Gosh, it is hard to believe that it was a year ago that we left our house behind and headed for the open road... and we have now been living on an Island in the middle of the South Pacific for six months of that! We can't believe how time has flown by, I apologize for not updating the blog for so long. I could blame it on being busy, having poor internet connections, etc.. but the reality is that time has just slipped away!
We are truly loving it here! We have become very comfortable with the customs, and the lifestyle; Surprisingly, we don't really miss the motorcycle. There are lots of places on the Island where a motorcycle would be fun to have, but the heat, the humidity, the rain and the salty air turns anything made of metal.. especially chrome... into a pile of rust in a matter of months... and besides... the island is only 15 miles long... 27 by road .. and worse yet, the speed limit is 15mph in the villages, with a top speed of 25mph on the open road! What good would a motorcycle that can travel 120mph do? I can tell you, I miss 75mph much more than I miss my motorcycle. So, to get from one end of the island to the other is about an hour and a half trip because of the twists and turns in the road and the 25mph max speed!
We've been here long enough now that we have become recognized in the community. Winona is helping with the ASL (American Sign Language) class at the High School three days a week and it constantly amazes me that she can communicate so well with these deaf kids. Education is not looked upon as being particularly important here, so there are many kids in their late teens and twenties who are still attending high school. People wave at us whereever we go, but that is so common, that we don't know if it is because we know them, or if they are just being friendly. We wave back enthusiastically, and then look at each other to ask,"do we know that person?"... and now we have the same problem as we walk around the High School and College campuses!
Though there are some aspects of the lifestyle here that are attractive, there is a general complacency about life in general that can be frustrating. The general philosophy is that there is no sense in planning because something could come up that will interrupt the plan! So it is tough to get people to make appointments ... because they might not be able to keep the appointment! A refusal to commit because they might not be able to keep the commitment. No sense in planning, because they might not be here tomorrow! .
Marriages are interesting... no dating. If a boy takes an interest in a girl, it is kept secret. Parents do not know about the 'relationships' that develop, nor do they want to. At some point the boy will approach the girls parents with a shell, and dowry of some nature and negotiate for the daughter. If the girls parents accept the shell, they are "married". If at any time the husband decides he doesn't want the responsibilities of his family any longer, he can take his wife back to her parents, get his shell back and the "marriage" is over. Women don't have that luxury, nor do they have much say in what transpires. (Not much need for divorce lawyers down here!) Kids are raised by cousins, uncles, grandparents, whoever is handy. The church rightfully insists on proof of a legally binding marriage before a couple, or either one of the couple, can join. The lack of contractual obligation to each other causes a lot of heartache in families. Legal marriages are available, but an expensive wedding is "expected" as part of the celebration, so many cannot afford that. The Church provides free weddings, which makes it a much more attractive and affordable option.
Not surprisingly, everyone knows everyone. There are no street names or addresses. This truly is jungle living although in most cases, homes do have electricity and some have telephones. Suprisingly, cell phones are horrendously expensive, but are extremely popular. When you want to tell someone where you live you just give the name of the person next door, and there will be a nod of recognition. Taxis, Police, Ambulances, utility companies, repairmen, couriers, all find you by knowing who you live beside, or who your landlord is. It is truly amazing. We had to help the young missionaries get the utility bill for their water redirected to a new apartment the other day. After nearly two weeks of trying to get in touch with the Greater Tamil Water Commission to make arrangements, they told us that we had to come out to their office where they would talk to us about the switch. We drove to the North end of the Island (that 1 and 1/2 hour trip I mentioned earlier!) where after checking with a few locals for direction, (when we ask for directions, we get a familiar nod of the chin in the general direction of where we need to head) and we ended up next to a house at the end of a long and winding dirt road. There are no signs indicating that this is an office, but as we approached the house to knock, the door opened and the fellow confirmed that this was indeed the Greater Tamil Water Commission. We didn't have to tell him who we were or what we wanted.. he recognized us. It truly felt like we were the only people to ever arrange a switch.. He knew the house that was being vacated, and was familiar with the house they were moving into, so he just confirmed the name of the landlord at the new premises and said "OK, we'll look after that!"
We had to ask ourselves.... "so we travelled all the way out there, because??...". There was no papers to fill out, no signatures... very strange. But, someone showed up the next day to read the meter and we assume that money will now come out of the correct account.
Last night, the internet went down... and I was unable to check my stocks. It was 4am, but since I was up anyway, and the NYSE closes at 6am Yap time, I thought I should head down to the FSMTC (Telecommunications office) and see if I could get internet access there. (they are "open" 24 hours). The door was open and the lights were on, so I walked in the office but no one was around. I was about to sit down and start using one of the two computers they have there for public use, when a very sleepy lady in her late 50's rose from beneath one of the desks where she had been sleeping. I apologized for waking her up, and informed her that the internet wasn't working. She shrugged and said that the technical person would be in at 8am. I left and I am pretty certain that she curled up and went back to sleep. Sure enough however, at 8am, the internet came back, and I was back online!
Food is another issue.. but I think I'll make that a future blog entry. We really are having a great time. This is a place where we truly feel we can do some good! We have met so many wonderful people. It is good to be here. Several topics I have brought up here will make good blog entries of their own.. I'll work on it!