3. Muslims are really nice people and aren't that different from any other religion
Just as there are many kinds of Catholics (orthodox, uptight, relaxed, and just those ones who are addicted to repenting! haha) there are many kinds of Muslims.  At first when I saw women completely covered from head to toe with black veils I was a little shocked, but as soon as I learned the reasons behind their clothing I actually understood their practice; Muslims believe that a woman should only be able to seduce her husband and that showing any body parts other than the eyes is a way to seduce other men.  While I can see their point and appreciate it, I must say that some of those Muslim women were definitely trying to seduce me with their gorgeous eyes.  No matter how much you see of a woman, you still know it's a woman.

Muslims are also very loving people.  I got to briefly know a Muslim family who was absolutely wonderful.  They fasted during Ramadan, they accepted me into their home, and were just the most lovely people.  I truly got to know better the belief of how all religions are the same, or better said, how religions make good people no matter which one it is.

4. You never know where you'll meet good people
I wasn't expecting to meet too many people during my trip, but I did.  I met a wonderful girl named Lia, and we spent days exploring her city like tourists.  It's funny how when you live somewhere you never go see your place's tourist sites...  I also met a guy from Russia, girls from Finland, a guy from the Netherlands, local Malaysians, and many others.  All really good and interesting people who made my trip unforgettable, and I will definitely be seeing at least one of them in the future :)

Okay now, enough talk!  Picture time!

Kentucky Fried Chicken never tasted soooo good.

Cheap Indian food filled my stomach all the time

Chinatown: where you can buy almost anything for next to nothing.


Petronas Towers.  Ya, I conquered them.

Coconut trees in a concrete jungle.

Lia and I decided to become Indians for a day.

Fish spas are scary.

Paul (from Russia) and I on top of the KL Communication Tower.

I went to the National Mosque during call to prayer.  A very humbling experience.

My Malaysian friend Mia with her Lilo and Stich Galaxy 4s phone.  Mia and Lilo are about the same in that they have unlimited energy and never stop moving.

Batu Caves.

I don't follow directions very well.

Any questions about my vacation?  Just leave a comment!

I miss you all back home, and I miss all of my new Malaysian friends.  Sama Sama (thanks).