Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas from Yap!

The view from our hotel room...Savannah right in the middle.

Christmas came and went in a whirlwind!   Santa found us and brought Jake a bright, shiny, new bike (yes, this is his third bike and no, he can’t ride it yet…bikes and boats don’t mix but we’re going to try one more time).  He also brought just about every dinosaur Lego set possible.  We spent the entire morning putting together legos and our main salon has been taken over (I can’t seem to find the pictures of Christmas morning so I’ll have to post those later).

As for Andy and I….Jake and I bought Andy some new filet knives and lures and Andy got me a massage, manicure and pedicure at the local spa here.  As a gift to the whole family, we spent a night in one of the resort hotels, used their stand up showers, swam in the pool and watched cable tv!

Jake enjoying the iPad with free wifi in the hotel room.

Ice cream at our friend's house on Christmas Day.

I got up early Christmas morning and made homemade cinnamon rolls, chocolate milk (for Jake) and mimosas (for us).  After Jake opened all his presents and we had breakfast, our new friends here in Yap came and picked us up.  This is the couple that we brought back some stuff from Woleai (where they’re from), so to thank us, they had us over for a bar-b-que.  Their house is literally behind our boat and it’s a good representative of Yap; a strange mix of old, new, and somewhere in the middle.  They have a stove inside their house, but they prefer to use the old cooking house outside.  Vincent and Agatha (our new friends) wear western clothing while others in their family are more traditional (lava lavas sans shirt).  They have pigs and chickens, but the chicken we ate off the grill came from the grocery store.   It’s indicative of most of what we’ve seen in Yap.  Some people have spent much time away in Guam, the US, or some other country and have adapted their ways.  Others are holding tight to the old traditions.

Vincent and Agatha have a 10 year old son, Trevor.  He speaks perfect English and seems excited to have met Jake.  He and Jake played together well and we have future plans for Trevor to come out to the boat.

All in all, it was a great day.  We did have the chance to eat more turtle, but after a few bites, I decided to call it quits.  It’s one thing to try it, but another all together to get a taste for it.  Plus, the dogs pulled it off the grill and then Vincent rinsed it off and put it back on…I’m not sure how many times that happened before we got there.  When it was all picked over, he gave it to the pig.  The dogs snuck in again and took off down the road with it.  Quite the comedy.

We really like it here and have decided to look into getting Savannah hauled out.  We are in desperate need of bottom paint and we heard rumors it’s cheap to pull out here.  We would also like to take a look at some of those leaks we’ve been fixing along the way and see if there is any welding to be done.  There is a trolley that would be fairly easy to go up on, but we would have to go sideways…and then there’s the chore of trying to get the paint here.  I don’t know how feasible the whole thing is, but we’re going to look into it.  If it could save us a few thousand dollars, then I certainly think it’s worth it.

The weather is starting to ease up a bit, so it looks like we might get to go diving next week and not have our tails handed to us.  We haven’t done much in the way of tourism at this point, so lots to see and do in the next few weeks…

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Final Picture update - Lamotrek and Woleai

I finally finished uploading the pictures from the outer islands.  Now we can focus on Yap :).

Click on the links for updates (or you can just scroll down)
Going Native
Culture, Culture and more Culture
Turtles and Taro
On to Woleai
Wolei and Beyond

For all of you geographically challenged people who still don't know where Micronesia is, I've updated our map at the right of our page as well.   You can move it around with your mouse, or click on the larger view at the bottom to see exactly where these islands were.

I've been seeing everyone put their Christmas pictures up on facebook, so I decided to add ours here since we're so close to Christmas.  We spent a day making ornaments and putting up all of our decorations.  It's not Macy's Window quality, but we like it.  There aren't too many pictures as well, we only have a small space to decorate....sorry.

Making tiny reindeers out of closepins, pipe cleaner candy canes,
and paper snowflakes.  If you're not impressed, you should be.
I don't do crafts very well.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Updated Pictures from Pulawat (and a few more from Lukenor)

As you can guess, we've arrived in Yap.  We've been here a few days and so far, we're really enjoying ourselves.  Check in was a breeze (less than 1 hour) and the people are extremely friendly.  I've already had an old guy stop me in the middle of the grocery store and tell me if we need any bananas or coconuts, to let him know....just let John know.

