Ten Things I’ve Learned about Majuro

The odyssey of my life has taken me to Majuro atoll, capitol of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in Micronesia. I am here to teach humanities at the College of the Marshall Islands. My office has an ocean view. There are a lot of ocean views here—and views of the lagoon.

Lagoon Sunrise from Long Island Hotel Beach

This is sunrise.

Here is a sampling of what I’ve learned about life on this atoll in the few days since coming here:

  1. When it rains heavily, the downpour usually lets up after ten or fifteen minutes. Most people wait it out rather than braving it with umbrellas or rain slickers.
  2. Everything that can have sugar added does have sugar added. Even juice brands that in the U.S. are all about containing actual juice here have more sugar than fruit.
  3. Diabetes is a major health issue.
  4. The geckos can be cannibals, but having one in the house is still good luck.
  5. Falling coconuts have killed people.
  6. The Australian Navy compound is called Wallaby Downs.
  7. The feral dogs mostly run around doing their dog things: running around, drinking water from puddles, eating (most seem to be reasonably well-fed), and flopping around in the sand. Sometimes, however, they do come barking at people who have trespassed their territory; in this case, picking up a coconut or rock and acting like you’re going to throw it at them usually drives them off.
  8. Swimming in the lagoon is safer than swimming in the open ocean, not only because of waves and currents but also because of sharks. Only the babies come into the lagoon. Think avulsions instead of amputations.
  9. The sunset and sunrise mirror each other. If I had to use an adjective, I would be forced to use “resplendent”—so be glad that adjectives have not yet been made mandatory.
  10. Pandanus fruit tastes like nothing else. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but the more I tasted it, the better and more complex it seemed. It starts out tasting almost soapy. It’s not really sweet (but it kind of is). There’s a hint of orange (but not really). The texture, when it’s pulped, is a little bit like mango, but when the fruit is whole, the pandanus is far more fibrous.
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