Chuuk dawns rosy red over a misty tranquil lagoon to the sounds of birds singing. A green velvet landscape surrounded by the tabletop flat waters of the lagoon. In the cool morning air women walkercise along the airport road. Chuuk mornings are full of the promise and hope of a beautiful day to come.
I go jogging with my juggling balls. As I run as I juggle. The roads are pot holed and the dust kicked up by cars is heavy and gritty. The dust makes breathing difficult. The fine dust chokes one and permeates every building in Moen. Air conditioning filters cannot stop the dust. The dust must be wreaking havoc with equipment on the island.
People are everywhere, sitting, ever waiting. Just sitting. In some areas there is no flat surface upon which is not some person. Sitting. Staring into space. Waiting. A few women drift in pairs through the dust along the edge of the road.
A young boy chases me at one point, demanding my juggling balls. Where in Pohnpei children had occasionally asked if they could please have a ball, here it is a demand, "Give me that ball!"
A man drives by in a truck and demands that I stop running. Unfinished buildings rise up from the dust along the road. The dogs, what few there were, are too hungry and beaten to do more than watch me run past. Clouds of dust and dirt roil up into the evening air, the roadsides littered with human bodies like so many discarded candy wrappers.
After my joggle, I wash up and go out onto the new dock at the Truk Stop Hotel. There I watch the sun set into the western Pacific ocean. Stunning beauty out there at the horizon. Forever just beyond reach. A rainbow's end beauty that forever eludes the grasp of Chuuk.
I move again through a world of dust, dirt, potholes, and street urchins. I pass through a set of iron gates and enter a garden apparently off-limits to the Chuukese. Manicured lawns fall away to golden beaches on an azure lagoon. Coconut palms rise from the lawns shading the gardens. Buildings of dark wood blend into their surroundings, walkways swoop and dive across the lawns. A security guard eyes me warily. "Ran an-NIM!" I call out. "Ifa usum?" He looks at me oddly for a moment, and then responds without enthusiasm, "Potcho kun."
I retire to a gazebo by the beach and watch the sun set once again into the western lagoon. I note that the gazebo serves Steinlager, a high quality draft in an iced stein. The contrast of the filth and crowding of the world beyond the gates and then this garden of grass makes the garden of grass seem almost obscene.
I leave the garden and dine at the Takajima restaurant just outside the gates. I enter an empty Takajima and am waited upon by three lovely young women, all smiles. Suddenly the lights go out. Chuuk does not generate enough power to light all of Moen at the same time, power goes off regularly and randomly during the night. There is a movement in the darkness and the smell of perfume. A kerosene candle is lit. I enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner for one alone in the dark.
The morning dawns rainy and wet. I decide to go for a morning run. I head off in the direction of Truk Stop Hotel, planning to turn around near the hotel. I reach the Truk Stop, am feeling good, and decide to go on to Logan Memorial Church. There are no cars out and the wet pavement is dust free. Chuuk is quiet and asleep. I reach the church and decide to push on. I slip past Mizpah school and head southbound. On to the junction, past Takajima, and on into the Intercontinental Hotel and the garden like lawns. I orbit the gazebo once and turn tail for home. I pass the Logan Memorial Church northbound. As I hit the Truk Stop Hotel it is hard to hold my pace. I check the time, almost an hour since I left the hotel. I push on to the northeast, dragging but jogging. I pass the Chuuk Star Hotel, reach the airport, and turn around. I return to the Chuuk Star Hotel after an elapsed time of one hour and ten minutes.
After a last look at the sun setting on Chuuk from the Intercontinental I head to the airport for my flight out. The sun disappears into the Pacific and darkness envelops Chuuk.
Near the airport a very drunk, bleary eyed young man staggered up to me. "Her'ow. Money? Got any money?" In the back of a pick-up truck a short way away another group of young men are already boisterously loud with alcohol. On my way into the airport I walk past a lovely young woman. "Take me with you," she said softly as I went past. I turned, startled. She paused, I looked down and away for a moment, and she turned and slipped away into the darkness. Beauty lost and forgotten amidst the ruins and carnage of a once proud world.
By sunset Chuuk is a dusty road lined with drunken men and broken promises. A dirty grimy landscape filled with the heat of the day, cigarette smoke, and the smell of stale beer and piss. Throngs of young people drift aimlessly down pot holed half paved streets, drifting into a long, dark, powerless, and violent night. The potential of the morning had been lost long before the sun had reached its midday zenith.