Sunday, December 04, 2011


My first harvest...corn was so good.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The largest bird in the country

As you all settle down to your thursday afternoon thanksgiving feast know that I, being on the other side of the dateline, have already gorged myself, drifted into a food coma, had a full night's sleep, awoke and had leftovers. This was my second full thanksgiving of the year since my mom did up a beautiful pre-thanksgiving dinner last month when I was in the states. And if you now count leftovers this morning it is probably my fourth, and by lunchtime should be my fifth t-day feed of the year. Not too shabby.

Marshall Islands thanksgiving is much like one in the states. We gather all of our friends and family together and eat till we blackout, then drink until there is an argument and all go home to happy to sleep in the fetal position. Here though in the absence of family or a local thanksgiving celebration all the white people get together to celebrate. Basically we do this for any reason at all and thanksgiving is a damn good one. It is also another opportunity to indulge is promoting america's superiority at holidays to our non-american friends.

This year I volunteered to cook the turkey, not that I really know what I am doing but hey put it in the oven and wait right? I was first in the store after the cargo ship arrived and can guarantee I bought the largest bird on island, 23 lbs, so I was off to a good start. I picked up all the tools and ingredients and threw the bird in the oven yesterday at lunch. Unfortunately, (ya right) I was informed when returning to work that we had a company baseball game that afternoon and would have to leave work early, ah shucks. Still believing I would be home in time thought this is no problem for the bird. Well apparently the electrical company had other ideas since while we were out at baseball the power on the island went out. Fortunately this didn’t cause me too much stress, as I didn't even know until I was driving home after and a friend called worried about the turkey. I arrived home to find the power still off. Just when I thought it was the end, pop the power cracked back on. Well at this point there was nothing to loose and didn't know if it was ruined so just proceeded with the cooking now scheduled to be 2 hrs late.

Eventually it got up to temperature and was hopefully done. It looked good anyway and thought it will have to do. Now for the hard part. The flexible tin disk the turkey was in was too weak to pick up so was forced to remove the entire oven rack then take it out to my car for the drive over to the house were everyone was. Solo this was quite the task but managed to get it done although not without spilling turkey juice all over the oven, floor, carpet, table, stairs, car seat and floor. Driving down the road over speed bumps and cutting taxis didn’t help either. By the time I arrived I was exhausted and covered in sweet after gripping a 180 degree bird while driving a stick shift in the cab of pickup in the tropics.

All ended well and maybe the best turkey I ever had but I am sure the exhaustion and novelty contributed in some way. All 19 people also seemed to enjoy it so was at least edible. Glad to see that I wasn’t sick this morning either which is a good sign. The stuffing I made with Mom’s recipe using sausage was a big success too. and the gravy from turkey drippings, at least what was left after spilling on the my kitchen or car was tasting too, I guess salt fixes everything.

This morning is an induction ceremony at work for our new to us backhoe and sewer snake machine, welcoming them into the family of other rusty tools soon to be neglected and ruined. At least we got diabetes snacks: a cookie, soda, muffin, and cake.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Thursday was a Marshallese holiday, and what better way to spend the day than pouring concrete. Two friends building a church here offered me a local wage of $2/hr to help pour concrete for the day. I couldn't pass it up that kind of bling. Anyway I needed a change from my office job, get a tan and try and work off my fat belly. Not sure one day will do it but at least I got to work outside for a change.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Island Time

I am back from my US tour (10 days of awesomeness + 4 days on the airplane or layovers just getting from place to place). I had a true departure from the Marshals on friday eve as I tried avoid friends forcing a few too many on me before getting on the plane. It didn't work as friend managed to get a couple beers and shots in me, so I stumbled to the gate. Was all fun and games until I woke up halfway through the flight to Hawaii with a terrible hangover and a old sock of a continental airlines omelet in front of me. I thought for sure I was going to have to bless the mile high barf bag for the first time but managed to hold it off. After the annoying transfer in Hawaii, avoid at all costs I managed to make it to Albuquerque where things got better fast. Phil and Liz took me over to my new house, first time I was actually in it since I bought it in June. Pizza and chatting about the latest tv shows and I was on my way to full dose of Americanness.

