Tuesday, October 31, 2006



I have been told that I am the Martha Stewart of the Marshall Islands. I find this is incredibly funny because by American standards I could be considered “domestically challenged” (to be politically correct). My former roommate did all the decorating of our house because I don’t usually do so well with coordinating things, but with my new apartment here I tried hard and kept it simple. I am flattered and encouraged by the compliments of my Taiwanese neighbors and friends who have come to visit. My land-lady came down and peaked in the windows just to get a look and then admitted to me that she had done so and liked what I’d done with the place. I’m extremely fortunate to have a comfortable place that I can enjoy being on the weekends (weekdays and nights are mostly spent at the office). And now, as of last week, I have a phone!! I never thought I would be so happy to have a telephone, but after waiting for exactly one month for installation service, I’m connected to the world again!! (If you want my number, let me know, and I’ll give it to you  Before I left the states I bought a Poang chair from IKEA and shipped it to myself and now I really enjoy reading while rocking in it. It’s somewhat reminiscent of spending time with my mom rocking in the oversized green vinyl rocking chair we had in the 80’s. It’s a great way to end a stressful day at school.

This past week a colleague left island to go to his father’s memorial service, so I’ve been covering his class, which means I’ve been taught 3 kinds of math 4 times a day. I have felt at times as if my head would explode. But today he’s back and I’m breathing a big sigh of relief. To balance the stress I’ve been trying to run in the mornings before work. This past week I was out running at 7:30am and the elementary school kids were already playing basketball in the neighborhood court (they’re crazy about that sport!!) and the Nuknuks (that’s the Marshallese word for Mumu) were flapping on the laundry lines outside all the houses. I just smiled to myself and said, “Only in the Marshall Islands!” I’ve had a couple experiences that have made me think that. Another such was when a student came to class wearing socks under his Zories (flip-flops). When I noted it, he replied that it had been cold that morning (the mercury had dropped to an icy 70 degrees Fahrenheit). It made me laugh.

I’ve been busy composting on the weekends with my friend Mary Swain, from Church. She is one of the most amazing women I know. She has raised her 7 children single-handedly, works full-time as the head of housekeeping at the Resort, serves as both District and Branch Primary President (the children’s program at church), and cares for her aging mother who has Alzeimer’s disease. All this weight on her shoulders and she keeps smiling. She’s just got a wonderful spirit and I love being around her. We live just across the street from each other, and since I live on the third floor of my apartment building (and don’t have a yard), we’re composting at her house. There is an agricultural problem here on Majuro. The soil here is (understandably) very sandy and poor in quality. We add to the problem when we send organic waste to the dump. We’re effectively taking the few vitamins and minerals that exist on this island and moving them all to the dump. So the dump gets all our vitamins as well as toxic stuff (there’s no recycling or toxic waste treatment here). So the vitamins are wasted. The science guys at CMI did a seminar on composting, and I liked the idea so much that Mary and I have started one. I’ve never composted before, and I’m not sure if it will work, but it’s worth a try. When we created it, all Mary’s friends and neighbors came over to see what we were doing. She explained to them that we were making soil and they liked the idea, so if it works, maybe we can expand the project. Mary’s going to collect old Coffee cans from the resort so we can make a potted garden once the compost turns to soil. Now whenever I throw old lettuce leaves and orange peels (which come on an airplane from the US) into the compost, I think to myself, “Aha! We’re inheriting vitamins from overseas! Hurray!” It’s amazing what simple things can be amusing when you live in a small place like this!

Both of my bikes arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I’m so delighted to have them here! In order to make them fit the postal size-regulations, I had to have the bike shop take them completely apart. So it was really a miracle that I got them both back together single-handedly. What’s even more amazing is that they actually work! I love my yellow bicycle! It’s a 1977 Schwinn Breeze (Banana Yellow), and I put a basket on the front. It’s so great for making trips for groceries, to the bank, post office, museum for story time, etc… The only problem is that the fearless little Marshallese kids try to hang on it as I’m riding away from storytime and that’s a bit dangerous. The taxis are not very cautious about bikes, either…they see someone call for them and they make a bee-line to the side of the road, nevermind that I am in between them and the side of the road. And dogs that are otherwise very nice to pedestrians are vicious as soon as they see a bike go by. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had to kick at a couple of them to keep them from eating me.

This weekend I got together with girlfriends to celebrate Rosana’s birthday. We had dinner at my place and then got dressed up and went to a couple of Halloween parties. The student body leaders here at CMI hosted a party. So we donned our outfits and came over. Rosana’s husband is a nurse at the hospital so he brought us a bunch of medical supplies and we went crazy. Rosana dressed up as a doctor and Anita, Amber and I were her patients. Amber and I were head-wound victims and Anita was an expectant mother about to go into labor. We looked pretty silly, but the thing that was mortifying was that when we got to CMI, no-one was dressed up! Halloween in the Marshalls is not as big a deal as Halloween in the states. When we arrived at the Haunted House that the student leaders had put together, everyone thought we were supposed to be part of the act. Local children were actually worried about our (pathetically fake) wounds, and taxi drivers on the road in front of CMI gawked as they drove by. So we decided to go down to the costume party at the resort. They had advertised this poolside party with a live band to the public free of charge, but there were only about 10 other people there, mostly foreigners. So today we decided to “Trick-or-Treat” offices at CMI. It was funny to see the worried looks that students and faculty gave us. Then when we shouted “Happy Halloween!” they all breathed a deep sigh of relief (most of them had forgotten or were unaware that today is Halloween.). I’m so glad to have good friends with a healthy sense of adventure and humor too. It makes living in this isolated place a lot of fun.

Well, I’m off to sew some curtains for my office window tonight. I got some cool island-print fabric last week. (Gotta keep up the Martha Stewart reputation!) Happy Halloween Aolep!

No comments: