Saturday, September 25, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles--Well, Not Exactly!

The island of Kuttu in the distance

On the shores of the Mortlocks

 I recently stumbled upon some pictures one of our students had posted on Facebook and was immediately captivated. The pictures begin at a going-away party that friends threw for two of our students from Pacific Islands University who were leaving their home island to return to PIU for the fall semester. You need to know that these students are from a very small island of about 300 people located in the Mortlocks out on the distant fringes of Micronesia. The pictures chronicle the going-away party and then the student's departure. I went to this particular student and asked for more information, and here is what I learned:

For the going away party, a cousin gave them two dogs to serve as the main course. The dead dogs were wrapped in a banana leaf and placed in a shallow fire pit to cook. After many hours, the partially cooked dogs were removed from the fire and gutted. Apparently, it is easier to gut the dogs after they have been partially cooked. The dogs were then returned to the fire pit until they were completely cooked through.

Friends then gathered to eat the special food. Notice the house in which these women are eating. I was informed that this house is the home of at least seven family members.

Taro Field
 Taro is grown throughout the island and is one of the main food staples. The bowl shows taro served with coconut milk.


 Here are some of the beautiful inhabitants of the island of Kuttu in the Mortlocks.

The day after the going-away party, the two PIU students were taken by motor boat to a spot where a large boat was moored. The large boat cannot get very close to Kuttu because the water is so shallow they risk ripping a hole in the hull from the treacherous coral. It takes about ten minutes by motor boat to get from Kuttu to where the large boat is moored. The students must attempt to catch the large passenger boat which will take them to Weno, the capital of Chuuk, and the island where the air strip is located. They attempt to catch the large boat approximately one week prior to their scheduled airline departure because often the passenger boat is full. It will be several days before another passenger boat comes to their island, and there is no guarantee that it too will not be full. If there is room on the large boat, the students are charged about $15.00 per person, plus fees for each additional item they have with them. All told, they usually end up paying about $30.00. From that point, it is a two-day journey to the capital island of Weno. No food is served, so passengers must pack their own food if they want to eat. The passenger boat will be stuffed to overflowing with about 70 people, and it will make stops at multiple islands in route to Weno. There are no life boats or life vests on the boat, and the boat definitely would not pass any safety inspections or meet any safety regulations! To make matters worse, the boat is so loaded down with passengers and belongings, there is not enough space for anyone to fully lie down to sleep. Picture a craft, jammed with people attempting to sleep in a semi-sitting position.

When the students finally arrive in Weno, they will have arrived approximately one week prior to their plane's departure date. Knowing they will need housing and food for this week of waiting, the students will have radioed ahead to a relative to make these arrangements (there are no phones or electricity on Kuttu). Once they are finally aboard their flight, the students will fly 630 miles to the island of Guam arriving at awful hours in the morning (e.g. 3:00 a.m.). No problem, our vigilant Dean of Women will forfeit her sleep to pick them up and make sure they arrive safely on the campus. All told, this trip will cost them approximately $400.00 and will take approximately nine days from start to finish. They could swim here faster than that!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Students Dive In!

Chasing a wild idea that is truly outside the box, PIU has begun a recreational scuba diving program to assist students in finding employment after graduation. Although our graduates earn a highly marketable degree from PIU, some students don’t want to teach or work in the government when they get back home. Even those who are called to ministry don’t really have a “voice” until they are nearly forty, and teachers could use the extra income, anyway. As a result, there has been an unfortunate “brain drain” out of Micronesia as locals migrate to Hawaii and the states for better employment. Since it is a stated desire of PIU to send quality Christian graduates back to their islands, staff have been dreaming up ideas to enable them. Out of the dreams comes the new dive program, featuring Eric as program coordinator (yes, he’s still Seminary Dean). Theoretically, by the end of the program (6 units), a student will be certified as a dive master, which qualifies him or her to become a professional dive guide in the world-famous waters of Micronesia. In fact, by spring, we should begin offering our new 18-unit minor degree in Outdoor Ministry with an emphasis in water recreation. Although our students grow up surrounded by the ocean and from it forage their food, they have never actually tried scuba diving (it’s usually for tourists). By the pictures you can see that now they have tried it! Guided by Fred Schmidt, our professional instructor, twelve students experienced breathing air underwater for the very first time. From this fledgling group, we hope to have our first certified scuba divers by mid October. Eric is especially excited by the enthusiasm for our program that Micronesian dive resort owners have shown. Nearly to the last one, they are thrilled to have a pool of real-life Micronesian dive guides, not the variety imported from Europe for a hefty fee. Some ideas are simply outside the box; this one is so far outside, it’s in the water!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back on Island

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I (Karyn) have been waking between 3 and 4 a.m. for the last few days because my inner time clock is still on Pacific Standard Time. Outside of wanting to hit the hay by 5:00 p.m. Guam time, and being surprised by the dreadful heat (you'd think I'd remember after three years!), I'm thrilled to be back on Guam.

My first morning back, our family went to Pacific Islands University to join the students and staff for chapel. What a joy to see returning students and meet new ones. After chapel, we rushed back home so I could continue home schooling our girls. Saturday morning we headed for the soccer field for a tournament hosted by FIFA. The two-hour kids' tournament was free and included lunch. This is one thing we particularly like about Guam. MANY events are free or very low-cost. It's a nice reprieve from the never-ending financial demands we're accustomed to in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the soccer field, I immediately jumped in to help at the registration table. I love that we have established relationships with the community and therefore we are trusted and our help is readily accepted. It may seem trivial, but I was so happy to be able to show the love of Christ even in this small way. By the time the tournament was over, I was feeling sick from the heat. I guess I'll need to readjust not only my inner time clock, but my body's thermostat.

This morning we were back worshipping with our precious island church. I kept forgetting to greet our Chamorro friends with the proper custom of a kiss-sound on the cheek, and instead, kept giving American-style hugs; otherwise, it was great to be back.
Noelle with some teammates

It is definitely not an understatement to say that we are excited about this coming 2010/2011 school year. Eric will be teaching undergraduate Church History, as well as Church History and Theological Research Methods for the seminary, which he continues to lead as Seminary Dean. During the fall semester, I will be focusing on providing counseling, coaching the PIU women's volleyball team, and, of course, home schooling our two middle-school-age children.