Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Most of the villages we visited in the Marshals gave Trinda homemade flowers for her hair. With short hair they fell out, so she put them in her hat. I thought she really wanted it, but the chief's wife her fell in love with it and was so cute in it that Trinda gave her her hat with all the flowers.

Denny took a photo of us with Chief Manual and his wife in their yard. It seems really hot here, thus the blue tarps to change the color of the photos. It may also be why they are sticking to the old custom of not much clothing. They live in a more primitive style than in the cities in the state capitals of Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap. Very similar to the outer islands of the Marshals. That is their cooking fire in the background.
While we were here the US Air Force dropped a Christmas package to the island. They do it every year it seems, for the small islands that have no air strip and little regular transportation. It was a thrill to gather on the beach with nearly everyone in the village and watch the C130 fly over and drop the package in the lagoon by parachute. When it left it waved its wings.

There were a few sad parts of the experience though. First the box fell apart when it hit the water. Everything in it got wet with the salt water. Not to dramatic for the plastic toys, but the rice, ramin and Pop-Tarts didn't fare so well. Next, the package had a few cans of food but mostly common items (mackerel, corned beef, etc), not unique Christmas stuff. Then toys, lots of which came with dead or missing batteries, and electronic toys don't work with salt water. A lot of stuffed animals and cheap plastic balls. Then clothes and shoes. The clothes were mostly T-shirts. Only very young children are "allowed" to wear shirts, except while working in the sun, like fishing, so shirts were not the best choice. And shoes! they wear flip-flops, crocks or nothing. 4" patent leather spiked heels didn't seem appropriate nor the whole pile of polished leather dress shoes. As the chief's son sorted and divided the package among the village family men, it was obvious that it was mostly considered a joke.

It would be really nice to communicate back to the folks in Guam that organize and drop the "Christmas Package" that almost every year the box breaks in the water and that the gifts are not appropriate. Christmas cookies, oranges, apples, nuts and toys suitable for the island climate would be better. The islanders are much better off than in the Marshall's where they don't get such packages. They had better food, clothes and shoes than were in the package.

We didn't see as many handicapped people as the Marshall's. This young lady had mental problems but her twin sister was fine. She was really attached to Trinda.

One of the chief's grandsons in a 'local playpen'. They believe that the kids learn to walk faster if they spend time in these playpens pulling themselves up to standing position. They didn't leave him alone much in it though.
We were surprised to see they did not eat much rice, flour, sugar or ramin like other outer islanders. They grew and ate 3 kinds of taro, tapioca, breadfruit, bananas, and coconut based dishes. Lots of fish, fried, boiled and raw (sushimi). They do have their bad habits though. Nearly everyone chews bettlenut and the men drink tuba every afternoon. Tuba is the sour toddy from Kiribati, or fermented coconut sap. When a coconut palm produces a bloom stalk for a bunch of coconuts, the cut the blooms off and hang a container under it to catch the juices that would grow the coconuts. If it is a sterile container, it is used to sweeten drinks and season food (taro and pumpkin cakes) or to drink straight by women and kids. If it is collected in a coconut shell that has previously held fermented juice, it makes beer in only a few hours. I heard one young man complaining that with the morning cut, the afternoon cut and the evening cut of his seven trees he hardly had time for anything else! In the morning they collect the fresh stuff for the women, and start catching for the afternoon tuba. Before 3:00 they change the containers and all the men go to the 'men's houses' and drink the morning cut. The men's houses are the canoe huts and meeting halls. Really just a large thatched roof with mats over gravel for the floors. They drink till 5'ish then go change the container for the sterile ones again. Afterward they return to the men's houses and drink the afternoon cut. They didn't seem to get very drunk, but Forrest had a hard time returning to the boat one night. I tried a few cups, but couldn't get past the taste and besides I don't do too well with the strong drink lately. I don't recover like I did when I was a kid.

Some senators came on a patrol boat and had a long meeting for the afternoon. They were inspecting their previous grants and taking questions and requests for more support. Surprisingly they handed out cigarettes and bettlenut to everyone throughout the meeting. To the men under the men's house, to the women setting around the outside edge listening and to the children all around. It seemed like 10 and up were allowed to chew, but I did not notice the youngsters smoking.

I was low on fuel, so I asked and succeeded in buying 45 gallons of diesel from the patrol boat. We transfered it in 3 trips with the dinghy in 3 5-gal jugs. The captain said they were on their way to Chuuk to get fuel cause they were running low too. But because I requested it and they barely had enough, he was obligated to help me out. Then he was very nice and accommodating. He made sure the jugs were more than filled to the 5 gal mark. He also gave me coffee in the bridge while they figured out how much fuel they had and needed.

We asked if there was ample electricity and a workspace ashore to repair the sail. They had a generator at the elementary school (1st-9th grade) if I had gas for it. Denny helped with the sail repair.

Trinda too!
And Forrest distracted the kids for us.

Taking the sail and sewing machine back to the boat.

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