Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Coming At You Live

So, I realize that this post is the first one in a while. But, allow me assure you that I am not intentionally neglecting the blog. One of the downsides of living on an island that is as small and remote as Kwaj is that when things break, the rate of repair is not instantaneous. In fact, often times things have to be sent off island to be repaired and then brought back. For instance, if any type of medical emergency happens (I'm talking about something like a compound fracture and up), people have to be flown out to Hawai'i for medical care. So, out here, a saying exists, "Safety first, safety always." This mentality commands the actions of the community. What is more, is that there are little signs all over the place that remind people of safety, just in case people might have the gall to forget what their priorities should be. These little missions in safety propaganda provide me with a touch of entertainment every now and then. For example, today I could not help but laugh to myself when I was going through the line in the mess hall (called the PDR--Pacific Dining Room) I looked up from the fruit tray only to see a sign stating, "For our customers safety, please only move in one direction when in line." Extreme? Probably. Cautious? Like a mother. Safe? Always. While this has been a fun little tangent, I must appease those with a more keen ability to focus, and return to my original point.

As was said in the beginning, I have not been trying to ignore anyone back on the mainland. The internet has been down for a while out here, which means that we had to wait for something (who knows what...) in order to get the network back up and running. Like Milli Vanilli, I would like to take the opportunity to blame it on the rain. I think someone mentioned something about one of the last rain storms we had taking out something technical that was the only thing connecting us to anywhere else in the world. Naturally, this is not the type of thing that merits a rush order...Regardless, I have not been trying to "e-void" anyone back home (I can't tell you how excited I am about that pun...it's the simple things that keep me going I guess).

Now that that is taken care of, the second order of business is to make a correction. Patrick is not Patrick, but rather C.J. Who's lost? Me too. He tried to explain that Patrick is his English name (much like my German name was Gerd, which, of course, I selected because of the disorder of the esophagus) that he uses sometimes with Americans. But, his Marshallese name is C.J. The expanded version of the name is too hard for most people who don't speak Marshallese to say.

C.J. took me over to Ebeye on Tuesday to get some dinner at his Aunt's restaurant. I've noticed that C.J. has approximately 2,973 aunts. Every time we turned around, he seemed to be introducing me to another "Auntie" of his. I asked him if they were really aunts, or if they were the metaphorical aunts (you know like people in church call eachother brother, sister, father, etc.) He assured me that they were, in fact, aunts. I told him that my parents were both only children, and he could not believe it. The conditions on Ebeye are those of extreme poverty. It is densly populated (cue thousands of people with thousands of aunties) and garbage runs rampant in the gutters (cue mutant rats.) I am going back over today with C.J. to meet his grandmother, the queen. She lives in a place called Guchi Guchi. I'm not sure of the spelling, but that is how it is pronounced.

Last weekend I took a boat out the the island called Begeje. We had to anchor our boat about a half mile off shore and swim to shore because the coral heads make it impossible for nautical navigation. The trip was incredible, and full of firsts. It was the first time I have stepped foot on a haunted island. It was the first time I have walked in a jungle. It was the first time I have swum with a shark. So, I guess this tops the sting ray incident. The shark was about four feet long, but no worries. Like most other things in the water out here, it operates under the code of "I won't mess with you if you don't mess with me." However, the fish about the size of a half dollar that bit my finger as I was picking up a shell from the underside of a piece of coral did not buy into that philosophy...the little bastard. Now my right index finger is a bit swollen. It's a rough life.

I've been invited to go deep sea fishing on July 2nd. So I'm looking forward to that.

Camp is going well. Two weeks down, six weeks to go. The kids around the teen center are beginning to warm up to me more and more. I've actually had some kids sign up for the next session of camp (that starts on Tuesday) that my boss said are the cool kids that everyone else looks up to because when they sit around doing nothing, they make it look AWESOME. Hopefully they enjoy the programming I have set up for them so that more kids will sign up in an effort to follow the crowd. Also, they made me a name poster with a bunch of poka-dots and googly eyes on it. I hung it up in my office. It's pretty sweet.

