It takes a little bit of maneuvering and a whole lot of observation, but when you figure it out, it just clicks. When I first came to Kosrae, my host family was comprised of an older couple that were prominent figures in the local church. They had an 18 year old daughter that I was super excited to meet, but between them signing up to be a host family and my actual arrival, she got married and moved in with her husband’s family. So for a little while it was just the three of us. Soon family obligations had my host mom spending most of her time in a different village, and things got quiet. My host dad was often busy with church and though I was eager to step up and experience the culture, I hadn’t quite prepared myself for 4+ hours of church service a week in a language I didn’t yet understand. More than anything, I missed having younger siblings around. Even when I didn’t live with my own sisters I worked in childcare and have always been surrounded by kids. I talked over my thoughts with Peace Corps staff, and we decided that it would be good to start taking steps toward locating a host family that might be a better fit. There was a whole lot of guilt that came with the process but overall my host parents agreed that my move was probably for the best. To all present and future PCVs considering a host family switch: don’t let your guilt make the decision for you. I gave it a shot and stuck with it for a while but ultimately decided it wasn’t working, and coming to that conclusion was okay.
There are currently 10 people living with us at my house, and that varies day to day. My siblings range in age from 2 months old to early 30s. Though our family spans a few generations, everyone calls Mom “mom”, and I consider everyone else a sibling. Ninac Tulpe is our fearless leader, and she is one badass woman. Lar is my oldest sister, her English is pretty much perfect and she is a great listener when I need someone to talk to. Sol is the quietest family member, but her sense of humor shines when you get her talking. She’s also a champ at braiding hair. Hersey is the man of the house, but as is typical of high schoolers, he spends a lot of time off hanging out with his friends. I have yet to get adequate video of his next-level ukulele skills. Penny was one of my students this year and she’s always a joy to spend time with. She’s a super smart kid and I wish I could be here to see her transition to high school next year. Berney is named after Pahpa Berney who passed away in March of 2012. He’s at that perfect age where he pretends to prefer the company of his older brother, but you can catch him with a smile on his face playing tag with the little ones. Eamon and Salik, these kiddos light up my life and make everything more interesting. Eamon has a penchant for nail polish, clip-on earrings, and other sparkly things. Salik has an active imagination and gets a kick out of me trying to teach our dog tricks. They’re both fantastically ticklish and have the best smiles. Baby Edith is the most recent addition to our family, and one of the most mild-mannered babies I have ever met.
When they’re not busy taking care of the kids, me, or cleaning the house or gardening, Penny and the other girls run a bakery out of our kitchen. Pros to this include coming home to a house that smells like cinnamon, cons include always having sweet treats around to eat. ;) At least one round of donuts is made daily, which is sold out of our house as well as 2 local stores. Bundt and roll cakes are also often made to sell at local stores. Our phone is continually ringing with orders for donuts, coconut biscuits, cakes, and on Sundays, pizza. Needless to say the food here is delicious and plentiful. Ninac and I have a routine where she makes a meal, I eat it, she tells me to eat more, I tell her I’m full, she tells me to eat more, I eat more, and all of this concludes in my two-piece muumuus becoming just a little bit tighter.
In preparation of our departure from Kosrae, Liz, Alyssa and I wanted to show our appreciation by hosting a dinner for our families at Nautilus restaurant. Sally really went above and beyond in making the night special. On a PCV budget, we agreed on a menu including a choice of a few different entrees, drinks and dessert. The girls and I had spent a few weeks putting together a slideshow (complete with Kosraean music!) that we projected up onto one of the restaurant walls. A few of my family members couldn’t make it in the end, but I would still call it a success. I still have a bit of time left on island, but the thought of leaving was a hard one to confront. I owe this family so much love and support. I certainly couldn’t have done it without them.