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).
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
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.