Category Archives: Pohnpei

Founding Day 2015

College of Micronesia-FSM Founding Day 2015 on Pohnpei was themed “Improving Learning Through a Cultural Lifestyle.” Ultimately the day is one on which the students have the opportunity to celebrate diversity and the unique cultures of Micronesia.
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Kosrae culture since the late 1800s has been interwoven with the culture of the missionary Congregationalist church. One hundred years ago the Baldwin sisters still had their female students wearing Mother Hubbard style dresses. Over the years the church dress has evolved and changed. From left to right are dress styles that range from the 1960s to the present day. One of the changes that is less apparent is the choice of fabrics. Dresses were primarily plain colored cotton, now they are synthetic prints.
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The Kosrae float would take first place in the float competition. This year the founding day working group opted not to attempt to judge the dancing and performances, a decision that I consider to be a wise one. Judging the dances and performances is fraught with difficulties and challenges both artistic and cultural. The float rubric was reported to be a simplified version of that used two years ago. This year I opted not to join the founding day working group, I also deflected an inquiry as to whether I wanted to head up the judging.

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The Kosraean dress on the left is unusual. The fabric is a tie dyed fabric that would likely have become available in the 1970s. The style of the dress also suggests that the dress is from that era. The dress is evidence of the influence on Kosraean fashion of trends in fabrics  occurring outside of Kosrae.

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The Kosraean princess dresses in a modern interpretation of a generic Pacific island look. This too is in part a result of the external influences on the islands of the other islands.

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The parade up main street occurred under a mix of sun and clouds. Conditions were hot, humid as usual. Walking on asphalt in bare feet is not recommended. The students are keen to be as traditional as possible, but zoris are still a good idea.

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The Yapese chose to carry a cement stone money piece rather than a cardboard replica. This proved to be a taxing undertaking. There was a water stop at center point, but the water stop ran out of cups. The young men were dehydrating, and were thirsty. They asked for water, but could not obtain any. I ran up to the field and found that the water containers in the tents also did not have cups. I did locate bottled water in the building used to stage the lunch and ran three bottles back down route to the Yapese stone money carriers. I was not as concerned about the short haul into the field, but the cumulative effect of overheating that might be a factor by the time they danced four hours later in the day.

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Not being on the committee, I had not been around to pass along the recommendation that each float carry a case of bottled water in the event a marcher became dehydrated. Our students are not all physically fit. Some have underlying health issues, some are out of shape, some already have borderline high blood pressure.

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Beverly Billy on the lead at center point, at the water stop.

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Just before parade start another old dress style joined the parade.

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The Kosraean women performed a dance up at the field.

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The Kosraean outfits

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Pohnpei dance group consisting of a mix of students and community members.

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Jacoline Siba Palik.

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Chuukese women performing a stick dance variation. The carpet was critically useful in insulating the students from the heat of the rubberized track surface. The program also did not take a formal lunch break, which was also a good decision given the temperatures on the field. While a couple people said to me, “They are islanders, they can take the heat,” I know that heat takes a toll on everyone. No one is immune to the effects of working out on a hot sunny day on the equator.

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Outer island Yapese women performing.

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Andrea Ewarmai.

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The Yap proper dancers danced in the anchor position, last, as they have traditionally done each cultural founding day.

The float rubric used this year was:

Category Description Very strongly

4

Strongly

3

Moderately

2

Weakly

1

Not at all

0

Theme How well the float fits the theme of the parade.          
Originality Creativeness and originality of the float.          
Craftsmanship Attention to detail and design, fit and finish of the float.          
Materials Effective use of local materials          
Difficulty Difficulty of construction, level of effort          
Movement Items that move are well used and coordinated          

 

Color Good and appropriate use of color on float          
Column Sums          

The “costumes” rubric used this year:

Category Description Very strongly

4

Strongly

3

Moderately

2

Weakly

1

Not at all

0

Materials Effective use of local materials for traditional costumes          
Visualization Costumes can be seen clearly          
color Colors visible and coordinated          
Authenticity Costume is authentic to the culture          
         
Column sums          
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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.

