Thursday, May 31, 2007

Where everything is closer and much realer than it seems

I try not to talk about the future in my blog, just the past. But I'm going to break the rule today by informing you that in a few hours I am leaving Pohnpei.

After three great years, I am heading off to Kosrae to teach for the summer and then back home again.

I had a wonderful last day: kayaking the mangroves, walking the dogs on the causeway, eating pizza on my nahs, singing karaoke.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dogs...oh brother

There are some construction workers doing last minute work on the new house next door to mine and re-rocking the pond in front of my house.

According to them, my dogs sit around watching them work all day.

But when I come home, suddenly the dogs jump up and viciously bark and jump at the construction workers.

It is really kind of embarrasing.

A few days ago I went out kayaking. When I paddled back home, the construction workers were all gone, but my four dogs were circled around their wheel barrow growling and snarling like mad dogs.

Maybe they are mad dogs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kayaking through Nan Madol

Yesterday I woke up at 4:30 and drove an hour down to Temwen Island in Madolenihmw municipality with my kayak.

I put my kayak in as the sun was rising. After about five minutes of paddling a ray swam right under my kayak. A small shark passed me a short time later.

But my goal was Nan Madol: 92 man-made islands which used to be Pohnpei's religious and political headquarters. I have hiked to Nan Douwas island in Nan Madol several times, but I wanted to explore the extensive channels surrounding the other islands in the 200 acre complex.

As I entered Nan Madol, this strange plant was hanging over the water. While fiddling with my camera (Yea! I figured out how to use my new camera!) I drifted right into it. Gross.
The channels are all bordered by these massive basalt rocks. Nan Madol is sometimes called "The Venice of the Pacific" because it has so many channels. But people still live in Venice and people deserted Nan Madol hundreds of years ago. Many locals won't even go into Nan Madol because the spirits still haunt the place. Nan Madol does look like an appropriately mysterious place to hang out if you're a spirit.
I cannot fathom how people put these huge rocks in place a thousand years ago without any cranes.
The construction of Nan Madol was so massive in relationship to the population of Pohnpei that it's construction is almost miraculous. And it's abandonment is also remarkable. It would be like everyone moving out of New York City.

The picture above shows how dense the foliage has grown on these islands over the past couple of centuries of abandonment. There is a wall in this photo, too, but it is completely hidden and shaded by plants.
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Peinering island is easy to find and most of the walls are in pretty good shape. Besides getting out of the kayak a few times when my foot fell asleep, this was my first stop.

The walls are partly collapsed, but you can see the amount of work that must have gone into building these walls. This picture was taken from inside the island.

On Peinering island people made and stored coconut oil which was then used for ceremonies or lighting.

This picture doesn't show it very clearly, but this pile of rocks on Peinering is exactly square and there is a three-foot square hole in middle of it. I don't know what it was used for.

I have to confess that when I landed on this island, I was so lost that I didn't know where I was. There is a channel near Peinering that goes out to the ocean. I went out there and found Nemwenkau pond from which I got my bearings and figured out my way around.
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To build these islands, they surrounded the space with logs of basalt rocks, then filled them in with coral rocks. This means that you have to walk over extremely sharp and uneven rocks.

I set myself the goal of getting to the Lehnkai pool on Darong Island. This pool used to be a reef pool and the island was built around it. Apparently eleven tunnels were built under the island to allow water to flow in and out. This was an important ritual site long ago and the remains of some type of ceremonial structure can still be found here.

As I kayaked up to the island, it appeared to be "guarded" by these sentinals of dead trees. It was easy to get past them, but the difficult part was still ahead.
The brush has grown so thick on Darong island and ground was so rough that it took me fifteen minutes to hike about 20 feet to get to the pond. Even when I arrived at the pond I couldn't get a clear view of it. The photo below was the best view I could get of Lehnkai.
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The photos above and below are the wall to the island of Pahn Kadira. Workers began building this island around the year 900 AD. It was the island where the Saudeleurs - the rulers of Pohnpei - lived. This island also housed the temple to the god Nan Sapwe. As you can see, it is completely overgrown now. The rocks are covered with mold and trees and shrubs cover the surface.
The islands of Pahn Kadira (above) and Peikapw (below) are separated by a narrow, and very spooky channel. Peikapw contains the remains of two women who forgot to bring tribute to the god Lopengo and were turned into stone.

I was amazed by the quantity of rocks that were used to make this, and countless other channels. Each of these massive rocks was hawled here from the other side of the island. An amazing feat for the Pohnpeians 1000 years ago. Legend states that magic was used to fly the rocks into place, and that legend is almost as incredible as human beings doing it by hand.
My advice to anyone who wants to kayak through Nan Madol: laminate your map, it dissintegrates when it gets wet. Don't go alone: it is easy to get disoriented among the channels and the hiking on the island is rough and difficult. Plus, it is eerie.
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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Final Photos

These were the final photos taken by my camera before it died last week.

