Sandra Power: Sandra Power’s CommUNITY News no. 1

Palms Volunteers, Sandra (front) and Marie (second from left) with I-Kiribati friends
Dear all,

Taborio is the most beautiful place and I am on an estuary, so I get an ocean breeze which is good, although the classrooms are very hot by lunch time and the heat really saps you so all you want to do after a morning’s teaching is curl up for a nap.

Tomorrow all the students go home. I have been frantically busy preparing exam papers. The exam is this week and now I have 110 papers to mark and 110 reports to send out which is going to prove a challenge as I am still learning the names of the students. It is difficult when ‘ti’ becomes ‘s’ and ‘w’ isn’t pronounced and most of the names are at least 20 letters and they never sound how they are written.

What to eat here is a real problem. There is no fish in the school restaurant, just cans of tinned meat which I can’t stomach. I did manage to find a tuna fish when some fishermen came to the school but it has to be eaten immediately, so I shared it with my Solomon Islander neighbours. I really miss my fridge. I have my food cupboard sitting in 4 tins of water but somehow the ants were managing to get across and when I looked back they had made a bridge of their bodies from the wall to the tin.

When I went into the classroom last week, they all said in a loud chorus Good morning mummy.

Sandra at Taborio beach
Apart from the never ending problem of what to eat, I am quite happy. I think I have come through the culture shock thing. It really helps that one of my classes really likes me. When I went into the classroom last week, they all said in a loud chorus Good morning mummy. I was very touched. It’s because I do tend to mother them when they are sick and they really respond to a little bit of love as many teachers still use the whacking stick.

Teaching is uphill work here as getting the students to respond I have to practically turn myself inside out and do somersaults. They are terrified of making fools of themselves. The sisters here are all I-Kiribati. One has just come to me to check her exam questions, some of which were way off beam. She had a book of questions on Francis Bacon, Gallileo, Descartes, Einstein and Voltaire but she couldn’t understand her own questions, let alone the answers. It took me an hour to decipher what she meant.

I get on really well with two of the nuns here. Sister Christina saves me toddy every morning, so at least I get vitamins that way. She also took me on a picnic last week with her kitchen helpers which was lovely of her as I am not a helper, but just appear every morning for my toddy. Toddy is coconut sap and goes alcoholic, but when it is fresh it is lovely.

I’m going south tomorrow as it’s the first chance I have had for weeks. That’s why I’m writing now as I don’t trust the local delivery. There is a fax number here, but the fax only works from 7 until 9 pm and the power is so often off in any case that I don’t think there is much point. The Sisters in South Tarawa have been absolutely lovely to me. Sister Margaret came over last week with a bag of fruit because she had heard I had been a bit sick.

When I asked him how they had managed the feast, he said the family had all contributed.

I went to a wedding last night of a former Peace Corps worker and the son of her host family when she was here. He was used to a simple village life and she came from a family of academics. Her mother and stepmother were both there. I only met them on Sunday when I introduced myself when I saw them wandering around, so it was lovely of them to invite me. I passed on one of Palms’ articles on culture shock as she is taking her husband back to the States and it’s not going to be easy on either of them.

The father of the groom has eight children and is unemployed. I don’t know how they manage because they really turned on a slap-up feast. When I asked him how they had managed the feast, he said the family had all contributed.

I must get back to my marking. Love to everyone,

Sandra

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The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. - Charles du Bois