Marshallese Lessons

  Most Monday afternoons when I take the kids to Ebeye, I meet with two wonderful young women who teach me kajin Majel, the Marshallese language.  Sister Toga and Sister Tekiare are LDS missionary sisters who've had to learn the language themselves and use it all the time in their missionary work.  They are wonderful teachers and my vocabulary and understanding are growing by leaps and bounds.  But language isn't the only thing I learn when I'm with the family on Ebeye- I'm also being gradually taught how to behave properly in the Marshallese culture.  Last night I learned that you don't talk about the irooj or his family (here it's the Kabua's) outside the compound.  People here still take the irooj and his leadership seriously, enough that Bubu made sure that I knew to stop talking about it while we were walking around town.
  I've also learned that when we're at the family's compound, Bubu and Jimma are in charge of the kids, not me.  If Sky asks them for ice cream, they will buy her ice cream, whether I want her to have it or not.  I'm also not supposed to interact much with the kids, especially not in their disputes.  When Sky and AJ (one of her cousins) were fighting over a toy, I tried to mediate, and Jimma actually pulled me away from it and told me to let them figure it out.  "Kids and adults are seperate." he said.  Something similar happened when AJ accidently hit Sky with a rock.  She got a hug from Bubu but no one got a talking to like they would have at my house.
  I feel like we're walking a very fine line.  We want to fit in and be accepted but we'll always be ribelle and not Marshallese.  I can learn the language, wear the right clothes, and try to behave properly but it may never be enough.  Until I started stepping physically out of my American culture, I never realized how much of my life it influenced, and how hard it would be to meld it with another, very different, culture.


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