Monday, March 22, 2010

Rain/ Bad Internet

Hey everyone,

I've been trying to get some pictures up online but its been raining so much that the internet is super slow. But...once the rain breaks I'll post some cool pictures.


Some cool pictures to check out

Monday, February 8, 2010

Boat Journey to Mokil Atoll

Hey everyone,

I've had some pretty intense pressure from everyone at home to get my act together and post a blog. So here it is. I'm sorry for the delay...I'm just having too much fun here.
Well this post will be about my trip to Mokil atoll that I took just after Christmas. So after Christmas a few World Teach Volunteers and a few Peace Corps Volunteers decided to take the boat journey to Mokil atoll and Pingelap Atoll.
Let me first explain how difficult it was to get on the boat. Well first of all...there is no real schedule for the boat. You just have to find out about it by word of mouth. There is no other way to find out about the boat. Amber, one of my Peace Corps friends, called me up one morning and told me about the boat trip. We had to get all of our information (Passport and money) ready that day so that we could get a spot on the boat. Fortunately all of the volunteers that wanted to go were able to get on the boat. There were 7 of us, 3 World Teach, 3 Peace Corps, and 1 Jesuit Volunteer. Johathan, Emily, and Myself from World Teach; Amber, Erica, and Amanda from Peace Corps; and Joe from JVI.
The next day we boarded the boat and set up our spot on the deck. We had a pretty prime location on the front cargo hold. This would be our place to sleep for the 12 hour journey to Mokil.
We taped down some local mats and got ready for the journey. While we were setting up there were cranes that were loading pigs onto the boat. We ended up having to sleep relatively close to a bunch of loud, smelly, and huge pigs.

The ship that we were taking to Mokil and Pingelap is called the Caroline Voyager. It's a pretty big ship. The biggest one that I've ever been on.

Once the cargo holds were all filled with the cargo for the outer islands we were ready to set sail. We set sail at 6pm as scheduled. As you can see from the pictures below...this is a really big deal here. Tons of people were at the dock watching the boat leave and seeing us off. We were all very exited to being the trip. Everyone's spirits were high as we set sail.
Me, sunset, and Sokehs Rock

The ship was packed with people. The picture below gives you an idea of how packed it was on the ship. The picture below was taken as we were passing through the barrier reef. You can see the waves breaking on the reef. As we passed though the barrier reef it was clear that the voyage was not going to be as glamorous as we expected. The seas were very rough, it was windy, and there were rain clouds in sight.

About an hour into the trip the seas were very rough. There were waves coming over the front of the boat and soaking everyone that was not under the tarp. I took a bathroom break at one point and I was completely swamped by a huge wave. I was wet until morning. Since the seas were so rough most people tried to go to sleep to fight away the seasickness. I seemed to hold my own and get my sea legs pretty quickly so I never got sick. However, a lot of people were throwing up all night.
I tried getting some sleep but there was almost no way to sleep. The boat was rocking and rolling all night, there were pigs and chickens all around making tons of noise, it was pouring, people were throwing up all around me, and I was sleeping on a wood deck. I was very happy to watch the sun rise the next morning as we were approaching Mokil Atoll.

Once we arrived and anchored the ship, everyone began to unload the boat. The unloading process was insane. Little boats from Mokil would travel out and get the cargo from the ship. There was a variety of items that were unloaded to be sent to Mokil. Some items include rice, flour, sugar, pigs, chickens, and coffee. It was a crazy process but we managed to make it onto the island.

The island of Mokil was beautiful. We arrived there and we were greeted by the Peace Corps on Mokil. Kate is the Peace Corps Volunteer on Mokil. She was stunned to see white skin for the first time in 4 months. We all explored the island for a few hours and then we were told that the ship would be leaving for Pingelap that evening. Jonathan, Amber, Erica, and I decided to stay on Mokil instead of making the journey to Pingelap. This would give us 3 days on Mokil instead of 6 hours on Mokil and 1 day on Pingelap. It would also cut out the boat journey to Pingelap.

We were fortunate enough to be able to stay with Kate's host family on Mokil. They put us up for 3 days and really took care of us and showed us around.
Mokil only has about 100 people that reside there year round. It was TINY!
Here is a view from the front porch of Kate's host family.

Inside the house we stayed.

The entire town of Mokil!!

Awesome sunset the first night.

We spent most of the time hanging out and exploring the island. I did a lot of snorkeling. In 3 day, I saw about 40 sea turtles. Most people who dive their whole lives don't see that many. I wish I had an underwater camera to show you how beautiful and pristine the reef is on Mokil.
The snorkeling was better than anything that I've ever seen and it makes Pohnpei snorkeling look like garbage. The visibility in the water was 200 ft plus. It was like nothing that I've ever seen.
The colors of the water were the most amazing part of swimming. It's hard to even describe the colors that you see. Not to mention all of the cool aquatic life that you see.

One day we took a walk to the airstrip on Mokil. A plane comes every couple of weeks to bring mail and pick up some small packages. The picture below is the picture of the "road" on Mokil. This particular day there was a feast going on. The burlap sacks are all filled with giant swamp tarot. The islanders on Mokil share everything. They are in the process of dividing everything to split between the families.

Us walking to the airstrip.
From left to right: Pohnepian, Kate, Jonathan, Erica, Me.
Kate (Molkil PC Volunteer), Erica (Pohnpei PC Volunteer), Me, Jonathan.

