A Tooth and a Banana Tree

One day, my host sister, 10, and I were eating lunch after school when she told me that her tooth was hurting. She used her fingers to pull up her lip and show off the hole in gums where a new tooth was growing in. I quickly reminisced about kid-life, waiting for the tooth fairy to exchange my baby tooth for cash. But, as it turns out the tooth fairy does not make stops on the tiny island of Kosrae.

In a few questions I asked her what she did with the missing tooth, did she give it to her ninac (mother) or did she throw it away? “No, no, no,” she shook her head and laughed at my questions. She explained to me that her tooth was outside in the yard. She had pressed her tooth into the trunk of one of many banana trees. After she put the lone tooth into the tree she sang a song in Kosraean. The song is a message for the sea snakes. The song asks the sea snakes to come take the tooth in exchange for one of their own durable and sharp teeth. Since the day my host sister’s tooth fell out, she has been going to the banana tree to check and see if the tooth had disappeared. If the tooth is gone from the tree, then a sea snake was able to successfully retrieve the tooth.

On the second day she noticed that her tooth disappeared from the trunk of the banana tree. Success! The a sea snake was able to find her tooth. She said it all made sense, hence, the pain of her new tooth growing in, a gift from the sea snakes.

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My Personal Packing List

 

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My airplane seat view of an atoll, my first impression of Micronesia.

After I accepted my Peace Corps. invitation last June, the idea of limiting the start-of-my-new -life to two suitcases equal to 100 pounds seemed impossible. I wanted to be prepared for everything. Did I need solar panels to charge my electronics? What about waterproof…everything?

I  began packing by slowly accumulating things beginning from  my invitation date through my departure date of June 1, 2015. Slowly packing throughout the six months put me at ease. I spent plenty of time investigating the packing lists of former and current Peace Corps. Volunteers and can say that I felt over-prepared for the start of my service (also thanks to a successful GoFund Me campaign.)

I hope you find my list helpful and feel free to message me for any tips related to your Peace Corps. service!

Jasmin’s  Packing List (Secondary TESL Teacher in Micronesia):

Electronics
•Macbook Laptop (3 years old)
•IPhone (2 years old)
•Nikon Cybershot Waterproof Camera (I left my Nikon D3100 at home, it was a good call. I know that the lens and body would have been damaged by the dampness and the case/bag would have become molded over. The Cybershot takes amazing pictures underwater and on ground, most of the photos on my Flicker are from the Cybershot.)
•Goal Zero portable speaker has come in handy for playing music in my classroom or when I show videos from my laptop.)
•Small analog clock, with a back light (When the power goes out and your phone dies.)
•Flash light/Head lamp (Good for power outages and going pee at night when your host family  has an outhouse.)
•Extra batteries AAA and AA
• Hard Drive 1TB (Great for collecting movies from other trainees and volunteers and storing pictures.)

Food and Drink
•A zip lock bag of granola bars (So great for the first two months of training. The training site in Pohnpei is isolated with hardly any stores in site. It was great to have some of my favorite Cliff bars and banana bread breakfast bars to munch on during long training hours and in between meals.)
•A few bottles of mini alcohol. (Or your preferred emotional coping food or drink.)
•Individual packets of my favorite teas and those little water flavoring liquids.

Clothing
•Knee length skirtsI (It is difficult to find cute over the knee, loose fitting skirts in the states. I found some long light weight skater style skirts at Nordstrom Rack last May, which seem to be the most comfortable. I packed a few maxi skirts but they were two hot to wear. Do what you can to find at least a few. I felt like I didn’t have many clothing options  for few weeks but there ended up being plenty of opportunities to buy local skirts.)
•Slips (Necessary to wear under skirts so that your silhouette is unseen.)
•Two weeks worth of plain v-neck/crew neck t-shirts
•Pj’s ( I’m happy that I brought yoga pants and light weight pajama pants and loose long sleeve top for cold rainy nights.)
•Rash guard and board shorts (Females cannot show shoulders or thighs while swimming.)
•Quick Dry towel, two regular towels
•Water shoes (reef walkers, necessary for beaches, there are tons of sharp coral everywhere.)
•Rain jacket (Welcome to the rainiest place in the world.)
•Tevas (They tend to get stinky fast, Chacos seem to be a good alternative, a few pairs of flip flops, one cheep pair to wear in the shower)
•Sunglasses, prescription and regular

Bags/Travel Cases
•I came with two large suitcases, one a hard case,  one fabric material and a Jansport backpack. My Jansport became completely molded over, a lot of volunteers also had mold problems in Pohnpei. I washed it a few times and it ripped in my host families washing machine, I ended up throwing it away. I wish I had brought two hardcase suitcases. My fabric one is constantly molding over, (I clean it with bleach wipes every other week).
•Dry bag (I wish I had brought a backpack style dry bag, but I do like to use my 20L Dry bag when I go on a boat or to the beach, it really does keep everything dry! During training my dry bag doubled and my school bag since it rained so often.)
• Large Vera Bradley Tote (I love using this for school, if I bring my laptop to school I like to use my small hiking backpack)
• Small hiking backpack with rain cover

Bedding
•Cute flat sheet and a homemade pillow case from my mom (added a personal touch to my ugly dorm bed during training)
•Yoga mat (Dorm beds during training are made of a single piece of ply wood on top of a metal frame, I’m so thankful I packed my yoga mat, it made all of the difference.)

Lady Stuff
•Diva cup (It’s difficult to find trash cans in Pohnpei so I was thankful that I learned to use the Diva cup before leaving the states)
•2 boxes of Costco Tampons (It’s difficult to find tampons here and if you do they are the cardboard Dollar Tree kind.)
•Large ziplock bag of panty liners and pads.

