October 5, 2004

We are in Wotje (pronounced “Whoa-jay”). On arriving, we anchored right off the main village so we could check in with the Mayor. After dropping anchor, we decided to rest and the next morning we started on inflating the dingy but a small motor boat appeared carrying two men, one of them in a policeman’s uniform. It was exceptionally clean and new looking. I suppose this was his great occasion to wear it. They politely asked for our permit to visit the atoll and we gave them this along with the $50 fee. We were then told we were to come and see the Mayor which we knew already but thanked them. The policeman told us he would wait on the pier for us. We went in after lunch and found him in civilian clothes sitting under a shade tree. He took us to meet the Mayor. The Mayor was completely befuddled by our permission paper which was dated Dec 03 and he kept saying “But it is 2004.”. He shook his head and sighed when we asked questions and announced we needed to get a new issued. Jordan asked if he wanted us to leave for Majuro and he backtracked saying that he would call them by radio to verify if the permit was still good. All this in broken English with the Mayor nodding to everything we said with the happy compliancy of a person who is only getting every third word.

We walked around a bit and saw two white women sitting near the airstrip. One hollered something so I went over and met Sister Carol and Linda. They were here helping with the school but they run the school at Likiep. They were attired in modest sundresses with Carol wearing a scarf in her hair that made her look more nun like. They were lovely jolly women who have been here for years energetically working for better schools in the Marshalls. I believe Likiep’s primary school system is rated among the best. Many of the students pass the pre-High School exam and come study at the High School here on Wotje. They gave us directions to the High School but told us to be careful crossing the big field as it was an airstrip and the plane was expected soon. We found the Highschool and after picking into an old Japanese WW2 building that looked like a huge two storey cement bunker, we discovered the Library and the computer lab both heavily air-conditioned. A young white man hurried out of the library greeting us in an American accent and wearing a NYC Fireman t-shirt. Tony was here with the Dartmouth Marshall Islands Teacher program and was from Long Island of all places. We lingered as long as possible in the library as we were drenched in sweat. Tony invited us to dinner that night and we arranged to meet. We walked towards the airstrip just as the plane was taxing on to the strip so we hurried across to watch it take off. We waved furiously and watched it lift off in the blue sky headed for Likiep.

We attended dinner with the rubelli(white ) teachers. There were Tony and Pete from Dartmouth. Both of them around 21 and they were eager and sweet and so young. I paused to consider that they could be my sons and I realized they looked at us and saw people their parents age. In addition, there is Sarah from the Midwest. She was here last year from Jan to June. Luwanda is another teacher in her early 50’s from Florida with years of experience deciding to put some of it to use.

Meanwhile, the specter of “boat maintenance” reared its head and we had to start working on varnishing our exterior woodwork. It is a long process with lots of prep and multiple coats separated by 24 hours or more. We are almost finished and will leave at the end of the week.

We are anchored now at the southern end of the island of Wotje. Note the atoll is also called Wotje but the largest island often has the same name as the atoll. The locals call it “London” which I find funny for some reason. But it has a lovely beach and is fairly isolated from people so we can frolic and swim comfortably with out people gathering to stare at us or (worse) me in my indecent Speedo. The women all swim in skirts and t-shirts and I never seem to see them swim that much. Sarah and Luwanda came to see us mostly so they could have a nice swim in bathing suits as opposed to shirts skirts AND shorts under the skirt. It’s completely ridiculous how they absorbed this Victorian missionary modest about bathing yet seem to have little problem with much teen sex, pregnancy and the lack of official martial status for anybody. When your average birthrate is 9 kids per woman – I don’t think letting her bath showing her legs is really going to hurt. Certainly we have our share of odd customs that only seem natural due to familiarity.

We have spent three weeks here and despite the lack of diving, we have enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It is a peaceful place with very mellow and relaxed inhabitants. We have one only two boats stop to talk or sell lobsters. We have completed our important wood work. We are ready to move on. I am excited and eager. I hope the winds blow and we have a fast passage. We have to cover a lot of ground in the next several months. It is very exciting. I am actually happy to go back to Majuro so we will have the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone we have know. We will vote and do our civic duty. I will provision the boat again and Jordan will do lots of mechanical maintenance jobs. Nov 4 we are leaving the Marshall Islands.