Pacific island dance judging analysis

Last Saturday I assisted with a judging a preliminary round of a Pacific island dance contest. This Saturday I was one of four judges for the final round. Four judges judges seven groups on five criteria. The criteria were modified from last week.

1. Movement. (Late movement, Turn the other way, keep looking at the partner, etc.)
2. Costume
3. Always smile? Ashamed? No singing with the music?
4. Well practice?
5. Performance as a group
Chewing gum and chewing betelnut and spitting: 10 point deduction.

Each criteria was worth ten points. Each group danced two dances, each dance could generate up to 5 of the 10 points in each criteria.

Bring it on girls
Bring it on girls

With four judges, five criteria each worth ten points, in theory there was a maximum of 200 points possible. At the end of the evening the rank order and points for the seven dance groups ranged from 152 to 182 points.

Dancers Sum
Bring it on girls, Pohnlik, Kolonia 182
Sista Sista, Ohmine, Kolonia 175.3
Young Roses, Paliais, Nett 174
Kapinga Pride, Pohn Rakied, Kolonia 162.5
G-Babes, Meitik, Nett 159
Ohnonlong, Wone, Kitti 158
Beauty Cousins, Madolehnihmw 152

Second and third were only separated by 1.5 points, fifth and sixth by one point. As a statistician I have a preference for rubrics that generate more spread. I am all too keenly aware that small differentials are not statistically significant and are not likely to be repeated. That said, a dance contest is not unlike a sprinting race, crossing the line a few hundredths of a second ahead of another runner is the difference between gold and no medal.

Each group had four scores, one from each of the judges. The range from the lowest score to the highest score was smallest for Kapinga Pride and largest for G-babes. G-Babes divided and decorrelated the judges.

Dance group score spread
Dance group score spread

Beauty cousins also saw a large range in scores.

The judges seven scores, one for each dance group, tended to distribute in a range from 35 to 45.

Dance judges score distribution for the seven dance groups
Dance judges score distribution for the seven dance groups

Two judges had rather symmetric distributions about median scores of 40 and 41.5. My median of 45 was high and asymmetric. My low score of 32 was not an outlier, but that was in part due to my large inter-quartile range. One judge had a low outlier and the highest upper whisker at 49.

The dance instructors, coaches, and advisers are most likely to want to know their strengths and weaknesses against the rubric used.  Overall the category “Always smile? Ashamed? No singing with the music?” (termed “Facial” in my analysis) scored the lowest.

Criteria Average
Costume 8.46
Facial 7.82
Movement 8.14
Performance 8.48
Practiced 8.62

One of the judges last week noted that she wanted to see more eye contact. Engage the audience, smile, show confidence, and show that you are enjoying yourself. I noted that one of the dancers seemed a little stiff, reserved, and was not moving as fluidly as I knew she could. I asked her and she said she was nervous tonight. During the free style, free dance at the end of the evening, however, her smile beamed out and she threw herself into competitive dancing with nothing short of gay abandon. All of her grace and fluidity were back.

One group looked over-practiced. They did not smile, just went through the paces. Perfect synch, no life, no zest. Maybe too many hours of practicing the dance over and over. The first place winners danced with confidence, big smiles, lively. They knew their moves, but they also appeared to be having fun with their dance and seemed to relish the spotlight. They were up there to bring it, as their group name suggests, and they were clearly excited at the change to perform in front of their friends and family.

Dance criteria averages by group
Dance criteria averages by group

The G-Babes were judged to have the best costumes with a 9.75 average for the four judges. In the other categories Bring it on girls captured the top averages.

Last week I noted some correlation differences among the three judges.

Correlations Leilani Dana Kiyoshi
Leilani 1
Dana 0.748 1
Kiyoshi 0.735 0.655 1

I correlated well with Leilani, and she correlated moderately well to Kiyoshi. The items that correlated Leilani and I were not those that correlated Dr. Umezu and I, and we saw a lower correlation. This pattern occurred again tonight.

