Monday, April 8, 2013


I assumed the small black object on my floor was a mouse or gecko turd. Neither of which would have been alarming or unusual. Upon further investigation however, I was shocked to discover that it wasn't the turd of either animal; it was a clove.

I'm baffled by the mystery of it all.

I smell a conspiracy.


I pray at night before I fall asleep. I also tend to read or watch shows at night before I fall asleep. At the moment I'm watching Nashville. Don't judge.

At 1:30 a.m. I had just struggled through one last episode, rolled over into a half kneeling, half fetal position and stumbled through what I intended to make into a legitimate prayer.

A few thoughts and words into my first attempt and I fell asleep. Then I woke up and started again. Then I fell asleep again. Then I woke up one more time determined to get to the end of a prayer, even a short one. In that final attempt I made it to "amen", rolled onto my back, then realized that I had just prayed that God help Rayna James get through her trying time.

Rayna James is the main character in Nashville.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Last night I began tutoring a second student, another Japanese volunteer. I asked him about his favorite hobbies and this was his response:

"My hobbies are Mahjong, playing guitar, watching YouTube videos, and young Japanese girls."


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Not Cats

Living on an island in the Central Pacific has a few perks. For example, every now and then I see a dolphin. When that happens, despite any attempts to remain calm, my inner nine-year-old girl comes out and I instantly turn into my younger sister Stephanie at Seaworld circa 1995. Elation.

How the dolphin managed to steal hearts remains a mystery, I mean it's just big fish. But darn if dolphins aren't lovable. You don't see me waiting hours just to spot a trout, and I certainly don't feel the urge to hug a carp. Dolphins however, make me want to skip.

Recently I ate lunch at Shoreline, my usual lagoon-side fish and chips spot. Unusual however, was the table set up with discounted items for sale. I can't resist a sale and the expired herb-flavored Indonesian Colgate lured me in (I bought five at fifty cents each, a steal), but the Japanese fishing hooks kept me around. The hooks were sizable. Very sizable. "Big Game Hooks!" the label read across the top. And down the sides of the package were listed the big game possibilities: "Yellow fin!", "Marlin!", "Swordfish!", "Barracuda!", "Dolphin!".

Wait. What?

That's still a thing?

Cue fiery hell wrath.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Pulling up to my house yesterday after work I almost hit a kitten with my scooter. Frightened, it scurried under the house. And that's when the meowing began. Despite their size, small cats meow with some serious ferocity.

This takes me to a confession: I hate cats.

What's so frustrating about my cat hatred is that cat love is SO trendy right now. And oh, how I long to fit in. I would love to be the butt of cat humor, or visit one of those kitties and coffee cafes in Tokyo. Cat hating alone will prevent me from ever reaching my hipster potential. My birthplace, Oregon, might as well disown me.

In my village there are several stray(ish) dogs. Two of them adopted the area right around my house: Bandit and Sugar Pie. A couple months ago faithful Sugar Pie disappeared. It's not that I missed her, she constantly begged and attracted flies and I actually really disliked her presence, but I had a feeling that she probably wasn't coming back. One hot and windless Saturday a random passerby knocked on the door to tell us that our house stunk. Poor roommate confusedly dismissed him (the occasional drunk comes to our house), but when I went outside to light some charcoal for a barbeque I smelled it too and confirmed his concern; that unmistakable rotten flesh stank was probably permeating the whole island. It didn't take long to locate the motionless black figure under the house. Sugar Pie went out with a bang. And by "bang" I mean she literally exploded under the house. The smell was overwhelming and we called the landlord to "take care" of Sugar Pie. Extracting her from under the house took three men, at least a dozen gags, and one purge. R.I.P. Sug.

I'm rambling per usual, but these are just some of the thoughts that flashed through my mind as I bent down, poked my head under the house, and found what I'm pretty sure were 30 glowing eyes glaring back at me. A shiver ran down my spine and now I was the one scurrying away now; I ran in the house and locked the door behind me, unsure of what to do. The meowing persisted.

Side note: I think the last time I touched a cat was when I was 15 and scored a pet-sitting gig from my next-door-neighbors, the Jensen's. The cats, called Tabitha and Cleo, were a proud pair. And they were obese and required daily thyroid medications.

Also, I'm allergic to cats. 