The weather is acting funky though.  Today, we've had winds up to 40 knots and lots of rain.  Not sure how long it's going to last, but at least we know our anchor is secure.  We haven't moved an inch.  And good thing too...we have a reef directly behind us and a giant mega-yacht (actually, two) on our port side.  It's a tight anchorage when you're next to million dollar boats and you have no insurance!

I've updated the pictures for Pulawat...hopefully you like them.  Click on the posts below to see the latest...
Anchored in Pulawat
More on Pulawat
The Other Village
Coconuts, Bananas, and Typhoons
Underway for Lamotrek

We also found a few pictures we forgot from Lukenor, so I'm posting them here.  If you wonder why we have so many pictures of Mariel, besides the fact that we love her, we told her to tell her mom to check in on the blog so she could see how she was doing....hopefully the message got there! Enjoy!

Mariel with one of the many little ones.

The night time celebration for the Bishop.

Simon's grandsons

Jake playing with the kids after they paddled to the boat.

Jake in his swimming pool (Andy was shark fishing....hehehe).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Updating pictures from Lukenor/Lekinioch

We have a ton of pictures and I've finally started loading them.  I've decided to go back and load them on the pages with the stories as I thought they would be more interesting that way.  Internet here is extremely slow so I'm only able to do one island at a time....this free internet here at the restaurant has cost us 3-4 beers a piece...expensive password.

Check these links out for the latest...

Underway day 1 and 2
Land Ho!
Leaving Lekinioch

And here are some of our other favorites...everyone had to have a coconut tree shot....

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Woleai and beyond...

These kids were practicing for their Christmas party, but
they were really hamming it up.  The little boys in the front
were gyrating and moving around like nobody's business.
They had everyone in stiches.
We arrived after lunch in the Woleai lagoon and did our usual meeting with the chief. This island is much bigger than the last few, but the people are just as friendly. The chief was also very welcoming but did ask us to pay a $10/person fee. Andy and I had talked about this before. On all of the other atolls, Andy spent almost the entire time fixing things and we gave away hundreds of dollars of stuff. We had decided that we weren't going to pay a fee here because it would more than likely be the same way. So we told the chief we would be more than happy to help the people and give them things they need (like the school supplies I brought for the elementary school), but we weren't going to pay a fee. He was very nice about it and said we could stay. Now normally we don't buck the fees, but well... we just don't feel they're justified in this case.

So, we knew we weren't going to stay long as we want to get to Yap before Christmas and before they start charging overtime fees for checking in. On top of that, we are almost completely out of vegetables and anything good to eat (we have plenty of food, just nothing that we want to eat). We decided to watch the Christmas drop and then leave the next day.

Cool, huh?
The Christmas drop was pretty neat. A C130 from Guam did a few fly by's, the people here put out a bright pink target, then they flew by again and dropped two big boxes with parachutes. There was one small problem. There was a mix up about wether the target was where the boxes were supposed to land or where the plane should actually push out the boxes. The result was that the two boxes ended up in the jungle. Guys with machete's were running through the woods trying to see who could get there first. Apparently, the parachute and plywood that the boxes come in are the most valuable things around. We followed them and Andy got some pretty good pictures of it all (although after he edits them all, he only gives me a few.  I told him he could just say I took them, but for some reason he thinks he has a reputation to uphold).

Carrying one of the boxes out of the woods.

I don't know the details behind it, but I imagine there's a squadron in Guam that puts a box out and the people bring in donations of "non perishables, clothing, etc." Then they pack it all up. It's all done with genuine, heartfelt, charity in mind from a lot of people that probably don't have much themselves. The problem is, no one is told what these people need. I saw one box opened and it had t-shirts and down comforters in it. They don't wear shirts and it's mighty hot out here. Now they're resourceful people and they'll figure out something to do with it, but it wasn't the most appreciated gift. When I was home, I probably would have had the attitude of "well they should be greatful for anything we send. Something is better than nothing." I still harbor some of that, but after seeing it close up, not so much. They don't have a place to put things they can't use, so it ends up just sitting around rusting/rotting/stinking up the place. And they have limited space... Not to poo poo Operation Christmas Drop, but just a different perspective. Maybe they could send flipflops, fabric, thread, knives, machetes, etc. For us though, it was quite a treat to watch, especially coming from a military background ourselves and knowing the types of people giving.