Correlations Dela Cruz Ichikawa Lee Ling Umezu
Dela Cruz 1
Ichikawa 0.19 1
Lee Ling 0.88 −0.10 1
Umezu 0.18 0.58 −0.07 1

Dela Cruz and I were highly correlated, we strongly concurred. Dela Cruz was only weakly correlated, at best, to Ichikawa and Umezu. I was not correlated to Ichikawa and Umezu, with a relationship between our scores that was no better than random. Ichikawa and Umezu were only moderately correlated.

A more detailed study of the correlations by criteria suggests that the four judges concurred on costume and performance, saw some limited agreement on movement, and disagreed on facial and practice criteria. Of interest was that the disagreements did not always occur between the same judges in those criteria where disagreement occurred.

Ultimately the rubric is open to interpretation. There was no training on the rubric nor were any of the judges professionally trained in dance. The goal was to identify groups that could be called upon to dance in dinner shows for visitors and guests. What might impress a tourist is not necessarily the same as what is likely to impress a professional dance judge. I suspect the judges achieved the goal desired despite some issues of internal inconsistency and differing interpretations.

The greatest divergence of scores seemed to be around G-Babes. I was left wondering whether there are cultural differences that may impact how one views the G-Babes.

G-Babes dancers
G-Babes dancers

The G-Babes were the youngest dancers dancing, maybe five or six years old, maybe the eldest is seven or thereabouts. I wondered about the G-Babes myself, but during the free dance sessions they were the first to stream out onto the grass and they danced and laughed with such enthusiasm. They were having the time of their lives. They clearly loved to “shake it” and enjoyed being out there with the “big girls”.

Pacific island free dance
Pacific island free dance

One cannot appreciate their diminutive stature compared to the other dancers until one sees them next to a Sista Sista dancer or a Bring It On Girls dancer as in the above photo.  Whatever differences the judges perceived, the G-Babes were clearly the crowd favorite. Ferocious amounts of cuteness, clearly well practiced dance routines, and having fun.

Sista Sista, Ohmine
Sista Sista, Ohmine

That said, what does the visiting tourist come to see at a dinner dance show? What expectations are there? All of the dances tonight were Polynesian, and only Kapinga Pride is of Polynesian heritage. The true dances of Micronesia are wonderful and awesome, but nothing like what a tourist imagines. Besides, to some extent the Micronesian dances are reserved to their cultures. They are dances with meanings and cultural import. For the Micronesian dancers, the Polynesian dances are both what the tourist expects and what is culturally more comfortable to deliver up to foreigners. That is only my opinion, but if accepted, then groups such as Bring It On Girls and Sista Sista are the dinner show dance groups.

As I noted last week, I know some of the dancers, their families, and where they from on the island. I was impressed with all of the groups. Everyone clearly had gone home and put in a lot of solid practice. The costumes were also stepped up and improved. One could see a lot of work, effort, and pride had gone into each group’s preparation. I was certainly proud of all the dancers tonight.

Kaycie Dikepa and Yolanie Lucky
Kaycie Dikepa and Yolanie Lucky, Kapinga Pride

Pacific island dance rubrics

In 2011 I was asked to be a judge for the College of Micronesia-FSM Founding Day celebrations. Back in 2009 I had felt that the groups were not sufficiently recognized for their attire – what I would later term costumes for want of a better word. In 2009 the Pohnpei national team, Yapese, and Kosraeans all made strong efforts on attire that I felt went unrecognized. The result was a rubric in 2011 that recognized attire as a component of the scoring. That rubric would be modified and redeployed in 2013 when I was selected to coordinate the judging for Founding Day 2013.

This past weekend I was asked to be a judge at a dance competition which sought to encourage the development of dance troupes of the sort that might perform at a dinner show. I was unclear whether a rubric had been developed, but had heard that the rubric should be simple, thus I dropped the five column, four point rubric for a four column, three point rubric. I was keenly aware that this might narrow the score differences substantially, which could be problematic. The 2013 rubric for Founding Day resulted in some very small separations in scores as noted in a blog on that day’s judging. There was a tie at third place and one group took second by only one point above that tie. The rubric is not resulting in the score separations one might like to see if one is trying to pick “medalists”. And while I am not a huge fan of medals, the students are – they are competing for first place and nothing less.