That's it for now. A bit of an extended post, but hey, it's been a while. Until next time, remember--safety first, safety always

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kwaj, One Week In

I spent my day by the lagoon. I've grown shades darker since the morning. Tomorrow I have been invited by some island locals on a boat ride to a neighboring island that is completely deserted. No one lives there. It is completely overrun with jungle. It belongs to the RMI outright; but the RMI citizens refuse to live there because it is haunted. I have become fairly good friends with the prince of the RMI and he was telling me all about the legend that surrounds Begeje (BEE-GEE). The tale is really old and I am going to have him tell me again so that I don't screw it up when I retell it. In case you didn't catch that, I will repeat it, I have become friends with the prince of the RMI. His name is Patrick (a name that resonates with Marshallese tradition...) His grandmother is the queen, his mother will take the thrown when grandma dies, and then he will take the thrown. Although the RMI has a president, no one listens to the government. They were a matriarchal society even before they were unified as a sovereign nation. The thrown is passed down through women (not men) but for some reason Patrick gets it. I'm still a little foggy on it all, but I'm learning. Regardless, women have always been (and probably always will be) the ones with the power in this country. Patrick has offered to take me to meet the queen on Ebeye (EE-BUY), which is a neighboring island where they live. It is about one fourth the land mass of Kwaj, but about 14,000 people live there. The living conditions there are third world. The prince is unstoppable at ping pong, and he plays for the RMI Olympic basketball team.

My first week at camp went well. I had about 12 campers (it fluctuated each day). Hope all is well back home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Tuesday Is Your Monday

So here are some details about my life.

I live on an island named Kwajalein.
Pop.- 1800

# of military personel- 14

# of top secret things going on here- 5 trillion

avg. day temp- 85 F

avg. night temp- 75 F

avg. humidity- 70%

It rains everyday in the morning for about 20 min.

Avg. daily percipitation 1" (yeah, it's an intense 20 minutes)

Rain always comes from the pacific (which is our east coast)

Wind always comes from the pacific, and it never stops (but it is generally a gentle breeze)

I have my own room, and I can hear the ocean crashing from my window.

I see the sunrise over the pacific every morning during my 6am run

I watch the sunset into the lagoon every evening as I lay on the beach.

The feeling of community is overwhelming here. There are no free loaders. Everyone here serves a purpose in the community (often 2 or 3 e.g. the dentist is also the sailing instructor).

The work week is Tuesday-Saturday so that we can align with the mainland.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) consists of 33 seperate islands.

Total land mass of the RMI- 73 square miles.

The 33 miles lie in a section of ocean that spans an area that would go from southern Louisiana to southern Minnesota, and from the Rocky Mountains in CO to Mississippi's eastern border. These islands are microscopic.

I run a wilderness survival camp for teens each morning from 9-11:30, then I have an hour lunch break, and return to supervise the Teen Center from 12:30-4:30.

Tomorrow we will be fashioning our own fishing rods out of materials we can scavage and then we are going fishing. We will bait our hooks with squid.

I am, in fact, in paradise. But, this does not mean that I do not miss you all.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Last Day Before Work

Today was the last day I have had before we start our individual camps. The rest of the counselors and I got the day off, which was a much needed break from all of the meetings we've had to sit through since we've been here. I spent about 3 hours snorkeling in the lagoon (the largest lagoon in the world). In addition to the plethora of fish, coral, and crabs that I saw I was lucky enough to swim directly into the presence of a Stingray. This is the infamous creature that took Steve Irwin away from all of us. The beast was camaflouged with a layer of sand covering him on the sea floor. But as I swam down to it, it shook the sand free, flicked its tail, and bolted. It was quick, really quick. However, because it didn't take off until I was about four feet above it I had had plenty of time to check it out. From nose to stinger I would say it was about five feet long; its wingspan was about three feet; it was a gorgeous golden brown when free of the white sands of the floor. I was whole-heartedly impressed. When I got back on shore, one of the locals (whom I have become friends with) listened to my experience and then told me that he had never been able to see one that large and that close. He also told me I was lucky I didn't run into any trouble with the thing. So, I feel cool because I am already contributing original experiences to my new island community. However, I would be lying if I told you that my heart was not pounding.

Three hours was a lot of snorkeling, and I was pretty hungry. So, I grabbed some z's on the beach and then went to dinner. After dinner I went to this bar called the Snake Pit that sits on the ocean shoreline (everything sits on a shore here, it's just a question of whether it's lagoon side or ocean side) with my boss. We had a few Coronas and watched the ebb of the tide infront of us as the sun set behind us. I'm getting up early tomorrow to return to the same place so that I can see the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean.

For more information about Stingrays, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingray

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Trip Out

So, I'm going to do my best to keep this updated as a way for those back home to keep track of what I am doing and thinking. As for now, I will share what was going through my head as our plane did funny things with time zones on the way over here.

in regards to the space-time continuum

if we are pretending
that today is tomorrow,
and that the day that is
actually today is yesterday,
and that yesterday, we
left for tomorrow only to arrive
today, then outlook on the
daylight is never worse than 20/20
because hindsight’s proverb
wouldn’t lie.