The Orientation Program
When moving to a place that has a language and culture that are very different from what you are used to, it is a good idea to learn about them beforehand. Concerning language, on Chuuk you will meet many people that have a working knowledge of English and some people that are completely fluent. However, there will be young children and old folks who might not speak a word of English as well as many others who would prefer not to have to struggle with it. Knowing a little bit of Chuukese can be a great help in communicating with these people. How can you appreciate a foreign culture if you can't talk to the people that live it?
Concerning culture, it is good to know some of the ground rules. This will help you to avoid doing things that are impolite in Chuuk but might be perfectly alright to do in the US. A quick example is entering a room where elders are seated. In the US, you would enter and wait till someone tells you to be seated. In Chuuk, you sit down as soon as you possibly can. Boys, one thing you would NEVER do is ask one of your Chuukese companions to "fix you up" with his sister. You might get killed if you do! There are many many more cultural tidbits that are good to know. Please take a look at the write -up on Culture and Living Conditions for a very thorough discussion of all this. All this is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it is a lot of fun.
The purpose of the orientation program is to give you an introduction to both Chuukese language and culture. You won't be an expert in either area after the program. However, hopefully, you will be better equipped to enjoy your experience on Chuuk a little bit more than would otherwise have been the case. The orientation program takes place the weekend after you arrive on Chuuk for three to four hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. One session will be devoted to language and the other will be devoted to culture. It will be held at the Blue Lagoon Resort.
For language we will be using an abbreviated form of a textbook that was used to train Peace Corps volunteers over fifty years ago. It is excellent --- a classic. We will give you the first ten chapters of the book. In the orientation program we will only get to cover the first few. So, if you feel like it, you can do some homework on your own and increase your knowledge of the language!
For culture, we will go over portions of the write up on Culture and Living Conditions that you can download from this website. You probably will have read this beforehand. Write down any questions you might have as you go along and get them answered at the orientation session.
Larry Bruton, the Chuuk Coordinator of the Teaching Assistant Program, will lead the orientation program. He is an American who is married to a Chuukese woman and has lived on Chuuk for over 40 years. He is one of a very few Americans who can bridge both cultures flawlessly. You will be lucky to have him as the leader for this program.