Who Rides the Bus? is a cooperative learning activity I got from my friend Ben, a PCV in Kolonia, Pohnpei. In our classroom, WRTB? was something we did during finals week after they had already completed their Language Arts final. To introduce the activity and the practice of weighing one option against another, I had my students play Force Choice.

Force Choice is a game where participants have 2 options, and they HAVE to pick one of them in 5 seconds or less. With my students, its usually something like ice cream vs. candy, pizza vs. gum, sweeping vs. doing the dishes. When I played this game at camp, the comparisons would get more and more absurd. “Toilet paper roll flipped under? Or over?” “Tuesdays? Or split ends?” I have a lot of fun with this game because you can compare the most random things and kids get a kick out of it. (I think I would have to pick Tuesdays)

After playing Force Choice, I passed out a worksheet explaining their assignment:

Hello, and welcome to your new job as a bus driver!  Your team has been given a bus to take around the island of Kosrae.  There are five seats left on the bus, but ten people want to get on your bus!  Which ones will you take?  Your job is to look at the reasons each passenger has given, and decide who you will bring and why.  The five passengers who will not get to ride your bus need to know why, too, so each of them will need a reason as well.

On the first day, students worked independently to write 5 sentences- 1 for each person they would take and why. Here is our cast of characters:

Here are names and descriptions of the people who’d like to ride on your bus.

Louisa--Just started her new job last week and was late once after staying up all night with her young son, who was sick.  If she is late again she will get a second warning, which could mean she will lose her job.

Will--A member of Congress who is riding the bus because he strongly supports public transportation and wants others to follow his example.

Gigi--Must get to the bus on time because she is going out with her friends to celebrate her birthday.

Tolik--Wants to ride the train because he is in love with Gigi.  He is planning on declaring his love to her on the bus today.

Rocco--Needs to be on time to get to the airport, catch a flight to America and begin a year of studying abroad.

Anna--A group of business owners wants to build a parking garage on the grounds of the city park, and she needs to be on time for a meeting to keep the park from disappearing.

Julio--He dreams of being an actor; he has a tryout for the lead role in a new movie and cannot be late if he wants to get the role.

Lily--A 75-year-old woman going to babysit her grandchildren, whom she has not seen in more than a year.

Maya--A doctor who needs to get to the clinic on time to treat her patients.

Marina--On her way to the university; if she is more than ten minutes late, her teacher will lock the door and not let her in to take her final exam.

On the 2nd day, students are assigned to groups of three and work together to write ten sentences. One sentence for each person that will ride the bus and why as well as one for each person who cannot ride the bus and why. My male students have the tendency to pawn “group work” off on the females, so I assigned roles within the groups to keep everyone busy. One person’s job is to record, one person’s job is to present, and another person’s job is to make sure the group is speaking as much English as possible. The funny thing about being a teacher is realizing that teachers assign these roles intentionally and not at random.

One the 3rd day they finished up their sentences and then presented for the class. Ben also recommended an extension activity wherein students create their own force-choice-type simulation game, but we didn’t have time to do this with my students.

It was interesting to see where the kids went with their responses. Some of them really thought about themselves as bus drivers. Some of them got creative and added their own details about the characters. ALL of them fawned over Gigi and Tolik (that's 8th graders for ya!) Here are some of the more interesting responses, spelling/grammar intact:

  • I will let Will ride the bus because he is strong and very supportive so he will guard all the people on the bus.
  • I will not let Will ride the bus because he had lots of money to ride on taxi.
  • I will not let Will ride the bus because he always ask questions when I was driving.
  • I will pick Julio to ride the bus because I wan’t the people to see me that I’m driving a star.
  • I will let Lily ride the bus because she want’s to see is grandchildren whom she has not seen in more than 10 years. She is a old woman and that’s why I choose her to ride my bus.
  • I will let Gigi ride the bus because I want to eat some birthday cake.
  • I will let Maya ride the bus because she is a beautiful girl.
  • I will let Gigi ride the bus because I have a cousin name Gigi and he is short and look funny.
  • I will let Tolik ride the bus because he is in love with Gigi. I want them to in love each other.

