Last Saturday yours truly made a dancing debut during the island’s annual celebration of the arrival of the Protestant women missionaries in 1852. I was the first menwai (pigment challenged person) to dance with the women’s group… ever. This is how I was dubbed no-longer-a-menwai but a “local lady”; not by eating with my hands, scaling a fish, showering in the river, or wearing local clothes, but by shaking my hips. It all started last Wednesday (our usual church night), when we were practicing our ritual dividing of the sexes for the post-service coffee hour when the women told me to come with them up into the attic to do some “activities”. My first thought was something along the arts and crafts line, until I saw the President of the women’s group pop a cassette into an old stereo. Thus I had my first of three nights of rehearsal before the big day.
Dance rehearsal with middle-aged Pohnpeian women has been one of my most favorite experiences since I have been on island. Typically after church while the men sit at tables and discuss Pohnpeian history, government and life philosophies, the women sit on the floor and chat quietly, shushing the playing children when they get too disruptive. When we were away from the men however I was able to see another side to them. This is how I discovered that gossiping looks the same in every language. I finally got to see some of their personalities shine through while they made fun of my exaggerated dancing and grabbed my derrière in a complimenting fashion. As their giggles bounced off the walls and circled around the room I tried to stifle some of my overwhelming contentment so as not to be that creepy girl who goes around smiling for no apparent reason. But I was more than just content; I was elated to feel a part of something and not just an observer.
|The women headed up to the grave of Annette, the first female missionary who created the first women's group.|
|Three of the women I danced with. This was taken before the prayer service.|
|The fish we were so graciously given. I scaled and fried the one on the left for dinner!|