Monday was the first day that Roy and I had to keep ourselves amused, since Christina had to go to school. She did stop by to visit on the way, though. Note how I’m learning to use some of the special filters on my new camera, with the hazy effect around the sun.
Ha! The “hazy effect” was caused by the fact that I’d stepped out of our air conditioned room and the lens fogged over. I got this “special effect” several mornings while I was there.
Before I forget, I do have to talk about the room. It was lovely, but still basic compared to US standards for hotel rooms. We had two double beds (mattresses on small platforms), two bedside tables, a desk, a side table and a small refrigerator (definitely a necessity to keep the water and those green tangerines cold!). Only the sleeping room was air conditioned; the bathroom was not. We chose the Treelodge based on Christina’s recommendation; it was close to her house as well as to the school (and it had air conditioning!). It was a great choice. Plus, Christina had told us that the owners had let her borrow one of their bicycles while hers was being shipped and had generally looked out for the ex-pats. When making the reservation, it was the first time that I can remember not having to provide a credit card number to confirm. That’s just the way Kosrae is.
After Christina left for school, Roy and I decided to explore the island a bit. Our room rate included the use of a couple bicycles, so we hopped on some bikes and headed toward Lelu (pronounced Lay-la) Village.
Seeing as there is only about 20 miles of road on the island, bikes were the perfect way for us to get around the island. Christina had told us that hitch hiking was a very viable way to get around as well; Kosraeans are more than happy to help each other out. That’s one thing we found out over and over again during our time on the island – the people were so friendly, so helpful and so nice. Many times we would look at each other and say, “That would SO not happen in California.” Many places in the U.S. could use a dose of Kosraean culture in that respect.
If you look at the map of the island, you’ll see that Lelu is on a smaller island set apart from the main – they are connected by a causeway. Roy and I cycled from the hotel to about halfway across the causeway to the pier, where we stopped to get a look at our surroundings. It was then we noticed we still had our escort.
This is Koda. He lives at the Treelodge. He was the official dog of the WorldTeach volunteers from last year, so when they left, the folks at Treelodge agreed to take him in. We saw Koda quite a bit during our time, and we think he came with us to the pier to make sure we could find our way around. After we continued to Lelu, he trotted back to the Treelodge.
My ride for the two weeks. Considering it had been *cough* going on 30 years since I’d last ridden a bike, I did pretty okay.
No matter where you go on Kosrae, there are always fascinating things to see. This is a Japanese tank left from WWII.
And not too far away from that, a Japanese WWII blockhouse. The Japanese used Kosrae as a lookout port in WWII. There were many signs of their occupation throughout the island.
Cycling around a curve, we found Lelu Elementary. This is the school where Christina has started an after school literacy program that has been wildly successful. It’s also the school where her host father, Aliksa, is vice principal.
I have to relate a story here that truly demonstrates Kosraean hospitality. At this point, we were still getting used to our bikes, and Roy had decided to change the height of his bike seat. He’d gotten out his multi-use tool and was working away when a car driving by stopped, the driver got out and asked if we needed a ride anywhere or if he could help us fix the bike. We didn’t know who he was and we never saw him again. But that’s Kosrae for you – the people were so incredibly friendly and helpful.
As you can see, Lelu Elementary is being expanded. I noticed this scene.
I put this in a presentation I made at work – scenes like this demonstrate to me the very big difference in the cultures. While the Safety First slogan is commendable, as is their use of high-vis vests and hard hats, you’ll also notice there’s a lack of fall protection. It was the first of several safety items I noticed on our stay.
Next, we had our first views of the Sleeping Lady. Kosrae is known as the Island of the Sleeping Lady, because this view looks like a lady in recline. Again, we’d seen this in many of Christina’s pictures, but we were so excited to see it in person for the first time. Can you see her?
Then it was on to Lelu dock. This is one of my favourite pictures from the trip. That’s Lelu church in the background.
Our destination for the day was the Lelu Ruins. Over 800 years old, they were the compound of Kosraean royalty – the high chief, chiefs, and several leaders. This was during a time when Kosrae was broken into roughly 13 sections. Each had their own chief, but all recognized the chief at Lelu as the head of them all. The ruins include main causeways, dwelling areas, festival areas and burial chambers (pyramids). We learned later that there is a movement afoot to have the Lelu Ruins declared a World UNESCO Heritage Site.
Christina’s instructions for finding the ruins were simple: they were behind the Ace Hardware. That we found without a problem.
What wasn’t so clear was where the ruins were. We thought we would find a sign. We ended up asking a lady at the nearby laundromat where they were. Turns out we needed to go through that hole in the fence in the left of the picture. That took us down a driveway which then took us to the ruins.
Which were, by the way, quite spectacular. You turn a corner and this is what you find:
Following that ancient roadway takes us to the celebration area, where we found the ceremonial stones used to make fah fah. You can see the indentations that the tok (the stone tool used to make fah fah) made over time.
There was a self-guided tour provided thanks to signs that had been provided when the site had been last restored in 1993.
Some of the signs were in great condition and were very helpful.
Others, not so much.
Each sign gave a general idea on where to find the next one(s), which was definitely helpful. The jungle grows so fast that in most places the trail was quite overgrown. At times it felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie.
At the very back of the ruins, we found the burial pyramids. There are at least three of them; there are no immediate plans for excavation.
Then, in what would become a pattern for us during our excursions in Kosrae, it started to rain. The good thing about rain in Kosrae is that since it’s so warm it really doesn’t matter; especially since it’s so humid you’re very damp anyway. We took shelter – such as it was – under some huge banana leaves that almost kept us pseudo-dry. At least we had a view of the pyramids. (Yes, there is a pyramid back there.)
Proving I was there (and to give you a scale for some of the construction):
We then biked our soggy selves back the hotel, and changed into dry(er) clothes.
One quick note about clothing. Kosrae has a conservative culture, and for women, clothing above the knee or that exposes the shoulders is frowned upon. You’ll notice that in most of the pictures I’m wearing a hiking top and mid-thigh length shorts. Thanks to Christina’s advice, I was assured that the shorts were okay (especially since I’m a tourist), as was the hiking top, but that in public areas a more modest top would be appreciated. So, for excursions like our trip to Lelu, I wore a t-shirt while in the village, but just wore the hiking top while biking around the island. This strategy worked reasonably well; I only received any type of derogatory jeering once while exploring different areas, and that was close to the end of the trip.
After a quick shower (seemed redundant considering everything) back at the hotel, the room was the best place to relax.
It was also about this time that the power went out. I can’t say that this was a common occurrence, but it wasn’t an uncommon one, either. Sometimes we would get warnings as to when the power would go out, sometimes we wouldn’t, and other times we’d get warnings that the power would go out and it didn’t.
Soon enough, we saw the bucket truck (yes, singular, there is only one on Kosrae) go by.
Roy noticed very quickly there was a pattern. He surmised that the truck was not equipped with radios, since we would never see the truck until about 20 minutes after the power had gone out. The crew would work the line, then finish up and leave, and about 20 minutes afterward the power would come back on again. Roy thought this meant that they didn’t have radios, so they needed to turn the power off before the left, complete the work, and then get back to turn everything on again. This series of observations earned Roy much respect at Bully’s when he was able to predict when the power would come on for our fellow patrons.
Finishing with another safety picture. This was a common sight.