After 27 hours of planes, airports, buses and taxis, I have found myself in the South Pacific on the Island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. The tropical heat and humidity are quite a change from cool and foggy Monterey, but the rainy tropical afternoon thunderstorms offer refuge from the smothering heat.
It is here on Pohnpei that I will be working for the next two months. I will be working with the people of Pohnpei on management and creation of local conservation efforts through the help and support of One Reef and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei. For the first three weeks of my stay I will be living with the Einpein community located in the State of Kitti in southern Pohnpei. They warmly welcomed me to their community with a traditional ceremony that included being rubbed in oil, the placement of a beautiful flower crown on my head, and the drinking of “Sakao,” a traditional drink made from the root of Piper methysticum, offered to me by the village chief in a coconut. I was given a Pohnpeian family to help me adjust to local customs and their way of life. It took some time, but with the help of Teraul, my 5 year old host-brother, I have learned some Pohnpeian and have found a routine in their daily life.
The Einpein community is working towards the establishment of a “Ridge to Reef” conservation plan that connects their rainforests, mangroves and coral reefs. Here on the island it is called the Woun Koapin Soamwoai Nature Conservancy. This particular community is very conservation minded and is responsible for the first Locally-Managed Marine Area (LMMA) to be ratified into an officially recognized Marine Protected Area (MPA) on the island of Pohnpei. The MPA is called Nathik, and I had the pleasure of visiting it yesterday where I was able to swim, snorkel and explore it’s tropical waters.
It has only been a little over one week here and I already have enough stories and information to fill the pages of a Harry Potter book. For the sake of time, I will keep them to myself for now. Until next time, “Kaselehlie.”