Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Beginning of the End

So the time has finally come. I am about to complete my two years of service in the Peace Corps. Even though I know my mom would beg to differ, the time has truly flown past for me. I find it almost unbelievable that I am now 24 years old; it feels like yesterday that I graduated from college and got on that plane.

Many people have and will be asking me “So how was Peace Corps?”, and right now I’m finding that question difficult to answer. I think I need more space and more time between me and Pohnpei for me to judge the situation clearly. These past two years have been the most challenging experience of my life, both physically and emotionally. I feel I am much stronger because of it, but I’m not sure yet what else I have gained from my time here in service.

I faced so many obstacles along the way, countless frustrations, and endless illness. I had a good local friend die, a family member and a friend back home as well. I experienced many failures and mistakes, and often felt isolated and alone. I think I will need more time to process everything before I can call this “the toughest job you’ll ever love” (Peace Corps’ favorite catch phrase).

But even so, a part of me is sad to leave. Despite all the hardships, I do care deeply about many of the people I’ve met here. My family has been an endless source of help and support, and I will truly miss them. Several of my students and co-teachers impacted me in ways they will never know. And not to mention the American friends I’ve made that supported me through it all, both Peace Corps Volunteers and Jesuit Volunteers. Those young men and women are incredible and I am proud to call them my friends. So getting on that plane next week will definitely be bittersweet.

Already I feel like I’m living in a surreal reality. My room is becoming more and more empty, as I begin packing, throwing away things, and donating others. I just had the goodbye party at my school yesterday, and my family and I are planning something special for this weekend, my last weekend. So many lasts. I’m trying frantically to get everything in that I want to do before I leave, acknowledging that some of my bucket list will just never get done.

So as Friday draws near, I’m trying my best to soak up all that I can. Even with all the frustrations that came with my service, I will never again have this unique experience and that in it itself is worth appreciating.

Thank you to everyone who helped and supported me along the way. I honestly couldn’t have done it without you.

I’ll see you all on the other side!

Stay well,


An Open Letter to Family and Friends in America

Dear Friends,

In just over a week I will begin my 37 hour journey home, and I am very excited to see you again and catch up on the past two years. But before I do, I’d like to let you all in on a little secret: I am terrified to go back to America.

In America there are lots of people, big buildings, fast cars, and giant shopping malls. All of these things and many more, cause me a lot of anxiety when I think about returning home. Please be patient with me when I get overwhelmed. Please don’t laugh at me when I begin to hyperventilate in the middle of a Target or while gaping at the produce selection in Publix. Please just hold my hand and remind me to breathe.

Please acknowledge that I have become accustomed to a certain way of life and culture very different from our own. Please tell me when I do something socially unacceptable. Notice I said “when” and not “if”, because let’s face it, this will absolutely happen. Please alert me to my poor fashion choices.

Please remember that I have been living very far away in a remote location. Please humor me when I fail to understand a pop-culture reference or when I am clueless about current events. Be prepared to catch me up on two years’ worth of life.

Please recognize that I lived for two years in a tropical environment without air-conditioning. Please accept the fact that I will find 80 degrees freezing. Please don’t just me when I curl up in a blanket in the middle of August.

Please understand that I’ve lived in a virtually technology-less realm. Please allow me to be utterly mesmerized by your cell phone, computer, tablet, tv, car, or whatever. Please do not trust me not to break your aforementioned items. I have no idea how to use them. Please teach me how.

Now that you know what amount of crazy expect (high levels), I look forward to seeing you all soon!


105 Books I Read in Peace Corps

105 Books I Read in Peace Corps

A while back my Peace Corps post received an adorable letter from an elementary student in Massachusetts asking the Volunteers various questions, among which laid this gem: “Do you ever have time to read?” When this was read aloud to the room, everyone chuckled. Do I have time to read? Son, that is just about all that I do. You’d be surprised how much you can read in a world without tv or internet.

So, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of the books I read during my service. Several of the titles are books I have read before, but simply re-read while here. Others are books I was assigned to read in school but never did. Many of the books are ones I’ve always wanted to read by never had the time. Some are titles I’d never heard of, but picked up on a whim. The genres are varied, but many authors repeat. I even read three complete series, though only two consecutively.

I took a little liberty with including the last title, as I am currently reading it, but anticipate its completion prior to my departure next week. Also, if you’re feeling lazy, I’ve whittled the list down to my favorite 10 titles, and that shorter list can be found first.

After you’ve perused the lists, feel free to ask me to review any of the books. Lord knows I’m full of opinions. Enjoy!

