Category Archives: lee ling

September 1963

35 mm slides

My son was exploring in a family basement and came across the cabinets of 35 mm photographic slides therein.

35 mm slide cases
35 mm slide cases

35 mm slide projectors are only available as used items these days. There really is no practical way to preserve these thousands of family slides and carry the images forward into the future. These are not paintings of yore that hung on a wall, these are creations of technology that lived and died by the sword of technology.

Among the slides are slivers of my own past.

September 1963
September 1963

My sister and I, photographed in September 1963, processed in October 1963, just a month before the nation would lose John F. Kennedy.  The hands holding the photo – the son of the boy in the picture.

I think about images and photographs mostly in the frame of family history – how to pass down the family photos. I have no idea how long Google or FaceBook will be around. CompuServe came and went in its time, as did GeoCities. Each time I moved photos to the next available platform.

And even on Google and FaceBook there is the issue of access into the future. I can “friend” my currently living children, but how to pass along permissions to descendants in perpetuity? Short of setting everything to public sharing? Perhaps future descendants will not care to see images of the ancestors.

As for the slides, they are most likely to continue to remain in the darkness of their cases for the foreseeable future.

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Halloween 2016

Halloween 2016 fell on a Monday school night evening. This was also a Monday social security day – the end of the month when senior citizens come to Kolonia to collect their social security checks and go shopping. That income is important in many families here, and falling on a Monday meant that the Halloween shopping weekend would likely have been negatively impacted. In local parlance, October 29 and 30 were a “broke weekend.”

Tristan and Kisha Halloween 2016
Tristan and Kisha Halloween 2016

The weather was acceptable, only a brief passing light rain shower in Dolihner, otherwise generally dry conditions.

Perhaps the largest factor was that last year Halloween fell on a Saturday night. A weekend with no school the next day.

Whatever the underlying factors, numbers were down year-on-year. Groups are a very roughly estimated with overestimation more likely than under. That said, the front porch saw a drop from 90 groups in 2015 to 79 groups in 2016. Traffic began around 18:35 but by 20:30 no further trick or treaters arrived on the porch.

Halloween group sizes 2015
Halloween group sizes 2015

Note the nine outlying groups in 2015 – groups with more than roughly 15 candy receivers, including one up near 45 and another above 50. The differential in the number of groups is a drop of only eleven. The lack of large groups, however, meant raw numbers of individual candy takers was down more significantly.

Halloween group sizes 2016
Halloween group sizes 2016

The numbers were down even more significantly. The count of candy receivers in 2015 was 590. In 2016 only 416 showed up on the porch, a drop of 174 trick or treaters. Average group size also dropped, primarily a function of the drop in the number of large groups and the absence of any group larger that 35. The household thought that the choice to block cars from driving up the interior road negatively impacted the large group counts. My sense is that the large trucks used to haul the big groups of kids from other parts of the island may not have been as available as they were on a Saturday night last night.

In 2015 the average group size was 6.56 with a standard deviation of 8.90. In 2016 average group size was 5.27 with a standard deviation of 5.50. The median, however, increased from 3 to 4 year-on-year.

We again used the dual bowl system. One twenty-five dollar bag of better candy and a single 330 count bag of Hershey Kisses. Elterina added in three bags of additional small candies that may have added upwards of 90 candies to the Kisses bowl. We would end the evening with candy on hand.

For those who want to play with the raw data, the data is available in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Analysis was done using Google Sheets with the above charts prepared using the Google Statistics add-in for Google Sheets.

Contemplations

As those who follow me may be aware this age year is an age year of reflection. I am the age at which my father passed away. As a runner I seem to be in better physical shape than my father was at this age. While his risk at my age was a heart attack, my larger risk this age year is the traffic I joggle in amidst on an evening run.

This evening was a particularly poignant nightfall. As is the custom I headed to the state morgue to join family in keeping watch until an off-island brother can arrive for the funeral. I had been visiting when I could over the past few evenings. I knew those who came and went, and how they were connected.

Sadness

Tonight when I arrived at the morgue the faces there confused me. They were from other connections. I gradually realized some were connected to the passing of a wonderful wife and loving mother I heard about earlier in the day. Her remains were in the morgue. There were other faces there, friends and family, that did not fit into either of the deaths I knew of.  And I saw a third coffin.

