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The last holdout in the iReport Global Challenge -- a race to see if we could get an iReport story from every country before the end of the year -- was Nauru, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific. It’s the kind of place that draws raised eyebrows and baffled responses when you drop it casually into conversation because, well, most people have no idea it exists.
I’ll be the first to admit that I hadn’t heard of Nauru before it ended up being the last country on our list, but it didn’t take long to figure out it’s a pretty fascinating place: way out in the middle of the ocean, 25 miles from the equator, a tropical paradise wracked for decades with economic and environmental struggles.
Last week first-time iReporter Lee Miller shared the story of his 2008 trip to the remote island, letting us cross the last country off our list. Frankly we were pretty thrilled to hear a story from Nauru, an island with fewer than 10,000 residents and just one flight in and out every week. But 2008 is old by news standards, and we wanted to know more about what it’s like today. So CNN sent iReporter Johnny Colt on a special assignment: Go to Nauru and get the story.
He arrived late Sunday and on Monday started sending back dispatches via pinhole-sized bandwidth. This iPhone snapshot of the tropical sunshine is his first, accompanied by this eerie description: "Imagine if no one had repaired a thing in your home since 1978. Now place your home on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere -- that is Nauru. Signs of Nauru's heyday are all over the island. Rusted out amphitheater, boarded-up neighborhoods and my broken down hotel. I am staying at the island's one hotel, the Menan. There are 300 rooms at the Menan. I have yet to see a soul walk the beach."
Colt's there through Wednesday, and when he gets back, we'll work together on a story for CNN.com about his trip and what he saw. In the meantime, you can follow along with the adventure on his iReport profile.