Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The book is out!

Hello friends,

I wanted to let everyone know that the book--a comprehensive travel guide to the Federated States of Micronesia & Palau--is now out and available both on the Other Places Publishing website and on Amazon.

Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Micronesia-Palau-Other-Places-Travel/dp/0982261934/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283522770&sr=8-1.

Hope you enjoy the book! I will post the address for my new blog--chronicling my soon-to-be life in San Francisco--as soon as I have it.

Best to all,
MM

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Peace Corps--The Oscar Speech

As the end of my tenure as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia draws rapidly to a close—November 4th undergoing the miraculous process of transforming itself from long-awaited, much anticipated day, into living, breathing reality—many an hour have found me in a pensive mood, poring over volumes of long-forgotten lore…but I wax poetic.
The point is, as the end of my time here approaches, I’ve often found myself in a mood for reminiscing over all the times—the good, the bad, and the hilarious—that have befallen me here in Micronesia and Palau, and about the situations and the people to whom I am in debt for said times.
And so, without further ado, for your reading delectation, I do hereby present:

PEACE CORPS—THE OSCAR SPEECH

For the precise, fine-tuned ability to—at any locale upon the face of the earth, at any time of day or night, and in any physical condition—instantaneously locate and accurately throw a rock, within a one-inch radius of error, I wish to say…

“Thank you, canines of K----- and P----!”

Next, for the most wondrously ludicrous quotation ever…

All right, this kind of demands an explanation. So, in honor of B’s birthday back in March, we planned to take her out for a night on the town. The problem? I wasn’t exactly in the proper physical condition to do so.
When we arrived at K’s,—due to a combination of the massive, stubborn, never-receding cold sore on my face; the fact that I had [mysteriously] just thrown up everything I had eaten that day EN ROUTE to the bar; and that I was fighting (what seemed to be a losing) battle with head lice—I was feeling decidedly unsexy. T, E, and I had just sat down on our bar stools when I heard something odd.
Now, you know that whole cocktail-party-chitter-chatter effect, wherein, through the screen of ambient people/music/drinking/dancing noise, every now and again one decisive quotation will suddenly—at times for no reason at all—cut through all the static and reach your ears?
After sitting down at the bar, I could swear I heard the man seated kaddy-corner from us say, “You! Across the bar!! I KNOW you have lice.”
Infinitely disturbed, I turned and asked my friends about what I had just heard. They looked at me as if I had suddenly grown antennae, before bursting out laughing and, finally, assuring me that a complete stranger had not just commented on my oh-so-come-hither head lice across the bar.

“Thank you Heineken and head lice!”

For, by nearly killing me, somehow making me feel so very alive (o, irony!)…

“Thank you, triathlon!”

For granting me the opportunity to get in touch with my bad (coach) self, in public…

Now, I have this propensity—which works, by turns, to hilarious/insanely frustrating effect in the classroom—which is: I treat all children as if they are miniature (somewhat slow) adults. I never really saw the full effect of this tendency, however, until I oversaw a group of youth playing soccer.
When Education Awareness Week rolled around and my principal asked if I wouldn’t mind coaching a soccer team, I was thrilled. Wouldn’t mind?!? I’d love to!!
See, I played myself, from the age of 6 to about 14, but I never really did get soccer out of my system. After retiring from the field myself, I yelled so much along the sidelines of my brother’s games that my mom coolly asked if I were interested in the coaching position; I once got so intense during a college scrimmage that I sprained an ankle so badly my teammates swore it was broken. So…you get the idea. I’m a little serious about my soccer.
Anyway, back to Palau. By the time I stood face to face (well, more like face to hip, but you know…) with my squad of eight and nine year-olds, I had pre-sorted them all into positions, not to mention drawn diagrams of where each person should play.
“See,” I said, gesticulating wildly across the sea of carefully-penciled Os and Xs, “the fullbacks never cross that half line. EVER!!!! Midfield…”
And on and on I went, so drunk with my newfound power that I barely noticed the blank stares of my (intended) audience.
Of course, once the munchkins made it out onto the field, they had minds (and feet, and hands) of their own.
That, however, didn’t even dent my yelling (or cursing and covering my face when the other team scored. Or my—quite literally—jumping several feet in the air when my squad made a goal.)
All I have to say is, it’s a mighty good thing there were no chairs in attendance; I’ve never felt more Bobby Knight in my life.