The high school
We toured around a bit more seeing the schools and power plant (the whole island has electricity) and went back to Savannah to start getting ready. We're underway now to Yap with semi-rocky seas and good winds. It should be a fairly fast trip, if not the most comfortable. 360 miles to go...

The high school kids watching the Christmas drop on one
of the other islands in the lagoon.

Sailing canoe

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

On to Woleai

Aren't they adorable?  They followed us all over the island.
It turns out the Christmas air drop by the Airforce was postponed until Friday. Not wanting to get into Yap next week during "afterhours" (= to big bucks), we decided to go ahead and go to Wolei. We would have skipped it all together but we already promised some folks in Lamotrek that we would take some letters and food to their kids at school there.

Tuesday afternoon, we went in to collect the stuff and say our goodbyes. It was so much fun. Everyone wanted to shake our hands and tell us "Merry Chirstmas. Have a safe trip." It made us feel like they really enjoyed us being there. Michaeila and her family made us some snacks of breadfruit, taro chips, and coconut candy for our passage and more leis. Another woman, Augustina, gave me another lava lava in thanks for taking her son some food/mail. We were sent off with stalks of bananas and lots of coconuts. In the end, I like to think we gave more than took. I know Andy fixed a ton of stuff and we gave away everything from movies to batteries to old sails. They invited us back "anytime" and said they would miss us. We'll miss them too. A very nice place, indeed.

We left yesterday for Wolei and are now about 30 miles out. We should get there sometime after lunch. We found out right before we left, that there is another plane doing a Christmas drop in Wolei on Friday as well, so we might actually get to see that after all.

It's been a nice sail (motor sail, last night), though we did see a few long liners in the night. One passed pretty darn close to us and we're still not convinced he saw us. Andy lit up the sails with a giant flashlight and we pulled the motor back as he passed in front of us. After almost three years sailing out here, I've learned, there's only one law of the sea out in the ocean....the law of mass tonnage. They rarely see you (as they've got it on autopilot and are sleeping), they rarely answer the radio, and they rarely change course. Always important to keep a good watch. You may go months without seeing another ship, and then, like last night, we saw two and the one went within a mile of us.

So, we're almost Atoll-ed out, but we're going to give Wolei a few days, then head on to Yap...and buy some vegetables.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Turtles and Taro

I was going to start this blog with what a wonderful day we had and how we were treated as royalty and I've never met so nice of a people (which is all true). But after the last few hours, I have to say that I am going to show how shallow I actually am and make the beginning of the blog be about me...yep, after weeks without any female friendship at all, I finally got an hour and a half by myself to be a girl and watch a chick flick, while Andy and Jake went to shore for the drinking circle and for Jake to play on the beach with the local kids. About 15 minutes into my chick flick (while sitting in my underwear drinking a coconut...fabulous day), Andy came back and told me he was taking not only the computer, but the generator AND THE TV!!!. Yep, he had made a copy of Act of Valor ("Andy's MOVIE") for one of the guys, and while they were "testing" it on a tiny portable dvd player, he offered up our TV for a movie night. They sent him back to the boat quicker than he could say NO!!!.....seriously, I wasn't happy. You can only imagine what I was thinking, but I'm going to really try and let it go...

Not letting my own issues get in the way... this was a wonderful day. I've never met a nicer group of people. We went in this morning for Mass and we were met at the door with fresh lei's for our heads from our friends Michaeila and her daughters. After Mass we were whisked off to our friend Sasario's house for his daughter to fry up some fish for us and give us some taro. They also had lei's for us and every time I looked at Andy I thought of that lemur on Madagascar with the flowers poking up out of his head... spitting image.

