A blog about my adventures, wherever I may be.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sweet Home Chicago

Better late than never, huh?

I don’t even know where to begin, dear reader, it’s been so long!  This is entirely my fault, as I let the winds of change sweep me away this past summer without taking the proper time to reflect back on the entirety of my Peace Corps service.

I think it’s denial.  Denial that I left behind almost three years of my life, denial that I adjusted so quickly back to the American lifestyle.  Keeping in contact with my Pohnpeian family and friends has been possible thanks to the INTERNET, but it’s very difficult for me to stay properly connected with everyone I love back on Pohnpei since I like to focus on the “here and now” and look towards the future.

That being said (haha), I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to me or has responded to my own efforts to stay in touch ever since I got back to the states.  Most notably Ap, my 오빠, Jerich, my kuya, and Brad, one of my best buddies in the latter half of my service.

I even got the chance to see Brad one last time before he's off to Hawaii - pai mwahu!
By the way, I am SO HAPPY for my fellow volunteers who have already taken the next steps in their lives - whether it be traveling the world, getting a real person job (CJ and Molly, booyah!), obtaining higher education, getting married to the person they love, or even having kids.  I hope to reach that level at some point but I know it’s okay to give myself time to just “be” for a while.  Now, though, I am on a quick break before grad school classes start up again in the fall.  I am on the job hunt, five months and counting (alas), since my readjustment allowance is quite gone.

I blame grad school, my book obsession, and readily available delicious food.
Since my last blog post - my favorite class of Madolenihmw High School students finally got their COMET results back, to some surprising results.  Regardless of the outcomes I am so proud of the Class of 2013 and I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to work with all 102 of them over the past two years.  We had the first prom EVER at MHS in celebration of our accomplishments.

With Leavson and Mihna

The contract for the librarian position has been renewed, much to my relief, and I look forward to seeing updates from Ms. Maymorleen.  I also know she is looking forward to getting books from me...Maymorleen also assisted with Camp GLOW 2013, which was a success (at least according to M78 blog posts, links are on the right).  They sent me a shirt (as thanks, I presume) which I proudly wore to an RPCV event in Chicago.

Pohnpei represent.
K-Ben named a kitten after me (Nahnsou!), Peace Corps made me do plenty paperwork (per norm), and I got to spend quality time with my host family and my volunteer friends before heading back home for good.

Even though K-Ben won't remember me I will always remember him.
Lovely ladies after Sunday mass at PATS
My service would not have been the same without all of you.
Once back home I got a smarter-than-me phone, gave a presentation to my Coverdell World Wise School students, visited my sister in California and took other small vacations, and most importantly started grad school!

Such an enthusiastic class!
What I'd like you to think I'm doing in grad school...
I suppose a lot more can be said about these events but in all honesty, dear reader, you probably don’t care much about all that.  Instead, let me leave you with this.  I joined the Peace Corps so I could help change the world in my own small way.  Did I accomplish this after two years and eight months of service in Pohnpei, Micronesia?

YES.  :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Underneath a waterfall

It’s a tiny one, but still!
I have been packing a lot into my last few weeks here in Pohnpei.  School-wise, my computer class is learning how to navigate Microsoft Word (when there is cash power).  I also had the guts to speak in Pohnpeian at my final PTA meeting, which turned out pretty well.  I am working with the debate team on the fine art of arguing (MHS even had its first annual debate, hosted by yours truly) and researching (through interviews and the internet).  In the library, students from all levels have been captivated by…American pop culture magazines.  Thank you Pennoyer Elementary School 8th graders!  MHS also did very well in the Pohnpei Public Library’s Art and Essay Contest in celebration of its 25th anniversary.  This year’s theme was “Reading: Lighthouse to the World”.
You know you’re in a small country when…you can meet with your state senator after one phone call.
So proud of these students, the most prolific readers at MHS! 
I am glad to report to you all, dear readers, that I have accomplished everything on my Pohnpeian bucket list (kickin’ the bucket, indeed).  I finally visited Pahntakai Waterfall in U and the Mand swimming hole in Madolenihmw.  I am also starting to decide what clothes to give away and what to keep.  My advice to you, future volunteers in Micronesia – you will acquire A LOT of clothing during your service, so only bring enough clothes to get you started (say, two week’s worth tops).  I am also preparing for graduate school at UIUC by setting up various accounts and filling out paperwork (never-ending!).
Brad in a literal bat cave behind the waterfall
With Berman, one of my best students and Mand tour guide
So athletic!
You may be wondering how I’m feeling right now, with three weeks left in my Peace Corps service.  Well, I’m not actually sure.  I think I’m in denial that I’m actually leaving Pohnpei, but at the same time I’m anticipating everything I’m planning to do once I’m back in the states for good.  Is that odd?  32 months away from “home” is an awfully long time, but I have created another “home” for myself here in Pohnpei.  Home is where the heart is?
As long as I don’t get a kool aid induced heart attack!

