MICRONESIA:  A Canoe of the Caroline Islands


Soon after the Second World War a small cargo ship was plowing through rough seas and squalls in the Western Pacific. Through a dark curtain of rain, the watch sighted something floating ahead. The first mate adjusted the ship's course to avoid a collision. As the ship drew near, what had seemed to be floating tree was identified as a swamped Micronesian outrigger canoe. Its mast, sail and spars had been taken down with the approach of the storm, the sail rolled up with the spars and lashed to the booms that connected the canoe to its out-rigged float. A wave had swept away the deck shelter, leaving only tattered remnants of matting. The canoe was submerged, with only the ends and gunwales visible. Several men were sitting within it, their heads and shoulders visible just above the waves. The mate called the captain to the bridge.
The ship was stopped, positioned to shelter the canoe from the wind. With help from a Micronesian crewman who could translate, the captain inquired if the men in the canoe were in need of help. From the ship's bridge, high above the turbulent sea, it seemed obvious that they were in danger. Much to his surprise, the question seemed to generate some discussion among the men in the water. More surprising was the answer that came back: no help was needed.
The captain was not convinced. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"Truk." was the reply.
"Do you know where Truk is?"
"He know." The speaker pointed to an elderly man who may have been the navigator.
"Do you know how far it is?" the captain asked.
"He know."
Reluctant to leave these men in what seemed a perilous situation, the captain asked, "Why are you going to Truk?" The translator dutifully asked the question. There was no immediate response, only the sounds of the sea and wind. He was about to repeat the question when the interpreter received a reply.
"Captain," he said, "They like go Truk buy cigarettes."
"Tell them we are going to Truk, also we have plenty cigarettes and we can lift their canoe aboard the ship and give them cigarettes."
This message, translated, set off more conversation among the men in the swamped canoe. The captain waited. At last they signaled their acceptance; a cargo boom was swung out, the canoe raised from the sea and deposited on the freighter's deck. As the ship plunged on toward Truk, the voyagers industriously attended to their vessel, tightening the lashings that bound it together, and contentedly puffing on cigarettes.
So the story ends; and it is true that the voyagers planned to buy cigarettes when they reached Truk (now on the map as Chuuk); but the primary reason for making the voyage was one they would not, or could not explain. If we distinguish wants from needs, cigarettes were a want, but men of the Caroline Islands go voyaging because of a compelling need. Not to be discussed is the thirst for adventure, the desire for relief from the boredom of living in the isolation of a small island. Not to be explained is the need for what is superficially called "male bonding," because that is something most men find impossible to explain, something that can never be truly comprehended by someone who wants explanation. That's why it's so much easier to say that one is making the voyage to buy cigarettes; but it does put an interesting twist on the old cigarette slogan, "I'd walk a mile for a Camel."

    Source:Unknown | Author:网络 | There People read | Time:2011-01-24 15:40

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