Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bye-bye, Kosrae

Earlier this week I printed up a list of things I am selling before I leave Kosrae tomorrow. I gave a few copies to the Filipino teachers I share my office with and they immediately agreed to buy everything.

I insisted that everything must be picked up on Friday (today) between 11:00 am and noon. At 10:45 the brigade arrived like ants at a picnic. I set out everything I was selling on my kitchen table, but that didn't stop them from scouring the entire house trying to buy everything that wasn't nailed down.

When there was nothing left, they hauled in the food. Whew, so much food! We all jammed ourselves around my kitchen table inhaling pizza and pancit while they chatted away in Tagalog.

Now I only own clothes.

Tomorrow begins an adventure which I think I will be more appreciated in the past tense than in the future or present ones.

Tomorrow (Saturday) my flight is due to land in Pohnpei at 2:00 pm. At 4:00 pm the gun goes off for the half marathon: from Kolonia to The Village and back. Hopefully I'll be at the starting line and hopefully I will make it to the finish line. I've been running pretty much every day - I've even gone from my house to the airport and back in the pouring rain, so I should be able to make it.

But the real adventure begins on Monday. I have a plane ticket to Majuro and then a connecting flight on Air Nauru to spend a week in Nauru. Unfortunately, Air Nauru has just suspended service to Majuro, so I won't be going to Nauru.

Nevertheless, I came up with a unique, once-in-a-lifetime "vacation." But it is scaring me to death!

I am going to spend a week on Ailuk Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Me. One week. An Atoll. Holy cow.

The longest I've ever spent on an atoll is two days on Ant, and that's just three miles from Pohnpei - you can always see the mountains of Pohnpei looming in the east.

For permission to go to Ailuk, I had to contact the mayor through her son who lives in Majuro. It took a couple of weeks to get through. Then I had to book a flight on Air Marshall Islands which flies to and from Ailuk once a week (that's why I'm spending a week).

With all the difficulty involved in getting this trip organized, I didn't have time to think about what I was getting into.

Now I'm told that my lodging is $10 per day (where will I be staying?) and I have to bring my own food (what?). This place isn't even in the Lonely Planet travel book, which implies to me that it is not a tourist destination. I have visions of getting off the airplane and standing on a desolate, wind-swept beach alone, not knowing where to go.

Ten thousand years ago my forefathers and foremothers domesticated plants and animals so that people like me could make a living out of putting together sounds. Now I have no practical survival skills. What am I doing?!?!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

One Strange Micronesian Story

My younger brother, Tony, put this story on his blog recently...

So, we are driving back from Colorado yesterday (Friday). This leg of our drive takes us from Omaha, NE to home. The challenge of that drive is staying awake through all of Iowa (sorry to all of you Iowa fans...). This drive was much more interesting than usual, however.

Soon after entering Iowa I saw an airport fire truck being hauled on a flatbed headed west. That was somewhat interesting. But my interest was greatly heightened when another one came by and I had time to read it. It said Palau International Airport. Since my brother lives in that area, I found that interesting. A little while later another one came that said Chuuk International Airport. Even more interesting since my brother has visited the island of Chuuk. Then, much to my surprise came another one labelled, Pohnpei International Airport. Pohnpei is where my brother lived! Just for good measure, one more came back headed for Kosrae International Airport.

I was transported from the cornfields of Iowa to the Pacific Islands as I drove. And even though my brother couldn't be at our family reunion with us, I obviously thought of him the whole drive home! What are the chances of encountering the world of the Micronesian Islands in the middle of Iowa?!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ohma Gosh

Monday after work I rode my bicycle down to Malem and asked around for who could lead me on a hike up Mount Ohma.

I was recommended Hamilson, so today Hamilson led me up Mount Ohma.

Mount Ohma is about 1000 feet high and has a great view of the island, Lelu Harbor, Utwe Harbor and the mighty Pacific Ocean. It is the second tallest mountain on the island.