I learned that a third friend had passed away and that the remains were also there at the morgue. The third friend was someone who had come many years ago to Pohnpei and had made Pohnpei their home. A family who had hosted them in their early years on Pohnpei sent members up to note that they would handle the burial. The family even noted that Mwohnsapw Isipahu was awaiting the arrival of the deceased. I was comforted by the love shown.

In this age of social media I am more aware of the passing of the loved ones of friends. People I might not directly know, but whose passing directly impacts people I do know. There are not more people passing away, social media simply surfaces deaths more efficiently than I would normally stumble across.

When the funeral is far away I always wonder what I can to be of comfort. As do others, I offer my prayers and condolences. These are what I can do yet they seem insufficient – a friend who recently lost their father said that a memory will return to their mind unbidden and then they  fall to a million pieces all over again at the sense of loss. The living are left to comfort those whom the deceased is survived by.

While this is an age year of reflection and contemplation, and few know when they’ve seen their last sunrise, I expect to see a good many sunrises to come. Still, I will leave this suggestion, should you be around in some future decade when my passing surfaces on social media – when you are wondering what to post or perchance do, to go out and run a mile. Run a mile and lose yourself in thoughts of those you’ve known, those you’ve loved, and have lost.

Recharged

Although I returned to a written reprimand (non-attendance graduation) and docked pay (missed six non-teaching work days), three weeks off the rock in December and January refreshed me to my bones. By not consciously thinking about teaching for twenty-one days I find I have some new curricular ideas and a reservoir of energy with which to work.

Vacation, as in traveling to somewhere distant, is a curious activity. There is little to suggest that traveling into unfamiliar places with unknown dangers would have been a survival benefit to our ancient ancestors. Staying home almost always had to have been safer. Yet the deep allure of travel is present across cultures.

Micronesians arrived in these islands on voyaging canoes, long journeys over open ocean. That first canoe, or canoes, had to be traveling uncharted waters. The question “Are we there yet?” as unanswerable as “Where are we going?”

For those on a voyaging canoe the journey was only partially calculated risk, a gamble that what lay beyond the horizon was worth the risk. Yet as modern voyaging canoes have shown, capable navigators could hold courses and make return voyages. Navigators had skills in finding islands in the vast Pacific, reading swells and clouds. Those sailing lived off the sea as they traveled.

Arrival at a new island that was large enough to support life had to be thrilling. The new island would look strange and unfamiliar, and that would make the arrival all the more exciting. That aspect of travel is still there for my tropical island raised children. The “islands” they visited are not just different, they are exotic beyond their imagination.

Cloud Gate Chicago
Cloud Gate

One can see the Cloud Gate in a computer image, the skyline reflected by the gleaming curved surfaces. Being there is viscerally different. The brain suddenly comprehending the size of the Cloud Gate while not comprehending the scale of the buildings just across Michigan Avenue. The sound of the city, of traffic, distant sirens ever-present, cold air whipping across Centennial Park and past one’s ears.

Our brains adjust to the daily world around us and eventually treat the sights and sounds of home as background noise. Home is rarely exotic on a daily basis. For those who commute past a wonder of the world, the sight is a daily occurrence, an ordinary event. For children who regularly see the Cloud Gate, the structure is far less remarkable than for children raised on a rain forest island of coconut palms.

Snow!
Snow!

For a child raised in Alaska, snow is a given. For a child raised in Micronesia, a first meeting with snow is beyond magical. In that moment of discovery and joy one’s brain is completely flooded with wonder. That sense of wonder is contagious, even an adult can feel that sense of seeing the world anew.

Ancient humans undoubtedly traveled primarily out of necessity. The need for a new food opportunities, uninhabited lands for ever-expanding families, or to escape a deteriorating life situation. Survival sometimes favored those brave enough to move, to abandon the place in which they knew how to survive. The new environment presented new challenges and required a sharpness of mind. Today travel is recreational, but the sharpness of mind, the attention the new environment requires, is still there.

In that absorption of the mind with the new surroundings is a dropping away of the mental load of the daily ordinary which was left behind. The brain gets to do a reboot and reconfigure, a refresh of the brain circuitry. Upon return from the journey, the mind retains the benefits of the refresh. There is a sense of being recharged and re-energized. While constant, continuous travel likely becomes mentally exhausting – travel would be the daily ordinary for such a person – for those of us resident for years in one place, travel can be refreshing in a very deep sense.

