Travel, Culture, News
I joined the Peace Corps as a Response Volunteer in August 2016 and traded the island of Manhattan for the island of Yap after a long career as a senior executive in marketing communications. The stories of companies and brands and the people behind them were my stock-in-trade for nearly 40 years, but today I tell the stories of the people and culture of the Pacific Region and how they live in the modern world while maintaining their traditional way of life. The Peace Corps pulled out of Micronesia in 2018 but I stayed on for five years and am now providing these and many other stories about the places I have lived and visited through the lens of both personal experience as well as interviews and observations. Now living on Guam, I am a regular contributor to the Pacific Island Times and other regional news media; my writing and photos have also appeared over the years in the New York Times, The Guardian, Pacific Daily News, Verge, Stars & Stripes, NationalGeographic.com/Travel, goworldtravel.com, Transitions Abroad, Wooden Canoe Magazine, Journal for Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and many others.
Attitudes toward age: the not-so-hidden bias: The faded photo of my grandmother was taken in the early 1930s. It shows a short, plump woman wearing a summer dress, her grey hair in a bun, a small straw hat atop her head, wireframe glasses on her nose. She looks like a nana, even though she was only in her early 50s. That image of what an older person looks like still sticks with us today and is the reason people are shocked when I tell them I’m 75. “I thought you were in your 50s,” they say. Ok, some say 60s, but I still smile smugly as I do my squats and lunges at the gym.
A Visit to Guam: Where a Latte is Not Just an Italian Coffee: Think about Easter Island and it’s a good bet that its iconic stone monoliths come to mind first. But they aren’t the only massive stone carvings on remote Pacific islands that have fascinated and puzzled archeologists, anthropologists, explorers and travelers for centuries. Nearly 7,600 miles farther west on the northern side of the equator lie the Northern Mariana Islands where latte stone pillars dot the landscape. Although unique prehistoric monuments are found throughout Oceania, stone lattes are found nowhere else. The U.S territory of Guam is the centerpiece of this group of ancient volcanic islands where latte stones have become the modern symbol of the indigenous Chamorro culture representing strength and identity.
Exploring Yap: Loom saving traditional Pacific island weaving from extinction: When the young women of Yap’s remote outer islands leave home to seek a college education, better work opportunities or medical care on the U.S. mainland, the risk of leaving their cultural traditions behind is very real. The art of traditional weaving is among the most important. (Pacific Island Times; republished Stars & Stripes Guam/Korea/Japan/Okinawa)
Keeping traditional Micronesian canoe carving alive: modern tools based on ancient designs: The outrigger canoes of the western Pacific islands of Yap are famous for their speed, performance and seaworthiness. The combination of hull shape, symmetry, and outrigger allow the craft to be quickly reversed when winds change, without the need to turn the hull around. The islanders, renowned all over the world as master mariners, still rely on these traditional hand carved wooden canoes for fishing and sailing from island to island in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean just as their ancestors did a thousand years ago because gasoline and parts are expensive and often not available for outboard motors in the remote, far-flung islands. (Pacific Island Times; republished Stars & Stripes Guam/Korea/Okinawa/Japan)
Guam: The Tallest Place on Planet Earth: Guam is the center of the ancient CHamoru culture and home to a large Filipino community. Toss in Micronesian, Korean, Japanese, and Thai, add a dash of Mexican and two handfuls of Spanish, stir well and that’s the cultural stewpot that is Guam. (Pedacitosblog.com)
I had death threats for my reporting. Many journalists in the Pacific face huge dangers: Freedom of the press might be included in some constitutions of Pacific countries, but it often only works in theory. (The Guardian)
Historic Sites in Yap Micronesia: The remote island state where WWII ended: The small remote island chain of Yap state stretches across 100,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. This was the site of one of the largest gatherings of warships during the final year of WWII. (GoWorldTravel.com)
The Sweet-Smelling Flower Crowns And Garlands Of Yap: Given to men and women alike, both guests and participants, for celebrations ranging from birthdays and graduations to airport goodbyes and welcomes, or simply for no reason at all, sweet-smelling flowers like plumeria are collected and woven into a tightly braided band made of strips of palm fronds and leaves. (Pedacitosblog.com)
Coconut Husks, Bamboo and Palm Leaves: The Makings of a Traditional Yapese House: Society on the small, remote island of Yap is interconnected at all levels and each person has his or her own role to play, like the frames of the traditional buildings that are common throughout this Micronesian culture. It is said that, when tied together properly, a traditional Yapese building represents the spirit of families, villages and communities. Without one of the pieces, regardless of the size or purpose, the building will fail. (GoWorldTravel.com)
Carving Yap’s Ancient Culture in Wood: Once upon a time, the remote Micronesian island of in the western Pacific Ocean had some of the finest woodcarvers in the world. Today, the art is being passed on by a handful of elders who still have the skill and knowledge. But it’s feared that woodcarving is a dying art like so many others. (GoWorldTravel.com)
World Snapshots: A T-shirt Economy on the Island of Yap: T-shirts are a valuable commodity on the small, remote Pacific island of Yap, and secondhand t-shirts are often more prized than new t-shirts. Ordered from used clothing dealers in the U.S., they arrive throughout the year in large cardboard boxes on supply ships for delivery to the small shops scattered around Colonia, the island’s only town. (GoWorldTravel.com)
Climate swings threaten Yap with malnutrition: Climate change is in the headlines every day as one of the most important issues for every nation on earth. But there is another related issue that is just as challenging in Yap – climate versatility. (Pacific Island Times)
Yap Legislature sues governor over Covid-19 emergency directive: The Tenth State Legislature has sued Yap Gov. Henry Falan challenging his state of emergency declaration for Yap issued on March 27 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Pacific Island Times)
Yap governor requests $1.6M for Covid-19 response plans: Yap Gov. Henry Falan is requesting $1.65 million to fund the state government’s preparation and response to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Pacific Island Times)
An Urban Ramble Through LA’s Arts District: When I moved to Los Angeles, California, several years ago, my friends from New York City who had already made the leap west were incredulous. Thanks to their welcome, I settled into sunny SoCal more easily than they – or I – imagined I might. (GoWorldTravel.com)
Fake or real news: Is it or isn’t it? Editorial commentary (Pacific Island Times)
A Walking Tour of New York City: Walking is the best way to explore what we New Yorkers call “the city.” To get a real feel for where we live, head away from the normal tourist areas. Here’s one of my favorite walking tours of NYC. (GoWorldTravel.com)
Yapese artist reviving his culture’s ancient art: Some artists use canvas and paint, others turn to marble or clay, wood or fabric or any of the other myriad materials for their creations. As a young child, Leo Pugram’s choice was what was near at hand – a #2 pencil, ink and paper. (Pacific Island Times)