I had a very productive week in Pohnpei last week. I came home with some great ideas and some new projects. I also received some great advice from some experienced conservationists on how to deal with some of the issues I face in Saipan. That alone was worth the trip.
But the trip wasn't about me. I went there to help the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT) with their website. They already have a website and they justed wanted someone to show them how to edit it and how to add documents.
They could have hired some tech support to do it, but we have these things called Learning Exchanges available to us from the Micronesians in Island Conservation Network (MIC). Once a year, all of the members are allowed to invite one of the other members to come to their island to teach them something.
In my case, I was invited by MCT to share my knowledge of computers and the Internet (which is not enough for me to make a living off of, but enough to get by on). Working together we figured out which html editing program they had on their computers, found the html files containing their website, and went over how to edit, create new pages, add pictures, and add files.
While I was there I didn't get to see as much of the island as I wanted. I was there to work, so I worked. I did get to see Nan Madol and I drove around the circumference of the island once, but I didn't get to see any waterfalls or drink any Sakau.
I'll definitely have to go back.
I was supposed to participate in an MIC steering committee meeting towards the end of the week, but it was canceled due to a number of people not being able to attend. As a result, my stay was cut short by two days. I could have stayed those two days and, who knows, gone diving or waterfall sightseeing, but there was a Conservation Action Planning workshop back in Saipan that I was invited to attend.
Like I said, I'll definitely have to go back to Pohnpei one of these days. Here are a few pictures from my short trip:
You've got Mail: The Post Office in Pohnpei is exactly the same as the old Post Office on Saipan.
Driving around town I noticed that the post office was built using the exact same plans and materials as the old post office in Saipan. Even the inside was the same. It was creepy (see the comments for some interesting Micronesian Post Office trivia).
I also found out that gas prices were different prices depending on where you are on the island, unlike Saipan where they are the same price at every gas station. In the main town of Kolonia, gas at the Mobil station was $4.90. Other businesses buy fuel from Mobil and then bring it to their village for sale at a markup.
Jacking up the price: The gas for sale behind Ace Hardware was $4.99. Further away from Kolonia it reached into the $5.00 range.
Pohnpei seems much larger island than Saipan, so I understand why people don't mind paying a little extra to not have to drive all the way to Kolonia.
The highlight of my trip was my excursion to Nan Madol.
There are two ways to get to Nan Madol. You can either take a boat from one of the hotels or you can drive. We drove.
I'm glad I had Jun and Carlos to serve as my guides, because finding the right route would have been impossible without them. The only sign that pointed in the direction of Nan Madol is shown above. It was at the last turn, about 100 meters from the entrance.
Amazingly enough, someone's farm serves as the entrance to Nan Madol.
There is a stream that runs right by the house where the owners shower and do their laundry and then behind the house are coconuts, betel nut, sacau, taro, breadfruit, banana, plantains, and many types of fruit trees.
Thirsty?: As we walked by these plants, Jun remarked, "that's a lot of sacau." You can see the first wall of Nan Madol in the background.
The path to Nan Madol starts right behind the house. The ruins begin almost immediately. The first ruin you pass is a large stone wall on your right.
First wall: This is the first ruin you see as you enter Nan Madol from the land-based entrance.
The path slopes downwards a bit past the first wall and then you enter into a Mangrove swamp lined with ancient slabs of temple stone. Nan Madol has been described as a Pohnpeian Venice because the ancient stone structures are surrounded by water.
Gone fishin': This boat can give scale to the size of the rocks.
The walk through Nan Madol to the largest of the ruins is quite enjoyable. We don't have too many mangroves left in Saipan and the inner-biologist in me was loving the chance just to meander along. I even saw two fruit bats.
Mind the Gap: The paths in and around Nan Madol are well-maintained. There are several small bridges, but not all of the ruins are accessible by foot. Some of them require getting wet.
The path is very well maintained. The owners of the farm charge $4 to cut through their property, but I'm not sure if that money goes towards maintenance. Even so, the path was very well taken care of and there was hardly any garbage.
Low tide: There wasn't much water around the ruins when we visited.
The biggest ruins are right on the edge of the ocean. We had to wade through some shallow water to cross over to them.
Well, that about does it for my Nan Madol commentary. Here are a bunch of pictures:
That's about all I have to say about my short trip. I can't wait to go back!