As the groups presented we kept a tally chart of the passengers everyone selected. Amongst all my students, the passengers selected to ride were Louisa, Marina, Lily, Maya, and Rocco.

I've heard and come across a couple of hilarious student interactions lately that I feel are just too good to keep to myself. To get the full effect of these stories, one thing you need to know is that Micronesians, when speaking English, often mix up the letters 'p' and 'b'. Actually, its less 'mixing them up' than just using them interchangeably.

One of my World Teach friends said that he had asked his students to answer the prompt, "What is something funny or embarrassing that has happened to you?" One student wrote a response that said, "One time when I was wearing my sexy shirt my poops fell out." Hahah! Of course, she had meant to say her boobs fell out... it cracks me up every time I think about it. That poor girl told a very different story than she had intended. An embarrassing one, either way, I suppose.

This week I had my students develop the prompt, " Today started out normal, but then..." Here are a few of my favorite responses, with spelling and punctuation intact for authenticity.

-Today started out normal, but then I saw a strange stupid thing. I saw a cat and a dog kissing. Than the cat was pragnent and than they have baby dogs and cats.
-Today started out normal, but then I saw three cats playing volliball outside. When they saw me they told me to play with them. This is a short story. It's not real.
-Today started out normal, but then I saw one of my relative stand in the middle of the street and bee. That's one of the thing that's not normal. True story.
[I don't know whether the 'true story' this student is talking about is that fact that his relative peed in the middle of the road? Or that if this were to happen, it would not be normal?]
-Today started off normal, but then I saw a dog climbing on a tree and he tells me to go and join him. When I saw it, I was bewildered and I say "a dog climbing on a tree?"
[Bonus points to this kid for using our vocab word, bewildered!]
-Today started out normal, but then I saw a lion and a deer playing. They were playing soccer. Then the lionkicked the ball and the ball went up into the sky. So the deer got mad and walked away with an angry face.
Yikes! It looks like my internet had a hard time dealing with the photos and text for my last blog. Try to ignore the technical difficulties, and when I get access to a stronger connection I can go back and clean it up a little bit.

This year I have made the transition from 6th grade to 8th grade Language Arts. My school splits each grade into 3 sections (A, B, C -yes, education folks, you may recognize these as tracks). At the beginning of the school day, students have a homeroom they go to for attendance, and then 15 minutes of Oral Communication practice. Following Oral Comm, they stay with their homeroom teacher for their first period of instruction. Each grade has 3 different classrooms, so over the course of the day, each teacher is visited twice by the same group of students. In the middle of the day, students have a 15 minute "lunch break". After 6th period, students return to homeroom for a 20-minute health and nutrition class. My schedule looks like this:
8-8:15 Oral Comm
8:15-9 Section B Reading
9-9:45 Section C Reading
9:45-10:30 Section A Reading
10:30-11:15 Section B Writing
11:15-11:30 Recess
11:30-12:15 Section C Writing
12:15-1 Section A Writing
1-1:20 Health & Nutrition
A huge advantage that sections give us teachers is smaller class size when students need them. My Section A has 18 students, B has 15, and C has 12. On days where my coteacher and I have a detailed plan and are really prepared, this means the students are getting a great amount of individual attention.