“And so, thank you, Education Awareness Week, Principal F, and, of course, my oh-so-fortunate(?)understanding(?) team, for allowing me to get in touch with my inner Crazed Coach. It was invigorating.”

And, how could I forg---? [Sorry, just had to immediately run off for a few minutes.] For the constant surprises…

“Thank you, GI tract!”

Ah, my friends. You, through your amazing feats, keep alive in me an insatiable, childlike curiosity; every time we meet, you imbue me with a sense of awe about the universe, and even (where mystics, friends, foes, and world religions have all failed) convince me that, yes, indeed, there are some things in the universe that we human beings can never, ever—for all our logic and reasoning and science—comprehend.
You defy the laws of both physics and gravity, appearing (in hordes!) within the wrappers of FACTORY-SEALED energy bars; high up in the middle of the ceiling; on a bed purposely moved away from every single vertical surface in the room; inside of baskets suspended in mid-air…

“Thank you, ants!”

For the bad-ass, Rocky-esque bruise I sported above my right eye at school for several days (and let’s not forget the ensuing [instant!] cred it earned me with my students…

“Thank you, backpack full of rocks!”

[Yes, you read that correctly. I dropped a backpack filled with rocks on my own face while bench-pressing it.]

For (much-needed) reality checks…

On those days when I wander about, head planted firmly in the clouds, this person kindly yanks it back down to shoulder level.

Witness…
situation 1
I’m excited to sport the stylish new silk dress a Palauan friend gave me to school. In my excitement, however, I missed…
“Teacher Ngchui! You are not wearing any pants!!”
…the fact that it’s translucent.
Nicely done.

situation 2
It’s Earth Day; to celebrate, our entire student body population takes to the road to pick up trash. I’m walking along with this fourth grade girl when I find a plastic six-pack top. All my PC training flashing before my eyes at warp speed, I think to myself, ‘ hey! What a great ‘teachable moment.’’ And so, proudly brandishing the empty plastic rings, I say: “do you know how we can help the sea animals.
She pauses a moment, my little PETA activist in training. I await with baited breath. “Um…by eating them?”

situation 3
The student comes up to me, in the library, and compliments my day’s choice of outfit.
“Uh, thanks,” I reply, after surreptitiously glancing down to see what I am, in fact, wearing. “I had an interview this morning, so I wore this because I wanted to feel professional.”
(I think, by the way, that I can only get away with claiming turquoise floral stretch pants as “Professional Wear” to a fourth grader, in Palau.)
“Shhhhh!” She covers my lips with her hand. “If you want to be professional, don’t talk.”
Ouch. I got told.

“Thank you, B. T.!”

And, last but not least, for inadvertently creating an amazing (and practical) style statement, and ensuing amusement…

Okay, again, there’s a story here. So, it’s been a long, lazy, cloudy day, but I’ve—as usual—waited until my designated time (5:30) to exercise. Today, I need to ask Principal F for permission to take a few days off, at the beginning of school, for a trip. Her phone, however, is disconnected.
But hey! I figure I can kill two birds with one stone by running to her house, asking permission, and running back. (This will be a couple of miles.)

I set off. At first, the weather holds. In fact, I’ve made it all the way to I—Principal’s village—when the raindrops start falling. At first, it’s just a sputtering, the sky spitting on me. Within five minutes, however, the storm has ratcheted up from sputtering to monsoon. By the time I reach my destination, I’m soaked to the skin, like, Shamu Show-soaked.
Luckily, Principal’s there, my permission’s granted. I turn out and look towards the sheets of rain falling from above.
“Um, do you have an umbrella I could borrow?”
She lent it to someone.
-Rain jacket?
No dice.
“Oh!” She has an idea. “I did just get this on my way back from Guam…”
She’s holding…one of those ginormous clear plastic Continental Airlines bags, the kind big enough to fully encase a piece of luggage.
I pick it up, poke my fingers through a weak spot to make a hole for my head.
TA-DA!
“Are you sure you’ll be okay with that?” (She barely suppresses a smile.)

