Frank Glass and I worked through July 2010 to get all my slides from Yap and Ifalik on the Microbuds website. It was so much fun. Frank has a wonderful sense of humor and he was good to do this. I am sure it was not easy for him since I seemed to be always making changes and there were 300 plus slides.
Four decades have passed since our Micro VII group (1968 to 1970) was in Yap District and so much has happened to all of us since we were thrown together on those small islands.
It is the kind of experience where friendships are made very quickly and in some cases have continued all these years. Al (Micro V) and I continue to communicate on a regular basis with some of the Peace Corps friends we made. Who would have guessed 40 years later we would live within a block of Angie and Mike McCoy (Micro VII)? It is hard to believe since we took such different paths to get to Hawaii.
And Frank Glass? When I first started communicating with him I had to go back to my pictures to see if I could figure out who he was/is.
Email has been wonderful (Frank, you must get SKYPE or IM), and Frank and I could not have done this project without it.
I taught at Tomil School with Sandy Johnson. We traveled together with another Peace Corps volunteer, Kathleen Elliott, when we left Yap; and Sandy and I continued to be friends after returning to the US. The Peace Corps had changed Sandy and given her an entirely new outlook on life. She had a hard time fitting in with her family. With that in mind, Sandy changed her name to Christine and moved to Florida. (That is the short version of a very long story.)
She became a successful businesswoman with her husband, Stephen Levin, and I visited them once in Treasure Island, Florida. Christine and I shared all sorts of stories with her husband about our two years in Tomil, Yap. I regret that she never met my daughter, Sarah Wehren Kooiker, since it would have been nice for Sarah to know another female Peace Corps volunteer besides her mother. Christine died in a car accident, a little over twenty years ago, when she and her husband were returning to their home in Florida from a property they owned in Georgia.
In the pictures Frank and I put on Micobuds, you will see Sandy the volunteer and Christine the businesswoman. I am sure you will agree she changed in looks, but deep down she was always the fun-loving Sandy we knew in the Peace Corps.
Another friend and former volunteer that we kept in contact with, once we all got back to the US, was Niles Mortenson. Niles had been a volunteer in Tomil and continued to live there when his two years were completed. Niles was from the East Coast but ended up in San Diego where Al and I were living when we were first married.
Niles drove a cab for a while and eventually met a young woman whom he married. The wedding was under the flight path to LAX, but the person who officiated said he was used to timing the ceremony around the noise of the jets.
Like Sandy/Christine, it took Niles a while to settle back into the rhythm of life in the US. He and his wife eventually moved to San Francisco, where they both worked in insurance.
Niles had had a motorcycle on Yap and he had shipped it to LA, where Al picked it up and delivered it to Niles in Ohio, where he was living at the time. Niles continued to ride that motorcycle in Southern California; and he was riding a motorcycle, maybe it was the one from Yap, maybe it wasn’t, when he was killed in an accident on a San Francisco freeway.
My pictures brought back a flood of memories like these of Niles and Sandy/Christine. In some cases I remember taking the picture. There is one series of pictures I took on Ifalik with two young women and a little girl. I wanted pictures of them in a different setting. We made marmars and went to the leeward side of the island. Once there, we crawled under the bushes and took the pictures.
I spent two years in my house in Tomil on Yap. Tomil is known for its red clay and the path I walked kept my feet red the entire time I was there. It was a fairly long path and I always made sure I walked it in daylight. I do remember one night crashing though the bushes when my flashlight died. I made it to Pong’s house and they sent me on my way with a palm frond torch. As we all know, it is not a good idea to walk around after dark in a village.
Just ask Al Wehren. Yap is where Al and I met. He was finishing his second year on Woleai and returned for a third year, which he spent on Yap in Madrich. On Yap he helped build a dwelling where Outer Islanders could stay when they came to the district center.
One night Al came to visit me in my house in Tomil. Since he had lived with Outer Islanders for all of his Peace Corps experience, he decided it would be best if he left the higher cast village of Tomil before daylight. You will have to ask him, but I think he found the dark path to the road intimidating.
My Tomil house was great. It was at the end of the path right on the ocean. The Micronesian sunsets, as we all know, were wonderful, but I had no one with whom to really share them. Today our house in Hawaii has a western ocean view and again I have wonderful sunsets. But this time I have someone who can watch them with me and he has been doing it ever since we met on Yap in the Peace Corps.
That brings me more or less up to date and to the subject of the upcoming Peace Corps Micronesia Reunion.
We hope that those of you who were in our Peace Corps groups will join us in November 2011. That is when Hawaii will observe the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps' arrival in Micronesia. For about the first 10 of those years, a training center was located in Hilo, HI. I am told that as many as 10,000 volunteers were trained there.
Festivities are being planned for an anniversary celebration in Hilo and you are invited to attend. In addition, I have been talking to some of the RPCVs who were in Al’s and my groups (V and VII) and we have been discussing the possibility of having a smaller reunion of our own.
We want to have it at the same time as the Hilo activities so anyone coming this far can go to both. There will be some planning for our event and I am willing to do that. We would like to have our reunion on the other side of Hawaii Island from Hilo in Kailua-Kona, since that is where we live.
While this is not Yap, we are on the way to Yap, so this seems like a good spot to reunite. I know November 2011 sounds like a long way off, but since there will be travel involved it is never too early to plan.
I would like to get a feel for how many people would be interested in doing this and who you think should be invited. Al and I say any RPCV who can make it should be on the guest list.
The best way to contact us is email:
Or write us the old way at::
Susan and Al Wehren
73-1035 Ahulani Street
Kailua-Kona HI 96740
Remember Angie and Mike McCoy are just up the street from us, so I am sure you could visit them, too.
Think about it!
Susan Taylor Wehren