Monday, April 8, 2013

In a rain cloud

Just wanted to share with you, dear reader, two events that happened to me this past Saturday.  I know – it’s crazy how much I’ve been updating.  With five weeks left in Pohnpei I need to make the most of my remaining time here. 
Though I’m not going to miss pigs entering my shower!
I met President Emanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia.  We had lunch together (along with Bishop Armando and various Jesuit priests).  We talked about Michael Jordan and Barack Obama (I told him I was from Chicago), how I ended up volunteering in Micronesia for 2½ years, and how I should come back to the F.S.M. to teach after I finish my master’s degree.  It was awesome.
President Manny Mori (on the right) with bonus Bishop Armando (sitting down)
I went night fishing with Nick (the M78 in Salapwuk) and his host grandfather.  Using a canoe, we paddled out into the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the night.  As multitudes of stars shined overhead (when it wasn’t raining) I actually caught nine fish.  Two more got away from me, one of them even after I bit into its head (Gollum style).  It was awesome.
My first catch!
Where else in the world can I have lunch with the president of a country and then go fishing at night?  Only in Pohnpei.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Acting like a mehn wai

When you have 40 days left in a country where you’ve been living for over 2½ years, you would too.  It’s slowly sinking in that I will actually be leaving Pohnpei and not be coming back for another ten years (or at least that’s what I tell the random people who ask me this question).  Marriage propositions have tripled for me – I’ve even gotten an offer from my nohno kahlap (grandmother) to find me a Pohnpeian husband to bring back to the states…it’s the thought that counts?
It’s best not to think too much when taking off or landing on Pohnpei’s runway.
My time and energy this past month have been devoted to assuring the sustainability of the library (always), joking around with MHS students (my way of showing how much I care), teaching my host sisters how to drive (totally legal), writing the single most important document of my Peace Corps experience (not an exaggeration, since the Description of Service will be the only official record of my service for the next 60 years), and preparing for graduate school starting this summer (going to UIUC, just in case you were wondering).
My victory pose for how productive I was
Over the spring break (since seasons exist here in Pohnpei – not) I was up to plenty things.  Seeing that it coincided perfectly with Holy Week (since separation of church and state exists here in Pohnpei – not) I attended Catholic mass and services both with my host family and in Kolonia.  One of my most favorite activities that I do in town is play flute in the international choir, which I did in a big way at Easter Sunday mass.   

Palm Sunday
Holy Thursday
Holy Thursday
Stations of the Cross on Good Friday
Happy Easter, courtesy of the instrumental section!
During the break I also saw my World Teach and Jesuit Volunteer friends fly off to Chuuk (I think they came back…), explored more of what Kolonia Town has to offer (there are some real hidden treasures), and climbed Sokehs Ridge a fourth time in the company of Christy’s family.
Ran Annim to Sam, Brian, and Brad
View from Nett Bridge
Japanese army tanks
Kay, Christy, and me on top of Sokehs Ridge
Dear reader, my time in the Peace Corps is almost over (AHH!).  Please stay tuned for a few more blog entries as I wrap up my service.  Much love to my family and friends for constantly supporting me on this journey.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


In two more months I will officially be finished with my 2½ years of Peace Corps service.  My experiences here in Pohnpei, Micronesia have undoubtedly influenced my perspective of the world (how lofty!) and will most definitely stay with me for the rest of my life.  I know I have changed as a person because of my service (I’m thinking for the better) and I hope that I have affected the lives of the people I’ve had the privilege to live amongst in my own small way.

Mushy thoughts aside, I have been up to plenty things since the last blog post.  The seniors took the COMET and will find out their results in early May (at least that is what I am counting on!).  I now teach a computer application class to 43 senior vocational majors (Trade and Industry, Home Arts, Auto-Mechanic, and Agriculture), but it is quite difficult to do so when there is regularly no power at the school or on the island.  Improvising is a way of life here, for sure.  I am continuing my work in the library along with the MHS librarian – we continue to diligently make envelopes and insert library cards into all of the books.  I am also overseeing the debate club and beginning to hold meetings for a new batch of GLOW girls.

