Micronesia: Stone Money and Visiting the Chief

I had hoped to have time while in Yap to tour the island and learn about the Yapese culture. On Thursday, I had that chance. When I casually mentioned to the lovely Yapese woman serving me breakfast that I intended to drive around the island and visit some of the villages, her eyes grew wide. “No safe!” she said, repeating herself for emphasis, “No safe!” “You no go to villages alone!” Plan B. I hired the local taxi driver/tour guide/woodcarver, Tamag, to give me a tour. Tamag was incredibly entertaining. As I drove, he told tale after tale of Yapese folklore and relished in the “aircon.” It seems cars on Yap don’t have air conditioning (other than rental cars) as they can’t import Freon.

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Tamag’s tour included Yapese WWII memorials to American veterans, a stone money bank, and a trip to his village. Yap is the only place in the world that used, and still uses, stone money.

Stone money is circular in shape with a hole in the middle transport and see them laying all over the island. The stones were carved from quartz, using fire to first heat the stone and then seashells for carving. Hard to imagine.

 Visiting the "bank", stone money, which the Yapese still use today.

Visiting the "bank", stone money, which the Yapese still use today.

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The highlight of the day (and the entire trip) was getting to visit Tamag’s village and meet his uncle, the village Chief. The Chief was a delight, enthusiastically welcoming me and repeatedly apologizing for not having a gift for me. He also proudly announced that he was 76 years old. I asked for an explanation of his “clothing” and was told that he’s wearing three layers of loin cloths (red, blue, white, given as they age) and hibiscus strands to mark that he is an adult.

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He then decided to dress me in one of his family’s traditional Yapese women’s skirts! I was honored.

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He then took me on a tour of his village. 

 The village.

The village.

 The kitchen.

The kitchen.

 The men's house in which women were forbidden. Except for me~

The men's house in which women were forbidden. Except for me~

 Inside the men's house

Inside the men's house

 Showing me his hunting spear outside the men's house.

Showing me his hunting spear outside the men's house.

So appreciative to Tamaq for showing me his beautiful island.  I'll never forget it.

Tomorrow, onto the second Yap campus, FMI or the Fisheries and Maritime Institute of College of Micronesia, FSM.