Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley

Kosrae State, FSM - May 1999

May 17, 1999

Tofol --- The HPO just hired five guys to help with the archaeological work. Stan and Nena take care of the supervision, I do the planning and overall review of their work. The site we are starting on is maybe 50 meters from the office. By the time we arrived this morning the guys had already cleared a good portion. A small upslope flat within a stream drainage: the slope below it is faced with large basalt boulders, there are a series of boulder alignments on the flat that define a house compound, and we don't know what is in the uncleared portion yet. Nena and Stan have a lot of experience with sites like this, so I asked them what they thought about it. Nena says it is similar in some respects to other sites they have come across, but it has some unusual elements. There are several alignments that don't fit with the usual patterns of features in sites like this. His impression is that it might actually be an older site and/or an agricultural site, sort of like temporary living quarters for farming activity. There was certainly a lot of effort used in building this site; just hauling the boulders to the location is work in and of itself. If it is a temporary shelter for farmers, it is pretty elaborate. The upshot is, we really don't know what was here, or how this site was used, or the range of disturbances that affected its overall structure. We'll likely find out in the next week or two.

Dr. Beardsley at Kosrae HPO
I think we should let Kerick take all the photographs

Nena and I are going over the kinds of equipment we will need over the next few weeks. This office is supposed to be equipped with all kinds of stuff, only Nena can't seem to find them. Berlin and Stan tease him about either eating the equipment when he got hungry or selling it off when he needed some change in his pocket.

I was going through my own equipment last night to see how I could supplement what's available in the HPO. Now I am getting anxious to start digging. I want to start now, but I know I cannot --- certain administrative steps have to be completed. I can, however, dig a small series of probes in one part of the site that seems to have been little used. At the moment I am quite curious about the soils we are going to encounter, and this is one way of checking on that.

Tofol Site: foundation stones
Crew clears brush from foundation stones

Tofol Site: unusual stone arrangements
Tofol site: stones and arrangements unlike anything elsewhere

May 18, 1999

Tofol Site: stone alignmentThe guys doing the clearing are doing a terrific job. You can see so much of the ground. So far, we found a couple of ums, or earth ovens, on the other side of this compound. At the moment they are covered in cut brush. I am digging my stratigraphic trench in the Tofol site, the site nearly on the same grounds as the office, and immediately I run into a fire pit. This was, mind you, in a portion of the site that has no surface features and appears to be away from the general activity area on the opposite side of the compound (where there are at least two earth ovens and an associated pavement). I thought we might have a relatively little-used portion of the site, and as such, it might provide us with a good stratigraphic guide for our excavations. Then the fire pit emerged. It was a surprise, most definitely. For the moment, I am leaving that portion of my trench alone, and working on exposing the stratigraphy in the remainder of the trench. I think I have hit parent soil already, but I will see tomorrow when I continue with this.

Tofol Site: stone alignment

Tofol, Utwa, and Malim weavers and carvers

Stan introduced me to Alouka Talley at the Community Development Center, responsible for the senior citizen craft program. The three of us spent a good portion of the morning visiting senior citizen groups and watching them make their crafts. The women were weaving; each woman specializes in a particular kind of weaving. Some weave fans, others baskets, others handbags and so on. The men we observed were carving things like oars, food pounders (in the past, these were made from stone), spears and such. We even went to a couple of villages and visited the women's clubs, where women go to weave. Tomorrow, we will visit a couple more villages as well as observe a traditional skills class at one of the schools; that is, where senior citizens go into the school and teach the kids various crafts.

Standon Andrew and his mother
Stan and his mother

Stan's mother is part of the Tofol weavers, their instructor in fact. The ladies in that group were very funny, and when he introduced his mom to me, they were then yelling, "Stan, this is my grandmother" or "Stan, this is my sister", pointing to whatever lady happened to be sitting next to them. Stan must be a joker and known everywhere as such because he gets teased wherever he goes, and gives it right back.

These ladies got the biggest kick out of looking at themselves in the pictures. I love it. One lady wouldn't let me take the camera away. She had to look at all the pictures a couple of times.

