One early morning in May 2007, I was sitting on a small canoe floating off the shores of Pohnpei. I felt the cool sea breeze as I sat there, peacefully enjoying the sunrise. With my back to the small, mountainous green island, I looked out over the horizon and saw orange rays beaming through the clouds. This was my world; I did not know what was beyond the horizon. I took a deep breath to enjoy my last morning in Pohnpei as I readied myself for a long voyage. I would soon leave for Beijing with my family; my father had been asked to establish the Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) there.
Now, as I stand on my balcony from the 15th floor of the Jianguomenwai Diplomatic Residence Compound, I am amazed at how my world has changed. Just a few years ago, I was sitting in a canoe in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and enjoying some fresh tuna sashimi. Today, I am in Beijing interacting with people from all over the world and having great Chinese cuisine – like my favorite, Peking duck.
My name is Sean Calvin Apis. I am from the FSM, an island country located in the Pacific Ocean, just east of the Philippines. While the distance between Micronesia and China is relatively small, the two countries are completely different worlds. A typical day in Pohnpei involves waking up and finishing my chores, raking and burning the leaves from our front yard, then picking up fallen apples and coconuts from the backyard to feed the pigs. I would pick up all the garbage around the house and drive it out to the dump to throw it away, then cut the grass in the backyard. Once that was done, friends would gather at my house, and we would drive around the island, stopping at waterfalls, rivers, and beaches along the way.
One childhood memory that stands out is when the whole family would go to a smaller island outside Pohnpei for a picnic. The men would take small boats to go spear fishing; when they came back with all the colorful varieties of fish, the ladies would fry, grill, or simply boil them in coconut soup. Although I swam with the other kids, I would always want to go fishing. I bounced from wave to wave, and when I finally reached the edge of the reef, I could see fish everywhere. I felt like I could just put my hands down and catch one.
Moving from family and friends, from an island with buildings that are only four stories high to a city with a whole skyline full of skyscrapers pushed me to come to grips with a different life.
Throughout my five years in China, the experiences that I have had have changed me as a person – not only in how I think, dress, speak, but also in how I see the world. I am more open-minded and ready to engage with different cultures. I now understand the phrase “global village” better. While we come from different ethnicities, heritages, or simply places of birth, we are people who have a lot in common and live a global community. We need to better understand each other and work together for the sustainable development of our world.
This will be my last year in China. My plan is to go to Hawaii for university. Growing up on an island, I have learned that it is my duty as a citizen of the FSM to go out into the world to gain experience, learn more than what is at home, experience a different lifestyle, gain knowledge, and – when it is time to head home – apply everything I learned to help make my country a better place. Truly, our experiences shape who we are.
Sean Calvin Apis is 18 years old and attends Beijing World Youth Academy.