Who would have thought that this young, unpretentious English girl would one day be picnicking on a tiny Pacific Island and swimming in tropical seas. This island is in Micronesia and one of many in the large lagoon of Chuuk, once known as Truk. It is called, appropriately, Picnic Island.
Don't confuse Micronesia with Indonesia. Micronesia consists of hundreds of islands scattered across the equator somewhere between Hawaii and the Philippines. Many of the islands are uninhabited, some have only one or two families on them and two or three are large enough to have a road along one side and a small airport. The islands we have been to are Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. They are beautiful, tropical, hot and humid.
Yet in some places, still quite primitive, especially as you move into the interior. There is much poverty with little or no industry except a little tourism for diving. They were, until recently, a US Protectorate. Most of the islanders own a small boat with an outboard motor, because that is the best means of transportation, and the boats were provided by the US. Pohnpei used to produce pepper, but not any more. It is taking some time for these small islands to become self supporting with a reliable form of government.
Our association with these islands is that my husband and I travel there several times a year (with others) to teach classes for the pastors of the island churches. At least, I used to, but can't handle the long hours of flying any more. There are one or two schools on the larger islands with education going up to about 8th grade.
The Christian church first arrived on these islands in the 1850's and discovered prolonged tribal warfare between families or clans. After some time of settling in, the missionaries were welcomed, in contrast to the islanders' original contact with westerners, who were traders and who took great advantage of them especially through their use of the women and alcohol.
Today, the people are for the most part gentle, peaceful and happy. They struggle with the politics and infrastructure, but love festivals with typical island dancing, singing and feasting, quite similar to Hawaii.
This is sunset on the island of Chuuk*, which we have been visiting for more than 25 years. There we support Mizpeh Christian School with teachers, textbooks, and seminars for teachers. The school and the churches there are now led by the Chuukese themselves. They are in the middle of rebuilding their new church, the Logan Memorial Church, and extending the high school.
*MY mistake. This photo was taken on Phonpei but the rest of the above paragraph refers to Chuuk
ADDED MARCH 20thFor those wondering what a US Protectorate is I have tried to come up with a simple answer without giving you a long history lesson.
Before the Westerners came along, the islands belonged to the islanders. Each family owning some land on their particular island - "a decentralized chieftain based sytem." The Portuguese and Spanish first claimed the islands in their explorations. Spain claimed sovereignty. They sold the islands to the Germans, then in World War I the Japanese took them from the Germans. Obviously all of this went on without much consultation with the islanders. Their means of living had always been subsistence living -- growing what they could and fishing. During WW II the Japanese used the islands as a base of operations -- especially Truk or Chuuk, as it is now known. There was a major battle with the Japanese on Truk and today you can still find old tanks etc. covered under jungle growth and there are still Japanese planes and boats sunk in Truk Lagoon. After WWII the islands became part of the United Nations Trust Territory under US administration. I think this meant that the US subsidized them when necessary and aided them in formulating and organizing their own administration. "In 1979 they adopted a constitution and in 1986 independence was attained under a Compact of Free Association with the United States". Today they are known as the Federated States of Micronesia or FSM.
Quotations are from Wikipedia.