Thursday, April 12, 2012

A week in the life...(part 2...finally)


I do not have any pictures for some reason, but all three days were spent watching our boys and girls basketball teams compete for the championship. Surprisingly, there are at least seven other teams they compete against throughout the entire island. Some of the other schools have GED programs, which pulls in students (that are somehow allowed to play) that are much older than normal high school students. At one game, our guys looked like little boys next to men who almost all sported beards. Having said that, our guys did not fair too well and lost in the first round. The girls however, were much more successful and ended up winning the championship! What makes it quite amazing is that our high school only has 45 students, with maybe 30 being females. Most of the other high schools have a much higher number, such as Marshall Islands High School which has 1200 students! I will post pictures when I get some from the students...


We did not have classes on these days because they were national holidays: Nuclear Victims Remembrance Days. They go back to the nuclear testing that occurred following WWII until around 1955 with the Bravo Test. Hundreds of Marshallese were displaced from their homes, and thousands more affected from the nuclear fall out from all the testing. We had a speaker come in on Wednesday who spoke to the high school about these remembrance days.

ASB Baking Frenzy

Since we did not have school Thursday, the student government had a Baking Frenzy fundraiser. They took pre-orders from students, parents and faculty, and spent the whole morning and afternoon baking cookies, brownies and cinnamon rolls.


The baking frenzy went on until almost 5pm, but I was already well on my way to Eneko. If you get a chance to look at a map, Majuro Atoll has many small islands connected by underwater coral reefs. Eneko is one small island with one family living on it, who let others stay on it anytime they please. There are boats that can go there all the time, which only costs $20 road trip. To stay over night on the island, you either bring a tent or stay in one of the four rooms for $15 per night. I went with a few other teachers and camped out Friday night. It was perfect weather and a much needed break...



We got back from Eneko around 2pm, a mini vacation I wish did not have to end so soon. Despite my disappointment of heading home, I had an excellent reason: I was about to experience my first kemeem. It is a celebration of someone's life, typically either the first birthday or any birthday over 85 or 90 years old. Essentially it is a birthday party as we know it, but oh so much better. This one was for Kaname Yamamura, the grandfather to five of our students, and he was 92 years old. I was invited by the students and their parents, something that is nearly unheard of nowadays in the states. The celebration went on for over five hours, and had over 200 guests! The reason why I say it is so much better than our parties is because the family of Kaname provide the food, entertainment and catering. I was absolutely amazed. There was enough food for at least 300 people, all of which could have an overflowing plate of all sorts of food. And they serve it in take away containers, so if you do not finish you can just take it home! There were four Biit dances, traditional Marshallese style, put on by family and friends. Three of Kaname's granddaughters (11th grade students) sang three songs for him. So much thought and sincerity went into the night...I was blown away. In between providing entertainment, the family members were walking around chatting to friends, and making sure they were all set with everything.

The family (there were more skyping from the States)

Some of the guests
One of the Biit dances

Four of the students singing and playing the ukulele
Another Biit dance
Almost always with smiles on their faces


Saturday, March 10, 2012

A week in the life of...(part 1)

A few of my colleagues (really just one) and I have found our personal time more and more become students/events/clubs time, leaving us constantly busy nearly seven days a week. It obviously gets exhausting, but why else move to the middle of the Pacific Ocean while working at a private school in a developing nation? We try to offer options to the students; to show them possibilities, concerns and the difference they can make to the world around them. It ends up consuming us, but we love every moment of it.

The week:  Saturday, February 25th - Saturday, March 3rd

* I am not including anything about actual teaching, but that is 7:45am - 3:45pm, Monday thru Friday, and prep for five completely different classes. That takes up just a small amount of time...


C.L.E.A.N. Club

This club was created by David and the students. I cannot remember what the acronym stands for, but we go to different parts of the island and pick up trash. Since it is a developing nation, recycling and throwing garbage into containers rather than on the ground are still not permanent ideas. Some people do it, but more often than not one will find plenty of trash all over the place. So, to understand the effects of this on the environment, as well as help their community, students pick certain areas to clean.

We went to Rita, the end of the island to the East.
Some of the crew before clean up began.

It is so interesting!

The shore is always the worst. Trash from people on land and on boats all builds up here.
Group shot half way through the clean up.

Group shot at the end of our clean up.

How comfortable it looks...
Jambo Arts

This is a whole island group, not just something offered to students at Co-op. Having said that, the woman that runs the group is a parent of two students at Co-op and many students are a part of it. It is an art club that puts on two exhibits per year, as well does other activities throughout the year. On this particular day, we had a live modeling drawing session. This is definitely not my forte, but other students involved have amazing artistic abilities. I wish I had pictures to show you all of their work...

This was our poster for the exhibit in November.

Most of the members at a meeting back in November.

Leah's piece that was auctioned off at the exhibit.
Board Games Club

This one is exactly what it sounds like...There is very little for young adults to do on this island other than go to school. This of course leads to them getting into things they really should not. So, this is an activity that I hold every other Saturday to give students something to do on a Saturday night. The actual board games come second to them just socializing as young adults love to do. So far we have played Monopoly, Sorry, Cranium, and Scrabble, and I just bought Bananagrams and Pass the Pigs. Any other suggestions?
The first five students to show up. Usually about 10 to 12 students come for the festivities.

After a few more showed up, and they got to enjoy soda and cake.

Love this one...