One of my recent obsessions is teacher blogs. Sundays are low-key here in Kosrae and keeping myself "busy" usually means napping in my hammock all day, finding a good book to read, or watching episode after episode of tv from my external hard drive (I've recently gotten into Breaking Bad). Lately I spend my Sundays reading blogs of teachers around the US and Canada. Not only am I getting great insight into fun activities other teachers have used, but I am also learning from their mistakes. Sometimes I am also a little mystified by (jealous of) all the technology US classrooms have these days. (Smart board? Whats that? All I have in my classroom is a chalkboard. No, but really, I would kill for an overhead projector, which seems to be a relic of the ancient past in the US)

Reading Olympians is a program I stumbled upon recently that helps students learn affixes and root words. I am a Greek Mythology nerd, so I've been super excited about this and hope it goes over well with my kids. This program divides affixes and root words into sets of 10, and each set is given the name of a Greek God or Olympian. The first set is Nike, which covers a- anti- bi- bio cent -less post- pre- sub- and un-. 
I went over to good ol' Ace Office Supply, purchased folders for each of my kiddos and made sure each folder had all of the necessary materials for the Nike set. Materials include flashcards that can be cut out (though I probably won't have my students cut them out because they will lose them right away. Unfortunately Ace doesn't sell those binder rings that open and close- if anyone wants to send about 50 my way, that would be super helpful), a worksheet, and a rhyme that goes with each root/affix to help students remember the meaning. At the end of the unit, all students that pass the assessment with 80% or higher move up to the next set- Poseidon.
These posters will go up on the wall in our classroom. There is a Greek column for each student, and when a student successfully finishes one set, they will add a sticker to their column with that Greek figure's name. Tomorrow I plan on introducing Nike, the winged Goddess of Victory to my students and we'll go from there. I'll leave you with this hilarious picture I found on the back of one of my 8th grader's exams a few weeks ago.
Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000172 EndHTML:0000014080 StartFragment:0000008600 EndFragment:0000014044 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/heatherbright/Documents/tilo.doc As my friend Liz put it, “Liberation Day is the closest Kosraean women get to dancing.” Basically it’s a good time all around. To celebrate the Liberation of Kosraeans from Japanese forces, the villages celebrate with a state-wide 4-day weekend. See that, America? Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend, but it’s got nothin’ on Kosrae. (Note: Kosraeans also celebrate Labor Day, but at an earlier date.)

If you’ve been following my Peace Corps journey, you may have noticed that a common theme with local events is that usually none of the asits (myself included) have any idea what is going on ahead of time. All of us have the following conversation with a Kosraean in some form or another:

Asit: I hear there are going to be events for *insert holiday here *

Kosraean: Yes, it will be fun. Make sure you come.

Asit: Great, when will that be taking place?

Kosraean: I think 8. Hmm. Maybe 9.

That might seem like a semi-straightforward answer, except for the fact that nothing in Kosrae happens before about 10 am. Then begins the game of guessing just how late things will be kicking off.

We eagerly try to corner Kosraeans into giving us exact times and dates, yet continue to fail helplessly. The funny thing is we are so far removed from our schedule-obsessed first world, but still can’t seem to drop the habit of needing to know exactly what is happening and when.

On Thursday, September 5th, a couple of local farmers were selling vegetables from 10-11 am. As far as I have been able to discern, that was the extent of Thursday’s events. Friday morning around 8- or maybe it was 9?- the different neighborhoods of Lelu gathered in uniform at my school for races and games. My neighborhood, Sea Siders, got decked out in actual uniform –matching skirts and shirts- while the others wore their neighborhood color. It is a sweet coincidence that Sea Siders and UO share the color green. I had the perfect water bottle, sunglasses, and fan for the occasion.

It was kind of like a field day for adults. There were multiple heats of footraces for men, women and teens. I also got roped into competing for Sea Siders in a game called “Pass Ball” in which teams of 10 work to pass a softball down the line without using their hands. This is done by holding it between your chest and chin, moving in for a close hug, and hoping your partner doesn’t drop the ball. As the token asit for Sea Siders, I was designated the role of 1st in line. “What happens if the ball falls?” I asked my teammates. “We lose.” Haha, that’s straightforward enough. Let me tell you guys though, I think I found my calling. I was totally born to play Pass Ball. Not only did my team come in first place, but we all won a bag of sugar! Okay, okay. If I’m being honest, everyone that participated in every event ‘won’ a participatory bag of sugar. Since I ran in the footraces, I actually went home with 2 that day.

