Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I’ve been living with a crab. No, I didn’t get a roommate. I actually have a tenacious little crab that keeps moving in. He’s not particularly cute and cuddly, but he’s not terribly intrusive either. I live on the third floor, so it’s evident that he went through a lot just to make it up to my front door, and he wasn’t likely to move out easily. Every time I found him, I would try to sweep him out, but he would run under the refrigerator. Finally one night I found him on my bed, and I decided that was enough. I chased him off, but then he ran under all my flattened cardboard boxes. After pulling out about 25 boxes, I finally found him, captured him with my popcorn bowl and threw him to the beach below. Here’s hoping that he gives up and stays down there!

From final exam week I thought I’d bring you a couple of funny test answers. There were not as many answers that made me laugh out loud as usual this semester, which was disappointing, but grading exams went quickly, so I’m in no position to complain. I needed to write a probability question, but it’s hard to do without involving something boring like dice or cards. In an attempt to make probability relevant to my student’s lives, here’s the question I wrote: “There are 10 rats living in the seawall. 7 of them are carrying diseases. If you catch three of them, what is the probability that all three will be carrying a disease? Interpret the probability: is it very likely to get three diseased rats? Why?” I though it was a good question…there are a lot of rats in seawalls here, and it is a public health issue. Here are some of my favorite responses: “Not likely, very disgusting!” “Why would you want to get anywhere near those rats?” and here’s my favorite: “If 7 rats have babies with the other 3 rats, then you’ll get 21 diseased rats, and then add 10 more and you’ll have 31 diseased rats. Yeah, it’s pretty likely!” Looking on the bright side, I’m glad that they used critical thinking and common sense, even if they missed the calculations.

In preparing to leave the island for Christmas, Susan and I decided that we had to go out Muumuu shopping for our friends and family. There was a special Christmas muumuu with poinsettias on it that Susan had her eye on (see the photo). I also got some (although slightly less tacky) for my family, which they loved (although this is not exactly the time of year for muumuus because they are nice and silky and light…better for summer). I took a break from muumuu shopping to get a haircut at DAR. The nice Filipina lady there has done nice things with my hair in the past, but I think that we had a slight language barrier problem this time because she gave me a cut that looked like a mullet (I was hoping for some subtle layers). I went to Susan’s house immediately because I couldn’t handle it, and our friend Eric told me that the back of my head looked like a duck’s butt. Sadly, it was true. Susan worked on my hair in her kitchen and did a great job of evening it out and making it presentable, but she had to cut off alot. So unfortunately, no more ponytails for me since its now way too short. (I’ll actually have to style my hair and not be so lazy now). I dont' think that you can see the bag that I tied around my neck at Susan's for the haircut, but appropriately, it said, "Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!"

As usual, the semester wrapped up in a whirlwind. My friend Mary’s family has had overwhelming challenges this year, and the month of December was no exception. In October, Mary lost her mom, who she cared for in her home for many years. Then in December, Mary’s younger brother Swain (only in his 40s), who had some health problems, took a turn for the worse and was hospitalized. They tried to airlift him out to Manila for cancer treatment, but it was too late and he passed away in December. Swain worked with us at CMI and always had a smile on his face and something witty to say. He was always strong and healthy and a good provider for his family and many others. Hallmarks of his generosity included the electricity lines leaving his house and arriving at neighbors’ houses. He was the one who paid the electric bill for his whole neighborhood. His loss will be felt profoundly in our small island community.

The day that I left (Sat Dec 15th) was supposed to be the Christmas parade. It is THE annual event that all the children look forward to with great anticipation. There is not much gift-giving surrounding Marshallese Christmas, but Santa rides in this parade (sponsored by the chamber of commerce) and throws oodles of candy to children below. Children bring plastic shopping bags and chase after Santa picking up candy all the way from Rita to Delap (about 3 miles). Well, this parade got rained on, so it was delayed quite a bit, and meanwhile all the children patiently waited by the side of the road with plastic bags in hand. It really hits you like a ton of bricks when you see all the children outside at the same time. There were kids EVERYWHERE! The reality actually doesn’t even set in how many children there are in the Marshall Islands until I go home to the states or Europe and hardly see any kids around. The islands are just wonderful and different! It’s an entirely different life!

I was at the bottom of my stairs with my luggage waiting for a taxi amongst all the candy-waiting kids, when Garry and Hermine and Kenen (3 friends from church) drove past, turned around, and offered me a ride. They explained that they were going all the way out to the Bank of Marshall branch at the airport since the one in town was closed for the parade. It was so sweet and generous of them, but what happened next melted my heart. Kenen helped me unload my suitcases and start checking in. Then I went to find Hermine to wish her Merry Christmas and she pulled out a beautiful oyster-shell necklace and put it around my neck. She must have gone to the bank and then quickly located this beautiful gift to give. I was so overwhelmed by her sweetness. Their family had already done me a big favor by delivering me to the airport, and then she gave even more. What a wonderful example to me of generosity and kindness. It made me smile all the way home, and I didn’t stop wearing the necklace for 5 days afterward. I also found a special little treat for her here at home that I hope she’ll like.

My first stop was Las Vegas to see my sister Honor and her family. It was absolutely FREEZING when I arrived. I don’t own any warm clothes in Majuro. Luckily Honor and Jeremy live just a hop-skip-jump from several second-hand stores, which made my day. It was fantastic to see those guys. Their little guy, Grant is a real handful, but he’s also extraordinarily cute! He’s about 16 months old now, and he’s running around terrorizing the place. Since Honor and I look a little similar, he was content to play with me a little while she and Jeremy packed their house to move to Utah. Grant is absolutely fascinated by anything mechanical or electronic (I predict that he’ll be an electrical engineer). What to do if he cries? No problem! Just hand him a calculator, remote control, computer keyboard, telephone, etc…and he’s a happy camper for hours! I even put him up on the counter so that I could have two free hands to clean the refrigerator, and he scooted himself over to the sink so he could play with their fancy faucet head. It kept him busy for hours!

Then I flew home to San Francisco & my mom and dad picked me up. The fun with babies wasn’t over yet, because my brother Clay and sister-in-law Cullen have a new little guy named Cash, who is absolutely adorable. He’s only about 3 months old, and is so sweet. It was so fun to meet him and play with him. Ordinarily I get left out of these things because I live so far away. My mom and dad were moving into their new house and racing to get their belongings out of 3 storage units into the new place. It is still a work in progress, but it’s coming along very well, and we were able to have Christmas dinner together in our own house for the first time in 5 years. Mom is in heaven!

After Christmas I went to Spain for a week, but it will take a while to type that part. There are a million pictures to attach and it’s pretty slow going, so please be patient with me. I have a 5 hour flight to Hawaii and then another 5 hour flight to Majuro, so I’m hoping to work on it then. Happy New Year everyone!

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