Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pohnpei Cultural Day/ My Birthday

Today I was greeted with warm cinnamon rolls brought by one of the girl's apartments across the way and a youtube clip of the chipmunks singing "Happy Birthday" to me which was chosen by my roommate. "Since I can't sing..." was what Karsten said with a smile. I was impressed.

Then a group of us went to the local festival to watch some traditional dancing from the surrounding islands (or at least the islands that are represented by the people who live here).  There were groups for Kosrae, Sapwuafik, Yap, Chuuk, and others representing the municipalities of Pohnpei. It was raining all day today, which caused some changes to be made in the initial outdoor setup for the event, but it was a lot of fun! It was great to see how instantaneous the effects that music and dance have on a group of people. Especially if it is one representing their culture. Each dance had it's own way of making the audience yell and laugh in excitement. The festival was created in order to stifle the overwhelming effects of the continual Westernization of the island. Things like clothing, food, construction, government, and how the Pohnpeian language is used are a few examples that have seen changes. You can hear it in many passing local conversations where english words are used in the middle of Pohnpeian sentences where there is no word for the translation. So Pohnpei Cultural Day was created to keep local traditions alive. A little tid-bit.

My Island Mom ("Nohno") Eileen Wolphagen

Kolonia (Pohnlik)

ECE Kolonia School showing the making of Sakau

Nukuoro Island

Laura Maas and her basket of food



Kapingamarangi (village is known for wood carvings)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day Cards

We made Valentine's Cards to take home on Monday in honor of the day - here are some pictures of how it went!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1st Grade Teachers Pee Their Pants Too

     Sunday became a time of male bonding (plus Carly) with 14 men taking the boat out to fish outside the reef of Pohnpei.  The seas were rough, but it made for a fun ride with many cowboy calls and laughter at the excitement of being off campus.  Two "locals" took us out on the boat- one was Mr. Benjamin (aka Mr. B) who was the principal of the school last year and the other was Noli who is the guy to go to if you need anything fixed. They know what they are doing out there. There are no fishing rods here that I've seen, but different strengths of fishing line attached to spools (depending on the size of the fish you are dreaming of) so one guy holds the line while the other hopes to keep up winding speed with 2 teams at the stern of the boat.  The key was to look for where the birds were flying/feeding to know where the fish would be and we would drive around as they flew. It was a lot of fun with big swells and waves and a great view of Pohnpei as the backdrop. On an earlier trip I didn't go on they caught a fish only minutes after putting in the lines everytime, but this time we only came home with one 4-5 foot Mahi Mahi. But this is not the story of the day:
     About 2 hours into the trip (1 p.m.) I was riding those waves with a full bladder on a boat with no bathroom. I of course didn't want to be the reason to stop the constant pace at which we had been hurling ourselves across the waves so I said not a word, only silent prayers of a "swimming" break. Eventually another SM named Mike blurted out that he had to do the same and seeing that we were between fishing spots decided that off the stern (back of the boat) was a good place to go since both lines were reeled in. He was a natural. "Well, I could do that!" I thought and finally worked up the courage to scoot down the side wall I was sitting on and give it a try. I couldn't relax for the life of me. Knees knocking, boat shifting, waves jumping. Are you kidding???! I'm more of a peaceful brook-side kind of a guy. So I velcro-ed back up and sat back down. Still feeling the needles in my bladder growing ever fierce and telling Tim Cleveland that no, I had not been successful.  Fifteen minutes later I decided I couldn't hold it anymore, it was my limit. We hadn't made it to the next flock of birds yet so I braced again at the back of the boat. This time with Andy Helm chiming in from the front of the boat, "Hey Nathan, what are you doin' there bud?" with a jocular tone. "You know what I'm doin' Andy so don't be lookin'!" I yelled as the boat laughed at the impending situation. I couldn't go. Not a single drop. This happend a total of three times after which I gave up and told myself "Nathan, God wouldn't make you without a reserve tank to fill" and I sat back down. Ten minutes later? Yeah, that tank was full and I had no where to go, but overboard. So I did. I said, "Mr. B, wait. I just have to hang onto the side here for a bit. There's no other way." So I grabbed one of the bouy hooks and flung myself over into the water like a Spartan mounting his horse. By this time, the SMs weren't looking at the birds, only my questionable effort to pee in the middle of the ocean with land visible, but not swim-able.  As I was hanging on and answering numorous humorous questions about how I was doing, Mitch Seltman kindly offered to grab my hands and hold me alongside the slow moving boat to allow me to completely relax. I told him I never have and don't plan on having a guy hold my hand while I urinate. I realized two things in that moment. One being, "Wow, I have made friends here that would offer their hand in helping me pee. We must be close." And the other being, "Well what do I do now? That was my final sure-fire attempt at beating mother nature without completely embarrassing myself." Remember the line "I'll never let go Jack"? Well Jack let go. Jack let go of the bouy hook with a sense of finality and determination - both of which ditched me and decided to hop back on the boat, because I remembered Shark Week telling me sharks can smell blood from miles away "so why not urine?" At this point I was floating back with the fishing line so I grabbed the best I could as suggestions of what should happen next sprang from those in the boat. Somehow the line became wrapped around my pointer finger and I was being pulled (for a tiny ways) with that being my only connection the propelling motion. Images of myself relearning a new fingering style for playing piano with a nub flooded my brain so I yelled "stop!"  and released myself. I then swam to the boat.
     The looks on my friends' faces were both confused and concerned before some laughter broke out. Embarrassed was an understandment, but this kind of thing happens, right? Maybe not.  "Do you feel better Nathan?" Tim kindly asked with a grin only to remind me that I had not yet peed. Nothing! But what could I do now? I mean what else could you do that is beyond jumping overboard on boat? I for sure could not just nonchalantly try again off the stern. So I sat back down and we resumed fishing. I took up my post as a reeler and the boat sped forward taking my bag of needles with it. Not too long after we began fishing again, there was a sudden stop to the boat and three of the four of us fishing in the back fell to the floor with a crash and some moans mixed with laughter were shared. I sat up and decided the floor would be just fine for the time being.  Some came to see if we were hit too badly to which we said we were just fine and Mitch followed by asking if I felt better referring of course to the rest of the trip. I said, "Mitch, I still haven't peed...." "What?! Oh man!" And then he said it. Mitch said with a mumbled laugh, "Well you could just pee your pants." Two important factors played roles in my decision for what would happen in the next few moments as a 1st grade teacher on a fishing trip. I was more relaxed sitting on the floor of that boat than I had been since we started outside of the reef AND the waves/rain were splashing the deck every few seconds anyways. So I peed as I sat there holding the fishing reel and replaying all my previous attempts.
     It was not a particularly proud moment in my own "becoming an adult" stage of life, but there have been many little things God has taught me through my connection to nineteen 6 and 7 year olds. Some you can't put into words and many you can only laugh and smile.  1st grade teachers pee their pants too.

