As I mentioned before, over here in Micronesia I don’t do much except eat and sit. Between times of eating and sitting I usually lie down, eat some more and sit some more. My point is that I don’t do much physical activity. The reasons are two fold. The main reason is that it is ridiculously hot, so people do a lot of sitting in the shade. “The Dude” in the Big Lebowski has the title of the laziest man in Los Angeles County, which puts him up there for laziest worldwide. However, I believe that Micronesians are most likely the laziest people on earth. I think “the dude” would fit in just fine over here. I am not degrading Micronesians by pointing out their laziness; they happily admit to their indolence and actually take pride in their stubborn adherence to lassitude. Sometimes they can work with surprising vigor and enthusiasm to accomplish tasks of farming, fishing and food preparation. However, most of the time they prefer to sit or lie down during most of the hours of the day. I have come to accept this lifestyle and spend much of time sitting around in deep philosophical concentration or idle-minded stupor.
The other reason for the lack of sporting activity is the lack of space and resources to play games and sports. These small islands are dense with jungle and rise steeply from the shore to tall volcanic peaks. Flat dry land is hard to come by; the little portions that do exist are covered in houses or farms. There is no space for soccer fields, baseball diamonds or basketball courts. Fields and courts do exist in some places, but they are few and far between. The only two sports that people play over here are volleyball and basketball. Mainly volleyball. The youth loves black American culture and emulates it in dress, music and style; so naturally they are also attracted to basketball. They feel that it makes them gangster to play ball. Regardless of the reasons, I do appreciate that they like basketball over here. However, there a lack of courts so only a select few actually get to play. Volleyball on the other hand is much easier to organize. All you need is a small flat place with two palm trees to tie a net to. They are very good at volleyball and even the amateurs always seem to perform the standard “bump, set, spike”.
I do work out with stretchy bands and a single weight sometimes in my room, but only on some occasions. I do a decent amount of pushups and try to work in some situps, but not to the level that I maintained back in America during my rugby season. On another note, I was very disappointed upon my arrival in Micronesia to find they had no idea about what the sport of rugby was.
I was told that the main sport throughout the Pacific Islands was rugby. Fiji, Tonga and Somoa produce some of the best rugby players in the world. These large, strong, fast islanders are perfect for the quick moving, rugged game of rugby. Pursuing the hope that I would be assigned to one of these islands, I took up the sport of rugby in the year before I left. I had an amazing time learning this gruesome sport and found that I was rather good at it. I am very fast and love to tackle people. In actuality, it is probably better suited for me than football. My small stature is not as much of a disadvantage and the style of play utilizes my attitude of reckless abandon and utter disregard for my body.
To my chagrin, there is no rugby in Micronesia. As I explained, the landmasses are too small to support fields necessary for the sport. Also the population is segmented amongst thousands of islands, so it is difficult to get enough people together that are crazy enough to pound their unprotected heads together in a scrum. The third reason is that Micronesia has been controlled and colonized by America, not England or France. English and French play rugby, so they brought the sport along with them to their Pacific colonies. Americans play basketball and volleyball, so they brought those sports to Micronesia. The combination of the factors of small land, small population, and non-rugby loving colonizers led to the lack of rugby in Micronesia.
At my two training sites on Pohnpei and Tonoas, my house was situated in the very near vicinity of a basketball court. I could play anytime I wanted in my free time to satisfy my needs for competition and exercise. However on Fefan, the closest court is about 40 minutes away at the large church. I make my way down there sometimes, but it is a lengthy production to make it happen. I hope to maybe build a basketball here in my village of Ununno, but that will be a possible future endeavor after I complete the construction of the water tank. Luckily, I was presented with an opportunity to get more involved in basketball. I was invited to be part of a basketball league. I will be representing my mother’s home island of Parem, because our UFO team is already full. The games will officially start in the New Year and I am excited to ball up some Micronesians and show them how we do things around basketball courts in America.
My exercise repertoire was further enhanced by a chance event that took place a couple of weeks ago. I was relaxing down by the ocean and waiting for my family to return from Weno. The little kids were running races on the small grassy straightaway near the dock. Then a few older guys started getting involved. I was feeling rather lazy at the moment and wasn’t enthused to jump up and run with the group, so I just sat and relaxed. After a little while, one of the local boys challenged me to a race. Well, I am never one to turn down a challenge so I hopped up and sauntered over to the group of runners. We both took off and raced about 50 meters….zip, zam, zoom, I beat him by a landslide. Everyone was a little surprised and immediately another guy came up and challenged me. Once again, I left him in my dust. Then a third guy walked up to the starting line and demanded a race. He kept close on my coattails, but I still smoked him. Apparently, this third guy was the fastest man in the village. Everyone was amazed.
From that point on I have been bombarded with comments about my running abilities. I am expected to run in the Fefan Track & Field Games in January and lead my village to victory. I have begun to practice with the kids almost every day and work to get in better shape. Unfortunately, I strained by quad muscle and really haven’t been able to sprint since that first day of introduction races. However, I have now started jogging in the mornings to keep myself going. I know that I have always been fast and I enjoyed pretty good success as a sprinter in high school, but I am not sure that I can live up to the lofty expectations that my village has placed on me. They say that two other “Johns” have been the only island champions from Ununno in the past, so it seems natural that I will win all my races and add to the legend of John. I am excited about these upcoming races, but am a little bit anxious because I am in the worst shape of my life. All I do is eat, sleep, sit and eat. My pants don’t even fit any more. I honestly don’t button them anymore; I just use a belt to keep them up. I haven’t weighed myself since I’ve been here but I assume I am much fatter than at any point in my life. So, I might not showcase my peak performance at the track meet next month but at least I will be in a little better shape than now. I will keep you all updated with the results.