Saturday, October 25, 2014

Catch Up

I keep neglecting to write anything on the blog because so much time has passed since I wrote about something other than our Weekend Retreat. I want to give all this time an accurate portrayal and represent it correctly, but each week it gets harder as more time passes. So this is my attempt to bring it up to speed so that I can talk about current events as they happen and make sure this stuff actually gets written down and not forgotten!

Today after church I was driving home wearing my polarized lenses which cut the glare off the ocean and reveal a deeper aqua/teal tint and reef below. It was so sad looking at it, so close, yet so far away. Some of you asked why we can't swim on Sabbath and the short is SM's are held to a higher standard than everyone else. Even if church members are doing something (drinking coffee, wearing "short" shorts, swimming on Sabbath, etc.) that doesn't mean we can do it. I've grown up in the Adventist church my whole life and while it is my culture and an awesome community, it to a fault can be associated with legalist ideals-and that's just not me and it sucks.

Friends, family, and especially teachers have continually told me to go into politics. They think that my strong opinions, choleric personality, and desire for argument and opposition coincide with politics, but I've never thought that would be a good idea for me. I hate the "fishbowl effect"- It's been called a glass house and even characterized as being a poster boy. Unfortunately being an SM is all of them.

I really enjoy personality/aptitude/character tests and I take them at every opportunity. The most recent one I took for WWU said that my respect of rules was a 1 out of 10. This isn't to say I'm a hooligan who tries to get in trouble, I simply try to look at the root and reason for the rule and using good judgement decide if my decision affects anyone or anything negatively, is illegal, or brings any guilt. If not, I go for it.
Now I knew this would be a problem for this year, so I suffocated it deep within the week before I left the States and while I adjusted super well and it lay mostly dormant, it's slowly starting to come out of hibernation. It's hard to remove a core part of your personality and decision making process and simply listen to someone else's rules. What's hard is upholding others to rules you yourself don't agree with. I again am realizing I could never be in the military, ever. What makes it worse is that at the end of the day, I'm not talking about anything truly substantial. I'm not even trying to do anything crazy/bad/extreme - I'm complaining because I can't drink coffee or get in the water past my ankles on my day off and that makes it worse because it's not something bad enough worth "revolting" over.

In coinciding news, I've got the guys discussing politics and we're working towards getting everyone to take the isidwith.com political quiz. I take this quiz about every 4-6 months to see how my opinions change and guess what, they still are changing! I came out 82% Libertarian, 79% Conservative Party, 78% Constitution. Tell the two party system sorry for me.

The guys in the apartment started reading Wild at Heart as a group, and although I've never read it before, my thought process already coincided with the author's so it didn't seem like new information. At least in the first couple chapters. My struggle is the feeling of over-domestication. I in no way feel that teaching is a woman's job, but I feel that I am mothering a classroom of preteens all week and then following the rules like a child on the weekend. I just need to GO. Go running, go driving, go fishing, go diving, go hiking, go anything, just stop grading, cooking, and watching movies in my free time.  I just feel like chicken that's cooped; not allowed to move, but simply there to exist and drop eggs for the consumption of others- and that doesn't feel great.

This cooped feeling has only developed in the last few weeks though. Three of the guys, myself included, bought spear guns in early September and have enjoyed going out early (4:30) a few Sundays when other things have not been scheduled. Unfortunately our crude trigger set up started to malfunction. In other words, the guns fire when we don't want them to. Which makes fishing that much more exciting when a spear can release at any time! We are fixing them and hopefully we'll get back out there for some more Snappers and Parrot fish. I will say that while it is fun for me, I'm glad I don't fish purely for sustenance as I would be a hungry man.

I mentioned before that we are in the rainy season here in Palau and the rain seems to show its face in the least opportune times which is pretty much every Sunday and Holiday. Palau celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence on October 1st, which was celebrated the Sunday before as well as on Wednesday, the 1st. Both events at the Bridge and Capitol tried to continue, but the weather dampened spirits and clothing, and ultimately resulted in leaving early. Yesterday was U.N. Day and the main road was closed off for a parade. Bethlehem Park was full of booths just like the other holidays. For a country of only 18k, these guys put on a fair amount of celebration! It's just too bad the weather never agrees with them. So once again we went home early to watch a movie.

Pathfinders was a lot of fun when I was ten, eleven, and even a little bit of twelve, but now... I haven't decided how I feel about it. I'm involved with Pathfinders here which is something I didn't plan to do, at least for a couple decades. But there I am with the beret and scarf marching down the main strip of downtown Koror with the marching band for the U.N. Parade. Pathfinders here is focused on Classwork and drilling and marching which is almost polar opposite of the Pathfinders I grew up with, but I look forward to teaching these kids the safety and first aid honors as well as camping with them when the time comes!

