Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley
Yap Proper

Yap State, FSM - April 1999

April 13, 1999

The eve of Teresa's departure. Tharngan arranged to have John Tun give us a tour of some of the archaeological sites around the island. It was in part for the benefit of Eva and Sal, who had yet to have a land tour of Yap, but also for me and Teresa. I hadn't been to any of the places on John's tour, although they are part of a routine tour for guests of the historic preservation office. Many of the sites are Traditional Award projects, which have been reconstructed with a small allotment of money from the legislature; others were special projects, funded through historic preservation grant funds geared toward site reconstruction. The money a community receives for either a Traditional Award project or an HPO special project is minimal; it is really only a token amount. The purpose of both types of projects is to get the whole community involved, young and old. A structure, whether it is a building or path or some other type of traditional feature, is supposed to be rebuilt and renovated using traditional methods, techniques, materials, and labor; the old teach the young so that both the skills and the oral histories of a site are passed on. It is the process that is important here, and the transmission is the best method for the preservation of skills that are no longer practiced in the daily life of a village. Both programs are important for Yap, and in the long run everyone benefits.

Tharngan was telling me it sometimes takes nearly two years to rebuild a traditional house such as a faluw or pebaey because everyone involved must donate his time and labor, and spend weekends, days off, after-school hours, and whatever other time can be spared.

The first place on our tour was Ayen faluw in Rull municipality, one of the Traditional Award projects. It was in the process of reconstruction and renovation, although its dancing ground was intact, lined with stone money, as was the wunbey or sitting platform, complete with its backrests and the place where food is brought as an offering or gift to the chiefs.

Dance grounds
Rull dance grounds

Rull
Rull, Ayen Faluw

Faluw entry
Faluw entry with step

Faluw steps
Faluw steps to the lagoon

Faluw rafters
Faluw rafters and main supports

Stone pier
Rull, Ayen Faluw stone pier

Head carving

Along the shore, the dock was lined with carvings of heads, made from brain coral. Some were an imitation of classical statuary, others were almost portrait-like. The appearance of these decorative pieces is a result of the overall design by the local architect brought in to reconstruct the site.

Backrest
Backrest

The stone path in Balebat, also in Rull municipality, is another of the cultural sites reconstructed as one of the HPO special projects, complete with its paving, entrance stones (two large uprights that flank the path, marking the entrance to a village), a culvert, and a stone bridge with a small resting platform adjacent to it. Generally, women lay the pavement and maintain the paths throughout Yap. The larger paving stones are placed, leveled, and then stabilized with smaller stones and soil. The path was quite regular, level and very smooth. There is an etiquette in walking along a stone path: a group must walk in single file, usually down the center of the path; if you should meet someone coming the opposite direction, then you must step aside and let the other pass (the question of who steps aside first is usually based on rank and status); if, in your passage, you spot debris on the path, it is your responsibility to remove it. In this manner paths have been maintained over the centuries.

Stone path
Rull, Balebat stone path

Stone bridge
Rull, Balebat stone path: a stone bridge over culvert

We also made a stop at the Tamil "Grand Canyon", an area of heavy erosion in Tamil municipality. It is a wondrous area, in the middle of the savanna, just outside Maa' village. Small channels and rivelets cut their course through the red clay soil and have, with the passage of time and the assistance of rain, grown into large, almost canyon-like fissures. This is neither a Traditional Award project nor an HPO special project; our detour here was "just because".

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

We also visited the Japanese lighthouse at Dalap, a hill in Lebinaw Village, in Gagil municipality. This is an HPO special project site, where the intent is to clean and maintain the site for tourist visits, not to reconstruct it. The lighthouse is a concrete and stone structure apparently built and abandoned over a three-year period between 1940 and 1944. In the latter year, the allied forces bombed Yap and other islands in the western Carolines, targeting prominent landmarks like the lighthouse; but they did not succeed in toppling the lighthouse. That was left to the Japanese, who apparently took matters into their own hands and finally destroyed the lighthouse tower by blowing it up with dynamite. This stopped the continuous shelling by the allied forces. Today, the site is covered with papaya trees, seeded by birds. The toppled lighthouse remains, along with the remains of a generator building, the entry posts, and several other structures.

Teresa Steps to lighthouse
Teresa walking up the steps to the site of the toppled Japanese lighthouse

Lighthouse interior
The interior of the toppled lighthouse

Our final stop was at Amun faluw, in Gagil municipality. This is a completely reconstructed and renovated faluw, one of the Traditional Award projects. The current location of the faluw is actually a new one in the history of this site. Originally, the faluw was located on a small island off the coast, where a causeway joined it to the land. But, as the old men in the village had increasing difficulty in going to and from the faluw, the decision was made to rebuild it on-shore. The remains of the old faluw are still present on the islet.

April 14, 1999

Teresa departed today. It was a hard day. Teresa spent the first half of the day at school; her teachers had asked me if she could, as they had a special going-away planned for her. They had a small party, with many gifts bestowed upon her, including a whole lot of nu-nus. As we were leaving the school, she was surrounded by kids saying good-bye; not just from her own class, but from nearly all the grades. Her teacher gave her a beautiful purse with a note to both us that made us want to cry.

Teresa

At the airport we both tried to be brave, but I think we each slipped up a bit (and only after we were out of sight of each other). Eva and Sal chaparoned Teresa on her journey home. She missed her dad a lot, a whole lot, and that was the reason she was leaving; this was the first time the two of them have been separated. On all my previous trips to the Pacific, I have always gone alone while Ed and Teresa stayed home, and over the years became almost inseparable pals. Teresa was torn about leaving too; she told me that if she were an adult she would never leave Yap, but she was a kid and she missed her dad, so she had to go home.

Teresa and Felicia

April 15, 1999

I found the Continental website last night and periodically checked up on the plane's flight. I thought the itinerary said they were getting in at 6 in the morning, but when I checked just before 11 last night, it said the plane had arrived at 5:20 or so, roughly 20 minutes AFTER its scheduled arrival. Once I saw that, I felt like I could go to bed, and I did.

The state government here is setting its budget priorities. They have moved the education department and hospital to the end of the line. According to Sophia, John Tun's wife, they are cutting the hospital prevention program, a program that has put dispensaries and nurse practitioners in the communities (both Yap Proper and the Outer Islands) to teach prevention and such. She herself goes out to the communities in an effort to educate people --- you know, stuff like, if you have a headache, don't go running to the hospital for some Tylenol, get proactive --- find out what is causing it, ask questions, and treat the cause itself, and so on. John said it is all political. Sophia said she just might get political herself and urge patients to sue the hospital, as they are now operating at about half speed.

I suggested to John later today, as he was driving me home, that Sophia could easily carve out a niche for herself and write little prevention pamphlets for health care, etc. He started to get optimistic and wondered if there were foundations that offered grants for such things. I said there definitely were. We just have to search the Internet for such things --- in fact, I think I have already bookmarked a list for Asia and the Pacific on the office computer. Now, I just have to get John on the Internet.

Next: Dinay: Final Push

 


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