Notes from the Field: Reporting on ‘Island Time’
After three dizzying days at sea, I was relieved to step off the boat in Tarawa, Kiribati. I’d just spent six weeks on the remote Pacific island of Banaba–a place so isolated that currently there is no phone, internet, or mail service.
Being off the grid for more than a month was difficult for me, but it was even more difficult for my friends and family, who were convinced that I’d gone missing, developed a tropical illness, or died while I was away.
But while it’s almost unfathomable for us to imagine weeks without any communication with the outside world, I learned while on Banaba that most people on the island haven’t heard from their relatives in 10 or 20 years. Some haven’t heard anything from their families since they moved to Banaba in 1979, nearly 40 years ago. That’s the reality for those on Banaba today.
The Banabans’ only interaction with the outside world is a small cargo ship from Tarawa Island that arrives every few months.
The Banabans’ only interaction with the outside world is a small cargo ship from Tarawa Island that arrives every few months—and even the arrival of this cargo ship is uncertain. When I departed for Banaba in January, I expected to stay on the island for two or three weeks, based on my rough understanding of the boat’s scheduled journeys. I didn’t expect the boat to be delayed an entire month.
I don’t have the same carefree patience as an islander. A year ago, being stranded for weeks on an isolated island with no communication would have terrified me. But after living in the Pacific for six months, —> Read More