Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear January, F*#% You

Dear January,

I called every company that makes calendars, and I've asked them to take you off them all.  I thought I could never meet someone more horrible than Nicholas Cage in another movie about finding treasure, but I was wrong.

I found you.  Taking a dump on me.  In front of everyone.

Five.  Does that number mean anything to you?  It should.  It's the amount of times I've either been sick or physically injured from your malice and utter slips of bastardness.  I thought one bacterial infection would be enough to test me for a month.  I'd have even said you'd made me stronger for attempting to kick my ass, which clearly, is way stronger than your weak game.  But three?  Seriously?  You must be German or something with this whole Blitzkrieg attack on my body.  All I wanted was to greet the new year with a Gutentag or however my ancestors used to say it, but no.  You had other plans.  Plans like making me trip, sprain my ankle, overstretch my calf muscle, and make a fool of myself in front of the entire soccer team.  Plans like giving me pinkeye after everyone else on the island already had it.  Plans like bruising my tailbone to the point where I can barely sit.  Plans of, on top of the tailbone, starting an infection that robs me of any life or pursuit of happiness I might have achieved.

But that wasn't enough for you, was it?

To fulfill your plan of making my life as boring as possible, you also made my co-teacher sick enough to have to stay home for two weeks.  School, when I was well enough to attend, was a battle of finding the place where I would be least wasting my time.  School became two classrooms full of fifty students each, running around and screaming.  School, my job and reason for being here, slowly faded away into your hands.  Your damp clammy hands veining with discontent. 

You also stole my delight to run by messing up my ankle; I have not run in over a month because you.  Exercise as I knew it changed from 3 mile runs to pitiful upper body workouts.

But again, o' January, you became the Mic Jagger of months.  Satisfaction was just out of your little prick's reach.

You lied to me, tricked me into believing I could run in the Microgames.  You made the $60 track shoes I bought useless.  You, you bastard, took away the one thing I was looking forward to in July: becoming a "professional" athlete.

I must say; you hit me where it hurt the most.

Nonetheless, your attempts have all  been failures.  I have picked myself up off the ground, gotten back up, and prayed to see the day when your face drops from every trace that has been ingrained into my memory.  I have waited for the day when I can wake up and not have to say your name.  That day is today.  February 1st.  The day when I can move on, and tell you the thing I've been dying to tell your sweet face since the day we met.

F*#% you.



P.S.  Your mom's not that good in bed.


Monday, January 20, 2014

World War P

This is a story of being connected.  This is a story of islands.  This is a story of disease.

This, my friends, is the story about the time the entire island of Pohnpei got pinkeye.

It happened in early December.  Patient 0.  He was sitting on a toilet and probably found himself without anything sturdy with which to wipe his ass, so he went with the old standard: his left hand.  The man (presumably) exited the bathroom only to have no adequate hand-washing station in sight accompanied by an intense urge to scratch his eye.  Boom!  The poop bacteria invaded his conjunctiva and began to multiply.  Pus began to flow.  He touched his eyes, and then someone's hand.  What happened next was tragic.

Patient 0 and his first contact don't wash their hands.  They also eat with their hands from the same plate as everyone else.  They also drink from the same unwashed cups as everyone else.  They use the same towels.  The same washcloths.  The same clothes.

On Pohnpei, it's hard to find soap.  It is truly a scarce resource.  In the outer communities the knowledge of bacteria is little, so the demand for soap is quite low.  When they do use soap, it is cheap powder laundry soap, and they use it on everything.  Dishes, clothes, babies...  You name it.  Also in many public places such as government offices, there is no soap in the bathrooms along with no toilet paper.  The budgets apparently just aren't large enough for janitors and sanitary supplies.

It was a recipe for disaster.

Immediately the entire Pohnpeian elementary school population was hit.  It spread like wildfire.  The routes for contamination were infinite.    Every student came to school with it.  They didn't care about infecting their classmates.  I watched them touch textbooks and doorknobs only for the next student to touch them immediately after.  They shared pencils and erasers.  They shook hands.  The slapped each other playfully.  

Every Peace Corps Volunteer shook with fear.  We all didn't want to catch it, but one by one, most of us did.  Antibiotics were had.  Sunglasses were worn.  It was all out bacterial warfare.  But there was still one more victim to get.


I managed to stay away from the main surge of pinkeye.  How?  I have no clue.  This was the case until Sunday January 19th.  I was writing my book when a sudden muscular pain struck beneath my right eye.  I checked the mirror.  Yep.  Pinkeye.

The last time I had it was in Spain.  That episode was absolutely horrible.  Pus everywhere.  This time, however, is not as bad.  Minimal fluids and after today, day 3, the pain is nonexistent.  I think getting pinkeye is like a right of passage for any abroad experience (at least in my case).