On a more personal front, I have started the process of ending my service, which means lots and lots of paperwork (thank you governmental agency).  Much more significantly…I got accepted into graduate school!  :)  I now have post-Peace Corps plans, which I think will do wonders in readjusting back to the American lifestyle.  I am not quite sure where I am going just yet, but I will be working towards obtaining my MSW (Masters of Social Work) over the course of the next two years.  Now, onto the pictures!
Where else in the world can you see a Catholic bishop and the president of a country sitting side by side in easy picture-taking distance?  Bishop Armando and President Mori are the two men on the right.
At this year’s Championship Week with the freshman, junior, and senior essay writing representatives.
My former student throwing a fast pitch.  MHS did not fare all that well at these games, but the students did have a lot of fun!
This year’s Teachers Forum.  I gave a presentation about “Intensive COMET Prep” and assisted PICS and NMHS teachers (the two other public high schools on Pohnpei) with ideas and materials.
With fellow MHS teachers during our Teachers Forum lunch break
At the Japanese gun site in Temwen.  I can’t even imagine how Japanese soldiers managed to bring four guns of this size all the way up to this area during World War II!
The M78’s during their In-Service Training.  I helped out a bit because I could (and because I am so experienced, hehe).
Technical Trainer Roan facilitating a session
I hiked with World Teach volunteers to see the twin waterfalls of Salapwuk on Election Day.  Legend has it that two brothers raced to see which one they would claim, but the younger brother tricked the older brother into taking the smaller waterfall while he took the larger one.  Oh younger siblings!
Sahwarlap – the smaller waterfall, despite its name (lap = big)
Sahwartik – the bigger waterfall (tik = small)
This year's Rahn en Li en Sampah was a blast yet again - my sister and the Li en Madolenihmw danced terrifically.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beneath the pale moonlight

Coming back to Pohnpei this time around was less difficult for me in the sense that I have a specific project I want to complete before I am ready to leave for good.  I am pleased with the students I have been able to instruct, the teachers I have been able to work with, the connections (both with locals and with mehn wai) that I have been fortunate enough to make…BUT I will not be completely satisfied with my Peace Corps service until I know for sure that the MHS library will be sustainable.  How am I accomplishing this?  Right now I am doing all that I can to equip the library with what it needs, whether that be inserting library cards and book pockets into its 2,000+ books, obtaining and updating periodicals, permanently borrowing a desktop from the computer lab, or most significantly, training and keeping the librarian.  If you’ve noticed this recurring theme throughout my blog posts then you know this is very important to me and will continue to be until I depart Pohnpei.  I must say that all this is going pretty well, so the next few months will be dedicated to keeping it that way.
So glad that Maymorleen is on board as librarian!
Along with the library I have been academically advising my juniors (the future business leaders of Pohnpei), overseeing once again intensive COMET practice for MHS’s 100+ seniors (in reading comprehension, vocabulary, essay writing, and math), doing administrative business on behalf of the Language Arts Department (scheduling is fun!), and writing recommendation letters for students applying to the NIH’s STEP-UP Program (anything that encourages students’ interest in medical science is excellent in my book).
Celebrating the end of our second-to-last semester at MHS
My seniors loved their impromptu photo-taking session
As Chairperson of Language Arts, I had the opportunity to represent this department at a hearing with the Pohnpei State Legislature’s Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.  My fellow chairpeople (haha) of MHS and I presented our successes, concerns, and needs with this committee and they in turn asked us questions and told us their plan of action for the future.  I spoke about the need for TESL-focused staff trainings and funding for a permanent librarian – I hope that the committee addresses these needs seriously and in a timely manner, but I was grateful for the opportunity to be heard whatever the outcome may be.
The Eco Chairperson hard at work
Outside of work I have been readjusting back to Pohnpeian life (complete with K-Ben antics and sakau), playing flute and singing in the international choir, hanging out with cool people in town and on the perfectly cute island of Black Coral, and reading plenty books on my nook (thank you parental units).
K-Ben is getting so big!
Pounding sakau.  The building behind me is home to the MHS library.
Pounding sakau is normally a man’s job, and my title Nahnsou is normally reserved for a man.
Christy enjoying the ocean
Neither strong winds nor current could deter me from getting this shot!