<1st issue> (May 22, 2013) / <2nd issue> (July 16, 2013)

<1st issue> Tidings from Around the World (May 22, 2013)



Author Introduction



      Tetsuo Ohfuji


Mr. Tetsuo Ohfuji retired from UOEH at the end of March 2008. He entered a corporation affiliated to UOEH and then resigned from there at the end of March 2012. He is currently dispatched by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), as a senior volunteer, to the Federated States of Micronesia.


<Greetings from Pohnpei> 

My name is Tetsuo Ohfuji and I’m a retiree of UOEH (administrative division). I’m honored to have this opportunity to write a column on this official webpage.


I’m currently dispatched to Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, as a senior volunteer. My term here is for 2 years and it has been 4 months since I arrived. My duty is in operational management at the state hospital, which has 90 beds. I sometimes feel lost in the differences of the climate, language, culture and lifestyle habits but I’m taking them as a new challenge and learning to enjoy them all. I’m happy that I have something to challenge me over the time that I am here.


UOEH is one of the most unique universities in Japan, and it is where international students from Asian countries come to seize their future prospects. I think UOEH is now lit with new tiny sparks that when combined, create a shining new stage for international exchange, bringing to reality our dreams of promoting peace and development around the world. I believe that it is the mission of the International Center to set the stage for this to happen. I’m proud of UOEH for taking on this honorable role and I myself will try to keep striving as well.


I wish you continued success for your future endeavors. 

 May 2013 


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(Photos (from top-left): with JICA members and their family; on International Women's Day; with JICA members; state hospital in Pohnpei)



<2nd issue> Tidings from Around the World (July 16, 2013)



Pohnpei, Micronesia (Livelihood)


Pohnpei (formerly known as Ponape) is one of the states of the Federated States of Micronesia (the other three being Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae) and contains the capital of the country, Palikir. The circumference of the island is about 80 km and it is located 3,700 km south-southeast of Japan. There is a 2-hour time difference with Japan. It’s known as the flower garden of Micronesia because there are hibiscus and various other kinds of flowers everywhere.


Although it often records the world’s highest rainfall level, the people suffer from water shortages because of a lack of reservoirs. With its weak economy, it relies on foreign investments to maintain its infrastructure. Japan contributes to the infrastructure of the Pohnpei airport as well as providing additional physical supports. The total population of Micronesia is 110,000, with 35,000 people living in Pohnpei. For your information, there are 28 JICA volunteers in Micronesia, and altogether, 2,200 are dispatched all over the world.


It is also well known as a place where many people were killed during the Pacific War. I visited Mt. Sokehs with my colleagues which is the symbol of the island and cut the grass around the cenotaph for the unknown soldiers. There are auto-cannons and anti-aircraft artillery left behind in the jungle still glaring at the sky.


The average temperature here is 27 degrees Celsius. It climbs above 30 degrees during the day but it’s chilly without a blanket early in the morning. The people working for JICA say the living condition of Pohnpei is very people-friendly. The local people are kind and there are no theft or crime. There are no infectious diseases because there are no mosquitos to transmit them. (Dengue fever and Cholera used to be widespread but no longer so). And a certain level of daily necessities are available – just the prices of products are high except for rice (made in Australia) and local food such as bananas, taro/dasheens and fish.


The only thing I find difficult (perhaps there will be so much more if I am greedy) is that there are not a lot of fresh vegetables, and those that I find are very expensive (5 dollars for a cabbage!) Otherwise, boiled tap water is clean enough and there are no mosquitos around the houses and flatlands. One of my pleasures now is taking a chair out on the balcony and reading books over a cup of coffee in a cool breeze before dusk. The Southern Cross is visible when the weather is good.


I value a daily life rhythm very much. I have strengthened my sense of this since I started working at this hospital. I usually walk for an hour and do some shopping at the same time after I get home at 5:00 pm. To keep a good life rhythm, I walk for about three hours during hot daytime on weekends. Local people do not walk around in the heat but I think to myself that a little extra effort is good to build physical strength. I try to focus on walking because dogs chase me if I run.


 By the way, I was bitten by a dog the other day. There was no need to be worried about Rabies infection, but I went to see a doctor to protect myself against tetanus. Dogs are not pets but food here. They are served at ceremonial occasions called Kamadipw. Another special dish would be pork in which the pigs are roasted whole. Men often drink sakau, a drink produced from the ground roots of the piperaceous plant called sakau/kava which has sedative effects.


Health conditions of the people here are not so good and this can be said about Micronesia as a whole. The average life expectancy is 69 years because of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiac infarction, cancer and kidney disease. Funerals, which usually continue for 4 days, are taking place somewhere almost every day. It is their custom to have the burial on one’s own property. Many of local houses are concrete buildings built in a bush or forest of breadfruit, palm and banana trees and it’s dark inside with little use of electricity. People have dogs and pigs in their yards. I often see children climb trees and play with hammocks.


There is still a traditional chieftaincy custom called Nahnmwarki whereby the chief holds absolute power in the area. Even the government has to ask for permission before they implement something. It is an old tradition but people greatly respect this elder.


At times I feel confused, as if I’m seeing the Japanese society from half a century ago. People laugh out loud and are always eating something. I sometimes meet someone who looks familiar. Although they have social concerns, such as modernization, self-support and cultural inheritance, etc., it seems to me that the people, who are fairly big, are saying that those problems are “teeny-tiny.” I feel their hardiness and strength.


I would like to write about my work and workplace next time.


July, 2013

Tetsuo Ofuji, JICA Senior Volunteer


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