So basically I was Brad Pitt.  I survived the initial pinkeye zombie attack, but then I wasn't like Mr. Pitt.  I got bit(ten grammar?).  Maybe I should have infected myself with something less harmful, like contagious sarcasm, to ward of the pinkeye zombies from getting to me.  Maybe I'd have lived.

Well...  I guess only one of us could marry Jolie, right buddy?  Well played ol' chap.  Well played.

Un saludo.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Fastest Un-Qualified Runner Pohnpei Ever Saw

It's funny how life changes pretty quickly.  That's also what makes it fun, and sometimes that's what makes it suck.  Pretty badly.

About a month ago, I competed in the December 14th track meet in Madelonihmw.  Much to my amazement I turned out to be the fastest 1500m Pohnpei has to offer, and I was told that I could represent Team Pohnpei for the Microgames coming in July 2014.  Ironic that a white man wins the Pohnpei track meet to move on to go to the Micronesian Olympics?  I'd say.  Almost sounds like the plot to a bad "good-feeling" movie.  Sometimes I like to think I'm the star of a really bad/corny t.v. series, and this was going to be a good episode.

So I trained.  I trained hard.  I mean, wouldn't you if you had a spot to defend?  The #1 spot!?  I'd never been #1 before at anything.  I'd say the last time I won first place was in high school for like "Best Calculus Student" or some nerdy thing like that.  So the realization of being the best runner was pretty cool.  Novelty is exciting.  I used this excitement to train.  I tried to run every day about three miles and do other sorts of calisthenics.  I probably am at the best shape of my life right now.  I trained not just to represent Team Pohnpei,  but I trained to hopefully win the Microgames.

Time to blow the ego right out the window.

December 29th.  A tragic day.  I was playing soccer and I majestically tripped on the ball and smashed my face into the dirt.  Yes, it was graceful.  What also happened is I managed to really bugger up my right leg pretty well.  It might require an MRI.  It has sucked.  Big.  Salty.  Chocolatey.  Balls.  

 January 11th.  A shitty day.  I got a very upsetting Facebook message stating that maybe I couldn't join the Microgames in July 2014.  Before, I was told that I could join as long as I had been in country two years before the games.  By July 2014 that would have been the case, but this message said that the Director of the Microgames had heard about my story and had wanted to clear up the air.

Still, I didn't know what to believe.  So I went to the Microgames office today to figure it all out.  I met with the man who had told me about the two year requirement.  He reaffirmed that the Microgames committee had decided on a two year requirement to participate. I told him about the Facebook message from the Director, but he said that the Microgames committee has no specific rule on the stay requirement to participate.  I asked him if there was a handbook that I could read to see the rules for the Microgames.  He said there was no handbook.

Of course, there was a handbook.

I still needed a definite result, and I needed to talk to the guy who told me I couldn't join.  So I called him.  We had a very brief chat today.  I actually talked to him and the man who told me the two year policy.  The Director said that it's actually five or seven years in the policy handbook.  Of course, there was a handbook.  But what are rules anyway but pieces of gibberish strung together to restrict people's doings, right?  Rules.  Damn rules.

After the phone call I was pretty torn up.  Still, I was/am on the track team, just downgraded a bit.  Kind of like a waterboy with no cooler.  Oh, or like a towelboy with only sandpaper sheets!  Whichever analogy you choose, I am boned and banned from running.  The two year man apologized to me today at track practice.  I mean, leading someone on for a month is kind of a shitty offense.  But no worries.

Apology accepted.

So that's it.  My dream to win the Olympics is dead, my leg is screwed up, and this can of coke (my personal beer) is getting empty.  Time for another round to celebrate the tale of the Fastest Un-Qualified Runner in Pohnpei.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Tis' the Season to Get Bitter - Fa La La La Ah Screw It

I realized that my last videoblog was an extreme fail at representing my last few months here, so in addition to seeing me make a fool out of myself on Youtube, you also get to see my vomitastic writing.

Let's start off this post with an accomplishment. I won an event in a track meet. Yes. This is coming from someone who had an asthma attack at his last track event (waaay back in 4th grade at Pinon Valley Elementary School). Suck it asthma! Memories. Anyhow, I'd been training for about two months for the 800m and the 1500m race, and the track coach decided to have me run in the 1500m race. I'd never run it before, but hey, it's whatever right? My best time before the track meet was 5:07 during practice. This time, however, had been right after I'd been sick coughing up snot. So, I thought I'd be daring and say I could beat my best 5:07 time by 7 seconds (a large margin) in the track meet on December 14th.

