S. Jacques Stratton’s memoir offers a brief slice of his life, beginning in mid-1999, when he spent a year living and teaching at the College of Micronesia on the island of Pohnpei.
At the time, Stratton was recovering from a broken engagement—his fiancée wanted a more cosmopolitan life; he sought adventure and surfing—and Micronesia seemed to be the answer. The Los Angeles native knew he’d have to make adjustments, but didn’t realize how extensive they would be. As a man on his flight to Pohnpei told him, “Life on the Fringe will alter your sensibilities. Once you acclimatize to the general degradation, you’ll eat Spam straight from the can and call it breakfast!”
Spam from a can was the least of his adventures. The book details his interactions with teaching colleagues, students, natives and ex-pats who populate the island. There are tainted brownies, a traditional mud-like drink called sakau, a brush with a shark, and a seemingly lustful missionary’s daughter who ends their very brief relationship by loudly and publicly declaring him a “sleazebag.”
Several chapters are dominated by the author’s love of surfing. While it’s an integral part of his life, these passages can seem long and jargon-filled: “Enticed by a bloom of liquid morning glory, he angles into the pit, stands, and digs his heels into a backside bottom turn that slingshots him toward the inside section.” Stratton’s prose can also be too flowery: “…the dropping tide brings waves like crystal confections, bursting with a merengue [sic[ of cotton-puff foam spun from the reflections of cotton puff clouds.”
On the plus side, the book features numerous photos that truly enhance the narrative, such as the interesting and picaresque shot accompanying the author’s description of a 1,000-year-old archeological site.
This book will appeal most to readers interested in exotic travel destinations—and surfers, of course. But even those with a minimal spirit of adventure may find their curiosity piqued by Stratton’s account.
Also available as an ebook.