I am in love. It comes in the strangest and most unexpected ways, doesn’t it? I was not expecting this, but it’s a wonderful surprise.
After starting off the new year by sleeping through New Years I in Spain, I decided that I would not engage in relationships over the internet anymore. It’s a good way to meet people for some, but it just hasn’t worked out very well for me. I went about my work and got back into Island life. Then, half way through January, I received an email from my sister Honor (who has excellent internet love-life luck – she met her husband there) with the subject line “Please Don’t Kill Me”. “What is she up to now?” I thought. Well, just as I had given up on internet romance, she ran into a cute English guy online who had served in my mission in South Africa 7 years ago. She said he wanted to write me and asked if that was ok. I figured that it couldn’t hurt, since I have already met him a couple times in real life. Granted he was 20 and I was 23 at the time, and we were much different people back then, but I took her up on the offer. We wrote back and forth almost every day between January and March and enjoyed getting to know each other at this stage of our lives and reminised about the mission. I found that I really liked him.
When he told me that he was going to come here to visit, I just about fell out of my chair. Majuro is just about the furthest vacation destination possible from England. Only my mom has come from the states to visit, and that was a long trip! But England is a 30 hour trip (longer if you get stuck in LAX for 26hours like Darryl did going home). I couldn't believe it, but I was thrilled that he wanted to visit and experience everything I love about these islands, and I was excited for someone new to come hang out with us here.
Darryl arrived at the beginning of Spring Break and we spent some time with colleagues of mine in Arno. It was absolutely gorgeous and the peaceful respite we needed! Darryl and I hit it off tremendously well and discovered that although we have very different personalities, we have the same goals in life (ie: not wanting an ordinary life, wanting to serve others, live in remote places, etc…) I really admire everything that makes Darryl different from me. While in Arno, we relaxed, collected shells to make handicrafts with, rode our bikes around, sunburned ourselves painfully, played with hundreds of hermit crabs on the shore, and met up with our students who were there for a Marshallese Storytelling Project with Newton Lajuan, CMI’s director of Cultural Activities (and a colleague whom I respect very much). Newton gave Darryl a reef fish which he had smoked on a coconut-husk fire, which Darryl loved. We were captivated by the beauty and tranquility of outer island life. I wish that I could share with everyone I know this experience of being there in a place where traditional life exists as it has for thousands of years.
When we got back to Majuro, we went for a sail on a Marshallese outrigger canoe which was huge and beautiful. It was so big it took 4 young men to sail it. On Friday we rented a car and took a trip out to Laura Beach with Susan and Isabel, which was terrific. On the way back, we stopped at the end of the runway at the airport to watch the Continental flight take off and eat Phillipine Mangos. I'd be willing to bet that Majuro airport is the only international airport in the world that only has a waist-high fence about 15 feet past the end of the runway, allowing observers (most are smarter than we were and stay away) to get perilously close to the planes. As we were there at the end of the runway, an air-freight jet came in for a landing. We thought it was the Air Marshall Dash-8 (a much smaller plane), so we stood right underneath it as it came down for landing. It was Darryl’s idea, and since he’s a pilot, we trusted him. What we experienced scared the living daylights out of us! By the time the jet passed over us, it was only about 20 feet above us, and the overwhelming roaring sound and shock waves almost knocked us over. What’s more, we all had sticky mango-covered hands, so we couldn’t even cover our ears! Then, as if we hadn’t gotten enough already, we waited around for the Continental 737 to taxi down to our end of the runway and turn around. Again, trusting Darryl, we stood out there at the end of the runway only about 30 feet behind while it’s engines fired up to full power for the take off. The wind, rocks, and sand pelted us as we ran for cover behind the car. I was just so thankful that none of use were maimed and that we didn’t get a stone chip in the windshield after that!!
Ah, what a fun Spring Break! It ended all too soon and I had to go back to work. The second week that Darryl was here I convinced him to go to the dentist for the first time since a scary experience he had in South Africa (6 years ago!), we went snorkeling in several places, made dinner together, spent time watching the waves crash from my balcony, and other nice simple things. It was hard to see him go, but we’ll get together again in the summertime. We’re planning to drive my car from Michigan to California to hang out with my family and hopefully I’ll make it to England to meet his family, too. Right now for both of us life is so crazy that it’s probably a good thing that we’re not in the same place because it would be so overwhelming to try to balance everything at once. But I look forward to the day when we will both be in the same place. He makes me happier than I have been in a long time, which I’m so grateful for. He’s got about 6 more months of flight training to finish until he becomes a commercial pilot, so he’s thinking about New Zealand. At least we would be in the same time zone instead of opposite ones!! In the meantime, I’m glad to finally be able to commit to stay at CMI for at least another year after my contract ends in August. The thought makes me wince because work doesn’t look like it’s going to get any less stressful anytime soon, but a long summer break away might just be what I need to survive another year here. I was looking for a reason to stay, and thanks to Darryl now I’ve got one.
Since spring break things at work have been super stressful at work. We have about 10-12 students in 2+2 that are preparing to transfer and are hitting snags along the way that they need help with. It’s so exciting to help them prepare for their goals and dreams. It’s one of my favorite parts of being a teacher. My classes are going well, but intense! We’re also doing advising/early registration, so my office is full of students nonstop. As Faculty Senate president, I’m responsible for tackling some tough issues such as faculty retention and low faculty morale. The politics take so much of my time and really distract me from my students, which tries my patience on a regular basis.
Today the power went off, so Susan, Isabel and I joined the ladies for “Weaving 101” and learned how to make thatch from palm fronds. CMI’s Foundation Day celebration is next weekend and we have to re-roof the stage. It’s a huge job, but it was a relaxing way to spend a powerless day. It is so fun to learn from our Marshallese, Chuukese, and Yapese colleagues about traditional skills. Of course for every one frond we finished, our counterparts finished about 3-5. But it was great to spend some time there, and we got to play with Rainbow and one of her puppies that ventured out from under the old bookstore. I was just thinking to myself today how lucky I am to live in a place where traditional life meets modern life. In the morning I checked my email in my air conditioned office, and then minutes later, I was weaving on the lawn with the ladies. It’s just a wonderful mix of experiences.
After weaving, I went to check on some friends from church and buy some food for a friend whose brother's family is struggling because of his alcoholism and his wife's negligence. She is doing her best to provide a normal life for her neices and nephews. They are great kids growing up in a really hard situation, and so I want to do everything I can to support her in her efforts to provide a stable home life for them, even though their parents don't seem to be interested in caring for them. There are so many beautiful children on this island. They make me so happy when I see them. I just hope and pray that they will be able to escape the problems that plague mand of their parents.
Ok, I’m off to work on my faculty evaluation to prove my worth to the college so that they will hire me back after my contract ends. I’ll write more soon!