Monday, January 18, 2010

Our First Week in Yap

Our first night in Yap was fairly short since we arrived at 9:30 PM.  After leaving the airport we were driven to our new home by Mike’s co worker and our new friend Bill.  We walked into our new home with open minds, but were still in shock regarding this complete lifestyle change.  We weren’t expecting the welcoming party of various sized cockroaches, which have since packed their bags and moved out ( we hope!). We unpacked the essentials and crashed for the night after a very long day.  The next morning (Wed the 6th) we woke up and took our first of many cold showers.  Apparently the previous tenants had the choice of A/C in the bedroom or a hot water heater. At least we sleep comfortably at night. Mike headed off to work for a few hours for introductions and to get a little more oriented.  Miranda stayed home and adjusted to our new surroundings.  Our boxes were delivered by another one of Mike’s co worker’s Joseph later in the day and he gave us a ride down to The Oasis restaurant, Mike’s now daily lunch spot, where we had lunch with Bill.  The food at Oasis is pretty good.  They have a daily lunch special for $5 that includes a cup of home-made soup, a small salad, rice, and two types of meat, usually one fried- chicken, steak, fish, and one not- Salisbury steak, stir-fried etc.  We came home and unpacked.  Its funny how quickly you learn just what you need to survive.  While unpacking Bill’s girlfriend Taylor dropped by and introduced herself.  Currently Bill and Taylor live a stone’s throw away, but will soon be moving as Bill has accepted another job here in Yap, requiring them to move out of the gov’t housing. 

We have been so lucky to have such welcoming neighbors! Bill and Taylor have really taken us under their wing to show us how to not only survive, but also enjoy island life.  Bill introduced us to betel nut- the popular local vice of choice.  The betel nut is a nut from a tree that looks similar to a palm tree. One bites the nut in half sprinkles some lime- the mineral, onto it then wraps it in a pepper leaf. Then you put it in your mouth and chew. The lime creates a chemical reaction that produces a buzz that neither one of us felt.  It also causes you to salivate heavily, spitting blood red juice out. But at least now we can saw we tried it.  Everyone here “chews” including kids, even while in school, spitting out the window.  One must be careful when walking to not step in the products of betel nut that litter everywhere. Notice the bulge in our cheeks. Resized Mike and Miranda

They then took us on a car ride to see some of the island.  Miranda was in shock and had little say while driving past shacks built of bamboo and tin roofing.  The poverty is like nothing she has seen before, but yet the people are so happy. 

Thursday and Friday went slowly as Mike worked full days and Miranda struggled to adapt to the much slower pace of life.  Dinners were difficult since we had one large frying pan and a large pot Miranda picked up at a local store.  We did get to enjoy dinner at Bill and Taylors, a dinner of fresh yellowfin tuna sashimi that Mike and Bill picked up at the fish market conveniently located across the street from their work. We have a feeling we will be eating this often as a huge 3 pound fish, filleted at the market to order was a whopping $4. The shopping alone is worthy of its own post in time.  Miranda is finally starting to get the hang of it.  Options are limited, and prices often vary even within the same store, and always between each store.  One day we picked up a bottle of 409, careful to choose the one marked $2.95 instead of the one right next to it marked $4.95.

Our first weekend in Yap was something else.  Now as most of you know, we enjoy a quiet weekend at home with some tv, movies, and other electronic habits to keep us busy.  Well here in Yap they like to party it up!  On Friday evening we joined Bill and Taylor at their place to sample a local alcoholic drink called “tuba” taken from the coconut palm tree.  It was milky white, smelled like bad eggs but, tasted surprisingly ok.  It did provide a lovely warming sensation and was a great way to start the night. We then headed to our favorite bar (there are only a few to choose from) O’Keefe’s. It has a nautical theme with lots of wood paneling, it would be the diviest of dive bars back home. Here they drink either Budweiser, bud light (both in cans) or Heineken in a bottle, but at $1.50 a can or $2.00 for a bottle it isn’t so bad.  We met the expat group, approximately a dozen or so folks from all over.  It seems every Friday night they all get together to be around others who can relate to what they are experiencing here on Yap over many beers and often (groan), karaoke. We successfully dodged the karaoke bullet, but know that can’t last for too long.  It was a pretty late night, but we enjoyed getting to know everyone a little bit.  Everyone was giving us a hard time, pointing out we haven’t been on island for too long as we stuck together some, while the rest of the room was divided by gender.  It was later explained that after spending a week with their significant others, these get-togethers allow a time to hang with the girls or guys respectively.

Saturday was spent sleeping in till noon, finally getting a chance to recover from the jet lag, and the prior evening’s excitement. We had lunch with Bill and Taylor at the Marina restaurant and pretty much laid low the rest of the day. 

Sunday we were also laying low reading and enjoying the nice trade winds blowing through the house when another expat John stopped by and took us for an extended tour of the Northern part of the island.  We saw great view points, the sports complex which is currently under renovations, John’s “boat house” where he builds wooden canoes and other traditional boats.  We are eager to take him up on the offer to take us out on them.  John took us to Kadai, a traditional village that a few years ago was featured on Survivor All-Stars as a reward.

Stone Money Resized Yap and Surrounding Area 060

We also got to see his house with an elevated deck he built with a 5 million dollar (at least!)view of the rolling hills of Yap.

  Mike Overlook

Near Kadai is the only community owned park on the island. It is fondly named “Sunset Park” as it offers an amazing view as the sun dips into the Pacific. We will definitely be heading back there at sunset when we get a car. Yap and Surrounding Area 048

  Monday Mike was off to work, Miranda busied herself around the house.  It has to be swept at least every other day as dust is blown in by the wind.  We have laminate tile flooring that gets dirty pretty quick. A mop is definitely on the “must get soon” list. 

Mondays are the hardest for Miranda, its so quiet in the house during the day, and with household duties to do in the 85 degree heat, its tough not to let her mind wander to back home. So a little retail therapy Yap style always helps.  Today she bought fabric to begin making curtains.  Her limited abilities and resources shall make it an interesting challenge that will keep her busy for some time. Especially since there are 12 windows in the living room alone! 

We are adjusting to the slower pace of life.  For instance it took almost a week to get our home phone set up.  And all they had to do was some paperwork and then activate the connection- from the telecom office, they didn’t even have to go anywhere! It is nice to slow down, but some things just seem a little ridiculous, and when pressed they will do it. Ah Island Life!

There has been talk amongst the expats of how to employ Miranda.  We were a little worried at first, because everyone was asking if she was going to work, and what she did in the states.  But after some clarification it turns out they just don’t want her to be bored stiff and unhappy.  Someone knows someone at the hospital, that they are sure would love her assistance in any way possible, and may even create a position if desired.  There are a few mentally ill or troubled people here on island that tend to get in legal trouble a lot, mostly due to drinking, a prevalent problem on the island. There is also another opportunity that Miranda is leaning towards though. A break from social work would be nice, and since Miranda tends to get a little attached to the people she works with it would be very emotionally taxing to know what could help, but not have the resources to provide it! The other opportunity is at the Women’s Association’s daycare. We shall see, in time.

So this was out first week in Yap, busier than we thought, but good over all.  We miss everyone at home, including our cats, but we have a new pet, well we have never seen it. But we will leave that for the next post! Everything is an adjustment that we are growing from every day.  One day at a time! One week down, 103 to go! Not that anyone is counting!

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