November 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Kiribati: Blogs - Kiribati: Personal Web Site: Chris Beal in Kiribati

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kiribati: Peace Corps Kiribati : The Peace Corps in Kiribati: November 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Kiribati: Blogs - Kiribati: Personal Web Site: Chris Beal in Kiribati

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Chris Beal in Kiribati

Chris Beal in Kiribati

Chris Beal in Kiribati

'll describe for you a more or less typical day for me. I wake up at 4:30 am to roosters crowing. If you ever had the idyllic impression that they crow once, peacefully, at daybreak, let me dispel that notion. They crow as many times as they feel like whenever they want to. Bastards.

Anyway, I fall back asleep until about 7:00. I usually lay in "bed" reading or thinking until 8:00. Then I crawl out of my mosquito net, fetch my bucket and walk over to the policeman's house (my neighbor) and get water from the well.

This is done with a small bucket (typically an old corned beef can) attached to the end of a string. I lower the bucket to water level, flick my wrist in an expert manner, then raise the small bucket and empty it into my big red bucket. Repeat 8-10 times.

When my bucket's full, I bring it back to my house and put it in my bathroom. I'm now able to bathe! I do this by dipping into my bucket, getting wet, lather and rinse. I've become efficient enough in this that I use less that 1/2 the bucket of water to bathe, or "tebotebo" as the I-Kiribati say. It's so hot here and I sweat so much that I "tebotebo" about 3 times a day.

Anyway, I can the use the rest of my water to flush my toilet, do my dishes or begin filling my clothes washing basins. Granted I only do wash when I REALLY need to. I wear every shirt at least 3 times, and pants or shorts are w/me for at least a week at a time. Anyway, I get by w/doing wash about every other week. It is of course, done by hand and line dried.

So after my bath I usually read or write letters for an hour or so. If my I-Kiribati counterpart arrives, we go about doing work for the rest of the morning. This is like doing maps, planning workshops/presentations, or even as little as introducing myself around the village.

We work till about 12:30 or so, and my CP usually takes the rest of the day off. It's so hot here between 11:00am -2:30 or 3:00pm that no one even thinks about doing any kind of strenuous work. That's reserved for morning and evening.

So I usually have the afternoon to myself after eating lunch w/my host family (who live about 5 minutes away by bike). I almost always take a nap for at least 1/2 hour. Sometimes I even do something productive. This afternoon, in fact, I think I would have made you proud. I baked a loaf of Foccacia bread from scratch using a kerosene cook stove and a metal box for an oven. It didn't turn out perfect (used too much oil) but I've got a few years to get the recipe down.

I usually take a walk to the beach to watch the sunset around 6:00. It's a nice time to reflect on the day, and the sunsets here are more beautiful than you can dream. After sundown I head back to my family's house. They feed me dinner (almost invariably some combo of fish and rice) then we sit around for a bit. They have a pressure lantern so there's enough light for me to read by ( I read alot, I mean TONS). Many nights out of the week, my host father ( I refer to him as my "father" even though he's only 27) will pickup his guitar and the family will sing their Kiribati songs. Storm I haven't the words to describe to you the beauty and simplicity of these songs. I intend to learn them all so I can sing and play them for you guys back home, but on my best day my voice could never do justice to the natural harmony that every I-Kiribati man seems born with. And when they sing together...when they sing together you understand why God has let them live on these islands nearly unmolested for the past couple thousand years.

Yeah, it would be easy to focus on all the things I'm missing back home and yeah, sometimes I do. I miss baseball, I miss email, I miss instant access to information and of course I miss my friends and family, of which you are considered the latter. But I try to focus on how truly wonderful this culture generally is. I could focus on the poorly run Peace Corps Admin in D.C. (vote Kerry) or on the things in the culture I abhor (it's okay for men to hit their wives and children, though thankfully on my island that behavior is rare) but that only makes life harder. I've just recently started to enjoy my time here rather than endure it. I'm glad I'm able to do that so early in my service many PCV's don't do that until a year or more has passed if they do at all.

Many Peace Corps sites have it "easier". They can drive uptown on the weekends and go shopping in American stores, see American movies. During the week they can go back to their sites and be Peace Corps Volunteers. Many PC countries are very Westernized. While it would be nice to throw a game of darts while dressed like an American, those PCV's have the opportunity that I do to immerse myself in a culture that has remained largely unchanged for millennia. I'd not give that up for 12 McDonald's on the corner. Of course the culture has changed some. Boom boxes have largely replaced box drums at the traditional feasts. The islanders now chow down on corned beef and other tinned meats instead of being totally self sufficient. Kids wear Brittney Spears T-shirts and bright orange flip flops. But people still use every part of the coconut, retain their traditional dances, and climb the palms every morning and evening to tap the coconut stems for a sweet, nutritious milk.

I don't own a car, I don't own a TV, I won't find out who won the US election until probably 2 days after is occurs. But I live in a world where there is not one single gun. I live in a world where children can run on the road at might and not have to worry about being hit by a speeding driver, let alone being kidnapped. I live in a world where 80% of the population is unemployed but no one EVER starves. I can't ride my bicycle down the road without hearing the words "Ko na Nakea"? (where are you going) "Ko oki"? (you're returning?) or "Kuriti!

Kuriti! Mauri, ko uara!?" (Chris! Chris! how are you!?) I live in a world that isn't paradise but it's not far from it.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.

January 8, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 8 2005 No: 367 January 8, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Zambia RPCV Karla Berg interviews 1,374 people on Peace 7 Jan
Breaking Taboo, Mandela Says Son Died of AIDS 6 Jan
Dreadlocked PCV raises eyebrows in Africa 6 Jan
RPCV Jose Ravano directs CARE's efforts in Sri Lanka 6 Jan
Persuading Retiring Baby Boomers to Volunteer 6 Jan
Inventor of "Drown Proofing" retires 6 Jan
NPCA Membership approves Board Changes 5 Jan
Timothy Shriver announces "Rebuild Hope Fund" 5 Jan
More Water Bottles, Fewer Bullets 4 Jan
Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker runs Solterra Books 2 Jan
Peace Corps Fund plans event for September 30 Dec
RPCV Carmen Bailey recounts bout with cerebral malaria 28 Dec
more top stories...

RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

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