When It Chuuks, It Pours

I understand unforeseen challenges are a real thing. What causes me great frustration is when there are so many problems that could have been and can be quite easily avoided, and are not. In addition, I’ve been told (and at times experienced) that the culture in Chuuk is not big on gratitude. I’ve been told these words here and they have stuck with me: “very few will be thankful for what you do, so you have to be grounded in yourself.”

Months ago, we began the process of ordering two cars in order to increase our already limited independence, freedom and efficiency of life in Chuuk, although we have become quite skilled in coordinating seven schedules with one truck. Payment was sent incorrectly, the cars were not put on the ship the first time, and then there was no room the second time. Not to mention that EVERYTHING in Chuuk is a lengthy process! You miss one window and you’re in for the long haul. So, you mentally check that off the list of things you will see in your Chuuk lifetime. Most of us are on week six of following up for our flights home to be confirmed. I’m still working on tracking down and getting three missing checks of mine (one since August). Bills to keep the school functioning at it’s full capacity go unpaid. Wi-Fi is shut off, power goes out, and printer toner is nowhere to be found, just in time for third quarter midterms. In my opinion, unnecessary problems are a daily battle.

Recently, two of the faces behind the corruption at the Department of Education (DOE) came to meet with all Chuuk High staff. The DOE is actively fighting against any and all positive change Chuuk High School is doing, while no longer trying to hide their level of corruption to the public. The two DOE representatives came to meet with all Chuuk High teachers and instantly got peoples’ blood boiling during a two-hour meeting. They threatened, they lied, they contradicted, they dodged all questions, they blamed others, they took zero responsibility, they interrupted, they disrespected, they gave routine speeches and they ignored; bonus that some of their own family members are part of the administration and staff at Chuuk High. This is the education and government leadership of Chuuk. The meeting ended with extreme frustration and it was confirmed – what we had just witnessed is the very reason why change seems impossible in Chuuk. The only option seems to be to wait for the leaders to die, but the problem is, Chuuk functions within family tribes, so once the current leader dies, the next one will take his place and most likely be no better than the last. We’ve been told the last 30 years have proven this pattern. Government elections are March 7th and there are “Positive Change for Chuuk” banners nearly everywhere you go. It’s nearly impossible to have hope when the faces on those banners are the very ones leading the corruption and halting positive change from happening.

Within the same week, we had a dairy thief in our home. Thankfully nothing extremely valuable was taken, but dairy is like gold on this island, and at times is as expensive as gold. Our landlords have a guess that teenage kids are behind it, as they have also had fruit from their trees missing lately. Missing fruit and dairy seem small in comparison to some of the things that circulate here. Crime is a major problem in Chuuk! There are attempted murders each day on an island that’s only 14 square miles. Recently, two gruesome murders occurred quite close to home, while we’ve been told the band of 5 or so killers continue to hide out in the hill behind our house. Great.

Wi-Fi is a rare little gem in Chuuk. The optimistic goal is to get a small window of Wi-Fi each day; some weeks that is a little too ambitious. Imagine having just a couple hours of Wi-Fi per week (sometimes in 5 minute increments) to try and accomplish the following:

  • Emails – responding, following up, reaching out, following up again
  • Staying in touch with friends and family
  • Working on lessons for school
  • Updating blogs
  • Checking on finances (one must keep a close eye when you make $7.20 an hour and still have bills to pay on your life back in America)
  • Job searching, networking
  • Trying to find out what’s going on in the world outside of our small island
  • Ambitiously trying to load a 3-minute YouTube video for a mental break
  • Attempting to plan for life after Chuuk

A few times a week, you only get to choose one to focus on…and it’s all about speed because the Wi-Fi could and will cut out without warning.

In high school teaching news, my classes finished reading The Giver, my favorite book from when I was in high school. One of their assignments was to write a letter to one of the main characters in the book. I originally thought to then have students respond to a different classmate’s letter, but then remembered there is life outside of Chuuk and thought I’d take it up a level. A big THANK YOU to 11 kind friends who jumped at the opportunity to tap into their inner Jonas, Fiona and The Giver, and respond as the characters to each student. It took some coaxing, but I successfully convinced 91 students that their letters would be sent and they would receive an answer to their letter. I’m still wrapping up this fun project, pending my Wi-Fi accessibility, but the students ask on a daily basis for the update on their letters. Another teaching win!

The Giver letters – pen pal dreams are about to come true in Chuuk!

Sitting in Church each Sunday for three hours, in a language I don’t understand, for six months, allows for quite a bit of personal scripture study and time to ponder. I started reading Jesus The Christ, and have been thinking about this concept:

“The Eternal Father well understood the diverse natures and varied capacities of His spirit offspring; and His infinite foreknowledge made plain to Him, even in the beginning, that in the school of life some of His children would succeed and others would fail; some would be faithful, others false; some would choose the good, others the evil; some would seek the way of life while others would elect to follow the road to destruction. He further foresaw that death would enter the world, and that the possession of bodies by His children would be of but brief individual duration. He saw that His commandments would be disobeyed and His law violated; and that men, shut out from His presence and left to themselves, would sink rather than rise, would retrogress rather than advance, and would be lost to the heavens.”

He knew. How does He handle it? He copes with it in ways I cannot comprehend.

The Yaingeluo sisters. All three will be serving missions at the same time. Sisi (left) is headed to Japan. Two more calls are expected any day now.

While serving a mission in Romania, I felt as though all my weaknesses surfaced and my strengths were magnified. Here in Chuuk, I feel as though I have been pushed to many of my breaking points and I’ve been forced to find my own solutions in dealing with them, with extremely limited outlets. Sometimes it seems as though the only options for survival are: letting it go, changing the situation, changing yourself, and giving it to the Lord. You choose which battle to fight in a calm moment.



One thought on “When It Chuuks, It Pours

  1. Chantel March 2, 2017 / 5:23 pm

    OH my goodness, Rachel. I seriously cannot even imagine the life you are living. You share moments in meetings or day-to-day living, but to be in this situation nonstop, it would absolutely push anyone to their limit! I gotta say that i laughed out loud at this line: “The only option seems to be to wait for the leaders to die.” HAHAHA! Okay, but seriously. CORRUPT, yes. And the murderers living behind your house – sooo scary!! And the dairy thief – CURSE HIM!! I hope the story plays out like this: The dairy thief gets murdered by the backyard killers who then become infected, and it turns out that the murderers are the government officials, and they end up infecting all their family members, and they all die.

    I love how you ended the post with such beautiful thoughts. You are doing SO well as a teacher, and I’m sure your kids appreciate you so much, even if words of gratitude aren’t expressed. You are the most positive exemplar that many of them probably have in their lives. And impressionable minds crave that. And I love that you are reading Jesus the Christ. On my bucket list, friend! I love the quote you shared, and I’ve had similar thoughts – How does Heavenly Father have such patience for the small capacities of some of His children?

    I love you my friend!! Way to hang in there!!


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