Other
•Snorkel and Mask
•Pictures books of my friends and family (Your host family and fellow PCV will love seeing your family and your sense of style back in the states.)
•Extra Ziplock bags ( Great for protecting opened snacks from roaches and ants.)
• A roll of duct tape (Helps fix the unexpected.)
•Cute stationary

Mailed Later
Classroom supplies (You won’t need them during the three months of training.)
More comfort food
More shirts
Small Umbrella (So handy to keep on me at all times.)

 ***Tip For  Micronesia 2-year volunteers*** You will not know your permanent site until a month into training, you may be sent somewhere remote or modern. Pack neutral and  don’t worry too much about solar powered and survival type gear. You can always have things shipped from Amazon or your family via USPS. 

 

 

Status Update 2: My home in Kosrae, Micronesia

Hello! I’ve been living at my permanent site in the state of Kosrae for a little more than one month now. Kosrae is one of the four states that make up the Federated States of Micronesia, in the Northern Pacific Ocean. The state is about 2,476 miles from Hawaii. Its island is 8 by 10 miles, a little bigger than the place I left my heart, San Francisco. There are about 8,000 people that currently call the island home.

DSC00472Along with myself, there are three other Peace Corps. Volunteers and two Peace Corps. Response Volunteers that reside in Kosrae. I live in the second most outer village called Utwe; it’s about 30-mintues driving from the next volunteer and 40-mintues from town. Utwe is very secluded from the rest of the villages. The asphalt road that leads to town ends halfway through my village. When I am in town it’s  common for people to seem surprised to see me and ask how I got to town that day, Utwe seems extremely far when you live on a small island.

The elementary school where I teach is a close walking distance from my home-stay. I have been helping teach third grade oral communication and reading, as well as fifth grade writing. The English language is introduced in the classroom in third grade. One challenge that I have faced is the variety of English skill levels my students have. Some of the students come from families who have connection in the states especially Hawaii; these students have English levels that exceed the Department of Educations expectations while many others are far behind. I have had a lot of fun teaching so far. My students have become my best friends. (Most of the 20 something’s in my village, and Kosrae are married with children.) So, when I go for a walk to the beach or store, I’m bound to be accompanied by one of my fellow students, they always help me practice my Kosraean language on the way.

I look forward to posting more updates now that I have stable internet connection, however, photos uploaded to my Flickr page will take longer, sislouh kolu (sorry).

Until next time or kuht faht osun (Goodbye)!

Care Package Wish List

A tough day at school triggered my first feeling of homesickness here in Kosrae. I walked home from school with a rumble in my tummy, got home and immediately opened the fridge hoping to find something to satisfy both my hunger and homesickness. Inside the fridge was a lone open bucket of miscellaneous meat. I started to cry. Well, I didn’t actually cry, but the feeling was present and I realized that there are many comforting foods I’m missing in Kosrae that would help lift up my emotions (Can you tell that I’m American?). If you have the means to send a care package my way, my heart will greatly appreciate your kindness. *An updated version of my address can always be found on my contact page.*

Tea: Jasmine, flavored green, Rose, Early Grey teas please send satchels that come in individual plastic wrapping or packages that come in a tin. The paper wrapped bags tend to get moist and attract bugs.

Sweet Treats: Little Debbie Snacks. Holliday themed cakes would make me so happy!

Snacks: Cliff and or Kashi bars.

Trader Joe’s: Canned Dulmas (Grape leaves stuffed with rice), boxed Indian Lentils, Punjab Choley, Palak Paneer. Tiger’s Milk protein bars.

Canned: Bush’s Baked Beans (I love the different flavors like maples brown sugar,the ones with onions and peppers, like sweet mesquite.)

Food Stuff: I really miss pasta! Individual microwavable pasta bowls. I love stroganoff, alfredo and asian flavors, also individual microwavable mac and cheese.

Cleaning: Lynsol/Clorox wipes, dryer sheets (smallest package).

Newspapers: Sacramento Bee, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Post.

School supplies: I’m fortunate to have a school that is pretty well off, however, students always need pencils, they can be holiday pencils that you find on super sale.

So, about that waterfall in my last post….

A few days later, we had a class session with USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Services Staff Member Arlene Rosenkrans, she taught us about Leptospirosis in the area.

Leptospirosis is a disease carried from animal urine through water that affects humans with flu-like symptoms. In Micronesia, piggeries are commonly located near riversides where the animals’ urine and feces contaminate passing by water. The USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Services estimate more than 3,000 piggeries in Phonpei.

Just up stream of the Kepirohi Waterfall are multiple piggeries, allowing the location to have one of the highest numbers of leptospirosis contamination in the state of Phonpei, said Rosenkrans in our class session.

In hindsight, we are all grateful that our water safety training was the week after our visit, which prohibited us from cooling down underneath the waterfall. Thank God.

Click here to find out more about the environmental impact piggeries have in Phonpei.

The Announcement

Hello Friends and Family,

I’m thrilled to inform you that I have recently accepted an invitation to teach english as a second language in the Federated States of Micronesia with the Peace Corps.

I applied for this opportunity in June 2014,  just after graduating with my BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and completing a TEFL (teach english as a foreign language) certificate program.

Six months later, December 2014, I was interviewed and offered a to fill 1 of 40 teacher positions in Micronesia.  It was hard to make the decision to move to a different country, but after much thought and conversations with those close to me I knew this experience had greater pros than cons.

With this experience I have the opportunity to travel the world and build a greater understanding of the word diversity. I will teach English, which will keep my editing skills sharp. I will write about my experience and analyze the culture of my new home; all of this will be shared through photos, videos and text to be featured on this site.

My departure date is June 2015 and I will return to the United States in 2017.

Wish me luck!

Sincerely,

Jasmin