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Federated States of Micronesia: Tamil village

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Tamil village | Federated States of Micronesia | Oceania

[Visited: January 2016]

In preparing for our visit to Yap, we had heard many stories of people who had been there, and read many reports about the island and its inhabitants. All reports told us how the Yapese have their very unique culture and customs, and how they still stick to them in this rapidly changing world. During our first days on the island, however, we noticed some things were different from what we had heard. People no longer walk around in traditional attire - the most obvious observation. Even leaving Colonia, the capital of the island, did not make a big difference. So it is on our tour around the island that we hope to finally visit a small village hidden in the forest, and we arrive at Tamil on the island of Gagil-Tamil.

Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Men's house and traditional canoe at the coastline of Tamil village

A few women sit on a veranda of a traditional hut, and do not seem very interactive, but things get much more lively when the village chief arrives. He is dressed up in very little: his bare upper body only covered by a necklace of leaves, his head crowned by a headband of leaves, and a grass cover over his waist. Finally, someone wearing traditional clothes! Even though well into his seventies, Chief soon turns out to be a very communicative person, witty, with an ever changing face. We are soon involved in a very engaging conversation (sometimes a little hard to understand because like most Yapese, Chief is constantly chewing beetle nut), in which Chief turns out to be at least as curious about us as we are curious about him. He tells us about his life and his village, and the fact that he has never left his island. Then, he also shares his biggest dream with us: seeing snow. We wonder how he ever got this dream in the first place, and before we know it, he briefly leaves us, and proudly returns with a ski map of a winter resort in Austria.

Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Cheeky chief with traditional decorations around his head

Here we are, in the middle of a forest on Yap island, sweaty in our T-shirts, talking to a Chief without much to cover himself, talking about snow. How do you even explain the whole concept to someone who has never known anything like it? We feel like taking Chief with us, right now, to winter, to snow, to let him see what he has been dreaming about for such a long time. Just to imagine dressing him up in thick layers of clothes, putting on protective shoes, and walking in the snow on the island of Yap! We try to explain about our lives, about our work, but how can we? Then, Chief takes us to the men's house on the coast, and proudly tells us how the house was rebuilt using solely traditional materials after a typhoon destroyed the previous one, and how they have changed the construction methods to hopefully withstand the next typhoon that will surely come one day. The house is beautiful inside out, and we find a traditional canoe on the shore, another one inside, next to an ingenious fishing net. When time has come to say goodbye, it hurts. Our guide, a relative of Chief, tells us how they are trying to get money together to buy Chief a ticket to the snow, and we can only wish that he will actually make that journey before his time is up.

Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Traditional houses in the village of Tamil
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Chief of Tamil chewing beetle nut
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Traditional men's house of Tamil with chief in the foreground
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Chief of Tamil with decorations
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Traditional canoe in the men's house of Tamil
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Village chief of Tamil with ski maps in his hands
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Chief with traditional decorations
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Interior of the men's house of Tamil village
Picture of Tamil village (Federated States of Micronesia): Traditional canoe with mangrove in the background

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