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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman

A Samoan circus

“Here are your tickets for the show,” he said, handing tickets out like Christmas presents. “It’s the least I could do for what all of you have been through this week. We will have New Zealand transports at the gate waiting to take whoever wants to go back to the Peace Corps dorm after the show.” I never knew anything about New Zealand before 9–12. After that week, I would always remember their care and kindness.

The lights dimmed, drums beat, and a colorful ringmaster jumped into the stage. It was the oddest scene I never thought I would find myself. Front and center, our collective group of light-skinned individuals shined like diamonds whenever the rotating lights circled the crowd. Acts of balance, fire dancing, and strength filled the hour-long show before ending with several magical acts of danger. Missy, a K-27 volunteer, was selected to participate. Sliced in half and pieced back together, her body remained in perfect condition. The entire experience: the games, the rides, the foods, and the show were cheesy but somehow seemed to be exactly what all of us needed.

Two days after the circus, Corey and I returned to Tamana. Living in one of the most remote atolls in the world seemed to be safer than the United States at the time. Everyone back home in Tamana knew what had happened. Teachers, friends, and strangers seemed to hear about the attacks as soon as we did. I suspected the coconut wireless was working overtime while we were gone. They hated Osama for doing what he did and made sure we knew how much they hated him. One family was so angry that they renamed their dog Osama. Unaware that most Americans would not have done this out of spite, I showed, as best I could, appreciation for their gesture.

Two months after returning, I received a Newsweek highlighting Afghan refugees on boats protesting relocation to a remote eastern Kiribati atoll by jumping into the ocean. The article, Australia’s Refugee Archipelago, highlighted intricacies of war most never hear about.

The scores of Afghan Refugees who landed in Nauru in mid-September were dazed for a good reason. They had spent a month at sea, and they had expected their journey to end on the vast shores of Australia. Instead, they found themselves dumped onto a flyspeck Pacific atoll and herded into a hastily built detention camp called Topside.

I was aware of Australia’s Pacific Islands immigration opposition, but Afghani refugees? This was new. Australia sought help from other nations in dealing with an influx of refugees but to no avail. Instead of granting asylum, the Australian government developed a plan creating a refugee archipelago, refuge centers strung out across the Pacific. The Pacific Plan would pay countries to take refugees off the hands of the Australian government. Nauru, a nation in bankruptcy, would receive AUD 9 Million for taking 1,000 refugees. Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Palau, and Kiribati received offers, to which Kiribati responded positively. However, asylum seekers jumped into the ocean in protest when our islands appeared.

Asylum seekers on Nauru - RNZ

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