One of the most notable differences I’ve noticed and learned from during my first quarter of a year in Pohnpei has been the hospitality. I have been warmly welcomed into families, churches, and always greeted with a “lehlie” whenever I pass someone walking. Everything surrounds the family, but the family isn’t limited to just the immediate family. Everyone is somehow related to everyone else on the island, a fact I’m still learning as students inform me how many cousins they have at our 130 person school.
kohdo mwenge (koto moa-gey, sort of)- come eat
Each day when I walk down the stairs from the senior classroom, I hear “Miss, let’s eat.” Then later after returning to the teacher’s room after I’ve eaten, “Miss, have you eaten? Let’s eat.” No, they don’t think I’m emaciated or malnourished. With such a communal culture as this, it is not only normal to share food, but expected.
Growing up, hospitality stood as theme in our home. I can’t recall a week where when my mom didn’t tell me company was coming over for dinner or chips and salsa on the porch. My mother is the queen of generosity and nourishment. Always the most gracious host, she taught me the significance of sharing a meal with people you love. That theme has transferred gloriously to my life here in Pohnpei. From eating with students to splitting cooking responsibilities with my community mates to serving our friends for a dinner in our apartment, food is the center of life here. It could be simply taking a bite of an unripe mango to splitting rice and hot dog in a take out container. Nourishing our bodies while simultaneously nourishing relationships constantly and continually.
As I share more meals, the gratitude of enriching relationships through sitting and filling our bodies with the energy it needs has grown exponentially. Increasingly, I find myself browsing Pinterest for new recipes for fish or the ever present potato instead of DIYs. I crave creating dishes to liven up meals and conversation, to enrich not only our bodies, but our souls.
My wish for this blog is to share stories of these meals. To include you in the laughter, the scrapes of plates, and plops of coconut rice on our plates. To let you listen in on the rich conversation filled with more questions than answers.