Heidi left to go back to British Columbia last week. She and Susan and I had a great 2 weeks of fun while school was out for break (it still is for one more week). Heidi came here in April to be the director for the Student Development program. Before she had even had time to adjust to the culture and island way of doing things, the administration forced her boss to resign over phony charges. This threw her entire experience at CMI into chaos. The administration insisted that she pick up Mike’s work as well as carrying on with her own. It got to the point that the anxiety of coming to work made her physically ill, so she really needed to get away. Anyway, we already really miss her and so do the students, but she’s in a better place (now I’m making it sound like she died!) and there are some interesting career possibilities for her there. Meanwhile things here continue to be pretty messed up, but I’ve been too angry for too long, and I’m just exhausted. I won’t stop speaking out, but I can’t afford to stay angry like this. I’m trying to surround myself with students as much as possible so I don’t have time for faculty/administration non-sense. Hopefully it works! This is a picture of Heidi, Susan, and I enjoying our last day at the beach together:
When we found that there were no outer-island boat departures this week, Susan and I volunteered to help out with the student leader training this week, especially since Heidi isn’t able to be here for it. The student leaders are super fun, plus we recently found out that it will be held at Arrak (CMI’s beautiful rural land-grant campus which we don’t use nearly enough!) So were going out there tonight. It will be great to get away and also build good relationships with the students. They are really so great.
Heidi left on Wednesday night, and then my friend Heather arrived for a 5 week stay on Thursday. That morning I had one of those “Only in the Marshall Islands” moments. We were still staying in our friends’ house in Long Island, and I was waiting for Heather’s plane to arrive. Long Island is about 5 minutes drive from the airport, so I laid down on the smooth cement wall that separates the back yard from the lagoon and enjoyed the morning sunshine. Pretty soon I saw the Continental flight cross the sky and descend to the airport. Then I knew it was time to leave to meet Heather. Here in the Marshalls we can just wait for the sound of the plane overhead and watch it descend on our little island and then we know it’s time to go meet the arrivals. The airport is open-air on the front (the waiting room), and the security gets only a little more tight as you go to the “gate” (if that’s what you call it). There is exactly one Continental flight each day. Every other day they come from a different direction (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat are the arrivals from Guam and connections to Honolulu, and Tues, Thurs, and Sun are the arrivals from Honolulu and connections to Guam). Then there’s an occasional Air Marshall flight (also known as Air Maybe due to their unpredictable schedule) when one or more of their two planes are fit to fly to outer islands.
After coming home from house-sitting at the Royka’s this weekend, I found that objects in my house were toppled over as if a strong wind had whipped through my house. Only problem was that I left the windows and doors closed and locked. There were also little poops scattered around my house which looked to be what I’ve found behind big cockroaches here. But I cleaned my house thoroughly and found no signs of oversized cockroaches (thankfully!) I was baffled about what was going on, until one night as I had just tucked into bed I heard what I thought was an intruder in the front room. I went out, but found no one. Then I saw a rat scurry by and I chased him out with a broom. Great, he’s gone, I thought. But the next day, soy sauce and vanilla on a high shelf were knocked over. “How on earth?” I thought. Then I noticed up by my air conditioning unit that the cords which go outside to connect to the other half of the air conditioner outside go through a hole just big enough for a rat to squeeze through. He had been climbing up the air conditioner cords and right into my house like it was an entrance created specially for him. Still I don’t know why he kept on trying to move in, because I had been gone for 3 weeks and there was no food in the house for him to eat. Well, I climbed up on the sink and stuffed old issues of the Marshall Islands Journal into the hole. Next morning he had started to try to chew through the newspapers from the outside, but they were too tight, so he gave up. Then my landlord kindly came and filled up the hole with cement, and I haven’t seen him since. My mom, upon hearing the story got a bit worried, since she's coming to visit me here in September. My friend Mary said to tell mom, "Don't worry, the rats in the Marshall Islands are the friendliest rats in the world, just like the people." I can't disagree, but I'm glad this one's no longer my roomate!
Speaking of animals, this Sunday as church was about to start, we had a stray dog keep running in the door and laying down in the middle of the congregation. When the kids kicked at him (yeah, neither children nor adults treat dogs with respect here) he ran up and down the aisles, ran out the back door, and right back in the front door again. I told the missionaries that he must have read the “Visitors Welcome” on the church sign and decided to give this church a try. This picture is Heidi with Rainbow, the sweetest stray dog on the island. She's just such a sweetheart, and she lives at CMI, where we feed her. She balks at eating dogfood, instead she prefers to eat the tuna off the top of her bowl only. Picky little thing, but a real sweetheart, too!
During the week we’ve started several enrichment groups for the Relief Society ladies. On Thursday night we’ve been having Amimono Group (traditional handicraft making) followed by an exercise group. It has been a bit slow to take off, but it’s getting there. There are several ladies in my branch who have diabetes and attend the “Diabetes Wellness Center” at the hospital (sponsored by the SDA church) where they learn great things about nutrition and exercise. So they brought a CD of aerobics music to work out to. It was SO much fun! Picture this: 5 ladies ranging in age from 30-70 in polyester mumus and tennis shoes doing the Macarena, the Electric Slide, and the YMCA dance in unison. Then there’s the 6-foot tall ri-belle in the middle (yours truly) trying to keep up. It’s hilarious and ridiculous, and it gets us all laughing as well as giving us a good workout. I didn’t yet get any photos of the ladies, dancing, but here’s a picture of the young women showing us how to do some of the dances to the songs on the aerobics CD.
Last week I decided that since I have a bunch of time off work, I should go to the dentist. This is a terrible confession to make, but it’s the first time I’ve gone to the dentist in nearly 4 years! I just never have the free time and/or money. So I called up Dr. Hazel (that’s her first name, by the way, no one is pretentious here!) and asked if I could make an appointment. She’s a pretty, friendly lady from the Phillipines. She has a small practice above the post office in town, and answers her own phones. When I called she greeted me warmly and said, sure, I can give you a cleaning and check up this week, how about tomorrow? Ok, tomorrow’s great!! (In the states it take at least 3 or 4 weeks advance notice, so I was happily suprised). It was the most hassle-free dentist appointment I’ve ever had. It was quick, painless, and the best thing about it is that it only cost $25!! Now when’s the last time you scheduled a dentist appointment for the next day and got a thorough cleaning and checkup in less than 30 minute (performed by a licensed dentist, not a hygienist!) for $25? I was thoroughly impressed! So if you need dental work done, feel free to stop by my place for a vacation and make an appointment. Dr. Hazel does orthodontics too! I have to run.
We’re leaving for Arrak now. Have a great weekend everyone! I’ll write all about our retreat and post more photos soon!