Things are starting to feel the same. Radio music doesn’t hurt my ears, warm showers are an option, and conveinence is an option yet again. I’ve started my summer job again at the U.S. National Whitewater Center but I can’t help but think about Yap. I’ve actually caught myself a few times talking about the trip and I’m starting to wonder if that bothers anyone. It’s like I’m searching for an excuse to tell people about Yap. I’m sure my friends are getting really tired of hearing the stories. I do however only give little bits at a time. I’ve not even told my friends and family ALL the stories and memories. I feel that saving them and spreading them out during the summer will help me keep the memory and still be new for whoever listens. I do miss the speed of Yap. Everything is so slow and relaxed. I don’t know why I’m talking in present tense, I’m no longer there… Anyway back to the daily grind and working through the summer. Going back to Queens will be quick. This summer has started off great, I’ll keep you posted…
Today was my first day back into reality. On roads where there are streetlights and stoplights, where the chief can’t stop the police, where everything moves fast. Everything really does move way to fast at home. I watched t.v. for the first time in 30 days and it bothered me. I usually don’t watch television that much anyway but this time in particular there was so much noise. I even hung out with my buddies later and all the commotion and radio music just made me feel weird like we were disrespecting something. I’ve been taking my shoes off at home and I had a brief thought about taking them off before entering Walmart just an hour ago. I guess their culture really found my sweet spot.
The group did well over the course of the trip. My ratings of the people exceeded expectations. At first I thought it was going to be tricky living in close quarters with 15 other people but when everyone is very excited to be in the same experience we all think of the glass half full.
So as you may have noticed my last post was awhile ago. A mix of things happened and I felt like there wasn’t enough to talk about on a day to day basis unless you wanted the boring details of what I was eating. Work in Kosrae was a little different. It was unclear what the government wanted us to help with. On the second to last day though we met a man named Simpson Abraham. Simpson works the governement and presented to us a powerpoint on the environmental changes in Kosrae and the action plan. The slide included his idea of “climate proofing” to help keep the island from seeing vast environmental change. This cleared things up for most of the students who were skeptical about these work projects. It then became relevent and everyone was on board. To bad this happened at the end. My time at Kosrae was worth it though and I left a happy camper. The work was similar to what we did in Yap with GPS mapping but it was a little more difficult considering we were in the jungle. The tall trees during one hike up a river did not work well with the unit so that project was abandoned. The other maps did work thought so there was success in the work.
According to the title you may have figured out that Sunday is not just your typical day of rest. Literally everything stops, stores stop, work stops, people stop. Kosraens really stress Sundays as a day of relaxation and rest. Really, people walking without shirts on Sunday have been picked up by police and driven home. This is what I’ve heard anyway, but we are definately not allowed to swim or do any physical activity; for example, cutting the grass, running, playing with excessive physical effort, swimming etc.. The last part was especially difficult with the beach 15ft away from our house teasing us. The only acceptable form of leisure is walking and attending church. You should experience the church abroad. This is the only time I have ever left the country but I now have a mental note: always go to church abroad. The culture can be revealed with only an hour of listening and observing. Even though I could not understand what was being said and what the choirs sang I could understand the tone. Looking around it was obvious people were very respectful, there was feeling of unity among the people. There was also that feeling of stress/worry as I could feel the local eyes watching my movement. No matter how comfortable our group feels with each other it’s obvious we are affected by local norms. In the house together we are normal, we can be loose with our actions. Outside, where everything is still new, we are cautious. Not cautious out of fear for safety, but more aware of our actions. Keeping check on what we are doing so we don’t accidentaly disprespect Kosrae or the people. It was a great service, I don’t know what was said, but the music was beautiful. I will upload the short video when uploading works but in the meantime just imagine the beauty of a terrific choir. On the opposite end I was sweating as if in a sleeping bag on hot asphalt, this did not end. The worst part was right before we proceeded to leave we stood up and prayed. The standing/praying part was not the embarresing part. My body was covered in sweat, and the dark blue shirt I was wearing was not forgiving, almost every part of my upper body was saturated. I heard a few giggles behind me before we turned around and the rest of my group got to enjoy the laughter. If thats the worst thing that happens I’ll be okay. Also the church was beautiful.
After a few hours of hanging out after church we did learn that it was okay for our group to go hiking. Some of us took this opportunity to visit the Menka Ruins. A bit that is sad is that long ago the population of Kosraens dropped dramatically from 6000 to 600 within a few years so mormon missionaries changed some of the culture when they arrived. This may be some of the reason for the strong religious customs but it also explains why our guide couldn’t tell us to much about the ruins. So in some ways it is nice to see the culture alive in Kosrae and how strickly they follow tradition; however, I wish some of traditional Kosraen culture remained. The hike was pretty awesome though, we learned about the trees and plants used for medicinal purposes. Actually they seem to use all plants for some medicine. It was pretty muddy during the trip but sense we crossed over the river 5 times both ways we had plenty of time to clean of and rest. On the way back we were treated to Kosraen tangerines. I’m am a HUGE orange fan. During school, when the cafeteria is abundant, I usually eat 2-5 a day. So this was spectacular considering fruit has been in short supply since we left. Needless to say I didn’t speak while devouring 3 of these cherished fruits. It’s actually pretty cool because these are not allowed back in the states and people will go great lengths to smuggle/bribe people to carry tangerines to other countries. They are that good. So after a long hike I had planned on knocking out early. We ate dinner at Nautical Restuarant then headed back for our first group meeting in Kosrae.
