One year in Kosrae

On March 6, 2020, United flight #155 delivered me to Kosrae. Little did I know that I’d be spending an entire year here — and probably a few months more.

In my entire life, I’ve never stayed in one place this long. As a child, my family took yearly road trips to visit grandparents who lived in other states. As a teen, I often rode my bicycle more than 25 miles a day. I went away to college and returned home at every school break. For work, I regularly flew coast to coast for clients. Since 2008, I’ve visited more than 100 countries, averaging about 5 miles per hour for 13 years.

Living in Kosrae for the past 12 months, I haven’t traveled more than 10 miles. That’s how far it is from one end of this little island to the other. Although I’ve left Kosrae a few times by boat or by swimming. I haven’t been more than 500 yards from shore. The past year sets a personal record for staying in one place.

Surprisingly, I haven’t felt constrained, restricted or restless. I’ve stayed busy by teaching and volunteering. In my “free” time, I’ve combed most of Kosrae’s beaches. I’ve explored much of Kosrae’s forested interior. I’ve been to all the churches, shops and restaurants. I think I’ve met about half of Kosrae’s 6000 inhabitants.

The fact that I’ve been content with a simple life on a small island may have something to do with Kosrae’s environment. In previous posts, I’ve tried to show you how kind, generous, honest and happy the Kosraens are. Here are two short videos to show you (again) what an extraordinarily beautiful place this is.

Kosrae and its lagoon

Kosrae is a young island — only about a million years old. There’s been just enough time for a fringing reef to form around the island. The reef is 100-400 yards off shore. Between the reef and the beach is a quiet lagoon. At high tide, the water in the lagoon is about six feet deep and at low tide, just a few inches. The reef absorbs the heavy surf from the big Pacific swells, leaving the lagoon as calm as a swimming pool.

Kosrae’s interior is an untouched wilderness. There are few hiking trails. To explore Kosrae’s forested valleys, the easiest way to travel is by following a stream. Here are a few photos from hikes in the Okat Valley and the Mutunte Gorge.

During the fall semester, I taught Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry and Marine Science for Kosrae’s high school This semester, I’m doing science seminars at the College of Micronesia. The topics we’re studying concern Kosrae’s history and environmental issues. Here are some of my recent Powerpoint presentations:

Geology of Kosrae: About two million years ago, Kosrae was a fiery volcano spewing liquid hot rock from the ocean floor. This volcano blasted out the Wiya Bird cave, formed the basalt columns of the Lelu ruins, and shaped the island we see today. This seminar explores Kosrae’s past, present and future and how Kosrae differs from Yap, Chuuk and Pohnpei.
The discovery of Kosrae: About 3 million years ago, the first humans appeared in Africa. Soon, they began to migrate to find new homes. Some people went to Europe. Others went to Asia and later to the Americas. The last places on Earth to be discovered were the islands of Micronesia and Polynesia. This is the story of how the first people came to Kosrae.
Climate Change and its impact on Kosrae: For the past 50 years, our planet’s average temperature has risen sharply – causing global climate change. This seminar presents the latest research on the causes and effects of climate change, what can be done to stop or mitigate it, and how climate change will affect life on Kosrae.
I’ve been delivering this presentation weekly via Zoom to Rotary Clubs in the United States. This is a popular story about how I escaped the trials and tribulations of the Pandemic and made lemons into lemonade. When travel restrictions are lifted, hopefully Kosrae’s meager tourist industry will benefit when visitors discover this forgotten island.

Thanks to no viruses or hay fever, I haven’t sneezed or coughed in the past year. Eating local fruits, vegetables and fish while getting lots of outdoor exercise, I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I am often asked if I plan to stay here forever. The thought has crossed my mind. Although Kosrae is one of the most beautiful and friendliest places I’ve ever been, I can’t stay here forever if I’m going to achieve my dream of visiting every country in the world. Besides, I miss my friends and family back home.

Two weeks ago, I booked a reservation with United Airlines to leave Kosrae on June 7. I’ve made similar flight reservations previously which were cancelled by United without explanation. So, I have some doubt that this flight will go. Will the flight go? Will it be cancelled? Will I be able to reschedule? After a year in Kosrae, I’ve stopped worrying about pretty much everything. We’ll see what happens.