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.