Well we have finally returned home to the United States. My last blog was well over a week ago during our 2 day stay in Guam between our time in Yap and Kosrae. I really wish I would have written a blog wrapping up our time in Yap and discussing Kosrae while we were still on the trip. I guess writing after the fact is better than not writing at all. It was really tough posting frequently during the trip. Although we were able to get wireless signals by our house, they were weak and unreliable. Additionally, it seemed like we were constantly doing something and as a faculty leader it was just tough finding some downtime to write. The only real regret I have from the trip was my lack of discipline when it came to writing. I really should have carved out 30 minutes every morning (or evening) just to write. The next time I’ll definitely make it a priority to write and reflect more often during our trip. Overall, I can’t say enough about my experience on this trip. This was an experience I never will forget and I am eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to travel to Miconesia with my colleagues Reed and Jessica and 13 outstanding students. Additionally, I will never forget the people I met and worked with in Yap and Kosrae and I hope to stay in contact with them in the future. This was truly the experience of a lifetime (that I hope to repeat!).
Since the last blog we traveled to Kosrae (the eastern most state of the Federated States of Micronesia), spent a week there and made the long (36 hour) trip back to the United States. Kosrae is certainly different than Yap. In short, Kosrae is much more conservative (and more religious) and to be honest (and this may seem harsh) Kosrae is not as culturally aware or focused as Yap. What I mean by that statement is that Yap is definitely more in tune with their culture. They are more aware of their history and past and definitely are more pain relief focused on preserving their culture for future generations. Kosrae definitely felt more “Westernized” and perhaps a little more modern (buildings, cars, roads definitely seemed newer). It isn’t that they completely ignore their past, rather, it seems that much of their past and culture has simply been “lost”. For example, the Yapese know the history of each men’s house, community house, stone path and dancing platform. They also know the history of the several thousand pieces of stone money on the island. However in Kosrae, not as much is known about the various historical sites (such as the Menke or Lelu ruins) and in many cases, there are few if any structures left from the past.
Additionally, the islands themselves are quite different. Kosrae is more rugged and contains more recent volcanic rocks/minerals compared to Yap which appears to be more weathered and contains a significant amount of metamorphic rocks (such as greenschist and amphibolite). Although both islands are in the tropics (Yap is 9 degrees and Kosrae is 5 degrees north of of the equator) there were definitely some differences in the climate (rain is more frequent in Kosrae), soils and vegetation. For example, Kosrae has the Terminila Forest which is the ONLY forest of its kind ANYWHERE in the world. The forest (located in Yela) contains the Ka (Terminalia carolinensis) tree which is often used for canoes and buildings. The reefs in Kosrae are perhaps younger and are definitely healthier than they are in Yap. After seeing how different Kosrae is compared to Yap I definitely would like to visit Chuuk and Pohnpei (the two other states of FSM) just to see how they compare.
All-in-all I definitely enjoyed my time on Kosrae. It was definitely an interesting experience. There is a LOT more to say about Kosrae (Sunday church services, the influence of missionaries, social and political structure, environmental and agricultural practices, etc.) but I find that my brief experience there makes it difficult to really articulate life on the island. Again, I really hope I can return to Micronesia sooner rather than later. I really think a second visit would be just as significant and eye opening as the first.