Saturday, September 27, 2014

Woleai atoll, Micronesia

Woleai Atoll 

Woleai Atoll has 8 islands surrounding a beautiful lagoon.  Inside the shallow lagoon are two small islands.
Today there are around 1000 islanders living in the atoll with the largest concentration of people on Woleai Island which is divided in 5 different villages. There is a high school and a elementary school, a general store, a dispensary and internet is available. The island has a running generator that provides electricity to the community. 
Here in the atolls of Micronesia the position of women is lower than men. For women it is the custom and tradition, each day show respect and obedience to the man. They live quite separate from the men.

The people are very generous and friendly and the community is more organized than the other atolls.
We had a great experience in Woleai and we made good friends.  That will be always in our heart!.

Our welcoming by Matthias, Chief Manno Buchoitil and Chief Francisco Mairaal. 
"Welim Wemi"  means Welcome in Woleaian language. The people of these islands all speak dialects of Woleaian, a Micronesian language of the Eastern Oceanic Branch of Austronesian. Most of the teachers and young people speak English.

Helena anchorage

Beautiful white beaches in Woleai.

Airplane engine from WW2.

High School

                    This little girls were my guides to show me around 

With my sweet friends.  All members of a household have responsibilities for the care of infants and young children. Adoption is extremely common, not only by childless couples but also by those with their own children. Children have great freedom to move around the island and between households. Only rarely are they punished, most usually if caught fighting with other children. For that purpose a mother's brother may be called to lecture them or administer some form of mild physical punishment, such as ear flicking. As they approach puberty socialization emphasizes conduct considered appropriate to each sex. Boys are encouraged to spend more time in the canoe house while girls are told to remain in the vicinity of the dwellings and interior gardens. Puberty ceremonies are held for girls at first menses and involve isolation in the Village menstrual house for several weeks and a shift in dress to an adult woman's woven skirt.

Beautiful local Dance 

 Women have an inventory of complex weaving designs and men carve images or paint designs on canoe-house lintels. Both sexes tattooed themselves in traditional times with an extensive set of elaborate designs. Song and dance are the most developed of the arts. Songs are composed by women and both sexes have separate inventories of standing and sitting dances.

An authentic Lava Lava made from banana fiber a process passed down from past generations. At present is popular to use lava lava’s out high quality cloth in a rainbow of colors. It takes them up to 4 days of waving to make one lava lava.

An artist in Woleai, making a sign for the graduation.

Women's Sitting Dance 

Old Japanese cannon, there are plenty around Woleai. 

Every afternoon at about 5 pm or sometimes earlier the men get together in The Men's house, where the canoe is being built and drink Tuba. Only men are allowed to enter in the men's house, but the make an exception for foreign women.  

  Man collecting Tuba, a fermented natural juice from the coconut tree. The juice drips into a small container that is tied to the main fruit bearing branch at the top of the tree. The branch that would usually produce the coconuts is tied off early in its development and is trimmed, back 2 times a day and drips out the tuba into container. This liquid is fermented a short while and has the same alcohol content as beer.  The same juice can be left to ferment and become strong alcohol which they export to the main island. 

With our friend Romanis. They are 5 drinking circle in woleai. They gave us Mar Mar, the local name for crown and necklaces made by women and children from fresh flowers, they use to show affection and love to someone.

Eddy drinking Tuba.

The generator shed.

There are only two cars in Woleai

The dispensary

Day of Angels.  An important day for all the seniors. This event takes place a few days before the date of the graduation. Each graduate has a secret angel. Only women can be an angel. They send gifts to the seniors keeping his secret identity until this day of angels comes.
One day before, the angels need to prepare food and make Mar Mar crowns and necklaces made from flowers for all the seniors, teachers and head teachers.
What a wonderful experience...This people are amazing!!

Happy seniors

With my lovely friend Johanna. Johanna is a teacher of culture and she speak's very good English.

Me at Johanna's house helping in the kitchen. Women work very hard in the kitchen and in the garden. Saturdays women prepare lots of food so they can rest on sundays.

Men are primarily fishermen and women are gardeners. Only men are permitted to fish from canoes or along distant reefs. Women can fish reefs adjacent to an island with nets if they can reach the area by walking and wading, but their primary activities are to cultivate taro, weave, and cook. Men tend coconut and breadfruit trees, build houses and canoes, and occupy themselves with tasks centered at the canoe houses, such as repair and manufacture of cordage, rope, nets, and other fishing equipment.

Men working on the roof.

      The old WW2 airstrip

Everyone was waiting for the ferry to celebrate the graduation of the high School... Finally the ferry from Yap arrived in Woleai with the government officials, relatives and friends of the graduates.

Every sunset is a gift

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