Hanging on to Cultural Knowledge…Korea-Style

Pacific Island Conference Participants in Korea

Korea may seem an unlikely spot for mounting a crusade aimed at cultural preservation in the Pacific, but the UNESCO Center for the Asia Pacific Region happens to be located there. So it was that a handful of us from the Pacific met there in the traditional southern town of Jeonju. Did I say town? Jeonju is really a city with beautifully designed glass and steel buildings and a population bigger than my hometown (Buffalo). But it also is the home of a traditional Korean village, the palace of the emperors of the Chosun dynasty (who first came to power in the 14th century), and the burial place of the first Christian martyr in Korea. Continue reading →

A Band of Explorers

Fr. Jack Fahey being rowed out to "Star of the Sea" on his return to the Western Islands in Chuuk (early 1970s).

We just missed it, but I was in the mountains in upstate New York with my “extended family” of 60+ relatives at the time. July 31 was the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. So, even if this comes a bit late, let me exercise my bragging rights and share with you a reflection or two on the religious order that I have belonged to for the past 58 years. Continue reading →

Folks Out West…In Brilliant Color

One of many Micronesian families I visit while traveling West: Serpian Yaliweisei, his wife, Alicia, and their family.

The first week in July was travel time for Nathan Fitch, former PCV on Kosrae, and me as we visited three cities to finish the interviews needed for a new video on Micronesian migrants. Nathan, always quick with the camera, recorded the shots in this short photo essay on our travels. That’s him in this reflection photo, with his traveling companion off to the upper left. Continue reading →

If We Don’t Take Care of Our Own…

Innocenta Sound, a Chuukese migrant living in Hawaii.

At first she wanted to be a police officer, although she had the natural talent to become a lawyer if she chose. But she really wanted to bust lawbreakers, not defend them in court–as she would have had to do as a lawyer.

As it turned out, she became a police officer on Saipan and served there for ten years. But when her father became seriously ill with kidney disease brought on by diabetes, she felt obliged to follow him to Hawaii. Continue reading →

Why Won’t They Go to School?

Happy Chuukese Children!

When I was in Milan, Minnesota, visiting the Chuukese community there a couple of months ago, I heard one single complaint repeated again and again by the Americans looking out for their guests. Many of the young Chuukese would often skip school. Not just the older ones who might have had more interesting things to do, but the small kids as well.

Why won’t the children go to school?  When I asked the question of the parents, I would simply get a shrug or shake of the head. If I pursued the point, they might admit that the kids felt uncomfortable in class. Why is that?  Maybe because their kids couldn’t answer the questions the way other students could and they just felt stupid. Sometimes their kids couldn’t even understand the question. Continue reading →

Two Fresh Faces

Two Micronesia-Bound Jesuits: Bob Pecoraro and Dickson Tiwelfil

If you don’t know these two men, you soon will. They’ll be making island headlines in the near future. The photo, by the way, was taken in the dining room of the Jesuit residence at Canisius College in Buffalo. Continue reading →

A Warm Welcome to Milan

Welcoming reception with the friendly people of Milan.

Milan… a three hour drive west from Minneapolis across the prairie… mile after mile of flat farmland with a train station and population center every now and then. Milan is a town of 300 people that runs perhaps four blocks in each direction. The current Chuukese population is 140, nearly all of them from the single island of Romanum. Continue reading →

The Lecture Circuit in Hawaii

Visiting with recent Xavier alums on the Big Island.

As a fellow of East-West Center, I was given the opportunity to give talks–and do so much more–for two weeks in Honolulu and on the Big Island in mid-March. It all began with five presentations to classes in Ethnic Studies and Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawaii. Why the ethic bias against Micronesians in Hawaii these days? How were Japanese migrants to Micronesia treated before the war? Continue reading →

Working with the “Other”

Connecticut parishioner with the “other” on skis: Fr. Bruce Roby from Chuuk.

Milan is a small town of just 300 people in rural Minnesota, but nearly half of them are from Romanum in Chuuk.  At the end of March I expect to be visiting Milan, after a couple of weeks in Hawaii, to help create bridges between the Chuukese and their new neighbors from the Midwest. Not that the Chuukese don’t have friends there already. At the head of the list are Eric Thompson, a former PCV who spent two years in Chuuk, and Bob Ryan, a businessman who has become a father to the islanders. Continue reading →

Back to School at Fordham

At Fordham with Henry Schwalbenberg, the International Political Economy and Development Program Director, and  Gabe Rossi, a former Jesuit Volunteer at Xavier High School in Chuuk.

I enjoyed a rare treat today, an opportunity to talk to a group of 30 Fordham students about the islands. The students were graduate students in Henry Schwalbenberg’s IPED program. The acronym stands for International Political Economy and Development. The students are largely people who have stars in their eyes (in the best sense) and have hopes of changing the world. One of them is shown in the photo above–Gabe Rossi, a former Jesuit Volunteer who just finished two years at Xavier High School (he’s the one on the left). The program director, Henry Schwalbenberg, might be unrecognizable to those of you who knew him when he worked with MicSem in Chuuk 30 years ago doing political education at the time that the island nations were still pondering their political future. He’s put on a few pounds since then, as you can see from the photo (he’s the bearded man in the center). Continue reading →