Friday, September 2, 2011

Somehow time still flies on island time...

Wow...I have now officially lived in The Republic of the Marshall Islands for one month. If it is possible, I feel as though I just got here yesterday and yet feel like I have been here for years. My experiences over the past month have both erased my preconceived notions of an "island paradise," as well as made me curious as to why everyone in the world does not live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean....

From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt welcomed. Nine of us future teachers of the Coop somehow managed to not meet each other on the plane (surprisingly there had to be at least 50 people on the plane), but while waiting for our luggage we found one another. Once we got through "customs" we were greeted by our two principals with leis for everyone and a van for the 20 minute ride to our new home. One of the first realizations I came to was that an atoll can be incredibly long from one end to the other. The airport is located near the center of the atoll, with one end being 30 minutes southeast (Delap - where the Coop is) and the other end being 40 minutes northwest (Laura). In total, if one wanted to drive from end to end, it would take over an hour even though the atoll is only 30 miles in distance. Anyways, our first two weeks consisted of unpacking in our individual, air conditioned apartments (the a/c aspect is crucial and will be talked about a bit later), doing our first grocery shopping, setting up bank accounts at the Bank of Guam, getting our health insurance cards (national health insurance means we are all covered with a $17 cover charge), and going through orientation as new faculty members of the Coop. The second weekend of being here, we all went to an island in the Majuro Atoll called Enemanit. The Marshall Islands consist of 29 atolls and 5 major islands. However, each atoll has about 10-15 islands of its own because of the way atolls have come to exist. I will not get into details of that, but if one is interested, just type atolls in google. The best way to picture it is by thinking of a volcano submerged in water, with only the very top or ring sticking out of the water.

Enemanit was one of the trips which quickly made me wonder why everyone in the world does not live on an island somewhere. It is only a 20 minute boat ride across the lagoon, which we took with one of the wealthier families who have a few children at the Coop. It is basically a deserted island, with only one or two families living on it (some of our students actually live on these islands, taking a boat to school every day!). I will not try to describe its beauty, just picture a remote island in the Pacific Ocean and that is how it looked. I have never seen the show, but one of the other teachers said she felt like she was on "Lost."  

The first day of school was officially Thursday, August 11th. The first Thursday and Friday were spent meeting the students, and going through the typical "first day stuff" every student and teacher must unfortunately experience. I found out three days before school started that, besides teaching Geometry, U.S. History, Geography & Cultures and World History, I would also be teaching Chemistry. Now, I am in no way certified to teach any sciences, but my love and interest in the field was enough to put me in the front of that class. I will post another blog that goes into more detail about the school, the students and the standards that are expected here at the Coop, but for now I will just say that every single Marshallese person is musically gifted. All of my students can play instruments and sing, which fits seamlessly in my classroom since music has always been such a big part of my life as well. Any time class work is being done or quizzes are being taken, music is playing. In fact, some of my students have songs on itunes and youtube...

Some of my students...written and produced by them

During the second week of school, actual school work did get done Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (however little it may have been in comparison to other schools in the states). Another reason why such little work got done was because everyone, students and faculty included, was looking forward to the retreat we were all taking part in on Thursday and Friday. We were headed to another island of the Majuro atoll: Eneko.

Two of the students patiently waiting for the boats which ended up being two hours late, something that is normal out here.
Finally making the journey to Eneko after one of the boats, full of students and supplies, broke down halfway to the island.

The remaining crew after the boats that picked us up (the same company that brought us out) were too small to fit everyone.
Even after the boats took two hours to come back for us, instead of complaining, students played music to entertain us all.

 Besides playing music nearly non-stop, students and faculty took part in beach olympics (beach volleyball, tug-of-war, water relay, kickball home run derby), swimming, walking along the beach, preparing lunch and dinner, and so on. There were 90 students and 10 faculty members on this remote island, and besides a few coral cuts, we had absolutely no issues. We had this long, elaborate agenda for the two days to make sure the students did not get bored or get into trouble, but that was before we really knew the students. They did not complain once about "having nothing to do," nor did they ever try to do anything they should not. It was a fantastic time...

I am going to finish with some "truisms" I have come to realize while living here. This will be an ongoing list, as every day brings a new experience:

1.  Efforts to squash every ant in your apartment will be nothing less than futile; every time you kill one, five more will show up. Coexistence with ants and cockroaches is a must...and okay.
2.  Despite previous beliefs, roosters do NOT only crow at sunrise. Any moment in time, whether it be at 2am when you are fast asleep or at 1pm in the middle of a lesson, roosters are capable of crowing.
3.  People can in fact move "as slow as molasses."
4.  Sweating all day, every day is not as uncomfortable as one may think (my brother may disagree), BUT the body does not get used to the heat. I plan on sweating all day, every day until 2013 when I leave.

Until next time...  


  1. Sarkozy! It sounds perfect! (Aside from the sweating lol) I'm really glad you're enjoying it and making the most of your experience. Chemistry? That's awesome! It's semi-math related. I can't wait to read more! Smiles and Sunshine :)

  2. I didn't know you write these! "People can in fact move "as slow as molasses."" Ahaha! Love it!
    We miss you, Mr. Brian. You were one of the best things to ever happen to Coop. Thank you.