An Island Emerging

Looking On

Generations.  That one word embodies a wealth of power.  One generation can change the way the world thinks, operates and advances forward into the future.  One generation can hold the key to a better life for all.  Some generations have been nearly swept away by disease and war – the civil war in America claimed almost an entire generation, leaving us with a void, taking with it any ideas, creations and leaders that it may have offered.  When I think about Ebeye, I think mostly about its children.  Half of the island population is comprised of children.  Precious generational changers.

I remember reading about Ebeye when I first decided to commit to a year of teaching there.  I  remember thinking that so many good things were happening in the way of communications and technology for a small island that was struggling under the weight of many economic, social and political problems.  But of all that I was reading, I wondered…what do the Marshallese people want? While so many technological advances were being made, what weighed on their hearts in importance?

Well, I didn’t take a formal poll or interview anyone, though it was something I had hoped to do.  It just didn’t materialize.  But through the course of two years, I learned a lot about a culture that is straining to break free of the past outdated traditions while holding onto their heritage as a people.  And where you have 17,000 people, you have just as many opinions, perspectives and solutions to the problems.  There are those who would not change, and those who desperately strain for it.  There is an old mindset and a new one – each with their own advantages and failures.  It is an island of people emerging.  And along with the people spring forth the ideas and….ideologies.

There are many on Ebeye who are left without hope.  And there are those who hold tightly to it.  Hope for a better future than the past has offered.  There are those who dream of being a self-sustaining island again, which is novel but by all practical purposes now impossible.  Developing small islands into towns is too expensive and time consuming to warrant the effort, much less maintain the upkeep of such developments.  And economically speaking there is not much in the way of exports to support the society.  You might think fishing, but there are no commercial seafaring vessels that belong to the Marshalls.  They instead lease out their waters to foreign fisheries who cultivate the profits instead.

Many put hope in their upcoming generation to exact a change and begin to turn things for good. I found that there is an energy among the youth that could set many good things into motion for the small island.  I hope to see it. I hope to see some of my own children rise up and be leaders, changing the scope of the future.  But they would have to decide if they want to advance or stay rooted in tradition.  Are they going to look backwards or forwards?  To new ideas or only historical redundancy? It is a delicate line to walk, but the course of time changes many things including turning over generations and their ideologies, allowing for the next generation to step up and be counted.

Practically speaking, the island is very fragile, in many aspects. There is no one answer that will solve all the difficulties they are now facing.  But the people are not as active or engaged politically as we are here – they have a history of King-People mentality which is only natural to them.  The forces that be are quite confusing, even for me to sort out how things should be done: there are kings, queens, governments, land owners (who have much power), national governments and many other rules and regulations.  But I believe this course will change as the children learn and grow into this mile-long world they call Ebeye. I believe in my heart change is coming. I have to believe it…

I believe in God and the plan He has for all the Marshallese and their islands.  I pray the very best for the Marshallese, my families in the islands and my friends. I will see you again by the grace of God.  And I will be watching to see what good things are happening in your part of the world, praying earnestly for you all.

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Ebeye Island

I remember when I was trying to decide if I was going to move to Ebeye and start a whole new chapter in my life.  I scoured  the internet for any peek at what life on Ebeye had to offer.  I found some pretty good info but it wasn’t very detailed.  Hence the desire to post what I’ve learned living on Ebeye these past two years for those who find themselves in the same position.  So if you’re thinking about taking an adventure to the islands as a missionary teacher but aren’t sure what to expect, check out the info below.  Feel free to email me with any questions.  I’d be happy to assist you in your journey any way I can.  Other islands will differ greatly in what they offer as many are not as developed as Ebeye.

Internet Connection

The island has a very good communications center called NTA – this is short for National Telecommunications Authority. A fiber optic cable was laid last year and allows Ebeye to tap into high-speed internet connections.  The cost per minute at NTA, I believe, is somewhere around 8 cents. They also offer the option of service at your place of residence. You can pay about $40/month for the slowest connection plus activation fees and essentially receive unlimited access.  The higher speed you want, obviously the more you will pay. Quick note: Kwajalein is not connected to this cable. Perhaps military reasons, but they are still on dial-up as of the date of this post.

