Pohnpei Stories and Tips

Introduction

I've wanted to join the Peace Corps since I was in high school. Early on in high school. My aunt was a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV). She lived the ideal PCV experience, the one we all think we want, where you suffer in the dry heat and cold nights with emaciated children and the backdrop looking like it came straight from National Geographic with the topless women - the Africa experience. We all think that's what we want. Some place where you're really giving yourself and suffering through your chance and opportunity to change and "save the world." But I was marine biology major, who wanted to be near the water. And Africa couldn't offer me a position that allowed me to use this interest and skill of mine. Selfish, I don't think so. It's still Peace Corps. But now I live in Pohnpei, Micronesia and have the benefit to work for one of the most well respected non-governmental organizations in the FSM: the Conservation Society of Pohnpei. Peace Corps is a culture all to itself. Within every region, every city, and every community. It is defined by the person in service and will differ dramatically from one to the next. We arrived here to a tropical island. And that's what it is. Something out of a magazine, just not national geographic, no maybe something more out of outside magazine or something. One of those exotic destinations where you can have coconuts around dark skinned natives with the backdrop of aquamarine and crystal blue waters. It’s paradise. But it rains a lot here. A lot. I think we're one of the rainiest places on earth. It’s something to get used to. And eventually you put down the raincoat and the umbrella and you allow yourself to fall to island time and life waits as it rains. And even then though, its not even noticed by others. The rain is the norm. And they walk and play and live by and with it. And such is life. So there are spurts of sunshine, but no beaches to compliment it. Instead, lush mangroves. Which in themselves are gorgeous and great areas of biological significance. But nonetheless, not a beach. There's an interesting dynamic about being here. This is an island and region of great history. The people are descendants from Asia. But their blood has mixed with the Spanish and the Japanese and now the U.S., countries all which have claimed this area as their respective countries' territory. Now the u.s. Uses it as defense. The u.s. Pays rent to a number of island from one side of the Pacific to the other so that in the event that we need this land in terms of strategic military zones, we have our pacific "friends" to turn to. $92 million a year for the next 20 years, and then a trust fund with an interest large enough to live off of until... Yeah, I wouldn't mind a friend like that either. But Western development has created a huge gap in the culture. The U.S. Dollar has handicapped the Micronesian. So on one side, you have a developing country that's like a step back in time and on the other side you have a country bringing in tons of money they haven't work for and will now never know what it is to truly develop themselves. Money and volunteers come in and often we feel like we're not even needed. But all in all, how can anyone deny how great it is to live here. They live by titles here still. There is still a hierarchy to be respected here. They greet you and see you off with a crown of flowers around your head - mwarmwars. The rain brings beautiful flowers that fill the air with a wonderful natural perfume. The greens are so intense and the underwater world is like a dream. "Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream..." Yes, and at the end of the day, and the end of the week, and the end of the month, I am happy to be here. And am happy to hopefully have given something of myself to those here. I have been here now for 8 months and have a year and half left to go. And try not to count the days and try not to wonder about life back home too much or what I could be missing. But rather look to my present and try to listen to what life is telling and teaching me. And more so, trying to embrace and love it and grow from it so that I can hopefully better myself in the process...

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