My grandmother dramatically enunciated the Pohnpeian version of a “Once upon a time …” before she began any one of the stories passed through the ages by oral traditions. She uttered the magical realism of Nan Madol, the reign of terror by ruthless past kings, the mythic chase that led to the “droppings” of Chicken Poop Mountain and many more past tales. We all sat around her, transfixed, until her revelatory finish.
However, the one story that I have always enormously admired was one of Pohnpei’s oldest and intrepid tales that began … with a canoe. This journey marked a critical point in history that inspired the following proverb: Pohnpei sahpw en kohdo which translates to “Pohnpei is a place for those who come.” From a voyage that concluded, that proverb is the underlying message in the story that endured the long oral transmission from one generation to another.
Carolann Carl beautifully tells the story in a poem—Keilahn Aio: On the Other Side of Yesterday (a poem) —that she wrote and performed at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Fall 2018 Open Mic Poetry Slam Night. Carolann Carl is a Pohnpeian woman currently attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa majoring in biochemistry. Using an innovative method to share her experience in Hawaii as a COFA immigrant, Carolann harnesses the story of the courageous voyage of our ancestors that led to Pohnpei’s creation to deconstruct the misconceptions on her Hawaiian community. Addressed to islanders and useful to any audience, this is a humble poem that exemplifies one form of an eye-opening perspective on a controversial subject.
Watch: Carolann’s Video
On National Immigrant Day, we celebrate migration and its significant role in ALL ecosystems.
Here at Ocean Conservancy, we advocate for a healthy, ever-flowing ocean that holds our Pacific bluefin tuna and countless other marine species that migrate long distances as a crucial part of their survival. We promote the well-functioning ocean today whose same currents carried my ancestors years ago to the islands.
We also seek to protect our ocean whose waters that sweep over the coastal reefs of Pohnpei are the very same waves that wash the shores of this country that many have come to call home.