28 March 2007

Important Announcement - Transfer

I have just been informed by Peace Corps that I willnot be able to serve on Kiribati due to circumstance beyond the control of the Peace Corps.

At this moment, I am disappointed but I appreciate the way the Peace Corps is supporting us during this process. At this point I do not have much information to share about the next few weeks or my plans for the future. I plan to continue my service in another country... hopefully Africa. I have my aims set towards work with AIDS/Hiv and community development. It is not all bad. The way I see it this opportunity allows me the ability to choose my next assignment with a more discerning attitude than when I accepted my invitation to Kiribati.

So, in short, if you were planning on sending letters and packages... don't. I will continue to keep you all updated with the details as I get them.


(Below is the official notification from Peace Corps.)

Dear Friends and Family of Peace Corps Group K36,
It saddens me to report that Peace Corps Kiribati is scaling back its program. The current domestic air situation does not allow us to support volunteers in the southern islands of the Gilbert Group. Consequently, we are relocating those volunteers located on Nonouti and all islands south of Nonouti to islands closer to Tarawa.

Unfortunately, this move greatly reduces the number of site placements available to members of training group K36. As a result, Peace Corps has decided to offer re-enrollment/transfer options to all fifteen training group K36 members. We at Peace Corps Kiribati share the disappointment felt by the newest members of our family. We are doing everything possible to facilitate alternative placements that will allow all members of this group to look back fondly, one day, on two valuable Peace Corps experiences.

We take our promise to provide a safe and supportive environment for your loved ones very seriously. It is that promise that requires us to take this action. Your son or daughter (and in three cases, your mother and/or grandmother) will provide you with more detailed information. Additionally, I am available should you have any questions.

Thank you for your patience and your understanding and for loaning us your loved one, albeit for a shorter time than we all expected.

Michael Koffman

Director, Peace Corps/Kiribati

16 March 2007

March 8-15: Village Life

Without further delay... letter-post #2

9 March
Hotel, S. Tarawa

This is my last evening in the hotel for some time. I am excited to go meet my host family tomorrow. I hope my language skills are good enough to be able to communicate with them. Today we went shopping in Biriki. I visited the only internet cafe in the country and was able to post my first in-country entry. This also means that for a few days every 3 months or so I will be on gmail to chat.

10 March
Nooto, Kiribati

Today was the day... I moved in with my host family in Nooto. I feel like I am starring in 'The Last Samurai' but, unlike Algren, I am not a linguistic genius. It is difficult not to fall back on English upon occasion. I even had a walk with my 10 year old tiram (sister) just like in the film- awkward pauses and all. Sometimes, I feel a bit like a pet. They watched me eat and go to bed. But I hope I made a good impression. I understand that these things take time.

11 March

Went to church today... I did my best to sing along. I also tried to use the time to meditate.

12 March

I'm growing.

I'm also analytical to a fault... at least I allow it to become a fault. I will not let a single mood become my existence. So what... I am overwhelmed- I have had little sleep and I am not in my comfort zone. I just need to so something I enjoy.

Things improved drastically. But I just need to recognize that this is hard- language aside, just living here is an accomplishment. The I-Kiribati don't see all the health concerns, dietary restrictions. It is nothing for them to live without privacy in a small room with rats. All that... and so far from my friends... I'm growing.

14 March

I enjoy the challenge and frustrations of learning a new language. I've also started taking up old passtimes in new ways. I just built a bike rack out of pandanus bark and making a meditation cushion out of traditional woven mats. Little things that remind me of home and of who I am are important. Just negotiating my schedule each day with my tamau (dad) is a cross-cultural exchange. In a male-dominant country, an unmarried woman/daughter (my relative family status) has few rights and priveleges. But for myself, a woman as independent as they comes, it takes empathy, humility, and a sense of purpose to maintain my composure when I am told regardless of logic that I will do some particular thing, like return home at a certain hour. But this type of interaction is why I chose to join the PC.

15 March

Another volunteer has gone back to calling me by my affectionate nickname 'Beefykins'! I must admit it makes me smile.


Paradise disguised... not lost.
We all create our own circumstances.
Whether the water is clear and bright
or dark and clouded.

Phrase of the Week: Ko Kewe! (You lie!)

- More Kiribati Language
- about the Public school system in Kiribati
- It is difficult to give up concern about appearance totally.
- Sleeping in a hammock is bad for your back.
- Your leg can indeed be covered entirely in mosquito bites.
- My skin can sunburn and then peel, making me look like a zombie.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do is breathe.

