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Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Islandby Peter Rudiak Gould
Synopses & Reviews
Just one month after his 21st birthday, Peter Rudiak-Gould moved to Ujae, a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands located 70 miles from the nearest telephone, car, store, or tourist, and 2,000 miles from the closest continent. He spent the next year there, living among its 450 inhabitants and teaching English to its schoolchildren.
At first blush, Surviving Paradise is a thoughtful and laugh-out-loud hilarious documentation of Rudiak-Goulds efforts to cope with daily life on Ujae as his idealistic expectations of a tropical paradise confront harsh reality. But Rudiak-Gould goes beyond the personal, interweaving his own story with fascinating political, linguistic, and ecological digressions about the Marshall Islands. Most poignant are his observations of the noticeable effect of global warming on these tiny, low-lying islands and the threat rising water levels pose to their already precarious existence.
An Eat, Pray, Love as written by Paul Theroux, Surviving Paradise is a disarmingly lighthearted narrative with a substantive emotional undercurrent.
"Thousands of miles from home and in a culture equally distant from his own, Rudiak-Gould's first night on the island of Ujae made him lonely 'to the point of physical pain.' Yet after only a few weeks in the farthest outreaches of the Marshall Islands, the author 'overcame boredom almost immediately,' bringing the reader along on an equally gripping journey of one year in one of the most remote, fascinating places on Earth. Rudiak-Gould, a volunteer English teacher, came to Ujae knowing little about the Marshallese language and even less about its culture. Yet as he became more familiar with his surroundings and the native tongue, he found a community that eventually saw him as one of their own. Nearly every aspect of Ujae is dissected, from its horrific educational standards to the drastic differences in their respective social systems and the eclectic array of Marshallese food (Rudiak-Gould describes one dish as 'liquid flatulence'). Rudiak-Gould also lets the reader in on his own personal struggles in dealing with children (and their parents) in a place where corporal punishment is encouraged. At the same time, he becomes adept at Marshallese activities like spearfishing, allowing him to contribute to a 'culture based on survival.' Alternatively hilarious, emotional and thought provoking (Rudiak-Gould analyzes the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming on the low-lying area), the book is an eye-opening look into a beautiful yet harsh paradise far from the reaches of tourism." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Peter Rudiak-Gould is currently pursuing a doctorate in anthropology at Oxford, focusing on Marshallese understandings of global warming and sea level rise. In the summer of 2007, he interviewed the President of the Marshall Islands regarding the effects of climate change. Proficient in Marshallese, the native language of the Marshall Islands, he is the author of the language textbook used by the WorldTeach volunteer organization as its official language manual for the Marshall Islands program.
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