National Geographic : 1967 May
KODACHROME BY DAVIDS. BOYER@ NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Learning to swim, polio victims splash with Duncan S. Catling. A former Peace Corpsman in Malaysia, the teacher spends after-school hours with young patients at a rehabilitation center in the Marshalls. The first Peace Corpsmen actually assigned to the Trust Territory began arriving late last year. By next fall, 700 eager mainland volunteers will be helping Micronesians catch up to a century that almost passed them by. When we stopped, we seemed lost and alone. Then someone struck a match and lighted a palm-frond flare. In seconds a dozen flares came alive in half a dozen canoes around us. Immediately the flying fish began to glide out of the sea, activated like moths by the lights. As they came whistling over the gunwales, they were snatched from the air with long poled butterfly nets. Pingelap Enjoys a Building Boom "They catch flying fish on Pingelap and Mokil Atolls, too," Fred told me. "You'll stop there en route to Ponape. I think I'll go with you. There's no radio communication, and I get worried between trips. Who knows what might be happening?" What was happening on Pingelap was the finishing of a new homemade Trust Territory school. The people were building concrete block houses for themselves, too, at $1.50 per square foot of living space. Masterminding both projects was Father Hugh Costigan, a Jesuit priest from the Bronx. The good works of this "building priest" are pillars of the entire Ponape District. On Mokil, former Peace Corpsman David Porter, now a Trust Territory teacher, had two dozen school children in his house on a 744 Sunday afternoon, all reading U. S. maga zines, listening to U. S. music on a tape re corder, drinking Cokes, and speaking English. "The U. S. is no longer the edge of the world, somewhere out there, for them," Dave said. "It is places and people. And someday soon, they believe, they will really belong to it." We landed at last beneath the lush rain forested mountains of Ponape. This highest of the Caroline Islands is considered by many the most beautiful of all Micronesia (pages 730-31 and 734-5). In the few final quiet days before a plane would come,I wandered among Ponapean villages, visiting the people. These prospective new citizens ofthe United States would soon have things and opportun ities that many of them long for. But I was glad I had come before the change. Everywhere I went, in those days, I heard the Ponapean word of greeting. Interchange able for either hello or goodbye, it is one of the world's loveliest words: Kasalehlia! When you hear it pronounced liltingly on the tongue-cassa-LAY-leeah-by a Ponapean maiden with a flower in her flowing hair, as you pass her thatched house under the palm trees beside the deep sea, you feel you have heard the sound of paradise.