Stupid

“That’s a stupid thing to do in the road!” called out an obese forty-something gentleman as the taxi passed me out by the Nett municipal offices. He was right. Running and juggling – joggling – in roads with no shoulders is stupid. Although being called stupid by an overweight, out-of-shape forty-something on an island of diabetes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure left me wondering whether the gentleman was in any position to judge the wisdom of specific  lifestyle choices.

The swimming pool beyond dusk

Darkness has fallen at the pool. The sound of young men challenging to each other as they  rack off push-ups rolls out into the humid night air. The language is local, the message is universal. Young men pushing themselves to be the toughest. Young women with the broad shoulders that the butterfly brings walk along the edge of the pool. Out of the gloom appears a more slender figure of a younger swimmer, my daughter. At up to a decade younger than some of the older swimmers, she seems almost out of place. As if a middle school student wandered into a collegiate athletics camp. Yet she seems comfortable and at home, undaunted by the age difference. Driven to swim by her own internal fires and unfazed by the impending competition. She is amazing.

On my way back through Kolonia town a young man with his hair dyed carrot orange  called out, “Wonderful! Awesome!” This also surprised me as what I usually hear is “Doh me ehu!” or “Give me my ball!” Not that I took any child’s ball, just that in a world where everything is shared he who has three balls must share with those who have none. Therefore one of the balls I am using logically belongs to the child.

As I trundled up what was some ancient ridge line, now the main road through Kolonia, I wondered whether I was stupid, wonderful, awesome, or – most likely – none of the above. Entertaining, maybe. At least to the many children who call from cars, “Kilang ohlo!” Somewhere between childhood and adulthood a running juggler shifts from being an amazing sight to being stupid.

Thirty

Thirty years ago this spring I was invited to a Center for Assessment and Stateside Training (CAST) as a prelude to a possible invitation to join Peace Corps Ghana. I had put on my application that I would serve anywhere but Africa. In 1983 I knew only that there was a drought affecting a wide swath of Africa. When I get stressed out I tend to eat, I thought that a drought and food shortage might be stressful and that I would have the wrong reaction in the midst of a food shortage. So I naively put that I would serve anywhere but Africa.

When I filled out the application I was not seriously considering Peace Corps, I was looking at a number of possible post-graduation options and at a job fair day in 1983 I had filled out the application along with many other inquiries. The “recruiter” noted that I checked childhood allergies and said that would probably knock me out of consideration. The months went by and I never heard back, so I did not think again about the forms I had filled out.

Then in 1984 an invitation to a CAST for Ghana came in. The CAST would be a week long session of evaluation and assessment in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, at the end of which Peace Corps would decide whether to invite a candidate and a candidate would decide whether to accept that invitation. Ghana had received volunteer groups every year except 1983. By 1983 Ghana was considered a difficult posting with a high early termination rate. No new volunteers were sent in 1983. Usually a new group overlaps a pre-existing group by a year, but with no 1983 group and the 1982 group finishing up in 1984, the 1984 group would have few other volunteers in country.  The CAST was intended to pre-select a group that was ready for the challenges that Ghana was thought to pose.

I had no real intention of going to Africa, but I thought a free week’s vacation in Harper’s Ferry would be fun and so I traveled to Washington DC and then on up to Harper’s Ferry for the CAST.

The assessors at the Harper’s Ferry CAST were, as I recall, all Americans. I do not now recall clearly, but my recollection is that some, if not all, were returned Ghana volunteers. There was one Ghanaian among the assessors, the in-country nurse for Peace Corps Ghana, Clara Donkor.

Clara decided I was trouble based on my being a Kwaku and informed me that she was adopting me as her son. When she did that I realized that if I was accepted into the Ghana program at the end of the CAST, I would at least have to go to Ghana out of respect for this woman I had just met.

I remember Harper’s Ferry as a week of group cooperation games and occasional mind games. When we were asked what lasting impact we hoped to have in Ghana I replied that I hoped to leave behind at least a pile of rocks. I do not recall how that went over, but I did make that pile of rocks in Akropong. Just last month I very intentionally piled up some rocks in area where I was planting some local medicinal plants. Wherever I go, I make sure I pile up a few rocks, my homage to that commitment I made in Harper’s Ferry. I have changed the lives of so many rocks over the years!

