First few days in Yap

Almost 72 hours on Yap, or “on island” as the locals say.  We live in the city of Colonia, or technically, about ½ a mile from Colonia in a village called Worwoo.  Because nobody really lives in Colonia, it’s just a complex of small businesses, a handful of restaurants, some dive shops, a thatched information booth that I have yet to see open, two banks, and a large post office for Yap, Caroline Islands, zip code 96943.

houseOur home is a 2-room cement building, with one large open space of about 30′ x 35′, and then a kitchen off of it.  It used to be a Head Start day care, but now seems to be used by visiting groups like ours. There are 15 of us: 2 faculty from Queens, 12 students (6 men, 6 women), and myself.  We all share the one large room.  Fifteen cots, our assorted luggage and diving gear, a long plastic table and chairs, and 7 or 8 fans, placed strategically around the room with snaked extension cords stretched to inconveniently placed outlets.  All around the walls are 6’ tall windows, covered in louvers and screens. Doors lead out to a large porch that wraps around two sides of the building, and from the porch is access to a bathroom with two toilets and a shower.

The kitchen has a regular fridge/freezer, an electric hot plate with 2 burners, and counters with bags of both our “common” food and our personal food collections.  Any food item not marked with someone’s name on it is fair game, on the counter or in the fridge.  Group food is mostly breakfast items:  small bunches of native bananas that folks are bringing us, eggs, bags of fruity loops.  My current personal stock includes one box of raisins, one box of Maria cookies, two (cold, fridge) cans of milky sweet coffee, and one small watermelon.  Sharpie magic markers work on watermelons too!

Activities of Yapese Daily Life that have taken place in the last three days, in no particular order:

  • shopping for groceries, fans, magic markers, clothes line,
  • walking the 50’ across our back yard to step directly into the Pacific Ocean to snorkel (see pic of view to ocean);
  • learning to ID tropical fish that live in the waters off of our backyard;
  • watching students trying to set up  ‘chore charts’ to keep our communal household organized;
  • walking along stone pathways many centuries old;
  • several meetings with the Yapese directors of the Divisions of Marine Resources, and the Division of Land Resources, and the Division of Forestry and Agriculture, all about the different mapping projects that we begin on Monday;
  • learning to prepare, chew, and spit betel nuts (and their juice);
  • waking up at 4am to walk into “town” in order to use the entirety of Yap’s wifi capacity to upload a 12 mb file to the online class I’m currently teaching for Redlands;
  • taking 2-3 cold showers daily to soothe my sweaty body;
  • getting to know the students as we share meals, walks, meetings, outings, sleeping, etc;
  • buying a beer mug from the Stone Money Brewing Company (part of the Manta Ray Bay Hotel here), sipping a Hammerhead Amber while we sat on the top deck of an old Dutch (?) ship while watching underwater diving movies projected onto a 10’ x 15’ screen hanging from the ship’s mast.  My mug will stay safely at the ship’s bar until we’re ready to leave Yap in a few weeks, until then ready for me to enjoy drinking from it whenever I stop by (since it’s been tagged with my name, just like at our house).  The microbrewery’s motto:  drink, pee, repeat.

Today I completed the first part of my open-water scuba diving certification, learning all the steps but in a pool.  So far, so good!  I’ve mastered how to control my buoyancy with my buoyancy control device; how to share my breathing regulator with a buddy; how to clear my mask and balance my ears.  In addition to learning these skills, I’ve spent about 45 minutes “diving” so far, with a full set of scuba equipment, all underwater in a pool that’s only 6’ deep and 25’ long.  Isn’t that a scene from The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman?

Meanwhile, everyone else in the group either completed this pool part earlier in the States, or they’ve been certified divers for years.  FINALLY, tomorrow I join them for my first open-water dive in the ocean.  Still, it’s all been great fun so far.  And as the Yapese say, “lo wiki wangin.”  Which means “better than nothing.”

one of the original public "highways" that stretch across parts of the island.

one of the original public “highways” that stretch across parts of the island.

abundant vegetation

sunrise

the sunrise view from our back porch

hammock

innovative students manage to hang multiple stories of hammocks

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