Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yap Day 2010

We celebrated our first Yap Day on March 1 and 2.  The site was located in Tomil, a village North of Colonia.  We headed there with open minds and lots of space on our camera’s memory cards.  We arrived in the late morning and found a shady spot to park ourselves with our friends.  The day was filled with different dances and “educational activities” that consisted of many cultural demonstrations by children and teens mostly, including rope making, spear throwing, and juggling.  We saw several women’s sitting dances that were amazing as this was our first exposure to them. 

There were booths set up selling food and a few handicrafts, though sadly no carved wooden canoes as we were hoping for. Some were made of local resources, but tarps and metal pole style shelters were present (but not as photogenic!).

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In the middle of the site were a men’s house and community house. The dances and activities were held in between the two houses.  Here is the men’s house:

 

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We were provided a glimpse into the Yapese culture during the sitting dances preformed by women and girls.  The chanting and clapping is like nothing we have seen before. The dancers are covered in turmeric giving them the yellowish glow.

Here we see the women lined up waiting to begin the dance:

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A Women’s sitting dance is indeed done sitting down:

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Our shady spot proved to be benefital as it also was very close to the staging area for dancers, providing many photo ops:

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The two youngest dancers waiting their turn patiently:

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Many of the locals were dressed in traditional clothing including these grass skirts, lava lavas (a knee length skirt similar to a sarong), and the men and boys in many styles of the thu- a loin cloth that is wrapped and tied differently depending on age, the boys being more revealing. As the men age they are allowed to cover up a little more! Here are some great pictures of thus:

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The men also tie in hibiscus leaves. The straw hat is optional.

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Honestly much of the day was hiding in the shade unsuccessfully trying to avoid sun burn (yes Mom we did wear sunscreen!) hanging with the gang, having an acorn war with some boys sitting near us, and staying errr.. hydrated.

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Though this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the incredible pork on a stick we tried.  Words cannot describe the tastiness of local pork barbequed on a skewer, like the most flavorful bacon you can dream of.  Mike liked it so much we had to get a picture of his fifth one!

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The day continued with some more “hydrating” and a late dinner at Oasis.  All in all, Yap day was good times and good people with an amazing backdrop of culture and color.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hey you get off our lawn!

Well it was bound to happen. We need to rant on here a little.  We want to let everyone know the full experience, not just the rosy colored parts.

It’s one thing to have three school aged kids come to our house after school and ask if they can climb our trees and get a few mangos.  They get themselves three or four each, and always give us some too, and sit in our yard and eat them before thanking us and heading home.  It is an entirely other thing how we are constantly having grown men coming into our yard.  The weekend before Yap Day (that post to come soon with pictures) two cars pulled into our yard and four men got out. Without asking they began to examine our mango trees.  Miranda was taking a shower and Mike went out to greet the men.  They explained to Mike that they had talked to the chief of the village, and that the people who used to live in our house let them collect mangos.  It is very difficult to know how accurate any of this information is or if they are just taking us for a ride.  But we are on their land, their island, and we do our best to follow cultural norms. So we allow them to collect mangos. But the longer we sat there and watched them and the more and more bags of mangos they filled we began to feel like we were being very politely robbed. They cleaned out our trees, only leaving a few hanging mangos.  They did give us more mangos than we know what to do with right now, especially since we have had very bad luck in getting them to ripen without rotting. But this is just one of many instances of people coming into our yard. 

We have the occasional teenaged boy (its always males by the way) who cuts through our yard as a short cut, that really does seem to take longer considering the steep vegetated hill they have to climb down once through our yard. There are the young adult males who come looking for mangos or coconuts, the above mentioned young school boys, the regular water and power meter readers etc.  Then there are the infrequent other “workers” who come in our yard.  Like today when two men in a Yap marked pick up truck pulled into our yard and got out to “check on the pole” and then pointed to the very large cement telephone pole in the corner of our yard, who didn’t notice me seeing them collecting a few mangos off the ground as they did so. And then spent five minutes talking to their friend who rode by on his bicycle.

Then there was yesterday evening before dinner. We are sitting in the living room watching a movie and hear the tell tale sound of crunching mango leaves, someone was approaching the house, but this person was clearly running.  Miranda noticed him as he ran past the front door and around the house to the back side, right by where we were sitting.  He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw us sitting on the couch, and Miranda called out “Hello?!” He said hello and took off down the steep hill.  But he was smiling.  Miranda has a theory that he was running and hiding from someone or thing. Because of where he came from and where he went. But WTF? Imagine sitting in your living room and someone runs by the window on the side of your house away from the street.  If the hill wasn’t there he would have been in between us and our neighbor’s house.

By far the most difficult situation when it comes to this topic, was most recently a man who has been collecting firewood from just the other side of our fence.  He decided to use our lawn as a place to chop the wood. Miranda talked with him the first time he came by and felt a little uneasy.  A few days later Miranda found him and what appeared to be his whole family in our front yard again collecting firewood.  Miranda went down and met Mike for lunch and had him return to talk with the people, asking them to leave very politely but was also fairly stern. When Mike returned to work he told his boss about what he had just been doing, who promptly called the police patrol and had them drive by and told them to get lost, luckily the police ran into them down the street while carrying a load of said firewood home, so this confrontation did not happen directly in front of the house, nor did Miranda have too go out and get involved.  I guess it helps that Mike’s boss is also the boss of the police.

Our home is our sanctuary to get out from under the sun, prying eyes of locals, and the encroaching jungle.  We don’t like how every crunch of a leaf causes us to become alert and a little on edge as to what is lurking outside, especially with the constant traffic of chickens, roosters, and dogs who also wander around.  We do have curtains but they don’t cover the windows completely due to the constant wind, and the way Miranda designed the curtains.  When someone we know approaches the house they always call out to announce themselves. The locals rarely do this, possibly because they don’t know us or because they know they shouldn’t be there. It is especially difficult for Miranda, being home alone all day and finding random men wandering into our yard.  We have never felt our property or physical safety were in jeopardy, but it just doesn’t feel good!

We understand and respect that we are visitors to this land, but there are certain expectations.  We are living here. There should not be people randomly wandering into our yard and helping themselves to what it has to offer. We don’t wander into their yards and harvest their fruits. We have been told that it is not appropriate for people to be doing this, and once told they will stop.

We are hoping the most recent incident will be the end of it. If not we will learn in Yapese how to say “HEY YOU GET OFF OUR LAWN!”