Although I had thought I might be rejected by the assessors, I suspect Clara put in her support for me and I found myself invited to the next stage of training in Mount Carroll, Illinois.

Dana in Mount Carroll
Mount Carroll

 

In Mount Carroll a different team of returned Ghana volunteers gave us a crash course in teacher training with a focus on the educational systems of Ghana. There was also a fellow from South Africa who had a role in the training. The training used a site that had been the home of Shimer College at one time.

After stateside training in Mount Carroll, the group flew to Accra for an initial week of in-country training, followed by village based training in Akrofufu, Eastern Region, and then another round of teacher training in Nsawam. The training was so long that at least one candidate terminated due to the length of training. Another volunteer terminated in the first week because conditions in country were “too dirty” for her.

I recall watching Mars, prominent in the southern night sky in Mount Carroll. That first night in Ghana when I looked for Mars, the planet was not there. We were outside performing libation, but my eyes were on the southern skies. Where was Mars? The change in longitude meant a shift in time, but I knew that should not affect the position. I tilted my head back and looked straight up. Mars. Straight overhead. I knew in an instant I must be near the equator. That was the moment I realized I was no longer in Kansas.

A day or two in country, I recall joining an excursion out towards Winneba, happily eating and drinking whatever I was offered. By the fourth day I was hit hard by shigella dysentery. The cramping was intense. Clara prescribed Donatel but the assistant nurse heard Tylenol, which did nothing for the insane cramps that hit every nine minutes. I eventually moved into the dark and rather dismal Accra elementary school bathroom, spending a night on the seatless porcelain toilet in the dark, in too much pain and discomfort to seek help. That experience was so powerful that years later when I had amoebic dysentery I ignored it for a month. The cramps were no where near as bad and I could could for far longer than nine minutes before needing to find a toilet.

The rest of the volunteers went on to Akrofufu for village based training. I was down on the order of 18 pounds at that point. I do not think they expected to see me again, I was a probable medical termination. Clara moved me into the Peace Corps office and I recovered. I did not want to be medically terminated because there might be times during a journey out of country that I would not be able to get to a toilet fast enough.

Before I left Accra I met with a doctor who informed me that the shigella strain I had contracted had tested as resistant to the anti-biotics available in country at that time. He essentially congratulated me on recovering on my own.

 

I think some of the other volunteers might have been somewhat surprised when I showed up in Akrofufu. I, on the other hand, felt rather bullet proof. I had survived a dysentery that was not treatable, why quit now?

Host family Akrofufu
Host family Akrofufu

Summer 1985, inspired in part by a Ghanaian French teacher who had traveled the Volta region with only a change of underwear, I traveled in a portion of the Eastern region for a few days wearing only my Ghanaian cloth and carrying nothing. No backpack, no change of clothes, wearing only my cloth, my teacher’s identification card in one pocket, some Cedis in my other pocket.

I stayed with relatives of my roommate for a night, and then headed up into an area off the main routes, into the hills to the east of Koforidua, north of Nkurakan. I wound up spending the night in a small village with a family who insisted I sleep in the only bed in the house.

The next day I was asked to teach at the local elementary school, and I did so.

I headed back towards Akropong the next day.

Although my journey was brief, I have never again traveled so light, so minimally. I also remember feeling comfortable. That was one of those moments in life when one has a new understanding of oneself. Walking along a road I had never walked upon before, wearing only a traditional cloth, carrying nothing, and feeling completely at home. Feeling that this is the most wonderful place to be at that moment.  In the one place I had once said I did not want to go.

As a student in elementary and secondary school I had failed to learn French (elementary school), German (middle school), and Spanish (high school). In response to some question a foreign language teacher asked, I said that I had no plans to go anywhere outside of the United States, would never need to function in a foreign language, and had no desire to function in a foreign language nor in a foreign culture. Walking along that red clay back road above Nkurakan I changed everything.

Shanalin in Ghana shirt
Shanalin in Ghana shirt

Thirty years ago I began the process that has led to a life lived abroad.

Sakau on the brain

My colleague hovered unsteadily near the office coffee pot. He appeared a bit more haggard than usual. I asked why and he said that he had stopped drinking sakau (Piper methysticum, Pacific island kava)  for three nights and had developed a headache. Tylenol only briefly knocked down the headache, and the headache was interfering with his ability to sleep.

