Monday, July 6, 2015

Our trip to Roi-Namur

We enjoyed a brief respite this month as we were fortunate to visit the islands of Roi-Namur with some of our Kwaj friends. We didn't leave the Kwajalein atoll, but we did get to FLY in an airplane! That's the first time we have been above sea level in almost two years, and gone faster than 10 mph! Crazy, I know!  Roi-Namur is part of the Kwajalein Army Base, so the only way to get there is with the Army's permission. Our friend, Chris, was kind enough to sponsor us for the weekend and the Sok family rounded out our little group.
Waiting to board in the Kwaj terminal with Sarah, Alison, and Megan.

getting ready for the plane to take off, with Chris

a shot of our 18-seater plane with Sarah, Megan and Alison!

Up,Up and away we go!

Here's a little background info for those of you who have never heard of this place.

Roi-Namur is an island in the north part of the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands. Germany annexed the Marshall Islands in 1885 but did not put government officials on the islands until 1906, leaving island affairs to a group of powerful German trading companies. Japan took over in 1914 and colonized the Marshalls extensively, developing and fortifying large bases on many of the islands.

Roi-Namur was the target of the U.S. 4th Marine Division in the bloody Battle of Kwajalein, in February 1944. During the Japanese occupation, the two islands (Roi to the west and Namur to the east) were connected by a narrow neck of land and causeway. After the American occupation, US Navy SeaBees filled the area between the islands; the two islands, now joined, are presently called Roi-Namur with a total area of about one square mile.

20 minutes later and here we are on Roi!
It is home to about 120 American and Marshallese employees of the Reagan Test Site. The airport has one runway for small planes that commute from Kwajalein bringing additional workers (and visitors, like us!). Additional Marshallese daytime workers come via ferry from the island of Enniburr.

The Roi side is the main housing area, with the retail and recreation facilities. Activities on Roi-Namur range from a nine-hole golf course, saltwater swimming pool, scuba club, movie theater, volleyball, and basketball court.

We primarily took advantage of the swimming pool and the great snorkeling! We enjoyed walks along the beaches and the coral reef. We were mesmerized and enthralled by schools of baby black-fin sharks (can I say awesome?), eels, rays and countless beautiful saltwater fish and other sea life. And we enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty of the island. A 5-star island in my book!

We rented carts to navigate around the island.

Tunnel road

Eating cafeteria style where they feed the workers

yum, blueberry ice cream!

We held LDS Sacrament Meeting services under the trees on Sunday for nine of us (those pictured and the one taking the picture!). We had three Priesthood holders in attendance, so they were able to administer the sacrament. Such a beautiful and peaceful setting to partake of the Sacrament and feel of the Holy Spirit! President Sok gave an inspirational message based on King Benjamin's address to his people.

lagoon side

the pool

enjoying a friendly baggo game at the pool side
such beauty!

so green and peaceful!
great form, Mike!

returning from walking the beach

Is he going to jump in?

The corkscrew tree. In the background you can see the housing units where we stayed for a bargain $20 a night.
Some of the radar tracking equipment

There is a small launch facility on Roi-Namur. Rockets launched here are usually sounding rockets that ascend beyond the atmosphere but have short ranges. The Namur side is home to several radar tracking stations. It was cool to see the big satellite dishes suddenly move as they started tracking something way up there in the atmosphere.

And, lastly, we took in a piece of history as we visited in some of the crumbling WWII remnants of Japanese blockhouses, guns, and pillboxes around Roi-Namur. We were schooled on the invasion of Roi-Namur, part of operation Flintlock, as we visited some of the national landmarks on the battlefield tour. The Marshall islands held great importance to the American supply lines to the territories in Guam and the Philippines. I did not realize the importance the pacific theater played in the battles of WWII before moving here, and the devastation left behind at the end of those battles. It is very sobering to read the stories and see the sites where so many gallant and brave men fought to fight our freedoms. Such bravery is seldom seen today. There were four medal of honor recipients from the battle of Roi-Namur alone.

A marine threw a satchel charge inside a structure. Unknown to the Marines, it was filled with high explosives, resulting in an explosion that threw debris hundreds of feet (pictured)

Out in the rain! You can see some of the rebar.

large guns that were recovered out of the lagoon

Stop #9!

The concrete is so thick and has lasted amazingly well because the Japanese created a salt-water formula for the concrete.  The US tried to copy the formula, but was not successful. The formula was eventually lost by the Japanese.

if you look real close you can see Japanese writing on the back wall, on the left by the pillar

Air raid shelter

one of the pillboxes along the ocean
Japanese air operations command building
the best remaining example of one of the guns

Good bye Roi-Namur! We had a wonderful time! Rain and all!

loading up

taking off in the wind and raid

Saying good bye to Roi-Namur outside the terminal

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The people of the Marshall Islands

It's always an adventure to travel to different lands and places. There is an excitement in experiencing new sights and sounds, tastes and smells.  Each new adventure wraps around my head and fills me with new wonder.  I have been enthralled by new experiences no matter where we have traveled.  We have enjoyed it all from Brazil to Latvia, Italy to Mexico, across the United States, and to many places in between.  But, what really makes a place a truly lasting experience is getting to know the people.

It's one thing to visit a place to see what they have to offer.  It's another to LIVE it.  When you LIVE it, you soon learn to LOVE it. Why? The PEOPLE.

Living out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the tiny island of Ebeye, there isn't much to see.  It's a densly populated island, filled with one long maze of home after home. It's the 5th most populated island in the WORLD. There are no cathedrals or museums to visit.  No sightseeing tours, or guides.  What we DO have here is a quiet, peaceful island filled with loving, humble, fun-loving people that I LOVE! And they love to have their pictures taken! It's impossible to show them all, but here are a few of the people we have met over the past year and a half.
Pres. Seremai with us at Joel and Mery Jeik's baptism

women always serving!
High Council farewell to the Mioba family
Birthday wishes!

Elder Becker with Pres. Thomas, Pres Anjain, Pres Seremai, and Carl Kilma

Ninjine's and Bro. Thomas

Our bwiro cooking crew


Bill snd Baby Albert

some of our beautiful Young Women
Lae friends

a crowd at low tide

always a crowd when the camera comes out!

with AnnMarie Loeak

More of our youth

SisterTafili, Thelma Ned and Sister Butler

farewells at the dock

amazing baptisms

my buddies from Kwaj, Samantha and Alison!

my little dancer in the street
playing games in the street

sweet sisters!
beautiful Young Women!

guarding her new flip flops!

Young Women program

Sisters Seremai and Bellu saying goodbye to Elder Zepty

more good byes at the dock

Kilma family and others at the baptism

reading in the hallway at church

love these girls!

Maria and Allen John

Elder Samuel getting ready to leave for his mission

Banij Ned and Rosmi Roland
missionaries and youth

Lae children

I was going to quietly sit and read......

Langbata wedding with Elder and Sister Schaffer (wearing their wedding crowns!)

Our lives have been blessed with so many new friends!