Rest. Much needed rest. Saturday was decided as a dive day for the group after talking to Katrina the previous night; however, Ben and I had different plans. Instead of waking up at 8am like the rest of our group we decided to skip the dive and try to remain healthy; Ben had a slight cold last week that I don’t want to catch. I slept until 11am which is ridiculously late for this trip but it was very appreciated. Yes, the mornings here are just as hot as in Yap but this time I was able to share an occilating fan in the room with Taylor, Alvaro, and Ben. Oh the simple things. After waking up Ben and I quickly discovered that we had no food and the group was gone, with no clue of where food was sold or any store we did the next best thing. We walked the 15 feet from our house, over the road, and onto the beach. When I’m in the water it usually takes my natural desire for food away while also discovering new fish species and learning about coral reef dynamics. Snorkeling in the backyard of Kosrae is beautiful. After two hours of fun, Ben and I went onto the beach and were soon greated by a man named Jeff. Jeff is a lawyer for the government on Kosrae but today he wanted to jump off a local port bridge, so of course we quickly became friends before cannonballing of this 15ft port. I definately don’t regret missing the dive.
Note: The great part about this experience is that our JBIP group gets to live together 24/7. So if I can put this into perspective…We sleep next to each other, we use the same bathroom, we wash each others clothes/dishes, we make food for each other, and we stay together all the time. We develop into a family on this trip and like all families we sometimes need time to recharge. This was today. I’m not upset with the group in any way, and I’m not grumpy. But we should all enjoy our alone time when possible. So appreciate personal time because sometimes we may not get a chance to reflect.
So that is part of the reason for sleeping in, besides catching some healthy rest. As the group returned Ben and I were rather hungry so before finding a place to eat we when to find groceries. We quickly found out that there is not much to find in the stores on this island. I was ready to grab my traditional loaf of bread, peanut butter, and bananas, but there was no bread, no peanut butter, no bananas. I walked out with a Gatorade. I was a little dissapointed but this quickly turned to joy when we found a neighbouring shack sold ice cream cones, for 50 cents. Great find. So like 8-year-olds we all feasted on our frozen treat before heading to Bully’s, a local restuarant, one of three we know about. The cheesburger was fantastic and my tummy was happy, Off to my little memory foam sleep pad where the best time of the night remains. Goodnight.
Friday afternoon was not the typical fun Friday. We spent the day traveling which is not my strong suit but after 5 1/4 hours of island hopping we landed at Kosrae International Airport. This was probably the worst flight time for Kelsey Hansen who does not like flying and hates turbulence, and there was plenty of both. We had to land at Chuuk, then Pohnpei so we could pick up and drop off passengers. The airports were pretty similar as well, they were also pretty freaky. The airstrip’s all were just the right length to land and take off, so when landing we looked like we were headed into the water and when lifting off we were barely airborn right over the water. The pilots are great. After landing we went through immigration and collected our baggage before finally making it through the last doors and into our last week on the JBIP. I noticed the old sign that indicated the 4 municipalities and the one we where we reside. Our house was not what we expected. I thought it was incredible, but the size was at first an issue. We were expecting 4 bedrooms and when there were only two we had to make some arrangements. All worked out well and after a few changes the house can now fit all 16 of our cots with some remaining space for luggage. We’ve done well. Everyone was famished so we headed over to Kosrae Village Resort where we met Katrina who owned and operated the resort as well as the dive shop. We had a good dinner, a quiet dinner, then headed home for our first night in Kosrae. Ready to begin our last week.
So I’m sitting here working on journals for our JBIP class and some great things happen. Who would guess that the people we met would still keep up with us and appreciate our travel. I know facebook may be petty to some but a great network for others. Tonight I’ve never been happier to have facebook. The friendships we have made have become concrete and they will remain; and if they don’t they become connections. Either way the point is our experience has led us to friendship. This kind of trip does not happen often; most people only see the place they are in and don’t understand or feel where they are, not here, not in Yap. Yap has really given us a chance to help the community we were in and help the people we met. People here respect the work because it was volunteer and it truly did help. The impact we made will remain and it will stick with the JBIP Yap group 2011 forever. This is something we will never forget.
I slept great! I didn’t think I was going to after 13 hours the day of but it happened. So easy enough to say, our day rocked. And it’s only 3:30pm. We went for a hike with a Biology professor from University of Guam and he sounded like a National Geographic narrarator.The path was a limestone rock path in Pagat, Guam and it was beautiful. The down climb was steep and considering it was raining for 15 minutes before we began, it was pretty slippery. Three quarters of the way we stopped by this dark, wet and for some of the girls, scary cave. The plan was to check it out on our way back. We continued on to one of the best parts of the day. A magnificent view.
This was well worth the hike. Here are a few more pictures:
After our time on the cliffs we headed back to the cave everyone was so eager to enter. About 35ft into the cave we started into water and it got about 5 inches deeper every 10 feet so when we got towards the end of the cave we were swimming. This little excusion also required a few lights and clever flexibility to navigate the stalactites and stalagmites around us. It was worth it and Alex McKinzie took some cool photos I will try to get here later on. The water was cool, the hike was warm and it left me ready for a nap. Which I’m off to take.
So after two weeks we get a chance to recharge and remember our modern world. We left the plane into Guam International Airport at 4:30am and did not get to our hotel at 5:15am. For all those other JBIPers who had hotel rooms the entire trip, don’t take it for granted. Anyway sense we had been awake for 23 hours Taylor, Ben, and I went to a close Denny’s for a large breakfast. I’m a huge breakfast man so this was an incredible meal. After stuffing our faces we went back and fell asleep as the sun was peaking over the horizon. We didn’t think we would sleep long and boy were we wrong. I slept 13 hours. We woke up at 7pm and went to a movie with some of the group, it’s weird seeing stoplights and lines on the roads. Everything is so much different here. It’s still hot, muggy, but it feels like we are back in the states. A gas station, with lights, open 24/7, what’s going on. I really didn’t think the stay would affect us as much as it did but it’s just so different. Hope I can sleep tonight.