I've found a new hobby. A way of feeling epic.
Inception- the movie was great, but the music is better because it can distort any reality into makebelieve. The way I use the internet has changed significantly since coming to Palau. I used to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Instagram, 500px, CNN, and music & photo blogs, but the dismal internet has led me to more text heavy applications such as news. CNN tries to play a video for every article you pull up, so I have begun to read the New York Times fairly often. Now the idea of sitting down on a Sunday morning with coffee in one hand and a NYTimes in the other is one of pure sophistication, a look of power. But try reading the words "embargo policy" while the eerie pulsing music of inception is ringing out in your ears and you will feel like you are in the middle of a House of Cards episode. It's awesome. So seriously next time you're doing something somewhat mundane, put on the Inception soundtrack. Who knows even washing dishes could be pretty cool with a little theme music!

I mentioned long ago that I was playing basketball in the city league. We had just lost our first game after no practices together and I hadn't touched a basketball in years. We were told that we had played one of the best teams in the country and I thought that translated to a great season ahead of us. What I didn't know is that the other team didn't have their 3 best players and we would only have a total of 6 players to depend on each game. It turned out to be very similar to the Hood View Hornets Season of '05-My first year playing organized sports at a school with its first team in history. It was a rough time. We lost every game by 20 or 30 points and I started regarding it as simply exercise. That essentially came true of our season this year. Our team was 6 teachers from the school, a couple of which had never played before. Let's just say I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever play a full game without substitution and put up 25 points. That's just not me. The height of my career was starting 2 games in a row for the JV team at Portland Adventist haha! So it was a rough season and ended with a power outtage during the third quarter of our last game. Oh that's another thing. The power randomly goes out in the afternoons/nights about every other week. And the main pipe that brings water into the city of Koror (where the church, school, gym, everything is) sprung a big ol' leak a couple weeks ago, so the water is turned off for most of the day. Palau is weird in that it's very westernized and you get comfortable in your AC room, but the "for granteds" - the power and water still manage to throw you off guard.
Don't misunderstand this for complaining, I'm just trying to give a recount of what's happening.

Very little traveling and adventuring has happened in the past 8 weeks. It's mostly been teaching, the school grind and the whole reason I'm actually here. It unfortunately doesn't include many awesome pictures and I can't share many of the stories for the sake of privacy. What I can say is that some of my kids have gone to hell and back in just a few short years and have had to deal with more than I may ever deal with in my whole life.
I've found that having them journal has been an amazing way to connect to each of them personally and to understand them and their background so much better. One major theme that has really impressed me and gotten my attention is the general Asian philosophy of bringing honor to your family.  This week a student wrote in her journal about how she gets up at 3 am everyday to study for her memory verse quiz and spelling test and tells her mom that she'll "do my best for you because that's how much I love her and I promised her I'll always do my best no matter what." this student has along with others stayed after school everyday for the past 5 weeks to tutor and now that the quarter just ended two days ago, it looks like that with a little more hard work in second quarter, every student who is taking school for credit will pass onto 7th grade! That might sound like a joke, but that is honestly a huge accomplishment for both me and my kids who have been staying after school everyday to tutor for the past 5 weeks. It's so disheartening when your students fail, but also so encouraging when they somehow make it work.

Having favorite students is inevitable. They say you shouldn't do it, but let's face reality, it happens. The funny part is watching which students become which teacher's favorites, sometimes it catches you off guard. For me, it's my student who I'm going to call Bart because he quite frankly reminds me of the fictional character of Bart Simpson. This kid is always in trouble with one of the other teachers at the school and is always playing a prank on one of the kids. I was warned about Bart before school started as he was a "ruthless bully", but that's not true at all! He's super sweet and smart and extremely hyperactive with no focus, but he's hilarious. He has michief written all over him and he has all kinds of little gadgets for annoyance that seem to appear weekly- I've started a collection of confiscated items. About week 3 I realized the only way to make it work was to jump aboard the mischief express and try to direct it in the right direction. I started helping him plan and execute harmless funny pranks instead and it made a huge difference in how the kids interacted with him as he previously was not well received for obvious reasons. I let him hide in the cupboards where the kids put their backpacks everyday and during recess he snuck back into the classroom to hide. Then I called for the girls to get their books and wow did they ever scream! Bart rolled out onto the floor dying of laughter and the kids realizing that I was in on it didn't get mad at Bart and we all had a good laugh.

I will never understand the self infliction of pain. Sometimes I find that I laugh with the kids and other times just plain at them :). The boys learned how to throw a football this year and that has become the cool thing to do during recess. What's even better than throwing the football though is trying to catch it creatively. The guys have started jumping in the air and trying to catch the ball between the legs. Obviously male anatomy was not designed for this purpose and it often leads to many fetal positions in the middle of the gym.

