Welcome to my blog on my year (July 2010 - June 2011) in the Marshall Islands! The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a Micronesian nation composed on 29 coral atolls and 5 islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. I am here on the Dartmouth Volunteer Teaching Program which you can find out more about at this link: www.dartmouthrmi.com. I am staying in the capital, Majuro, and am teaching two sections of 7th grade English Grammar/Writing and English Reading at Majuro Middle School (MMS). I am living in dorms on the Marshall Islands High School (MIHS) campus, where MMS is located. If you have any other questions please feel free to email me at l.andrew.rayner@gmail.com, and thanks for visiting my blog. I update on Sundays as regularly as electricity/internet availability permits.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Best of Majuro

Dear blog readers,

In an attempt to upgrade the "blogginess" of my blog, I decided to keep up with this theme of lists (because, really, who doesn't enjoy a good list) for this week. Earlier in the week, I came to the terrifying conclusion that I had spent all of my stipend for the month and that I was in desperate need of next month's stipend. In thinking that, I realized that the month of January was almost over, that it had flown by, and that I only had four months left of my RMI/DVTP experience. The realization was exciting, depressing, and shocking. I do not know where the time has gone. In light of this, I figured that I should take some time out to give a more accurate picture of the place I have been living and give some credit to the people, places, and things that have made this experience so wonderful to me thus far. Conclusively, here we arrive at the best of Majuro list. Now, I know that many of these lists focus on a particular area--food, hotels, shops, performances, etc.--but since there is such a variety of somethings and a dearth of others, I figured that I would keep the list general. So, for those of you who are daring and are interested in coming out to Majuro for some Pacific Ocean fun, these are the people, places, and things that you will want to meet, go to, and eat/buy.

Best Handicraft (Animono) Store

There are a plethora of handicraft stores in Majuro. When I was doing my Christmas shopping, I went to every single store to find the best deals. Many people will tell you that the airport has the best handicraft store, and, in earnest, they do have the best deals. However, as far as the quality of the physical plant of the store, variety of animono, and service, Elefa is the best handicraft store in Majuro. The store itself is beautiful. Most all patrons take off their shoes before they come into the store in respect to the homeliness of the place and the wood floors. When you come in, the smell of the manipulated coconut fawns is the first thing you notice along with the numerous number of baskets covering the right wall. To the left, there is a depressed portion of the store that has a number of woven purses and hats (I have never seen woven hats at another store). In the far left corner of the store is an enclosed room where patrons can peek in and see a number of women working on the actual handicrafts. This is my favorite feature of the store. I love knowing that the profits are going to the women making the products. The store also offers classes. I have not taken any of them, but I hope to take a class or two before I go.

Best Pizza

There are a number of places that sell pizza in Majuro, but my favorite has to be The Marshall Islands Club. While the Marshall Islands Resort boasts a delicious array of toppings and a double sized garlic crust, for price and quantity, MIC takes the pie. There speciality pizza, which ports most vegetables you can think of, pineapple, and ham, and it runs around 18 dollars. The crust is delicious and the timing, from order to in your stomach, is extremely quick.

Best Restaurant (Ambiance)

This is an extremely difficult category. The most beautiful restaurant is definitely the Marshall Islands Club which is located right on the oceanside of the island with a beautiful outdoor view. But, as far as a winner in this category, I am going to have to concede this to the Tide Table. TT is an extremely popular spot for ribelles and visiting fishermen and sailors since it is right next to the Shoreline dock. Though small, the far wall that runs the length of the restaurant is all glass, giving a nice view of "downtown" Majuro and the lagoon. The walls are covered with animono and the restaurant has a nice bar with a large television that is almost always playing sports. The best part of the restaurant is the wait staff. All of the ladies that work at the restaurant are extremely nice and will cater to any dining experience need that you may have. It just so happens that I teach the children/siblings of almost the entire evening wait staff, so whenever I go there I get extra special treatment!

Best Restaurant (Food)

Majuro is full of excellent Chinese food. I assume this is because of the large number of Chinese residents in town. Ask any one and they will give you a different answer for which is the best Chinese food restaurant, but despite all other claims, I must side with Won Hai Shen. The prices are great, the variety of food is amazing, and the portions are hefty. If you do get a chance to go there, try any dish with eggplant (if it is on island), the sizzling beef (otherwise known on the menu as "hot beef on an iron board"), and the sweet and sour soup. You will be pining for another meal there soon after.

Best Bang For You Buck (Food)

There are two close contenders in this category. The second place winner is DAR (and, unfortunately, I have no idea what that stands for). DAR specializes in Marshallese and Pacific Islander cuisine (which includes curries, I was surprised to find out), however you can get your standard breakfast foods and lunch plates also. The portions there are large and the food is delicious and cheap. However, the real winner is one of the newest restaurants in Majuro. It is an unnamed sandwich shop in the Good Foods Market. The atmosphere of the place is like that of a Boarders Cafe and the sandwiches, made on homemade bread, are huge. You have have chicken, tuna, beef, hot dog, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cabbage, onions, pickles, hot peppers, sweet peppers, and cheese in any combination for the small price of $3.50. And you won't be hungry for a while.

