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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.
Lee Miller poses in front of a Japanese anti-aircraft gun left over from World War II. He visited Nauru in 2008.
We did it! CNN has officially approved an iReport from every country in the world.
It came down to Nauru, the world’s smallest republic.
Lee Miller, 32, of San Francisco, heard about the challenge on Monday and uploaded his snapshots from a 2008 trip to the tiny South Pacific island just below the equator.
Miller, who has a background in international relations, said he had read about “pretty much every country” and finally discovered Nauru, a country he felt was rarely spoken of or heard about.
Sitting on a beach where one could go hours without seeing another human being, he basked in the feeling that he was “on the edge of the world.”
Nauru has had its share of struggles. The country, population 9,267, once enjoyed great wealth from mining phosphate for fertilizer, but those resources are nearly exhausted, and Miller observed dilapidated homes and beaches strewn with garbage.
“It’s a really sad story because it wasn’t that long ago that Nauruans were driving around in Ferraris. … It used to be one of the richest countries in the world,” Miller said.
But there was a lot more about the country waiting to be seen. Miller recalled “breathtaking scenery” and touching moments with locals. The owner of the island’s only hotel noticed him wearing a Barack Obama T-shirt and insisted on paying for the rest of his stay. Another time, when he got sick, a Nauruan bus driver who worked at the hotel took him to a store and bought him medicine.
Visitors rarely come to the island, and Miller said he was treated like a celebrity.
“Overall, I had a great experience and met a lot of great people,” Miller said in his iReport. “For this, I would go back. If the Nauruans cleaned up their country just a bit though, it would have amazing potential to bring in tourists.”
Miller said he plans to return to Nauru with his brother in 2011.
Throughout the iReport Global Challenge, as we have called our quest, we've gotten a glimpse into life in the tiniest and most unexplored pockets of the world. We heard about Tuvalu, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean that has become the face of global climate change. We were taken aback by Djibouti's other-worldly scenery, which appears in the 1968 film "Planet of the Apes." We’ve learned so much about places that are rarely talked about. Check out some of the latest contributions.
We are thrilled to announce that we are down to just one country in the iReport Global Challenge: Nauru, the world’s smallest republic.
Those of you who have been following the iReport blog know that we’ve been striving to get photos, videos and stories from every country on the planet.
As of Monday morning, we have approved iReports from 193 of the 194 countries considered independent nations by the U.S. State Department.
Only Nauru is left! We want to hear from citizens of, or visitors to, this tiny island in the South Pacific, halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Send us a snapshot of life in Nauru -- the local culture, food, architecture, natural sites, or an unusual event happening there.
The country, population 9,267, was dubbed “Pleasant Island” by European sailors in the 18th century. But the country has struggled since then. While it once enjoyed great wealth made by mining phosphate for fertilizer, those resources are nearly exhausted.
We know there is a lot more to this unusual place, and we would love to hear about it. Upload your iReports today.
Pain, curiosity and strength are some of the qualities that reach beyond the lens and into the photographer’s and viewers’ mind after looking at the photos of women and children of Equatorial Guinea.
Luisa Paquet López from Gijon, Spain, took these powerful photos in August 2010.
López went to Equatorial Guinea to learn more about the country and the people who live there. When asked about the country, López said, “It's hard for me to talk about a country with such a ferocious regime and dictatorship where people I love live.”
She spoke in Spanish with CNN's Juan Munoz, who translated.
Equatorial Guinea, one of sub-Sahara's largest oil producers, has nominally been a constitutional democracy since 1991, according to the CIA World Factbook. But President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979, is known as more of a dictator than a president by exerting total control over the government.
Equatorial Guinea is on corruption watchdog agency Transparency International’s top 12 list of the world’s most corrupt countries, according to the BBC. The country is also known as a destination for child trafficking for the purpose of forced labor and sexual exploitation.
López's report from Equatorial Guinea is one of the final countries left on our Global Challenge list. We still need to hear from just one more country, Nauru. If you've ever been to Nauru or you live there, share your story.
A day before President Joao Bernardo Vieira was assassinated while fleeing his home, his army chief of staff had been killed in an explosion, according to CNN. Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, has a history of military coups and the president’s assassination had come after months of violent clashes.
Baral, a faculty member at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was in Guinea-Bissau working on a research project on HIV-vulnerable populations in West Africa.
“They have one of the worst HIV epidemics in West Africa,” he said from his office in Baltimore, Maryland. “Part of it is that they have yet to develop a well-coordinated, well-funded HIV-response.”
Baral said crumbling infrastructure and drug trafficking are among the other problems facing the poor nation. Despite it all, he said he’s seen real changes in Guinea-Bissau.
“They are incredibly warm people undergoing very difficult challenges,” he said. “The current government is working very hard, is really trying to clean things up and fix their infrastructure. This is the issue with a lot of the Portuguese colonies of East and West Africa.”
Baral’s report from Guinea-Bissau, which neighbors Senegal, is one of the final countries left on our Global Challenge list. (Learn more about the project here.) We still need to hear from Equatorial Guinea and Nauru. If you've even been to one of those countries or you live there, share your story.
