Tag Archives: PG Bryan

‘THE FISH AND RICE CHRONICLES: MY EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES IN PALAU AND MICRONESIA’ BY PG BRYAN

‘The Fish and Rice Chronicles: My Extraordinary Adventures in Palau and Micronesia’ is a memoir penned by PG Bryan. It recounts his experiences in the western Pacific country, where he spent three years (1967-1970) as a Peace Corps volunteer.

THE FISH AND RICE CHRONICLES

Summary

After devastating breakup with his girlfriend, Patrick decides to join the Peace Corps; to get away, forget about Gail, and perhaps do something good for others.

Working in a foreign country takes some getting used to, especially when one is thrown into a completely different culture. Patrick needs to familiarize himself not only with the place, but also with a distinct lifestyle of the local people. Fortunately, he does that very quickly and soon starts to enjoy his adventure. In between his Peace Corps duties, he spends time with newly-met friends; splashes around in the ocean in the company of sharks, crocodiles, and sea snakes; or goes on fishing expeditions with none other than Lee Marvin.

Review

This classic travelogue-cum-memoir is a very… peculiar (for lack of a better word) read. I can tell you right off the bat that it surely won’t be to everyone’s liking. Why? Let me explain.

PG Bryan wrote a truly fascinating account of his Peace Corps years in Palau. Fascinating and extremely – with a capital E – detailed. This is not one of those fast-paced narratives that are hard to put down once you start reading. This book drags on and on and on. After a few pages you start noticing that the author is a meticulous type of a guy – he records everything and leaves out nothing. Because, why not?

So every step he took is documented and commented on. You know where and when he was fishing. Of course, you also know what equipment he used. And how he got from point A to point B. And if he caught anything or not.

But you don’t really know what Palauan culture is like. PG Bryan doesn’t write a lot about that. There are a few interesting facts and anecdotes that you will probably be delighted to read, but only a few – and that’s a real shame.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Palau is not present in the book at all. It is. In the author’s vivid descriptions. The details of scenery he shares with the reader are – without any exaggeration – quite mind-blowing. He paints with the words so skillfully you feel as if you were right there standing next to him in blazing heat, looking at the lagoon, and dreaming of the forest shade. Or in a boat wiping salt water from your eyes. Or on a tiny, uninhabited, picture-perfect island wandering aimlessly along the white sand beach. Palau comes to life on every single page and it’s beautiful, enchanting, thoroughly irresistible.

In between those wonderful descriptions are PG Bryan’s musings on his Peace Corps service. They are often too long and loaded with unnecessary parts, but nevertheless you read them with a dose of curiosity. Especially when the author writes about all the trials and tribulations he encountered along the way. From not speaking the language, to having to adjust to a foreign culture, to experiencing a massive culture shock in his native California – he recounts everything with disarming honesty, emotion, and not infrequently self-deprecating humour, which makes you want to listen to what he has to say.

‘The Fish and Rice Chronicles’ is a good book. It’s not phenomenal, but it’s definitely worth your attention. If you like Peace Corps memoirs, or if you are interested in Palau, Micronesia, Oceania, you will surely enjoy it. Just bear in mind that… Oh, never mind. Read it and judge for yourself.

Advertisements

IDYLLIC MICRONESIA

‘Ujae Island was part of Ujae Atoll, which, like every coral atoll, was a thin ring of reef studded with islets surrounding a lagoon. Ujae sat perched between the inner lagoon and outer ocean, and I quickly understood that the essential axis of the island was ocean-lagoon, not east-west or north-south. Walking to the two ends of that axis brought me to the island’s extremes. The lagoon was calm, shallow, and so transparent as to be color-coded by depth; its beach was smooth, sandy, and fringed by houses. The ocean was violent, mile-deep, and impenetrably opaque; its beach was rough, rocky, and utterly deserted. There were two sides to this island, and they couldn’t have been more different.’

Peter Rudiak-Gould, ‘Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island’


‘After our first week in Palau, Bourne took us out on the Milotk, the thirty-six-foot Marine Resources boat, to the rock islands. Southern Palau is dotted with these unique islands. Some are extruded limestone formations, deeply undercut at the waterline from erosion and the rasping action of hungry chitons. The rock islands, their crowns covered with dense native vegetation, appear as giant green mushrooms growing from the water. Others are laced with beautiful white sand beaches, as close to tropical paradise as imaginable.’

PG Bryan, ‘The Fish & Rice Chronicles’


‘The picture in our dictionary showed an atoll as a small ring of sand and coconut-palms around a dead flat lagoon kept fresh by the ebb and flow of ocean tides through breaks here and there in the land. Marakei in the Northern Gilberts is indeed rather like that – a ribbon of palm-green not more than twelve miles round; the regular golden circle of its beaches, closed save for one tidal passage, encompasses a sapphire lake forever exquisitely at rest.’

Sir Arthur Grimble, ‘A Pattern Of Islands’


‘Finally, Kosrae loomed on the horizon. The island was lush ad green, with long stretches of sandy beaches and two large, pointy peaks that defined what locals called the Sleeping Beauty, for obvious reasons. It was so beautiful and serene – like something right out of a picture postcard from paradise – that I felt a great sense of calm and peacefulness wash over me.’

Bryan Vila, Cynthia Morris, ‘Micronesian Blues’


‘Beyond Nan Madol lay the ocean and several uninhabited islands on the horizon. The beauty of the place left us speechless.’

Paul Watson, ‘Up Pohnpei’