Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preparing for transfer - sending home the bathing suits

While packing up to leave orientation on Majuro Atoll, to fly to my permanent assignment on Guegeegue, I go through my suitcases to see if there's anything I can ship home to make space for the mumus, Guam dresses & Marshallese skirts I've purchased here. Oddly enough, I'm sending home my bathing suits and sandals. I brought 2-3 of each, thinking they'd be staples of island dress, but neither one actually works here.

I knew that an important part of Marshallese custom is modesty -- defined as women and men covering their knees, shoulders, and chest with loose-fitting clothing. But I didn't realize that applied to swimwear as well. To take a dip in the lagoon, I don my baggy knee-length men's basketball shorts and T-shirt over my bathing suit. Then I wonder why I'm wearing a bathing suit at all, if I'm going swimming fully dressed. I buy another sports bra, dedicated to salt-water swimming, and skip the bathing suit altogether.

The limited usefulness of sandals is another surprise. Marshallese kick off their zoris (flip flops) at the door to keep the coral sand off the floors. Even teachers teach barefoot in the classroom, I'm told. Unstrapping my sturdy Chacos is a nuisance every time I move between the bedroom, kitchen, and classroom. So they're going home also. I suppose I'll keep one bathing suit and 1 pair of sandals for a special occasion.

Women nearly always wear skirts or dresses (far cooler than shorts). Pictures coming, but briefly described: Mumus are loose cotton dresses, often embellished, suitable for church and teaching. Guam dresses are ghastly baggy polyester dresses suitable for casual wear. I have one that I wear when necessary (like today, for cleaning up the elementary school for our departure tomorrow). Clothing is very inexpensive here. I paid less for my Guam dress ($6.50) than a pound of mushrooms ($6.99).

Next posting will be from Guegeegue -- wish me luck!


  1. I love hearing about these little details Marci! Thanks for sharing! Good luck with the transfer!

  2. Interesting. Who would of thought? Honestly--basketball shorts and a t-shirt sound like my favorite kind of bathing suit.
    Miss you and hope all goes well in Guegeegue.