I nod, and run out into the downpour. It’s coming so fast and thick, I realize that I want to cover my head. So, I pull up my new “poncho” over my hair, so the hole now serves as my breathing hole in front of my face while I run.
As I jog faster and faster down the hill, I burst out in uncontrollable laughter. [I look so ridiculous right now, and I love it.] For some reason, the whole situation renders me so happy I start singing. Cake, to be specific.
Now, if you’ve listened to Cake, you know that, sans drums and guitar, it can’t really properly be called music—more like heavily drug-induced, often-witty, and occasionally socially relevant, spoken word poetry.
And so, here I run, down the road, in a downpour, wearing a giant (like, large enough to contain several minifridges giant) plastic bag as a poncho, chanting:

…and how long will the workers keep building them new ones?
AS LONG AS THEIR SODA CANS ARE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE!!
Aw, yeah, all right now…

And yet I wonder why no one’s stopped to offer me a ride back. Interesting.

“THANK YOU CONTINENTAL AIRLINES!”

And so, valued participants in my Peace Corps career—canines, head lice, Education Awareness Week, GI tract, ants, backpack full of rocks, BT, and Continental Airlines—truly, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without you, my PC experience certainly would not have been as interesting.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Triathl-umph

we walk lightly through the cool gray dawn air,
ghosts gliding gently through a sleeping world completely unaware of
our existence.
but o, we exist, exist fiercly,
nerves a-jangle with the newness of the morning, the task at hand…

(I awaken before six for two things in this world:
flights and ski races.)
given these associations—and the novelty of the monumentous morning that lies calmly
in wait for us—
I’m hyperkinetic, aware ,
a cat ready to pounce.

we arrive to adrenaline—
I can literally feel my pulse ratchet up to match pace with the
pumpingtiresstretchinglegsfiddledwithhelmetsnervouschitchat
as every mind around me hums the same mantra so loudly you can almost hear them, like crickets,
on the fresh morning air:
can I do this?
am I crazy?
can I do this?
am I crazy?

head for the end of the dock,
we form a protective huddle
it’s just like the Superbowl!
well, except that all of the players are about to compete against each other in a fundamentally ridiculous (brutal) task, and they will not reconvene until all their mingled blood and sweat and tears have stained the water, the ground, and it’s over.

in my head, the mantra pounds, crescendoing:
can I do this?
am I—
dammit, I’m trying—
crazy?
can I—
to listen—
do this?
am—
to the official instructions!
I crazy?
can—
did he say two swim laps, or four?
can I do this am I crazy can I do this am I crazy—
“Good luck!” he booms

and suddenly it’s too late,
for listeningwonderingpussyfootingselfdoubting
we are in the water,
this mass of adrenalin-fueled (nutty?) humanity
and—
“1…2…3…go!”
and ahead we go,
a violent yearning seeking wanting tangle
of arms and legs and hands and feet and bubbles and energy
flashing, flying forward with all the strength we possess, have possessed, will ever possess,
high on endorphins, inhaled sea water, and competition,
each person stiving to break free, ahead
to grasp the Holy Grail,
of clear open water—

we move ahead,
deep-breathing mass trembling with energy, disentangle and..
it’s on.

suddenly I’m gasping for air,
hear pounding and
is-this-what-swimming-felt-like-back-when-I-was-12-and-racing-and-in-kickin’-shape?

now every breath I draw is so many knives,
a quick frenzied gasp,
a frantic gamble with the universe,
as I plead:
please-let-me-keep-going-and-not-drown-or-sink-to-the-bottom-please-let-me-at-least-finish-one-more-stroke

until

I breathe again, desperately,
air and seawater sear
my open mouth and lungs

I forgot the way the crawl stroke feels,
its desperation,
the somehow graceful gracelessness
of what is, essentially, a frantic movement,
a plea for survival

of my environment I know only flashes:
sea
sky
sea
sky
and breathe
and swim
and gasp
and swim
one…more…stroke…forward
come…on…Meg…an
you…can…do…it

and now I wish for the mass,
mourn the loss of the comfort, security
of a hundred bodies,
malefemalefatthinbrownwhiteblackoldyoung
writhing against each other in time,
a symphony of beautiful frenzy
and yet—

I am here
alone
I see only
sky
sea
sky
sea
and can…I…even…move
my…arm…through…the
wa…ter…once…move
draw…one…more…breath?