I had a great time in NM, highlights include a sewage plant tour with my mom, you know one of those things you dream about doing all your life. 7am sunday hot yoga with our new favorite instructor Liz. And of course the food. The best was the night before I left my mom went all out and prepared Thanksgiving dinner. It was no sham, and for me was the real thing just a month early. Turkey, mash potatoes, stuffing, pees, salad, cranberries, the works, it was all there. The whole gang showed up with Jake and his family were there, my dad, and phil and liz. My brother's family are doing well. Got some time with the kids who are very happy.

Next I was off to my friend Emily's wedding in Indiana. Was a bit colder there but warmed up slightly for the outdoor ceremony which was nice. Was beautiful in the colorful trees. I got to meet a bunch of new people from her life there and a couple of old friends from peace corps, Sarah and Lisa. There was even two different Marshal Island connections there, weird. As usual, as a wedding guest, the highlight was the reception. They had a band which provided many excellent dancing tunes. Although the best part was when Rob, the groom, played some songs for emily with a band made up of his wedding party. He totally rocked it. The night before the wedding we all also managed to dress up for halloween and attempt to party although many of were tired from traveling. The bride and groom did the best job as Elvira and Frankenstein. I dressed up like Rick Perry, republican presidential candidate, who I find particularly idiotic. I found a especially presidential tie and made some campaign buttons telling the truth of his slogans. For instance the flat tax: making the rich richer and poor poorer. Amazingly, a guy in the elevator told me he liked my costume and Perry. I asked him if he read my buttons and he said he did like to read.

Lastly was off to DC to see Ira's new baby and catchup with Ira, Dylan, and Sarah (who was also at the wedding). We got to see the new dc monument to MLK which was sweet, the first to a non-president. I liked the statue but wasn't a huge fan of the rest of it. Seems most favor the opposite. They say the statue looks chinese. I couldn't tell. Ira's baby, Parker, is super cute as expected. Ira and Dylan also got a day off and we were able to get out for a hike. Good work vacation team. Next is the xmas holiday. Not sure what is in the plans but probably an week in asia...

Now I am back in the Marshals. Was a warm welcome on saturday when I found my apartment with no power. A trip to the electric company and waiting 45 min for the drunk receptionist to make it in to work righted that. Yesterday got out on a boat with some friends to try my hand at skurfing. That is surfing behind a boat. It quite difficult and I couldn't master it but did do a great job at being an idiot. That is I am now sunburned and look like a ripe tomato. First day back at work is going to be fun...

lv ya - jesse

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Hey all, hope everyone is well. I had a good weekend. Took a trip over to a nearby island with a small group of friends. We had more than a good time and more than a few drinks, not necessarily in that order. I slept outside on the beach which is the best, at least until it started raining. In the middle of the day went for a quick finishing trip where I excelled in not only loosing a big fish but loosing the lure and line, watching it snap off the rod as the fish ran. Fortunately it wasn't actually my fault because it had been setup incorrectly but I still felt bad. I did however redeem myself by scoring a monstrous tiny little mackerel. Basically a pan fryer, haha. Later of course after cooking it late, after everyone was already full it got left out and quickly scarfed down by the bravest dog.

Anyway after returning to Majuro I moved house. Yes thats right, my beach bungalow was just not enough for me anymore. Well really it was too much. I was lonely in a 4 bedroom house 30min from town all by myself. So last week I found a nice small place just on the edge of town, 5 min from work and have now made the move. I have traded beach for convenience and old bungalow for sleek new appliances. I am happy with the move and now more comfortable in a clean and more sociable place.

Looking forward to my trip home in two weeks. Will be home for a week, then going to wedding in Indiana and 3 days in DC before coming back. Will be a whirlwind tour.

Hope all is well. lv jesse

Jesse Shapiro

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Die flowers die!

I am not a flower hater, but this past week we organized total flower annihilation. Now before you think I am the devil hear me out. The flowers happen to be on the airport runway which also happens to be the main rainwater catchment for the city water supply. Unfortunately for the population it hasn't been cleaned for at least 10 years! However, as fortunate as this is for the local bird and bee population it had to end. Fortunately for me it is a high visibility activity to start up regular cleaning, code for maintenance program. We even had a bobcat from public works to help with the domination of nature and destruction of every last flower. Wow was it a lot of stuff. In fact we only finished half and have to go back for more this week. We had all 55 employees out cleaning and then threw a bbq in the afternoon once the plane needed to land.

