It began with a small swatch of color — a bright cotton dress peeking out from a thick wool coat. Slowly the colors spread into the music, the food and the faces of the people attending mass at our small Catholic church in Appleton, Wisconsin.
A ubiquitous luster, especially vivid during these frozen February days, has been the continuing legacy of our Micronesian population. Lured by the prospect of better education, they left their tropical home and, one by one, migrated Northeast to Wisconsin.
Thanks to a cooperative compact between the United States and Micronesia, Micronesians can live, work and study in the United States without a visa. Micronesians volunteer to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces at approximately double the per capita rate as Americans; they are also eligible for admission to U.S. Service Academies.
We celebrated with our island friends last night at our parish’s annual Micronesian dinner, a friendly explosion of taste, sound, color and dance. Icy snow crunched under our feet as we made our way into the building past trees that had not seen a green leaf in four months. We pulled open the door and smiled immediately as warmth and spicy smells chased this tiresome winter away for a few hours.
We piled our plates high with colorful food and sat down to enjoy the feast and the entertainment of some tiny South Pacific dancers.
A slide show depicting facts and photos played in the background and prompted this thought: The cooperative compact works both ways. That is, Americans can live and work freely in Micronesia without a visa as well. Field trip anyone?