Top 10 List (in no particular order):

  1. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)
  4. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente)
  5. The Time Travelor’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  6. Columbine (Dave Cullen)
  7. The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver)
  8. The Shack (William P. Young)
  9. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)
  10. Island of the Colorblind (Oliver Sacks)

Complete Book List (June 2012- July 2014)

  1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Luis Stevenson)
  2. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  3. Bossypants (Tina Fey)
  4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
  5. Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
  6. The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)
  7. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Alexandra Fuller)
  8. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente)
  9. The Lover’s Dictionary (David Levithan)
  10. A Long Way Down (Nick Hornby)
  11. Devil In the White City (Erik Larson)
  12. My Horizontal Life: A Collect of One-Night Stands (Chelsea Handler)
  13. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII (Mitchell Zuckoff)
  14. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)
  15. Heaven’s For Real (Todd Burpo)
  16. Bridge to Terrabithia (Katherine Patterson)
  17. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  18. The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein)
  19. Drown (Junot Diaz)
  20. Outliers (Malcom Gladwell)
  21. Hoot (Carl Hiaasen)
  22. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  23. 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching (Phillip Done)
  24. Next (Michael Critchon)
  25. To Sir, With Love (E.R. Braithwaite)
  26. The Reader (Bernard Schlink)
  27. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  28. Holes (Louis Sachar)
  29. The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
  30. Silver Linings Playbook (Matthew Quick)
  31. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  32. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle)
  33. My Korean Deli: Risking It All For a Convenience Store (Ben Ryder Howe)
  34. Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral (Kris Radish)
  35. The Island of the Colorblind (Oliver Sacks)
  36. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (Alexander McCall Smith)
  37. Wrong About Japan (Peter Carey)
  38. The Sex Lives of Cannibals (J. Maarten Troost)
  39. The Runaway Jury (John Grisham)
  40. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)
  41. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
  42. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
  43. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
  44. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
  45. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)
  46. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)
  47. The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weiberger)
  48. Tears of the Giraffe (Alexander McCall Smith)
  49. Columbine (Dave Cullen)
  50. The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa (Josh Swiller)
  51. Ape House (Sara Gruen)
  52. The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver)
  53. Theodore Boone: The Abduction (John Grisham)
  54. We the Animals (Justin Torres)
  55. 11/22/63 (Stephen King)
  56. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (Jon Ronson)
  57. The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan)
  58. The Sea of Monsters (Rick Riordan)
  59. The Titan’s Curse (Rick Riordan)
  60. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Rick Riordan)
  61. The Last Olympian (Rick Riordan)
  62. Surviving Paradise (Peter Rudiak-Gould)
  63. A is for Alibi (Sue Grafton)
  64. The Freedom Writers’ Diary (Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers)
  65. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  66. Pigs in Heaven (Barbara Kingsolver)
  67. Along Came a Spider (James Patterson)
  68. Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)
  69. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  70. The Shack (William P. Young)
  71. Orange is the New Black (Piper Kerman)
  72. Kiss the Girls (James Patterson)
  73. Wild (Cheryl Srayed)
  74. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)
  75. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Cathrynne M. Valente)
  76. David and Goliath (Malcolm Gladwell)
  77. Ferenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
  78. Into Thin Air (Jon Karakauer)
  79. The Secret Garden (Franes Hodgson Burnett)
  80. Forrest Gump (Winston Groom)
  81. Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare)
  82. A Star Called Henry (Roddy Doyle)
  83. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns (Mindy Kaling)
  84. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  85. A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson)
  86. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan)
  87. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
  88. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  89. Little Bee (Chris Cleave)
  90. Island of the Sequined Love Nun (Christopher Moore)
  91. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  92. 1984 (George Orwell)
  93. 12 Years a Slave (Solomon Northup)
  94. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  95. The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman)
  96. Teacher Man (Frank McCourt)
  97. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Catherynne M. Valente)
  98. The Winner Stands Alone (Paulo Coelho)
  99. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Ishmael Beah)
  100. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris)
  101. I Am the Messenger (Markus Zusak)
  102. Sun Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)
  103. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
  104. Ship Breaker (Paola Bacigalupi)
  105. Love Medicine (Louise Erdrich)

So many of the books above were wonderful to read; my top 10 list was a very difficult decision. And as excited as I am to go home, I realize I will no longer have enough time to read as much as I’ve become accustomed. But regardless, I see a library card in my future.

Happy reading!


Monday, June 09, 2014

Ice Cream

Friday was a day of celebration. It marked my two years in Peace Corps and my sitemate Matt’s one year. It was also one of the not so rare occurrences when we were the only two people left at school. I often feel like the hardest working person on staff, but it’s even more glaring on days like this. Less than an hour after school got out, the campus was empty, save for Matt and I hanging out in the office, grading papers, making copies, and generally enjoying our pocket of America.

