Folks Out West…In Brilliant Color

The first week in July was travel time for Nathan Fitch, former PCV on Kosrae, and me as we visited three cities to finish the interviews needed for a new video on Micronesian migrants. Nathan, always quick with the camera, recorded the shots in this short photo essay on our travels. That’s him in this reflection photo, with his traveling companion off to the upper left.


Nathan Fitch and I traveling out West.

Dallas is the home of Serpian Yaliweisei from Ifaluk, married to a Mexican-American woman. It took no longer than a few seconds for us to feel completely at home in their place. Stacks of tasty pancakes in the morning, Margaritas in the evening, and plenty of warm talk in between. This is Serpian, Alicia and their family.


Serpian Yaliweisei, his wife, Alicia, and their family.

Corsicana, home of dozens of Outer Islanders, is just an hour’s drive from the Big D. There I found an old friend from Chuuk days, Kirino Halley, now married with a couple of kids. An hour isn’t much time to catch up, but it’s amazing how quickly old relationships can be rekindled, as you can see.


Catching up with Kirino Halley.

Then on to Portland, where we found Pohnpeians celebrating the July Fourth holiday weekend with a softball tournament. Competing teams in the tournament included one made up of Palauans, another of Kosraeans, and still another of “island soldiers”–Pohnpeians who were in the US military. Castro Mudong and Paulina Perman, whom we interviewed for the video, were the main organizers of the event. While Nathan roamed around the park capturing the hundreds of islanders there on video, I was on the basketball court chasing after kids one-quarter my age. Here?s Maria Babauta, who happened to be visiting the area while we were there.


Visiting with Maria Babauta in Portland.

Phoenix was the last stop on our trip. There we did an interview with Asinech Hellan, a young woman from Ta married to Mike Pangelinan. She’s the optometrist doing the examination in the photo posted on my Facebook. Here she is with her adorable little child the evening of her birthday.


Asinech Hellan and her daughter in Phoenix.

Although Marcelino Umwech was out of town at the time, we enjoyed a great little party with his many daughters (and a couple of sons) and their families. No breadfruit, but many other treats including taro, chicken kalaguen and barbeque. Don’t look for fish in Phoenix, a desert area hundreds of miles away from the sea. No jogging or basketball either in a temperature that hovered around 106.

We made a brief visit out to see Rosendo Hartmann, a former student at Xavier and a sometime chess opponent during the early Chuuk years. Here he is in his crime boss pose with his fellow conspirator.


Rosendo Hartmann and I Phoenix.

After all this, the return to New York was difficult, although made easier because a couple of old friends, Marcus Samo and Moses Pretrick, had just flown in and were waiting to get together. But more on that next time.

To view more of Nathan’s pictures follow him on Instagram @nathanfitch or check out his website:

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.