Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Unreal Life

There are some moments in your life that fill you with an unexplainable feeling of both peace and excitement. Because in that one moment you know you are where you are supposed to be. Pohnpei has been a continuous string of those moments for me. From sitting on the floor of my family's store, picking fish meat off the bone with my fingers, to watching the sun set on the edge of a mountain that drops steeply down into the jungle, experiencing Sakau, getting a lime burn from chewing betel nut, learning Pohnpeian, being chased by a dog, swimming with manta rays, seeing a shark, bonding with Pohnpeian teens, drinking from a coconut, laying in a hammock, cutting my feet on coral, to jumping off of boats into the warm pacific waters. This is what I have wait my whole life for. Not to mention trying to learn how to be a good teacher in the midst of my intoxication with Pohnpeian culture.

This weekend was... well in a word Pohnpeian. Friday we attended the Presidential inauguration and that night the other WorldTeach volunteers came to my family's house for Sakau. My host father said that I looked so happy, and I was. All of the people mean so much to me here, were there together and I was able to share my host family that I am so enthralled with. The other volunteers were able to experience some of the things that spoil me here in my Nen Pal Mal home; the making of Sakau (which is truly beautiful), breathtaking views of the sun setting over the lagoon, and most importantly my generous family.

 Melvin and Tommy, my host brothers who are 16 and 14 respectively and who are the experts on making Sakau took me to the sunset spot the night before everyone came over. It's easily one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The sky was a brilliant red, and as I walked back between these two boys carrying machetes, as dusk became night and not only stars but galaxies emerged - I felt my eyes sting when I thought of how much I am going to miss living with this family. The boys climb up coconut trees for me when I get sick ( best re-hydrator), Lulu my host sister talks about boys with me, Denise my four year old host sister watches me put on chapstick and mascara every morning and teaches me Pohnpeian, my host parents share their lives and family with me, and they all keep me laughing constantly. The fact that they own a Sakau market has given me the opportunity to meet many locals and have some truly unique experiences. I get to see my brothers pound the roots and branches of the Sakau plant on a giant rock which will be passed down to them when my father passes away. The process is so beautiful I had to make a video, which I will upload as soon as I get Internet set up in my house.

Saturday I rode in the back of a pick up truck for about an hour to the Nan Mwarki 's house. Pohnpei is divided into five municipalities: Nett, Uh, Kitti, Madolenihmw, and Sokehs, each with it's own chief. The chief of Madolenihmw is the highest ranking chief of Pohnpei. Tony, our charismatic language instructor and the Director of Education presented the Nan Mwarki with a bottle of wine wrapped in leaves as a gesture to request the use of his territory to enter the archaeological ruins of Nan Madol by water- which is reportedly then best way. The Nan march was extremely generous and not only allowed us to use his land but to come inside his home to sit on the tile floor for a few moments to escape the Pacific heat. Tony informed us that we would have to wait for the tide to come in before we could boat out to our destination, so we were enjoying our lunch along the water when the chief decided it would be a good time to make Sakau. Then I saw something unexpected; Mike and Scott were invited to take off their shirts and help pound Sakau for the Nan Mwarki. I never thought a menwai (white person) would be allowed to pound Sakau- no less for the highest ranking man on the island. I have was really proud of them.  Menwai or not, being a lady I was only allowed to observe which I was secretly grateful for because I don't think I could handled even a sip in that heat.

After our boys were pumping with testosterone, the tide too had come in and we were ready to embark on a journey to the ruins which hold so much mystery. I will get into the legends of Nan Madol in a later post when I have learned more, but it was truly incredible. Supposedly crafted in 500 A.D.  out of rocks not native to Pohnpei it remains a mystery how these structures were built. After our blast to past, we stopped for some beer and Sakau at a local market in Kitti, where I will be moving on Sunday. After a few drinks and chatting with some locals, we made our way back into town beautifully exhausted. That night I stayed up talking to my host father about relationships and watched my brothers make Sakau.

At the cruel hour of 7:30 on Sunday, we met at Pohnpei surf club to begin what has to have easily been of the best days of my life. It was the kind of day I always imagined I would one day have. I saw and touched things that are usually reserved for Nat Geo's travel magazines. We boated to the uninhabited outer atoll called Ant which is everything you imagine when you think of a remote Pacific island; thick jungle, beach, bright blue clear waters. And I did everything you would imagine doing on such an island; snorkeled over lively coral pulsating with marine life, lounged on the beach, listened to Jack Johnson and ate fish caught on our way in and cooked over a fire which was washed down by a coconut my oh-so-manly future roommate Scott climbed to get and opened with a machete. It was the kind of day that makes you see why some people run away and never go back. It was also the kind of day perfect for distracting one from the stress and anxiety of being a first year teacher in a third world country. On that note, every day my passion for why I am here is not weakened by our sometimes scary " this is how life here really is" talks, but instead those difficulties inspire me to be the possible teacher I can be and to give my all to my students. I just hope in some small way I can have a positive impact on their view of education and the people they will become.

Each night as I fall asleep to the sound of Sakau being made, and each morning as I wake to roosters crowing- and through all the sweating done between morning and night: I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing precisely what I am supposed to be doing and I could not be more content.

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