A Lifetime of Memories

Great news – the two vehicles that were ordered for our group last fall, arrived just in time for our final few weeks in Chuuk! Although the two cars we now have are not the ones that were originally ordered, and both arrived with dead batteries, the good news is, we now have two cars for seven people. “We’ll meet you there” is a real phenomenon for us! Now we’re just waiting for the day when someone tells us the announcement was made on the public radio, in Chuukese, that our license plates are ready. It’s a good thing our temporary plates don’t expire until 2018!

Last month, the young women youth of our Mwan Branch put on an Easter activity for the primary kids. The egg hunt was a major success, as broken eggshells and smashed egg yokes littering the church floor were evidence of that. I will never get used to the fact that many here just drop trash at their feet and walk away; all ages, regardless of being indoors or outdoors, if it’s trash, just drop it; or if your in class at school, just shove it in desks or through the window screens, regardless of there being visible trash cans. Hopefully at least one of the take-care-of-what-you-do-have chats has/will sink in with my students.

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Sister Wainis starting off the activity teaching the kids about the reason for the Easter celebration

A couple of the young women attempted to teach the younger primary kids the game of telephone. Despite their best efforts, the little ones did not grasp the concept, although it was entertaining. During the final round of musical chairs, two gals tied for first twice in a row, which turned into a swag-off between the two for a third tiebreaker, ultimately leading to a dance battle between senior and then junior primary. I am convinced that every Chuukese person is born knowing how to dance!

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These two gals sure have rhythm!

Rentalyn, the little hip shaker in the pink shirt, was featured in the LDS international children’s magazine, The Friend, in February. Click here to read more about her. Fun fact, I took the picture of her that was featured.

In Chuuk, just about everyone seems to be related to each other; family is a very important thing! A few weeks ago, I wondered if many here had ever had a family photo taken. I started asking around and many had not had one, or if they had, it had been years ago and was most likely taken on an old cell phone. A project idea was born to take family pictures in front of their homes. Jean and her little crew were the first; they are a solid family in the Mwan Branch and were so happy to welcome Amanda and me to their home.

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I met this gal, Bernartita about two weeks ago when she came into my classroom before school started and although we had never met before, she asked if she could help me clean my room. In her limited English, she asked what church I went to, and I could quickly tell she already knew the answer to her question. The Baptist Minister at her church has been preaching incorrect truths about the Mormon Church and this girl wants to know what we really do believe. I’m grateful for her inquisitive mind, open heart, and limited English. In a culture where authority is never confronted, combined with a Baptist Minister who tells his congregation they are sinning by talking to or even just waving at the missionaries, I’m grateful for Bernartita’s courage to come talk to me, a stranger and a Mormon, and ask her sincere questions. It was a reminder to me that no matter who tells you something, an authority figure or not, if it doesn’t sit right with you, find out truth for yourself and from the right sources. In other news, I have a 2015 Jesus calendar in my classroom, so naturally that’s where our photo needed to happen.

We recently had an epic adventure to Shark Island…where we swam with sharks! It took a bit of mental preparation to decide to go against everything I’d ever heard/felt/seen about being in water with sharks; it was such a surreal experience! The sharks were only about 3′-5′ long and go to that area to get their teeth cleaned by the sea critters. We had been told the sharks are used to snorkelers and divers sharing the water with them and they seemed content doing their thing while we did ours. While swimming, there were times I was surrounded by sharks in nearly every direction, some within 15-20 feet from me. As a few got closer, I wondered for a quick bit why I had willingly chosen to get in the water with sharks, but then decided to trust what we had been told that they generally don’t bother swimmers. I put a lot of trust in that and kept swimming. We eventually knew it was time to get out of the water as more and more sharks started to surround the boat – they knew they were about to be fed. As our boat driver threw fish overboard, the sharks’ behavior instantly changed back to the way I had envision sharks to be! Josh and Ben got some great footage on their GoPros they had in the water during the feeding. It sure was an opportunity of a lifetime and a Chuuk bucket list item successfully completed.

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Footage from Josh and Amanda

Chuuk High’s talent show was an event indeed! I really enjoy watching people perform and especially love it when I know them personally. Two of my 9th grade gals performed a dance and three of my 10th graders sang a couple songs.

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Sinvia (9A), the choreographer
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Francesca (9A)
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Hope (10A) with her angel voice
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Seven of my students watching the talent show, protected from the sun
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Prina (10B) getting that talent show footage

The major activity highlight during the talent show was the race for five students, each paired up with a teacher, to feed the teacher a cup of ice cream, while the student was blindfolded and the teacher had his/her hands tied behind their back. The best moment of the entire event was when Willy decided to paint Amanda’s face and head with ice cream rather than feed it to her, which had every single person in stitches! Amanda was determined to win the competition and Willy just had a totally different plan! The rest of the student/teacher teams ended up stopping to watch what Willy was up to and that footage will forever remain a treasured memory!

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Chuuk High and our rival, Xavier, a private school, were neck and neck the entire two days of the big track meet, and we barely lost by 3 points after a few race disqualifications due to the competition getting more intense near the end. It was a long and hot day and a half for those runners, as the athletes each competed in many events under the blazing sun!

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Wilma (former 11B) celebrating her win mid race
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These ladies killed it in the 4×4 relay. Two of them went on to run in the very next heat as well

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Francis (10B) running for SDA, as they don’t have a boys team
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Aston (10B) in blue, running for SDA
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The Chuuk High boys before they raced
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Cheiphina (10B) ready to start her relay
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Trinity (10B)
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The final heat with strong representation by the Chuuk High gals
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The boys placing in the mile run
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Institute class visit to Ramunam

I love Ramunam Seminary and Institute visits; something special happens every time! These three recently returned from serving missions in the Philippines, Fiji and the Marshall Islands. They each have an incredible story of how things used to be and how their lives are now since joining the church in 2014. This young man was known as “the criminal” to these two ladies just a few years ago. You never know what great changes are in store for those you interact with and observe.

On the boat ride home, we hit three rainstorms and were drenched! I’m glad we got at least one of those in before I left. It was my final outer island Seminary/Institute visit and sure was a great one to end on. Now on to planning a Seminary graduation.

While we’ve been wrapping up the end of the school year, I spent some one-on-one time with each of my 92 students and asked them three questions.
1. What is one thing that makes you happy?
2. What is one thing you would like to do in your lifetime?
3. What is one problem you would like to help stop?

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I have had so many memorable moments with these friends! I can’t wait to put together the video for them. I sure am going to miss them!

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2 thoughts on “A Lifetime of Memories

  1. Chantel May 15, 2017 / 3:43 am

    Rachel, you are one of the best people I know. Hands down. Not only do you have an AMAZING positive attitude, but the amount of thought and consideration you put towards every single person you meet had my eyes watering with this post. When you offered to take pictures of families in front of their homes – AMAZING!! And spending time with all 92 of your seminary students and asking them 3 personal questions. And though this wasn’t featured in your post here, writing letters to all of your high school students! You are just always on the lookout for new ways to serve and help the people around you. It’s so cool what a gift you have for connection and friendship. I so so so admire that. I can honestly say that you have turned this experience into SUCH a positive thing, and I really don’t many could ever do that, not even close to what a positive, and beneficial thing you have. I am sure you blessed those people and there community in more ways than you’ll ever know. I’m sure that more trash is making it into trash cans all over that island :):):) SOOOOO admire you my friend. This makes me want to be better and try harder. Love you.

    Like

    • rachelmartelblog May 15, 2017 / 5:04 am

      You, my friend are so sweet! Thank you so much for your kind words!! I love your comments and support! You are one of a kind!

      Like

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