Yap - Culture

01The Yap people are very protective of their culture. They are willing to share their ideas and customs with visitors.

One of the first things we learned was local views on dress. Visiting women were cautioned against bikini bathing suits. Not because they had revealing tops, but because they showed thighs. Traditionally Yap's women have not worn what we would call shirts and blouses. Traditionally, they cover themselves from waist to knee. In the city, everyone wears "western" dress. But to show a bit of thigh is improper anywhere.

Our first interaction with the "locals" was a cultural visit to a native village. There we saw costumes and dances. We learned about customs.

02Women wear a black string around their neck. Girls do not. Marriage has nothing to do with it.

Most of the ornamentation for the dances is fabricated from plants for each ceremony. Thus, preparing is a major portion of the ritual.

We saw a women's sitting dance and a stick dance where both genders participated. The musical accompaniment was a cappella singing by the dancers and the beat of the sticks from the stick dance.

The only structure to the village is the ornate Men's House.

In addition to Manta rays in the sea, Yap is the home of stone money. The stones are up to 6 feet in diameter and a foot thick. No, it is not pocket change for purchasing every day needs. It is more of a show of the wealth of a village. It is lined up along a main area of the village. What makes it valuable is that it is mined about 300 miles away on Palau and rowed across the open ocean in canoes. The cost, in time and human life, to acquire and transport the stones creates the value. Stone money is seen in many of the photos from the village.

11We met a very nice local lady, also named Linda, who went to college at UCLA and returned to Yap. She helped my Linda get a lava-lava (skirt). When it was presented, she brought a bit of local color for us to wear. The amazing part of the lava-lava is the design. Many of the figures resemble things seen in the woven art of the Navajo and other indian tribes of the American southwest. In the end, we both went (mostly) native.