Friday, June 22, 2012

Muumuu-fabulous (Micronesian Summer, Part 6)

August 15, 2006

It is over.

Last night at the airport as I said goodbye to my friends (who I will see in a few weeks) and Eliki (who I will see sometime in the future, right?!  ) I cried. It wasn't that I was going to miss them (well, I will, but I know I will see them again) and it wasn't that I was glad to see them go. I have just never felt so much emotion hit at one time that was neither happiness or sadness. Everything we worked on for the past year, everything we did for the past 8 weeks, every time it felt like it was taking forever, every time it felt like it was going too fast... gone in a blink of an eye. Honestly, it was a huge mixture of incredible relief and accomplishment (WE DID IT GUYS!!!) combined with a big void. So I sat on the floor at the Koror International Airport Departure Gate in the middle of the night and shed a few tears while Fonzie, Keo, and Peterson played the guitar and sangs goodbye songs to our friends. Plus, I was tired from getting up at 3:45 in the morning... wink wink Keo, Pete, Rob, Quique and Caiti :)

What else is there to say? For starters, I made amazing friends this summer and became better friends with people I already loved. I experienced the two very separate worlds that I live in colliding and was able to share a little bit of both sides with the other. THAT was incredible. (Or muumuu-fabulous??? Hmm...) I grew and learned things that I had no idea were even out there for me to learn. And I saw every person in our team stretch and grow as well.

Of course, every growing experience comes with a couple regrets. My biggest one is not taking the time to write my thoughts, experiences, trials, triumphs, and just down-right-good-times down more often. There are so many stories that I don't want to forget, yet as the weeks roll by they are already starting to lose their flavor. Here is my chance to try to reclaim some of these memories.

Like the story of the Chuukese woman on the plane who, never having flown before, was terrified out of her mind. She couldn't buckle her seat belt, she read the magazine upside down at first, she didn't know how to put the mayo and mustard on her sandwich... My mar-mar was sitting heavy on my head so I passed it off to her. Wow. What a little thing can do. She took my hand in hers and said, "I like you!" And she did not let go. Who would have guessed that someday I would be riding through the air from one tiny island to the next, hand in hand, fingers interlocking, with a 48 year old Chuukese woman who doesn't speak my language?

The Paata ladies. Man, I love those crazy women! We spent hours playing Uno while saying Chuukese colors and numbers. Yes, I learned them. I was forced to so I could avoid them flicking my head when I got the word wrong! When the husband of one of the ladies was brought into the hospital and half the ladies left to stay with him (all relatives of some sort... you know, island style) I wanted to make sure I could go say goodbye to them. When I arrived at the hospital I turned around to see Esther, my 8 year old friend, and her Auntie Teresita, a large woman wearing a blue muumuu, running up the steep hill to hug me. I was almost in tears at the sight.

The Paata Ladies.

Basically, I loved Chuuk. No, scratch that. The rats running through our hair at night, the men being very open about what they wanted to do with us ("I make you Chuukese mother!") and the drunk locals throwing rocks... not the highlight of my life. But the people... I met some great people. I loved my experience in Chuuk. And I have been inspired by the youth of Chuuk, Kosrae, and Palau who have stepped up to the plate to lead in their communities in ways that foreigners cannot. Like Switson in Kosrae, and Emerson and Neet who have left to the outer islands in their home of Chuuk to translate for missionaries and have become missionaries themselves, at the ages of 17 and 19. And Keo and Pete, my good buddies from Palau, who have grown so much in the last couple of years since I last saw them, and are taking their responsibility seriously and determining to be leaders among their peers. That is the biggest thing I learned this summer: the youth of Micronesia are waiting to explode goodness for their world. We just need to learn how to tap into that.

I really liked every island. Each one had its own pluses and minuses, but I had a great experience on each. I have already told all about our friends in Kosrae and the fun times of Pohnpei and the (some of) the crazy stories in Chuuk, but I have good memories of the others too. Like the Liberation Day Parade in Guam. Or shopping with the topless women and men in loin clothes in Yap. And definitely the HUGE generosity of the people Palau and Peleliu specifically. We were given so much fish and bread and coconuts and cookies and warm meals... all from people who cannot really afford to do so, but give sacrificially because they care.

Camp, for the most part, was a huge success. The kids had the greatest time of their summer, and for some, possibly their lives. And we covered issues with them that seem too big for 10-12 year olds, but are things that DO need be addressed out here. Like drugs, suicide, teen pregnancy, and getting an education. In a place where suicide is rampant, girls are getting pregnant at age 12, and has the highest beer per capita in the Pacific, these are topics to be discussed. Big issues and straight up fun... that was what we did every day this summer. What a huge, but incredibly rewarding, responsibility!

Four and half years ago I stepped foot on this tiny little island nation and have been bouncing back and forth between here and home ever since.  Today I have seen how far my friends here have come -- and how they have grown me right along with them.

Yapese Stone Money
Basically, this has been the greatest summer of my life. Thank you to everyone who helped make that possible, whether you were financially supporting or thinking about us back at home or out here with us and took care of us like your long lost family. And, Camp Micronesia staff... thank you. You brought many smiles to my face. I truly had a great time. It was muumuu-fabulous. Ssss.

My food blog has been bit by a travel bug.  Follow along as I let my words from the past answer the question, "What place(s) have you visit that made the most impact on you?"  I am too busy enjoying summer to be whipping up anything good in the kitchen anyway... ;)

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