and (in some cruel twist of Fate perpetuated by an angry god)
the water’s suddenly molasses,
the air fire,
each stroke, each breath
sending shooting pain through every inch of me

but, as I look
up down up down
at
down
the
down
dock,
I see people milling, talking, sitting on cars, checking stopwatches,
acting as if other things exist than
my here now moment,
epic struggle for survival
for breath
for one next stroke forward

up
down
up, down
and
down
now
down
I
down
see
people walking by me,
they pass me,
their speed, their grace, their ease of movement, their unbroken conversation
mocking my very effort to
keep…moving…a…head

“all right, Megan! You’re almost halfway there!”
floats a voice from above.
I want to thank R,
to jump out of the water and hug him,
to clap him on the back,
to exclaim, “you don’t know what it means to me, to know that I’m not in this struggle against the sea, the air, the universe, my body, ALONE!”

and yet
right now,
I cannot even manage an acknowledgement,
a nod, that surplus of motion, of effort,
completely impossible at this moment
as my every fiber is now tense, focused upon
simply…moving…forward.

I rest a moment at the halfway point,
perch upon the gloriously solid concrete,
watch the faces and arms and legs of my fellow warriors
as they pass slowly by,
each engaged in his own private war against
the sea his body himself

it’s funny,
how in this alien environment
our distinctions disappear,
each person I see identical:
a pair of goggles arms legs,
nothing more,
as they pushpushpush forward,
gasp for air
keep…on…swim…ming

and suddenly we are one,
all of us,
competing not against each other
but against the human condition

I think of it now, gloriously,
(morning flashback in sepia tone)
one stalwart group of men and women trotted down to the start gate near dawn,
jumped in the water, and
casually redefined what it means to be a human being.

and now I’m nearly done,
lap 3 and I’m rolling along,
the pain, the gasping a distant memory of a time long ago, a person I once knew,
I’m humming along singing Green Day to myself,
and I could literally do this forever,
just put one arm in front of the other and breathe, survive

finally (mercifully) I look up,
reach the orange buoy (o beautiful savior!)
for the FOURTH TIME,
get up, look back
NO ONE’S IN THE WATER
I’m in last but,
for the first time since 1985
I don’t care
I SURVIVED!

“son of a BITCH!”
I yell, so eloquently
as I (somehow!) pull myself up onto the slick concrete and—promptly—
fall down.

I wonder momentarily if my legs and arms
[if that’s what I can truthfully call these long hunks of Jello which seem to be attached to my body]
will ever function again,
think nostalgically of the time—
was it real? or did I just make it up?—
when I could merely walk without being aware of
every ouch
single aie
movement eeeeee,
as though a minor miracle is taking place every time I put one foot in front of the
other
and now I have to bike and run.
?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I trudge to my bike and hop—
well, if a ninety year-old crippled person can be said to hop—
on,
begin to pedal and…
this is cake!
I might as well be lying on a beach in a chaise lounge being fanned with banana fronds eating grapes ,
for all the physical effort this is taking me,
a long vacation after breathing fire and fighting barely liquefied molasses for over half a mile

the four bike laps pass in a quick beautiful dream,
almost over before they began
until…

I finish my last lap.

suddenly, it’s time to abandon my speedy chaise lounge
I dismount gingerly,
afraid my Jello appendages may collapse under me.

the pavement feels…foreign.
[have I ever walked before?]
breathe in (huh)
breathe out (huh)
take my bearings.
okay, now it’s only me, 5 K, the road, the baking sun, and my sneakers.

I sigh.
okay, just like swimming
one…foot…in…front…of…the…o…ther
and suddenly I’m moving,
buildings and people and cars and bikes
moving slowly by

by now,
our protective mass is a thing long past,
as distant a memory as infancy.
it’s me and the road,
racing myself
(at a snail’s pace at that)

and so, I fall back on the familiar.
set short goals.
walk run walk run.
one fool in front
of the o ther

and, before I know it,
I’m steering my feet—
they’re no longer me, really—
through the now-familiar gray graffittied M posts,

and (oh glorious day!)
I’m heading down the hill,
into a moment I pictured with such clarity and fervor so much during my private agony
that I almost feeling I’m reliving it as it happens

and I’m home I’m golden
and people are clapping
and the sun is shining

and oh God, did I really do this,
redefine what a human can do,
what I can do?

I’m shining as I cross the line,
glowing with sweat and pride and perfect,
gold as the sun and
free.

