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!


None said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing what the students experience to get to the university. God bless them for their desire to learn so far away. God must really want them there. :)

Mary Lou Carruthers said...

I had heard about a boat that went from island to island but your graphic description really describes how PIU students get here! I agree, God bless these students for making the long trek to Guam to attend PIU.