|Our guide up next to some HUGE bamboo
We went antapto a community named Maorip in January. Shortly after Christmas, one of the men in the community had asked us if we were willing to come up and discuss the possibility of training a group of men there. We agreed with all sorts of red flags going off in both of our heads.
Let me try to explain the multitude of red flags. First, we don’t know these men. We’ve been seeing a lot of domestic violence and unnecessary violence recently and don’t want to teach men how to better his their wives and children. We don’t know what these men are like or if they will follow a rule about no hitting people. Second, they claimed to have previous training. To me, that sounded a lot like “We like to fight,” or it sounds like the guys who box who just sort of flail at each other and have very little discipline or control. Third, they live close to two hours away from Melsisi which is an hour away from Vansemakul where we live. How are we supposed to train a group of men that far away? Fourth, when we said I would be training to, the man who brought this up to us seemed confused. When we set up the day to go discuss this, he assumed it would be just Jason going, not me. I pointed out I want to train other women and he had absolutely no response. He was flabbergasted by the idea.
In short, we had some reservations. We went up anyway, at the least it was a chance to go see another part of Central Pentecost.
We walked up the hill after a downpour, which is always fun. The rain makes the road slick and increases the humidity making it a sweaty, slippery walk straight uphill for two hours. We made it to the first house and got fed lok is or banana laplap and crab. We continued to the nakamal where all the events of the day would be happening. We showed up and they were not ready for us. This is normal and not at all cause for concern. We hung out and ate more banana laplap and Jason’s got chicken wings.
After a few hours we got started on the welcome ceremony. They did a short demo, in which it turns out that despite the name “Tae Kwon Do Karate Klub” they do Kung Fu. Go figure. Though the name is a confused thing, they didn’t seem to be. They actually knew something and had put together a decent demo. There were hitches, but when aren’t there hitches? In this case, it had more to do with the very small space and having three men swinging sticks.
|The view from antap as we got closer to the village
After the demo, Jason and I did a short demo. We hadn’t prepared anything, we didn’t realize that we should. We did white belt form in unison, I did brown belt and Jason did blue sash. Then we each did three or four techniques and called it a day. For having no warm up and no demo practice, we pulled it off. They were impressed anyway.
Jason talked about non-violence and the importance of using training to make your body and mind strong, not to train to hurt someone. As Jason was saying this, one of the men was nodding and all of them were listening. I told them that they had found brothers for Jason to train with but now i wanted them to find me sisters. We’ll see what happens.
I got sent away to go hang out with the women while the men ground kava. I caused quite a stir by trying to weave a little girl’s basket. She got bored and didn’t feel like weaving anymore. The basket she was weaving is the second pattern children learn. I’ve learned the first, so clearly, it made sense for her to give me the second to try. I had a group of about 10 women and girls watching me figure out how to weave. I got saved by a man coming to get me for kava. Actually, I was a little disappointed. I was having fun.
We drank kava. The awesome part about drinking kava is the atmosphere and the conversation. As a woman, I am often stuffed in the corner and can only talk to one person at a time. I sat and chatted with one of the men who had done the demo for over an hour. We talked about how non-violence is important, how using violence in the place of teaching through words and actions is the cowards way out. We talked about how important it is for women to train too, for both self-defense and for confidence building. He told me that if we come to teach them, they will have to “become like children again” (his words) to learn a new style. By the end of the conversation, most of my red flags had collapsed into little piles of dust or maybe a more accurate statement would be piles of kava makus.
We left the next morning carrying sweet bananas, sugar cane, taro and leftover pig. We’d set a date to come back to Maorip and do a full day workshop-style training. If all goes well, we’ll be training with them once a month and doing demos around the island to help various groups raise money. The first one they want us to do is a school fundraiser in a village where there is another Peace Corps. Cross your fingers for us, maybe we’ll have people to play with.