Things in the night

Yap is a place of deeply rooted traditions. There is this underlying sense that entire island is tiptoeing a knife’s edge between its history and the possible futures. The island feels as if it is almost xenophobic to the modern age, and when its traditional world is jeopardized, it seems almost as if the elders can just close up the reef, keeping the world at bay. There is much more to say about that, and I promise I will come back to it in later writings... but in the meantime there is one thing you have to know:

This island is believed to be alive.

Think a Moana-esque, heart of te fiti, type of alive. Here in Yap, each village is known to have a different kind of mystical energy. This energy is sometimes manifest as ghosts, lights shining from palm trees in the dead of night or similar visual phenomena. However, the most fascinating of all has been its manifestation in my village of Nimar. Here, we have dreams. These are not your run of the mill of dreams, as they are simply not normal. We are talking deep vivid dreams that you remember for days after they happen. And this is coming from a person who seldom remembers anything that happened the night before once she eats breakfast.


Now I am not one to believe in crystals and mystical energy or anything like that, but here me out... When we three volunteers first arrived, our nights were restless. Perhaps it was due to the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the roosters, the screeching geckos or the monastic mattresses that are being passed for beds. Yet, every morning a common refrain was how crazy our dreams had become. Then a week or two later, we were visiting the south of the island with our boss, Michael. On the tour we ran into an old Yapese man who was a good friend of Michael’s. For some reason, the two of them started discussing the ‘spirits’ on the island. Causally, mid-conversation, he dropped that in the village where we live, people have WILD dreams. Apparently this is common knowledge here on the island. All three of us volunteers looked at each other in disbelief. Michael, a fairly religious man, was dead serious about it and told us to ask our neighbors if we didn’t believe him.

When we returned home we walked the 6 steps to visit our neighbor, caretaker, and cultural guru, Mary (much more on her later). When we broached the topic with her, she laughed and almost scoffed at us: ‘Of course the spirits give newcomers crazy dreams. They don’t know you yet.’ Because that is the most rational response someone can give to such a topic... She told us the dreams would subside with time, as the spirits came to know us deeper down. That’s a kind of terrifying prospect if you ask me.


This truly is a belief around the island, and not just one associated with the older generations. I recently made a passing comment in my class about the dreams in my village. All the students who live in my village nodded in agreement. It was eerie.

I thought this was a joke. But when I wake up in the morning there’s a proverbial hair or two raised on the back of my neck. My dreams have often revolved around my oldest memories, and some of my deepest desires. Like dunking my head into Dumbledore’s pensieve, things I had long purged from my mind are suddenly filling my dreams. Rationally, I want believe this is a joke. Regardless, I have been reaching out to those who hold cameos each night in my mind’s eye, given the off chance that the world is in fact trying to tell me something... I guess only time will tell. Worst case scenario, I have been maintaining old connections.

Overall the idea of the island being alive with spirits is fascinating, mildly terrifying, and most days it can be just plain kurfluffeling (yes it’s a made up word, but it accurately describes my mental confusion). I dare not say I don’t believe in these spirits, least it is true and holds my dreams captive longer than the other volunteers. A small part of me thinks that’s a real possibility because I recently joked that I no longer was having the dreams, and that night I had the most vivid one of them all. Time will tell what happens. But you know, as with all the stories of life in the villages, anything’s possible.


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