Last week I spent in Ebeye, the second island I am working on. The place is hard to sum up but is next to a US military base and houses all their local employees. It is basically a slum and neglected by everyone. Most of the services run on a minimal level (in America this would mean unsafe, insufficient, and dangerous). Following up on my last trip there I again hung out a bit with the leadership. The wealth difference is outrageous. Picture a slum of makeshift housing, kids everywhere, and sweltering heat then see this picture. Yes, it is the newly arrived massage chair of the local leader.

lv ya, jesse

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The distinctive aroma of...

So I noticed a bad smell in my house last week. Once I noticed it and the hours passed by it seemed to get worse and worse. I searched high and low but couldn't locate where it was coming from, partly because it was so bad it was hard to smell without heaving, in order to find it. I figured it was a dead mouse or rat since I had recently seen one and put out traps and poison. The poison is supposed to make them thirsty, so they go outside, then kill them. I was really hoping there wasn't a dead rat in my roof or wall. Anyway the next day the power happened to go off and I was home when it came back on. Just as it did I walked into the kitchen and boom, like a wave the smell hit me. It was clear it was coming from the back of the refrigerator. The fan on the back, now on, was sending the smell out right at the entrance to the kitchen. So I took the back off and searched around with my flashlight but found nothing. I called the landlord and the next day she sent a guy over who couldn't find anything either. So two days later they all came over with another guy. This time they really got deep inside the back and low and behold found the rotting, maggot filed shell of a former crab. Now how the hell did a crab get in the back of the fridge?

Sunday, August 07, 2011


This morning was the opening of parliament. Hirobo and I went to put in some face time and maybe get on tv. Didn't really work out but got to take some fancy pics.

First picture is Hirobo on left and the President of Marshall Islands on the right. I am the white one. Next picture has the Minister of Public Works in center.

Last picture was during a visit to one of the water treatment plants here last week. It was hard work so fortunately was surrounded by coconut trees and a hammock to take a load off. wooo....

Sunday, July 31, 2011


All last week I took my first trip to Ebeye. Ebeye is in the Kwajalein atoll located in the western chain of atolls (I am living on Majuro in the eastern chain) and is about a 45min flight. You get there by a flying to Kwajalein and taking a boat across to Ebeye. Kwajalein is a US military base where they still test missiles and such. In fact there was a test while I was there. They blacked out the island after 8pm and tried to shoot down a missile fired from california. Apparently though something went wrong and it was headed for a popular area so they blew it up mid-flight. Don't worry though it only cost the US taxpayers 100-200 million dollars. While on Kwajalein we also were lucky and got to go to subway on the base. The only fast food for thousands of miles.

Once on Ebeye I was introduced to the parliamentarians representing the island and the traditional king. I soon found out that my counterpart is well connected and knew them all personally. Great news for me and getting things done. We took a tour of the water and sanitation systems which I am sure I will be updating more on that over the year. Lets just say it ain't too good. See picture of the kids playing basketball on the road to the dump. Yes it is burning too in the background and also happens to be the only baseball field on the island.

The next day the Iroij, traditional king, invited us on his yacht to an outer island, Elip for a ceremony where they handed over a boat. It was interesting and we definitely travelled in style. See the picture below of me and the king on the ferry boat to the island with the boat to be handed over in the background. It was small, only 100 or so people on the whole island. They didn't have a dock so we had so get off the big boat to this fiery boat then jump in the water and walk ashore. Once we were all on land we were welcomed into the village by the whole community by singing and shaking hands. We had to shake everyone single persons hand including the kids as we entered off the beach. Then we were given a lei and a fresh coconut, not a bad way to visit a place. Next was speeches and big meal. Check out what I had to try and eat with my own personal community member fly swatter. Was a bit strange eating a whole meal with 100 people watching and a women waving a banana leave over my food the whole time but at least it was not for me but for the king. After that we walked out to a lake on the island which was a bit strange for it small size then headed back. On the way back we saw whales and dolphins. The Marshallese told me this was a sign that something big and important was about to happen. I told them that maybe the water and sanitation system would start working. They all laughed hysterically.