Peter Rudiak-Gould spent a year of humor and heartache teaching English in the Marshall Islands.
Peter Rudiak-Gould, just barely into his 20s, is stuck in a place he would later describe as having its own “curious rituals,” “inscrutable values,” and “traditional huts of metal and concrete.” And he can’t wait to leave.
So he hops a plane in his native United States and flies to a tiny and remote island in the Pacific Ocean, a place that climate change could wipe out.
He would spend a year in the Marshall Islands, teaching English to children who watch Hollywood movies but believe America is perched, as they are, between a lagoon and the ocean.
Rudiak-Gould’s story of his fantastic voyage is a joy to read, a tale full of humor and heartache. In Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island, he turns a tiny strip of earth into one of the most fascinating places on the planet, home to people who fit no stereotype.
If you’ve heard of the Marshall Islands at all, you may connect them with World War II or the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll, which gave the revealing swimsuits their name (not the other way around). As he embarks on his one-year trip, Rudiak-Gould is no expert about the country of 59,600 either. But he’s entranced by the possibilities of its remoteness, beauty, and isolation.