Best Bar (Drinks and Bar Tender)

I must admit that have have frequented the few bar scenes that exist in Majuro and you cannot beat the guys at the Marshall Islands Resort bar. Many of the patrons are ribelles or Marshallese officials, so the service is top notch. Once the guys know you, they make your drinks strong and cut a lot of deals for your continued patronage. Gary, John, and Sunny are all great guys and my experience here would not have been as fun without them. Unfortunately, MIR has recently raised the price of their drinks, so I do not know if MIR will hold this title for the remainder of the year, but the bartenders still remain unbeatable. If you go there, make sure you ask for an "Aqua Shocka." It is an invention from some of the permabelles on island. It is the color of the ocean and will knock you off of your feet.

Best Bar (Ambiance)

The award for this category has to go to the Marshall Islands Club. Not only is the bar huge but it has a hand shuffle board, two bars (one indoors and one outside), live music, three different outdoor seating areas, three different indoor seating areas, pool tables, and karaoke. I mean, c'mon! It's also right on the water making it a beautiful spot. Unfortunately, enough people do not frequent there so it is never a "hopping" scene, but the lack of huge crowds in the big space is sometimes refreshing.

Best Karaoke

Many different spots offer karaoke in Majuro but the most entertaining place to test your vocal chords is at The Flame Tree Lounge. FTL, an infamous bar in its own right, has a small television in the corner of one of their bars and two microphones that patrons fight for vehemently. While the music selection is not full of popular hits, the regulars at FTL seem to know all the words to the most obscure songs. You get everyone, from people who can really wail to people who are actually wailing. The song I have heard performed the most?: "We Are The World."

Best Dance Spot

Rounding out this section on nightlife and entertainment is a Majuro favorite--The Pub. Now, it is a commonly known fact that you cannot go to The Pub before 1:00 AM, or else literally no one will be there. Most other bars close around this time so this is when The Pub comes to life. Best of all, they pretend to close down around 3:00 AM when the cops arrive, but stay open even longer afterwards. The bar itself only has two rooms, one for playing pool and another, large room with a second bar and a dance floor, complete with black lights and lasers. The music varies between Marshallese music (which can be difficult to dance to at times) and American music. If you want to get down, The Pub is definitely the best option.

Best Place to be Mobbed by Children

In a completely different vain, taking walks, or "jambos," around Majuro is a popular activity. As I have spent more and more time in Majuro, I have gotten to know more and more people. Still, there are a limited number of ribelles and since my students are spread all over the town my name has gotten around to all different groups of children. If you are looking to hang out with the local kids and have a great time, look no further than Demon Town. Demon Town is the name of the oceanside road next to MIHS. There, on the narrow street, seemingly dozens of kids are hanging out at all hours of the day and night. I always feel compelled to stop and play with them when I go on this jambo for the fear that if I don't, the kids will overtake me. Marshallese kids are extremely sweet and friendly and playing with the kids in Demon Town is actually one of my favorite activities in Majuro.

Best Jambo

The Demon Town jambo is an incredibly enjoyable one, but it is one that you have to be ready for. If you want to relax and go on a beautiful walk, you definitely have to walk across the ocean at low tide to Ejit. The home of Justin and Alex, Ejit is an island full of Bikinians who were placed there some time after the atomic bomb testing in the Bikini Atoll. The island itself has many mean dogs, but the walk to the island is a refreshing. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes. Going at low tide is highly encouraged since at high tide the current from the ocean can be strong and the water can be near or above one's head. Between the end of Majuro and Ejit, there are two small islands. The first is called Demon Island, since, supposedly, demons live there. The second is called Electric Island, aptly named because there is an electricity tower placed on the island. The walk itself is gorgeous. The ocean is on one side and the lagoon is on the other, you can see a few fish, and the sound of the waves is incredibly relaxing.

Best Place to Swim

On the other end of Majuro is the town called Laura. An hour ride from Majuro, I refer to Laura as the suburbs of the city. Life is different there and moves at a slower place. At the end of the island in Laura is a beautiful beach. The water is not deep for a long time because of the coral shelf making it the perfect place to lazily swim. You also have the option of going snorkeling in a relaxed setting.

Best Place to Snorkel

Speaking of snorkeling, Laura beach is NOT the best place to go in Majuro. Off in the lagoon side of Ejit is pretty beautiful, but really, the best snorkeling is on Enemanit, the picnic island. The island is a short ride from Shoreline and my host family and a few other people go there every Sunday for a picnic. The snorkeling there is unbelievable. There is a sunken WWII fighter plane and a sunken ship a few hundred yards from the beach. Even more amazing is that you can walk a few feet from the beach, put on goggles and see more fish or coral than you have probably ever seen in your life. It is like being in an aquarium.

Best Place to Relax

Enemanit also tops my list for the best place to relax in Majuro. In addition to great snorkeling, Enemanit has lazy swim spots, bungalows with hammocks, and the regulars usually bring a feast of food. Honestly, it is what I imagined island paradise to look like when I came to the RMI. It is the perfect place to spend a Sunday.

So there you have it. The Best of Majuro! If you have any questions or have some suggestions for categories to add the next time I do this (which will most likely be right before I leave), please don't hesitate to ask. Hopefully this gives you a bit of a better picture of what this place is like.

Bar lo kom,


1 comment:

  1. could you share a little bit more about taking classes from elefa?


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