Hospitality When You Least Expect It

Posted by Heather Tang in Marshall Islands 08 Dec 2011

Sara, a Marshall Islands WorldTeach volunteer, reflects on the hospitality of her new neighbors and community.

 

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I don’t think I have written much about how hospitable people here are. Today I was reminded of that during my run.

 

I was running the causeway, which at some parts is literally a dirt road in the ocean and at parts closer to the islands it gets wider to include little beaches and trees. As I was on my way back to Guegeegue I noticed some young boys off to the ocean side of the road. They seemed to be playing on the rocks near the shore. As I ran past them they motioned to me, so I stopped running and said hello. One of the boys offered me something that was in his hands. I automatically assumed that it was something from the ocean and asked, “What is that?” He looked at me funny and answered,”Chicken.” At first I didn’t understand, because I thought the black and brown object in his hand came from the ocean. I figured I misheard him, which happens often. I got closer to the boys and looked at what they held. “Maybe some sort of jellyfish or the insides of a giant clam,” I thought to myself. Instead I asked, “What is that?” again. The boy just held the thing to me. That was when I got a whiff and realized, yup that is chicken like he said. I laughed a little at myself and told them, “No thank you, I can’t eat when I run.” The boys smiled at me and I ran away.

 

I couldn’t help but smile at the encounter with the boys. Can you imagine going for a run in a park in the states and someone coming up to you and offering some of their BBQ? That is exactly what happened. The Marshallese culture has really shown me what it means to take care of people. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the generosity around me.

 

I developed a new rule in my classroom this semester because this generosity was interrupting my class. Our school has a “no food in classrooms” rule, but I don’t make my students abide by it in my classroom. I figure the people selling the food benefit from the students buying food, learning is easier when a person isn’t hungry, and eating helps the students maintain their energy so they don’t sleep. The problem was every time a student had food they were sharing it with the entire class. If a student on the right side of the room wanted some chips from another student on the left side they would do one of three things: 1. yell for the food to be passed, 2. get up and walk straight across the room, 3. ask the person next to her to ask the person next to him, and so on. All of the above were disruptive to the classroom so I made a “No Sharing” rule for my class. That goes for food during class and for pens, pencils, and erasers during tests (yes two students will pass back and forth one pen during their test). Funny to go from trying to force 2nd graders to share to implementing a “No Sharing” rule.

 

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