The scoring would have been three for strongly exhibited, two for moderately, one for weakly exhibited, and zero for not exhibited.

Choreography
Variety: Dance exhibits a variety of dance positions and movements as appropriate to the dance form
Difficulty: Difficulty and continuity of the movement combinations
Timing: Dance movements are synchronized, coordinated, coherent, dancers are on the beat
Posture, position: Dancers posture and positions are aligned, smooth transitions between movement and postures, postures are uniform where appropriate

Attire
Costumes Culturally, traditionally authentic, add to performance

Vocals
Projection, participation: Vocalizations include good projection, can be clearly heard, where the vocalization is a song/chant sung/chanted by all the dancers, everyone is singing/chanting

Presence
Team spirit: Dancers show confidence, stamina, energy, stage presence, the dance is impressive and entertaining

Once I arrived at the venue, South Park Hotel, I learned that Kenny Omura had developed a rubric we would be using. I felt a sense of relief that I would not have to put my narrowed scale to a test. The rubric was simpler and the instructions were to deduct points against a ten point scale for five metrics. The score sheets were in both English and Japanese.

1. Performance as a group
2. Movement. (Late movement, Turn the other way, keep looking at the partner, etc.)
3. Music choice (different from Tevaka, Fenua, etc.)
4. Always smile? Ashamed? No singing with the music?
5. Well practice?
Chewing gum and chewing betelnut and spitting: 10 point deduction.

I clarified that singing with the music was a deduction, the dancers were to dance to the music, not lip synch nor sing. The judges were also instructed to ignore for now the choice of music. The judges, however, still scored this metric. I was guided by the advice that the production should be appropriate to Pacific Island dinner show dancing.

Yolanie Lucky
Kapinga pride dancer

Although I knew some of the dancers, I had connections of one sort or another to all of the groups. Being a professor on a small island means always means dealing with evaluating – in one form or another – those who you know and care about.

Many of the groups, and all of the all male groups, missed the point that the dance was to be appropriate to an evening dinner dance show that show cases Pacific island dance forms. The male groups invariably chose gangsta rap or gangsta influenced hip hop, rather poorly mimicking Jabberwocky or the latest video that they had seen. Not a single male dance group attempted a Pacific island dance – and there are some excellent ones out there. The Samoan and Maori men all have fantastic dances that celebrate strength, virility, and the protecting role of the male in the family.

With little guidance on scoring, the judges were left to their own devices in terms of deciding how to score. None of the judges intentionally looked at the other judges scoring choices, nor did the judges see the other judge’s scoring choices until all ten groups had danced. Thus I was interested in what correlations, if any, might exist among the three judges. One judge was from Pohnpei, one from Japan, and myself from the United States. Although we were operating without any particular training or referencing, the correlations suggest that the judges were reasonably well correlated. We were able to use the rubric in a manner wherein our scores generally agreed.

Leilani Dana Kiyoshi Sum
1 Gangsta meitik 29 30 23 82
2 Gangsta 2nd group 24 20 21 65
3 Bring it on girls Pohnlik 37 43 46 126
4 G-Babes Meitik 35 42 25 102
5 Gangsta (5 boys) 28 27 25 80
6 Young roses Paliais 35 43 35 113
7 Sista sista Ohmine 34 38 33 105
8 Beauty Cousins Madolehnihmw 34 37 30 101
9 Kapinga pride 30 44 29 103
10 Onohnlong Wone 28 41 30 99
Young roses
Young roses

In terms of basic statistics, on average I made the fewest deductions while Kiyoshi made the most deductions. My coefficient of variation, however, was just under that of Kiyoshi, so we both scored across a relative broad range. Leilani scored in a narrower range with an average between Kiyoshi and I. The upshot is that while our standards might have been slightly different, the differences were not substantial nor significant.

