Marina Large – Okinawa

Marina Large
Okinawa, Bolivia

Armed with my toy microscope, some glass slides, and Okinawa-grade water, I set up the lab. As the first group of snickering skeptics arrived, I showed them the microscope and explained how it worked. The first student to use the microscope, Freddy, keenly examined the drop of water on the slide and noted aloud there was nothing to be seen. Then, he sat down and looked through the microscope objective; the once empty drop, now magnified, was teeming with life. Freddy made a sort of cry and then fell backward right out of his chair.

Hometown: Bremerton, WA

Education/Work: B.Sc. Biology; The University of Chicago

Time in Okinawa: Arrived Okinawa Jan/Feb 2000, served until August 2001

Fellow Volunteers/Sors: Courtney Carpenter, Paula Holtman, Mickie Biggs, Natalie (Vaughan) Herrera, Dan Herrera, Brian Terrien, Sor Gera, Sor Lucila, Sor Lucia, Sor Anabel, and Sor Carmen.

Living Arrangements: Out of the goodness of his heart, Dennis Nash gave a donation (after seeing the residence in person) to upgrade the shack. Some of the changes included: actual tiles in the original bathroom, a second bathroom, a kitchen sink made of metal instead of fetid concrete (if concrete can become so, this one was), kitchen cupboards, kitchen counter and tiles, and, my personal favorite: mosquito-netted porch. If you currently live in the shack, pray for Dennis; the modifications to the house really improved the quality of volunteer life!

Also, I don’t know how the yard is now tended, but I remember regularly waking to the sound of dozens of 7th graders hacking away at the lawn with machetes. I also recall finding cow hair in my clean laundry because our yard was the grazing site of choice.

Teaching:

  • First year: SFX: Biology: all of the 9, 10, 11, and 12th grades; English: 7, 9, 12; Music: all of the 5 graders; Typing: all of the 7, 8th grade; Natural science: 8th grade.
  • Second Year: SFX: Biology: all 10th, all 12th; English: all 10th, all 12th, 7th, 8th; Typing: all 7th and 8th. Okinawa II: English: grades 1-8.

Other Activities/Responsibilities: Catechist for those preparing for Confirmation.

Classroom Adventures:

The existence of cells is something that we in the first world accept as common knowledge. I had anticipated many teaching difficulties; cultural differences, my apparent lack of Spanish, etc. What I did not expect was stubborn disbelief about basic scientific facts.

For days I had tried to convince (note I did not use the word teach) the sophomores about the building blocks of living beings: cells. I was bombarded with questions/declarations, all of which made it clear that they were not going to take the word of some “gringa” on the subject. And why should they believe in something they themselves cannot see? So, I “invited” all of the classes the following week for mandatory wet-labs.

Armed with my toy microscope, some glass slides, and Okinawa-grade water, I set up the lab. As the first group of snickering skeptics arrived, I showed them the microscope and explained how it worked. The first student to use the microscope, Freddy, keenly examined the drop of water on the slide and noted aloud there was nothing to be seen. Then, he sat down and looked through the microscope objective; the once empty drop, now magnified, was teeming with life. Freddy made a sort of cry and then fell backward right out of his chair.


After some fast talking, I dissuaded them that the microscope was magic, and rather a tidbit of century-old technology. Happily, after the wet-labs, all of the students were believers. However, an unfortunate side-effect of our experiment was that several girls vowed never to drink water again.