What have I done? Nothing. What am I going to do? Probably nothing. But I just know that a few of them are either already dead or plotting to die under there. You see, that's what cats do, they intentionally look for ways to cause grief and distress. Dying and rotting under the house I could probably deal with, but come on cats, the nonstop 15-part meow chorus is a bit much, don't you think?

Extra side note: An unknown number of dead cats under the house are the perfect ingredients for a great episode of "Hoarders".

And then this happened.

Uncomfortable yet?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Through collaborative efforts between our agencies, I occasionally work with a woman called Flo, who chews tobacco. This makes me giggle.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jaluit Hospitality

On my recent trip to Jaluit Atoll, the mayor asked ladies from several of the churches on the island to provide us with meals. In addition to the food, the ladies usually offered speeches and sung songs. I can't remember which church this group was from (Assembly of God, maybe?), but they were impressive. Marshallese hospitality is unreal, and I'm totally inspired by the time, effort, thought, and money that everyone put into making our stay comfortable.

Note the dog.

Jaluit, by the way, was incredible. I'll be sure to post photos, but it was a historian/WWII buff/archaeologist/anthropologist's dream with dozens of mostly intact Japanese structures scattered around the islands. Obviously everything is so well preserved because it's so difficult to get to Jaluit, but I almost wish more people could realize what the Marshall's have to offer.

Watch them sing HERE

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sweet Parasite

A Haiku I wrote the other night:

I was wondering
Could it be, you've disappeared?
But then I sharted

English Lessons

I tutor an older Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) volunteer in English twice a week. He is a delight, to say the least. Hardworking, dedicated, personable; I've actually really enjoyed my meager attempt at teaching because of him.

Though I've been in the Marshall Islands for over nine months now, I haven't given away much information about my job, mostly because I'm still confusedly figuring it out. It is unorganized at best. I often feel like a secretary or detective, usually lost somewhere in between unrealistic expectations and translation; a result of our program proprietor's ever changing requirements and my lacking Marshallese language skills. But it's in my power to slowly shape the job into whatever I want it to be; meaning it will always, inevitably be unorganized, but at least it'll keep me interested and busy enough. For example: I just returned from a two-week visit to an outer island in search of unexploded remnants of war; earning a paycheck to go bomb hunting in paradise. Sometimes I actually pinch myself.

The bomb team and I flew from Majuro to Jaluit Atoll on Air Marshall Islands (AMI). Affectionately called “Air Maybe”, AMI operates one 18-passenger plane that is notorious for breaking down and leaving its ticketed passengers stranded. Side note: The Marshall Islands spans an area (land and water included) the size of the continental United States. Think about it. Our one week trip turned into two when the “plane broke” and failed to retrieve and deliver us back to Majuro. After the surprise bonus week of unfulfilled promises to us from AMI, complete with three consecutive 5:00 a.m. airport trips, we opted for the boat. 17 hours it took. SEVENTEEN complete rotations of the clock accompanied by constant 36-foot waves. A less than desirable combo in my opinion. Had I known how horrid the ride would be I would have gladly stayed another month in Jaluit waiting for the plane. Or more. Thankfully, I don't get seasick, unlike most of the other passengers, unfortunately. Some things you just can't unsee. Regurgitated Spam and rice on the boat deck for example, aren't my favorite things to look at; their images however, are burned into my memory for time and eternity.

Upon returning to Majuro, I was welcomed with a slew of emails and text messages from the man I tutor. The messages expressed his concern for my unexplained absence, and questioned the date of our next session. Selfishly, lazily, plain old rudely, I failed to contact him until today, four days after my return, and only after two texts and three calls in a row from him early this morning. Our text conversation went as follows:

Me: “Hey G-- San. I just got back this past weekend. We were stuck for an extra week because the plane broke. Would you like to start class again today?”

Him: “Hello! Matt if you are OK, I will start class from today.”

Me: “OK, see you later.”

--Two hours later--

Him: “Hey Matt I'm sorry sent you mail many times now are you day off? If you so today's lesson cancel don't you? Probably you are very tired.”

Me: “I'm fine. We can do it today or whenever is best for you.”

Him: “I'm OK which tomorrow, next or next week. After restore your vitality let's start lesson! Sorry I'm thoughtless.”

And my heart broke. Thoughtless? Him? As a token of his appreciation the man gifts me fish jerky each session, for crying out loud. Hi, my name is Matt Riding, and I'm a certifiable b-hole.