Truckbed full of breadfruit, coconuts and sugarcane to be passed out at the Lelu church building last weekend.
Happy 4th of July! My last 24 hours in the States!
"When Time is against us
We are only aware of its vicious nature
Its cruel temperament
Its lack of concern for our safety and well being
Of its slimy, far-reaching tentacles
Dragging us down into a world of fear riddled adrenaline.
Who knows the duality of Time?
Who knows the children, loved ones,
Triumphs, memories, and healing
That Time graciously ushers down
Our narrow tunnel of existence?
We only acknowledge Time when we have been cheated by it.
We have stretched out the sheet of Time enveloping us- protecting us. We stretched the outgrown blanket of Time, instead of discarding what will now strangle us. We streeeeetched time frantically until the other side of reality, once blocked by the fortitude of time without end, was a fuzzy but resolute image staring us in our frightened faces.
We stretched time thin -so thin- thin enough to
and spew forth all of its revolting innards: fear, loss, blame and trepidation.
And it wasn’t until we were Drowning,
In this sea of (Time’s innards) that we realized we were swimming in the poison from our own ribcage.”
Okay, I have no idea who this munchkin is. I found his picture on the facebook group for WorldTeach Kosrae volunteers and I couldn’t help but post it. Come on, isn’t everything about this picture ADORABLE?
(I can’t wait…)
I realize I may have inadvertently surprised more than a few of you with the announcement that I’m leaving the country to teach writing. The traveling and writing shouldn’t have surprised anyone for the most part. The teaching part is what might have, or rather, should have thrown you for a loop. I realize everyone has that one thing they cannot and will not do. Two years ago, teaching was decisively mine.
While I sat here trying to figure out how I could possibly explain the journey that led me to apply as a teacher halfway across the world, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do so without first blaming the economy. Now, before you roll your eyes, I’ll rephrase- I wouldn’t be able to explain my current situation without first praising the economy.
The ”problem” with my generation lies at the intersection of our rearing and our reality. We are young Americans; growing up we were constantly bombarded with the “you can do anything, the American dream is yours to grasp” mindset. We sauntered into college with the promise that hard work would propel us forward into our dream job. College was a hazardous catapult, scooping us up from the halls of our high schools, raising us above our peers; we were thrust forward with the promises of job security and wealth, only to slam headfirst into a brick wall. We graduated into a world of limited options, a world of “you’re a bright individual with a promising resume but, I’m sorry, we just have no budget for a (insert dream job title)”. Reared and trained perfectly for our chosen field, we are soldiers with no mission, no purpose- devoid of meaning.
And yet, within this juxtaposition lies a subtle beauty. Don’t pity my generation- we have become masters of humility and mutability; a dangerous combination. Gone are the visions of business suits, 9 to 5 hours, and job benefits; instead we don aprons, serve coffee, and avoid the emergency room. We do not fear the new, the change. We have been forced to venture out of the confines of the ideal. Exploration is our game- a game that births new outlets of creativity and passion. The last-option-job at the shoe store next door gives way to a life-long passion for running and a genuine niche within the athletic shoe market. The frustrated business major, stuck waiting tables, transforms his existence into that of a young entrepreneur creating revolutionary websites for the food and beverage industry.
We continually find ourselves beyond the realm of our college expectations- recreating our options, recreating ourselves.
David Sedaris, one of my favorite authors, once wrote: “Look at yourself on the day that you graduated from college, then look at yourself today. I did that recently, and it was like, “Yikes! What the hell happened?” The answer, of course, is life…stuff comes up. Weird doors open. People fall into things. Maybe the engineering whiz will wind up brewing cider, not because he has to, but because he finds it challenging. Who knows?”
We are a generation stumbling, falling through open doors. Weird doors, yes, but most importantly, open doors.
My weird door opened shortly after college graduation. I swear I missed out on that post-grad, “the world is at my fingertips” sensation. Instead, I balked at my release, with the collegiate hand pushing at my back on one side, the world and its bleak economy on the other, daring me to cross the threshold. To this day, I’m not sure I ever actually crossed over. I’m confident I’ve created a limbo reality, a partially carved out cave sheltering me from the monotony of corporate jobs yet allowing me to usher in strange and new gigs. My post-grad persona is an accumulation of interests, passion and experimentation: a creative writing teacher, part-time Spanish teacher, volunteer ESL teacher, part-time writer for PR firms and a call center employee (I’ll consider that one a failed experiment).
Teaching is my weird door. Teaching was that ugly, cringe-worthy word during college that accompanied the raised eyebrow from folks inquiring as to my plans after graduation: “So, you’re an English Major? Soooo, what do you want to do with that when you graduate? …Teach?” I told myself I wasn’t cut out for teaching, that the responsibility and patience required for the job made me the ideal “anti-teacher”.
And then life happens, as it always does. I pursued my obsession with traveling, giving back to and exploring different cultures. I applied to the Peace Corps, WorldTeach and any other organization that would give me a second glance. Eager to make myself relevant as an overseas volunteer, I picked up a volunteer position with a local outreach center teaching English to adults. Shortly after, I landed a unique job with Lango, a foreign language company, teaching Spanish to children ages 6-12. Not long after that, I started volunteering at an under-resourced elementary school teaching 4th and 5th graders the art of creative writing.