I know that headache. And the sleep issue is not due to the headache – they are both withdrawal symptoms that hit around the 48 to 72 hour mark post-sakau. Sakau alters some part of the brain’s chemistry. My hunch is that sakau either artificially supplies a needed brain chemical, or that sakau blocks uptake of a brain chemical resulting in a decrease in production of that brain chemical. Either way, out at around 72 hours, give or take 24, the effect of the sakau wears off and the brain is either short of a chemical or out of balance in some other way.

A dull, heavy, headache is a symptom with which I am all too familiar. The broken sleep is another pattern with which I am well acquainted. In the wake of some viciously strong Kosraean sakau January 2012, I developed insomnia. I drank on a Tuesday night, on Thursday night I was woken up by dark dreams, agitated, excited, high heart rate. I would battle that insomnia for two weeks in January, unable to get anything more than a couple hours of stage one sleep – no deep sleep, no REM sleep.

At that time I had not yet sussed out that the sakau was causative. Two years later I am certain. I tried Unisom and melatonin back in 2012 – but they only made things worse, echoing some of what I was reading on line about anxiety. Sleep aids not only do not work for the anxious, they sometimes make everything worse.

I went to our family doctor and he suggested I try a couple Xanax. I went home and looked up what Xanax was supposed to treat and the potential side effects. I tossed the Xanax out. The Xanax, however, led me to learn about generalized anxiety disorder and the difficulties those who suffer from anxiety experience. Material written by those suffering from anxiety was spot on in describing what I was experiencing. A recent article by Scott Stossel on Surviving Anxiety caught me off guard when he also used a term that I too had thought, “existential dread.” That pervasive and unshakeable fear that is an entity unto itself.

The key to my recovery was to take nothing including no sakau and to get back into a regular running routing.  Even with no sakau and running, I would remain anxious for another week, unable to come down out of the “mode” I was in where sleep was not possible.

Since then I have been paying much closer attention to the link between sakau and my brain. I know now that for me, third night post sakau I will have dark dreams that give me broken sleep. If I drink too much, I could trigger a full blown insomnia cycle. The amount that triggers me is small. I can drink no more than a single cup of sakau. In other words, if I “get the feeling” then I will have broken sleep and possibly insomnia that will run from the third night to about the sixth night. So I have to avoid sakaula as the sense of death and darkness that comes with the “mode” on the third night is too awful.

Since I do not “crave” sakau the way a nicotine addict craves ciggies, I cannot say that sakau is addictive, just that it has a rough withdrawal.

I strongly suspect that because brain chemistry is involved as everyone has a different brain reaction to sakau. I also know that this is a result of long term use, possibly at times abuse, of sakau. I have been drinking for twenty years, typically once a week but at times every night. I had no problems for the first ten years of drinking. I am also keenly aware that there are aging brain effects that I cannot deconfound from my sakau consumption. I am a study with a sample size of one.

I have noted, however, that many veteran older drinkers throttle back their consumption or quit. No one talks about this as sakau consumption is tied into the concept of being an ohlen Pohnpei. A real man. And those who do drink regularly almost seem to be unconsciously and intuitively aware of the third night brain effects. Many drinkers drink on a  Friday-Sunday-Wednesday schedule. Redoping  the brain before the absence of the effect of sakau chemicals hit.

I drank without issues in the 1990s. Even every night binges of heavy drinking did not disturb my brain chemistry significantly. In hindsight, however, I now recognize brief spells of post-binge sleeplessness circa 2001 as a sign of developing brain chemistry issues.

I rarely drink now, and when I do, I throttle way back. I wanted to provided company to a colleague on a Friday night, so I drank a cup and a half. And a small cup at that. I barely sip from the ngarangar when it is presented that way, and I prefer the cup where I can better control my consumption rate. I also held to my holiday running binge of daily joggling. Still, Sunday night I woke up at three in the morning after some sort of dark dream and settled back to sleep only slowly. Could be all in my head, but two years of experimenting have me convinced that this is simply a withdrawal impact. The third night I will fall asleep without difficulty, but wake up suddenly from dreams filled with dread and foreboding.

