Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wow, what a weekend! I made a friend named Suzanne while picking up trash with the Japanese volunteers several weeks ago and it’s her last weekend here, so we decided to go do something fun. Suzanne has been here for 6 weeks doing a rotation at the Majuro Hospital (she’s a UW med student) and it’s her last weekend here. She and Susan and I tried to arrange for Kayaks through the resort (but the owner is off-island) and also the dive shop (but the kayaks were off-island and we didn’t plan enough in advance). So we decided to take the $2 bus out to Laura on Saturday and go swimming. Laura is the beautiful, jungle-like end of the island (where I would love to live if it wasn’t so far away from my work) and it was delightful down there. It was cooler and the water was just the right temperature. We played with the hermit crabs that were on the beach, snorkeled, collected a few shells, and then headed back toward the main road at 5:30pm. Laura is the end of the road, so we walked the only direction we could go (back toward home) and to hail any bus we could find. We walked, walked, walked, chatted with some locals, walked some more, and pretty soon we had walked right out of Laura and not seen a single bus or taxi. Then it began to get dark around 7pm and we were leaving all the houses and people behind and no-one wanted to stop and give us a ride. Drivers in Majuro are very unsafe, especially after dark. We have plenty of speed laws and also drunk driving laws, but the police never, ever write anyone a ticket, so people speed down the road at 55 miles per hour on the rural side of the island, even though there are pedestrians and/or bicyclists. While walking we even saw 2 police cars whiz by at around 60 miles per hour (without sirens or anything). Suzanne says she sees a handful of auto vs. pedestrian accidents at the hospital every month. Plus drunk-driving accidents are very, very common here, too. So we got pretty worried when it got dark. Luckily before long we reached the Arrak (land grant) campus of CMI and they allowed us to use their phone. We were unsuccessful in reaching our friend Rosana, but thankfully we were able to contact our colleague, Don Hess, who was very sweet to come out from Long Island (it’s about a 35 minute drive just from Long Island) and bring us back to civilization again (I owe him a big plate of cookies this week!) From there we got a taxi home but it was about 10:30pm when we made it to Uliga and we were starving because we’d been gone since 1:30pm. So much for our delightful little afternoon out!! I was so grateful to be with two people who were able to laugh at our crazy, somewhat scary situation and take it all in stride and not get crabby. It was wonderful to compare notes on our experiences here in this country, living abroad, outside of our normal context. Our frustrations about how inefficient everything is here and how fatalistic many people are about life, and also how hopeful we are about the possibilities for the future here. After eating dinner and talking and laughing until about 2am we finally went to bed. I’m going to miss Suzanne, and I hope she gets the chance to return to Majuro during her residency program this next year. There’s certainly a lot of work to be done at the hospital. It has been interesting to hear an insider’s perspective…this hospital is quite an experience…one I hope I never have to experience for myself! I’m quite content just to visit others there when circumstance allows for it.

This week has been a very exhausting one, but it’s been good. I have so much to grade. I have an overwhelming number of students in my classes, and it means that grading takes more than twice as much of my time than it did last semester. It zaps my creativity for planning good lessons. I still have a pile of 50 math 102 exams to finish grading before tomorrow and I’m not even close. Ce la vie! Last weekend I spent pedaling up and down the Uliga-Delap area with gallon-water bottles in my bike basket. The drought continues (no rain this week!) and several members of our branch (including our aging elder’s quorum president) were sick and needed clean drinking water. I’m so grateful that I followed the promptings I had several months ago to fill up an emergency supply of water during the rainy season. Even though I have not needed to use it, I have been able to boil it and deliver to many members. It’s such a simple little thing, but it makes such a big difference to have clean drinking water for the aging and for babies, and many people don’t have access to clean water right now. I hope the rainy season comes soon so there will be relief, but I’m glad to be of service now.

Ellie told me something very funny the other day that I thought I would share. While NTA (national telecommunications authority…a government agency with a huge monopoly) is only partially reliable, there is a better way to communicate with others here on the island. It’s what Ellie calls “The Coconut Phone”. Whenever a student is missing from your class and you’re worried about him or her, or if you want to get a message to someone, just announce it in class, or in a group of Ri-Majol, and since there’s less than 2 degrees of separation between everyone in this country, the intended recipient will get the message faster than if you try using NTA. It conjures up a fun image of two halves of a coconut connected by a string, and it makes me laugh, but it totally works! If you need to get the message out even faster, you can use the “Wireless Coconut Phone” by announcing it on one of our 3 radio stations, which every taxi driver as well as a bunch of other people listen to. I once lost my keys in a taxi and figured I’d never see them again, but a friend called in to the radio and announced that “the Ri-Belle who live at Jane’s Corporation with a “South Africa” keychain had left keys in a taxi that afternoon.” The next morning my landlord handed them back to me. Amazing! Coconut phone service is great!

Speaking of Coconuts! Last weekend the Public Works people came out to remove an old dead coconut tree from our neighborhood. The tree they removed is actually the prominent tree in the photograph that I included above (taken from my bedroom window)! I imagine the tree was probably threatening to fall on some houses, so they brought in a crane and a tree-chopper truck and had to block off the whole main road for about 30 minutes to take this massive tree down. The whole neighborhood was out watching (this was the main attraction) and everyone cheered with the saw finally severed the trunk and the crane swung the top down to the ground. Then did they remove it? No! They unblocked the road and went home for the day. Meanwhile the neighbors came out and sawed pieces of the trunk into stools to use around their outdoor dining tables and beer-drinking nooks for the older men. So clever and creative!

This week I went to give a baby-shower gift to a friend from church who just had a baby about 2 weeks ago. I have seen at least 3 of her sweet children at church, so I asked her how many she has now, and her response was, “Jonoul Juon”. Eleven children!!!! Holy cow!?! That’s amazing! She’s only in her mid-late 30’s!! Her second-youngest child is a little guy named Andrew (3years) who is just the cutest, sweetest little thing. He always comes running over to hug me when I see him (they live in my neighborhood). Well when I went on Thursday to visit Mona with the gift, Andrew came and sat next to me and just looked up at my face and watched every expression. When I smiled, he smiled, and when I tried to speak Marshallese to his mom, he listened intently. Then he put his little hand in mine. It was so precious and sweet. Most little boys his age are diving off rusting-boats into the lagoon, playing by the roadside, or torturing local dogs, but he is so sweet and content just to hang out with us “old ladies”.

I’m on my way home now. I can’t tolerate being in my office any longer. The air-conditioner in our building is broken again (someone insists on lowering it to 50 degrees and then leaving the office for the night or weekend every day). I think that it just gets overwhelmed and quits. At any rate, this building was not built with air-circulation in mind, so opening the windows is no help at all. It’s going to be a long week if it’s this hot in here. One of my classrooms has had an air-conditioner problem more often than not and it’s been torturous for all of us. It would be better if we were outside having out lesson in the breeze, but these rooms are very poorly ventilated, so when the aircon goes, it’s unbearable inside. Well, that’s the case tonight, so I’m out of here. I’m saving my money for a new camera and I’ll take some pictures to add to this blog soon. Have a great week everyone!

1 comment:

for Ammon by his Mama Stefani said...

PLEASE, PLEASE give a message to MARY your sweet friend. We share the same son Junior and someone today just gave me your blog address. We were so grateful that you posted a picture for us to see Junior's lovely mother!!!! She is our very special "Cute Dress". Please give her our address 103 South 2125 West, Cedar City, UT 84720. We would love to make contact with her. Junior is just getting ready to graduate from high school.