Statistic Leilani Dana Kiyoshi
Mean 31.4 36.5 29.7
Median 32 39.5 29.5
Mode 35 43 25
Standard Deviation 4.17 8.15 7.23
Coefficient of variation 0.13 0.22 0.24
Range 13 24 25
Minimum 24 20 21
Maximum 37 44 46

The scoring sheet used by Kenny gives me ideas on how to potentially evolve the rubric in use for Founding Day and increase the spread. Maybe a ten point per category maximum score would improve the spread. Mathematically, the transformation is likely to be linear and not have any actual mathematical meaning, but the increased numeric spread would make a close finish look less controversial, make the margin look bigger.

On a personal note, knowing the judges and your music is probably useful. One group attempted to do a Tahitian style dance to Azonto music from Ghana. In that attempt they missed the song’s movement cues and the Azonto style, in fact, the result was an odd clash because Azonto does not have the same beat structures as Tahitian/Polynesian dance styles. As someone who lived in Ghana for two years I found I had to fight back a desire to mark down the dancers for not understanding the meanings and movements of Azonto. Dance to any music you want, but know that genre, know the style, know the meanings, know the motions. Know that culture and be able to connect to the music, make sure the music fits who you are and what you are about. I suspect that is the problem I have with some of the gangsta rap – a music and a musical culture completely disconnected from the life experience of a Micronesian on Pohnpei. The boys in the hood would simply pop a cap in you if you walked down their street. Even if your pants are falling off, you are not a gangsta nor does your society want you to be one.

The top seven groups advanced to the final where five judges will be deployed. I asked that costumes be included in the scoring, Leilani asked that eye contact be added to the score sheet. Although eye contact is both a cultural variable and may or may not be a requirement of some dance forms (Yapese stick dances for example), in an evening dinner dance setting there is a Fantasy Island expectation of “Smiles, everyone, smiles!”

Early summer 13 activities

Summer opened with a swimming meet at the recently refurbished state, if not also national, swimming pool.

Swim meet
Warming up prior to the meet.
Practicing her race start
Swimming may be the ideal sport for the heat and humidity of Pohnpei. One can sit around pool side looking relaxed, fit, and tan, without winding up coated in sweat.
Pool side looking like southern California
Second from camera, my son gets a good start.
Swim race start
Looking good along the bay front at a wedding reception for a wedding that did not occur.
Looking good along the bay front
There exists a new generation that is born ready to throw a profile picture pose, fingers ever ready for a camera.
FaceBook profile ready generation
My children also gained a second mother in June, a coach who has raised and trained Olympians. My children have the best mothers.
Sweeter Daniel
Sailing continued, but often minus my two as Saturday activities knocked them out of sailing.
Kapinga sailors
Seen on the dock
Children in the corn may be found in Iowa, here children in the jungle.
Children in the jungle
Malem Move-Out day races on 08 June were a chance to test swimming-built muscles on dry land.
Akadon races
A tug-o-war.
tug-o-war
On the left is Fearless. She was the first to swing across the monkey bars via the rungs. And the fastest. Just as when she jumps into the deep blue sea, she has no fear. She simply commits and goes.
Fearless on the monkey bars
Playgrounds are fun, and children remind us to have fun in simple stretching and working of our muscles.
Poise and balance
In the Olympic day 5k I crossed the 4.9k line at 28:02, with an under 29 5k, 28:43 or thereabouts.
Olympic Day 5k
My son tired early, walked a portion, and came in at 42 minutes.

The story of Lee Ling and other tales

The ides of August saw school restart. Pants are the new requirement. Even the public schools on Pohnpei have stepped up. At first any green shirt was sufficient at Ohmine, any purple one at Nett. Now the students all have matching shirts, the same hue, with the school crest on the left front side. The students all look very sharp.

Dressed for day one
Dressed for day one

Waiting for his bank loan to come up, not sure what he has in mind buying with the money.

