I have previously documented the fact that I have been extremely bored some days and often spend extended periods of time in solitary contemplation. This down time is intrinsic within island culture and honestly doesn’t bother me at all. I am the king of relaxing and embrace the peace that comes along with a life of chilling.
On the other hand, my time over here is jam packed with mind-blowing experiences and piles of work. I haven’t really talked about the work that I am actually doing over here very much and I figure now is a good time to relay some of that information. At this particular junction in my service, I have a full schedule of activities.
My primary occupation is to teach English. However, the difference between Peace Corps and other volunteer teaching programs is the aspect of secondary projects and community improvement. Peace Corps Volunteers are not only supposed to fulfill their duties of the assigned job, but in their free time it is expected that we will work for the betterment of our local society. Some volunteers are overwhelmed with the challenges of teaching and do not pursue secondary projects. This is actually relatively common, because teaching in a place like this is extremely stressful and difficult.
Although I have a full plate of responsibilities with my teaching job, I have taken the time to get involved in a wide variety of secondary projects. Probably too many. Lots of these projects are actually the brainchild of my host father in Chuuk, who is a motivated visionary with a million ideas for social improvement. We have teamed up together and began to undertake all sorts of projects to help our islands.
When I arrived in my site here at UFO, I was handed a secondary project that was already underway. My predecessor had funded the construction of a large water tank and I was given the responsibility of overseeing its completion. This has been a painstakingly slow process, but it has been chugging along and will hopefully be finished in the next month or two.
Beyond the water tank, I also created a farming project for the students at my school. We have been teaching them about farming and growing food at a local garden. There have been a few complications with this project, but I look forward to revising its structure and implementing it on a larger level the following school year. I have spear-headed and handled this project primarily as a means to involve parents in their children’s education while at the same time teaching the kids a valuable cultural skill.
Those are my two projects that have actually come to fruition and are already up and running. However, I have ambitious goals and am working on a variety of other things. One of these is the establishment of a vocational/trade high school.
has a massive lack of professionals with technical skills and their economy and infrastructure are suffering because of it. Nobody knows how to fix computers, cars, boats, houses, roads or buildings. Nobody has any technical skills because there is nowhere in Micronesia where they can learn them. There is simply no avenue for them to pursue that type of education. I want to change that. Micronesia
I attempted to found this school on a national level as a replacement of a prestigious school that shut down last decade. But I ran into some political, educational and religious obstacles that made it too difficult to tackle. So I geared down my aspirations a bit, and am now looking to establish this school simply for the state of Chuuk. The Department of Education has given my host father and I permission to draft a proposal for the establishment of this trade school. They are in full support of the idea and have funding available to make it happen. We are currently working on writing the proposal and should know the results of our efforts sometime this summer.
Another large-scale project that I am working on with my host-father is the building of the first public restrooms in the state of Chuuk. There is not a single public restroom on the main
and no trace of bathrooms on any of the other islands. Some of the restaurants have toilet facilities, but they are only reserved for paying customers. The stores, gas stations, and other businesses don’t provide any type of restrooms. As a result, the alleyways and corners of Weno are rather disgusting because they are filled with human waste. This is not only a concern of personal comfort, but more importantly is a significant environmental issue. To address this problem, my host father is starting a business to build toilet facilities in the busiest parts of town. For a small fee, people will be able to use these clean bathrooms and not be forced to find a secluded corner or run off into the bushes. I drafted the business proposal and we already have staked out the land for the site. The contract should be signed in the next couple of weeks and construction should begin this summer. island of Weno
In addition to providing public bathroom facilities, we want to expand this business plan to include trash disposal. I think we are going to start primarily just with recycling, because that is the only way we can make any money out of it. We are going to work with the local EPA to establish a recycling program on Weno. It will be based off the same system that we have in
where you get a nickel for each can that you recycle. There are a huge number of intricate details that need to be worked out for this project to actually be successful, but I am determined to do everything that I can to make it happen. I have recently gotten in contact with some other folks that have started recycling programs in the other states of America . We will try to work with their business plans and see if we can change the tide of trash disposal in Chuuk. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of an alteration in the mindset of the locals and make them realize the positive effects of recycling and waste disposal. Micronesia
I also have just become involved in a project of sustainable land management in my community. We are going to replant trees throughout the island to protect our natural environment. We will plant mangroves to protect the shoreline and keep the salt water from encroaching on our taro patches. Also, we will be replanting large trees on the slopes of the jungle to prevent future landslides. Mudslides have destroyed much of the watershed area and trees are the best method of prevention. I will be attending a state meeting to write the guidelines for this project. I hope to be in charge of it in my community and make it primarily focused at my school.
I have also been asked by a congress representative to help him revise the infrastructure improvement plan for our
. We will be meeting sometime over the next month to work on the details and go over the priorities for change. I don’t quite know what my role in this plan will be, but I have been told that my input will be highly valued and they want as much help as I can give them. island of Fefan
As if this weren’t enough, there is one idea that is burning inside me and just waiting to happen. I want to build a basketball court. It was my goal to build a basketball court before I even joined the Peace Corps, and to my pleasant surprise it was the most popular idea in my community when I arrived here. I have discussed it with dozens of people and most of the community is very supportive of the idea. I might be a little biased because I love basketball, but I think this would be a wonderful project that would cement my legacy in this village. However, I might have to wait a little bit before I dive into this project because I’ve got plenty of shit to handle right now.
My current existence is very paradoxical right now. In some ways I am the most bored that I have ever been, but in other ways I am more busy than I have ever been. All at the same time I am building a water tank, coordinating a farming project, founding a high school, constructing public restrooms, developing a recycling program, protecting our local forestry, writing a infrastructure plan, and hoping to build a basketball court. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I am also teacher.