Saturday was the day for water events, and because it was hot as hell on Friday, it was, of course rainy and windy on Saturday. The canoe races were quick, more like canoe sprints. They were also a little bit harder to follow because contestants weren’t as dedicated to their uniforms as they had been the previous day. My friends Liz and Lindsay competed for the Pansre neighborhood, but I was too much of a wimp to get in the water.

As far as I can tell, there was never really a “winner” of the games. Never mind though, because my neighborhood has proclaimed themselves the champion, and we’re having a picnic at the end of the month to celebrate. Haha, I like the way these people think.





This summer I was lucky enough to get to go home for a few solid weeks of R & R.
 I was home last Christmas for a brief period of time, but most of my trip was marred by an unpleasant Dengue Fever recurrence. Spending NYE in the ER- I don’t recommend it to anyone. This time around I made sure I didn’t get sick, and spent every minute of it with friends and family, eating shopping or drinking. The irony of living on a tropical island and vacationing in the United States isn’t lost on me, I promise.

It was so nice to be back home in Portland. River floating, bar-hopping, shopping, and movie-watching were just some of the many activities I was eager to partake in. A lot of Starbucks was consumed too, let me tell you. I was occasionally overwhelmed by the amount of people I encountered and often mistakenly believed I recognized people when I actually didn’t. I think this is a symptom of living on an island with 10 other Americans and knowing all of them pretty well. My logic was something like- Surely I know someone in this massive group of people my age here in the airport/at the bar/in line for ice cream.

Highlights from my vacation included side-trips to San Francisco and Seattle. On our drive South, we spent the night with Gma in Klamath Falls. I was hoping to see Gpa and hand-deliver the breadfruit chips my host-family had sent his way, but he was out working on a forest fire. Grandma made some delicious food, and of course spoiled us with lots of goodies before sending us on our way.

In San Francisco, Kate, my dad and I attended Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. We got to see some amazing performances including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul McCartney, Vampire Weekend, Fishbone, Phoenix, and others. We also spent a few hours cruising around the city and taking pictures at the Palace of Fine Arts. I was even able to snag breakfast one morning with my friends Vince and Donna!

Within 8 hours of getting back to Portland from San Francisco, I was Seattle-bound. Muscle memory has engrained the Portland-Eugene route in my head from my University of Oregon days, so I had a little laugh when I realized I was actually on I-5 SB instead of NB. Oops. In Seattle I got to meet up with an old high school friend, (what? It’s been 5 years already?) and talk about her exciting move to the Pacific Northwest. I also spent some much needed time with my bestie Lindsay at her old stomping grounds right off the UW campus. Fellow ducks: skip the next 3 sentences. Interestingly enough, UW was actually the main reason for my Seattle trip. I’ve been looking into graduate schools lately and as it turns out, they have a pretty nice MPA program up there. It was no Eugene, but overall a nice visit.

Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Micronesia. See you next summer, Portlandia!

One of the bars I went to sold "DIY S'Mores!" Nom.
Jump fail
Fireworks at the end of Paul McCartneys set
Painting playhouses for Habitat for Humanity
I'm not entirely sure whether Ron Swanson is a Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan or not
Love this guy's sign!
....and a photo of our cat UltraLord for good measure.

Camp glow


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Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is something I have been excited about since joining Peace Corps. The PCVs that have held Camp GLOW in Pohnpei open it up to 8th grade girls exclusively and take the opportunity to hold sessions such as HIV/AIDS Awareness, Sex Ed, Nutrition, Substance Abuse, Changing Bodies, and Teambuilding. There are also panels that bring local female community leaders together to talk about leadership and education.

Camp GLOW in Kosrae was a little bit different. I don't know how it got started, but Kosrae has an active Girl Scout chapter and each village has their own troop of girls. I did some background research, and Girl Scouts USA (the cookie-selling ones) only exists internationally for expat children. Somewhere along the way it caught on here and the name stuck, so local girls get together as Girl Scouts and participate in different events around the community. I am still unclear on how things have worked in the past, but every summer the leaders gather all of the Girl Scouts for a week of overnight camping in some capacity. 

