Happy Earth Day!! First off quick update. Got to Yap. Fell in the love with the island. Left for Ngulu alongside (literally) The Lorax.
Made it to Ngulu in 18 hours. Hung out for a few days. When we were leaving Yap our engine overheated though. Pete assessed the bearing in our fresh water pump (part of the engine cooling system) was leaking. So we decided to skip Palau and head back to Yap. Spent a few days in Ngulu. On the second day the Lorax left for Palau. Ngulu is a beautiful, unique, tiny, self-sustaining community. More on this later. Left Ngulu hoping for a 24 hour trip back which ended up taking 41 hours without an engine or wind and fighting the current. Now we are back on Yap for the next few weeks before heading back to Guam for repairs and a trip north.
Now on to the earth day fun…
A few days into the trip I started reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. (Thank goodness reading induced seasickness subsides after the first day or two at sea.)
I have really loved reading Barbara Kingsolver’s story her family living one year on produce they grew in their own yard and other staples (meat and grains)all coming from their county. (No grocery store for a whole year!) However, this may have been a poor reading choice for an ocean voyage. Flowery (If you will) descriptions of the temperate climate’s fresh vegetables and fruits make my mouth water, and recipes for fresh breads, entrees, and desserts have left me pining for an oven and the ingredients to experiment. After all , if a meal out to sea doesn’t come straight from the can (into your mouth, without heating) or in a wax bowl with “Just add water!” plastered across the front, a sailor is in for a special treat. I love food and try to make good meals out on the water but there always a possibility they come out looking like this…
The nightmare of becoming Mrs. Chef Boyardee began to creep into my half-dreams (you don’t get enough sleep for full dreams underway, you usually fall somewhere between 10-50% reality). And then we arrived in Ngulu. Straight from your idea of picturesque but magically deserted island, five people live on one of the islets of the atoll about 80 nautical miles south of Yap. This family chooses to live there (instead of moving to Yap like many outer islands have in the past few decades) sustainably (they rarely receive shipments of food or other items from Yap) and were able to share some incredible cuisine with us. The second night there we were invited to dine with the family…
Coconut water- Drink it straight from the coconut cup in which it was so conveniently crafted, perfect for quenching your beach provoked thirst or for an after dinner sweet fix
Fresh tube- Pre-fermentation, sap collected from the young palm frond
Boiled lobster- Speared fresh from the reef this morning, this is not an everyday meal but can be eaten whenever someone feels like lobster. By Ngulu count, there are plenty of lobster for eating and while sustaining a healthy population on the reef. Absolutely no need for butter, lemon, salt, pepper, or oil.
Breadfruit in coconut oil- mashed breadfruit cooked in coconut oil pounded from the oconut meat by hand
Banana- Steamed cooking banana
*All dishes are cooked over a wood fire. No butane or propane or alcohol or kerosene.
**All food came from with a .25 mile radius of the village (if not less).
This meal was probably, no definitely, the most delicious meal I have eaten since leaving Guam. More delicious than our first meal after 5 days at sea, better than the fresh pizza in Yap, and certainly better than my suitor, Mr. Boyardee’s, Beefaroni. And it certainly travelled less food miles than any other meal on the trip (and, unfortunately, probably most meals I’ve consumed on Guam in three and a half years). Fresh, local food is an incredible gift when and where it is available. Which is pretty much anywhere and everywhere (even if it’s just one vegetable). I’m looking forward to seeking out more locally grown food here in Yap, back in Guam, and wherever else I end up eventually. Thanks, book!
In Yap, I’ll be taking advice from Yap Fusion, an NGO encouraging a movement for food security and supporting Yapese passion for local ingredients in restaurants and at family tables. They share recipes using local ingredients on their facebook page, so if you have tropical ingredients to work with, they are worth checking out. If not, you can always adapt recipes to utilize what’s in season in your area too.
While for many island nations, there is a rising dependency on imported and processed foods (an a correlating rise in non-transmissible diseases), for Yapese local ingredients aren’t very far from family life. In fact, they might just roll right onto your doorstep. Walking through the village of Weloy today, I fell in love with the neighborhood. The stone paths that run throughout the villages branch off to different family homes. These paths are a source of pride for a village and also are the connection between people and families. Some families own more land than others but houses are built on seemingly modest plots. Despite their proximity to one another and the public road, homes still seem to have plenty of privacy. More than your average American neighborhood, even. How does this work out so well? Why did I fall in love with this little neighborhood? Because each family home is perfectly nestled into the forest floor. Very few homes, if any, have front lawns, but all of them have yards. And these yards are productive! Papaya, breadfruit, lime, berries, banana, mango, taro, sweet potatoes, melon, squash, pepper, coconut (by the water), and MORE. They all grow comfortably in or make up the forest canopy provides food and shelter for the homes beneath the trees. Here’s just a little of how trees are essential to Yapese homes…
- Shade the house, keep it cool, no need for AC
- Boughs provide privacy
- Free food!
- Provide building materials for houses, community houses, thatch, and canoes
- Provide plant materials for traditional clothing and handicrafts (leis, skirts, purses for men & women, etc.)
This whole neighborhood nestled into the woods made me so happy! It had such a comfortable feel to it. And was somehow familiar… Only later did I realize the parallel from my American upbringing: summer camp. Only in summer camps are our houses simple but strong and effective, we release ourselves from the burdensome but necessary front lawn, we build our homes around trees instead of cutting them down to build, and we live among the trees. (Yes! I admit it! You caught me! I’m a tree-hugging, plant-loving flower child!) But look at how much living this way can do for us! Free food? I’m in. I don’t know about the rest of the kids, but when summer camp was over I was devastated. I could’ve stayed and lived in that cabin forever (especially if it never got cold, which I realize is a convenience of living in the tropics and not most places). Perhaps this is a silly comparison, but it was a nice realization for me. We can live this way. It might be different from what we are used to, but it can be comfortable and even make life easier. Living in a healthy, self-sustaining food forest sounds like an incredible way to live. I was so happy to get to experience this village today. On Earth Day!
Happy Earth Day, everyone!
P,S. Check out my friend Kaity’s EARTH Challenge facebook page to explore ways you can challenge yourself to reduce your carbon footprint in the month of April, Earth month. 🙂