— Want to go to an island that’s vastly misunderstood and see if you can find some way to understand it? Go to
CHUUK. Chuuk has long held a reputation as the Pacific’s unwelcoming backwater, noted for drunkenness and political incompetence. Is this reputation deserved? For a thoughtful answer to that question, read Francis X. Hezel’s article about Chuuk on the Micronesian-based Jesuit “research-pastoral institute” MicSem.org, “Chuuk: Caricature of An Island.” Hezel first visited Chuuk in 1963 and lived there on and off, mostly in the capacity of a Jesuit priest, for more than twenty-five years. Hezel acknowledges Chuuk’s reputation, as he puts it, as “the sinkhole of Micronesia,” and admittedly took quite a while to appreciate Chuukese culture, but over the years he discovered Chuukese were not in fact “unfathomable,” but that their supposed belligerence, “indirection,” lack of respect for privacy and perceived lack of motivation for self-improvement were in fact a function of their communal way of life, their aversion of confrontation as a way to avoid hurting someone’s feelings and their cultural inclination to not try to control life in the future, but instead to live for the also uncontrollable today.
On the other hand, if you only have a couple days in the middle of a busy Micronesian itinerary you may not necessarily choose to visit Chuuk. According to Wikitravel’s page on Chuuk, “apart from scuba diving, there is not very much to do in Chuuk. There are no real beaches on Weno…. None of the hotels on Chuuk even has a swimming pool. For non-diving spouses, a trip to Chuuk can be a dull and tiresome affair.”