The Girl Scouts range in age from 6-18 ,so right off the bat I knew we were working with a different kind of animal. Though I personally feel it is extremely important for Camp GLOW to include sexual health sessions and information, it is not an appropriate topic for all of the age ranges we would be hosting. Srue, the Girl Scout Board President and I worked together to schedule programming and workshops that would be beneficial (and duh, FUN!) for everyone involved.

As for programming, I think we did a pretty good job. We had local representatives from KIRMA, a local NGO, come to talk about waste reduction, the environment, and they even gave out prizes to the extra good listeners. We had some public health speakers come to talk to the girls about hygiene and first aid, one of the Girl Scout leaders talked about the importance of education, and a pastor's wife (esteemed community leader) discussed alcohol abuse with the girls. I also invited the 2 female US Army soldiers that are currently on island (a group is here working on different projects around the island) to talk to the girls about what a great, and unique, opportunity the US military is for them. (Micronesians are allowed to join US military per the Compact Agreement) They had a great time with the girls and even came back later in the week to teach them basic marching skills! We also had cultural sessions on plate-making and cooking.

I was excited about camp because not only was I once a Girl Scout, but I have also been a camp counselor. As Camp GLOW got closer, dreams of silly songs and games filled my head. One of the most important thing I have learned working with kids in the US is that keeping them busy is super important. Extra down time is an opportunity for the kids to get bored and their energy levels go completely out the window, along with their moods. Rest is important, too, but nobody wants to sit around at camp, right?

The thing with kids in Kosrae, though, is that they aren't familiar with the "getting bored" concept. Kids here can't just go to the movies or sit down and play video games, so they get creative. More often than not, as soon as there's down time you'll see kids crowd together for a game of jacks or marbles, or a volleyball will randomly appear. If they don't have those, the girls will sit around and literally braid each others' hair for hours (not joking). So while I was eager to teach allll these new songs and allll these new games, the girls were just as happy hitting a volleyball around. And understandably so, because volleyball doesn't require a translator and 5 facilitators for the younger girls, haha. After the first day I realized that it was okay to have time to sit around and play cards (for hours on end) between the scheduled workshops. It was actually a nice opportunity for me to get to know some of the girls that came to Lelu from the other villages.

Overall I think we did a good job taking advantage of our resources. My hope for next year is to start the planning earlier so we can secure outside funding for extras (Tie dye! S'mores!). I would also like to facilitate separate sessions for the older girls that address the sexual health issues that often go ignored.
My favorite photo from camp. The young woman in the middle was an outstanding role model for her fellow girl scouts. Here she's teaching the younger girls how to make local plates from palm fronds.
Making flower crowns: "roses"
Reverse Scavenger Hunt!



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To anyone vaguely interested in the Peace Corps, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Training is the hardest part. The funny part is, staff will let you in on this almost right away. “After this it’s all downhill,” they’ll say. “Once you get to site things will be easier,” they’ll say. And you’ll nod politely, internally noting that this is the simplest way for them to acknowledge your struggle. How could 10 weeks of, albeit intense, training possibly compare to 24 months at site figuring things out on your own? Well it’s a different kind of challenge, but looking back, I really do have to agree.

In the months, days, and hours leading up to MST (Mid-Service Training) I was SUPER excited to see my PCV friends from other islands, and a little less excited to undergo a full week of what I was warned ahead of time would be exhausting training. I need not have worried, though, because most of our MST sessions were casual and focused on celebrating the past year’s victories/looking forward to the next year’s opportunities. We also got to usher in the new class of Trainees!

