It puts a smile on my face and hope in my heart when I meet people such as Delight and Solution. Yes, those are their names; Chuuk does not disappoint in the department of creative names. Delight, a Chuukese-born man, now living in Guam, who came back to Chuuk before the government elections to try and get involved in improving the political situation. Or Solution, a taxi driver/local food market manager who strongly believes the way for Chuuk to improve is to bring in more English-speaking teachers, and thanked me for what I was doing for his people, when I got in his taxi on a rainy day. Bless those people and bless their efforts.
Paul Hadik was recently honored on his last day at Chuuk High, as the school’s library was named after him. (Shout out to Andrew for pulling together an incredible sign in record time. You are the true MacGyver/McGuyver/Mikchifer/Mackkipher of Chuuk! You may choose your own spelling and also change it each time your write it, in true Chuukese fashion.) Paul has spent the last 25 years in Micronesia (5 in Chuuk) working to improve education. He has courageously battled against the corrupt Department of Education here and drastically improved Chuuk High over the years. Paul has been one of the school’s vice-principals as well as SRS’ point of contact in Chuuk. Thank you, Paul, for the lasting impact you’ve had! We wish you the best in Hawaii.
The Giver pen pals were a major success! The letters were sent and 10 fantastic souls responded! My students, especially my 9th graders, had been asking on a daily basis when they were going to hear back about their letters. The week finally came that I received all the letters, I was able to access enough Wi-Fi to download them all, and then was able to use the principal’s computer to print them all! (It often takes a village and a lot of patience to pull off ambitious projects). The students were ecstatic to get their letters! After they each read their letter, they couldn’t wait to read their friends’ letters! Their reactions were priceless. I heard things such as:
“Miss, this is so cool!”
“This is so special!”
“I’m going to frame this!”
“Fiona actually wrote me back!”
“Guys, I got a letter from The Giver!”
Thanks to my friends and students, I had a winner of an island birthday celebrating March 12th over the entire weekend! My 9A kids came into class on Friday singing happy birthday in unison while carrying a giant birthday card (thank you, Amanda J!), a solid L5 feast and surprise cake and singing by the staff and Chuuk crew, an Olympic movie, soul chats on Sunday, card games and more cake! Being 17 hours ahead, I was excited to continue the celebration for an extra day with those at home! Thank you all for making it a great one!
My church calling combined with my interactions with the elders in Chuuk, I often feel like I am a full-time missionary again. In our January Seminary/Institute in-service, I was excited to find out Chuuk would be getting another senior couple who would be focusing on helping build and support CES here. The previous senior couple had left right before I arrived in Chuuk, and I was asked to help fill the role they had played within CES by the Director of Seminary and Institute in Guam.
Elder and Sister Grimshaw from Oregon have arrived and are going to be a fantastic addition! They were given the assignment to help support Seminary and Institute in Chuuk, and to also figure out/discover/create what the rest of their 18 months would entail. I’ve got to say, I know 100% how they feel! It seems as though us outsiders coming to Chuuk have all had figure it out on our own – teaching at the schools and our callings in the branch – what that really means and how to do it! As our time in Chuuk is winding down, a few of us have had quite the struggle trying to figure out how to accurately capture this Chuuk experience on our resumes, as we’ve begun the adventure of job searching for life after Chuuk.
A different project than was originally presented + minimal guidance + wide open for self-initiative and creativity + limited resources + a culture with little to no accountability + island time + corruption + mentality of plan on it not working and be surprised when it does + never getting a straight answer + limited freedom and outlets = Chuuk your own adventure!
One of my motivating factors in coming to Chuuk was to try and get a job within the self-reliance department of the Church after my time working on a self-reliance project. Despite my efforts over the last several months, I seem to have only hit dead ends for self-reliance employment after Chuuk. Over the last 9 years of working, networking, continuing to define my passions and purposes, I’ve come to learn that with disappointment and frustration also comes the opportunity for reflection and learning. There are often days when I feel like character-building experiences are over-rated. I understand that in ordered to grow, one must be pushed and stretched, but then there are the days, weeks, months, and even years, when you feel like you’re going to split from being pulled too hard for too long.
Ben and I recently had a conversation about how it takes time to adjust to how things function in Chuuk and how to work with it. We briefly rewound back to what our thoughts and feelings were at the beginning. We’ve since adjusted; we have to roll with a lot more now, and what normal is for us here would not fly in the business world elsewhere. There are those moments when you get a reminder of what normal really is for us, and are then quickly reminded that our current reality is not normal. But you’re forced to readjust to Chuuk normal in order to mentally survive. I often feel like I am constantly trying to solve a complex riddle, without being given enough information, while being timed. Some days you think so hard trying to solve it that your head hurts, and some days you block out you were even told the riddle to begin with. #survival
There are two blog posts I’ve come across over the last year with concepts that really resonate with me:
Coping with the unfairness of life: this is a concept often on my mind – because of my own experiences as well as from what I have heard of and witnessed from others. Some ignore it, some tackle it, some are open about it, some mask it, some try and escape, and some end it. Some patiently bare it, some become angry, and some seem to have overcome it. But dealing with adversity is something we all have in common.
“Our unique opportunities lie in the way we each bare our burdens.” (Man’s Search for Meaning)