Back to Hunky-Dory's Ports of Call

Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

January 11, 1991

When I wrote my Christmas letter in the morning on December 28 and mailed it right away, we had only been in Kosrae two days, but the mail must go through, especially to everyone who was worried about the long period with no correspondence. It is now only January 11, but already there is more to say.

In the afternoon of December 28th, another boat came into the harbor and anchored next to us, the Elua, a black hulled catamaran out of Honolulu. When we dinghied over to visit them, we found we had mutual yachting friends in Panama, so it was almost old home week.

Christmas party at Ted's. The next day, Lars from the Swedish boat came by and told us we were invited to a "Christmas dinner" on shore. One of our Kosraen guide books, mentioned that yachties should see Ted Sigrah on Kosrae to fill in a page in his scrapbook. We’d filled in lots of pages in other books since French Polynesia, so this was just one more to do—or so we thought. It seems he was the one who was inviting us to his home for dinner. What a treat! Lars assured us there would be lots of food, he had eaten there before. Ted was inviting all the yachts in the harbor—four at the time: the three sailboats that were visiting and one belonging to a guy working for one of the companies on the island. That seemed nice of him. We hadn’t met Ted yet but he was to become a big part of our lives.

Christmas dinner went beyond my wildest imagination. We dinghied ashore to find many people milling about in the open space behind Ted’s house. Men, women and children dressed in their best clothing (all Western style or Hawaiian mumus, there are no real Kosraean clothes). The yard was decorated with balloons and garlands of tinsel, long benches had been borrowed from church to accommodate the guests. Tents had been set up to give shade over the benches. A long "head table" had been set up at one end. Food was being brought in huge serving bowls and dishes and people were filling one end of the yard with gaily wrapped Christmas presents. Ted’s "family" included his wife and ten children, brothers and sisters and their families, uncles and aunts, and who knows what all. There must have been over a hundred people present. The six of us yachties were among the guests of honor. There was also the governor of the island, mayors of the towns, the chief Justice and many others. Apparently Ted’s Christmas parties are a yearly event.

Ted is quite a character. His English isn’t the best but he’s all heart. Friendly, giving, caring. Can’t ask for anything more. He brought out his scrapbooks for us to see and visited with us for a while, supplying us with cold coconut milk. He also assigned one of his married sons as our personal host to insure that we were included in the festivities and to answer all of our questions. Also interpret the official Micronesian language. When it was time to start the festivities, children came around and put flower leis on each one of us guests of honor (artificial ones from China with the tags still on, made us feel like Minnie Pearl!). Grace was said and songs were sung, in four part harmony—something Kosraeans have been doing since the missionaries came. (We’ve also been told that the music for the hymns and the way Christianity is practiced here is the same as it was in Boston a hundred years ago. ) The dignitaries at the head table went to the buffet line first (governor, etc.) and we were next, then the men and women. The children had been fed before they arrived and had ice cream cones while we ate taro, breadfruit, pork, chicken, beef , vegetables, bread (cornbread, would you believe?), coconut pie, sodas. Everything piled high and delicious. It was hard not to pig out at Ted’s. But the best was yet to come.

Next was the "program." First there were speeches, all in Kosraean, beginning with the governor. Ted’s son, our personal host, gave a little welcoming speech in English to all of us who braved the seas to be there with them. Then there was more singing, the entire group and smaller groups of 30 or more. After that some of the women got up and sang a lively little song. Suddenly all the children began screaming and running toward the house, then backed off laughing and screaming as "Santa" came out. Santa was like nothing you’ve ever seen in your life. SHE, and she certainly was, needed no padding under her red and white Santa suit. She wore a pair of low black plastic boots that zipped up the back and wouldn’t stay on, and she had the traditional stocking cap but no flowing white beard. Instead she wore a black and fluorescent yellow DIVE MASK over her eyes and had ALUMINUM FOIL over her front teeth! She walked in like someone sneaking up on someone, high steps but slow and plodding. She had a sack that contained small candies, mostly Tootsie Rolls. She’d take a step or two then reach into the sack and toss the candy over her shoulder. The kids, of course, rushed this way and that grabbing what they could, screaming all the time and the ladies in the singing group continued their song as if nothing was amiss. We were doubled over with laughter and the other adults were laughing because we were so tickled by something they probably took for granted each year. When the candy was gone, Santa returned to the house and the song came to an end.

