Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Day in the Life

Since everything was so busy and new when I first arrived and there have been so many specific events that I have been trying to document, I feel like I haven’t gotten to write much about my daily life.  Keeping a blog is much more difficult than people make it out to be; I haven’t had much time to write about all of my adventures because I am out there living them!  I am going to try to tackle the challenge of trying to put into words what life is like for me here.
                At 6:00 AM the church bell rings next door and I usually awake startled before nestling back in for another 30-45 minutes more of necessary sleep. When I can no longer avoid waking up, I slip out of my mosquito net and slowly and carefully climb down the ladder from the bedroom into the living room, and stumble my way to the bathroom in my sleepy stupor. The next 45 minutes or so consist of me trying to make an outfit out of whatever clean clothes exist, attempting to secure my hair in a way that will foster the least amount of sweating and shoveling down some breakfast before walking to school.
                If it hasn’t rained recently Scott and I can take the shortcut through the woods, but more often than not we take the main road to school. The road is coated with thick jungle on either side, and given its windy nature you can never see too far ahead. On a clear day the walk is stunning, the dewy jungle is glistening with the morning light and just as you round the first bend a view of the mountains greets you, popping against the bright blue sky. The walk to school only takes us about ten minutes, but this minor physical activity jumpstarts what will be for the next 16 hours by personal battle with sweat.
The walk to school. 

                We unlock the padlocks that keep our classrooms secure overnight, and try to prepare ourselves for the day. As I am writing the quote of the day on the board and trying to straighten up my classroom students are shouting good morning as they walk (or run) by. At 8:15 (or 8:30 with Pohnpeian time) a student beats an old metal oxygen tank that serves as the bell and its game time. My first class of the day is my 12A, the highest level of seniors and my most behaved class. I have 35 students in this class, and still they are more manageable than my other classes of 24 and 27. We have been reading Island of the Blue Dolphins and they love it! They are all eager to read aloud and we have been able to have fantastic class discussions. I have not had any issues with class participation like I was told I would. They have been working away on their 5-paragraph essays, and last week we started poetry at which they seem to be naturals. I even let them have a party last week since they have been working so hard and doing so well.

My senior class!
Hard at work trying to fill in the blanks to a Brett Dennen song.
Richenard literally hanging from the rafters. 
Steve and Misako playing cards during their "party."
  At 10:00, my 10E which is the lowest level of sophomores begins. After a stern talking to a couple of weeks ago I have been having less behavioral problems. However this remains a challenging class to teach because they understand very little English and I also have many special needs students so there is a large range of ability and it makes it hard to do some activities. This class is wear my energy starts to waiver, between asking them to be quiet and repeating myself in as many ways as I can think of, by the time the bell rings for lunch my head is pounding.

The elementary kids we play with during lunch. This group of boys also hangs out at my exercise class and  they sometimes walk home with us, taking turns being on Scott's shoulders.

Me tickling Ira, one of our favorite little buddies. 

        The lunch break is where I seek salvation and try to muster up the energy to make it through third period- my most energetic class. The high school and elementary school eat lunch at the same time, so the teachers have to wait until all of the students from both schools have eaten. For the first 40 minutes of lunch my freshmen are coming in and dropping off their backpacks or braiding my hair while a few of my senior boys will come draw on the art walls I have made in the back and play island remixes off of their cell phones. After a lunch of either mackerel, chicken, or sardines is served we head back to our classrooms for the last class of the day.

                I love my freshman students. They are brave and talkative and I have a very close relationship with almost all of them. Their level of comfort with me makes teaching more difficult because they are not shy to speak… so they don’t stop. They are also 13 and 14 and my class is mostly boys, so it is hard to rein them in sometimes but they are all such good kids it is hard to get angry. On Friday they presented their skits they had to create based on Beauty and the Beast which we just read. Given that cross-dressing is something this culture finds particularly humorous, all of my boys were wearing lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara and were wearing dresses. Even though the beginning of class was chaotic and I was questioning my abilities as an educator, when they performed their hilarious skits that actually met the criteria I gave them I felt relieved.

                When that 2:00 bell rings I am ready to sit and stare at a wall for an hour or two which is sometimes necessary. When I am not brain dead I usually make some coffee start grading or on more entertaining afternoons we hang out with some locals. A couple weeks ago Scott was teaching two local boys, their grandmother, and me how to juggle with overly matured beetlenuts. It turns out the grandmother Elizabeth was a natural! 
Scott teaches in his free time too :)

Elizabeth, his best student. 

 Around 5:30 depending on the day of the week, I either go exercise with the local women and Natayla, or a local lady comes to my house for our own session on the off days. I will also be starting a Zumba style workout class at my church for the women to participate in a couple nights a week after church, while the men are sitting and talking. I asked them about it last week, after seeing how much fun they had with the dancing we did for the missionary celebration and they are really excited! Hopefully I will be able to start that in the next couple of weeks.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays when I work out with the group of women in the Nahs 5-10 minutes away Scott comes to pick me up so I don’t have to walk back alone in the dark. The bats flit about overhead as we walk home, saying pong mwau to every passerby. After showering is dinner time, our most creative hour as we concoct new combinations of the same ingredients in different ways and with different spices for variety. At this time it is vital that I thank the Perkins family for sending the wonderful food, our meals have improved greatly! I never thought I would enjoy Velveeta so much.

Scott playing cards with Elizabeth's grandchildren. 
Following dinner we spend our last waking hours lesson planning with a mosquito coil in between us. If we get done early we can squeeze in an episode of Modern Family (thank you Aunt Marni!!) or catch up with some friends at home. Finally, at 11:30 pm give or take a half hour it’s bed time. After securing ourselves in our mosquito netting, we usually use the last bit of our energy to get a few laughs out of the day’s experiences before passing out into a deep sleep. My life is simultaneously the most enriching and exhausting it has ever been, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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