Friday, August 21, 2009

COS Snapshot #3 BIG

It is a Friday night in July, early evening. We sit communing upon an outdoor porch, enjoying the sea breeze, the sunset, afterglow from an excellent day of wreck diving, and muchomucho-extra-cheese-pizza. To the detached, untrained observer, surreptitiously gazing in at our cozy party of twenty, our converse embodies the perfect stereotype of crunchyhippiefeelgood Peace Corps bonding time: we are, in turns, standing up and sharing with the table at large how much we love them, how PC has changed our lives, how much luck we wish one another, how we will all go on to do great things. Perhaps, to this casual, slightly cynical observer, it's an exercise in generalities, clich├ęs. But to us, it is all true. Holy.

As I munch my pizza and listen to the ruminations of these happy shiny idealist people (who just so happen to be some of my best friends on the planet), my wanders, strangely to that oh-so-classic-80s-childhood-Tom-Hanks venture: BIG.

Thinking back upon my initial entrance into the Peace Corps, I like to think of myself as the movie protagonist upon that first night in the amusement park. Evening's on its way~darkness gathering fast~it's raining, and I'm fed up [in my case, with the world at large]. And so, boldly, I seize matters into my own hands.

I approach a mysterious (yet promising-looking) contraption, stare thoughtfully at it a moment. We size each other up, Zordan and I.
-Can this mechanical fortuneteller in a box really fulfill my every wish?
-It's worth a shot.

Holding our breaths, we Micro 74s insert our collective nickels, squeeze our eyes shut...under our breath (or, perhaps, in our minds) we utter our secret sacred long-hoped-for prayers.
-I wish to save the world to grow up spread my wings stetch them fulfill my lifelong dream learn seek know (myself?) venture to LIVE BIG
Sharply suddenly we intake our breath yet tighter, (earnest anticipation!) open our eyes, and...nothing happened. We walk off through the rain, discouraged.

And yet, in the morning, we wake up to find...WE HAVE BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO GIANT COCKROACHES. (Just kidding. Thanks, Kaf.) [Take 2] WE'RE IN THE PEACE CORPS!!
Oh joy!
[Oh no!]
~to have a long-held wish so suddenly granted is simultaneously wonderful and profoundly disconcerting.

We are dogs tails-a-wag. Will it be the wondrous, long-planned for adventure of marvel, of delight, of benificence?

Full of coffee and vigor, we pack our bags and head off to the glittering, imposing, pleace-of-hopes-and-dreams, success & failure...MICRONESIA!!!

Our first day-of coconuts, smiles, and sunshine-holds all the hoped-for wonder and more. On our first night [think Tom Hanks pushing his bureau up against the door in the fleabag motel room in the slums here], reality sets in. Roaches scuttle across the floor, mosquitoes (hordes of them!) hover ominously DIRECTLY OUTSIDE the opening to your mosquito net [they're certainly disease-ridden, you can just FEEL it], voices uncomfortably close distance from your window [did you remember to lock it after all?], and, after your long, harrowing, sleepless night, to "awake" to the crowing of THE ENTIRE F***ING ROOSTER POPULATION OF THE PLANET EARTH??? AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH! Was this really what I wanted yesterday from the magic fortunetelling machine? you wonder.

Groggily, you rub your eyes, make your way outside into the brand-spankin' new reality you've proudly acquired for yourself. Head up Madison Ave until you reach...FAO Schwartz! [FAO Schwartz, in our case, being Nan Madol.] As, after ten minutes or so of walking, the unspeakably amazing, beautiful ruins come into view, your jaw drops. This is what you wished to be BIG for.

After exploring awhile inside this incredible labyrinthine wonderland, you suddenly emerge out into the bright warm daylight, gaze out toward the sea. You're suddenly looking into...a desktop background. Cool crystal azure waters fringe a tiny, white sand island housing a stand of leisurely-looking palm trees. "This can't be real!" Yet it is.

And not only are you living in it, this masterwork of perfection, but you notice a bump out on the horizon. Halfway between the ruins and Robinson Crusoe's island, a tall rock juts straight out of the deep water--a perfect natural diving board! Only when you climb the warm rock, barefoot, do you truly discover its perfection. At ten feet up, it's just high enough to be daring, just low enough to be moderately safe. You step to the edge of the rock, breathe deeply, look down into the churning sea below. [It looks like a hundred foot drop now.] You breathe again and leap. Perfection. You spend the laughing afternoon with your friends, flying through the air into the aquamarine sea as the sun and the sea and the universe smile down upon you, and you are happy, happier than you'd ever contemplated being, than you knew possible.

