Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chuuk 101

Would you like to know more about the area we are serving?
The Chuukese are a people of few words so getting someone to share can be difficult.
“Making style” refers to preparing yourself for the opposite sex or whatever sex to which you are attracted, although they have a light dusting of homophobia over the general populace. This observation is based only on one quote. “There are no gay Chuukese…only Filipinos.” But anyway making style includes, but is not limited to, how you comb your hair, your dress, your attitude, your body spray, how you carry yourself. It is the same as in the States, but there are some ways of making style that are unique to Chuuk and the Pacific Islands. 

Flowers. Flowers in your hair, in your hat, around your neck, atop your head like a crown. Forget San Francisco. If you’re going to Chuuk, Micronesia, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
The white-frangipani has the most incredible beautiful smell 

Gold teeth. It is the height of fashion to have several gold teeth. The more, the better. We don’t know if this is directly related to the poor state of the population’s dental health, but we have heard people say that yes, this is a factor, but there are those who just want gold teeth. They also have small decals imprinted in the front gold tooth in the shape of a heart or something else.  And the girls are beautiful.  

Chuukese onomatopoeia–Nukumach (noo-kah-monch). Can be used as an adjective or a noun. Someone can be a nukumach, or he can just be nukumach. In direct translation it means naughty or a naughty child, disobedient.  
Chuukese expression: When you want to tell someone, “Shut up. You’re a fool. You’re embarrassing yourself and your family. Just quit whatever your’re doing…” You say, “Hang up,” and gesture like you’re hanging up a phone. This is similar to an expression popular in the Caribbean–”I done witchoo.” If you’re in the Caribbean and someone is really annoying, you say “I done witchoo…one time,” and you exaggeratedly make like you’re wiping your hands and shaking them off. In Chuuk you say, “Hang up…kebanjo (kay-pon-jō).” This translates to “Hang up… you’re bald.” Then you take your hung up hand phone and move it across your head like you’re giving yourself a buzz cut.
“Girls have to respect boys. But boys don’t have to respect girls. They do respectthem because it’s just the right thing to do. They are not allowed to swear in front of them. You never walk in front of two people, if you have to walk by them you need to bow low or crawl past them.”
You might find this odd, we did.  We never want to be disrespecting their culture by imposing our values on them? In our attempts to be culturally competent, we wonder how often do we impose our cultural beliefs on others? 
What’s something locally grown to eat in Chuuk“Breadfruit. Pounded breadfruit. You can also slice it and fry it and make breadfruit chips.” We prefer it fried.  “Souka Souk. You take bananas and put them in boiling water. When the outside turns black, it’s done. Then you peel it and pound it. Then you take a coconut and get the water out of it and take the white part and squeeze the juice or oil or whatever it is on the banana. It’s messy.

The Chuukese are very shy in general. They do not take risks. This ran contradictory to us so much as Americans. You have to take risks–it’s ingrained in our character.
If they get the opportunity to leave Chuuk state for school and live in the States for a while, when they then return to Chuuk it can be pretty rough. There’s so much stuff in the States. It’s overwhelming at first but they get used to it. Coming back here is tough because they get used to wanting things right away. Choices in shopping, going movies, things to do. One gal said; I was kind of angry all the time and mad at this place. (CHUUK) Resentful.” She went on to add, “That’s why I decided to stay here two years before leaving for grad school. I needed to decompress and get back to my culture. I like the pace of life here and I needed get back into it.”  

The Chuukese are incredible singers. To the person–everyone can sing. Many of them have perfect pitch. There is a gift for singing among these people. Anyone can sing the melody, and then people on their own will just add harmonies. The meaning of the word singing in Chuukese is flatulence, so you want to be careful using it.  It is considered a strong word.   
Chuukese never say “no.” It is a grievous wrong to deny someone a favor or help or anything. Therefore, they will say yes to everything asked whether or not they intend to follow through.

In Chuuk, people don’t live day to day. They live event to event. Although celebrations are not big showy galas, events are important. People might not know to meet you on a certain day or time, but if you say meet me in he morning after the so and so’s funeral, they will know. Funerals are the biggest events by far. One funeral could last for at least three days or longer.  Nothing in that village happens when a funeral is going on out of respect to the family.  
Clan and family is important here. Prestige is not based on your job or title, it’s based on how many people you know and what clan they are from. There are still clans who are the families of chiefs, and chiefs still hold political power.
The snacks eaten here are insane. It is common to see someone chowing on raw ramen noodles with the flavor packet sprinkled directly on it. This is then eaten like potato chips. Or, if they don’t have the noodles, people will just eat the flavor packet, dipping their fingers in and licking off the sodium drenched bullion crystals. But by far the favorite is Kool Aid. Who doesn’t like Kool Aid?  As a kid we liked it, and occasionally as an adult. But we drank it. But we mixed it with water and drank it. We didn’t eat it straight. Not only did we not eat it straight, we would have never thought to sprinkle hot sauce into the envelope along with ramen seasoning before doing so. Kids around here all have discolored fingers from this practice. Index fingers dyed red are everywhere on the kids who eat this out of the packet fun dip style. 
Spitting is socially acceptable by both male and female.   

Some of this writing is taken from a random blog dated June 16, 2012, six week adventure as a volunteer a school teacher here on the island of Weno, in the State of Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia.  This is his attempt at keeping an online journal.  We think he did a good job! Sorry we don't have his name. 

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