I brought a flashlight along and on the way I explored some of the caves that the Japanese dug in preparation for the US's attack during World War II. They really did a lot of digging in that mountain!

Thank goodness it didn't rain, but it was still a muddy, steep and windy path through the jungle. Coming down was even more challenging, but I stayed on my feet despite gravity's attempts to force me onto my butt.

That was five hours of my life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
At the store the other day I found a Chinese cleaning product called "Labour." Way to call it like it is, China! No "Easy-Off" or "Magic Clean"; this is WORK!

Monday, July 16, 2007

MY weekend, you can't have it

Saturday I went out in the Pacific Diver boat for another snorkel excursion. This time the Pacific lived up to its name: it was very placid (or is that passive?).

Some divers were along on the boat and while I was snorkeling I saw them below me, 40 feet or so.

So I spent about fifteen minutes playing in their bubbles. Sometimes there are millions of them and it is like being in a huge chandelier. Sometimes the bubbles come up really big, like upside-down bowls. When I slapped them with my hand they sounded like timpani. Very cool.

After the snorkel, I relaxed in the hut by the ocean. I like to watch the clouds come in over the Pacific Ocean. They remind me of dogs: as they approach the island, they all feel the need to sprinkle on it.

I also bicycled to the store to buy some Corn Flakes ($5.00 for a box of Indonesian Corn Flakes, heavens!). Often when I go shopping, little children follow me staring. This time a little kid kept yelling something to me. Another guy told me that he was asking "how are you?" So I asked him how to say "fine."

Sunday I went to Lelu Church. They were having communion. I was disappointed. Last week they had communion while I was at Utwe Church and it felt to exclusive and snobby. But I was touched when the server stopped in front of me and offered me bread yesterday!

That was my weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

2007 Summer Choral Concert

Today was the end-of-the-semester choir concert for my students. We performed:
  • Blue Skies - by Irving Berlin
  • Shake the Papaya Down - Calypso Song arranged by Ruth Dwyer and Judith Waller
  • Morning by the Sea - by Sonja Poorman
  • Canoe Round - Traditional Round
  • Who Can Sail? - Finnish Folk Song arranged by Carl-Bertil Agnestig
  • Four Arms, Two Necks, One Wreathing - Madrigal by Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623)
  • Sopin Wai Sed - Ngatik Folk Song
  • Kyrie Eleison from "Mass for Three Voices" - by William Byrd (1539-1623)
  • Kyrie Eleison - Surinam Church Song
  • Go Down, Moses - African-American Spiritual
  • Siyahamba - African Hymn
  • Gaudeamus Hodie - by Natalie Sleeth

The concert was held in the lobby of the State Administration Building (hot, hot, hot!) and we had a pretty good-sized crowd. In my opinion, the highlights of the program were Blue Skies and William Byrd's Kyrie Eleison.

It was so rewarding to work with these sudents. With few exceptions, they were responsive to the directions I gave them in terms of dynamics and articulation and even memorized the entire concert. They were committed to and excited about the project; they even practiced by themselves on the day I was sick a few weeks ago.

Kosrae is a musician's dream come true.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Worth a Thousand Words

Sorry I haven't been able to post any photos of my Kosraean adventures this summer. Kind of boring, huh?

But my friends Ben and Joanna have posted photos of their visit to Kosrae a few weeks back.

They include a shot of my birthday party and me kissing a fish.

You can see them at...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Adventures in a Car

Helen went back home on Saturday, but on her last day here we rented a car.

We waited until then because the island had run out of gas. It was nice riding my bike on the empty roads for a while.

Speaking of gas, I love the gas stations out here! They are just tin shacks with clorox bottles filled with gas. When you drive up and ask for, say, three gallons of gas, they bring out three bottles and a funnel and pour it in.