Two years later, I look forward to a classroom full of eager 4th graders ready for a new writing prompt or a class of smiling adults waiting to use new English phrases they learned that weekend. I find myself anxious for that moment when Emeterio, the chef from Mexico tells me about his weekend, never once relying on my assistance with the past tense; that moment when Keon hands me a story that is so imaginative and yet dripping with allusions of his troubles at home that I don’t know whether to comfort him or high-five him for his creativity. I look around for the real teacher who must be responsible for these moments, but it’s just me- a young, naïve girl who just happened to fall through a very strange, very weird door.
So that is how I find myself 30 days away from standing in front of a classroom of high school students in Kosrae, Micronesia- no teaching certificate, moderate experience and two notches North of terrified.
I pity my students already.
I’ll bring to them everything I’ve acquired thus far- patience, understanding, an open mind and a smile. It’s not much but I’ll offer it. Funny thing is, I’m not scared of arriving empty-handed. The experiences I’ll gain are ones I’ll always have. I’m sure there will be moments of role-reversal and I’ll gain valuable insight from my students. It always happens. Don’t ask me how I’ll transfer these experiences into “real-world skills” when I return, I may just resort back to my cave of strange gigs. At least I know now I need not fear the economy, the change, the polite rejection. If and when that happens I suppose I’ll reinvent myself, drawing on skills I’ve acquired along the way. If and when that happens I suppose I’ll find the thing that challenges me, makes me come alive.
If and when that happens I suppose I’ll just find myself a new, weird door.
I leave the country in two months. I leave the country for a year in two months. It was just yesterday that the prospect of leaving the country to teach writing was simply that: a prospect. A far off, half-formed prospect lingering between commitment and illusion. But yesterday is yesterday and today is tomorrow and in the world of tomorrows time is a very real, very visceral force. In the world of tomorrows time smacks you in the face before flying by, much like the neck-snapping, hair-whipping downward descent on the world’s fastest roller coaster. But this ride doesn’t drop you safely off mere feet from where you boarded. This ride plops you off in another country, another continent, another world.
I leave the country in two months. I leave the country for a year in two months for Micronesia.
The word itself doesn’t register much response from friends and family, other than excitement based on the unknown or possibly the exotic appeal attached to its name. Breaking the news of my near-future endeavor to acquaintances has become a game to me. Over the past 6 months I’ve categorized the typical responses: there’s the blank stare, the throwing-up-of-the-hands in a “I have no idea where that is but, hey, I’m happy for you” gesture and, my favorite, the ” Ohhhh, yes, yes. Micronesia. Must be that small city in Indonesia!”
I leave the country in two months for Micronesia. If that alone doesn’t make you run for a map, I’ll gladly throw another wrench into the mix: I leave the country in two months for Kosrae, Micronesia. Now that I’ve inevitably shattered any sense of confidence in your world geography skills allow me to introduce you to this small slice of paradise (and I use “paradise” in the broadest sense of the word) that I will call home for the next 11 months.
Micronesia consists of 607 islands stretched across the Pacific Ocean just east of the Philippine Islands. The Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of the island groups of Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap and the single island of (drum roll…) Kosrae. Through the years, ownership of the islands has passed through the hands of Germany, Japan and, until recently, the good ol’ US of A. Although now considered an independent nation, Micronesia is still in a “free association” relationship with the U.S. and receives over $100 million annually from oh-so-generous Uncle Sam.
Whether by choice, force or complacency, Micronesia has managed to rise from the status of a flea-ridden yet satisfied and healthy rescue dog to that of a plump lap dog with all the airs of freedom and independence and yet who still looks to its distracted owner for its next meal (which usually consists of imported meat). Too harsh?
Kosrae is the most eastern state of Micronesia, located between Guam and the Hawaiian Islands. Considered one of the more traditional and untouched islands in Micronesia, Kosrae is home to a very gentle and religious people. Possibly due to the influx of Christian missionaries in the mid 1800’s, Kosraean life is much more conventional than that of its capital brother-state, Pohnpei.
My role in Kosrae will be that of a volunteer teacher at one or more of the public schools on the island. English is widely spoken and is considered to hold equal footing with the traditional language, Kosraean. I will teach English classes with a focus on essay writing. At the end of the school year, high school seniors will take a national exam to test into the College of Micronesia. So, yes, folks, I shall set out to save the world one comma splice lesson at a time ;).
So with great zeal/ fervor/ hesitation/anticipation I call Kosrae home for the 2012-2013 school year. I write while Kosrae is still a there and not yet a here in an attempt to remember this person, this state of mind, the fears and expectations, this naïve and untested person. I’m warned repeatedly, “Don’t hold any expectations- come empty of goals and illusions”.
I’ll do my best.
I also write to stabilize- a metaphorical digging your toes in the sand against the pull of the receding water. I’ve found myself among tomorrows, a world where time takes what once was a simple dream, half-formed, still in it’s ethereal, delicate state and shoves it fully formed and unrecognizable into your face. In the world of tomorrows you belong to tomorrow, along for the ride with its bumps and mind-numbing speeds.
I leave the country in two months for a year. I leave the country in two months for a year for Micronesia. I don’t pretend to have it all together at this point. I don’t pretend to have zero hesitations about tromping blindly onto an island denoted by a single dot on most maps. But I belong to tomorrow and I’m along for the ride and I have every intention of hunkering down and bracing myself for wherever it is you end up in this world of tomorrows ;).