Of pride, honor, service, and running

Thursday evening the house saw a rare simultaneous presence of my children and their summer break chums. Usually one or another is out and about slumbering over with a friend, or one is here for the night with their friend. Having all in the house at one time is rare.

The next day, Friday, my son and his friend joined me at the college in order to attend a presentation by the Mission Commander for the Pacific Partnership 2011, Captain Jesse Wilson, at the Media and Instructional Technology Center, College of Micronesia-FSM. Major General Lei-Ping Chang, commanding general of the 807th medical command, was also in attendance and spoke as well, along with the United States Ambassador to the FSM, Peter Prahar. After the presentation there was group photo opportunity in front of the Learning Resource Center.

Captain Wilson spoke of the importance of education in both nation building and in personal opportunities. He also noted that enlistment in the US military from the FSM is higher on a per capita basis than back in the United States. He noted their service with pride, including a member of Rodriguez family serving on the USS Cleveland - a native son. The medical team includes participants from many nations including Japan, Australia, Spain, and France among others. The 807th joined the crew of the USS Cleveland on this inter-branch, international joint mission.

Captain Wilson explained that the mission grew out of the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia. International military search and rescue teams realized that they needed to practice their missions jointly before the disaster strikes. Captain Wilson quoted Kennedy from his state union address on January 11, 1962, when Kennedy said, "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining."

Should disaster ever strike the FSM, the various teams that have assembled this summer now know the lay of the land, have local contacts, and have practiced working together.

In an "and now for something completely different", my daughter in the states sent a package that arrived on Friday. In the box was a Ghana Barbie doll which now adorns my desk. Been a long time since Peace Corps Ghana, but that too is part of who I am today. When I left for Ghana in 1984 I recall being concerned that Ghana would change me. I do not now know why I was concerned, but I was uncomfortable with the thought of change in who I am.

Although I did not recognize it at the time, I was changed by the end of my first week in Ghana. A violently painful bout of antibiotic resistant shigella dysentery had altered my personal world view. I lost on the order of 18 pounds in something like two days. Some of the other volunteers were sure I was going to be a medevac and unlikely to be seen in Ghana again. They were surprised when I showed up - thinner and much lighter - at village based training in Akrofufu. I served the full two years in Ghana, ignoring as minor inconveniences other lesser dysenteries such as giardia.

Saturday morning the Island Food Community of Pohnpei held their annual fun run.Captain Wilson and members of his team joined the fun run along with students from the Upward Bound program here on Pohnpei. Getting to run with a US Navy Commodore was a real privilege and honor. Not something I get to do. Not something most jogglers probably ever get to do!

I know I teach because I do not know how to not teach. On the uphill up the former one-way to Spanish Wall ball field a runner had dropped to a walk. As I came up on the runner I noted, "Hills are friends." He apparently thought I said something to the effect that getting up hills one sometimes needs help from friends. I explained saying that downhill anyone can run full out, the uphill is where a runner attacks and gains the advantage. The hill is a friend. Hills are friends. Make friends with your hills in life. They are what make you stronger.

My son did very well, trailing me by only a few minutes. Below he has just passed a good friend, Vice President for Administration at the college Joe Habuchmai.

My son ran with his friend - the are both strong 5k runners given their age and that they are not in a formal training program. I try not to push. At best I lead by example, at least as good an example as I can set. I run. I try to eat as healthy as island life and income seem to permit.

I passed the finish line at 29:50, but that was a 30:29 by the time I had done a lap of the Palm Terrace parking lot.  My son and his friend finished in about 40 minutes. I am proud of them for their effort.

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