Smile Like You Mean It

Smile Like You Mean It

A little kid up the mountain near where I bought Nokaikai.

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Lights Out For Darker Skies

My apologies for uploading so many posts all at once but there are power cuts here pretty much everyday and my netbook is about to run out of battery. The internet (accessed by a modem with my PNG sim card in it) is also incredibly unreliable and I can often only access it for less than a minute which explains any half  finished posts! It’s completely bizarre being able to contact people from a hut with no running water on the other side of the world. I usually update this at around 4-5 in the morning as that’s when I get woken up! The lady next door is currently singing to her pigs. Fantastic.

P.s. Thanks for your text dad,  glad you’re having a great time. Hope mum’s alright 🙂 xxx

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

“There are no strangers, only friends we have not met yet”  – On a plaque outside the Bird of Paradise Hotel, Goroka.

This certainly seems to sum up the people I have met so far. You greet people here, like in England, by shaking hands except here you do it with everybody, people you pass in the street, in town etc not just when you meet but every time you see them. Sometimes a handshake can last as long as half a minute! Hugs are also popular. An old lady selling betelnut (a local drug – more on this later) in town got up and hugged me for what felt like 5 minutes. I thought she wasn’t actually going to let go so had to prise myself away! It is impossible to pass by unnoticed, particularly as I appear to be the only white person in the province! Even when I’m just passing by on the bus people stop what they’re doing to stare. It reminds me of when we were in Pemba (small Island off the coast of Tanzania). The people what drop their laundry and run out into the road to stare at us as we walked past!

P.B.  I’m starting to pick up a little bit of pidgin. It is MUCH harder to understand than I thought it would be! Me no havay = I don’t understand/I’m not listening! Lik lik = small, bigpla – big, pikinini = child, me like drink wara = I would like some water. Etc

Bright Eyes

This afternoon Pogio took us up the mountain in his car/bus (he is a relatively well-to-do businessman with many pigs – a sign of wealth). The bright patches of sun and sweeping rain clouds across the mountains were stunning from up there. The villages were getting increasingly primitive the higher we drove! When we were near to the top there was a man with a possum on a stick at the side of the road. Pogio explained that he would sell it at the market and that it was very delicious meat. I, as you would imagine, could not bear this so I bought it myself. It cost 20 Kina (roughly £5). Loading it into the minibus was hilarious. Possum bite so putting it in the back with the 6 people did not last very long. Pogio then roped the stick that it was tied to onto the roof and we drove back like that! It even started raining, the poor thing, but I didn’t think the others would approve if I let it go there and then. I’ve named it Nokaikai which means ‘not food’ in Pidgin… I’m going to keep it for a week or so then let release it back into the jungle 🙂 So for the time being I have a new pet possum!

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Pogio holding Nokaikai

Grounds For Divorce

The marriage system here is pretty odd. The man’s family pay a bridal price for a woman, usually prearranged, and the woman leaves her home town to live with the man. They often don’t live in the same house. Previous generations kept the wife and husband separate for three years after the marriage before they were allowed to live together.

Today I was waiting outside the post office in town whilst Margaret queued in a massive crowd to get in. I was standing there for over an hour and am now sunburnt. Anyway, that’s beside the point. Whilst I was waiting there a young man started chatting to me and was asking what I was doing in PNG. I explained about the teaching and where I was staying. Apparently that was a mistake. He had started off the conversation asking whether I was married or not, but I didn’t really make a note of that as everybody does that here. He moved on to talk about his province, telling me that I would like it there and explaining that he was a bachelor. The crux of the story is that he became adamant that we were to be married. He said that he would arrange with the headmistress of the school in his village for me to become a teacher there and that I could then move to live with him. I did explain that I was only here for a month but I don’t think he really grasped the concept. He was insisting that that was fine and that I could come back once he had finished his studies and we could be married then. The worst part about all this was that I was unable to move, having told Margaret were I would be waiting so this conversation went on for a good 40 minutes. When I broke away and later came home, we discovered that he had left a note with the man who lives opposite the school: “Alo Atos – Province: Enga. Dear Mrs Ms Miss Sophie, I will speak with my family about you then come back on Thursday Wednesday Tuesday to get your contact details so we can communicate. I will stay with you for a few days and then go home”. Mando is in the middle of nowhere and a 30 minutes bus journey from the town. Quite scary that he managed to find it! Big Mami says she will take care of him haha.