Bigej Island

How to have fun on a deserted island 101

Back in January, the school administration and teachers hopped on the Majuro boat and headed for the island of Bigej.  It is about 40 minutes North of Ebeye and is an absolutely beautiful island.  On the way there, we have to cross a stretch of the Pacific Ocean and when we hit those waves in that boat I was like, “OhhMyyGoodd!!” It was crazy I’m just telling you!  Sometimes we’d go straight up and then free fall back into the dip of the next wave.  Praise God anyhow!

Bigej has clean, clear water and is deserted for the most part.  There were thirty-seven of us that went and had what the Marshallese called a picnic.  But it was far more than a picnic to me (and Lenka I might add – she is like a big kid!)  Anyway, who am I to talk?  I spent most of my time in the water, throwing kids into waves, testing goggle suction, daintily picking up little crabs and then letting out a high-pitched squeak when they darted out of their shells, building sandcastles with the kids and unbeknownst to me, getting really, really red!

Jonathan doing his ninja moves.

Anna posing for a shot.

A half submerged shot.  The coral reefs came right up to the surface of the water and even out in some parts.  We had to be careful swimming because it is no fun hitting those corals with your knees or feet.  They cut like glass.

Marianne doing some barbecuing.

Faith and me.

This was our little Jungle Mat.

Lenka, meanwhile, is trekking through the jungle to the other side of the island, playing with kids, filming mini documentaries about how shells and sand form islands with her new video camera toy, climbing to the upper deck of the boat and jumping off into the ocean with Mrs. Atina, Cherold and Dolly; basically having herself a good ole time.

Go Lenkaaaaaa!

Atina the Fearless!

The teachers’ aides were very entertaining – the Marshallese really know how to have fun.  Atina had me laughing at one point when she came thundering down the sand towards Mrs. Marianne who was daintily making her way into the water in her own, sweet time and BAM! tackled her from behind and they both fell over headfirst into the water…I wish I’d gotten it on video :)

We had a great day of fellowship.  The weather was perfect, the water warm, the food tasty and the company exceptional.  God is good to me.  For all the beautiful things over the past five years that have come into my life, for the things which He has asked for that I gave, for all the sacrifices made, He fills me up with more of His love, His joy and His grace.

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R.M.I Memorial Day 2010

We celebrated the Marshall Islands Memorial Day in early February.  It was when the U.S. finally liberated the islands from Japanese control during WWII.  Usually they have several speakers that talk for around three hours but that night the rain poured continuously and they wrapped up the festivities in about an hour.  I was thankful!  I’ve read on other blogs from last year that it is usually incredibly hot and the speeches are long.  God is good.

Our line to the Memorial Speakers Conference on a rainy Tuesday night.  The building on the left is the Ebeye Medical Center.

The following day was beautiful!  It was the day that all the schools came together at Beach Park and they continue the Memorial Day festivities with food, activities and races for each grade.  We had grades K-4 which competed against all the other schools on the island, girls and boys respectively.

In the pink shorts, Sarah burning it up for the win in the girls Third Grade Competition.

Ebeye Gem won nearly all First Place prizes, some Second and only a few didn’t place.  The whole day it seemed the announcer was calling out “Ebeye Gem School!”  It was awesome – our kids are blessed!  And I mean that in every way.  All First Place winners walk away with a certificate and $20, Second Place $15, and Third Place $10.  The kids were racking up, and praise God for that!

Gem School applauding another win.

There was also a race for the adults that spanned from Guggegue to Ebeye (I’m not sure how many miles that is but by truck it takes about forty minutes at fifteen miles per hour.  Anyway, our courageous missionary Nyasha Nyemba signed up and ran the race.  He came in twelfth place!  We were all very proud of him and of all our students whether they won or not.  They are all dear to our hearts.

Word of the day: Appetite (also Appetizing)

I thought I would share my delectable dishes with you since it takes such a long time to come up with a new thing to satisfy my appetite.  Because I can fill up on noodles and rice but still be incredibly hungry for all kinds of foods.  This is due to the unavailable  Arby’s Philly Beef ‘n Swiss sub, Hardees’ Mushroom Swiss Burgers, Jimmy John’s incredible Country Sub sandwich…I’ll stop there because this entire blog could be filled with my fetish for food in never-ending, monotonous detail.  Ah, let’s not forget  homemade spaghetti and meatballs, Tuscan chicken (seared, set on fire with balsamic vinegar, add tomato sauce and a little fresh cilantro….I hear angels singing).  Anyway, cooking takes practice and I’ve certainly been out of that.