I was right. I did beat my time, but not by just 7 seconds. I beat it by 24 seconds. 4:43. On top of that, I won first place. It was pretty amazing. I hadn't been expecting to even be in the top three finishers, and then I go on to win it?! I was pretty proud of myself. Another volunteer, Yamy, joined my in the event and finished 4th in the womens division. Peace Corps represented. Damn right. This means that if I keep my time up, and maybe even lower it, I can represent Team Pohnpei in the Microgames (The Micronesian Olympics. Ya, it's capitalized because it's important) in July 2014. I'm pretty excited, and I've been training harder now that I have to keep my spot.

That's right. I'm going to be in the Olympics! kind of...

Switching gears now.

So Christmas started on December 1st. That's right. December first. As if Twelve days of Christmas weren't enough. Why do people celebrate the whole month here? Well... Why not! I mean, shouldn't we all celebrate the entire month in which Jesus wasn't born but we've designated to do so anyway? I think so.


Nett School stayed pretty strong with delivering a quality learning experience to all the students, that is, until three days before Christmas break. My co-teacher and I had decided to keep having English lessons no matter what the other teachers were doing. It's common for the last week (or two) before Christmas break to be "preparation for Christmas". Translation: that means you do nothing. So we stayed strong and kept delivering lessons as we watched the other teachers sitting, movies being played, and students walking around. We did so until three days before break. My co-teacher couldn't hold out any longer, and to be honest, neither could I. I was getting pretty tired, and honestly, I needed my teaching break to come early.

And so began the Christmas Preparation. (It's capitalized because it's important.)

The students decorated the room with more constuction paper than I've seen in quite a while. Stars and rings hung from the ceiling. I tried to make a Star of David to maybe start a conversation on Judiasm, but on second thought since no Pohnpeian child knows anything about Judiasm, I decided to spare myself explaining to kids that some people don't believe in Jesus being savior. Long sentence, right? Besides, if you know me well enough, you'd know that any craft I make looks absolutely like it came out of the garbage. Moving on. So we prepared for two days. On the third day, we had our Christmas party. It is the most important day in a Pohnpeian child's life. The kids get all excited because since Christmas is quite expensive, many families here choose to celebrate it through the school's Christmas Party (it's capitalized because it's important.). It's basically their Christmas day. The school tells every student to bring a gift to exchange with another student that has to be exactly $10. This being so, many stores in Pohnpei create gift baskets costing $10 to make a bunch of money. The parents buy the gift bags, and the kids exchange them. Looking at it, it doesn't make sense for two people to buy two bags with mostly the same stuff in them and then exchange it. Shouldn't they just keep the bags, or better yet, shouldn't they just save their money? Then again, isn't spending ridiculous sums of money on stupid gifts what we do for Christmas in America? (Oh ya, I'll let that one sit with you for a while.)

So all the kids are having fun dressed in non-school-uniform clothes. They're eating more icecream, cake, and sugar than they should for like a whole month. They're dancing. They're running around. They're having soo much fun.

It just gave me a headache. I was burnt out. And so ended the school semester.

After school ended, boredom struck. As much as I might gripe about teaching sometimes, it keeps me busy with a schedule. It's 100 times better than having nothing to do. To fill this void, I coached my girls basketball team. It was fun, but coordination has been quite a hassle. No one has a cell phone, so coordination is close to impossible. It's been fun though.

Also to fight boredom I decided to make some coconut oil after watching a Youtube video on how to do it. It's actually not too hard. I just sent a liter back to my mom in the States, and it smelled damn good. I will definitely be making more of it.

Last part. I promise. New Years. New Years is quite different in Pohnpei than it is in the U.S. Quite different. In the States everyone starts celebrating at like 8 p.m. and finishes at like 2 p.m. at the latest. It's all about watching the ball drop in New York, kissing a rando, and getting a little drunk on champagne. It's nice.

For Pohnpeians, that sounds absolutely boring as shit. The party doesn't even start until exactly 12:00 a.m. Then everyone stands up and shakes everyone's hand. "Pa-ra-kapw-MWAHU". Happy New Year! Except they doen't scream and shout it. They kind of just stand up. Not for long does this boredom last. No no. New Years has just began. For the next 24 hours Pohnpeians proceed to race around in flatbed trucks, drunk as hell, banging on empty oil cans. They proceed to drink whole bottles of vodka, by themselves. They proceed to hold hands with the opposite sex. They proceed to cry and scream in hatred at each other. It's a day when anything goes. It's a day when the pent-up social tension is released all at once. Frankly, it scared the shit out of me.

So that's December for ya. Track meet. Christmas Party (It's capitalized because it's important). School ended. Boredom began. Made some coconut oil. Got freaked out by a explosion of social tension on New Years Day. Blah. That's about it.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please leave me a comment if you'd like to know more. I'd be happy to "ka-we-we-ong-uhk" "teach you".

Un saludo. - Nick