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.