Hi, I'm definitely not a mother or even a parent. I'm a 19 year old college student. But, I have lived on Kwajalein from 2006 - June 2012 and I can promise you there is no safer place to raise your young children than this island. A "burly" bicycle trailer is much safer than a car for your children to ride in. You probably will rarely exceed 8 miles per hour while you pull your kids in the trailer. (I would pass bikers when I went jogging). As for your four year old, It might be a good idea just to teach him how to ride a bike (if he doesn't already know). The best way to teach a kid to ride a two wheeler is to get something called a "strider." It's basically a bicycle with no pedals. That way, the kid can push himself along with his feet, getting the hang of the balance. When he gets the balance down, the adjustment to a normal bike is fast and easy (with minimal accidents). There are plenty very young children riding around Kwajalein and serious bicycle accidents are very few and far between. If you are nervous about putting your 8 month old in a trailer, you could easily put him in one of those baby carriers that attach to the handlebars or mount up just behind your seat (just make sure you never leave your baby in the seat when you get off your bike - if it tipped over, you would have a bad day). Bottom line is, there are lots of families with small children on Kwajalein who do just fine, and there are many solutions to everyday problems for those families. So don't worry so much about it I'm sure you and your family will love the island. Out of all the things you have to worry about with moving to Kwajalein, safety should be your least concern. I was happy to get off the island because it was too safe for me. If you would like to see some videos of Kwajalein, I have posted a bunch of them on YouTube. Just search "Jarem Erekson" every video that comes up was uploaded by me because my name is so unique. Check it out.
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Hi there--I am coming here from Kwaj-net. I very, very reluctantly moved to Kwaj in 1998, pregnant with my first baby and scared to death of what we were getting ourselves into......7 years and three daughters later, my husband had to convince me to move back to the States, and hardly a day goes by still (we've been in CO for seven years now) that I don't daydream about going back to Kwaj. When I was there, they still delivered on island, so all of my babies have Marshallese birth certificates (we had the most fantastic experience each time, I promise you, and I'm a Mothering kind of mama!). My oldest, who is now 13 but was 6 when we moved to CO, just posted pictures on facebook of our time there, with the title "home sweet home". That tiny island has a profound effect on its inhabitants! Please, please, please feel free to contact me (you can email garribeth at yahoo dot com, and if you'd rather talk via phone I'll pass that along to you via email) if you would like to chat about your concerns or about what it's like to be there with young children. Things have changed a bit since we left, but I am happy to offer my experience with you as you make your decisions. Kwaj isn't right for everyone, but it turned out to be just perfect for me, even though I went there certain that I'd hate it. :)
I know that it seems scary to go to a place like Kwajalein, but I can promise you, as an adult who spent 4 years of her childhood on the island, it can be the best experience of your life and your children's lives. It is a community that is located on an island --what could be better? When I was there, there was no tv, no internet, and only island phone calls (we had to use ham radios to contact the states). Now there are many more modern conveniences and the school is excellent! Traveling around the island will not be difficult whether you bike or walk. Count your blessings that you are getting this opportunity.
I grew up on Kwaj. My family moved there when my brother was 3 and I was 4. We loved it. We used to play outside after school and come home when the six-o-clock whistle blew. Our parents didn't have to schlepp us around in cars from activity to activity.
It's 3 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. There are tons of opportunities to be outside getting exercise and there is way less pollution than you encounter in the states; so maybe that will make up for the lack of organic food.
Bikes are way safer than cars and your baby will only be getting bigger. Use a car seat for awhile if necessary, and then the trailer should be fine. I used a trailer with my one-year-olds in Eugene. Most people don't even bother with the helmets on the island, but that's your call.
Why will you be eating at the mess hall? The houses have kitchens, and there is a grocery store.
I understand you don't like conventional school systems, but when we were there the schools were excellent with small classes and plenty of resources. I interact with hundreds of former Kwaj Kids, and none of us has anything bad to say about our school experience. Those who also went to state-side schools, too, said that Kwaj had much more challenging classes.
I hope things turn out for the best for you and your family.
Hi! Im another Kwaj Kid...I was six years old when my family moved out to Kwajalein. Lived there for ten years. I would give anything to go back! I have the same In Step trailer, and that would be fine for the baby. Ive been using mine since my son was 6 months old. Your four year old would be an amazing bike rider in no time! Practice makes perfect! The ride is smooth and the island is flat so its easy to keep a slow and steady pace. Helmets are not really necessary, but for peace of mind, maybe get one for the four year old as she learns to ride. The baby in the trailer, though, I don't see the need. Good Luck! Btw, I lived on the Big Island for a year so I know how you feel. But the Big Island will always be there and only the very luckiest people get to experience life on Kwaj!
Oh, my gosh, your kids are the perfect age for a trip there! Good luck. FWIW, I had a bike with a burley on the back (everyone does ... even if you don't have kids, you have the burley, or at least trailer), but I hated riding the bike, because it was like riding a bike dragging a huge parachute in back of you! I walked everywhere with the double stroller ... and the other thing we did often was to drag the kids along in the red ryder. In fact, the only time I had the kids in helmets was when they were in the wagon. We've been home 10 years, so the on-island rules may have changed, but helmets, I don't think, were required except maybe under 12. At least, I only knew one adult who wore a helmet.
My older son, at about 4, would ride his bike to the airport to meet his father when he'd come back from Roi on his daily commute. And his absolute favorite thing to do would be to get on his bike, ride alone to the library, and get a book recommendation from the librarian.
