Sunday, February 26, 2006

Adventures in the South Pacific

I just received an email from my buddy Dave. Dave works in the South Pacific on an Island called Palau. I visited Dave last summer and you can see the pics and read the stories here. Dave works as an attorney for the President of Palau and often goes on trips representing the island. He recently went to an island called Pohnpei and filed the following report: (The pictures were taken by me last summer on my way back home from Palau).
I just got back from a great week in Pohnpei. I boarded the “island hopper” flight last Saturday with two Palauans (Fred and Herman) from the Bureau of Agriculture to attend a workshop on biosecurity in the Pacific. After a brief stop in Yap, a long stop in Guam (great chance for fast food, book buying, and a movie) and another short one in Chuuk, we finally made it to Pohnpei the next day.

The workshop included representatives from Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. Essentially, we are working on drafting a model quarantine law that the islands can use. Biosecurity refers to the security of nations from invasive species and other pests, e.g., fruit flies, betelnut blight, and the dreaded Brown Tree Snake, which came to Guam in a military ship and has now taken over the island. People find them in their beds and coming out of their bathtub drains. In order to protect the islands from these invaders, we need a new, modernized law that will give our inspectors the powers to enforce strict quarantine rules. And it is best if the islands harmonize their laws to facilitate trade within the islands and with the rest of the world.

Each night after the workshop we would go out together for dinner and beers. The Pohnpeians are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met – their initial reaction
to everything is a smile, and they go out of their way to welcome visitors. The most famous bar is the “Rusty Anchor,” but I liked “The Jungle” the best. There, I tried Sakau – a local version of Kava. Made from a root, it is a brownish liquid with a slimy
consistency and the taste of dirty dishwater. After two glasses, you feel numb and slightly paralyzed. After two glasses, six beers, and three crabs, you feel slightly dead.

The last day we took a pickup truck on a tour of the island. Fred had gone to agriculture school in Pohnpei back in the 80’s, so he knew the way. It was a slow and lazy drive punctuated by frequent stops at roadside stands to find the best betelnut. We stopped at Fred’s old school, which was now being overtaken by jungle.

We finally made it to “Nan Madol” – a spectacular archeological site – called the Macchu Picchu of the Pacific. Here’s a link for more info:

I spent some time taking pictures and wandering around the complex. The Palauans sat under a tree and chewed betelnut.

We climbed aboard the island hopper for the flight home yesterday, and I made it back by midnight. It was a great trip. Stay tuned for pictures.


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