25 December 2009

merry christmas!

i hope you all have had a lovely holiday. judging from the pictures i've seen, it looks like the east coast is enjoying a white christmas. you can imagine that the weather here is quite different - please enjoy the snow for me!

i'm trying to hop on a cargo ship that is travelling to a few outer islands this weekend. if all goes according to plan, i'll have a chance to visit some of the most isolated places on earth - i'm excited!

as promised, some photos to sum up the first half of my year here:

1. the street where i live - part of my walk to and from school every day.

2. my every-day-of-the-week class from fall semester.

3. my office staff.

4. a traditional yapese dance in progress, celebrating christmas.

5. some boys playing on an old japanese radar array.

6. the star of a pig roast birthday celebration.

7. telecom decked out for the holidays.

08 December 2009

the more things change...

the more they stay the same. actually, in pohnpei, things pretty much just stay the same. i've been watching the facebook pictures of east coast snow come rolling in with great jealousy! its hard to believe its december (mid-december!) already. pohnpei is drowning in the rainy season, but temperatures and appearances are otherwise exactly the same as when i arrived in july.

well, not exactly. its headed into mango season again, and we're thankfully through breadfruit season. breadfruit doesn't fall from the tree until its past-ripe, and so my walk to school had been filled with fallen, rotten breadfruit all-too-popular with the flies. haven't tasted breadfruit? you're not missing much, at least in my opinion. its great if you're going for starchy calories, and a good local food choice, but i'm not dying to mix it in with my fruit salad.

its also christmas, and i think you would be able to tell that here even blind, deaf, or braindead. there are decorations EVERYWHERE, and christmas carols to drive even the biggest xmas fan insane. the partying has already begun, and looks to continue full-tilt until january. oh, my.

rainy season is nothing to sneeze at, either. our tuesday night ultimate frisbee game is almost always played in a total swamp, and i've lost my shoe more than once in the mud. its good fun, though, and we're ignoring the very real possibility of serious injury and enjoying dramatic slips and slides through the muck.

otherwise, the flowers are still blooming, the parrots still flying, the geckos still chirping, and the bananas still growing all over the place. coconuts continue to fall in dramatic fashion, and the sun keeps beating down. zero chance of a white christmas for me!

that said, i hope the holidays are treating you well! i'm hoping for a white christmas for all of you, and thinking of you often. more pictures soon, once finals are over at the end of this week. :)

25 November 2009

a bat cave, a rainbow, and black coral

a few weeks ago, i hiked up to a bat cave. it was a nice, steep hike, and ended in a very surreal location. the cave is built into a ledge under a waterfall. because of the way that the cliff hangs, the wall is incredibly dry and strikingly lacking in plant life. pohnpei is known as the garden island, for good reason - its nothing if not green. the hike was fun, if unfortunately high in bat guano content. here's a shot of the cliff - notice how plant-free it is!

last weekend, i camped on an island close to pohnpei called black coral. it was wonderful - words don't do it justice. the island is very small (perhaps the size of a football field), and lies very close to another island. the channel between the two islands drops pretty low and has a sandy bottom - which makes for the bright blue line you can see in the photo below.

it was super-relaxing. lots of eating, lots of reading, lots of incredible snorkeling, and lots of cards.

we also got a nice view of pohnpei from a distance - its always nice to be reminded that pohnpei is, in fact, an island. sometime routine takes over and its easy to forget that its a small place.

we had two days on black coral, making for a nice long weekend away. its hard to believe, but i'll be done with this semester in less than two weeks now. winter vacation doesn't have any concrete plans, but i'm sure it will fly by and spring semester will be upon us very soon. we're looking forward to having many visitors in december - many volunteers have family coming, and some of the worldteach kosrae volunteers are coming for a week to see pohnpei. speaking of seeing pohnpei, how's this for an image of sokeh's rock?

thanksgiving isn't celebrated here, but we're having an american thanksgiving on saturday, to be followed by a 'variety show' of incredible performers. i'm looking forward to the weekend and planning to make mashed potatoes! i hope everyone at home has a wonderful thanksgiving, and jumps quickly into the holiday season... pohnpei started celebrating christmas about a month ago and new years promises to be the event of the year!

18 November 2009

a general update

not too much new to report these days. school is going well, though a lot of my students have hit a brick wall in their focus. less than three weeks left of the semester, though, so i'm doing the best i can to keep them motivated until the end. i've been pleased on the whole with my first run, and i'm looking forward to taking the lessons i've learned and doing a better job next semester.

we've got a busy schedule for our weekends until the middle of december - crazy how busy my social calendar has become. we're looking forward to a weekend at black coral, an outer island that is reputed for having some of the best snorkeling around. after that, we're having american thanksgiving - something i am looking forward to, though it will be sad to be away from home!

some photos from snorkeling in nan madol again - thanks mike for the underwater pictures!

