We couldn’t dive on Friday and Saturday (July 1 and 2nd) because of a national holiday in the Marshall Islands, National Fishermen’s Day! We also ended up not diving today (Sunday), because one of our core team members wasn’t feeling well, so we took an extra rest day. I think it’s turned out to be a good thing, since it’s given us a little time to explore Majuro.
I mentioned previously that Majuro is much more developed than Arno. Majuro has about 30,000 people living in it, while Arno has less than 2,000 (and Arno is a bigger atoll in terms of area). There are multiple restaurants, a few bars, hotels, and even a couple of nightclubs (we checked one out last night, it was fun!). It used to have a bowling alley and a movie theater, but they’ve both closed. There’s even a large grocery store where you can buy health food staples like tofu and quinoa (I was shocked by this).
One thing that’s united every place I’ve visited in Micronesia so far is fervor for fishing, and there’s no place that’s truer than in the Marshall Islands. National Fishermen’s Day is a holiday that’s celebrated in all of the atolls here. There are two different tournaments, the Urok (bottom fishing) tournament and the Billfish tournament. The boats line up at a dock, where the fish are offloaded and weighed in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Every year, two teenage girls are chosen to be Ms. Billfish and Ms. Urok, and they give out leis to each of the participants and pose for photographs with each team and their catch. Then, the team moves off and the whole process starts again with the next boat.
We went to the weigh-ins on both Friday and Saturday. Apparently, this year wasn’t a great year because the largest billfish was a ~215 lb. marlin (people have caught ~700 lb. marlins in the past). It was still the largest fish I’ve ever seen, and I can’t even begin to imagine what a 700 lb. fish looks like. I really appreciated that the tournament allows participants a chance to earn extra points by releasing the really large fish they catch. They’re required to show a time-stamped photograph to prove it was caught during the tournament day and to get an estimate of its size.
Also on Saturday, I moved into my apartment! It’s right above a store and a Laundromat on Long Island, which is out closer to the airport. The walls are bright pink, which is kind of blinding, but it’s got air conditioning and the internet (supposedly, it hasn’t been working since I’ve been there), which were my main requirements. To get to the hotel where the rest of the team is staying, I have to take a taxi (they cost $1.25 each way, so no biggie). Here, almost every other car is a taxi. They’re all shared with multiple people, and to catch one you just stand and hold out your fingers to show how many people are with you. The ride takes about 20 minutes, but mostly because there are multiple stops along the way (also, sometimes the taxi driver has to run some errands while he’s en route). I’m hoping I can borrow a bike at some point, which would be a great way to work off the ~90% carb diet I’ve been eating since I got here (white rice is a staple for most meals).
Tomorrow, we’ll get back in the water and start exploring the reefs around Majuro. We only have four more days of diving ahead of us – things are moving right along. The rest of the team says their farewells on Friday, and I’ll start my internship with MIMRA the following week. Fortunately, my diving adventures won’t end this week, as I’ll hopefully get to dive with MIMRA at some point, possibly at another of the outer island atolls – fingers crossed!