Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Island of Ngenge - Population 1

With a coconut husk under a towel as a pillow, I stretch out on the beach sand, with palm fronds above me hiding the tropical sun. It’s Saturday of Manit Day weekend (a day celebrating Marshallese culture). The other two WorldTeach volunteers, Diana and Morgan, and I have joined our Marshallese neighbors for a Saturday outing. We walk to the end of Guegeegue and walk across the reef, dry and exposed at low tide, to get to Ngenge, the next island up the chain in Kwajalein Atoll, with a population of 1. We check in with the caretaker who watches the island, bringing him an “offering” of home-baked cookies and fruit.

Our neighbor takes us for a walk through the mangroves, where tropical shrubs and trees form a dense forest with coconut trees galore in various stages. We taste coconut shoots (like coconut-flavored celery), spongy sweet coconut yew that’s sprouting to become a coconut tree, and the recognizable coconut milk and coconut meat.

Back at the lagoon shore, our neighbor teaches Diana and Morgan how to fasten the hooks on the fishing line, how to bait them with a bit of fish meat from a smaller fish, and where to stand in the water and cast for fish. A few tiny fish are thrown back in the lagoon, and two foot-long baby sharks sniffed the bait, but the day’s catch of six 4-6” groupers will make a nice grilled fish dinner.

I have never been converted to fishing, despite my mother’s and brother’s enthusiasm and plenty of opportunity on Lake LBJ in Texas as a youth. Instead, I’m enjoying stretching out under this coconut tree, listening to the sound of the surf, occasionally stirring to walk along the shore and collect beach glass  –  small bits of glass polished smooth by the ocean waves.

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