02 November 2009

scuba and halloween

friends! i am scuba-certified. hooray!

here's a shot of where we did our confined water dives. as there are no swimming pools on pohnpei, we were "forced" to do our dives in the lagoon.

this weekend was halloween. the expat community here went a little crazy... but it was awesome! i love halloween, so it was a treat to celebrate with so many super-dedicated costume makers. my roommates and i:

27 October 2009

i don't want you to be totally jealous of the seasonally-themed spooky paper lantern hanging above my desk, but you probably will be...

its from an incredible surprise package i just got from kara-arlene in richmond. it was the best day ever because i also got a package (with pictures!) from niko in georgia! AND today i got three letters in the mail. i'm completely riding a news-from-home high right now, and loving halloween for it!

people, i love you. letters (and emails, and blog comments) make everyday that much better.

it's almost halloween! i'm working on a robot costume fashioned from boxes. (gotta work the cheap angle wherever you can when you're living on a stipend!)

a couple other pictures, of the shells i collected at ahnd atoll a few weeks ago. i've had them buried in the back yard for a while to clean out the old creepy crawlies, and it was a lot of fun to dig them back up again!

22 October 2009

a week

things i have done in the past seven days:

-driven a right-hand-drive car
-gone scuba diving for the first time
-fainted at school
-played ultimate frisbee in monsoon-like conditions
-done laundry in a MACHINE
-used a DRYER and gotten the smell of mold out of my towel

also, for the last seven days, the island has been out of eggs and diet coke. how eggs can be totally unavailable on an island with so many chickens is beyond me, but at least my caffeine addiction is finally wearing thin.

14 October 2009


just a quick post to share my excitement over starting scuba certification tonight. (!!!) i'm super-pumped, and really happy to finally be getting started. tonight and next thursday its just the classroom portion, but after that - the ocean!

if this is what i can see from the surface, i can't wait to see what lies beneath!

09 October 2009

ahnd atoll

last weekend, i took a boat ride to an outer atoll. it was pretty freakin' beautiful.

we ate freshly caught wahoo and lobster for dinner. (wahoowa, anyone?)

we saw a waterspout!

there was a full moon, and it was crazy bright all night. not so good for admiring the stars, but excellent for our lobster-hunting adventures.

here we are!

ready for the sad part? climate change projections are that all atolls worldwide will be under sea level by 2050. while the cold facts are that the number of people living on atolls is negligible, globally speaking, its heartbreaking to consider that such beautiful cultures and sites are about to be complete history.

27 September 2009

a brief introduction to the fsm

to answer kari's request for more about the fsm itself, i'll offer what i know of the history of the federated states of micronesia, and of its ties to the us.

the islands around here have long been inhabited (see my previous post with pictures of the nan madol ruins), and first met europeans around the 1500's. they were claimed by the spanish, and then the germans, before being seized and occupied by the japanese sometime just after the first world war.

during the second world war, the japanese ran a really harsh occupation here, and maintained a sizable navy base in chuuk (one of the other three states of the fsm). towards the end of the war (september 11, 1944) the island was liberated by us forces - as was most of pacific islands.

because the islands had become rather dependent on outside support, the united nations established a trust territory for most of the pacific islands. the states of the fsm, along with many other islands (the marshalls, the samoas, the marianas, etc) were delegated to the united states to administer on behalf of the un.

their status as a "us-administered un trust territory of the pacific" lasted about 30 years, at which point the pacific islands started to make moves towards independent sovereignty. different islands went different ways (forming the republic of palau, the republic of the marshall islands, the northern mariana islands, etc), but four regions got together to create the federated states of micronesia.

the fsm (which consists of pohnpei, kosrae, yap, and chuuk) established their independence from us administration in 1979. in 1986, the fsm agreed to a "free association" status with the united states. essentially, the us assumes responsibility for the defense of fsm, and in return considerably widens its maritime borders. besides defense, the us also provides a lot of services and funds, and allows micronesians to live and work in the united states without any visa or permit requirements.

compact I was not an indefinite agreement, and it ended in the 90's with a signing of compact II. compact II is designed with much more us oversight of grant spending, and with the eventual aim of phasing out fsm dependence. given the maritime advantage that fsm offers the us and the current state of development, however, its not likely that the relationship will be phased out completely.

there are many other governments providing assistance here, as well. there are australian, chinese, and japanese embassies in addition to the united states embassy, as well as representatives of the un and world bank. there is money currently coming in from china and hong kong in large amounts, as they vie for influence.

the fsm appears very tied to the united states culturally, as well. almost everyone has family living in the us (often guam and hawaii, but also oregon and missouri in large numbers), and men joining the us military enjoy the highest respect.

as far as independence from development aid, the fsm has a long way to go. the financing required to participate in the global economy from such an isolated place far outstrips what is produced or provided here now. palau is further along, because of a better developed tourism industry and greater openness to foreign business investment. it will be interesting to see if fsm follows their example.