After we finished our work for the day, Matt and I were locking up the school when he casually mentioned that he might have some ice cream when he got home. Casually. Dumbfounded, I stuttered a question along the lines of “Wha….?” As it turns out, the store Matt’s family runs at his house regularly stocks ice cream, and somehow this was the first I’d heard of it. Blasphemy.

My family also runs a store, though slightly smaller than the one at Matt’s house. I rarely, if ever, go to the store at Matt’s house because I feel like I’m cheating on my family’s store if I do. But for icecream? I can put my morals aside for ice cream.

I don’t know if I can accurately portray to you all at home in America the gravity of the situation. Ice cream was to be had, in my village. Not in town. In my village. And not soupy ice cream that was bought in town and transported the 45 minutes to my village. Cold, fresh ice cream. Opportunities like this cannot be passed up.

To my delight, the ice cream was not vanilla or plain chocolate or even strawberry, as I most commonly see, but Rocky Road. Rocking freaking Road. This was a big deal, people.

I bought Matt and I each a cone with scoops bigger than my fist, and basked in the immeasurable joy that is ice cream.

The walk from Matt’s house to my house is roughly seven minutes, and as I began my leisurely stroll down the path, licking the luscious Rocky Road that was dripping down my hand (despite the fact that it was cool and drizzly outside), I suddenly realized that I had roughly five minutes of walk-time left to devour all evidence of my ice cream bliss.

It was imperative that my family not know that I had ice cream for two reasons: one, I didn’t want to share, and two, my family believes that I don’t eat ice cream.

Let me explain myself. When living in a foreign country with unusual food, you’re often faced with situations in which you have to gracefully turn down questionable dishes. Early on in my service, I was given something made with milk that seemed less than fresh. I told my family I’m allergic to milk, which is technically true, I am lactose intolerant. But I rarely let that stand in my way. Yes, I drink soy milk, but other than that, I can down a pizza or a cheese burger and finish it off with a milkshake, no problem. Occasionally I take lactaid pills, but usually I just suffer the consequences.

But rather than explain all that and have to admit that I didn’t want to eat the food being given me, I just said that milk makes me very sick. This was not a big deal until my family figured out that milk is in ice cream. Whenever we have ice cream at my house, which is not all that often (maybe five or six times in the past two years), I always abstain. I sit sadly, with longing in my eyes and watch the kids drink their ice cream soup. To eat ice cream would be to admit that I not so much lied, but embellished the truth. And so, I remained ice cream free. The misery enveloped me.

So, back on the path with the ice cream that could convict me, I abruptly stopped savoring and began furiously eating, pushing through the brain freeze. As I rounded the final bend and came across my favorite cousin Disha playing in the mud, I shoved the last bit of cone in my mouth and tried to muster a smile while keeping my mouth completely shut. She giggled and I thought I was in the clear. Mission accomplished. But as it turns out, I forgot one crucial detail.

“Owomwen sokoled!” she squeeled. (There’s chocolate on your face!)


Enjoy your ice cream!


Friday, May 02, 2014

COS (Close of Service)

Unbelievable as it may seem, I just attended my Close of Service (COS) conference in Chuuk. All of the remaining members of my team, sixteen in total scattered across the FSM and Palau, came together to conclude and celebrate our service.

It was so great to see these wonderful people and pick up as if no time had passed at all. Most of my teammates I had not seen since our Mid-Service Training (MST) almost a year ago, but it made no difference. United by similar struggles and hardships, we were all able to instantly commiserate while rejoicing in the small successes. I am frequently impressed by my teammates, and this was no exception. Many of them have built palpable relationships with their communities and accomplished so much in almost two years. I feel honored to be considered their teammate.

We spent four days in training, with sessions ranging from Peace Corps health benefits post-service to the struggles of reintegrating into our home cultures. During breaks we went kayaking in the ocean, or swam, or just sat around visiting (my personal favorite). It was nice to catch up with everyone and hear all about their plans for the future, whether it be grad school, weddings, jobs, travel, or no plans at all, everyone had exciting things to share.

The last night, after we received our official Peace Corps certificates, we decided to vote on and award superlatives. I was voted “Best Poop Story” (obviously), and “Most Improved”. My friend Natalie had suggested this particular superlative with “most changed” in mind, but I think “improved” captures it better. I am a completely different person now than I was in June 2012 when I started this journey, almost unrecognizably so.