Burley or no burley, make sure you get raised handlebars. They are a thousand times more comfortable, esp since I had not completely recovered from the carpal-tunnel you get when you're pregnant. And the island is flat, so you think you won't need the gears, but the gears will help a lot during the windy season, which is wild!
You're going to want to get your 4yo a 2-wheeler with training wheels if you haven't already, and you'll be astonished at how fast he outgrows the training wheels. Bring a helmet for him, and an extra, if you can, because they get a lot of use. Also, the sun there does a wicked number on the plastic, so you can expect it to degrade faster. Although, if you're in HI, you're probably already a little familiar with this phenomenon.
You'll love it. Your kids will love it.
Oh, and one more thing: yes, it is hot, but you get used to it. And holy heck, humid. Believe it or not you get used to that, too. But regarding walking in the sun, except for the heat of the day, once you ARE used to it, it's really not that big of a deal. We pretty much stayed inside from about 10-2, but walked a lot. With sunscreen and hats (we were never, ever, ever without a hat and sunscreen) I'm sort of proud to say that in the whole time we were there, my kids never got a sunburn.
Oh, and HI BETH! As soon as I saw moved to Kwaj pregnant in 98 I knew it was you!
Hmmm ... my edit about sun and heat doesn't seem to have taken. I saw that you mentioned your concern about the sun and the heat and walking around, and that's totally legitimate, but we didn't have any issues and we walked a lot. We pretty much stayed inside (our house or playdates) from about 10-2. When we were outside I was fanatical about sunscreen and hats. We were never without them. It's actually not THAT hot there -- 90 +/- pretty consistently; we've had hotter in Boston since we've been back, but holy heck the humidity is, well, indescribable. But you get used to it. You learn, for example, to keep your camera in a ziplock bag and bring it outside for a few minutes before you'll actually use it to let it fog up and clear off. But I'm actually pretty pround of the fact that in the whole time we were there, my kids never had a single sunburn.
Edited by kwajalinda - 11/29/12 at 3:01pm
Ha! I probably should have said something about the transportation issue, since that is the point of this thread, after all. :D
Most kids on Kwaj, if they have lived there for any amount of time, are off of their training wheels sometime between 4 and 5. My oldest daughter was just over 4 when she was done with training wheels, which worked well since baby number three was born shortly after that. I was one of the safety mamas who made my child wear a helmet on her bike, but most people didn't. Having a wreck is the only safety concern, really, as it's flat and not bumpy, and the step-vans and other vehicles go literally 10 miles an hour or less. They are ALWAYS on the lookout for little kids on bikes.
I highly recommend the Burley brand of trailers. Our never rusted, and the canvass lasted a long time. (It is BEYOND corrosive out there!) We had two burleys over our 7 years, with a less-than-one-year time with another brand since I was trying to save money, but it didn't even make it for a year. We had "uppy seats" on the back of our bikes, too, and I did put helmets on babies by 9 months in the uppy seat. I never used a helmet in the bike trailer, just strapped them in. For infants, I strapped the infant carseat into the burley and that worked perfectly.
Hope that helps. :-)
I want to be honest with you. I live on Kwaj and work for the main contractor on island. With your expressions for diet, un-schooling, non-conventional lifestyle, etc. Kwaj is probably not the best place for you. Let's say your husband and your family move here, three months in you can't take it anymore... What do you do? Well you have to pay your way back home if your husband does not complete the contract (1 year), and pay for the expenses that got you to the island. You should really talk to your husband about what is best for YOUR family and if you can live a different lifestyle than you can now.
I hope you make the right choice.
This place is wonderful as other people have said, but you have to want to be here.
Hi - I am a mom of 4 living on Kwaj now. You will be fine - it is a wonderful place to be with little kids. The Burley will be your best friend the first couple of weeks even for the 4 year old. It is easier to throw them both into the Burley (the baby can be in a car seat in the burley). It is much quicker getting around with both of them behind you in the burley than having the 4 year riding their two wheeler with training wheels. Your 4 year old will be riding a two wheeler before you know it!
The island is not as small as you think - you can walk from one side to the other in a couple of minutes - but the length of the island is about 3 miles. There is a grocery store - you will not have to (or even be able to) go to the mess hall (known locally as the PDR) during the week. The grocery store is small - for me this is the hardest part of living here. It has gotten better recently and you can get almost anything you want either online or ask the store to order it for you. On the upside they do deliver your groceries to the house and bring them into the kitchen for you!!!
There are so many fabulous things about living on this tiny little island - it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is breathtakingly beautiful - the beaches are lovely (and almost always completely empty), the water is crystal clear. The weather is about the same year round - 89 degrees during the day and 70's at night. Hot - but you get used to it very quickly. People tend to stay in during the hottest part of the day. There are lots of little kids out here for your kids to play with - along with Mom's to hang out with for you. Most people end up loving it out here - and it is a life experience for your kids - they will forever be able to say that they lived on a teeny-tiny island in the middle of the Pacific that no-one has ever heard of. Great conversation starter!!!!!
I'm an avid bike rider in Eugene (home of the Burley bike trailer). I loved the Trail-a-Bikes for my kids. You can even attach a trailer to a Trail-a-Bike.
The wind can be a fierce force. I had a one-speed bike for most of my life, but in high school I used gears.
By the way, most of the folks on Kwaj are pretty conservative, but I'm sure you'll find some "unconventional" types, as well. My parents were a bit on the hippy side back in the day.
I wish I could take my family there. My kids want to see the place where I grew up.
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