Wow. Saying that things got out of hand today would be an understatement.
Last night I was chatting to Mr Sipio (the man next door who was telling me about the history of PNG) when one of the teachers came in saying that somebody was at the school gate demanding to see me. I said I don’t know anyone outside of this community. Turns out it was Alo the guy from the post office coming to ‘collect’. We told them to send him away and Mr Sipio said, don’t worry you have the clan behind you we will get the boys to have a ‘fist fight’. I thought he was figuratively speaking; I thought that would be the last of it.
However, early this morning I was eating my breakfast in my night clothes when suddenly Alo’s face popped into the slightly open door way – Jack Nicholson “Here’s Johnny” style. Thank god I wasn’t on my own. Big Mami told him to “git out and no cam bak.” She boiled me some water on the fire and I went to wash. Whilst washing I could hear someone calling/singing “Sophie”. I had no idea where the voice was coming from but I could tell that it was him. I couldn’t have been in a more vulnerable position. As you can image, I was fairly petrified. I came into the hut and could hear shouting on the road. The entire community had gathered: Literally hundreds of people. They were stretched all the way down the long road and were shouting and running at something. With relief, quickly replaced by horror, I realised that they were chasing Alo out, each punching him in turn and ripping off his clothes. Even the kids were hitting him and throwing stones. The ‘Big Man’ in charge of law and order in the village seemed to find nothing wrong with this. Mr Sipio told me that they would have hung him on the school fence but he stopped them because he thought that would make me feel bad! OH MY GOD!
In the lunch break from teaching I came home and Margaret told me that she had just got back from the police office. All of the important relatively high-flying people (including Pogio) not just from Mando but all the neighbouring villages, went down. Alo had gone to a hospital but the police dragged him out, all bloody and beaten, to hear the claims against him. The clan were furious. Big Mami had brought the note he left as evidence. She shouted at him for trying to marry her ‘daughter’ and for arriving uninvited on our land. She tells me she spat in his face. She also said that this was the first time in her life that she has seen Pogio angry. Other members of the community shouted various obscenities – some of which are too disturbing to write here. They basically wanted him dead. The police decided that his punishment had been fair (he had also had his phone and all his money taken by the people). The police even started beating him up themselves for good measure. They wanted to put him in prison in Goroka but consulted me and I said that wouldn’t be necessary . The poor man. I feel incredibly guilty for stirring up such a horrific series of events. It shows how seriously the people take any threat to the safety of their clan (they keep insisting that I am a ‘daughter of their clan’ now). I have never witnessed anything like this in my life.
P.S. Margaret told me that I must not say anything as she thinks Wendy will fire her – Mum/Dad/Anna please do NOT tell Wendy about this incident. I was pretty shaken up thinking that I’d brought such commotion into the village but don’t worry, the community is very relaxed pleased with themselves now. They just explained to me that this is their way of dealing with people who don’t leave when they are asked to!