Monday, July 28, 2014

NickH1 Best Week Ever

This will be my last post on Pohnpei.  When you say finalizing things like that, it hits you hard.  Real hard.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll hop on United for the Island Hopper to Hawaii. I don't know if Island Hopper deserves capitalization because I wouldn't call it a "proper" noun. It's more like a freezing cold air-conditioned time warp from hell. Here's the route: Guam->Chuuk->Pohnpei->Kosrae->Kwajalein->Marshalls->Honolulu.  At each stop you have to get out of the plane, move your stuff (so they can check for contraband), step out into humidity and scorching heat, and then re-assume your ascent/descent pattern into the depths of the "friendly" skies.  Last time I got on United it was to Guam, and they hooked it up with some nice free champagne.  I hope the same courtesy shall be extended again.

So there's that.  I'm leaving.  Blah.

But last week has been amazing.  By amazing, I mean golden.  By golden, I mean seven golds.  7.  SEVEN!!!  But not only that.  Call within the next five minutes, and you'll receive three silvers.  3.  THAT'S RIGHT! THREE SILVER MEDALS!  And as a bonus, we'll even throw in a handy bronze medal, perfect for those family dinner parties.  If you haven't caught on by now, I'm not the ghost of Billy Mays trying to sell you Olympic medals.  What I'm trying to say is that my long distance track team completely kicked ass at the Microgames.  For every event, EVERY EVENT, we won a medal.  It was ridiculous.  I was screaming and jumping on the side of the track like a lunatic.  By the end of the week, I'd lost my voice and gained even more notoriety throughout Pohnpei.  On the radio, they described me as, "... there's a white guy jumping and screaming on the sideline.  I think he's their coach."  At one point during the games, I had to go say goodbye to my best friend on the island.  That sucked, but on my way to the airport in the taxi, the taxi driver told the base that the track coach was leaving to the airport.  The base was like, "What?  He's leaving!?"  Now this was gossip that would spread like wildfire.  I quelled it pretty quickly by telling the guy to pick me up in a couple of hours.  Oh how I'll miss the coconut wireless...  In other words, my runners did extremely well during the games.  800m, 1500m, 5k, 10k, and half marathon.  My athletes really proved to me that working with them for the past six months was totally worth it.  Not a second of my time was wasted.  It was definitely the best secondary project I've done during Peace Corps, and it's probably my biggest accomplishment throughout my life along with completing Peace Corps.

My last Upward Bound high school summer class was last Thursday.  This summer I taught Geometry, but let me just say this at the start.  I'm a math nerd.  I always have been.  [I was always in the top 99% on every national math assessment throughout elementary and high school.  I scored a 5 on the AP Calculus Exam and a 30 on the ACT math portion.  <---- All of these are ego boosters.  But you know what's funny?  I stopped taking math after Calculus.  You'd think that someone who did derivative calculus for fun to figure out daily things should be like a scientist in a trench coat.  Something nerdy at least with thick glasses.  But no.  I was wasted talent.]  So teaching Geometry was my schiznit.  I tried to jazz up some math concepts like parallel lines by describing them as two students who agreed to stay the same distance away from each other at all times.  I described equilateral triangles as the perfect love triangle.  My students ate it up, or at least they didn't fall asleep on me.  So I gave them their final exam on Thursday, and they all smoked it.  My average grade for the class was like a 88%, and I'm not an easy teacher.  For the final, I made them prove the Pythagorean theorem to me, FROM SCRATCH.  Ya, I'm that kind of evil.  But they did it, and they proved to me that UB students are the best on Pohnpei.  We also just had a goodbye dinner last night for Ben and me, and the UB staff was very nice by allowing us to run up the restaurant bill. They have always been a great resource great people to work with.  I will definitely miss them and keep in touch.

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm ready to leave.  I am.  I'm not.  Everyone keeps asking me if I'll come back to Pohnpei.  I might if I get a job offer.  It's a lot of things to consider, but no matter what the future holds for me (cue the soppy ending), here's what I do know:

I have had the adventure of a lifetime here on Pohnpei, and nothing can change that.

