Do You Do Nauru?

I’m sitting at the Honiara Airport (which amazingly enough has wireless) waiting for my flight on Our Airlines (former Air Nauru).

I’m not going to get a chance to do many posts on Nauru, so I might as well take the opportunity while I can.

Nauru is small. Very small. The country is so small, that the buildings and airport runway clearly show up on a map of the country. It is only one island, not a chain. It has a population of around 12,000. It is an independent country with a seat in the UN General Assembly.

Nauru might just be one of the saddest stories in the Pacific. The island was used for thousands of years as a stopover for birds which migrated in the Pacific. As a result, Nauru, along with several other Pacific islands such as Banabas became what is known as ‘phosphate rocks’.

In other words, they were covered with bird poop.

That bird poop had extremely good quality phosphate. It required very little processing to get it to a useful state. The British and Japanese who both colonized the island at one point or another mined the island. When they got their independence, they kept right on mining.

At one point in the 1980s, they had the highest per capita GDP of any country on Earth.

That is when things started to go downhill…

If you can see on the map, it’s a small place. There isn’t much to mine and when it was gone, it was gone. They invested the money poorly on musicals and buildings. The people of Nauru shifted their diet to junk food and became the most obese people on Earth. The inside of the island became so gutted out from mining, it looks like the moon. (actually, the moon probably looks better).

So in the end, they wound up broke, fat, and what little land they had was scarred.

A few years ago, the one airplane they had in their national airline was repossessed.

They tried their hand at banking and the US Government came down on them for money laundering. They agreed to stop the banking if the US gave them aid. They stopped the banking, but we never gave them anything.

Like many of the really small countries, they have recognized Taiwan over China. China offered them a bunch of money to recognize them, but Taiwan then beat the bid and they shifted back. Taiwan purchased the airplane I’ll be flying in tonight.

About two years ago, they went missing for a while. There was no air flights or radio contact with the island for like two months.

So in a nutshell, that’s Nauru. My original plans had me staying on the island for three days, but they changed flight schedules, so now I’ll only be here for an hour…. in total darkness. The best I can hope for is to get a passport stamp during the layover.

I guess a single post on Nauru is sort of fitting.