So, what does one do here to ease the appetite?  A typical day consists of a boring breakfast bar or cereal to start with, then for lunch the staple is soupy Roman Noodles with two hard boiled eggs (this is actually quite good) and then for supper I have some kind of boxed dinner like Tuna Helper.  Off days, I sometimes skip a meal because there is absolutely nothing that seems appetizing.  Saturday or Sunday mornings I’ll get motivated by my appetite and actually peel and slice potatoes and throw them into some hot butter to get crispy.  Scramble some eggs, add ketchup and I’m in heaven.  (But if anybody’s seen Bob E., send him over, we’ll make room somewhere).  Then sometimes, there’s a gem out of the rough.  Foods I would never think to put together in the States (and why should I, frozen dinners do it for me) and my appetite is finally fed.  Like mixing Stove Top stuffing, Creamy Noodles and Broccoli, and some chicken chunks from a can.  Wow, who would’ve known that would taste good?  Every now and then, Lenka will get hit with…something…and come out with some Slovakian Pot of Stew Slop (saying that really fast is fun) and it’s really quite good.  Her creations usually consist of cabbage, onions, potatoes a vast array of spices I’ve never dreamed of using in my life and with a prayer and some Slovak workmanship, she successfully pulls one off.  I seriously stand in awe at times.  “All that green stuff turned into this?”  And everyone that walks by the window or door will stop and ask where that wonderful smell is coming from.  “It’s Lenka’s Slovak chow” I say and laugh to myself at how dazed they look.  There’s something in the spices I’m sure of it…

Some of the time I eat from canned foods like beanie-weenies or Spagettios.  Bread is not the best here…chicken is okay so we do cook potatoes, onions, carrots and chicken.  Oh, and let’s not forget the instant mac’n’cheese.  Instant mashed potatoes are a great comfort food and they do have them here.

On the corner, across from the church, a new store just went in.  They sell coffee and ice cream.  Ice Cream!  Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus…in fact, I’m kinda feeling in the mood for some vanilla ice cream right now…what better time than now, while it is still called Today?  Amen.

A Huge Month

It’s only Wednesday and already I’ve been to the dentist seventeen times this week, had over 17 fillings and 4 teeth pulled…well, maybe not directly but when you have as many children as I do, it sure feels like it!  There are three dentists that have come in to the Medical Center on Ebeye and the Third grade classes on the island were selected to get free dental care. Hallelujah!!!! We took half the class on Monday and the other half on Tuesday. I had the big job of hugging, wiping away tears, smiling, comforting, praising and praying (a lot) as we spent four hours each afternoon getting everyone’s teeth in tip-top shape! Praise God for these doctors who have decided to devote their time and personal funds to come to countries like the Marshall Islands and help the people.

And these kids are so awesome! I think about myself and how I’d be non-to-happy if I had to see another dentist than the one I’ve had since childhood. But these kids open up and trust strangers with big needles and loud drills – Holy Ghost troopers for sure! At the end of the day on Tuesday, our group was the last to go and Dr. Norma said, “You’re kids have been the best we’ve had. They are so well-mannered with no drama.” All the other dentists looked up with their masks and head lamps still shining and shook their heads in agreement. I was filled with joy for all my little kids! What an awesome compliment towards them. Baili and I thanked her for the compliment and I inwardly thanked God because I knew He had a lot to do with the peace my kids have.

So much has happened over the past month that I’ve barely been able to keep up. I already wrote to you about our informative and rare trip to the Kwajalein Elementary School. Then, Trecie had two incredible ideas she’s been working on that we initiated at the end of January: the Homework Club for the kids and the Parent Workshop. The Homework Club is now in operation and we open the school every Mon., Tues., and Thurs. for the kids to come and do their homework in a clean, quiet environment where there are teachers to help them. It’s open for an hour and fifteen minutes (which may change depending on demand). Most of the kids do their homework on the floor at home with sisters and brothers running around, people walking over them, constant noise and distractions. This should help them be more organized and productive about their work.

The Parent Workshop was for parents who wanted to learn more about being involved in their child’s education. Trecie did an awesome job organizing this with hand-outs, power-point display and so many good ideas. The parents loved it and got so many good things out of it. The Holy Spirit is really birthing some major ideas and talents through that woman of God. I’m honored to be working with Trecie, her husband Nyasha and their little girl Trinity. (Trinity is one powerful missionary). Amen!

The Gem Library opened this past Monday and we’ve had our first books checked out with many more to come. What an exciting time to be here, watching God move in the classroom and out, watching this school grow along with the people, being a part of this island’s life. I’m thankful to God that He has brought me here for a season to grow and contribute what I can.