The most obvious changes are roughly forty pounds of weight loss, delicious mermaid hair, countless pock marks covering my legs from the relentless mosquitoes, and a little toenail fungus. But the more important changes are those that cannot be seen. There are expected things, like a new worldview or appreciation for the simple life. The most drastic changes are those I had not expected.

In Peace Corps you have a lot of down time. And I mean A LOT. This results in plenty of time to sit around and think. Anything you were able to avoid confronting about yourself while living in America absolutely cannot be avoided here. You will have to deal with your issues. This process of having nothing but yourself and your thoughts to occupy yourself with can be excruciating at times, but in the end it is worth it. I have never before felt this in touch with myself, who I am, what I want in life. I have never experienced such a strong sense of identity, and if I gain nothing else from my Peace Corps service, it will have been enough.

I want to thank all members of Micronesia78 for being such a wonderful source of support and laughter these past two years, I wish you all the best of luck in whatever life has in store for you next.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Local Medicine, Funeral Customs, and English Lessons

Local Medicine

In addition to being an accomplished and well-known fisherman, my Pahpa is also a respected local doctor. People come from all over the island to get treatment from him, including some Filipinos and Americans, as well as visitors from other island states. I always find the non-Pohnpeians the most interesting to observe, as my Pahpa speaks approximately five English words (three of which are descriptors for different kinds of tuna) and most non-Pohnpeians don’t speak Pohnpeian. On rare occasion, I serve as a crude translator, but most of the time these patients come with a bilingual friend.

The most notable such occurrence was about a month ago when a woman from Kosrae (another state in the FSM) came with her young grandson and their Pohnpeian friend. The boy (the patient), spoke only Kosraean and spoke to his grandmother alone. She then translated into English and spoke to her Pohnpeian friend, who in turn translated into Pohnpeian for my Pahpa. It was a lengthy and tedious process, but very cool nonetheless, observing languages unify. [This reminds me a little of a time last year that I was able to speak with a Japanese volunteer for several minutes using Pohnpeian, as neither of us spoke each other’s language. Pretty awesome.]

Over my almost two years living here, I have taken my share of local medicines. They are all 100% natural and made from pounding, boiling, or drying out various local plants. I figure there’s no harm in trying them and there’s a few that I now swear by. There’s a root that I chew to relieve the symptoms of a UTI, a slimy green liquid that gets smeared on my head in times of headache, and my personal favorite: a cough syrup made from boiling red hibiscus flowers. It definitely works and has a taste remarkably close to Robitussin. Most of the medicines taste earthy, but a few, like a brown hazy liquid to treat diarrhea taken shot-style are very bitter and require banana chasers.

My current ailment is a result of taking too much of that diarrhea medicine. Boy, does it work. Now, in attempts to reverse the effects, I have been prescribed a large bottle of bright green liquid. The best I can tell it’s some kind of fiber cleanse, because well, it tastes like grass. In Pohnpei, talk of bowel movements (or in my current situation, lack thereof) is completely acceptable in any social setting. Word has spread quickly of my predicament, and people are constantly checking up on me to ask humorously if I’ve “given birth” yet. You’ll excuse me if I fail to join in the hilarity.

Funeral Customs

A tragedy has hit my extended local family. My Pahpa’s older brother, residing in Guam, was recently killed in a car accident. My Pahpa has been dispatched to attend the funeral proceedings in Guam, but in the days preceding his departure, my family received many calls from relatives in Guam giving updates.

When I first arrived in Pohnpei, many cultural differences struck me immediately, but the most poignant differences are those surrounding funerals. I have come to almost accept it all as normal now, but initially I met the traditions with incredulity. I have now been able to relive the reverse of my experience through the disbelief of my family members in hearing about the funeral plans.

“He’ll be buried in a big field alongside strangers?!”

“A family member isn’t going to dig the hole?!”

“People can’t spend the night with the body the night before burial?!”

“You have to PAY to put him in the dirt?!”

According to Pohnpeian custom, family members are buried at their surviving family’s homes, with their graves ominously present directly next to houses. All males in the immediate family are expected to help dig the hole and lower the body into it. The night before a person is buried, it is expected that the women in the family will prepare the body of the deceased and then sleep alongside it all night long. And aside from the cost of cement to seal the grave, all of these customs are completely free. You can imagine my family’s complete surprise and disgust at the heresy being performed in Guam this coming week.

English Lessons

As you well know by now, my favorite Pohnpeian is a small boy named Ray. He will be three in July and I love him more than I’ve ever loved a child before. My heart will literally break when I have to leave him.