Waiting for his loan to come through
Waiting for his loan to come through

My Gel Evo’s died this past summer, and the 3010s are two years old. I dislike being down to a single pair of running shoes, but deciding which direction to go with running shoes is less clear post-Born to Run. As a statistician, however, I have a hard time arguing with 34 years of essentially injury free running in motion control and stability shoes. Past is prelude, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So the ASICS 3030 seemed like a prudent choice. Thus far the shoe has proven as worthy, but then for a runner who pushes shoes for up to two years in a torrid tropical climate, this is early days.

ASICS 3030 size 11 arrive
ASICS 3030 size 11 arrive

Chasing after an ant nest somewhere in the northeast corner of the living room led to a complete overhaul of the living room, rearrangement of furniture, and the moving of the black television shelving unit to a bedroom. Chaos rules part way through the process.

Autumnal clean-out and rearrangement of the living room
Autumnal clean-out and rearrangement of the living room

I took my daughter on a kayak into a small mangrove channel. The channel was a such a new environment to her that she was scared. Birds were chattering and the mangrove is full of the noises of natural life.

Mangrove channel in Kolonia
Mangrove channel in Kolonia

She does, however, enjoy kayaking in the lagoon.

Water girl kayaking
Water girl kayaking

Especially with friends.

Four women kayak event
Four women kayak event

Boys on bikes, riding up and down the extended driveway. There simply is no going back to a tricycle after one has tasted the freedom and speed of a bicycle.

Easy riders
Easy riders

In 1940 Eleanor Frances Lattimore wrote The Story of Lee Ling. The book has was retired out of a library in Ohio many long years ago, and found it way in retirement to the elementary school library the kids attend.

The Story of Lee Ling
The Story of Lee Ling
Written and illustrated by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Written and illustrated by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. Copyright 1940 by Harcourt, Brace and Company.
Lee Ling was a little Chinese girl, ten years old
Lee Ling was a little Chinese girl, ten years old

With eight sections, twenty-four contact hours per week, and five preps, staying organized is critical. My syllabi hang from the shelves in the bedroom and are the last thing I review before going to bed at night, the first thing I check when I rise in the morning. From left to right are statistics, ethnobotany, and physical science. Health science is on the right side around the corner.

Keeping organized
Keeping organized

The youngest member of the household was amazed by his visit to a boat a good deal larger than the Toppers he is accustomed to seeing. For days he has talked about getting to “g’rive” the big boat he saw.

Puzzled as to how to "g'rive" the boat
Puzzled as to how to “g’rive” the boat

Twins for a day.

Twins for a day
Twins for a day

This water baby can put in a solid four hours in the water under the tropical sun, no problem. And no sun burn. Just hungry and, after eating, sleepy.

Water baby
Water baby

Did I mention he likes boats?

At a dock
At a dock

A Tuesday lunch at Kaselehlie diner featured a favorite food: hot dog spaghetti.

Tuesday lunch at Kaselehlie Diner in Nett
Tuesday lunch at Kaselehlie Diner in Nett

Sunset over Sokehs ridge can be absolutely stunning here in the tropics. The catch is that there are stunning sunsets most non-rainy evenings. One eventually fails to stop and notice the glorious show going off in the evening sky. This night I stopped to reflect.

Sunset
Sunset

Road Ragers

This accident happened just north of Sokeh’s Shopping Center. This is one of the two cars that was in the accident. I was told that the incident involved passing. Outside of a car people here are patient, respectful, and deferential. Giving way to others is automatic. Once in a car, however, some of these same people are impatient and anything but deferential, attempting to pass even on a curve. Despite the lack of highways, Pohnpei remains a dangerous place to drive

Two car crash due to passing between Kolonia and Sekere
Two car crash due to passing between Kolonia and Sekere

So this morning, Monday 20 August 2012, I was headed up to work at 6:55 A.M. Coming into this same curve I came up at 40 kph behind a car moving at a relatively slow 20 kph. I slowed down, planning to pass once both cars cleared the curve and were on the straight stretch through Sekere. A car came up fast behind me and as the three cars entered the curve, the car behind me swung out to pass me. I was too shocked to grab my camera and grab a picture – it was a blind curve pass on this very same stretch of road. In the morning. Which, as any local keenly knows, means there is a high probability of Kolonia-inbound traffic from Kitti.

