Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-x

This short book is written for those interested in but unfamiliar with Micronesian island societies and how they work. At one time that would have meant expatriate teachers, physicians, and lawyers who have contracted to work in the islands, as well as volunteers and church personnel assigned there. Today, when tens of thousands of...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

Micronesia—“the tiny islands,” as they were labeled by a nineteenth-century French naval captain—live up to their name. A couple of the largest are about one hundred square miles, but most are far smaller, the smallest with a land area of no more than a few acres. There are close to two thousand of them in all, but only about one hundred...

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1. The Personal Touch

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pp. 11-23

This might be a minor misunderstanding, but it’s one repeated many times over in every part of Micronesia. Common island practice in answering the phone conflicts with what is regarded as proper phone courtesy by a westerner. When islanders and foreigners interact with one another, there are bound to be cultural collisions, and this is simply one of them...

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2. Forging an Identity

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pp. 24-36

This American teacher was not the first visitor to the islands to have entertained such thoughts. Albert Sturges, an early American missionary to Pohnpei, wrote a line a century and a half ago that might have echoed the sentiments of many other foreign visitors to the islands before and since. “Humanity here is one viscous mass,”...

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3. Limits of the Individual

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pp. 37-48

Privacy clearly does not have the same value in Micronesian eyes that it has for westerners. This is the first lesson learned by Americans who make their home in the islands for any length of time. I can still see the pairs of eyes peering through the windows as I did my daily exercises in the plywood house that served as my temporary home in...

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4. The Place of Wealth

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pp. 49-61

Micronesian generosity is legendary. Any visitor to the islands can recount tales of island largesse: attending parties and being provided with much more food than he could possibly eat, sometimes being sent off with enough to feed his family for a week. We old-timers in Chuuk always chuckled when a host announced, with typical island modesty...

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5. The Uses of Information

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pp. 62-73

Facts are just facts, we westerners would like to believe. Our concern is to know whether the facts are correct or not so that we can construct as accurate a description of the event as possible. Is it true in the situation described above, for instance, that the son had begun drinking heavily a few months before his death, possibly because of...

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6. Deciphering the Unspoken

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pp. 74-86

Communication across cultures involves weighing the meaning of words in their context, but it also means interpreting silences and the pauses in speech. Sometimes the gaps in speech, joined with facial expressions and bodily gestures, speak more eloquently than words— at least for one who can interpret what is being communicated...

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7. Showing Respect

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pp. 87-99

Respect is one of the central concepts in island culture; the word is forever being used in the islands. The importance of respect is a lesson that Micronesians begin to absorb within the circle of their family from the youngest age. Children learn to show respect for their parents and other elders in the family, waiting until older people have helped...

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8. The Matter of Sex

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pp. 100-112

Before the era of the modern concrete house, there was little privacy to be found in a Micronesian home. Aside from a small storage space in the back somewhere, the house was one large undivided room with almost no furniture. This single large space usually served...

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9. The Real Power of Women

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pp. 113-126

Like so many other new visitors to the islands, I couldn’t help but feel that Micronesian women were ill-used creatures. Just look at how they’re treated. A young woman tries to intervene to help her drunken brother, who repays her with blows to the face. Men enjoy themselves while women struggle with their heavy work burdens. Other images...

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10. Love and Its Expression

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pp. 127-139

Micronesian parents can be very demonstrative in their affection toward infants. They playfully coddle them and kiss them, whispering sweet words, and then pass them over to their spouses, all the while lavishing their full attention on them. In other words, they behave the way parents anywhere in the world might toward a young infant born into their family...

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11. Coping with Conflict

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pp. 140-151

“Doesn’t anyone ever get angry?” I used to wonder in my first years in Micronesia. The kind of conversation recounted above would happen frequently, as students would relate with a smile on their face, how their last pair of underwear had been stolen or how they had suffered some other injustice. I could only marvel at their equanimity as...

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12. Handling Uncertainty and Loss

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pp. 152-163

The future is filled with uncertainties for us all. For islanders, limited in their understanding of the workings of the natural world and subject to the powerful social forces always operating on their lives, uncertainty was everywhere. Acutely aware of their fragile control over events, Micronesians were always looking for ways to extend...

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In Summary

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pp. 164-172

An encounter with a culture, especially a culture as different as those in Micronesia, is always a wild ride. I’m reminded of a theme park ride I took years ago when we were packed into a car that hurtled through one tunnel opening after another, each offering mysterious and sometimes frightening scenes, all of which we tried to absorb as...

Suggested Reading

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pp. 173-178

Index

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pp. 179-182

About the Author, Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 196-202