Ethan Daniels said it was hard to leave the tiny island nation of Palau, after having lived there for almost 10 years of his life. Daniels is older now, has a family and currently resides in the United States, but still manages to make a yearly pilgrimage to visit the nation’s beautiful coral reefs and welcoming inhabitants.
Daniels said the country has a "small town" feel, which is partially what draws him back each year. "Not many people know about Palau unless they are scuba divers, snorkelers or kayakers. It's incredibly popular among divers from all over the world," he said.
Palau thrives on the tourists that wish to witness the diverse marine life and natural beauty of the hundreds of Pacific islands that make up the nation of Palau. Daniels said that these types of nature-seeking tourists, along with thriving fishing industry allow the country to remain economically sound while preserving the beauty and unique culture of the country.
"There are no fast food restaurants or golf courses in Palau," Daniels said. "The society is interesting because it is developing very quickly in terms of technology." He said that many Palauans now work for the government or private companies. But, he said, "All the men [still] fish, even if it is not their job."
"It was a fascinating culture to spend a good chunk of my adult life," Daniels said. Even when he is far away from the remote islands of Palau, he dreams of being in the tiny country's coastal waters.
Palau was one of the few remaining countries left on our Global Challenge list, and we had the good fortune of receiving two iReport submissions from this country. Trevor Gahafer also lived in the island nation for a few years and, like Daniels, Gahafer said the country is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Some of Gahafer's fondest memories involve swimming in the clear waters of Palau.
Thanks to Daniels and Gahafer, we've crossed another nation off of our Global Challenge list. If you have videos or images from any of the remaining countries, we would love for you to add to our growing number of contributions from around the world.
Yesterday, we celebrated our first approved iReport from Equatorial Guinea.
Since then, the submitter has asked us to remove the images so he can maintain his privacy – which we totally understand and are more than willing to oblige.
That puts us back to four countries left in our Global Challenge. They are: Equatorial Guinea, Palau, Nauru and Guinea-Bissau. Spread the word and help us cover the world!
This is a personal plea to Palau.
The CNN iReport team is on a mission to get photos, video and personal stories from every single country on the planet. And guess what - we're down to just a handful of countries, and Palau is one of the places we're still waiting to hear from.
None of us have ever been there, but by all accounts, Palau is a place of intense beauty and wonder. Palau, a group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, gained its independence in 1994, making it one of the world's youngest sovereign nations. At 190 sq. miles - it's also one of the smallest.
Despite its diminutive size, Palau has been on our collective radar for years. You'll likely recall it was the location of reality TV series Survivor's 10th season - which aired in 2005. And in case you forget - the islands are also referenced by Irish singer Enya in her smash 1988 single "Orinoco Flow."
During WWII, Palau bore witness to one of the Pacific Theater's most intense and bloody fights between Japanese and American forces. Thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers lost their lives fighting to capture an airstrip on the small coral island of Peleliu.
Today, tourism dominates Palau's industry as tens of thousands of visitors come to explore its diverse marine life and tropical beauty while enjoying Palau's year-round warm climate (Avg. 82 degrees F).
Sounds like paradise, right? But who among you can confirm this?
Seriously Palau - don't be the last country on our list. There's got be interesting stories from Palau - let's hear yours. Add your images and description to our Global Challenge and help us get an iReport from every country in the world.
Pam Camara and her husband were watching CNN International Tuesday night in High Falls, New York, when they saw meterologist Jenny Harrison’s spot on the Global Challenge -- our quest to approve an iReport from every country in the world.
"They showed the map of Africa and we both said, 'Guinea!'" she said.
She rushed to upload some of her photos from the West African country where her husband, Mimo, grew up.
Mimo Camara was a lead dancer with the national dance troupe of Guinea, Les Ballets Africains de la Republique de Guinee. He performed and traveled the world for 18 years before immigrating to the U.S. in 1995. They married in 2000 (Pam was a student in his dance class).
The couple teaches Guinea dance and drum classes in the Hudson Valley and return to the West African country for about a month each winter, taking Americans to study dance and drum with members of the national troupe.
Camara shot the above photo during a 2006 visit to Boke, the coastal region in western Guinea where her husband's siblings and their children live. It's a poor community that "lives on practically nothing," she said. The photo shows a pile of the reddish palm fruit that villagers use to cook with.
"They lay them out and dry them, and then they take them and pound them, and that’s how they extract the oil and then they cook with the oil. It’s got a really strong flavor and it adds to the good food."
Camara's contribution leaves us with four countries left in the Global Challenge: Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Nauru and Palau. Don't let your country be the last one! Add your images and help us cover the world.
Our first approved iReport from the Republic of Congo comes from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is working to combat a recent polio outbreak there.
Faye Callaghan, communications manager for IFRC in Africa, sent photos from a trip last week to the capital city Brazzaville, where thousands of volunteers have launched a massive campaign to vaccinate the entire country, more than 3.6 million people, against the disease. The last reported case in the West African country was in 2000.
