Status Update 1 : A Typical Week

Fourth Grade Class

My fourth grade summer school class.

Kaselehlie (Hello) from Phonpei, FSM!

I have been in Phonpei for almost two months now for Peace Corps. Pre-service Training or PST. PST is as busy and stressful as my senior year in college. Everyday, Monday through Friday all of the volunteers attended classes from 8:30am- 5pm.  Our training  includes safety, health, agriculture and TEFL training courses. Plus, our favorite three to four hours of language lessons for our permanent volunteer site.

This past month we had TEFL training alongside 20 local elementary and high school teachers, or host-country teachers. This past few weeks we worked with the teachers to host a summer school for local children from fourth to eighth grade. Each HCT was partnered with a PCT to co-plan three weeks of summer school. I worked with my HCT to co-plan our fourth grade class. I quickly discovered the wide-variety of education levels in my classroom. A few of my students cannot read in English, the majority read at a first grade level, and two students excel beyond the Micronesian education expectation for third grade language arts. The biggest challenge in my classroom, which we were warned about throughout training, is critical thinking. The concept “to create your own,” hasn’t quite found its way into the classroom, and throughout Pohnpei students struggle with thinking on their own, discovering their opinion and using previous knowledge to come to a conclusion.( If you’re reading this and you’re a teacher please comment with advice on introducing critical thinking to young students.)

So, teaching has been going great, this Thursday will be my last day teaching before I move to a wonderful state called Kosrae, where I will teach for two years. I’m working hard in my Kosrean language class to insure that I pass the Language Proficiency Index Exam, which I will take in three weeks. But, I will tell you more about Kosrae later.

Little Brother

My younger brother and a fish he caught with a plastic bottle and fishing line.

My host family has been phenomenal. I live with my Nohnoh and Papah (mom and dad), three brothers, ages 34, 17 and 10 and two sisters, 27 and 6. The younger children are actually grandkids but I refer to them all as siblings to make things less confusing. My Papah is the mayor of our municipality, I catch a ride with him on his way to work, the school I teach at is next door to his office. In the car ride we chat about Pohnpeian and American politics. I’ve become close with my 10-year-old brother, I refer to him as my shadow because he likes to know where I go and  follow me when I go there. He attends the summer school I teach at and on the weekends we usually go swimming at the nearby ancient ruins or watch volleyball at the court down the road. On Sunday’s I attend the Protestant Church with the family. There is usually a birthday party, wedding or funeral to attended after service. I then have a few hours to finalize a day of lesson plans for Monday and cram in some language studying.

The past few weeks have been flying by since I’ve been so occupied, which has kept me from feeling homesick. But, I do miss all of my friends and family and eating gelato and my grandma’s spaghetti.


How to Make and Drink Sakau

Sakau 1Sakau is an herb drink that is harvested from a shrub, Kava or Piper Methysticum, which grows in the South Sea islands. The drink has a numbing and relaxing effect on the body and is commonly used throughout the week in place of alcohol, but, traditionally used to celebrate special occasions.

Kava originated in the Kosrae state of Micronesia. One version of the oral history says the plant was brought to the main island by a Kosrean woman who carried the Kava seeds in her “downstairs” to avoid agriculture inspection when she arrived at her destination of Pohnpei. Sakau in Kosrae is odorless while Sakau in Pohnpei has a strong oder, for the reason stated in the previous sentence. Therefore, when you drink Sakau in Phonpei, it has become tradition to close your eyes when you take a sip in order to prevent the smell from burning your eyes.

5-10 men for labor
1 Traditional pounding stone
4 People (preferably men)  to sit at the pounding stone located in the nahs (a traditional outdoor space where ceremonies and gatherings take place. )
1 Set of sphere pounding rocks

Kava Plant Roots
1 bucket of clean water
Hibiscus Bark

Instructions as told by my friend Mason, a local 12th grade student in Pohnpei.

Step 1:
Drive to up the mountains, ( 1-2 hour drive), Park car/truck below the mountain. Then hike up mountain and look for the kava plants that have the oldest branches. When you locate them begin digging up the roots, which will come up easily when using a shovel.

Step 2: Carry Sakau branches from the site to the car. The Sakau is extremely heavy, each person carries one Sakau plant. With 5-10 people carrying the sakau plants only one trip up and down the mountain is needed.

Step 3: Drive home with Sakau plants in the trunk.

Step 4: Arrive at home and unload Sakau plants near the nahs. Begin washing the dirt from the roots, it is important to insure that it is thoroughly cleaned. Then, take a machete and cut off the branches leaving only the roots.

Step 5: Wash the traditional pounding stone then put washed roots onto the stone.

Step 6: Two-four of the men take a sphere shaped pounding rock and then begin to pound the Sakau roots on the stone in order to break up the roots into smaller pieces.

Sakau 5

Step 7: Take the hibiscus bark and use the machete and shave off a long strip.

Step 8: As the roots are being pounded  begin adding water in the amount of a half  coconut shell to the crushed Sakau roots.

Step 9: Begin using hands to kneed the water and Sakau mixture together.

Sakau 4

Step 10:  Lie the hibiscus strip flat on the pounding stone and place Sakau root mixture evenly inside.

Sakau 4

11: Twist up the hibiscus while your partner holds the coconut cup underneath the hibiscus strip, as you twist the Sakau drink will leak from the hibiscus into the cup.

Sakau 2

Now you have Sakau.

Sakau 3

Drinking Rules:
First cup goes to the chief
Second cup goes to the next highest title
Third cup goes to the woman with the highest title
…And remember when in Phonpei close your eyes when you drink Sakau in order to prevent your eyes from burning.