A Gift From Afar

The skull of Fr. Manuel Solorzano,,a Jesuit priest who was killed on Guam 330 years ago.

Just three days after Christmas, three travelers from the east (at least if you think of Spain as lying to the east) brought to Guam a gift–the skull of a Jesuit priest who had been killed on the island 330 years earlier. The priest, Fr. Manuel Solorzano, was one of the twelve Jesuits who lost their lives in what have come to be known as the “Spanish-Chamorro Wars.”

The skull was a reminder of the worst of times, some would say. People died in unprecedented numbers from disease and violence, the culture was radically transformed, and for the first time islanders lived under a foreign flag. Continue reading →

Christmas, 2014

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, 2014.

Christmas greetings from the Bronx campus of Fordham University, where I have made my home for the past year. But my time here has always been with computer on and bags packed for forays to other places. Most of the trips have been to where the coconut tree grows and waves lap on warm shores. With five trips to Hawaii and beyond, as well as a recent spurt of trips to the islands for a total of ten weeks since September, my air travel was enough to win me platinum on United Airlines’ mileage program–a status I never achieved in all my years living in Micronesia! Continue reading →

Catching Up with Old Friends  

Yota Oue with Bob Scavullo and myself.

Yota Oue, Xavier HS graduate and now sophomore at Fordham University, decided to accept an invitation to attend a black tie dinner in downtown Manhattan sponsored by the “other” Xavier High School–the older and richer brother of our school in Chuuk. He and I met on the Fordham campus (after a little basketball, naturally) and headed downtown. Continue reading →

You Can Never Go Home…Or Can You?

Checking out the new gymnasium with Russell Figueras and Sister Isabel Seman

You can never really go home, they say. If what they mean is that the landscape is forever changing, that is certainly true on Pohnpei. When I stopped off there for a few days after completing my work for the tourism study in Palau to follow up on some business matters, the place had indeed changed. The track at PICS was newly repaired, the tennis courts were in better shape than they had been in years, and the swimming pool was renovated–-all in preparation for the Micronesian Games held this past summer. Continue reading →

A Few Weeks in Palau

Dinner in Palau with Friends: Jack Penland, Rich McAuliff, SJ, Destin Penland and Toluk Sakuma.

Here we are in Palau, an island group with a per capita income four times higher than that of the rest of Micronesia. “The Land of Gold Chains and Fancy Watches” is what one of our Jesuit volunteer teachers used to call it some years ago. It’s a place that is on the map–-Darryl Hannah and JFK Jr. vacationed here 20 years ago, and the Survivor TV series was filmed here ten years ago. The country has been self-governing for only 35 years, but it has had two presidents who died violent deaths–-one who was assassinated and another who shot himself. It’s never exactly been Dullsville here in Palau. Where else, a friend once asked, could you strike up a serious conversation on current political affairs with a total stranger? Continue reading →

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

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 →