12 August 2012

Real life

Well, yes, there was a bit more to our life in Yap than my working context.  In particular, you may wonder what things were like for Susan.

When we first moved to Auckland, Susan was terribly lonely, and suffered considerably from what might be termed 'culture shock.'

Yap, one would suppose, must have made the adustment to New Zealand seem a doddle.

Perhaps only more or less.

I will try and persuade Susan to add something to this post, and she may well contradict what I say.  It seems to me, however, that some things were distinctly harder to get used to:
  • the Yapese - naturally, Susan didn't speak Yapese.  By the time we left, she had picked up enough, both from talking with people and from reading my book, to be able to get along roughly.  Nevertheless, they were, at the start, a completely foreign people to her.
  • the climate - it is somewhat hotter than Honolulu, where she had lived for six years, and somewhat more humid
  • supplies of western goods - distinctly limited by contrast both with Honolulu and with Auckland
  • being without motor transport
On the other hand, it has seemed to me - I mean, thinking in retrospect; I doubt whether I was sufficiently unselfish even to wonder about it at the time - that in some respects, Yap was easier for Susan, culturally, than Auckland:
  • Susan's acquaintances - the friends she soon made were, naturally, expatriates - and most of these were Americans.  How much difference did this make?  Possibly a fair bit.  New Zealanders - particularly those whom we knew in the 1970s - were a fairly homogeneous lot, sharing a common background of assumptions - and ones that we had not grown up with.  Susan quickly became close friends with Verna Curtis, who ran the YCA - Yap Cooperative Association - general store; and we both made friends with Father Paul Horgan, SJ, one of the two local priests - despite, I should say, his Catholicism!
  • American goods - well, perhaps this made less difference.  Quite a lot of our supplies had been imported from ... New Zealand!  Nevertheless, there was a considerable degree of familiarity that she had not had in Auckland.  Our first day in Auckland, Bruce Biggs' wife Joy had taken her shopping; she finished that day completely bewildered.  When we had left Auckland to move to Yap, I had told her there would be no fresh goods whatever available in Yap.  The day we arrived she went to YCA and there was plenty there - that day had been the first air-freigh shipment of such things!
  • the Yapese - of course she had not before dwelt in a place with lots of Yapese people.  She had, however, lived six years in Honolulu, where we haole (white people - pakeha) were a minority.  Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos comprise the bulk of the population.  Susan was not unused to such a situation.
  • the climate - again, she had lived in the tropics for six years.  In Honolulu we had not had air-conditioning.  It is true that Yap was hotter, and more humid.  It was, nevertheless, a climate she was used to.
All of which may well be rubbish, from Susan's point of view.  I have thought, as I say, that adjusting to Yap would have had elements of familiarity for her, as well as dissimularity.  I wonder what she thinks.


Okay - all of the above is right but one of the hardest things about Yap was that very few people who we met had the intention of staying there.  Most of the people were on some type of contract - usually a two year one - and then they would leave.  Things were often unsettled - but I was young and change seemed to be fine so bring on the "characters" that entered our life out there and there were many of those.

There was also the paradox of life on a "remote" island.  Our friends not living there thought we were living in island luxury, rather like living in Fiji.  It wasn't.  There were mangrove swamps at many points near the shore so there was no easy swimming access.  The roads to the villages outside of the main town were not good, horrid or horrible - depending on the time of year.  One time - only once - in eight years, I took the kids with a friend out to the end of the island for a swim.  My friend had a very big truck that had four wheel drive.  By the time we got there, the kids were sick and there was no running water to clean up various messes - plus the swimming area wasn't safe for young children.  It was very deep, there was coral on the rocks that could cause injury - We left after an hour and never returned.


Susan's daily life, however, she has not talked about - yet.

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