"Volunteers just go up to people and give them the vaccination in the street. It's incredible -- there was a traffic jam and the volunteers were just going down the road giving them to taxi drivers, not missing any opportunity," Callaghan said. "It's critical that 100 percent of the population are immunized against it, because otherwise it can just spread again."
Callaghan's report from the Republic of Congo (which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo) leaves five countries left in our Global Challenge project to approve an iReport from every country in the world.
They are: Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Palau and Nauru. Know someone in one of these places? Tell them to upload their story!
We're really excited because we've only got five countries to go in the CNN iReport Global Challenge. Those countries are Nauru, Palau, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. We want to hear stories from these places, because we've never received iReports from them. Our goal is to get an iReport from every country in the world. Do you live in one of these last five places? Have you been there, and have you ever tried to cover the globe? Maybe you have a pen pal or other contact in one of these locales. If so, we want to hear from you. Share your photos, videos and stories with CNN iReport.
We're down to 12 countries in our mission to approve an iReport from every country!
The iReport Global Challenge has given us a glimpse of tons of lesser-known places. In the past few weeks, we’ve learned about local life in The Gambia, a mountain pass railway in Eritrea (above, middle) and sea-level rise in Tuvalu (above, bottom) -- among many other pockets of the world where iReporters have visited or lived.
We've approved iReports from all but two regions in the world. Without peeking at the assignment, can you guess which two are left? Check out this interview iReport producer Katie Hawkins-Gaar did with CNN's Ali Velshi to find out:
We need your help to cover the rest of the globe. Do you know someone who has visited or lived in one of these countries? Tell them to send an iReport!
Countries still needed: Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Micronesia, Seychelles, Nauru, Palau, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Tonga.
So, besides being one of the most adorable iReports ever, this story about students rescuing endangered sea turtles also happens to be our very first iReport from the Marshall Islands!
Students at Kwajalein Junior/Senior High School assisted local Environmental Safety and Health officials in finding these baby turtles and releasing them into the ocean. The endangered green sea turtles were headed in the wrong direction - likely drawn towards lights in a residential area - before the students set them straight on September 21.
Carol Hockenberger, a teacher on the tiny Marshallese island of Kwajalein (pronounced pretty much the way it looks), went to great lengths to share these photos. "Residents still have dial-up [internet access] in their homes," she says. "At school we have a faster connection, but nothing like what is available on the mainland." Hockenberger eventually asked her daughter, who lives in Pennsylvania, to upload the photos for her.
Hockenberger found out about the iReport global challenge - our quest to receive an iReport from every country in the world - from a fellow teacher. They noticed that nothing had been sent from the Marshall Islands and decided to remedy the situation. "We both wanted to see the Marshall Islands represented on iReport," said Hockenberger.
Hockenberger is on her third tour to Kwajalein, which is used as a U.S. military base for weapons-testing programs. Almost all residents on the three-mile-long, half-mile-wide island are Americans.
We're happy to report that we are three continents closer to receiving an iReport from every country in the world! In the past two weeks, we've checked off the remaining countries on our list from South America, Asia and Europe.
iReporter starbuckb visited Grenada last month to visit her fiancé who just started medical school on the island. She found her first time in Grenada to be a beautiful, yet trying experience at times.
“I went grocery shopping to stock up my fiancé’s fridge, and that was quite an experience,” she said. “I was shocked at the prices, and surprised at how hard it can be to get some products, like eggs and produce.”
Tajikistan rounded out our Asia list with vanNieTravel’s photos of what everyday life is like in the capital city of Dushanbe. He described the fascinating juxtaposition of cultural traditions, relics of Communism and a growing Islamic influence.
“Its landscape is huge, beautiful, wild, rough, and I only saw so little. Traffic is wild and rough as well, that's just the way they drive,” he said.
Just this weekend, we saw a window into the world of Europe’s fourth smallest nation, Liechtenstein. iReporter Nige820, a freelance travel photographer, couldn’t resist the chance to visit the doubly land-locked country when he was touring Switzerland back in 2007.
“It was incredible because it's one of those places you don’t know what to expect. For a capital city, it feels like an English lakeland city. It’s quite opulent. It’s peaceful and very clean; it doesn’t feel like a capital city," he said.
We are so impressed that folks all over the world are coming together and helping us achieve our global goal. Thank you for making this possible, iReporters!
Putting celebrations aside for a moment, there’s still more work to be done. If you’ve been to Africa or Australia/Oceania, feel free to upload an iReport from one or more of the missing 27 countries. Happy iReporting!
We've been spreading the word about the iReport Global Challenge throughout the world. Today, we are extending the invitation to our CNN en Español audience:
Este año en iReport nos propusimos a recibir un iReport de cada continente y lo logramos. Pero no paramos ahí, ahora queremos contar con un iReport de ¡cada país del mundo! Y para eso necesitamos tu ayuda. Así que con el fin de darle la oportunidad a nuestra audiencia latinoamericana, y gracias al incansable deseo viajero de muchos latinos, queremos que nos cuentes a qué países inusuales has ido. Burkina Faso, Palau, Comoros? Y en caso de que no hayas estado en alguno de estos países, igual queremos tus fotos/videos viajeros. ¡Es posible tu iReport salga al aire en nuestra programación!