Anyways, Helen and I had a good time with the car. It was fun to listen to the radio station. Talk about eclectic: we went from Disney's "Bare Necessities" to three Beatles songs in a row to a couple of hymns to the same Crystal Gayle song two times in a row.

On Sunday I used the car to attend church down in Utwe. They have the newest church on island and it looks really nice.

They were having communion (Kool Aid for the blood of Christ!) and they also had a ceremony where some guy committed himself to not drinking, partying or whatever. He's like a SUPER member of the church and can wear all white to church (a dangerous wardrobe: undergarments are in full view!).

In the evening my neighbor invited me over for lobsters on the grill. Mmm, mmm!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Barney, Baseball and Booze

Yesterday afternoon Helen and I took a walk from her hotel, the Nautilus.

We began walking down the beach where we saw a huge pile of purple. As we approached, we saw that it was BARNEY, washed up dead on the beach!!! Actually, it was a Barney doll with all it's insides torn out that washed up on the beach. However, I prefer to think that there is a school of Barneys swimming the ocean and one of them strayed from the pack and washed ashore on Pohnpei.

We walked across the causeway to Lelu island where we explored the Lelu Ruins. These ruins are similar to Nan Madol in Pohnpei, but they are easier to access and have informative signs. They aren't as extensive as Nan Madol, either.

Then we strolled around Lelu Island. I bought an ice cream cone at a little shack for 50 cents. We asked the girl in the shack who owned the yacht that is parked in Lelu Harbor and she said that we do! What a pleasant surprise. Honestly, though, I heard that that yacht belongs to the 364th richest person in the world. I wonder what number I am?

As we walked along we passed a group of children playing baseball with a tennis ball. One of them hit a line drive right at me. So I caught it. Then, amidst the pandemonium of the game, I threw it to someone who looked like a first baseman. I think we got the batter out, but I'm not sure. Everyone was too busy laughing at me.

After strolling around Lelu, we went to the harbor and hopped on the boat for the sunset cruise (aka "booze cruise"). It was a beautiful sunset over the Sleeping Lady.

After the cruise I walked Helen home and then I rode my bike home. Didn't I make a resolution yesterday about riding my bike at night? I just can't count on me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day in Kosrae

The Treelodge hosted a 4th of July shin-dig last night for about 20 expats, so I went. We even let some Canadians and Australians join the gang. We sat on the deck in the mangroves, looking at the sun set over the mountains while we drank (Korean) beer and ate lobster. What a life.

My friend Helen from Pohnpei came to visit me yesterday, so she was my guest at the party. After the party I walked her home to the Nautilus then rode my bike home.

I had never ridden my bike in the dark out here before, and at first I thought it was about the most beautiful thing in the world: billions of stars and the silouettes of palm trees over the ocean.

But then I realized that it was so dark that I couldn't see the road. I had to stop my bike and wait for a car to come so I could see the road. I was also really scared of running over a toad or a crab or hitting a dog or a person. NEVER AGAIN!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Baseball Puzzle

I'm taking a break from my tropical island adventures to honor my younger brother who is very excited about an upcoming opportunity to throw a baseball around Comerica Park (sounds like the parking garage at a bank to me).

So I have made a baseball puzzle. The blanks in each sentence can be filled in using a two-word baseball term. Sometimes the sentence structure will force a comma to fall between the two words which wouldn't normally occur in the baseball term. I'm a sports moron, so the answers are fairly common.

Example: The train made a ____ ____ in Dubuque. Answer: short stop

1. The runaway girl moved into the ____ ____ by the Sisters of Mercy.
2. The driving instructor said, "When you see the white ____ ____ on the right side of it."
3. Ma and I watched ____ ____ his new airplane.
4. When you hear the tornado ____ ____ the clouds carefully.
5. The movie star let his stunt ____ ____ the exploding car scene.
6. Since he was feeling ____ ____ Drakula stopped drinking blood for a while.
7. The farmer hoped he had chosen the ____ ____ in which to plant his corn.