I have been playing with the parameters over the past many months. If I drink x amount, what can be done to minimize the third night impact? I have not found a silver bullet. Exercise helps, but does not prevent the third night broken sleep. Flushing with fluids does not seem to help appreciably. Eating before sakau and attempting to buffer may help, but only insofar as it decreases the sensation of sakaula. Ultimately, if one is sakaula, then one is changing one’s brain chemistry.

I know that true generalized anxiety disorder sufferers who attempt to get off of a Xanax dependency can take up to six months for their brain to again produce sufficient levels of the brain chemicals that make one feel functional. The brain heals only slowly – the centers that produce the chemicals are slow to return to production in the wake of a loss of externally supplied brain chemical.

Sakau may have a similar effect even in moderate and irregular doses. There are not a lot of studies of people on high doses of kavalactones over multi-decadal periods. The work of Dr. Balick suggests that Pohnpeian sakau is unusually strong not because of the plant but because of the use of the polysaccharides found in the keleu.

I have been on a running binge this Christmas, trying to run every day. I put in a short and fast 24 minute round trip to Spanish wall on the most recent Friday I went to sakau. Saturday I ran for 40 minutes on a treadmill followed by 15 minutes in a sauna, Sunday I put in a one hour and 53 minute run and juggle under sunny skies. I wondered if the sauna might help sweat out the chemical issue.

Sunday night I did wake up at 03:14 in the wake of a night terror, but by using some of the thinking my reading on cognitive behavioral therapy taught me two year ago, I was able to calm my elevated heart rate and eventually go back to sleep. Generally speaking, if I can recalm on that third night I seem to avoid the hyper-vigilant, sleepless mode.

I still drink sakau, in part because sakau is intertwined with my social life. In part because I recognize that doing things that scare me is good for me and prevents the over development of a comfort zone. In part to continue to test the parameters that influence sakau withdrawal. Although sakau is not addictive in the craving sense, I have a hunch that some military vets with possible PTSD issues here use sakau to handle their anxiety, and then get locked into a nightly cycle when they find that they are sleepless without sakau. Sakau definitely knocks down the high arousal state of a sleeplessly anxious person for a good 24 hours. And with little to no hangover, sakau allows one to be a very highly functioning person.

The amounts of sakau I drink are pitifully small now and I drink only on a rare occasion. 

Sakau should be studied in the treatment of anxiety – a lifetime on sakau is probably better than a lifetime on a mix of benzodiazepines. The side effects appear to be far less pronounced. That said, a mix of cognitive behavioral therapy and vigorous daily exercise are probably a better path to working on healing the anxious brain.

Ending of Sailing

With me being gluten free, the house has not seen a homemade pizza in many moons. With some persuasion from the gluten free head of household, a mother and son team whomped up pineapple and portugese sausage pizza using fresh pineapple from the patch outside of the house.

pizza
Our home grown pineapples are a variety not exported and have a wildly sweet flavor with an undercurrent of pineapplishness. 
She tends to eat scrambled eggs and rice with her fingers, but fritters get cut with a knife and eaten with a fork. She thinks different and does different. She may be my Apple child.
With the sailing coach leaving island, and the owner of the dock having moved to another home, the children’s sailing club is going on indefinite hiatus. There is a farewell picnic scheduled, but these two have a swimming meet that day. So this is their last chance to skipper a sailing boat. Very appropo that a brother brings his sister to shore for a final time. 
As with all things, there are beginnings and endings. The beginning is filled with promise, hope, and anticipation. The ending is sad and bittersweet. The Saturday dock has been a lively place for over 18 months now and my children have made many new friends from a culture with whom they do not usually get a chance to interact. I too have come to know some on the dock and now recognize them around town. 
Pohnpei is this way – Taekwondo came and went. Activities come and then fade away again. Children of different cultural cliques gather for a while and then disperse yet again. Parents connect for a time, and then go about their own ways. And those who leave the island tend to disappear from our lives here. Sometimes we see an occasional social media image or post, maybe a rare email, but otherwise those who leave vanish into the wider world.
Maybe only the rock remains, watching as a sentinel as the one flight a day makes its final approach past Peipalap bringing in new sets of parents and children, takes away other sets of parents and children.

Cheering from the sidelines

My son tagged the wall as he came in second in the 50 meter race. As he surfaced, the first place finished gave him a high-five. Both of the swimmers beamed with energy and shared excitement. On the sides of the pool their teammates cheered the one-two finish.