There will be, of course, further (alternately amusing and tragic) missteps/learnings/lessons/difficulties in this alien universe.

(Anyone who has ever learned a second language, for instance, has undoubtedly carried on a conversation as unintentionally humorous as Tom & friend's:
she: (coy) Should I come up?
he: (excited) Oh, like a sleepover?
[she laughs nervously as he waits in eager anticipation]
he: Okay, well I get to be on top! )

One instance that springs immediately to mind occurred while making coffee, of all things. I was making myself a cup one morning, and asked my host mom if she'd like one too. She would.

Anyway, my host mom goes outside; when she comes back in, I tell her that I'm fixing her cup.
-No, no, she says. You fix yours first.
I want to explain that I've already made mine, this is her cup.
Me: Don't worry. Nga orek tari!

She and my host father burst into uncontrollable laughter. Minutes later, once the belly laughs subsided and I finally coaxed an explanation out of them, it turned out that--in carelessly omitting the object of my "doing"--I had just matter-of-factly told my host parents, "Don't worry. I already had sex!" Oh, Megan.

And so, as we--my fellow M74s and I--have travelled along in our own little Brave New World (really as foreign to our former selves as was adulthood in NYC to Little Tom Hanks), we feared and laughed and stumbled yet, ultimately, triumphed.

My eyes sweep fondly across the familiar laughing, crying, happy faces around me again. I'm back from my trip down memory lane. "Well," I think to myself, "that day, in the rain, we knew not for what we asked." But damn are we glad we did.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

COS Snapshot #2 BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (OR MEGAN McCREA)

the entrance.
After our oh-so-strenuous day of...sitting in (very cramped) chairs, eating, and...sitting in chairs some more, we're exhausted. We deserve a nap.
My roommate C and I have been asleep for an hour(?) two(?)~impossible to tell in the mid-afternoon shadows of our hotel room~when I hear familiar voices tramping by our room. It's M and R!!!! I'm so excited I nearly bolt out the door when I realize--"oh, hey...I'm only wearing underwear!" Now, I'm not THAT familiar with Chuuk, but my (killer) instinct tells me that this may be, somehow, culturally inappropriate.
Seeing that I'm sitting up (and, hence, awake), C does the most rational thing in the circumstances: hops onto my bed and starts beating me senseless with a pillow. Now, I'm generally a pretty peace-loving individual (um, hence the PEACE Corps), but I was not about to let C get away with THAT lying down (well, or sitting up, as it were). I hop to my knees and rebut.
Soon, things have escalated--she's now standing over me, beating down upon me like some kind of fluffy downpour. "Oh yeah?" I think, "I'll show YOU."
I jump up and wind up for the superhuge pillow smack of all time. (BeWARE, C.) Unfortunately, doing both of these things simultaneous proves not such a wise decision--my (impeccably yoga-trained balance supahstar) body plummets off the bed onto the ground, smashing table, wall, and floor all nearly at once.
All conversation outside ceases.

C: Omigod!! Are you okay???
Me: [still half-realizing that I am on the floor] Uh, yeah. Yeah, I'm fine.
Voices from outside/above: Is everything all right in there?

I triumphantlysheepishly emerge in a towel. "No worries."

N: I KNEW it was you! I heard a crash against my wall and was like, 'What? Oh, Megan must be my neighbor!

I give hello hugs all around. Guess you could say that, the consummate theater major, I always know how to make an entrance.

*************************************************************************************
megan mccrea, queen of the high seas.
Now, given that the last two times I piloted a kayak, I:

*1: Palau, October: (at first, unbeknownst to me) took on so much water that my boat was suddenly travelling along at a seesaw-like angle, all my possessions floating in a miniature (quickly-growing) pond behind me, the boat travelling at approximately the speed of a dying snail until finally, mercifully, B & I got the badboy beached.

*2: Pohnpei, December: on this illustrious occasion, four friends ane I were out on kayaks. ONCE AGAIN the back plug was jacked-up (what's that saying again? 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on...?'). Only this time, when it was pointed out to me that I was taking on water, we were:
-300 yards from the island
-in a strong current
-at sunset.
And so, of course, when my friend G pointed out my situation to me, I did the only rational thing, in the circumstances~panicked and flipped my boat, throwing all my possessions into the water and all my friends into a state of terror. Only through their support, ingenuity, McGyverness, bandana, and wicked strong arm muscles did we (and the boats) somehow miraculously reach shore safely.