Sure enough, as soon as the passing car came abreast of me, a car appeared moving at speed from Sekere. A head on collision was in the works.

I had already hit my brakes – anticipating just this eventuality. The car that was attempting to pass swerved to the right. Because I was ahead of the game – having hit my brakes when I saw they had swung out to pass (pilot training eons ago: react ahead of a potential problem) – when they swerved to avoid impending death, there was space for their car in front of me. As soon as the Kolonia bound car was past, the driver of the car immediately swung out and passed the slow moving car.

An emergency? Not hardly. The driver with an apparent death wish pulled into the gas station not 250 meters further down the road. It was the woman who opens up the gas station at 7:00 each morning.

She almost died this morning trying to save mere seconds for something that was certainly not an emergency. On this same curve.

I wish people could step back from their preoccupation with getting to a place and think in terms of the time differentials. I know, I am a numbers guy. But the time differential is usually mere seconds, maybe minutes. How many times has a taxi recklessly passed me, only for me to catch back up with the taxi a couple minutes later in town traffic? Time gained by passing? None.

In the twists and turns between Sekere and Kolonia the maximum speed at which my car can remain on the road is somewhere just above 60 kph. The speed limit is 40 kph and that is a typical speed for me. The distance is 3 km. If I am stuck behind a car doing 30 kph, the time gain in passing is in the seconds, not minutes, over that stretch. There is no point to passing – not against the risk of injury or death.

 

Rivers in the lawn

Between graduation and summer school there is a brief break, time to celebrate the passing river of time as marked by birthdays, time to attend book and boat launches.

Heavy rain on Friday generated rivers where none existed before
Heavy rain on Friday generated rivers where none existed before

Friday brought an all day flooding downpour that created rivers in the lawns of the college.

Birthday celebrants
Birthday celebrants

Marking the passage of another year swimming in the river of life were two in the house at three and twelve. The twelve year old discovered that he is now an adult ticket for the new Avengers movies here on Pohnpei, but not yet sufficiently adult to have a FaceBook account.

A recent graduate and his son, both headed off-island
A recent graduate and his son, both headed off-island

The smaller one above is soon to turn one, while his father marks his graduation from his associate’s degree program.

Maps of Micronesia puzzle book
Maps of Micronesia puzzle book

Saturday morning brought clearing skies and the release of the Maps of Micronesia children’s puzzle book.

Birthdays boys with their new treasure
Birthdays boys with their new treasure
Maps of Micronesia
Maps of Micronesia
Outer Islands of Pohnpei puzzle page
Outer Islands of Pohnpei puzzle page

The above puzzle page caused my daughter to realize that Kapingamarangi is farther from Pohnpei than is Kosrae. Kapingamarangi now has some meaning for her as Kapinga is the ancestral home of her sailing friends.

A line is being used to secure the rudder to the hull
A line is being used to secure the rudder to the hull

Saturday afternoons are sailing afternoons.

Two small children hope for a chance at a ride
Two small children hope for a chance at a ride

A first class student prepares to go out with a third class instructor. Two freeloaders hope for a chance at a free sail, but to no avail.

My daughter enjoying a cruise on the lagoon
My daughter enjoying a cruise on the lagoon
My daughter changing tack
My daughter changing tack
My son under the tutelage of a Kapingan instructor
My son under the tutelage of a Kapingan instructor

After a brief joggle in town, time to get out and relax with friends. The usual press of marking papers is gone with the passing of the spring term.

Evenings are a time to catch up with friends
Evenings are a time to catch up with friends

Nahlap

The Kosrae Student Organization overnight term-end retreat coincided with my son’s birthday. As I am the faculty advisor, the coincidence seemed propitious and I took the family out to Nahlap for the night. A wonderful time was had by all.