Would I choose to do Peace Corps again if I could go back and talk to myself?  Yes.  
Am I glad I did Peace Corps? Yes.
Am I ready to come home?  For a bit!

Here's to the amazing adventure and many more to come.  Drink up, and stay thirsty my friends.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

I am a Man With Some Short Pants and a Shoooooooort Jacket

Bum.  Bum, bum bum bum.  Bom bim bim do bom bom do.  If you're not singing Cake's "Short Skirt Long Jacket" by now, you're not my friend anymore.

As for the title, it's referring to my unusually short warm-ups that I'll be wearing for the Microgames.  Now although I won't be running, I will be coaching in style! Preparing for the flood style.  Damn my long leg genes!

The entire track team is now staying at one of the elementary schools on Pohnpei in order to create some team bonding before the Microgames start.  It's called "so-pene" which means to come together.  I've been asked if I'd like to "so-pene" with them, but Peace Corps rules and the desire to spend my last weeks with my host family are keeping the ball and chain still on my legs; my unusually long legs for Pohnpeian clothing standards...  Anyhow.  The team is still in good shape.  We're practicing two times per day: one easy stretching workout in the morning accompanied by a more hardcore long or short distance run in the evening.  But I, being the lazy coach out of the two (a very helpful Australian lady named Kerry is helping me coach), have decided and decreed out into the land that I shall not wake up at 5 a.m. to workout.  That, my friends, has been delegated to the woman who is more motivated and closer geographically to the elementary school.  For that, I owe her my life and probably my alarm clock.

I suspect that we'll perform well, but like everyone else, we're worried about the quality of athletes that will be landing from Guam.  I've heard the Herculean stories.  They've been to the real Olympics.  However, Coach Canfield don't give a damn!  Coach Canfield's athletes are going to rock the house.  Coach Canfield's story will be sold for movie rights to MGM soon after his journey!

Third person narration, done.  We're going to have a fun time representing Team Pohnpei.

Last night I got a glimpse into what life could/will be like in China.  My Chinese teacher invited me over to her family's apartment for food and drinks, more drinks than food to be quite honest.  The food was great, but the lesson in Chinese eating culture was even greater.  As I have done with every other first cultural eating encounter, I watch first, then eat.  [Side story: One time I went over to my friends house in Denver whose family is from Mexico.  I didn't know the proper eating etiquette, so I wanted to observe before making a fool of myself.  So my friend starts out by putting a tortilla into his left hand and just holding it there.  It idled for like 2 minutes.  So.... I did the same thing.  I held the tortilla, but I didn't do anything with it.  I my elbow started to hurt from it just resting on the table holding up that warm flat bread.  Finally, my friend asked me what the hell was I doing holding the tortilla.  I asked, "Isn't that what you were just doing?!"  He countered with a, "Yes, because I was preparing stuff to put into it."  In all, I thought I'd avoid making a fool of myself, but instead I tripped on the cultural rug and severely dented a "bozo" imprint into my forehead.]  Sometimes it ends up biting me in the ass, but this time it went well.  The part that was really interesting was the drinking.  They served me a type of liquor made from soga that went down smooth like a friendly vodka, if there ever was such a thing.  I thought the bottle would run out sooner, but it didn't.  I didn't get too sloshed, but let's say my Chinese was flowing pretty fluidly, and by fluidly I mean the words were bashing into each other quite un-respectfully of grammar.  So it was fun, and I came home reaking of delicious Chinese food and Culture; that's Culture with a Capital "C" for Crunk!  {ref: 2008}.

As my time on Pohnpei comes to a close, I tend to think back on all the experiences I've had.  I know that I have many stories and anecdotes to tell, but I keep forgetting them because a story isn't a story if it seems normal.  I feel that once I return to the U.S. and recognize how my life has been a girl named Abby Normal, I'll be able to appropriate reflect on my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I can't wait for that moment when I realize, "Wow.  I made it through, and what a Space Mountain it was."

16 days left, and every one of them is going to be a bittersweet goodbye.  (Note: I prefer milk chocolate.)