Bart has a small amount of focus and I often find myself trying to get him to pay attention instead of goofing off, but this time something was different. He had scooted his chair back so that he could swing his legs out from under his desk. He twirled a wooden ruler in his hands like a rotisserie chicken and he eyed it like it was a prize jewel. Then he slowly raised it above his head, closed his eyes and swung down with all his might snapping himself right in the crotch. He yelled out in pain and rolled on the floor. I laughed so hard I started crying and the other kids sat there clueless as to what happend that their teacher was crying from the podium and their classmate was rolling around on the floor for while they were reading to themselves. I will never forget that moment. By some miracle Bart is also going to pass onto 7th grade!

The first few weeks were a little hectic but I got in the rhythm of teaching about the 6th week, but I definitely would not have made it so smooth without the help from my family. A big shout out to them for shipping me school supplies and an extra big thanks to my brother Brian who gave me such sound teaching advice, help, materials, time, everything. My kids would definitely not be learning as much as they are now if it weren't for all his help. And for all those that have been thinking of or praying for us or helped me in getting here, thank you!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ngemelis Weekend Cont.

Honestly Labor Day weekend was 6 weeks ago and I've been so busy blogging has been put on the back burner, but I’m feeling a bit guilty so I thought I would write a little content instead of watching a movie tonight!

The day after the magical stars was spent jamming on the Uke and listening to Joey freestyle about the island. We had lunch and then a double rainbow graced us! On the beach is Dave with his suntanning umbrella and to the right is the cooking building.


We then hiked around the island’s perimeter to explore. There’s absolutely no swimming for SM’s even though we’re on an uninhabited island, so it made the trek so sticky and sweaty I fogged my sunglasses. 
In the rocky shallows on the other side of Ngemelis (in a tide pool like area) was a baby eel. Joey wanted to get an up close and personal video with the eel, but he scared it and the eel straight jumped out of the water. It made my skin crawl for a split second, yikes. We continued around until we got to the Ranger Station on top of the hill so you can overlook the whole little island. From what I can tell, no one ever uses it, but rather it is there to scare people into thinking someone is there watching over the island when they see the lights that are always left on.

From the Ranger Station



 
 Saturday night we went out spearfishing for the first time. Joe Andrew and I grabbed a gun and a light and swam like mad. We traded off the gun, flashlight, and uselessness in rotation, but in the end I took my one shot and got myself one Boxfish. (I've also been keeping track of my shots/fish ratio and so far I'm winning amongst the SM's! But they don’t like to hear about it:)) Boxfish are kinda different looking and taste a little tough. So when we got back later about 1 am and had a fish fry, I mostly stuck to the fish that the Palauans caught- Parrotfish and Snapper. Some people got a little bold and tried livers and eyeballs and the like, but I pretty much just ate the main fillet.

Honestly I don't know exactly when I took this picture, but it's one of my favorites from the weekend. These clouds were unreal that weekend and I took full advantage both days.


The storm was coming in so I moved my hammock under the covered area and slept like a rock until the morning came and I saw that I had made the right choice. Then it was time to clean up and pack out onto the boat that would take us to the next adventure.


Next we hit the diamond of Palau and one of the most unique places on the planet – Jellyfish Lake. In this freshwater lake, jellyfish have managed to lose their ability to sting making it possible for us to touch and swim with them. Handling jellyfish is so unique-I like it. Unfortunately, it’s so dense and they’re so fragile that everyone ends up kicking a few and splitting them into tiny little pieces. Fins and scuba gear is outlawed to help compensate for this, but even casual swimming is enough to set these little guys off. 


 I wouldn't be a real tourist if I didn't get my classic GP selfie!

This was a bucket list item I hope to repeat in the near future for sure!

Unfortunately my Gopro battery died shortly after this shot and the rest of the day went undocumented, But in short we went to famous dive spots like Blue Corner and Drop Off and snorkeled in the shallows above the cliffs feeding the fish our left over rice and bread from the weekend. We boated around between the little rock islands like a video game and stopped at Paradise Island and Cemetery. After it had all come to a close, we jumped in the bow of the boat with a tarp over us and headed back to Koror. The surf was picking up and the waves were becoming a little large even for our huge dive boat. The bow bounced up and down as we bounced side to side into each other and into the gunnels hoping the next wave wouldn't do as much damage to our spines as the last. Having broken my coccyx last winter I was having an even more exciting time and yet we were laughing the whole way because somehow someone else always seemed to be experiencing more pain than us! I think we looked a little ridiculous-5 people huddled under a tarp in the bow bouncing around and yelling at the jarring,  but we didn't really care because we had just seen some of the most beautiful parts of the world.