Weight Lifting Club

There are many students (just as there are anywhere in the world, especially the U.S.) that know nothing about taking care of their bodies. Many students that are not involved with sports are lazy because they do not do much of any physical exercise. Here, playing sports is not the same as it is back home. I was used to having practice for two hours, Monday through Friday, September to June. It was intense and kept me in shape. Sports here are much more casual, resulting in students that are even playing sports to be out of shape.

Diabetes runs rampant here as well, with statistics that are just staggering. As of June 2011, "the world's highest diabetes prevalence was seen in the Marshall Islands, at about 28.5% for both sexes combined" (Gever, 2011). The worst part though, is that they are getting it in their 30s and 40s! Preventative measures include losing weight, eating less (or just better), and exercising relatively regularly. Hence this club which helps at least two of the three. I also try and give them advice regularly during classes so they can keep up with these preventative steps at home. 
Henry working that chest.

Mizbah and Zoya getting a little jogging in.
Sylvia working on the triceps.

Merlyn (who already had his own routine going) working on the biceps.

Henry, Joseph and Kyle pretending to do something.
Group shot.
 We try and go at least three times per week. These pictures were not actually from Sunday. Most students could not go because its Sunday, a holy day, and they are expected to do nothing all day but go to church and eat a ton of food. That is a whole other discussion I may or may not get into in the future...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How long has it been?

One of the reasons why I was hesitant to write a blog before I came out here was because I knew I would not keep up with it! I get completely side tracked with everything else going on, and when I finally have a moment to write something I find myself sleeping before I can go use the internet! Nonetheless, I am back...even though I was never gone...but I am back...

I am also going to keep them shorter, so it is a quicker write and read for everyone. This way, maybe I will write more too (hmmm :) )


Hopefully many of you have had a chance to travel to an island or country located near the Equator. If you have, you may have noticed the enormous (sometimes ridiculous looking) buckets or containers on the rooftops or beside buildings. These are water catchments.

In countries where it rains pretty much every day, they have these to collect water for showers, laundry, toilets, and sometimes drinking (depending on filters or their tolerance to bacteria). They are very simple but incredibly innovative and resourceful. In developing nations that struggle to keep their infrastructures well maintained, using these saves them from worrying about a public water system. The set up is simple:

Collect rain water through gutters and drains that empty into catchments.

Each catchment can hold up to 350-500 gallons of water!
The water then goes through a filtration system, and then supplies the apartments with water for showering and doing dishes. We do not drink the water straight from the faucet, which leaves us either using an UV pen or buying water from the stores - most of us do the latter.

Here is the problem: here in the Marshall Islands, even though we are only 7 degrees North of the Equator, we actually have a dry season. Basically, December/January to April/May is dry season and the rest of months are considered wet season. And when I say the "Marshall Islands," it does not apply to all the atolls and islands, nor does it apply to all of the Majuro Atoll that I live on, but where we are located we get into dry spouts. It is extremely odd. Between the said months, the wind picks up considerably. All of the rain storms are still produced and around, but the wind pushes them right by us leaving only partially soaked.

Storm coming in from the East off the ocean.

Storm missing us to the North.
 It must have something to do with the shape of the atoll, and our location on it. Whatever the cause, the point is that those water catchments are holding the only remains of rain water for us to shower! The Marshall Islands actually does have a huge public water reservoir (collected from rain water as well) that supplies many people with water, but they are currently on a water restriction: it is only turned on Tuesdays and Saturdays! Having known about this dry season dilemma since getting here, we have been told to take the necessary precautions in order to NOT run out of water. When there is overflow from the catchments (there always is during wet season), we can fill our 1 gallon containers and keep them all stacked up somewhere in our apartments. So then, during dry season and in order to conserve water from the catchments, we can use this water to take bucket showers. They are exactly what they sound like...
A standard bucket to fill with the water collected during wet season.
A standard shower to dump a bucket of water over you for a shower.
It is simple and relatively effective. Another thing we are all supposed to be doing is taking "military showers," which just means you turn off the water when you are lathering up. That actually conserves quite a bit of water. I used the word 'supposed' because we have now run out of water from the catchments twice since coming back from holiday in January. It is quite depressing when the realization hits you that some adults do not understand what the word "conserve" actually means. We all have a limited number of containers filled with overflow water, so we still need water in the catchments. We can pay to have the tanks filled with the public reservoir water, but that is obviously costly and not ideal. The other option is waiting for it to rain. That can get rather smelly considering at some points it has not rained for five to seven days straight. We have been fortunate lately because it has rained quite a bit despite the dry season. The catchments are currently almost full...

Until next time...time for my daily rain dance...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Manit Week (Part 2)...

International Day until lunch time and then we went to the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) for their manit week activities
(Once again, mainly 11th grade-focused)

-   Three teachers, including myself, showed pictures of our travels and taught them a few songs and dances from around the world
-   One of our parents are from Australia; she did Aboriginal dot art with them
-   One of our parents are from Peru; she did Peruvian dress, dance, food, and some other things I think

The man in the middle, David, is the MSHS English teacher. He was teaching them the Jewish hora or dance at weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.

Apples and caramel; just because...

One of the students dot art; they love turtles...


Janis's mom; about to do the Peruvian dance

Ms. Maki - the Japanese teacher

The 11th graders on our way to CMI, in the back of a truck

Some of the tables at CMI

9th graders

10th graders and Lulani

The sea of red; 3rd graders with their teacher Jeff
CMI was giving out plants to all the students

CMI had a bunch of activities in their courtyard, including dances, games and competitions.

Even though they have spent their whole lives in the heat, they still don't want to be in it.

One of the games that the 11th graders played - they had to have one rock in their hand, throw it up in the air, and remove one rock from their mat. Whoever removed all the rocks first won.