(Please note–I’m trying to chronicle all of my experiences and observations while here . Sometimes when we interact with another culture, we come across things that we may find disturbing, offensive, or even repugnant. Although I try to interject humor into my postings and keep them light, the last observation on this page is unpleasant and not for the faint of heart. If you have been reading this blog, I will always place a disclaimer like this when appropriate.)
A few more notes on Micronesian/Chuuk culture:
1) When explaining the size of something, DO NOT, gesture like the fisherman who says, “The one that got away
was this big.” That familiar positioning of hands is only used when discussing male genitalia. The proper way to do it is to use your hand to mark off on your arm how big that fish was.
2) Also, while on the subject of naughty in Micronesia, do not making popping or clicking sounds in public. This includes, but is not limited to: putting your finger inside your cheek and popping it out, clicking your tongue off the roof of your mouth, or making the baseball hitting the bat noise that I can’t describe any better than that. All of these are ways to tell women that you would like to sleep with them, and by sleep, I mean…well, you know. It is not out of the ordinary for Chuukese men to make these sounds at women, especially American women, while they walk down the street. I heard one story of a woman riding on the back of flatbed (a common mode of transportation here) who had men clicking at her all day. When asked if it was more rude or disturbing than Italian or Latino men who often cat call at women on the street, she replied that the connotation is even more suggestive, but all of them suck. Duh!
3) There is no such thing as “white rice” here. There’s certainly no brown, wild, or basmati either. Allow me to explain. Every meal I have had since arriving on island is linked by one ingredient–white rice. Breakfast is white rice and pancakes or eggs or french toast. Dinner is white rice and chicken or tuna or pork or corn beef hash (from a can of course). Lunch is white rice and peanut butter and jelly or SPAM. When my students asked
me my thoughts on Micronesia, I said that I was sick of white rice. “White rice? What do you mean white rice? There is no ‘white’ rice. There is just rice. What other color should it be? Do you mean there are other rices? That’s just crazy talk.” (Okay, the didn’t say the last part, but everything else is an exact quote.)
4) I’ve mentioned that this is traditionally a communal culture. What’s mine is yours/what’s yours is mine tends to be the rule. Especially with family. That said, a teacher here told me a story about a kid on a school bus who had a can of soda. He tried to keep it hidden and on the down low below the seat. As he opened it, he tried to muffle the sound of the can opening. The reason being, if anyone on the bus heard it or saw it, culture and etiquette dictates, that he would have to pass it around to everyone for a sip before he had any himself.
5) Lastly, and somewhat disturbingly , I was privy to this conversation today. It concerned Ah-my-ru, a puppy that lives here on campus. Her name means surprise because someone gave her to the school director, Father Rich, as a surprise. Now, anyone who knows me knows I don’t like dogs. But this little pup has certainly won my heart–cute as they come. Well one of the workers asked Father Rich today, “Bata, when Ah-my-ru has her puppies someday and is done, can I take her home for dinner?”
Yes, we’ve heard the tasteless jokes in the past; always tinged with racism about people eating dogs. We’ve always laughed at them a little because, in this day and age, nobody eats dogs. Guess again. When asked how can you eat a dog let alone a puppy with a name, a pet for God’s sake. She replied, “It is hard. When I was young, I had a dog. I loved it. When it was time, I couldn’t bear to watch, so I stayed inside.”