I’m traveling to Micronesia to chair the accreditation External Evaluation Team for the College of Micronesia. I hope you’ll share my journey as I post daily updates and photos from what promises to be a very exciting trip. So – where exactly IS Micronesia? It’s far far away. About 5,400 miles from Folsom, as the crow flies (if a crow could fly it) in the western Pacific Ocean. Micronesia refers to a widely scatted archipelago made up of over 2,000 islands and encompasses sovereign countries such a Guam, Palau, Marshall Islands, and Northern Marianas, and the Federated States of Micronesia, to name a few.
I said Micronesia is far far away. It is. After flight delays, rerouting, and over 24+ hours of travel I arrived on the island of Yap. Stepping onto the tarmac into the hot and humid night air, we were met by a striking Yapese woman in traditional dress complete with a tiered grass skirt and flowered leis. And did I mention she was topless? Below is a photo from the web to give you and idea.
I had hoped to have time while in Yap to tour the island and learn about the Yapese culture. On Thursday, I had that chance. When I casually mentioned to the lovely Yapese woman serving me breakfast that I intended to drive around the island and visit some of the villages, her eyes grew wide. “No safe!” she said, repeating herself for emphasis, “No safe!” “You no go to villages alone!” Plan B. I hired the local taxi driver/tour guide/woodcarver, Tamag, to give me a tour. Tamag was incredibly entertaining. As I drove, he told tale after tale of Yapese folklore and relished in the “aircon.” It seems cars on Yap don’t have air conditioning (other than rental cars) as they can’t import Freon.
Friday brought a trip to the college's second campus on the island of Yap, the Fisheries and Maritime Institute known as FMI. This campus is home to approximately 50 students from all over the world studying to get a Master of Vessels, Navigation, or Marine engineering degree. Run in military style, with "yes ma'am" and "no sir", and beds made so tightly you could bounce a quarter, these students hope to one day work on the ocean going transports.
After the morning with James, I had yet another special opportunity. I got to experience traditional dancing in one of the local villages, thanks to one of the deans at the COM-FSM. Her young daughter was dancing that day, and she'd thought I'd enjoy it. I did. A lot. In the villages, everyone dances. Everyone. If the Chief says "dance", you dance.