Swimmers start their race off the blocks
My daughter gets a good start

As the racing day progressed parents called out to the their children to push harder or to swim just a little bit further to reach the wall. Parents cheered and celebrated. And when one very young swimmer, alone among his age group, chose to swim the 100 meter butterfly solo  – four laps of the 25 meter pool, everyone around the pool was cheering the little fellow on. I think he thought it was a two lap event as a timer had to tell him at the 50 meter point to do two more lengths of the pool. Which he obediently did.

Swimmers leaving their blocks at race start
My son coming off the blocks for a 50 meter event

I walked along the side of the pool saying nothing, taking pictures. I suppose I should have been cheering as my son and daughter racked up first, second, and third place finishes in their age group. When my daughter was the only female swimmer to join the open 200 meter individual medley, that was exciting. Her team really shouted encouragement to her. Even my wife, normally rather placid and reserved, shouted “Go!” 

Breast stroke leg of a 200 IM swim
My daugher in the 200 IM, breast stroke leg of the race

I was proud of both of them, and I said so, but I realized I was a terrible fan as I was not much of a cheering sports enthusiast. I enjoyed seeing the camaraderie among the swimmers, the group support. In the water or by poolside, the competitors were never alone.

Two young swimmers
Two young swimmers

Later that day I hit the road for a one hour run out into Nett. I am trying to get my legs back around to half-marathon endurance condition. I know that I will be at the back of the pack running alone. I am almost always alone. A road runner practices alone on a road and then races, around here at least, alone on the road. There is no cheering from the pool side, everything is inside one’s head.

The half will be in 32 Celsius heat at 4:00 in the afternoon, humidity at 80% or higher. Heat index of 42 degrees Celsius or higher. Tropical sun or possibly tropical rain, but likely both. Conditions that would likely halt a modern big city American marathon length race. If the day is sunny, the race will devolve into a heat survival sweat house grudge match. Runners not against runners, but the runner against the insane heat. Those races are purely mental. Mental plus swimming pools worth of water and electrolyte fluids.

And the cheerleaders are only in your head. The road, around here, is a quiet place. Running is a different sport – little wonder it is not a multi-million dollar mega-machine sport like American football, European football, American basketball, or American baseball. There is no one place one can go and see the entirety of a road race. One cannot sit and watch the whole thing while enjoying beer and hot dogs. On an out-and back half, the runners disappear from the starting area and reappear well over an hour later. Not much to watch.

So I stood by the pool and watched as all the kids swam, proud of their efforts, knowing they too are wrestling with their own mental race in their own heads. Pushing their own limits and discovering they too can break through and do things they only hoped that they could do. Or for the little guy who did the 100 meter fly, do things they never imagined they could do.

College of Micronesia-FSM 5k run

The College of Micronesia-FSM annual 5k launched only two days after my ethnobotany visited Paies, Kitti, to observe a Sounkawad led kousapw perform their nopwei with rahmedel. Although 36 hours had elapsed, I was keenly aware of my own data that suggested six, seven, possibly even fourteen days until one’s endurance running muscles are completely recovered from the impact of sakau. Some of the data I looked out hinted at  an ongoing long term impact.

My son inbound
My son inbound to a 40:48 finish

I would finish the 5k in 29:59 clock, 30:41 with the parking lot loop, despite having felt that I had pushed hard throughout the run. Muscles are not the only impacted system. The lungs are also hit with some sort of impact on the functioning of the lung. Possibly related to the damage done to the cholesterol linked skin repair mechanism.

My daughter on her way to a 55:50
My daughter on her way to a 55:50
Shrue and Pelma
Shrue and Pelma
Winners
Winners

Although slow, I was the first male faculty across the finish line. Santryco on my right was joined by his 19 minute 12-and-under son in front of me, Reloliza is between President Daisy and myself. Christina, Cindy, the 12 and under female winner, and Leslie round out the picture. Gary, picking up the master’s trophy, had already left.

Nice breakfast duo
Nice breakfast duo
Hardware
Hardware

On Sunday evening I went out and pushed hard, running without joggling for an hour and 26 minutes, covering 12.9 kilometers from Dolihner out to Dausokele, back up to the airport, and then home.