The last day Jonathan and I got a private tour of one of the uninhabitated islands of Mokil. Mokil is made up of 3 islands. Only one of the islands has people on it.
Kate's host dad, Diador (below), took us to one of the other islands. Jonathan and I got to explore, snorkle and walk on a beach that probably only a handful of Americans have ever walked on.
We found a cool coconut rope swing in the lagoon that we played on for a few minutes.

Saying goodbye to everyone.

Amber with Kates host brothers and sister.

Lifting a boat into the cargo hold.

The trip to Mokil was one of my favorite vacations that I've ever taken. It was by far the most remote place that I have ever been. There was nothing around for thousands of miles. Just a tiny strip of land... Pretty awesome.

The trip back on the ship was much better. The wind and swell were going in the right direction and it made the ride home much easier. People were not getting sea sick as much and I actually slept a little bit.
There are so many things that I haven't told you about the trip but that is about all I can do for now. I'm really tired and I need to get to sleep.
I hope everyone enjoys this and I'll try to update more frequently.

Tomorrow (Wed Feb 10) a swell will reach Pohnpei that will be the biggest swell in 10 years. The waves may reach upwards of 30 feet or more. It's going to be insane.
I may be going out to try my luck at surfing some of these huge waves....haha...just kidding. But I might be going out to watch the pros surf them.
Here is a picture of a huge wave a few weeks ago. The waves tomorrow should be twice the size or more than this wave. Ill hopefully have some pictures to show everyone.

Talk to you soon,


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Hey everyone,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! It's been about a month long celebration here in Pohnpei for Christmas. It has been insane the past week. There has been tons of traffic in town and there are all kinds of crazy parties going on all over the place. The past few weeks have been filled with Christmas parties for school and parties with some of my students families. It has been really awesome. Christmas is over now and everyone is getting geared up for New Years.

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently and I've decided that I am probably one of the luckiest people I know. It seems that everything that could go right always goes right for me. I've met some of the most amazing people here in Pohnpei, I've done some of the coolest things most people will never be able to do, and I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

I have a lot of people to thank for helping me get to where I am today. First of all...Mom, Dad, Ben, and Emily... thank you so much for being so supportive of me while I have been here. It has made it much easier during the more difficult times. Your packages are awesome and talking to you here and there is awesome!
Grandma and Grandpa Flyntz and Grandma and Grandpa Rabe... You have given me so much inspiration to keep doing the things that I am doing. I think about you all the time and I thank you for all of your support and advice over the past 23 years.
The Vandenbergs and the Sanfilippos...You guys are amazing. You have been my second and third families since......well I can't really remember when. Thank you all so much and I can't wait to spend some time with you in July when I return!
All my buddies from UD... I miss all of you guys and I can't wait to see all of you.

Tomorrow morning I will be getting ready to leave on a ship (Caroline Voyager) to go and visit two of the outer atolls Mokil and Pingelap. I will be sleeping on the deck of this ship for 5-7 days? No one is really sure when we are getting back. So...sometime after New Years?! I am going with a few Peace Corps volunteers and a few World Teach volunteers. It should be an amazing time.
Mokil has a population of less that 100 people. It should be pretty rugged.
Pingelap is a little bigger but I think around 500 maybe?
Basically Ill be staying on two of the most remote islands on our planet. I should be incredible. I will make sure to take lots of pictures and post them on here when or if I return...hahaha.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Birthday Weekend on Black Coral

Hey everyone,

I've been getting some requests for some more pictures and some stories from everyone back at home. The requests came at the perfect time because I have some awesome pictures to put up here.
This past weekend a group of us traveled out to Black Coral which is a very small island on the barrier reef surrounding Pohnpei. It is one of a few protected reefs around the island. It is protected because it is a grouper spawning area. I spent almost all of my time in the water enjoying the pristine snorkeling which you will see from all of the underwater pictures. I saw the most fish that I have ever seen while snorkeling. Just to name a few... I saw schools of barracuda, trevalley, sharks, parrot fish.... It was the most amazing snorkeling I've ever seen. The channel was about 20 feet deep and had a sandy bottom that made it great for snorkeling. The visibility was almost perfect. Here are a few pictures from the channel.

The channel at Black Coral was really awesome but the ocean was even better. If you swam out of the channel into the ocean you got to see bigger fish and a lot more than in the channel. Once you swim out into the ocean you can see the drop off into the abyss. The depth of the water goes from about 85 feet to over 1000 feet. These drop offs are the best place to see big fish.
On the way to the drop off I saw white tipped and black tipped reef sharks. Here are a few pictures of the sharks. These were all between 4-6 feet long.
There is also a picture of me underwater.

Once I reached the drop off I saw some of the gray reef sharks. There were about 5 of them swarming around in circles at about 100 feet. If you look in the background of the last picture you can see the bigger gray reef sharks. Some of the sharks were around 6-7 feet long!!
This last picture was taken at around 50 feet. I've been practicing free diving for the past few months and I have been able to reach between 80-85 feet. This last picture is the only reference that I can give you to showing the depth that I can dive now. I was able to touch the coral that is in the following picture. I guessed that the depth was around 80 feet?! It is pretty awesome being down that deep. However, it is also pretty scary. It seems like an eternity emerging from the depths. It seems as if the surface is never getting any closer. Pretty crazy. The current world record for a free dive is 122m which is 400 feet!! I have no ambition of reaching that crazy depth but the free diving is making spear fishing much easier. If you can get down to the deeper can get the bigger fish.

I hope everyone enjoys the pictures! I also wanted to thank everyone for the birthday wishes and packages. Talk to you soon and have a great Thanksgiving.