Then it came time for the presents. Everyone got something. Family members had placed gifts for each other in the pile and Ted had made up gifts for the members of the head table and each of us boat people. Each of us received the same size and shaped package. It was quite a shock, The program ended and, after thanking Ted profusely, we dinghied back to our boats and opened our gifts. The packages contained practical items: a pair of thongs ( Bob’s size), a bar of soap, and a bag of laundry detergent. It was so nice of him.

Nan Madol Ruins on Kosrae Sunday Bob and I got dressed up and went to the big Congregational church on the island. There was no English spoken but the singing was fantastic. In the afternoon, Ted drove the newer yachties (Bob and me, Denis and Cathy) around the island and pointed out some interesting places. We didn’t ask him to do that, he suggested it. We were realizing this was no ordinary "native." On our travels, we have run into people who resent our presence on their island, people who tolerate us because we’re spending money, people who resign themselves to the fact that ‘re going to come ashore, usually people who make an effort to be friendly even if they don’t speak English very well (as we found all over Kosrae), and once in a while someone who welcomes us with open arms and is genuinely pleased to see foreigners come. Ted is one of the latter.

We found that any time we needed help or had questions to answer, all we had to do was see Ted. The local farmer’s market didn’t have any produce, so we asked him where to get some of the island’s famous citrus fruits. Instead of telling us, he piled us in his car and drove us to another part of the island where food is packed for export to other islands as far away as Guam. We bought oranges, bananas, cucumbers , eggplant and the best watermelon we’ve eaten in ages. Ted had left his kids in charge of the store and taken us shopping! Quite a guy!

The boats in the harbor got together for a New Year’s Day pot-luck dinner on the Hunky-Dory. We invited Ted and he brought his wife and only two of his kids. As it turned out we had so much food, we could have fed his whole immediate family. We found out that, yes, you can cook a turkey in a pressure cooker. I had missed my birthday and Thanksgiving by being at sea and now I wanted to make up for it. So we had turkey, dressing, candled yams, cranberry sauce, apple pie, and lots of other goodies.

Lars left for Pohnpei Saturday and a new boat came in on Sunday night. A German boat, Solaris, that we had seen in Fiji but never met—a third black hulled boat with a white cabin. Ted was just tickled about it. He said it was the new "uniform" for the harbor! But the Wanderer V came in late yesterday afternoon and it’s white with a green stripe, so there goes the neighborhood!

We’ve noticed that since we left Samoa, there have been no TV stations but almost everyone has a set. Video rental stores are on every corner. Even in the tiny atoll of Suwarrow with only one family of six, the generator is cranked up and everyone gathers in front of the set. The most popular videos are the ones with plenty of action since the films are not using the native languages and some of them are struggling with English. Rambo is big out here.

We are enjoying our stay in Kosrae. Bob has problems, though. He has been so relaxed since we arrived that he can’t seem to get to all the repairs he wanted to make. We found out that we missed a hurricane that hit Fiji after we left AND we missed a typhoon that passed above Kosrae just before we got here. Just dumb luck since we hadn’t been listening to the weather reports on our SSB. It probably explained the lousy weather we were having near Funafuti and Tarawa.

I bought a woven tray and dish made in Kosrae and a fan made in the Marshalls and have been enjoying the island produce. Next week I want to visit the elementary school nearby. Bob has made a few repairs but mostly he just relaxes and works on the "C" computer language. Our mail came in the day before yesterday and we now have lots of letters to write. We’ll leave for Pohnpei in another week or two. It’s only 300 miles away and should be an easy run if the trades are still blowing. Until then, write if you find the time and I’ll do the same.

Back to Hunky-Dory's Ports of Call