Monday, June 24, 2013

Micronesia: Day 2

Monday, June 24, 2013

Started 7:40 A.M.

Yo dawgs. So, last night before I wrote the last part of my blog, I went on a little adventure with one of my roommates and two other girls on the trip. We just decided to walk through town and explore the area. We didn't walk an extraordinarily long distance, but the walk is one I won't soon forget.

We started out heading towards Kolonia, which I believe is the most developed city in all of Micronesia. Of course, if you were a visitor like us, you would think that the standard of living is horrible. It doesn't seem too bad, but Kolonia is poorer than any other city I have seen in the U.S.

We had to be cognizant of where we were walking because there were no sidewalks and the cars that were driving on the road were driving pretty darn fast. We walked past the Bank of Guam, the U.S. embassy, the Ace Hardare and Office Supplies stores (which are affiliated with the Ace we all know and love) and the Ace grocery store (which is not). We walked past an old gas station, where the price for gas is $5.19 a gallon. We walked into some other grocery store and looked at some of the things they had. There was a lot of SPAM, which is typical of islands in the Pacific. They had some Top Ramen as well, and some canned stuff. My roommate and one of the girls bought frozen tootsie roles. They were one dollar each, which is pretty expensive, but I would imagine that's still cheaper than anything affiliated with Housing and Food Services at the University of Washington. We saw these crabs that lived on land and were extremely fast, and we saw lots of big snails on one place where there was a little stretch of sidewalk.

We had been warned about the feral dogs on the island, but they looked pretty cute when we had seen them during the day. At night, this was not true. We saw two males and a female dog off in the distance, and one of the males was having sex with the female. After that, the males got in a really vicious fight, and we decided to turn back. It was like a dog park in Seattle, but 100 times as violent. Pretty scary stuff.

We saw people drinking Kava, which is a drink on the island that has narcotic effects and tastes like dirt. We walked up to another store and saw massive amounts of cheap alcohol and some generic brand frosted flakes. I'll have to get the frosted flakes. The drinking age here is 21, but even if it was younger, I'd probably abstain from alcohol. It was really cheap and probably tasted horrible, and I don't see any redeeming factor in getting drunk in Micronesia. Besides, I don't like to drink anyway.

Time for breakfast.

Ended 7:56 A.M.


Started 2:19 P.M.

Well, I just got back from a small excursion identifying mangroves by the shoreline. We walked through the water and also found some cool/deadly organisms, which I will list in order of danger. A seahorse (probably nothing to worry about), a small moray eel (wait a couple years, and this guy will pose a serious threat), and a stonefish. A stonefish has these spikes on its back that, if you step on it, can cause excruciating pain and death due to the venom they harbor. To make matters worse, a stonefish looks exactly like a jagged rock. I'm surprised we were able to find one.

EDIT 7:21 A.M.: Here are some pictures from the adventure (yesterday). I was too tired to post them last night

Ended 7:54 A.M. (I told you the internet was slow!

Also, I unfortunately don't have the pictures of the moray eel, seahorse, and stonefish as they were taken underwater, but I will post them here when I can get them from the people who had underwater cameras.

Looking out from the Kamar estuary (this isn't a straight look out from out hotel, the PCR hotel, but our hotel is on the same estuary.

This large, prominent cliff feature is called Sokehs Rock, and is situated on Sokehs Island. It is a volcanic plug... Pohnpei was formed by volcanic activity, but there is no volcanic activity elsewhere.

"Pencil Roots" associated with the Sonneratia genus

Prop roots associated with the Rhizophora genus

Julian Sachs (the professor on the trip) looking at things (Rhizophera)

 My poor attempt at a panorama shot looking offshore from the estuary

Happy people


We also went swimming, which was awesome. The water is ridiculously hot in places and warm in others. We have a meeting with the USDA in 20 minutes, so I got to take a shower and get this saltwater off me. Deuces

Ended 2:24 P.M.


Started 10:11 P.M.

Hey everybody. It's pretty late, so I'm not going to write a whole bunch. Unfortunately, I was extremely tired during the USDA meeting... probably because of all the swimming the afternoon before. We mainly talked about the NRCS, which stands for the National Resources Conservation Service, which is a division of the USDA, just like the National Weather Service (NWS) is a division of NOAA. The goal behind NCRS is to help people help the land, and they focus on a variety of program areas to help accomplish this goal. Some of the main things they do are provide technological support, help the government to help the people, and do what they can to help manage the resources they have. When it comes to directly spending resources on ecosystem and farmland problems, the presentation given by the woman affiliated with the NRCS in Micronesia laid out five important points with respect to the environment that the NRCS thinks are pivotal goals to accomplish their goal of building a sustainable blueprint on the island that can be maintained in the future. These are:

Soil (primarily erosion)
Water (quantity and quality)
Air (mainly quality... we have plenty of air to go around)
Plants (healthy soil, overall plant growth)
Animals (primarily wildlife habit, which is definitely a function of soil, water, and plants. Most animals can tolerate bad air quality, but I'm sure there are a few that are more sensitive than others.

I just call these primary goals the SWAPA goals. Unfortunately,the extent to which these goals can be carried out is often inadequate, as it is expensive to keep these offices in foreign countries open.

A significant part of the lecture was about piggeries on Pohnpei. The woman said that a common saying was "If you don't own a pig, you're not Pohnpeian." This makes sense... there were 6281 households in Pohnpei (in 2010, I believe) but there were more than 2,000 piggeries at the same time. That's a lot of pigs. These pigs are not small animals... they commonly grow to 200 pounds, and the really fat ones can to 500 pounds. While these pigs provide a lot of bacon for consumption on the island, there are a lot of problems associated with them, with the main problem being pig feces.

Piggeries release diseases, bacteria, and nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate in the water. Nitrate and phosphate can cause eutrophication that is detrimental to the water, and the diseases/bacteria can make people very sick. The vast majority of rivers on Pohnpei are not safe to swim in because of high counts of E Coli, originating cheifly from pigs but humans as well, as hamny humans dispose of their waste by putting it in a river. Even the tap water here is unsafe to drink; it is full of amoebas, E Coli, and a bunch of other nasty, nasty bacteria, viruses, and random other stuff that you do not want to drink. I get pretty paranoid when I take a shower... I make sure my mouth is closed at all times, and it's important to be super careful or even abstain from going in freshwater due to an open cut on your foot, as the nasty stuff in the river can infiltrate your body via an open sore and give you a miserable couple days, weeks, and even months.

At last, they touched on detrimental farming techniques, such as the heavy tilling of soil and the increased potential for runoff into a river doing so. They've offered the farmers compost as an alternative to tilling so that they can still get adequate food production from the trees while being more environmentally friendly.

Unfortunately, because I was so tired, I feel like I missed out on some parts of the presentation and missed some details. Tomorrow, I will spend a day hiking through mangrove swamps, and I'm pretty excited about that. I'll post a couple pictures from my day, and then I'll hit the sack.

Thanks for reading. There's so much stuff to talk about here and I cannot get every single thing. Only two full days have passed, but I get the feeling that this experience while affect the way I see the world for the better. Our lives our like tapestries... the development of the soul depends on the experiences ou have, the people you meet, and the general discoveries you make every day. I've had everything from increased scientific knowledge of mangroves to a better understanding of how the Micronesian government works to moments where witnessing the Micronesians has made me think about all the resources I take for granted.

I'm exhausted. Peace.

Ended 10:55 P.M.

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