Beach play
Beach play
Cumulus build over the lagoon
Cumulus build over the lagoon
Shrue in the cook house with Hattie
Shrue in the cook house with Hattie
Non-stop water play
Non-stop water play
The dock evokes a Myst island reverie
The dock evokes a Myst island reverie, a place to explore but with clear limits
Romantic moments out on the point
Romantic moments out on the point
Cart pushing
Cart pushing
Out in the inky dark waters lurks sea creatures...
Out in the inky dark waters lurks sea creatures…
Emerging from the dark water after a seven hour soak...
Emerging from the dark water after a seven hour soak…
Part fish, part human, completely waterlogged
Part fish, part human, completely waterlogged, unwilling to leave the water until long after the sun went down.
Out star gazing
Out star gazing

Sakau nights, sailboat days

The end of the term has not brought an end to the work to be done, but the pace is a less driven pace. Instead of spending a Friday night grading, I can spend an evening at a local mud hole wallowing in kavalactones.

D & A's market in Nett
D & A’s market in Nett

The next day was a Pohnpei Sailing Club day. While a two-day fishing tournament wrapped up involving a plurality of expats and some seriously expensive water craft, the local youth continued to reconnect with the sea and to learn to sail.

Rigging a Topper
Rigging a Topper

A close look at the lanyard dangling from the mastgate reveals that the toggle is not there. The toggle became untied. The Toppers are taking their share of knocks from the learning-to-sail junior members.

Working together
Working together

The club started with five Toppers, but a boom went missing from the dock last spring. The fleet is now four Toppers.

Learning to lean
Learning to lean

The future skippers tend to capsize with some regularity, but for the most part they are quite proficient at righting their Toppers. The local neighborhood youth are completely at home in the water, swimming around the lagoon without regard to distance from shore.

Heading out in command, a skipper in the making
Heading out in command, a skipper in the making

When a Topper capsizes, the Kapingan youth skippers simply swim around and right the boat using the daggerboard. Some can right their boats in under 15 seconds, and all are competent at this task. Going in the water is never a cause for concern for them.

Spectators
Spectators

On Saturday, however, a first class non-Kapingan student who was soloing ran downwind out of the practice area and capsized the boat. I had noted this student to be somewhat uncomfortable in the water, and never one to ever take off his life jacket.

Out on the water, SLL at the helm
Out on the water, SLL at the helm

No sooner than he had capsized, he began yelling “Help!” while bobbing around in his life jacket. By the time the other boats could reach him the boat had turned too far over and the rudder – not properly mounted – fell off and sank into the depths of the mud bottom lagoon. He never did swim around to right the boat, the boat only getting righted by the Kapingan youth.

Bring the boat back to dock
Bring the boat back to dock

Minus a rudder, the hapless and helpless student had to be towed back in to the dock. As he was towed in power boats came down the center of the lagoon, returning from the second day of the fishing tournament. Some of the boats were in clearly in the over one hundred thousand dollar category. The plurality of the boats owned by expats.

I was out in the lagoon swimming around as were some of the Kapingan youth. They called out to each other, impressed by the power boats and their massive twin outboard motors. An hour of fuel for one of those boats would replace more than a Topper rudder.

Umezu on the right
Umezu on the right

In bringing in the Toppers, Umezu has done the unprecedented. He has chosen to share the joy of sailing with the local youth and has clearly made a significant outlay to acquire the Toppers and to bring them to Pohnpei. He has not only been generous to the community here, but his choice to target the youth with the free lessons is inspired. He is giving them responsibility and authority, providing a unique learning experience.

Sustainability of this project, however, remains uncertain. At present Umezu is the sole source of funding for the project, and the Toppers are getting hard use.

After an afternoon of swimming and watching a next generation of sailors being born, a sunny evening called for bookends weekend sakau. A good friend tipped me off to an Olter family fund raiser.

Fund raiser at the Olter place
Fund raiser at the Olter place

The sakau was excellent and the company was all the better.

Sakau production staff
Sakau production staff