Monday, December 6, 2010

Micronesian Island Life

I work with a lot of Micronesians at the William Carey. Most of them do dishes and work for clean up. At the same time, all of them know how to cook and do what the rest of us do.
To be honest, I have always been grossed out by the cleaning job they have to do. The William Carey kitchen is not a tidy place. Compared to Honey Baked Ham, it's a dump. One time a saw a cockroach in the dish room!

However, the clean up crew has always been really friendly to me. Every night after serving every one in the cafeteria their food, the cook yells, "cha cha!" and the dish people come and get their food.

I wondered if cha cha was one of their names, but I wasn't sure. Every day I came into work, the dish people would say, "Hi Marissa!" and I would say Hi back and even have conversations with them sometimes. I felt terrible though, because I didn't know their names.

The other day, I got off work at 7pm and two of them, a guy and a girl invited me to eat dinner with them. Usually I don't have anyone to eat dinner with after I work, because everyone has already finished and left the cafeteria.

I sat down with them, and apologetically asked them what their names are. Lanson and Mercy is what they call themselves.

We ate our chicken and mashed potatoes, and I asked them about their lives. They both were born in the Micronesian islands. They moved to California in 2004.

Micronesia sounds fascinating! Mercy tells me that the men and women there have long thick hair because they wash themselves in cool water. They don't even have heated water there, because it's always pretty warm. She came here and her hair became thin because she washes it with heated water. I never thought of that; I wonder if hot water really does make people lose their hair faster. Men should think about that.

They have water tanks on the islands that fill up when it rains. They will come with their buckets to get water when they need to cook, wash, etc. They eat mostly fish and coconut milk. It's rare for them to drink water. When they need rice, or carosine for the fire, they will row to a bigger island.

Thry don't have electricity. They use carosine lamps for light, and they cook with a fire. When the light goes out, and it's dark, they go to sleep.

There are no cars on the island; they just walk every where. Mercy said that from where I was sitting, I would be able to see the end of the island. They don't need cars in such small areas. When they leave the island, they take canoes. Mercy and Lanson live about 35 minutes from each other traveling by canoe, on different islands.

Mercy told me stories about some Microneasian's first experiences coming to America and flying on a plane. One lady took off her shoes as she was getting on the plane. She did this out of habit because they always take off their shoes before coming in doors. When she got to America, she said that someone stole her shoes, but actually she just left them there. I guess she expected them to be outside the plane where she had left them.

Another lady didn't speak English well at all, and when she went to the baggage claim, she couldn't find her suitcase anywhere. She went to one of the workers and told him, "Someone murdered my suitcase!" He was very confused, until another lady from Micronesia asked her what she meant. She then explained to the worker, "No, she means someone stole her suit case."
Turns out, someone has actually just taken it off the carousel.

I like Mercy; she's sweet and friendly. So is Lanson, he's just a little bit shy.

Both of them miss Micronesia and I can understand why. It must be so sad for them living here, remembering the clear blue water, where they can see the fish swimming underneath their canoes.
Now they live and work in Pasadena in a dim kitchen cleaning dishes for relatively ungrateful people.
It makes me sad for them.
But I guess at least they aren't alone. There are a lot of other Micronesians too. All the security guards are Micronesian and there is the All Nations Community Church, where the pastor and most members are Micronesians.

Sometimes I wish that I could escape this civilized, high maintenance life I live and see what it's like to live like they did. All they had was the basic needs of life. I don't even know what they did for fun, or what they did for work their. I think they moved here because they were poor. The Micronesian pastor from All Nations Church talked about Micronesians being poor. Maybe that's why they had to leave paradise to come to smoggy California and work in a dirty kitchen.
These are all my presumptions. They might not hate it. I just think I would if I were in their position.

Working and capitalism are just becoming strange to me. I would really like to experience a place where you survive on what you catch and grow. You build your own house. You survive on only what you need.

I have this romantic idea of living wild and free.

In reality, that must be scary, but maybe more fulfilling than being so high maintenance like me. Like most of us. I want to move to Micronesia.

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