As we waited for the party to start, I suggested we go say hi to Michaeila and her family. When we got there, they asked me if they could decorate me in tumeric, as in the spice. I had seen a few people in church all dusted up, so I said sure. Saralee (or Juralee...not sure), made me take my shirt off so I was just wearing my bikini top and took a HUGE can of tumeric and covered me with it. Did you know tumeric was yellow? I do now. It's yellow (and takes more than one shower to come off). I'm not sure what this had to do with Mary's Ascension, but everyone seemed to really like it. Jake and Andy were wondering if it was just "seasoning." I assured them I wasn't fat enough, and it was just for local entertainment. They wanted to paint my face with lipstick as well, but I kind of drew the line. I have an aversion to lipstick, even in my own culture.

Quite attractive, don't you think?  Matches
the flowers on my head nicely.

Turtle meat from one turtle (and the fat too).
We went and waited with our other friends while they divided the turtle up between everyone as well as the smoked fish they had been preparing for the last few days. They each drew a name from all the island households and prepared baskets for each one (think "dirty santa" without the dirty). The island had actually gotten together and made a basket (two, actually) for us as well! It was really neat to hear our names called out, but I can't feel but more than a little bit of guilt for taking so much from them! We had a basket of 4 land crabs, a bunch of bananas, two curried fish, a papaya, and a huge amount of taro. Then we had another basket full of taro and rice and on top of all of that, we had about 8 coconuts and a pound of smoked fish. Oh yeah.. almost forgot...we got our share of turtle. And it was good. I have so much to say about that, that I just don't have the room or the time.
This is the fire that's used to loosen the shell from the turtle.
If you look close you can see the tail sticking out on the right
hand side of the picture.

Smoked fish to be rationed out.

People starting to bring their gift baskets.

Starting to hand out the baskets to everyone.

Everyone waiting to hear their names called.

The men mostly picked up the baskets and the women watched.

Our name was called!  Look at that elaborate basket.
It had a top and bottom put together by some sort of
woven hinge.

I think Andy looks like King Julian on Madagascar
with his headdress on.

We ended up having two baskets, but this one had the
best goodies...crab, fish, bananas, papaya.

After many swims in the ocean (tumeric kind of stains the skin), a chick flick later (on a VERY small computer screen), and watching my son eat turtle, I have decided we really live an extraordinary life.

We have decided to stay a few more days to watch the "Christmas Drop." The US Airforce flies from Guam to many of these small islands and drops a Christmas package (with a parachute) full of stuff for the islanders. They're scheduled to come here on Wednesday and we thought that would be a site to see. Should be interesting.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Culture, Culture and more Culture

Everyone always says, "What a great opportunity you're giving see the world and learn about other cultures..." Well, I'll tell you, he's learning culture now. And so are we...

A young boy with his ration of fish.
It's hard to sum everything up in a cohesive story so I'm not going to try. Andy has spent a fair amount of time with the men, and I with the I'm going to try to just summarize what we've learned (with a little bit of my opinion, of course :) ).

There are four clans on the island. They're not necessarily family, but "like family" is what I was told. As a matter of fact, the chief's stepson, Mannuel, is in a different clan than he is. Not sure how that happens, but it does. Each of the clans control a different part of the island; one controls the sea, one the land, one the tuba (remember the coconut toddy?), and one does the administrative tasks (not quite clear what this entails yet). There was a meeting the other day (and apparently, days after that), to discuss the tuba. Since the holidays are coming up, they want to decide if they're going to let the men drink the fermented tuba, or make them drink the sweet tuba (non-alcoholic) that the women drink. They want everyone to have fun and be happy, but they don't want them drunk all the time and useless. One night, the meeting results were handed out and it was a yes, you get to drink the tuba (interestingly enough, the women have a large say so in this), but last night another meeting decided that no, you don't get to drink the tuba. I don't think it's much different than our politics at home, actually....

The fish to be divided among the various families on the island.