I cannot even begin to explain how reenergizing it was to see all of the M78s again. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of talking shop in the letters we send one another… things we’re struggling with, our modest success, etc. Meeting up in Pohnpei allowed us to spend time together as normal friends again. Go to the movies (Gatsby & 42- both worth $5), stay out late, sing karaoke (Spice Up Your Life is a new group favorite), eat too much, and laugh too hard (seriously. I took a 4-day break from P90x and I still felt like my abs were getting a killer workout).

PIZZA.DELIVERY. What is this? I felt like I was back in America!
COS travel plans. We can dream, right?
Mark, myself, and Joyce at Cupids Bar and Grill!
One of the week's highlights was running into my favorite taxi driver again. Some of you may remember Eugene, my friend that lived in Oregon, from this* post. There was one evening where myself and a few friends had closed down Rusty Anchor. The bartenders called us a cab before closing up shop and leaving.

It is unfortunately typical in the FSM that taxis forget you called, take a long time, or decide not to show up at all. A standard conversation with dispatch in Kosrae goes like this:

Me: Hi, this is Srue Burney, can I get a taxi from Luhk to Tree Lodge?”

Dispatch: Who is this?

Me: Peace Corps Srue

Dispatch: Ok.


Was he saying ok, he knows me? Or was he saying ok, he’ll pick me up? I never really know, but I cross my fingers and hope for the best. Sometimes he doesn’t come at all and I find a different ride, sometimes I have to call again in half an hour to check up on the taxi, sometimes I get picked up in less than 5 minutes.

Unfortunately no one in our group was a Pohnpei volunteer, and therefore none of us knew the local taxi numbers. Also unfortunate was the amount of rain pouring down. Enough time passed that we started to get nervous about being abandoned at a closed bar in the middle of the week. One friend started half-jokingly trying to flag down cars, while another friend brainstormed different options. It seemed like all we could do was wait for the rain to stop and start the walk into town where hopefully we would stumble across an open store that could call another cab. After what seemed like an hour (but what was more likely around 25 minutes), the cab finally showed up.

There were four of us, so I opted for shotgun. I’m a friendly person, so I asked the driver what his name was.

“EUGENE?! WAIT. No way! You lived in Oregon right?! Do you remember us from last summer?!”

We must have left quite the impression, because he definitely remembered us (funnily enough, the cab was comprised of almost the same group of people). Since last summer, Eugene had started his own taxi company. On the side he also producing a video on Pohnpeiian culture. Hilarity ensued when someone in the group misheard him say HPO and thought he was working on a project with HBO. After making a quick pit-stop where he changed a flat tire in about 15 seconds, we were on our way back. He charged us each $1 for what would have otherwise been at least a $5 ride. We all tipped him generously and he told us to call his company for any other rides we’d need that week. Over the next couple of nights we called his company exclusively, and he even stopped and offered a ride when he saw us walking back from lunch one afternoon.  

Mark, in the foreground with the cutest dog ever, giving me an excuse to take this undercover shot of Eugene changing a flat
Danielle and I made some mix cds for all of the departing World Teach Volunteers. Highlights include "It Wasn't Me" and "With a Little Help From My Friends". We also made these cute cd envelopes out of scrapbook paper I was sent.
Photo op in front of the first set on Banyan trees at Yekala forest. Adam, Emily, Liz and I climbed a similar Banyan tree that Emily estimated to be "about 30 metres tall"
Our reward at the end of the climb, a nice waterfall shower- great water pressure, too!
Jacob my internet fairy at Telecom came by the other day and we finally got the wireless router set up that my dad sent ages ago.
Team Blue cheering on our runners at the Lelu and Sansrik Elementary Field Day
I have been planning a "Cribs" post for a while, but in the meantime, here's a photo I took of my fancy closet setup
Reading Fantastic Mr. Fox!
Parents Vs. Students Jeopardy game for 5th grade. "What are homonym words?"
One of my many, many roommates
Blue Team cheers at Field Day practice
Emily and I at Sunday brunch
Our new friend Lupe celebrating Cinco
Machete-wielding 6th graders make me nervous!