Saturday, December 02, 2006

Yesterday when the nice college custodian (who is a Marshallese man about my dad’s age) stopped by my office to empty my wastebasket he was wearing a red T-shirt and saying, “HAPPY CHRISTMAS!” to everyone. I thought, “but it’s only November 29th!” It was very sweet anyway. He’s probably as close as we get to the Marshallese equivalent of Santa Claus.

Speaking of Santa Claus, the largest local grocery store, Payless, has this almost-large-as-life ri-belle (white) Santa Claus right next to the front entrance and checkout stands that sings Christmas songs while he swivels his hips. It is absolutely ridiculous looking and the “Ho ho ho, let’s sing some Christmas songs together” would make me crazy if I were working there. But the ladies checking my groceries take it all in stride and actually sing along with him occasionally. It’s a great opportunity to practice their English, I’m sure. The funniest thing is how ABSOLUTELY mesmerized the Marshallese children are with this crazy Santa. There’s almost always a group of 5-10 children dancing with him in the front of the store while their parents are happily shopping without them. It’s just such a funny, cute, ridiculous sight. One of those experiences that makes you smile, shake your head and say, “Only in the Marshall Islands!”

We have had some giant storms this week where the rain has just come down in torrents. The wind is very, very blustery, too. The students in my Math 70 class told me, “Congratulations, you’ve now experienced Marshallese Snow!” Very cute. Another student in the class asked me how my skin got to be so white (darn, just when I was thinking that my tan is coming along alright). I told him that I stayed in a place that doesn’t get very much sun (Michigan), but once I stay in the Marshall Islands for a few years I’ll look like them. He believed me until the others started laughing. Luckily also just before the largest of the storms arrived my landlord got my window (almost) fixed. At least the plexi-glass was in the frame, but it still banged loudly against the frame when the wind blew, waking me up at 2am every morning. But I was just so happy not to be wet. Then on Friday my lovely friends Barry (our Human Resources Director) and his wife Beth (an English instructor at CMI) came and brought wooden wedges that we tucked in, and last night I had my first quiet night sleep in a long, long time. It was HEAVENLY!

Well, I’m glad that it has been raining, because the temperature has cooled just a little bit. It’s still sunny enough to get a tan if it’s clear on the weekend and I go snorkeling (I did in Enemanit last weekend), but not so blistering hot. Speaking of Enamanit, it was gorgeous!!! The college staff prepared a wonderful picnic/bbq for us and we went swimming and snorkeling. The fish out there at Enamanit were amazing!! It’s a small island in Majuro Atoll a bit farther-flung from civilization, so the marine life is much richer there. There was one coral outcropping that was tall enough to almost reach the surface of the water, allowing me to swim with all the fish that like to play there without having to dive down very deep. For the most part, they don’t seem to run away very much. The variety of colors and sizes of fish is absolutely amazing!

Johnny, the college accountant also brought his outrigger (traditional Marshallese) canoe. They can pick up an incredible amount of speed in that boat with just a sail. It was such an enjoyable afternoon.

Later that night I went to Long Island to watch the Young Women/Young Men talent show. The young men from our branch did this really great choreographed dance to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” (one song I NEVER thought I would hear in Micronesia). It was like a country line-dance/riverdance/aerial tricks combination and it was pretty impressive. Our young women did a Samoan dance that one of our missionaries taught them. I didn’t realize it, but I guess here it’s acceptable for bystanders to jump onto the dancefloor while other groups are dancing. It got pretty crazy. A couple of our young men joined the young women from another branch doing some hula dancing which got pretty out of control and pretty funny. Another regular entry in Marshallese talent shows is skits in which boys cross-dress as girls. I must admit it was pretty funny, yet a little weird to see in a church talent show.

This morning while I was running I saw the Holy Ghoat again. I haven’t seen him for several weeks, and was wondering what had happened to him. For those of you who don’t know, the Holy Ghoat is the only goat we have on the island and he’s white and hangs out in the graveyard. Last morning when I saw him he had a cute little white dog following him around. What was funny was that they matched each other quite well. I think that dog thought that the goat was his mother. I wish I had had my camera with me because it was a pretty funny sight to see this little white dog follow the big white goat around.

Last Sunday we had a women’s devotional, and so the branch president rented an industrial sized pickup truck for the weekend and handed me the keys, so I was taxi-driver for the evening. Thirteen ladies jumped in the back and two up in front with me, and away we went. I was so scared to drive it because it was big and bulky. It's also illegal to ride in the back of a truck in America, so I had this sense that I was doing something wrong, even though the police here could care less. But it was great fun. The sisters in my branch are so cheeky and fun. The sisters from the other branches were looking at us like we were crazy, but we have such fun together. They are a lively bunch, and I'm glad to be with them. We were making jokes about the directions to different sister's houses (there are no street signs or numbers here). The directions to Martha's house: "Turn right at the first Breadfruit Tree, Left at the second", and to Mary's house: "Take a left at the little brown dog, right at the black dog, and then when you see the dog with only 3 legs, 'this is the place!'". This weekend we had a district conference, but luckily I was just a rider, not a driver. It was raining like crazy on our way home and our driver was super-fast (my wut almost flew off my head in the process). Here's a few photos of the crowd in the pickup truck:

Well, that’s about all I can think of for now. I’ll try to write again once more before heading home to California for the Christmas holiday. I can’t wait to see all of my family in one place. And best of all, we have a new member of the family, Grant, who is my adorable baby nephew who I’m looking forward to meeting and playing with. I’ll fill you in on all that later. Gotta run.



lijimmie said...


I am liJimmie. Thanks for the matter-of-fact tone that you use when writing about your life in the Marshall Islands. Your writing is believable and authentic and I feel like I am right there as you relay your experiences, mishaps, and joyous moments on our islands.

I have been living in the U.S. for over ten years now and I am just now starting to close my mouth. Ask one of your students what "allon im mona lon" means. That was me for the longest time so I know how the kids feel when they look at the ridiculous santa.

I grew up on the second island off Rita's shore and I was always in the lagoon and ocean swimming and playing. I used to love to swim from island to island when the tide is almost at its highest. I remember falling asleep many times on some uninhabited island's beach without a care in the world and with no danger of being hurt or worse. I was just home this past summer. My husband and I agree that a lot of the fish is gone. Just 15 years ago, you could hardly tell any difference between snorkeling in the Majuro lagoons and snorkeling in any of the lagoons of the out islands. A lot of things have changed.

Welcome to our island and I wish you the best in your new post. I started my post secondary education at CMI and it still hold a special place in my heart. Is the newsletter still published? I hope so. We started it in early 1990's. Okay, good luck and God bless.

Britt said...

Iakwe Lijimmie!

Thankyou for taking the time to write a comment. I'm really glad that you find my blog realistic. I have a very wide audience that I try to write for...some people who are more familiar with Majol culture and life than I am (such as you), others (like my family) who are still learning. In any case, I love being here, and you're lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful place!

I am happy to hear that you got your start at CMI! The newsletter is still published. There is a link to "Jitdam Kapeel" on the CMI website: My friend Ted Stepp is the editor of it, and he's doing a nice job.

Sounds like you had an idyllic childhood here. I would love to swim (or kayak) to an uninhabited island and stay overnight :) I'd be interested in hearing more about your experiences here and also in the US. Unfortunately your profile doesn't give your email address and won't let me comment since there are no posts on your site. Will you email me if you have a moment? ( Thanks for taking the time to write!