20 September 2009

overnighting at nahlap

first of all, does your newspaper use the phrase "lagoon monster" on a regular basis? i didn't think so.

last weekend, we camped out at nahlap island. it was a blast. we snorkeled, read, napped, played cards and dominos, cooked over a fire, sent a boat on a beer run, gazed at the stars... the whole nine yards.

for good measure, a picture of my bed:

16 September 2009


although i haven't talked much about it, i am in fact working. i am an instructor at the community college here, and i'm teaching 18 credits of english (esl) and health science. eighteen is a big number, and during the week i'm putting in a lot of hours - probably the reason my weekends always seem so wonderful.

i have four classes this semester - one 9-credit intensive class that meets every morning, two sections of a more advanced speaking and listening course, and one section of health science that i'm co-teaching with another volunteer. so far, i'm enjoying them all.

in my health science class we're currently covering reproductive health, and its been incredibly satisfying to teach the birds and the bees to many students who have never had instruction in the subject before. i'm happy to say that my students were all interested and respectful - hopefully they will continue to be so for my lecture on std's next week!

this week i'm showing the goonies to my everyday class as a practice in listening comprehension. i'm happy to say they are so far very much enjoying it, though i'm eager to get their assignments back to see how much they actually understood. still, there's comic genius in mikey, mouth, data, and especially chunk.

com pohnpei state campus (where i teach) is the remedial option for students who didn't pass the entrance exam to the national campus, located in the next town over. as such, many students are not the most motivated. but i'm happy to say that i have several ambitious and hard-working students. they'll be able to try the entrance exam again, and hopefully will be able to transfer there, where associate degrees are offered and transfers to us colleges is more possible.

10 September 2009

over the past few weeks....

i've missed blogging about a lot of things that i probably should have. here's a quick update.

first of all, here's my house. i live with two other volunteers, both of whom teach at the local high school. i like the house a lot. its about a 20-25 minute walk to work, so i get a good workout in just from that. we're just next to a really neat community called kapinga village, which is made up from a group from a very distant atoll. (actually, the subject of oliver sacks' island of the colorblind, if you've ever read it). i run through or walk through part of the village every day, and i really like the vibe there.

at the end of august, i ran a half-marathon here. (it only took three months to forget my resolve to never run a hot marathon again.) the pohnpeian word for the event is 'marasong', and it was awesome. there were a handful of white people running, and then lots of pohnpeians, most of whom ran in jean shorts and flip flops, or barefoot. there were 70 runners (8 women), and i came in #27 (fifth woman). probably the best ranking i'll ever have! i came in at 2:31, so i'm counting it as a PR for the half. w00t.

finally a few weeks ago we finally made it to nan madol, which is the main tourist attraction here in pohnpei. its an old old old city, and of mysterious origin (of course). a lot of the creation story for pohnpei is centered around it, and its a pretty awesome site. the buildings are built in the water, so we of course went snorkeling, and i saw squid for the first time!

05 September 2009

(finally) a low-key weekend

after many, many packed weekends in a row, we took things a bit easy this past weekend. while the boys went off to try out their new spear-fishing guns, the ladies amused ourselves with a food-filled girls weekend. what does a pohnpei-style girls weekend involve?

1) a waterfall (of course)

2) shopping at the second hand shop (you'll have to wait for halloween for those pictures).

3) diet cokes

4) lots of food (karat banana and pineapple, mexican, and nutella-smothered brownies)

as for those previous past weekends, i'm working on posting on them. all in good time, all in good time.

amusing english errors

i know i'm here in pohnpei to help improve english abilities.... but sometimes the mistakes are too amusing. two examples today: first, the local craft store in my neighborhood. second, a photo from the grocery store - octobus legs, if you're in the market.

31 August 2009

some snorkeling pictures

more blogging soon, but some underwater photos i took on a friend's camera:

25 August 2009

good-bye, white rice!

since moving into my own place (shared with two other volunteers), i've been enjoying making my own meals again. this largely resembles my diet in the states, but its brightened up by local foods, such as:

tuna, caught hours before and bought directly from the fishermen

and bananas grown in our own backyard

19 August 2009

waterfalls and surf camp

last weekend, we hiked to a waterfall near kolonia. we swam in the pool at the bottom (picture below), and jumped off a 25-foot drop a little higher up. it was a rush.

sunday, we ventured back to nahlap to "help out with" (watch) a kids surf camp. when's my turn?

08 August 2009

settling in

the last week here has been filled with settling in to life in kolonia. i've moved into my house (two roommates), and our group size shrunk when we bid farewell to the outer municipality volunteers. i've also moved into my office at COM (college of micronesia, pohnpei campus). its wildly swank in comparison with the high schools here, and i'm guiltily enjoying the luxuries of daily internet and air conditioning. classes start this coming thursday, so i'm plugging away at lesson planning and syllabus writing -- generally starting to panic about the realities of teaching college classes.

i'm going to try and run a half-marathon here in two weeks' time, so wish me luck! i'm up to eight miles, and if i can quickly beat the cold i feel coming on, i think i may have a shot at finishing. aside from the dogs here, running has been enjoyable here. i go very early in the morning, and its just cool enough. the exercise definitely makes my cold shower incredibly appreciated.

i don't have a street address here - just the po box below. when we set up our phone account, we told the telecom lady it was for "glen harris' third house," and they knew just where to hook things up. its life in a small town, and so far, i like it!


my address, if you want to be a pen-pal (or a package-sending bff). remember that it's domestic us mail rates - so 44 cents will be just fine!:
emily pedneau
c/o worldteach
po box 2378
kolonia, pohnpei
fsm 96941