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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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.

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.


Preparation:
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

Ingredients
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.