His mom, my sister in law Mary, is the ECE (Early Childhood Education) teacher at my school (an equivalent to kindergarten in the US), and has started him early learning everything from numbers and letters to names of body parts. Ray is incredibly smart, and it makes me sad that I won’t be able to see him flourish in school.

In addition to his Pohnpeian lessons from his mom, I’ve been teaching him little English phrases (his favorite being “Yuck!”). I also tried for a long time to teach Ray to say “I love you”, but due to different phonemes it comes out more like “I lup ooh.” Our lessons usually consist of me saying “I love you” over and over and Ray repeating back, “I lup ooh” with a huge grin. I had tried to explain to him the meaning, but I don’t think he fully grasps the idea of multiple languages.

A few weeks ago, after a particularly stressful day of school (what day isn’t?!), I trudged home, desperate for a mental and emotional break from the insanity of my life as an unappreciated teacher. As I came down the road and into view, Ray came running across the grass to me, as he is accustomed to doing. But this time, as he approached, instead of telling me to catch him (he likes to jump into my arms and then “fly” around in circles), he simply hugged me around the legs and proclaimed for the first time unprompted, “I lup ooh.”

And then my little heart exploded with joy.

So there you have it, even when life as a Peace Corps Volunteer sucks (which is most of the time), there are still little moments that give us that small shot of happiness to keep us going. God, I’m going to miss that boy.

Stay well


Monday, March 17, 2014

The Changing Face of Poverty

I think when we, as Americans, picture “poverty” in our minds it’s some small child with brown skin, with tiny fragile limbs and distended stomach, walking naked through rubble and trash, open sores covering their skin, and flies swarming all around them. And sometimes poverty looks like that. But sometimes poverty looks much, much differently.

This is something I’ve come to understand in my almost two years of Peace Corps service. Now, keep in mind, my perspective comes only from my experience here, on my island of Pohnpei in the country of FSM. I can’t speak for all corners of the world where poverty persists, nor can I speak much about the corners of our own country where children still go hungry. But this is what I’ve come to know.

I live in a place where most people in my peer group have a cell phone or mp3 player, or both. Some people even have laptops or tablets. Almost everyone has a facebook account. Families enjoy watching movies together, and for a short time there was even an xbox at my house. When children write about who they want to be when they grow up, they say things like Lebron James or Miley Cyrus (news travels slowly out here). Teens can recite lyrics from American pop songs and they care about if they have the cool hat or shoes.

I also live somewhere where many people don’t have access to clean water. A place where children run barefoot in the dirt road, half-clothed or in some cases naked. A place where people lack the basic sanitation and nutrition to lead long and healthy lives. A place where people cook on fires and eat outside. Where animals roam freely and people are too closely confined. A place where adults and children alike wear old, battered, torn clothes for lack of other options. A place where open sores are often infected and leave permanent marks on the skin. A place where most adults never finished eighth grade and many cannot read or write.

This is poverty.

But what’s more disturbing about this is that the country I live in, FSM has been receiving quite a large chunk of financial aid from the US by way of The Compact of Free Association since 1982. So, one would assume that conditions would be improving. Roads would be built, potable water would be available to all, and health care would be on the rise. But I can tell you, it’s not. Instead, what FSM has to show for their “friendship” with America is imported goods. Cheap, low quality, salty and sugary foods are pouring in at an alarming rate, and technology is permeating even way out into rural jungle communities.

As a result, FSM now has a diabetes rate of about 30% (according to a 2008 study by the WHO, the number has likely risen since), and in a country of roughly only 100,000 people, that is a HUGE amount. The majority of the population has or is at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and a large number of other health concerns. And meanwhile, they STILL don’t have clean drinking water. Something doesn’t make sense here.

The next logical question is, then why is the US spending money on this country, if not to help its people improve their quality of life? I believe that question has two answers, one is monetary reasons (if the people buy the stuff, why not sell it?) and the other is military (the FSM makes a nice little foothold in the Pacific, and by 2008 it had lost five times more soldiers in combat per capita than the United States).

Hm. Weird.

The way I see it, money and goods are a way to pacify the country into letting the US have military access. It’s that simple. But at what cost? The FSM is now wholly and entirely dependent on foreign aid with little hope to become self-sufficient. Possibly ever. But I suppose with a total population of only 100,000, it’s easy for most people not to care about the long-term effects of political actions.

So in the meantime, I can sit on a slab of concrete under a thatched roof in the middle of the jungle, next to half-naked children with dirty fingernails eating rice and canned SPAM with our fingers and watching Spiderman on their new flat screen TV, and everything is okay. Right?

This is the new face of poverty. And I don’t know how to make it better.