Be humble!

Tim Cleveland and his Mahi Mahi
Picture taken by: Carly Barruga

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Local" Christmas Party

     Tonight was the night of the school Christmas party that is planned by the "local" teachers (not all the teachers at Pohnpei SDA are SMs). As usual it turned out to be a lot of fun. Social gatherings revolve around food here so it was of course present. It was a potluck of sorts, with everyone bringing their own dish. Turkey, fish, rice, titus (my favorite fried banana thing here), various curries, different plant roots, and a lot more were covering the many tables.  Oh the fun.
Laura and her T.A. Mrs. Jano
    The gym was filled with "Reggae Christmas" tunes and a constant murmer of voices broken by outbursts of laughter as everyone found a group of people to carry out a conversation with. I tried someone new this time, but sat down on a broken batman action figure right as I tried to open up the conversation. Awkward moment, for an already quiet conversation. Then the night started with a presentation of thanks to my cousin Laura who is concluding her stay here before Christmas and a short message about the meaning of this time of year. Then the music began again and all the SMs were told to take our seats so that the local ladies could come around a place leis on our heads. It was the first one I have received since I missed the group's first day here so it was all new to me.  Then a lady came around spraying one squirt of a perfume on each of us followed by the principle's wife who quickly rubbed coconut lotion on us (traditionally it is done over most of a person as a greeting, but time was short).  We were then told to dig in after the ladies uncovered the food - another custom at mealtime. We all loaded up and then waited for the "show" to start.
     Some of the local teachers and church ladies put on different skits for us and dances meant to make us laugh and man was it hilarious.  We were all rolling in our seats as each new character (of ladies we all now know) began their dance to the island dance party mix.  One woman began randomly doing jumping jacks once she ran out of moves while my favorite, a very quiet and dry-humored woman with grandchildren, came out with her hair let loose, sunglasses (at night), lei jumping on her hair, and was shaking her hips as if she were 22. Straight face and all. To my surprise she signaled for me to come over and dance. She didn't know. She didn't know I would use the "shopping cart", the "disco", "I'm snorkeling",  or "the cat paws at the rain". Surprise was felt all around and only added to the laughter of the night. I was also able to try a new drink called "halo halo" which is made of shaved ice, coconut milk, beans boiled in sugar water, sweet red gooey squares, and that's all I can remember. It was different, but very good. I would have it again. Then the night wound down with music playing and we all retrieved our dishes from the tables. 

Merry Christmas!!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tevas and The Grip of a Mother Lioness

     We have been wanting to hike up Sokehs Rock for a pretty long time now to see a sunrise or sunset - didn't matter which apparently as long as we saw the sun do something colorful, you know how she (he?) rolls... alas though, plans to take up the adventure have been foiled by rain - something that happens a lot here.

