The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-Six — Ruuwuw by James Merle

The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-Six — Ruuwuw by James Merle

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My stay in Chuuk has been unique to say the least. Each day can bring challenges and complications that you may not have ever imagined could happen: a typhoon might blow in some nasty wind and rain, cancelling school, or a volunteer might have decided to abandon ship and return home.  Funerals are an enormous cultural events in Chuuk. Because families are so large, when someone dies anywhere around the world, the casket is shipped back to the home island, and there are lavish commemoration ceremonies. When this happens, large families of students are absent for up to an entire week from school.

While the weather in Chuuk is that of an envisioned paradise, and there are coconut trees, geckos, delicious local foods like taro, bananas, mango, and papaya, life on Chuuk is sometimes dangerous. At night, male alcohol abuse can sometimes lead to children and women being beaten.  Dogs also become territorial at night; and some of the voluteers have been bitten by them.

My island is almost like a mini-America inhabited by Micronesians; most things from America can be found here, though they are expensive: American cereal costs five to seven dollars for a box, and anything packaged is three to four times more expensive than  in the US. There are super markets and cars, and there is electricity and an airport. Chuuk also uses the US Postal Service, the US dollar, and has declared it’s official language as English.  Many of the Western influences, though, have been negative. There is no recycling on the island, and all trash is either incinerated or left on the ground. Litter is also a large problem on Weno, and it along with sewage run through the streets of “downtown” and into the ocean. Japanese and American cars that have broken down sit on the owner’s compound overgrown with vines and rust. I even saw an Audi 6 outside the laundromat the other day and my eyes widened.

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Despite the challenges that face Chuuk, I have met people working to help and change. I have been voluteering at a children’s library near my host family’s compound on Wednesdays, and I would like to start an after school program partnering with the Chuuk Women’s Council to raise awareness and educate young men about alcoholism. The introduction of a new culture has confused gender roles and values among the Chuukese. I sometimes feel mixed up in a huge culture clash, but each day brings a new adventure, and I love what I get to do. The title of my second post is “ruuwuw”, which is Chuukese for two.

For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world.  We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 7, Fall, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

4 responses to “The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Twenty-Six — Ruuwuw by James Merle

  1. Fascinating! What a great compare-and-contrast between the “paradise” image and some of the harsher realities!

  2. Carley Nadeau

    I love how you described the island as a mini America. I felt like this imagery was very effective and helped you set the scene for what you were about to describe. The thing that concerned me though was the problem with trash disposal. Has there been any movements to start a recycling program on the island? Change and movements seem to be occurring, but it would be nice to see a program advocating for the environment within the next few years.

  3. Breena Alfredson

    I became a little worried when I started reading all the issues that these people are faced with in the lack of infrastructure. With so much western influence I was curious how that impacted the culture with an environment that can’t support western habits. If alcoholism is in fact a serious problem here, what are the other sorts of health care options like for the inhabitants? Thank you for this story!

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