Yap has two temperatures, hot and hotter. We’re 9 degrees north of the equator, and the sun is very intense. By 8am one is seeking shade and/or sunscreen. We’re here at the end of the dry season and from now to September or so, it’ll be quite rainy. Almost every day we have short bursts of rain that dampen our t-shirts, and sometimes long drenching rains that are deafening on corrugated tin roofs. Either way, the sun then comes out, we delight in the rainbows, and we soon begin to steam again.
Yapese culture dictates that thighs not be shown. Bare breasts are fine. In fact, especially on the outer islands, having women bare their breasts is not only culturally appropriate, but expected. About ten years ago, the public schools initiated “culture” Fridays, and children were to dress in traditional styles. I’m not sure what this would have meant from boys; perhaps the drapey loin cloths that some older men wear. Yapese girls from the main island would wear grass skirts, and from the outer islands, woven cloth skirts, called “lava lavas.” And all girls were to be topless. High school girls in 2003 did not want to go to school topless, yet their mothers were insistent that they would, as NOT doing so is a disrespectful cultural affront. So you had Yapese mothers calling the schools trying to insist that their daughters go topless. Now that’s funny.
These days it seems only the outer island women continue to be topless regularly; I have yet to see either of our two female neighbors wearing a shirt.
Meanwhile, fast forward to 2013, and none of us can bare our thighs. The 7 female Queens college students and I wear the kind of “board” shorts that skateboarders or surfers wear, or baggy basketball shorts, down to our knees. And we keep our shirts on too. All contributing to extra warm layers.
Rain plus heat equals decay. Apart from the obvious constant decomposition and regrowth cycles of all plant materials, we’re also surrounded by houses, roads, and cars decaying around us. Really old and dead cars, or maybe not so old but still dead cars, are often roadside with vines snaking up and out of every automotive orifice. In enough time it won’t be recognizable as a former-vehicle anymore, except maybe for the occasional glimpse of a rusted wheel joint.
We have spent some time in working cars too. Yap’s Department of Land Resources provides the Queens University group with a pickup truck for the stay. Reed is the only authorized driver, but that’s just fine. Driving is relatively safe because there are few roads in good enough condition to go more than 45 mph, and few cars that could achieve that speed anyway. Driving is relatively dangerous because the desire to speed is universal, it’s not uncommon to encounter drunk drivers at 11am (or 4pm), and no one uses seatbelts. To add to the fun, driving is on the right-side, but cars are imported from either the US or Japan, and the Japanese cars are designed for left-side driving. So you never know what side
the steering wheel will be on until you get in. Exciting!
Rain plus heat plus tropical environments also equals bugs. Fortunately the mosquitoes aren’t as bad as they could be at our house thanks to the ocean breeze. And when we first moved in, the kitchen had its share of tropical-size cockroaches, though I haven’t seen them lately. Or at least I haven’t noticed them as much lately. But there are little geckos everywhere, most often on the walls, but also on the counters, the tables, and our cots. I still flinch, squeal, and fling when I discover a gecko clinging to my leg. But they are pretty cute!
Scuba diving continues to be my favorite past time, by far. Yesterday was particularly marvelous and my deepest dive so far, to 102 feet.
The internet was down, on the whole island, for the last 48 hours. Finally the right “part” was brought by a guy from Telecom from over on Pohnpei, the capital island, and he “fixed” the internet. Thank goodness.
Love reading your writing! Miss you! A