Helen and I have become a little addicted to kayaking to the runway and floating at the end of the runway while the plane lands. We're getting bolder and bolder and float closer and closer to the end of the runway.
Allow me to add sound effects, "KSHSHSHSHSHHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH!!!!!!!!!"
After the plane landed we paddled like maniacs to try to get to the other side of the runway before the plane took off again. After 45 minutes of frantic paddling we successfully arrived. As we sat at the end of the runway debating where to float during the take-off, we heard the roar of engines approaching. The engines were much, much louder this time and shook our kayaks as the plane went over.
As we paddled home, I took the photo of Kolonia below. Impressive, huh? That is the last photo my camera ever took. We paddled home in the rain drinking beer. We are the poster children of irresponsible kayaking.
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Reading Material for You

Sorry, ya’ll, but my camera is broken. So no photos. I bought a new one, and as soon as I figure out how to use it, I’ll use it.

Until then, it’s just the written word.

Friday morning’s graduation ceremony at the National Campus marked my last official duty here in Pohnpei.

To celebrate, the whole gang went out in the evening for candle-lit karaoke at the Summer Palace. “Youuuuu decorated my liiiiiife!”

Saturday morning I ran the 5k race. I got my worst time in several races: 23:37. My last race was 21:45. What happened? To see a photo of me after the race, as well as other race photos, go to

As we enter into this, the season of farewells, we bid a fond one to Meike and Peter: Australian diplomats extraordinaire. Their farewell party was on Saturday night at Kangaroo Court. That was one of the saddest good-byes I’ve ever seen on Pohnpei. They are such beautiful people and will miss them greatly. Rohaizad and I got to go to one of their Murder Parties back in December, and Rohaizad was the murderer.

(Oh my gosh, there is a HUUUUUUUGE centipede under my desk!!!)

I gave Helen and Rachel a ride home after Saturday night’s farewell party and on the way home we saw a UFO. It was weaving around in the western sky beyond Sokehs Rock. Very weird. Unfortunately, I didn’t get probed.

Sunday I spent the day with friends at Nahlap Island Resort: the most beautiful place in the world.

I don’t see the centipede any more and that is scaring me.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ascension Island Arrives!

After a year of work, the musical “Ascension Island” got it’s first public reading last night at the College of Micronesia.

During the past year Jonathan and I met monthly to go over what we had written so far.

We have manipulated the words and actions of the characters; giving them songs and taking away songs, killing them and bringing them to life, naming and renaming them.

But last night, for the first time, they got flesh and blood and spoke and sang out to the world.

Of course, this is only another step in what is a long and continuing process. But it was a fun step.

Thanks to the cast who pulled the whole show together in five days!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Witnessing Democracy in Action

This morning I went to the National Capital Complex in Palikir and witnessed the election of the nation’s brand-new President!

In the FSM, people elect a 14-person Senate and the Senators elect a president out of their own ranks.

All of the decision making is done before-hand, but nobody knows their decision until they sit in the chamber and vote.

I sat in the chamber and watched it all unfold. I sat right behind all of the ambassadors who were sitting behind all the nanmwarkis (high chiefs).

The new President of the Federated States of Micronesia is the former Chuukese Senator Manny Mori.

The outgoing President Urusemal gave quite a touching speech. He wanted to be President for another term of four years, but it didn’t work out. He will return to being a Senator.

Urusemal is so kind and gracious and has demonstrated his support for culture and the arts. After the 2006 Holiday Concert he even wrote an official proclamation of thanks to me and the other teachers who organized it.

I hope the new President is so supportive and encouraging.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The New Sign in Kaselehlie Diner

Apparently money can't buy punctuation
(or a proof-reader).
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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kayaking to the Runway

On Saturday Helen and I threw some beers and snacks into a cooler and kayaked to the end of the runway to watch the plane land. Right when we arrived, we saw the plane approaching in the distance.
We tied ourselves to a channel marker, but we came loose. In the picture above you can see Helen floating free. If you could crawl inside her head at this moment, you would hear a deafening, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!" I, on the other hand, was cool and brave.
Tons of airborn metal, hurtling toward us. Closer...
...and closer...
...and a poor picture of the plane about to land.
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The airplane taxis to the airport followed by the firetruck.
After the plane landed, we tried to kayak around Deketehk Island so we could be at the other side of the runway when the plane took off. But the wind was too strong, so we couldn't make it there in time. Instead, we caught the plane taking off from beside the runway.
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Just a Couple of Pics

Some random photos of life here on Pohnpei...
Last weekend I kayaked around the airport. Here is a picture of the end of the runway in the foreground and Sokehs Island in the background.
This sign is hanging up in Sokehs Shopping Center. That's quite a surveillance system they've got.
My landlord has finished building the house attached to mine, so now I live in a duplex. Here are two shots of the new house. My house is the roof on the left.
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