It took a month to finish my inventory at William S. Reyes Elementary School where I sub-taught Grade One for more than two months until the end of term.
It was not really that difficult save extenuating circumstances like an aborted trip to China upset the timetable, a restful interlude at a San Isidro beachfront only to awaken to the reality of thieves at CK, the prolonged paperwork requirement at a low-income housing, and the collapse of a tooth bridge that needed to be replaced to the tune of a fifth of my yearly income. And that was just for starters!
It was quite an experience catching the young ones at the gate of learning, directing them to the grasp the learning process itself, and make it their own rather than growing up reliant to someone else’s expertise, though evidently, the young were taught to follow “role models” as if they were not adequately equipped to undertake their own journey.
Even at Grade 1, they are already programmed to seek the “lead” position, be the first on line, and the top learners in a class are already spoiled to be “praised” at every turn (and pout when they don’t, or worst, be in quiet rebellion), followed by peers to receive awards of frame-able certificates of recognition. My, we sure get them marching on the front lines early.
The male of the specie has an advantage on the front lines, reflective of the present patriarchal ethos in spite of Micronesia being traditionally matriarchal. That is probably why, early on, I wanted to mosey over to the T-shirt maker and get me a shirt emblazoned with “I am a Queenfisher” to counter the “home of the Kingfisher” ones promoted by the school.
“Queen” used to be “queer,” not a very pleasant term among the machos, with the recognition and ascendancy of the LGBT community into their proper roles within the community, being a queen is no longer a disdain, and we even have respectable beauty contests of “queens in the lanes.”
Some liberal old-timers would not mind the effeminates to stay in the beauty salon, and the dudely sport keep their shirts manly and their bras incognito, but we are now referring beyond the stereotypes of some of the 20 percent amongst us born that way. It is when public acceptance goes into the institution of marriage and the etiquette of the bedroom that we grow squeamish.
Being “macho” has always been a preferred social style since Española brought the Mediterranean image to our shores. The Catholic Church venerates Mother Mary, but the Reformed tradition is strictly male—assertive and often brutish. The U.S. Marines where not short of sergeants who exemplified the style.
Brothers John and Charles Wesley tried to serve the social low cast, but they did not fair well in the U.S. Southeast, nor did George Whitefield in England, and it was not until Imperial America went to the ends of the Earth that the Methodist Episcopalian and low-Church tradition fueled by Asbury and his “missionaries” merged the two into the requirements of the Empire. Along with Churches, they started newspapers and build schools, clinics, and hospitals, which later preceded public education and health services.
With the preeminence of the macho ethos, the queenfisher does come as a fresh wind of relief. My queen is more brightly fashioned and resplendent in color, at least, in my mind, fitting well in a Jamaican/Caribbean setting!
Unfortunately, our pedagogical prowess was not required long-term at WSR so the Queenfisher T-shirt will probably not materialize any time soon.
The female breeding queen ants, lord it over the complex social colony of an anthill with the bite more stingy than the machos. When fertile, have wings and are very industrious, though that is not to their favor in my dwelling; they swarm just after sundown around the kitchen and bathroom lights. I really do not know where they come from since I live on the 7th floor of one of Saipan’s two new premier dwellings, and being near the seashore, one would think that the anthills are further inland. Between the swatter and the flying ant, we war!
The Queen ants are real but the Queenfisher is in my imagination as the vocabulary has yet to catch up with gender equality, and certainly, the female fealty at WSR is all on the Kingfisher bar none.
Once I got a card that said, “Congratulations, you were born.” Quite true, as it is of every child in the classroom and every human heretofore yet to be born. At the hour of conception, one was already a winner (minimum odds are 1 out of 200 million) and free.
I was charged to teach how my class, regardless of race, gender, or religion, can discover the wonderful tool they are born with, a nervous system that can sense, feel, and think. Queen or King, the truth remains that each human is born a “unique, unrepeatable gift of life into human history, no one like him/her before, and never like him/her ever again.” Their job is not to be first; they already are one of a kind.
They (we) all just have to live who we are, Queen!