Tofol Weaver 1

Tofol Carvers 1

Tofol, Spear Carver Weaver 1

Utwa Weaving Instructor
Utwa weaving instuctor

Utwa Weaver 2 Utwa Weaver 3

Utwa Weaver 4

Utwa Weaver 5

Utwa Weaver 6

Rain, wind, mud and gossip

Today we got to watch the Civil Action Team (SeaBees) right their roller and truck on the road just outside the office. It took a lot of heavy equipment just to get the job done, but they eventually got the thing unstuck, upright, and off to its job. The CAT team, as everyone calls them, have a base on the island. I am told that they are not allowed to fraternize with people here; I don't know if that is true, although there could have been problems in the past. There are rumors floating around about a couple of the CAT guys getting involved with some Peace Corps volunteers, and that of course created quite a flurry of gossip.

CAT crew accident
The accident occured near the HPO on the road through Tofol

May 19, 1999

The day started off with a very big storm. Thunder on the ocean, followed by a big wind, and then rain coming in horizontally from the northeast. There were whitecaps on the swells in the lagoon, and the roads were covered in water, gravel, and mud (although how much of that was just the washout from the fill in the holes in the roadway is anyone's guess). In the midst of all this, the disk jockey at the local radio station blares out, "Good Morning, Kosrae", and then puts on some disco music from the 1970s. Everyone was late to the office, as is usual on gray days out here. At least it seems to be the pattern everywhere I go.

I didn't go out to the stratigraphic pit until after lunch, when the rains seemed to dwindle and then stop. I finished digging my trench, and with Nena I went over site features the guys had exposed. Then it was just me and the trench, for a while. I was trying to define each layer and the boundaries between layers. After that, I prepared myself for the profile, actually drawing the stratigraphy and describing it. Nena joined me at this juncture. He was looking at the soil layers in the wall of the trench and asking how I could be sure of the layers. So we went over each one, their color, texture, contents, and so on.

Lupalik looked at me, seeing how filthy I was while recording the stratigraphy in the trench with the assistance of Nena, and said, "You work like a man." Nena and I burst our laughing. Nena then went on to tell him that this is the nature of the job, and began describing the soil layers to him in Kosraean.

May 20, 1999

The HPO, along with other offices and divisions with the Kosrae State Department of Agriculture, Lands, and Fisheries, gathered for their annual review. It is a kind of progress report the department does every year; budgets are dependent on the progress made. If an office or division does not meet the goals it had drawn up the prior year, its budget is usually in jeapardy; if they not only meet their goals but exceed them, they are often rewarded with an increase in their allotment. This process makes for difficulties in long-range planning, in determining the number of people and programs you can maintain from one year to the next. And it inevitably leads to the harder questions of whether to increase programs and staffing, or worse, decisions on where cuts must be made.

In most annual reviews, I am told, each division head delivers his progress report. This year was different because they just added a new division to the department: Fisheries. Prior to this, fisheries had been a department of its own, but reorganization of the government after elections prompted this consolidation as well as others. This year, the director of the department summarized each division's activities, mainly because of the new addition.

I can't tell you what was said, what progress over the year was made, because the whole thing was delivered in Kosraean. I take it that progress was made and goals were met.

Annual Review Gathering
Annual Review Gathering, Tofol

The whole event took up the morning, with employees of the department gathering under a tent set up on a small mid-slope bench overlooking Tofol. Lunch was prepared for everyone, with contributions coming from the employees themselves. It was a huge feast of local foods, including taro (both hard and soft), coconuts, bananas (boiling and eating), breadfruit, chicken, Kosraean soup (eaten mainly on Sundays or other special occasions, consisting of thickened broth, coconut milk, meat and rice), sashimi, and of course rice and macaroni salad.

Annual Review Lunch Preparations
Lunch Preparations

Hard Taro
Hard Taro

After all that, we then got the afternoon off. Good thing, because we were all stuffed.

Next: Tofol: Site excavation, sample gathering