01 January 2010

a trip aboard the caroline voyager

earlier this week, i was able to travel to two of pohnpei's outer atolls - mokil and pingelap. with a group of other teachers, i bought a deck spot on the caroline voyager, a cargo ship that takes supplies and passengers out to the far islands a few times each year. almost all the passengers were in great spirits and ready to visit home, and the atmosphere was a lot of fun. i was excited to see several of my students aboard, too.

we left pohnpei at 6pm and travelled overnight to mokil, arriving around 6am. unfortunately, this portion of the journey was marked by my discovery of seasickness. thankfully the seas calmed a bit for the rest of the trip, and i learned a valuable lesson - that being horizontal fixes a seasick tummy.

after a brief visit to mokil, an atoll with around 100 residents, three of us forged onwards to pingelap atoll. pingelap is the focus of oliver sacks' book the island of the colorblind, and it was really exciting for me to see a place i had read so much about. we travelled to pingelap in the afternoon, and arrived in early evening. as we pulled up close to the reef, we could see the entire community outside waiting for our arrival. we were a special surprise to the peace corps volunteer in pingelap, who wasn't expecting our visit and is in an exceptionally isolated post.

in exploring pingelap, i was struck by the number of abandoned houses. the population is slightly larger than mokil, but i am told is under 200. the signs of rapid population decline are evident, as more and more people move to the main island of pohnpei. i was likewise struck by the number of outrigger canoes. canoe racing is a traditional activity, but they are not too common in pohnpei proper. they were beautiful.

one of the most fun parts of our time in pingelap was unloading the cargo with the community there. there was a palpable excitement as we carried boxes and boxes of canned goods and ramen in for the store, and as people received mail and packages from family and friends. it felt like a party!

on the journey back to mokil, we had a much smaller group. we bonded over breadfruit, taro, and bananas, and the most freshly caught tuna i'll likely ever get to eat. as we waited for the fishing boats to pick us up and take us into mokil, little boys jumped off the voyager and played in the ocean.

in mokil i had a chance to snorkel while the ship loaded copra (a form of coconut that is the only export of the atolls). i wish i could share pictures of what i saw. it was beyond anything i've seen before, and one of the most incredible things i've ever done. i saw sea turtles, so many sharks, barracudas, and coral that was decidedly alive.

another overnight trip, and we returned safely to pohnpei - just in time for new year's! i had a blast celebrating here, and hope you all had a good night too. the celebration of the new year continues here tonight - lots of honking, banging on drums, screaming, kids dousing cars with water balloons and hoses. lots of fun!

no pictures today, but look back soon (or on facebook) for some pictures from mokil and pingelap.

hoping you all have a wonderful 2010 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

1 comment:

jenandben said...

happy new year emily!