How J (she of the wicked strong arm muscles mentioned above) had persuaded me back out on a sea kayak in Chuuk I HAVE NO IDEA. (Temporary amnesia, mayhaps?)
Nonetheless, there we were: she with her handsome red kayak and shapely paddle, me with my handsome blue kayak and...two foot-long plastic child's canoe paddle. (What can I say? I'd checked out the last equipment on the lot.)
So, I'm Fisher-Pricing along as we behold the sunset and mull a sundry of topics. The problem, however? I keep falling further and further behind.
"Wait up!" I'm yelling, cursing and spitting and muttering obsenities under my breath at my stupid children's paddle.
J watches me from afar. Her lips curl into a smile. She starts to laugh.
"What?" I ask, through slightly gritted teeth.
"You're paddling backwards."
"What?" I'm befuddled. [My boat seems to be going forward...I don't get it.]
"You're sitting the wrong way."
And so I am. So THAT'S why my boat's steering like a drunken sailor. It all makes sense.
Amused by her discovery, J calls over to our friend N, "Hey, N! Megan's paddling backwards!!"
She (and I) await the expected laugh. Silence. N is unimpressed(?).
"Hey," she calls, "it's MEGAN. She's not bleeding all over the place--she's doing good."

*************************************************************************************
alanis morrissette and japanese fine dining.
Guess you could say that I've always been susceptible to contests involving food. You see once, as a kid, we were eating a dish with white rice on the side. The (full) pot was passed to my brother first, and he took (what I thought was) more than his fare share.
"K!!" I whined,"leave some for the rest of us!!"
"Megan," my dad turned to me, you-are-absolutely-ridiculous look splashed across his face, "I'll bet you FIVE DOLLARS you can't eat that whole pot of white rice."
"Oh yeah?" I motion for the rice to be sent down to me. Two hours (and a healthy stomachache) later, I was rich.

A few years later, I purchased my first CD: Alanis Morrissette's JAGGED LITTLE PILL. I memorized all the tracks, wholeheartedly adopting Alanis' own particularly screamy, angry brand of feminism as my own.

Little did I know that these two (seemingly unrelated) events would come into play on the same fateful night, in order to burn my tongue off.

As we're sitting around one evening, drinking beer and exchanging stories, JG has a great idea: WASABI-EATING CONTEST!!
Somehow, though he brought up the idea, he talks R and C into actually DOING it. As they prepare to face off, they exchange verbal jabs.
"You really think you can take me?"
"Oh, so you're gonna man up and challenge me?"
etc. etc.
Well, as soon as I hear the phrase, "man up," my Alanis genes kick in. "What's that?" I ask, poised to pounce. "Are you saying girls can't eat wasabi??"
The two exchange a look, meaning, "oh boy--we've got a live one!"
They shrug. "What do you think?

Me: Because women can do ANYthing men can do.
They: Oh really?

And so began a triumphant night for feminism, a losing night for my GI tract.

Oh, Megan. You [you you] oughta know.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

snapshots of COS (first installment)

#1 BACK TO THE FUTURE

It doesn't feel so odd this time: rolling out of the bright white light and softly comforting carpeting of our Penthouse room at 9:30 p.m., piling into the shuttle van, and driving over (our beloved) KB bridge and into we-know-not-what. In fact, there's a familiar, nostalgic mist covering the whole enterprise.
We're still tired, yet buzzed for our trip (o sweet reunion!), I'm still moving through check-in at the speed of a suddenly-surprised tortoise, E's bag still weighs an obscenely small amount, and WE STILL CAN'T WAIT TO SLEEP ON THE PLANE!! Not even our newly-minted~last night~and highly inebriated buddy M can throw us off-kilter. Like sleepwalkers, we spin, turn, retracing the motions of an old remembered dream.

Sleeping on the plane, a hilarious delicious and AMERICAN dawn breakfast in Guam...the dream continues.