Michaeila (I totally spelled it wrong in the last post, sorry. Pronounced, Mi Kay La, very common at home, I just don't know how to spell) told me how women get married here. I was very curious as there just doesn't seem to be a lot to pick from. She said a boy decides he wants to marry a woman and goes to her parents and asks permission (much like we do in the south, right?). If the parents say yes, the boy and girl go "away" for a few days to get to know each other and basically to let the girl decide if she wants to marry the boy and "how" they want to get married (I don't know what "how" means). If she decides she likes him, they go back and tell her parents, yes. Then they go to each of their family's houses and tell them they're going to get married and "how" they want to get married. Then they wait for the priest. On this island, there is a deacon, so they can get married anytime they like. If they are from two different islands, the man moves to the woman's island. I like that they get to say no if they want to...

Mannuel and Andy
Mannuel, the chief's step son, paddled out to the boat yesterday to give us our ration of fish (the clan that controls the water, divides the day's catch up among the men based on the size of family. They included us in this process, therefore we received more fish than we were ever able to eat in a given meal.). He stayed and had a few cold beers (his first since being in Yap in June) and we started to talk about their traditional dress. As I've described, the men wear the cloth tied around their nether-regions, called a "thu" here and the women wear lava lava's that they make here and go shirt less as well. While I've read numerous blogs and tour guides that will lead you to believe that they are bucking western traditions, I heard it straight from the chief's son's mouth that it basically comes down to soap. Yep, soap. Only a hand full of people here have jobs....teachers, doctor, dentist, etc. No one else has any money unless they sell the occasional lava lava or basket or what have you. So the people with money, tell the people without that they don't have the money to buy soap so they shouldn't wear the shirts. If you can't afford to wash them, you shouldn't wear them. I can't make this stuff up, people. For the older generation, this really is just how they dress, but for the younger generation, it's a restriction. If we're carrying a camera, you can see the young girls put their school books up to their chests. If you do see a young man wearing a shirt, he has written on it and cut it up into his own design...trying to make a statement. Not unlike any other culture we've ever known, including our own (I remember numerous mid-drift shirts and short skirts driving fathers crazy all over my hometown back in the 80-90's). But I thought Mannuel's explanation was worth noting.

Kira and Jake playing.  Kira was afraid
there were sharks in the water so we couldn't
get her off the ladder, but she had fun
Every night we've been here (with the exception of the one night I didn't go to shore), we've had dinner cooked for us at Michaeila's house. They fry up the fish and put some taro in for us. One night they even found some breadfruit and instead of eating it themselves, they saved it for us and fried it up with our fish (breadfruit is out of season right now, so to find one is very rare). At the same time, the men are giving us our "rations." We have more fish than we know what to do with. To show my appreciation, I invited Michaeila out to the boat. She was so giddy it was like a teenager. She brought her granddaughter, Kira with her and they had a blast. Kira, of course, played with Jake (it's amazing how kids can play even when they don't speak the same language), while Michaeila and I chatted on the bow. I baked some pumpkin bread for them and made some deviled eggs...I was trying to think of something "American" that I might have the ingredients for. Turns out she loved both. We sent her home with a ton of goodies and a nice color picture printout of us on the boat. It was so funny and fulfilling to watch her so excited. She's a large woman and wasn't sure if she could climb on board, but in the end, she couldn't pass up the opportunity. And I think it made more than one woman on shore jealous...I think she liked that :).

Tomorrow is the big celebration. It's the day of Mary's Ascension. After Mass, they're having a big party, complete with turtle. The poor thing has been laying on it's back for two days huffing and puffing trying to stay alive. We thought about secretly letting it loose, but we think they harpooned it in the neck. We'll have to go for the "we're not going to waste it" attitude and have a taste tomorrow. Then on Monday, we're off....

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Going Native

"I should get a picture of that...ha!" Andy said as I'm standing in the cockpit in my new lava lava, with my bikini top, a flowered headdress and two leis, while sucking on the bones of a fried fish.
"You should talk" I said, watching him shirt-less, with some crude green necklace tied around his neck, staring at me with his glassy eyed expression one can ONLY get from drinking too much tuba (the local coconut toddy he was introduced to today in the men's drinking circle).