     The hike starts out on what looks like it used to be a roughly carved staircase of large stones going up the steep mountainside, between the houses along the street. It makes you feel like you're going to find something almost forgotten going between the trees and bamboo, around corners with a cave that questions whether it is really daytime, and the endless vines hanging around like it's 4 o'clock and school is over. Eventually the stairs turn into a trail of rocks that continue to climb up the mountainside. Hiking up isn't the best part though. It is the second half of the hour when you have to rely on a cable and the massive root of plants/trees anchored to the ledges to go both horizontally and vertically. I had fun being the last one in the group with Tim Cleveland pausing and taking pictures and laughing about whatever came up, but a couple of others had a hard time facing some fears of heights. Before we began the vertical climb with the rope and cable some of us took off our shoes to go barefoot! It was pretty awesome - flat feet and all. At one point I found the perfect sized footing in the rock! It had an arch and everything and wide at the toes, narrower at the heel - I was completely enthralled while my cousin Laura was less than impressed, but attempted a "oh yeah, that's cool Nathan" - another thing we laughed about.

    Once we climbed to the top, it was a kind of small plateau that had trees in the middle. The 3 of us who came up last (not because of asthma or a fear of heights mind you) knew which direction to go and that was forward. We could see the rest of the SMs already posing for group pictures in the light of the sunset so naturally, I booked a random ledge where we were laughed at once someone noticed us trying to run back to the bushes and pretend it never happened. Needless to say, I was not the leader of the pack after that. Seeing our distress another SM named Raymond who has been here a number of years came back to show us the trail through the middle of the trees.  With knees being scraped by plants and puddles up to my ankles I said, "Well geeze, talk about a groomed path....." as I pondered the ridiculousness of where I took us when at the time it seemed "normal" to be a few steps from the ledge. We made it to the group and took our photos and then climbed back down as the sun descended. This time with flashlights on and the occasional slip and crash of someone ahead we heard "Yep, I'm okay! Just slipped on a rock..." as their pride was left behind, wishing it had bought a pair of Tevas with the grip of a mother lioness protecting her cubs. yes, a mother lioness.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Brief Synopsis of Pohnpei Beginnings

I apologize that I am starting this so late! but here it is:

The Flight:
     There was a whirlwind of questions, experiences, and confirmed e-mails in the two weeks before I sat on that plane.  One being the purchase of my ticket 10 days before. As I sat in my seat I kept thinking, "I can't be going to a foreign place for a year- I only checked one bag..." I smile at that now, but man, it was not a very comforting thought. It seemed like I had packed the same amount for the 2 month architecture class I was just on this summer. I flew from LAX to Honolulu and then to Guam where I was given a place to spend the night and then I flew to a small island called Chuuk and on to Pohnpei!  I left on wednesday morning and arrived here on Friday (skipping ahead one day because of the time difference).  I was greeted by my cousin Laura who is also an SM here and was driven to the school. I don't remember a whole lot from that first drive, except for smiling at a store called "Wall Mart" :-] I met most of the SMs on a snorkeling trip we took that day. It seemed like everyone was from Walla Walla University haha (and most are).

My First Week Here:
     My first week here was crazy! I came about two weeks late so I missed the 10 day training in Honolulu and the prep period at the school when everyone arrived which meant I had to figure out my lesson plans for that week on that first Sunday. Man was that weird, but it got done! Everyone was very helpful when I asked them questions. I had no clue what I was doing that monday morning. I thought I was going to keel over from the humidity! Not to mention looking 16 kids in the face and saying, "Good morning class! My name is Mr. Beddoe and I will be your teacher!" I'm smiling now as I write this, picturing myself at that chalkboard. There I was, teaching 1st grade after spending the last 3 1/2 years in the Andrews University School of ARCHITECTURE. The first day did not go well (to say the least), but God knows how to help a person out you know? Spending time in the early morning with the ultimate Teacher has been comforting.

This Place:
     Pohnpei, Micronesia is a tropical island and is said to be one of the wettest places on earth because of its daily rainfall (good thing I like rain). It is one of four states in the Federated States of Micronesia and is the largest and most populated. It is beautiful! But oddly enough, it has no beaches on the main island. You have to go out to some of the smaller islands nearby for some beach time.  The SMs are in groups that share apartments located on the campus. I have one roommate, Karsten Cook, which has been great. We just got pots and pans!!!! so we can cook meals!!! We've been excited about this. Another thing is the shower - it looks like it will be cold water for 10 months- It was shocking at first, but I am getting more used to it now. Hopefully my body doesn't decide to play games this next week because I said that.... .

The 1st Grade Class and Classroom:
     1st grade (like almost all the elementary grades) is split up into 2 classes - one of now 20 students taught by myself and the other of 19 students taught by a guy named Robert Hogan.  I have 13 girls and 7 boys. I'm lucky to have the classroom I have because it is the only room with trees and grass painted on the walls to make it more fun and I have more shade than most. When it is not raining it gets very hot! Very few rooms on campus have glazing (glass) for windows. Most (including SM apartments) have what I describe as chicken wire/fencing over them to keep things out.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I am not a blogger! but because of persistent and NOSEY (said with love) friends, I will attempt this way of communicating my experiences with those of you back home and in other parts of the world! We'll see how this goes...