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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands THE MARSHALL ISLANDS


Mar 13. MAJURO The first order of the next morning was to move rooms.  There weren’t anymore A/C rooms available so we took the room farthest from the restaurant.  It didn’t have a place to hang clothes and the toilet had to be flushed with a bucket but the bathroom didn’t stink and the room was newer and a bit cleaner.

With our plans for the outer islands in place we had the morning to spend the National Telecommunications Authority catching up on email.  The Internet service there was a room with five new computers in Silicon Valley style cubicles.  The service wasn’t great and at about $5/hour wasn’t terribly cheap but it was great to have access from such a remote location.  The NTA was actually open 24 hours a day and also had phones for international calls, our hotel did not. 

The walks through Majuro the past couple of days had been tiring.  The Atoll was hot and humid.  The $.50/ride shared taxis were becoming our preferred option of transport.  The weather was windy but we wanted to see some other part of Majuro atoll so we grabbed some lunch foods at the RRE market in town and caught the bus to Laura.  The bus system was a new concept for Majuro. The bus stops were a donation by the Japanese government but most were just used by kids to hang out. The only guaranteed stops were by the RRE at one end of the atoll and in Laura at the other.  For $1.50 the bus took you on an hour ride to the other end of the Majuro road where the more substantial islands gave way to a speckling of small islands that made their way around the rest of the atoll.  At the end of Laura there was a well maintained beach that was more like how we’d imagined our island paradise.  Well, the other half of the beach was not maintained (probably private property) so it was half a beach of paradise. 

As we got off of the bus the rain started to pour down.  It was the dry season so showers were few and far between but heavy when they came.  We ran for the only shelter in the park to wait out the rain with the park caretakers and three other people that were visiting.  A couple from Colorado was coddling an adorable newborn Marshallese baby.  They’d come out to adopt the little girl and were waiting for the final approvals from their court date the following day so they could take her home.  We spent most of that afternoon talking with Carrie and Bill Daily.  Their new baby, Anna, was a long sought after addition to their family and they just radiated happiness.  The Marshallese mother was did not have a husband and the family was happy to see her go to an American couple.  The grandmother even gave a long speech for Anna (which Carrie and Bill taped) telling her why the family had made this decision to let her go to the United States.  It was wonderful to see such a happy situation where all involved wanted the best thing for the baby.

As we sat talking at the end of the beach, occasionally dodging showers, we noticed a woody station wagon pull into the park.  A few fair-skinned kids were playing in the ocean and running around.  It took us a while before we realized it had to be Barb Fischer’s family.  How many staywags could there be in Laura?  We had looked for her house on the bus trip out but couldn’t quite figure out where it was.  She recognized us first and came over with her husband and four kids.  They were soaking wet in T-shirts and shorts (a bathing suit was considered too revealing by Marshallese standards).  They had heard about Carrie and Bill and went on to tell us quite a bit about adoption in the Marshall Islands.  I felt a bit bad since some of the information was not very pleasant but I think everyone there could see that the situation with Carrie and Bill was a very good one and an example of how the adoptions should work.

The Marshallese apparently have a custom of adoption among families that the Fisher’s were concerned was making Marshellese adoptions from overseas more common.  It seems that if someone has an obligation to a family member and that family member asks for their child they are generally in a position where they have to concede.  So, some children grow up separated from their natural parents, who aren’t necessarily far away, and often become second class citizens in their adopted families.  As missionaries the Fisher's were naturally concerned that the people take responsibility for their own children and not adopt them out locally or overseas.  The situation seems to be further complicated by the fact that some adoptee parents come to the Marshalls and see their simpler lifestyle and feel compelled to help their adopted child’s family.  This has spawned an incentive for some people to have babies and adopt them out to American families for the wrong reasons.  

The relationship between the Marshall Islands and the United States is a complex one.  The more information we gathered from the people we met the clearer that became.  The nuclear testing that affected Bikini , Enewetak, Rongelap and Rongerik still casts a dark shadow on relations.  The people of Bikini and Enewetak were evacuated to other islands during the testing but many have suffered serious illness as a result of participating in cleanup efforts and the negligent decision to move people back while radiation was still too high. The world’s first hydrogen bomb was detonated on Enewatak Atoll, an explosive force equal to more than all of the wars of history combined.  The fate of the people of Rongelap was another horrific act of carelessness (some believe genocide).  When the 15 megaton hydrogen bomb “Bravo” was tested in Bikini Atoll (equal to 1,200 times the force of the Hiroshima bombs) US officials ignored weather reports that the fallout would affect Rongelap.  The children of Rongelap played in the white powered that descended on their island.  A nearby US Navy destroyer took off and no one came to evacuate the people of Rongelap for 48 hours.  In recent years, after decades of guilt, people who were present have come out with affirmations that weather conditions were known prior to the detonation of the bomb.  The explosion was greater than was expected but clearly necessary precautions were not taken to protect the people of Rongelap.  Some people believe it was a deliberate act to test the effects of the radiation on people.  I hope that is never found to be true but understand why victims of such a tragic situation act would be skeptical.

In an attempt to compensate victims of these acts the US pays substantial sums of money but still has not resolved how to finish the clean up of these islands. It is impossible to make up for the suffering caused by nuclear testing and the Marshallese are more than entitled to what they have received.  However, the funds provided to nuclear victims and the funds paid to Marshallese for lease of land used by the US military base in Kwajalein have had mixed results.  It has created a welfare generation of sorts, to the point where we were told that some people are disappointed when their doctor’s visit doesn’t reveal that they have Thyroid cancer (a common illness found in victims). So, it seems our attempt to compensate for one problem has created another, the effects of which won’t be fully understood until subsequent generations.

Our afternoon at Laura was a welcomed relaxation after several days trotting around Majuro.  While we waited for the bus back to “town” we watched about 10 kids race back and forth down their block.   They ranged in ages so the bigger kids tended to win but they were all having fun.  Rob became their starter for a couple of races but they eventually tired of racing and just milled around and watched us, smiling and giggling.  We had some hard candies that we shared and they shyly took them and just kept smiling.

We were the only people on the bus back and it was dark by the time we arrived in front of the RRE.  We looked for a spot to have dinner but decided on something closer to our hotel, Savannah ’s.  It was a diner style place with cable T.V. going non-stop.  The food was good enough but the local Jakaro juice that we tried was not a taste we were going to acquire.  It started off tasty enough but packed an unidentifiable aftertaste.  It was apparently made from some stage of the coconut or part of the tree.  Anyway, it never hurts to try something new but it doesn’t always work out.

MARSHALL ISLANDS Majuro March 11 March 12 March 13 March 14-15 March 16 Alinglaplap March 17 March 18 March 19 March 20 March 21 March 22 March 23 Majuro March 24

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA Kosrae March 25-26 March 27-28 Pohnpei March 29-31 April 1-2 April 3-4 April 5-7 Chuuk April 8-9 April 10-11

GUAM April 12-23