Friday, November 25, 2005


So the Supreme Court is having a conference at the College this week. With less than a week's notice, they have taken over several instructional spaces, causing the teachers to scramble to find some other place to teach.

This doesn't effect me, but a few weeks ago I was forced to change my concert performance date because the International Tuna Commission wanted to use the Practice Gym where the performance was to be held. Although I had reserved it well in advance, I had to rearrange the schedule, change the syllabus and the students had to find a way to work around this new plan.

The Tuna Commission meeting is also taking up every bit of student social space during exams. This means that they cannot use the gym, the student union, the pool and ping-pong rooms - all the spaces that students need to relax during the stress of exams.

How is it possible that a college could rank students so low on the priority list? Why do the students put up with it? Why do the leaders insist on behaving this way toward the young people of the country?

I was told that it has to do with respect. Since the government gives us the money to run the college, we are at their mercy. If you tick off a leader, the ramifications can be disastrous and lengthy. They're like little kids who harbor a grudge for a long time unless they get their way, except these spoiled brats hold the purse strings.

It's sad to see a government which so shamelessly takes from the youth of the country and offers them so little in return.

It serves as a good reminder to me. There is respect and fear. If I want to get things done, I hope I can earn people's respect instead of inciting fear. I will continue give these "leaders" the priority they need to stroke their egos, but try my best to give an example of real leadership to the students.

Friday, November 18, 2005

If They Can Put a Man on the Moon...

Yesterday evening I was sitting with Rohaizad on the patio of our house. The full moon spread a bright path across Sokehs Bay and sifted through the palm leaves onto our front yard. The steady breeze across the water and our puppy, Wanda, resting on my lap made the evening as perfect as a human could imagine.

Nevertheless we were lamenting and discussing the frustrations of working and teaching here. It is such a beautiful corner of the world and filled with such wonderful people, but nothing ever gets done! The government can't fill a pothole, tourists are neglected, culture is dying away, etc. Sometimes it seems like only expats make an effort to make a change.

And yet, the Pohnpeians at one point in time worked together to build the amazing city of Nan Madol! Granted, this was more than five hundred years ago and the island was ruled by Saudeleurs, but it got done. What changed between then and now? Did the end of the Saudeleur's reign spell the end of such feats? Did the foreign ships distract people from such long-term projects?

Perhaps the problem is with me; that I am colored by my western attitude. Maybe poluting the land, water and air isn't so bad. Perhaps hypocritical Christianity is an improvement over thousands of years of culture. Maybe beer and cigarettes will earn respect and impart happiness to Micronesians.

I don't have any answers. But it did make me think that, as much as I love this place for it's people and natural beauty, I don't want to invest my life into it if the locals aren't even willing to make the tough sacrifices for the long-term good.

They can build Nan Madol, but they can't outlaw plastic bags. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"I Could Never Do That!"

During the spring of 2004, when I was telling my friends that I was coming out to Micronesia for three years, the most common reaction was, "Wow! I could never do that!" It made me wonder, what couldn't they do? Sit on an airplane for a few hours? Meet new people? Have new adventures?

But recently I think I have learned what it is that they couldn't do. They couldn't give up the luxuries and conveniences of their lives. Luxury has to be one of the most addictive things in the world, and it is hard to give up once you have it.

And living in the U.S., even if you are not rich, is luxurious. You never have to be bored because there is always TV, movies, bowling, theater, live music, you name it! Everything is air conditioned. Heck, you don't even need to walk up stairs because there's always an elevator or an escalator.

Nevertheless, it doesn't seem like such a huge sacrifice to give up those things, because in giving them up, you get a lot more in return: close friends and lots of exercise! Without the constant bombardment of stimulation, I am getting to know myself more than ever before, and there is a lot that I like and a lot that I don't like.

Perhaps that is why people say that they could never come out and have an adventure like this: they are afraid of what they might discover about themselves.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mand Alive!

My partner, Rohaizad, has been going down to the village of Mand every Sunday afternoon for the past couple of months to do drama with some of the young people. Yesterday I decided to go along with him, since they were going to be mounting their production.

It's a bit of a drive to get there, since it's in Madolenihmw. It's about an hour's drive south. The roads are mostly good, well paved, although there are massive potholes here and there. After passing the turn-off to Nan Madol and PATS, we drove on about a mile and then turned off to the right and took a narrow road back into the jungle.

When we entered the village of Mand, Rohaizad was surprised to find that the place seemed deserted. No one was playing volleyball or basketball or even walking down the street.

When we approached the nahs (pavilion) where they rehearse, we realized where all the kids were: sitting there waiting for him! When we drove up, they jumped up yelling and applauding. It was so exciting!

About 25 kids rehearsed their performances in the nahs, then were given "Mand Drama Club" t-shirts before walking over to the community center to perform for the adults.

The performances ranged from exciting and hilarious, to kids quietly reading from their papers, but the audience loved it and the kids were fired up. All the performances dealt with eating local foods.

It was so thrilling to see the excitement in the kids eyes and their pride when they finished performing. Although my entire weekend was wonderful and included a beautiful trip to Nahlap Island Resort, that was definately the high-point of my weekend.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This Bud's for US!

I was struck this summer while working on Yap how much Budweiser is imported into the islands. It's the same way on Pohnpei (and I would guess that is also occurs in Chuuk and Kosrae).

How tragic that a mega-company like Budweiser needs to diluge these tiny islands with beer. It must be a tiny fraction of their profits, but it does massive damage to the islanders' health, culture and environment. I've heard horrendous drunk driving stories both on Pohnpei and Yap.

Of course there were intoxicating beverages here before beer was introduced, such as tuba (coconut toddy) on the atolls and sakau (like Polynesian kava) on the larger islands. But consumption was regulated by the effort it took to make it and the availability of the ingredients. Beer supplies are virtually unlimited.

Unfortunately, even if Budweiser chose to stop importing their poison out here, someone else would fill the gap. Talk about heartless companies, it is heartbreaking to see the islands fall apart in order to fill American's pockets with money.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pohnpei: Island of Mystery

It's been an exciting weekend. Saturday night my teams captured the coveted victory at the Rotary Club's Quiz Night! Along with Jeff Nichols, Rohaizad Suaidi, Janhabi Nandy and Lance and Amy Lacke. I like to think that this means we have superior intelligence, but actually I think our minds are just more trivial than others. But it was fun; a real nail-biter.

Before we went to Quiz Night, Rohaizad and I came home to find a grocery bag hanging on the front door. Inside the bag was a loaf of bread from the Palm Terrace Supermarket. No note and no one has contacted us about it. What is that about? Do we dare eat it? WIEEEEEERD

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Too Many Holidays

Thank goodness Hallowe'en is past! On a Garden of Eden like Pohnpei, it is a shame to see children begging from house to house for candy. Especially when so many people choose to live on Ramen, Spam and KoolAid mix.

Then Thursday, November 3 was FSM Independance Day! Yeah! But we took the day off to celebrate Idil Fitri. Rohaizad (my partner) and I hosted an open house with Malay food and music at our seaside home. It was a beautiful evening and a lot of people came. We might have hosted the only Idil Fitri party in all of Micronesia, who knows?

Next week we get two more holidays: Tuesday (Constitution Day) and Friday (Veterans Day). With so many holidays, it would seem that people really take great pride in their nation, but it seems just the opposite. I don't hear about any ceremonies to mark these days: no parades, no fireworks, nothing. It's as someone said, "this is what a country must do," so they did it. Too bad.