Back in Chuuk for round two and reunited with the crew! Having December off was a much-needed break for each one of us!
Early on January 2nd, I flew out of Salt Lake after a two and a half hour delay due to a winter storm. Near the end of my flight, I was convinced I had missed my connection in San Francisco to Japan and began brainstorming a few solutions. As I landed and discovered a miraculous short flight delay, I sprinted to the international terminal and was escorted onto my flight by the ticket agent minutes before the plane took off. My flight to Japan took off before my previous flight’s luggage was even unloaded. This being the third time my luggage has been delayed/lost, I quickly tried to figure out the quickest solution in hopes of not repeating last January – where my luggage was delayed 14 days after arriving home, all because about 50 lucky people’s luggage was never loaded onto the plane in Egypt, combined with two neighboring airline kiosks in the JFK airport refusing to coordinate with each other. For the record, I am very curious on the logistics behind airport luggage.
I landed back in Chuuk on what seems like the World’s shortest runway, and immediately felt welcomed to my island home. I was greeted with the wall of humidity and the one season Chuuk has to offer, quite a contrast from what I just had in Germany, Idaho and Utah. I went to the United office to check the status of my luggage and mistakenly thought I would find someone there. Coming straight from efficiency, I was quickly reminded to adjust to the island life mentality. On a small island, everyone is involved in just about everything. The landing crew is the luggage crew, who are the office crew, who also happen to work at the L5 restaurant down the street. So, you wait. Island life teaches you to get used to waiting, and to also be patient while waiting. I had been sitting in a strategic spot in the small airport where I could watch the United office and the front parking lot for our white truck to come pick me up.
After leaving the United office and finding out the next flight from Guam would be coming in two days, I headed outside to wait for the Chuuk crew. I miraculously ran into two American guys (quite rare!) who in passing asked if I was waiting for Josh and Amanda?! It turns out these two had been out diving with the rest of my group and their boat broke down. They informed me that my ride would most likely be delayed another hour or so.
I find it very liberating to be in a foreign country and know where I am and what to do. I found WiFi to let my family know I had landed, and went to reactivate my phone. Of course the one person to reactivate it was on his lunch break, but I left feeling hopeful it would be working later that day after I paid the fees. I caught a taxi home and saw the white truck in front of our house. Everyone had just made it home after not finding me at the airport since making it back from diving. There was major rejoicing as we reunited and caught up in depth on how the Salt Lake meeting and our December break had gone.
A concept that has been commonly discussed among our group is that with so many unknown factors in the future of this initiative, from both the Chuuk administration and Salt Lake Self Reliance, we’ve decided that during our remaining few months here, we are going to focus more on enjoying our time on the island! During our first round, most of us put a lot of time and energy into lesson planning, grading, trying to find vital answers from key players in this education initiative, and trying to solve some serious Chuuk problems. We’ve gained some insight through those experiences (while learning more about the realities of Chuuk) and rather than wearing ourselves out by tirelessly paddling on an already sinking boat, we’re consciously re-focusing our energy. There’s a fine line to battle nearly every day – when to keep pushing for progress and when to let go.
We live on an island and we’re going to enjoy all it has to offer a little more. We’re going to spend more time on making sure we’re refueling ourselves through enjoyable activities…backyard Wiffle Ball, now loving called WAF, is a common activity, rain or shine! I’m going to focus more on building my relationships with people – the students, teachers, branch members, and other island folk.
Some notable things since being back for two weeks in Chuuk:
- I did finally receive my luggage, after it was sent to Hawaii and then finally to Chuuk, five days after I arrived. Once again, super curious about luggage logistics
- The school gym has miraculously been completed, and along with our church building, they are the nicest buildings on the island
- Christmas 2.0 occurred for Josh, Amanda, Ben and Katlyn and was a major success! A big thank you to their parents for playing a big part in a secret surprise for them!
- Our island and a few Seminary students were featured in the December 2016 New Era
- Finding out one of our favorite 10th grade gals, Arma was baptized with two of her younger siblings one week before I returned
- Seeing my students again and giving them “new” Kool-Aid flavors
- Witnessing a miracle where 11 individuals were baptized after their island had been closed for missionary work for 10+ years
- Having our monthly in-service training for Seminary and Institute teachers
- Visiting Ramunam’s Seminary class and seeing my favorite teacher
Back to eating overpriced, imported food from a box or can and potentially being expired, back to the endless hours of crazy dogs barking, back to geckos on the walls, back to stagnant humid air, back to brushing off bugs from nearly every surface, back to always being wet, back to the smell of ramen and Kool-Aid, back to potential power outages, back to small windows of unreliable WiFi, back to wondering what good we really are making given our situation, back to never being given a clear answer from any questions asked, back to having our patience tested on a daily basis, back to living on an island and teaching high school, back to seven of us piling in one white truck, back to the best $1 ice cream, back to boat rides to visit outer islands, back to the adventure of a lifetime, back to focusing on simplicity on every level, back to lasting friendships, back to praying for miracles after May, back to what feels like a second mission…it’s good to be back in Chuuk!