Happy holidays and a happy new year! Do you have any resolutions worth sharing? I think mine this year will involve finishing books more frequently than I have been. I’ve all but stopped reading and I’m not too proud of that. Reading definitely affects my writing for the better, and motivates me to write. I haven’t been sending nearly enough letters home lately and I think it is partly due to the fact that I’ve stopped reading and therefore stopped inspiring myself to write. Such a pity!
I reached the 6-month mark about 2 weeks ago and cannot believe it. I think it’s because I’ve only been at my site for 4 months now, but this time is flying by and I feel like I’ll be returning home in no time. I was pretty sick last week so I didn’t get to send a letter home for the week before, so please forgive this short novella you are about to read!
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, my family invited my dad’s brothers and sisters and my sister’s new in-laws over to our house for a big family dinner. According to my other sister, this was still part of the wedding festivities, but my mom said that this big dinner happens every year. Regardless, there was turkey, gravy, stuffing, corn and potatoes and I was happy. Hopefully my mom is right and I’ll be enjoying this meal with my family next year, as well.
Sometime during the next week, my youngest sister tricked my family into letting her skip school. On top of having TERRIBLE dental hygiene, she lies to the family pretty frequently, so my parents didn’t believe her until they called her best friend’s mom and, because her best friend had told her mom the same lie, the conversation ended with my parents letting my sister skip school. I had been absent for the discussion and found out about it the next morning when, upon hearing the lie (“My teacher isn’t going and she said we didn’t have to go either”), laughed hysterically and said, “She’s lying”. It was too late to rouse her, though, so off we went to school sans 6-year-old. I filled my other sister in on the details on our drive and told her that Y had been lying through her teeth. My sister burst out laughing and said, “Notwe, she doesn’t even have teeth to lie through”. Sad but true, it made my day all the same.
I like to do Zumba as often as I can every week to dance with the ladies and get some semblance of a workout in for the day. As only women attend, and it is- after all- a workout, I don’t feel guilty about wearing the most casual clothes I brought here: my boxer shorts. One night, the women with whom I had gotten a ride asked if we could make a quick stop somewhere afterwards. I, of course, told them I had nowhere to be and would happily go along with them. What I didn’t realize was that we were stopping at a banquet for a conference the driver’s workplace was hosting. Officials from all over Micronesia had come, and as this was the final night of the conference, they were having a huge celebration dinner to finish off the week’s events. Everyone climbed out of the car, heading towards the food and leaving me sitting there in my boxers. My friend soon noticed my absence and returned to ask what was wrong. I told her that I wasn’t even remotely properly dressed for the occasion and therefore wouldn’t be attending. She laughed and said, “You’re an aset. It’s alright”. Ok, first of all, no. Just because I’m obviously a foreigner does not make it acceptable for me to blatantly break every cultural rule and norm your island has in existence. Second of all, if you honestly think it would be acceptable for me to attend a work dinner in men’s underwear back home, your perceptions of the U.S. are built from extremely limited sources of information (most likely chick flicks and/or porn). Bottom line, I was not getting out of that car until I was wearing something more appropriate. Luckily, we found an old piece of cloth that I could tie around my waist to make a makeshift skirt and I was able to join the fun and grab a bite to eat with the rest of them.
The Thursday after Thanksgiving was the last dinner cruise the Australian volunteers attended before leaving on Saturday. The mom had worked with the Kosraean Dept. of Education to develop a curriculum for 3rd and 4th graders and had been a huge help to all of us in the elementary schools. She had come here in January with her family to volunteer and had stockpiled her sick/vacation days so that she and her family could end her yearlong service a month early and return to Australia in time to get the kids settled and ready for the new school year in January. They were all so kind and funny; they will definitely be missed. The dinner cruise itself was rather eventful, as well. The boat’s engine died about 15ft. from our halfway point so we spent a good bit of time enjoying our meal as we drifted around Lelu Harbor. When we finished eating, two of the WorldTeach volunteers got bored and decided to jump in and try swim-pushing the boat to our destination. It didn’t work, but it was plenty fun to watch them try. Eventually it all worked out and we made it back to the dock safe and sound.
The Utwe PC volunteer’s uncle recently got promoted within the church so her family hosted a party to celebrate his achievements and invited us all over to join. Once again, the food was served on baking trays and piled so high, it was hard to walk it all back to where we were sitting. The Lelu volunteer and I decided to have an eating contest and I got about 75% through my tray before caving and admitting defeat. The girl is thinner than I am and she didn’t throw in the towel for another 10 minutes of eating. I have no idea where all that food went but it was disgustingly impressive to watch her eat it.
Last Monday, I got sick and missed school on Tuesday to recover. The fever dreams I had were incredible. They featured a lot of people from home and it was really nice to see them all again. Wednesday morning, I woke up cuddling my ukulele and I honestly don’t know how that happened as it had been across the room when I had fallen asleep. My co-teacher, being the awesome father that he is, took one look at me on Wednesday morning and told me to sit in a corner of the classroom and not do anything because I was still definitely too sick to be up and moving around. I graciously collapsed into my chair and went home early that day to take another nap and eat my first meal in over 48 hours. I returned to school the next day feeling much more like myself and thanked him for understanding.
I attended singing practice for Christmas for the first time on Friday and was trying my hardest to learn the new songs and melodies when we all finished singing, stood up and went outside. I asked my mom why we were leaving practice after only having been there for about 30 minutes and she told me it was time to practice marching. Apparently putting on a recital isn’t special enough, we all need to march to the beat and make shapes and stuff, as well. I accepted it and found a place in the crowd. I had been standing there for less than a minute when the group leader pointed to my sister and me and told us to come front and center. We had been selected to lead the group and hold the group’s star-pole things. I thought, “Cool! Fine by me. Now when do they teach us where to…” “Go!” shouted the group leader and suddenly we were marching and singing. I frantically asked my sister, while keeping in step and trying to sing, where we were supposed to be going. She told me we would eventually be making a star and to just follow her for the moment. When we reached the end of the church, she turned and as I went to turn with her, she said, “No! You go over there”. I was then leading my line completely blind and laughing hysterically with how ridiculous it all was. At one point, I heard someone whisper, “Notwe!” as loud as she could through clenched teeth and I turned to see that I was the only one in the section of church I was in. The 2nd person in my line had stopped about 20 paces back, where I was supposed to have stopped, and had been calling my name as I had boldly marched on to where no man was supposed to go. By the end of the song, I was doubled over I was laughing so hard, neither even remotely singing nor marching in time with everyone else. The ordeal ended, and my sister turned to me and asked if I had memorized the steps, to which I replied, “BAHAHAHAHA”. Unfortunately she was serious, but I didn’t realize it until the group leader shouted, “Go!” again and off we went into the next song and next set of steps that I didn’t know. This exact sequence of events repeated itself for two more songs and routines and I can honestly say that this was the hardest I have laughed since arriving on this island. Hopefully it will all come together better than it began because if not, I will most likely be laughing to the point of peeing my pants on Christmas.
Yesterday, instead of going to church, my sister dropped me off at Trade Winds so I could make food for the WorldTeach volunteers. What started as pasta with cheese sauce very quickly became chili with homemade tortilla chips and the dish turned out amazing, if I do say so myself. I really do miss cooking. When I get home, I think we need to make a night called the “Marisa cooks for everyone” night because if not, I might go insane. Let me know what you think!
Until then, I love and miss you dearly!