There are always new and unexpected attractions popping up on this island! It’s really quite amazing how many interesting things happen on this 3.75 square mile little atoll. Today alone I won a 5K run for foundation day, and made a large number of new Taiwanese friends.
This week was the first back from Spring Break, and it was a little rough, both for me and the students. Fortunately 2 of my classes finished a chapter before the break, so we were on a new topic, but the other two acted as if they had never seen a graph before (we’ve been graphing for a couple of weeks now!) Well, it took a few days, but I think we’re back in the swing of things. It has been an exhausting week, I’ve been working 10-14 hour days again, but things are coming together and I even have a little free time this weekend to have some fun. This weekend is “Foundation Day”, the day we celebrate CMI’s independence as a college, and fortunately there’s a lot to celebrate because with a lot of hard work we’re fighting our way out of accreditation problems (we almost lost this college 2 years ago). But now we’re all but out of probation, and it looks like we’ll have more Foundation Days in the future. Friday we had an open house, which means that all the departments did activities for grade school children from all over the island. So in the spare time between teaching all 4 of my classes I made a “human graphing tic-tac-toe” game (with a rectangular coordinate grid on a large tarp) and involved my college students in helping the kids to play the game. It was pretty fun and very cute, but I never ate lunch and I was completely wiped out by the end of the day. One of the ladies in our branch lost her husband this week too, so we had to show our support and bring dinner for her family last night. After that was finished I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.
This morning was the Foundation Day 5K run/walk. Anita and Susan and I had been looking forward all week to this. Susan and I even changed our regular evening runs to morning runs this week in preparation for the big event. The race started at 6am, and the police had to block one lane at a time of the main road for the race (because where else would we possibly run? There’s only one road that’s 5K long on this island!) It was sprinkling when we started, but the cool air felt good. Anita, Susan, and I turned out to be the only ones (except a group of about 7 adolescent boys) who elected to run. By the time we got half way to turn around and run back, it was POURING! Susan and I had to give our I-pods to the police escort vehicle in order to avoid electrocution. On the way out the rain was at our backs, but as soon as we turned around half-way through, the rain was hitting our faces so hard we could hardly see where to go. But it was a good time, and people on either side of the main road cheered us on from their houses. As a reward for finishing the race, we got a CMI Foundation Day T-shirt (the same one they gave to the CMI administrators for free), which was (thankfully) much drier than the clothes we were wearing. It was a great early start to the day. I got my house all cleaned up and graded about 40 test-corrections and updated student grades all before 10am.
This afternoon Mary and I were collaborating to work on the district primary activity she is in charge of planning, so as we were walking into town (the weather cleared up beautifully) we saw clusters of cute Taiwanese Navy boys everywhere. They were playing volleyball with local kids, snapping pictures of everything in sight, and shopping up a storm. I remembered reading that they were coming in the newspaper, and I noticed Marshallese and Taiwanese flags flying on all the Taiwanese-owned businesses this week. I was happy to see that they were so friendly to the people around them. I think I’ve told you before, but I’ll say it again here to give context to my story: Taiwan is a HUGE diplomatic friend of the Marshall Islands (they need our vote to get into the United Nations, and our government is happy to give it to them as long as they keep cutting us million dollar checks and bailing us out of all the financial troubles that come from government mismanagement). Despite the fact that we are diplomatic friends, a large majority of Marshallese people are very racist toward Chinese and Taiwanese people on this island because many businesses have been bought by Asian entrepreneurs, and the Marshallese people are worried that all the dollars in their economy (as well as many jobs) are being funneled to Asia. Their concerns are understandable, but racist behavior toward anyone on this island is intolerable (especially because most of us living here claim to be Christian), and I have been speaking out about it as much as possible. Anyway, the visit of these happy, smiling young Taiwanese men is really, really great because I think that Marshallese people are opening up and seeing that the Taiwanese are good people, and that this diplomatic relationship can be good for both countries if the government is careful about how much economic control it hands over to foreign governments and investors.
So Mary and I were walking down the street to go shopping and two Navy boys ran across the street to ask if we could take a picture for them. I replied that we were happy to, but when we got across the street I realized that they were asking me to pose for a picture, not to take the picture. I was happy to pose with one sailor while his friend took a picture, and then another wanted a picture, and then another, and then another, and another. By the time we finished I had posed for about 15 pictures and nearly stopped traffic on the street because everyone was gawking out their car windows to see what was going on. So I said to them, “I’ve taken pictures with all of you, now will you all pose for a picture for me?” One of them understood English well enough to organize everyone, and the pictures I posted on this blog are of Mary and I feeling like a million bucks with our 15 new Taiwanese Navy admirers! It completely put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Rumor is that as soon as the Taiwanese Navy leaves tomorrow, the American Navy boys are coming for a couple days of R&R on Majuro, so hopefully they will be just as kind and generous to the Marshallese people as the Taiwanese have been. Well, that’s about it. We have just 4 more weeks of school left, which is just about all I can survive at this point. Have a great weekend everyone! Cheers! Britt
(this is the craziness that ensued while trying to get ready for the picture at the top)
PS. Our trip to Likiep was fantastic! I’ll tell you all about it and post lots of pictures, but it’s going to take me about an hour to two to blog, so I’ll have to do it sometime next week. Stay tuned for more...