Micronesia - A 6 month Reflection

The first half of Charlie and my Micronesian Service Year has been nothing short of an extraordinary experience. Our placement is on the beautiful island Weno, located within the state of Chuuk, staying at Xavier High School. We teach Grades 5 to 8 in English and Maths at Sapuk Elementary.

Teaching has been a roller coaster of frustration and joy as I have grown into my role as a teacher, striving to make my classes more engaging and informative. Classes can get pretty chaotic, a student may decide that the back of the class room is the ideal place to play some basketball, wants to see how long they can hide in a locker until I realise, or just feels the need to dance and sing along to Snoop Dogg. But for every crazy moment teaching, there is a one of student understanding. This is what makes turning up to school each day and persevering worthwhile - when the student I’ve been helping answers a question by themselves, looks up and smiles as it finally makes sense why crazy Mr Lachlan has been chanting “We flip and change the sign” at the class. A special moment was when one of my 8th Grade students received admission into Xavier High School, the best and most selective high school in Micronesia. This wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the work of The Cardoner Project volunteers.

Outside of the class it's been amazing to get to know my host family whom despite having very little, are absolutely delighted for me to visit and spend time with them: Be it sitting around and talking, sharing a meal, watching a movie, playing peek-a-boo with my youngest host brother Opei or playing basketball and hanging out with the oldest Axel and his mates. Highlights have been when we were sharing a dinner of spam and rice and I was told that “when you come here you’re Chuukese just like us” and when I’m referred to as ‘pwipwi’ (the Chuukese word for a sibling of the same gender). No matter what I do with my host family, I am ultimately learning what it means to be Chuukese.

The people of Sapuk, the village in which we live, and those of Chuuk in general have been extremely welcoming, always inviting us into their lives, offering food and company as a means of thanks and appreciation of us and The Cardoner Project’s continued aid in improvement of Sapuk Elementary. The impact of the program can be seen in the continuation of the Lunch Program established by James and Alex in 2013, feeding the 7th and 8th grade students which allows for afternoon classes.

We have come to know many of the volunteers placed on our island and surrounding islands, forming strong friendships and great memories. Life on Chuuk is laid back and relaxed. The local people are proud of their culture, whilst being open and welcoming to people who want to understand and be immersed in it; always willing to chat, share a meal, play a game of basketball, volleyball or simply just give a passing smile or wave.

The island of Weno and surrounding islands, accessible by speed boat, are beautiful with crystal clear blue waters, tropical sand and palm trees. This tropical beauty allows for relaxation and great swimming, often with the local children. Travel around the Island is generally done by getting a ride in the back of a ute.  Life in Chuuk for Charlie and I over the past 6 months has been a crazy and amazing experience. We look forward to new experiences, continued interactions with the Chuukese community, and growing into our positions as teachers serving the students of Sapuk Elementary in the second half of our Service Year.

Lachlan Brimson