Skype

Yes, you can Skype your friends and family from Ebeye. The connection is fast enough and the signal is good enough to show video. I would suggest getting Skype before you leave and have your friends and family get setup. Because communicating via phone is nearly impossible.

Telephone Communication

This also runs through NTA and is extremely expensive. To phone anywhere beyond the island you will pay $1.80/minute. It may be a better option to have your friends at home buy a calling card and call you. Also, if you call after midnight, the rate goes down. You must purchase a calling card from NTA which you will then use to place your call. Calling cards are $10, $20 and $50.

Cell Phones

I’m sorry to break the news but….your cell phone will not work on Ebeye. It’s a bummer I know. But if you must have a calling gadget, you can purchase a cell phone from NTA and buy minutes to use for local calls on the island. Sounds odd that an island 1 mile long would need so many cell phones but really, it does come in handy. I’m not sure the cost but you can plan to pay around $50 for a moderately featured phone.

Restaurant Dining

Indeed Ebeye has three diners that I know of along with dozens of little shops in people’s homes that sell food and goods. But the diners are located in the Triple J department store, Litaki Fast Food, and a new addition, The Little Mermaid, located in the Ebeye hotel, Anrohasa, on lagoonside. I have eaten at all three places and found the meals satisfying. Litaki and The Little Mermaid both offer mainly Asian cuisine. Triple J is a bit more American with fried chicken, cheeseburgers, French fries and chicken nuggets. One tip that I didn’t find out about until only a month ago is that you can take the ferry across to Kwajalein and call their local pizza joint, Donatos to have a pizza delivered to the check-in gate. You cannot actually enter Kwajalein because it is a military base for the U.S. (unless you have a sponsor who will sign you in.)

Recreation

Ebeye is certainly an adventure and most of the time, it’s up to you what you want to see and do. Beach Park is a small beach at the southern tip of Ebeye which is a good place for swimming and barbecuing. There are plenty of places to explore and you can always rent a water taxi (or better yet, befriend someone with a boat of their own) and head out to some of the outer islands. They are absolutely gorgeous! The fishing and surfing is also good here. There is a causeway that has connected Ebeye to Guggegue island. The northern tip of Guggegue (from what I’ve heard) is a good place to surf. Beware! There are sharks…lots of them. Mainly reef sharks…but still!

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

If you want to scuba dive, you have found the greatest place in the world for it. There is no larger, more pristine atoll than the
Kwajalein atoll. I prefer snorkeling but whichever you fancy, it will be a fabulous time. There is someone here on the island that offers scuba diving lessons. Sorry but I don’t have that information. I’ll post an update if I get it. FYI: for anyone staying on Kwajalein who happened upon this blog, you will find there is an excellent scuba diving club located there. Here’s a link to the Kwajalein Scuba Club which also has great maps of the entire area. If you live on Ebeye, I don’t think you can join, but the maps are helpful for your own exploring adventures.

Grocery and Clothing Stores

There are many small shops scattered all around Ebeye. You may never know it because they don’t advertise like we do in the U.S. But the best grocer in my opinion would be Triple J. They do a good job at keeping food on the shelves and they are cleaner and more organized with a decent variety of selections. They have frozen meat and canned goods. Items for household cleaning and so on. They even do good keeping the fresh vegetables as fresh as possible when you live on an island.  There are different little nick-knack stores and clothing stores you can peruse. I don’t know the names of all of them but one of the more popular would be Sunrise. It seems almost everywhere people have storefronts in their little homes where the kids buy candy and sugar drinks.

Transportation

The main form of transportation on the island are the taxi trucks.  They loop around the island and provide a ride for only $.75.  You can ride as long as you want.  It’s a good way to see the island to, especially if you sit in the bed of the truck – ah, and the salty ocean views are great along oceanside!  The other mode of transit – if you are a male – is bicycles.  Women are not allowed to wear pants or shorts and so we could never figure out how to get away with riding a bike, especially in the sometimes 30 mile/hour winds.  If you find a way, let us know!

Future Updates

I will continue to update this blog as I receive additional information or think of other things that might be beneficial or interesting to know. Hope this helps in your planning and packing for Ebeye. I’ve been here for two years and it has been a grand adventure for sure. You may not always get what you want, but if you stay open to what the experience can offer, I’m sure you will find this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live an island life while making a difference in this world.