The stuff in those big bottles (and in the photographer) is
the "tuba"
Our welcome here wasn't quite what we expected. We had read about people rowing out to the boat before the anchor was even down, kids wooping it up on shore, people fighting for your attention, etc. When we rolled up in here, it was dead quiet and not a soul around. They even had advance notice of us coming (Pulawat told them over the radio to expect us). I think we caught them during siesta. When we went to shore to see the chief, we found out he was very ill and on the verge of dying. This explained everyone's somber mood. We found him in a boat house laying on a platform in the middle with 10 - 15 women around taking care of him. His wife was by his side, smiling one of the warmest smiles we've received yet. We gave our gifts, talked to his son, Manuel, and then went back to the boat to rest up.

All the men carry around these woven bags.  They mostly
contain beetle nut and knives, but strange for us westerners.
The next day was totally different. We went in before lunch (everyone was sleeping again?) and were greeted by the chief's wife who had made us all a lei and a headdress out of some beautiful local flowers. We chatted a bit and went to the school to drop off supplies. This island seems to be very educated. Everyone was partaking in some sort of school, whether it was vocational, traditional, or even pre-school (they have a "head start" program here!). School goes up to 9th grade and then they go to a larger island (Wolei, Ulithi or Yap) to continue their education. We met up with Manuel again and said we would be in later in the afternoon. When we came in around 3:00, they were just starting up their men's drinking circle. This is where they sit around every day and pass around the "tuba." It's a form of fermented coconut that they gather from their trees every morning and night. It's Yap's version of Kava Kava for those sailing around in the S. Pacific. There's only about 10 people in this world who will get this (and I think most of them read the blog), but the tuba they drink tastes like Andy's old wine, drunk about 10 days earlier than any of us EVER thought about drinking it. It's not the finest in the world, but let's just say that Andy got along just fine.

One of the men in the drinking circle.  All of the men here
seem to be very good with their kids and show a gentle side.
After about 10 minutes of listening to a bunch of men cackle about (I've always wanted to say that), I set off to find the women. I went back to where the chief was and the ladies invited me in. One lady in particular spoke excellent English, Makaila. After a bit, she invited me to her home. There I tasted every form of coconut I think I've ever come across. The ladies here aren't allowed to drink so they sip the sweet tuba - non alcoholic coconut drink. They also boil that down to make an even sweeter concoction that resembles honey to me. Then they mix that sweet stuff with more coconut and make a candy for the kids. I tried it and have to say it's my a brown sugar thingy with a smoky flavor....

Sweet little Kira, Michaeila's granddaughter.

I had worn a lava lava that I purchased in Pulawat and Makaila was very interested. She wanted to know where I got it, how much I paid for it, etc. Finally, the secret was out...apparently, I was wearing a very cheap lava lava. Who knew? I was running around in a Walmart lava lava and she wanted me to wear Bloomingdales. She came out with a much nicer (it really was) one made of black and purple threads and immediately made me put it on. As she saw how mine was tied, she was appalled once more and set me straight :). It was all very nice and she was so happy once I was all dressed up. She laughed and clapped and gave me a big hug. It's weird...I've spent the last year being all covered up and here, I'm overdressed in my bikini top. It's hard to get used to the change. Anywhoo...Eventually I had to go catch up with Andy and make sure he was still standing. I was sent home with three fried fish, some taro, coconut and a bottle of the sweet stuff...oh yeah, and a new lei and headdress...mine was wilted, can't have that.

I found Andy just as I described in the beginning of this post. I scuttled him back on the dinghy and off we went for our own drinking circle and debrief. It was a grand day. Andy did get a bit of a "honey do" list while he was socializing though. There are boats to be fixed, spear guns to be drilled, sails to make and engines to grease. That was going to be what he did today. Instead, he spent most of the day fixing a leak on old Savannah. It seems some floor joists have put some pressure on some of the braces in the bildge and caused a crack over time. He cut out the joists as they're not structural to the boat and patched it all up. He's back in a different drinking circle tonight. Apparently, there are two...this is the teacher's circle. I wasn't sure if I was invited or not (it is a "men's" circle afterall) and Jake was tired, so we opted to stay on the boat. I'll get the debrief when he gets home.

We're going to stay through the weekend as there is a celebration this Saturday and we will finally get to try the turtle we've been hearing so much about. More on that later... It's impossible to sum it all up, so I'll leave you with that. I can't wait for you guys to see all the will be so much more interesting.

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