John Brennan's diary excerpts from and about Mokil (Mokil
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I'm in Mokil after an eventless flight. Sat in co-pilot's seat.
I phoned the Island Affairs office in Pohnpei to get a place to stay at the Mokil Municipal Office a week ago.
Waiting on Pohnpei for the plane to take off, Senator Jim introduced himself
to me. PMA had called me on Wednesday to confirm my arrival and said the
senator for Mokil wanted to join me. I felt honored, but didn't feel it
was necessary to have a senator accompany me on my adventure.
During the flight Peter, the pilot, said, "So, you're an economist." I explained what I actually did [urban planning]. At the Mokil airstrip, someone started to talk to me and made some comment about me being an economist.
Something was up.
After we took the boat from the airport to the town around the L-shaped main
island (which took all of 5 minutes) and had arrived at the Mokil Municipal
Office, I began talking with people. Apparently, they, including Senator
Jim, though I was here to do the Mokil 5-year development plan. OPBS [?]
had told them an American was on the way. I can't quite tell what's going
on. They're trying to get Nick Solomon on the radio. Maybe this
won't be all vacation.
Well, it will be vacation. Talked to Nick on the radio and the State Planning Office is planning to send someone else later. Got a small chuckle out of it. Felt more relaxed once that was settled.
I've lost my glasses. I took a walk down the uh... what is it called if it's only for pedestrians? I walked the short way to the end and the school. I went on the beach collecting shells. Fairly early on, I realized I didn't have my glasses. I retraced some of my steps with no luck. Hoping I'd find them in my room, I continued shell-searching, took a swim and retraced my steps all the way home. I found no glasses, but don't feel worried.
The rest of my summer will just be soft in the distance.
The Micronesia Handbook says Mokil has one store, often sold out, but I was counting on something. The store is now bankrupt. I arrived with a Pohnpeian mandarin, 1.5 gallons of water, l large can of refried beans, and 1 small can of mackerel. I hope they bring me food. They say they will.
Dinner arrived as I finished writing. Great fried banana and fried tuna, lots of it. They cut the banana to resemble french fries. I really like it here. Now they just arrived with three drinking coconuts and a huge plate of rice. What I have would be too much food for three people.
I am reminded of two of the three novels I have read this summer, 100 Years
of Solitude, and The Sheltering Sky. The Sheltering Sky
because of the primitive yet comfortable accommodations. Amidst a tiny
island with no store, no phones, one generator, and a boat that stops once a
month, a raised bed with mattress and sheets, a flushing toilet, and a cold
shower seem quite luxurious. Mokil reminds me of Mocando from 100 Years
in its early days, before the train and cars. Unlike Mocando, there's
no place to go.
The airstrip doesn't seem to affect the daily lives of people here. Sure they have sugar from Australia, soy sauce from Japan, cigarettes from the US, and towels from China, but the world economy touches almost every place.
As I write, the owner of the house near the municipal office's porch is adding
a small bathroom. Complete with cement foundation and corrugated tin,
the bathroom looks like a welcome addition. I can't tell if it will have
I am just realizing what a place this is. My arrival has add half a percent to the population of 200. They have no phones, no electricity. They are out here in the Pacific Ocean on a teeny bit of land.
Spent the evening talking with P__, the head of public works, the police man, and the town secretary about the five-year development plan and other assorted topics. The development plan ideas are great: Solar panels to provide lights, and for a refrigerator/freezer to store fish for later shipping. Second is a tourist destination on an uninhabited island. (Two of the three here are uninhabited.) This resort could be great. Local Mokil law does not allow alcohol on island. I say keep that requirement for the tourists, and market to a target niche so effectively that it could be booked years ahead of time. Third task is cleaning up the lagoon to encourage the coral and fish to return. Good list.
Simple night of sleep punctuated with creaking open and slamming shut doors. Some doors don't have working latches in the door knobs - my room for instance - and when the winds with the rain came along, the doors started moving. Nice rain, although I hope it stops soon. Today I will snorkel.
Or so I thought. The rain was enjoyable, very hard. I waited and read until after lunch.
Breakfast was here when I woke up: Banana fritters to die for, and two hard boiled eggs. Lunch was unmemorable. Always drinking coconut. I finally went out on my own (at the Senator's advice) to near the airport to snorkel. The rain had left fresh water on the top of the lagoon and moving through the cooler fresh water and the warmer salt water caused it to mix in opaque swirls of water. Water quality was not good to begin with, since there is a shark with my name on it, and since I was alone on an unfamiliar island, I decided to bail on snorkeling.
I spend the day collecting shells, snapping photos, and walking around the
island. Lots of stuff for Loretta today. Came home to a locked door
and, outside, a mid-afternoon snack of two fried Parrot fish and a pan full
of sweetened breadfruit, pounded and baked. Dinner arrived after a delirious
nap. I'm having tuna, big reef fish, banana fritter (yes!), some sort
of banana or breadfruit thing, and fried eggs. And drinking coconut.
It's very small and peaceful here. Too bad about global warming. Suddenly, I hear the plane, but it may just be an outboard. Did I mention how short the runway is here? Short. The plane that flies here can land on a dime. The only reason the runway is long is for takeoff.
I awoke dreaming of weddings. I lay half awake thinking more about the subject. It would not go away, but I didn't want it to.
Just thought of a parody magazine: Sun's Set. It's like Sunset but it's full of undesirable, un-body conscious people.
Went out Sunday on the boat, but alas only to the inner reef, which was only impressive in its constant presentation. A short drop in the water would be disappointing, but an hour or two revealed enough to make it a good trip. Saw a large (6') threatening black tip shark which swam slowly past us, eyeing us the whole time, several (4 or 5) turtles, two BIG moonfish, schools of small tuna (I think they were tuna), and the usual cast of characters, plus a few new ones. The water was nice, but not spectacular and the sun helped illuminate the depths. The water in some spots was uncomfortably warm from flowing across the shallow reefs in the noon sun. The guys with the boat found a shell with a live snail in it and gave it to me. I let it crawl off.
Went to both of the other islands at Mokil. Saw young, small moray eels on the far side of one island. Compared the taste of the coconut milk on each of the three islands. I could taste a difference. Amazing.
Before we left the island today, we had more food brought for breakfast. At this point the food leftover from Friday, all of Saturday and Sunday was enough for four people. What we didn't eat sat there until we ate it. Some of the sashimi from Friday was gone Sunday evening. I've read Looking Back on the End of the World, and I'm trying to plow through A Prayer for Owen Meany so I can be done with its tedious style and predictable plot.
Flight back to Pohnpei was uneventful. The senator seemed pissed that he had to be on the island that he represented without anything to do. He seemed to just sleep the whole time.
9.14.90 Thursday Cafe Flore, San Francisco
The bill for my 'hotel' and meals on Mokil were less than the nice dinner I had at Zuni yesterday.
Read an article on the plane about a Berkeley woman who lived with the Amish to learn how to simplify her life and make better art. I've been to Mokil, the simplest of lives. I sit here in the city I love thinking who needs it? Is this home? Where is home? What else would be home? As the boarder with the Amish, I my find the 'there there' is not important, but it's what is inside that makes home. Home is where my hat is [Thanks Lena Lovitch].
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