09 March 2007

Important Contact Information.

Mauri! (Hello)

Anyone who would like may send an email to me at the following address:


It will be printed and mailed to me (read: seen by others)
For the next 2 months I should receive your letters weekly.

Kam Rabwa. (Thanks)

08 March 2007

March 1-7: Arrival in Kiribati and Beginning Pre-Service Training

Here is the first of Rhi's letter posts. Please forgive any spelling errors. Sometimes her handwriting is a bit shaky.

2 March
Lagoon Breeze Hotel, S. Tarawa

Today marks my second day in Kiribati.

So much has occurred in the last day and a half... its hard to sum it up in words. We were greeted by groups of children and PCVs at the airport. They brought us chilled moimoto (young coconuts with juice) and flower garlands to wear, each one exquisitely crafted by hand. We then had a briefing on the basics of training.

4 March
Lagoon Breeze Hotel, S. Tarawa

Language has me a bit stressed- my need for perfection is the source more than the classes themselves.

I was very moved by the sunset today... the landscape combined with some jazz that was playing set the tone for a mood that was relaxed and content and yet very moving. It was a beautiful moment.

7 March
Lagoon Breeze Hotel, S. Tarawa

I feel as thought I am beginning to adjust to this new way of life. Slowly, I recognize new patterns of behavior. I also am adapting previous patterns of behavior to fit a new context. On another note, I am finding that it is difficult to retaing personal priorities while in a group. I struggle to remain humble and dedicated to my role here.

Reading a letter from a friend reminds me that I should cherish each moment... cherish each person I come into contact with. I never can know how much I might effect them.

I visited the local JSS (junior high school). It looks a bit run down and very institutional but inside the students were attentive and well-behaved. It seemed as though each teacher I observed taught by rote form though. This will be a difficult attitude to alter significantly if it is embraced country-wide.

On another note, I had the unexpected delight of meeting several neighborhood children. We played games, they taught me to climb to the top of a coconut tree and how to count in Kiribati. I also showed them how to recycle wrappers into flowers for their hair.


A day that spans oceans,
A moment that passes without notice.
My breath rises and falls
Each breath should be seen as a
beautiful wave.

Phrase of the week: Tinam... (Your mom...)

- Create a traditionally woven meditation cushion.
- 'Root-cellar' style cooling pit with lid.

Learned this week:
- How to introduce myself and make simple polite conversation.
- How to tebotebo (bathe) Kiribati-style.
- Water safety near a coral reef.
- That I have several strong intelligence styles: Logical, Kinestic, Self and Existential.
- That I prefer private time after being in a crowd.
- Bonding with others is an active choice for me - a needful one to be effective here but also need to respect my personal needs to.

02 March 2007

Travel: February 25th - March 1st

Logan Airport - Boston, Massachusetts
Pink hued morning glow
I travel far from the known
Flying with fullness

It is hard to determine if "this" has hit me yet... I am present in the moment (Or so I think) But is that truly the case if I am continually asking?

Above a land marbled with nature's wintry touch
I contemplate distance and identity
But while my mind struggles with answerless questions
The land below has changed completely.

Gateway Hotel - LA, California

I have enjoyed meeting everyone thus far. Everyone seems to be in a similar place to myself - pleased to begin a journey they have anticipated for months.

I spotted Colin from "Who's Line is It Anyway?" at Starbucks in the Airport.

Raffles Hotel - Nadi, Fiji

The 12 hour plane ride was not nearly as daunting as I thought it would be. I slept through the worst of it for about 6 hours.

The moment I stepped off the plane in Fiji, I first sensed the fertile smell on the air and the heavy weight of the humidity and heat. But this climate which normally would be oppressive was my first taste of inspiration - this was the beginning.

In Fiji, I was able to walk the countryside with a fellow volunteer. The area near Sleeping Giant mountain was rural and very attractive. On the returning bus ride, we were dropping children at home after a day at school. The village homes and the people linger in my mind not for their profound beauty but the simple human connection they embody.

Also... I was mistaken for Natalie Portman by a Fijian local.

On the Plane to Kiribati

Red bridge without water

Distant mountains green and still

A Journey within a step

Time has passed strangely these last few days.

Looking below me at an atoll, I recognize that I will be spending my next two years on one of the most remote places on the planet.

I hope I am able to live up to this opportunity. I want to be worthy of this priviledge.

And now we descend toward an ocean like the sky.