I am jolted out of my reverie, however, as our plane anxiously (and rather bumpily) circles the runway in Chuuk, pacing in order to prepare for the big showdown with the little landing strip. I start to feel tremors of anticipation: THIS IS IT! COS!!! THE FUTURE!!
We land. As our plane slows from warp speed to a (more manageable) taxi down the runway, the island racks into focus: the velvety green Dr. Seuss hill before us, welcoming us to the place; houses and stores line the road; and then--I rub my eyes--IS THAT REALLY IT?
There, in peeling sea green paint, stands the R--. My home during my last night on the island last year, launchpad to [cue Good Charlotte, the Baha Men, and the Beatles here] the best flight of my life, wicked crazed dogs, Kintamani magic, the Hello Guesthouse, and so much more.

I inhale sharply--a gasp, really--as I realize that, oddly, I've just slipped still further into the quicksand of the past.

My nostalgic mood clings to me on the bus ride across the island (like a living thing, almost), as I recognize the landmarks of my past dotting the main road--the spot where we were chased by vicious canines, teeth flashing; the place where we all watched the sun set slowly out over the bodies of ships, dead and living; the store where I bought those fantastic~gratuitously tall~shoes (to the whistling and bubble-gumming of clerks)...

We arrive at the B--. I smile. The rooms, the palms, the white sand beach--it's all pristine, perfect--curated to be the precise fingerprint match to my memories of that time oh-so-long-ago. [Was it really only a year??] It's right on, loop for loop and swirl for swirl. I sigh contentedly.
Suddenly, unbidden, a conversation swims to the surface of my memory.

It's July 2008, I'm covered in freckles and yellow light. T (a fellow M74) and I regard the laughing faces of those a year ahead of us, the "graduating" volunteers, if you will.

Me: Wow. Do you feel like you're looking at the future?
T: No. (Pause) I feel like I'm looking at tomorrow. (More certainly) PST was yesterday; this is tomorrow.

And behold! Tomorrow comes (to take me away?). It is tomorrow and yesterday and today all rolled into one beautiful moment. Funny, I guess you sometimes have to go back to the past to get to the future.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[Cue Sebastian:] Under Da Sea

we float down down down
out of the white light and heat and everyday into
other, a parallel universe,
alien planet,
so peaceful.

the silence plays
music upon my ear drums

and, suddenly, I breathe in, to
a forest of purpleredgreenyellow
as something tickles my thigh--
a chorus of bubbles softly stroke me
as they rise up

up



up


and into the light,
white light, above us
(looks like heaven, that perfectbeautiful halo of light)

turn, look up,
a forest of fish
eclipse the light from above

and if I die here, in this moment,
hoka hey,
for it is glorious

below me a symphony begins,
symphoy of sea anemone
wave in time to the almighty
beat beat beat
breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe
everything breathes here,
together,
not a thing out of time, out of place

even the fish are full of purpose.
Fred Flintstone-Jersey fish,
on his way to feast on barnacles
and Camo Man,
somehow (foolishly) convinced if he hides extra still I'll have no idea
he exists
(the Don Quixote of the sea, how charming)
and long lanky luxuriant Paris Hilton fish
(for the love of everything will someone please feed them some sandwiches??)
swish swish by,
fashion plates at fify feet

and then excitement
what? who?
in a cave
(is it Platonic?)
but this is no shadow, it's a something,
a prehistoric whatchewhosit,
fallen out of time,
into this sea cave before us,
his feelers testing testing
1 2 3 4
for signs of food life hope anything
(is anything out there? somewhere out there?)
unaware that he himself is the principal player in our little drama,
our eyes affixed to his every move as he struggles
to find a place in his world

it's as though everything--
the anemones, Fred, Camo, Paris, Caveman--
exists only for us,
our private showing into this crazy wonderland,
that when we leave suddenly poof!
all will cease
(will it?)

ah but alas,
the time has come,
the dive guide said,
to talk of many things:
of decompression illness and bottom time
and surfacing and things
and why the sea is boiling hot
and what kind of fish have wings.

so thus we part (reluctantly)
sweet sorrow of the sea
"adieu, adieu, till it be morrow!"
we chorus as we flee

and up we go,
the buoy line
(our glory fadeth fast)

and up we go
to light and heat
and oxygen--at last.

and as we look up at the sun
and round at each glad face,
we feel inside us rise something
that's e'er so hard to place

gladness? awe, perhaps?
or sheer bewilderment?
this universe we've found below--
how in hell can we explain?
for ne'er could we do justice to
the glory that we've seen.

we can't, of course,
each one of us,
and so we smile privately.
for though we can't communicate,
we've been changed by the sea.