Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Greetings from the Land of the Flip-Flops! You can imagine my suprise when I was told that flip-flops are acceptable business attire. Welcome to Micronesia!
Aside from being sick for most of the time I've been here, these last 2 weeks have been very good. Majuro is a beautiful place (as you can see in the pictures). I've never seen water so blue before! On Saturday two of the other new teachers and I borrowed Kayaks and paddled to the opposite side of the lagoon. It was gorgeous. We paddled through glimmering turqois waters, around huge boats docked in the lagoon, and above pink jellyfish. It was quite amazing!
This island is wonderful and unique. It is a 30-mile long skinny strip of land. From most places you can see the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Lagoon on the other, both of which are beautiful, as long as you avoid the pollution. As you can imagine, with 25,000 people living on 3.75 square miles of land, it's hard to know where to put the garbage. So things like water quality and sanitation often are problems, but if you overlook them, there's lots of great views and wonderful people. If you take a close look at the picture of the lagoon that I posted above you'll see in the water some cute Marshallese kids with their couch-boat (ie: an old couch that they threw in the water and floated on for hours of good fun).
I really love my students. We started classes last week. They are really great. They come from a variety of attols in in the Marshall Islands, surrounding countries such as Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribus"), Tarawa, Chuk, and several Asian countries. The college has a total of about 600 students. The Marshall Islands are very interesting...they've been independent of America for 20 years now, but they still use dollars, and almost everything comes either from Asia or America on a boat or airplane. Last week at the store I bought Soy Milk that evidently didn't sell so well at Costco (probably in California) before its trip to Majuro.
In general Marshallese adults are friendly yet shy (especially young adults like my students) but younger children are extremely outgoing. On the way home to get my social security card I met a group of 10 sixth grade girls walking home from school. They asked where I was going and if they could see my hotel room. I invited them in, so they piled their 20 flipflops neatly by my door and chilled out in my room for a few minutes. As we went back to the road someone's father rolled by in a pickup truck and all of them jumped in. I started walking back to work and next thing I hear "BYE BRITT!" coming from 10 little voices from the back of the pickup. It was just too precious!
Life on a small island has its benefits and drawbacks. Transportation never costs much and you can get anywhere pretty quickly. Also everyone knows everyone and word travels pretty fast. If you're nice, the whole island knows you and likes you before you've even met them. If you're mean then the whole island dislikes you. We also only have one lonely goat on Majuro. We affectionately call him the "Holy Ghoat" since he is white and hangs out at the graveyard. He's both the lawnmower for the graveyard and a local attraction. I've photographed him on several occasions, and you can see him if you follow the "Majuro Pictures" link at the right.
We get some very strange people visiting this island. Last week was Austria and Mexico week. When I arrived at the airport there were lots of Austrians arriving as well. They're part of a "Sunpendulum" project. It's an installation art project which tracks the sun through the sky in 12 equally spaced time-zones. My theory is the reason they chose Majuro (and College of the Marshall Islands) as the location to mount their final camera is because the rest of our time zone is nothing but ocean. This week they had a celebration at CMI for the completion of the camera project, so all of a sudden these "Welcome Austria" and Mozart posters appeared on the walls of our college. It was the strangest thing I'd ever seen. I guess the event was sponsored by the Austrian tourism bureau, but this place is not exactly a prime area to recruit tourists for Austria. We got a free lunch and a nifty presentation (accompanied by stange space-age music).
The other new folks in town were from Mexico. They floated across the Pacific Ocean for 9 months before being discovered here. 5 fisherman disappeared at sea and turned up here this week! When I went to the airport to plead for my lost bag last Saturday I shared a taxi home with 5 men from Latin America. I couldn't understand why tourists would come from Mexico to Majuro until I put two and two together and realized this was the Mexican Press coming to report the story.
Well, the Austrians and Mexicans have gone home now and things have quieted down. We're all still waiting to see where the next group arrives from.
Well, that's it for now. There are some pictures that I've taken since arriving under the "Majuro Pictures" link at the right. Enjoy!