Alyce (At Home With Books)'s Reviews > Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island

Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
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Peter Rudiak-Gould signed up with the WorldTeach volunteer organization and chose to spend a year teaching English in one of the most remote locations on the globe: The Marshall Islands. Not only that, but he picked one of the most remote atolls and islands in the country at which to teach: Ujae.

In the first chapters he relates the many ways he experienced culture shock, from his lack of comprehension of the language, to his puzzlement with how the islanders distanced themselves from him. As he got to know the islanders more, he found that he admired them in some ways, yet there were also things that they did (like how they treated their children) which were quite offensive to him. He was also surprised to find that although Ujae is remote, it is not untouched by modern culture.

I personally liked how he went delved into the complexities of the language, and the unique expressions that can be found in Marshallese, some of which express very complex ideas in a short word. There are a lot of fun and interesting definitions given in the book. But the linguistics is really only a small part of the book. The bulk of Surviving Paradise deals with Peter's struggles to come to terms with the differences between his culture and that of the people of Ujae.

This is an enjoyable and educational memoir about The Marshall Islands, the Marshallese, and one man's attempt to learn about the people, try to fit in with them, and educate them all at the same time. It is filled entertaining stories, most of which are the kind that would make you thank God that you weren't the one in those situations, but others are filled with the beauty of the land and the people.

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