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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