Papua New Guinea Experience
Papua New Guinea Experience
September 9 – Cairns, Australia.
To save money, we were boiling water to cook our pasta on the free barbeques in a park in Cairns, Australia. It was there that we met a man from Papua New Guinea. He was with his family of about a dozen people and they offered us some of their feast. We were extremely broke and had been living off of pasta and tomato sauce for so long that is seemed difficult to recall what anything else tasted like. They were cooking meat! We did not hesitate to indulge on their invitation. Oh I had missed meat in our poorness.
After better introductions, our new friend Ken told us a little about PNG. We told him that we had been interested in travelling there to make a visa run for Nadine. Life’s newest hurdle is that we need to get her off of her tourist visa and onto a working/holiday visa which requires us to leave Australia before we can apply for the new visa, and then return after it processed in about 48 hours. But we have very little money left after buying a van and travelling the country for the past month. PNG is affordable for us, and we mentioned to Ken that we are too scared to go because we have heard stories of rape, murder and crime. (I had previously talked to an Aussie man about taking my beautiful 50 kg German girlfriend to PNG and asked him if he thought that the men in Port Moresby, the capital city, were going to like her a lot? The Aussie told me, “Oh yea, they are going to like her mate, and they are going to like you too.” “Umm, I guess we’ll be going somewhere else then….” That scared us off.) Ken told us it is only bad media press and told us to come and stay with him and his family, offering us a week long invitation into their home… just like that… We talked about the idea and Ken even offered to take time off from work during our stay. There was known cannibalism in PNG until the 1970’s. Nadine is pretty skinny and so am I. We are probably not worth the fight…
When we had a moment to ourselves, I asked Nadine what she thought of the idea of flying to PNG to stay with Ken and his family. It was hot and sunny, and everyone was wearing sunglasses. Nadine told me, “I need to see his eyes. I need to see what they look like first.” We spent the remainder of the day with Ken. As the sun eased off, Ken lifted his sunglasses to his forehead. We had a look. I got Nadine alone and asked her what she thought. She said, “We will go.” Just like that…
It is a $498AU round trip flight to Port Moresby, so we planned to meet Ken on Thursday to see if everything is legit. He seems to be very kind and his eyes made us believe that he is a very trustable man. I hoped we had made a great friend.
Nadine and I were standing on a street corner crosswalk when she told me that she was not wearing any underwear. I pulled the top of her pants and looked down them to confirm her admission. Then I went around behind her and poked her in the bum crack but she pulled me around beside her again and gave me heck. All this no underwear business got me excited and I got a boner that was poking straight out, making my shorts tent. I pointed it out to her and she told my boner to go to sleep. So, there I was standing on a street corner with a huge boner that visibly stuck out when all of a sudden we heard a car horn toot two times. I looked up just in time to see a car turning on a new green light and the guy was giggling and the girl in the driver seat was roaring with laughter. I take it they seen the whole affair and my boner poking my shorts out. It made out day and I suspect it made theirs.
My girlfriend and I went to PNG Airlines to find out about a visa to visit the country. The man told us that there are 800 languages on Papua New Guinea and there are real tribal/territorial wars going on all the time where people are fighting with bows and arrows, something we could probably witness if we got into the highlands. It sounds similar to how North America was 300-400 years ago when our Native Indians were fighting over land. It is crazy how that can still be happening in the world today. Do they know what year it is in Papua New Guinea? Maybe they use a different calendar…
Today Nadine and I ate an entire caramel cake. It made me very sick but we could not help but indulge. In the evening we went for a walk. She had the hiccups. I told her I would help her get rid of them so as we casually strolled past a dark building, I jumped in the air and yelled at her. I scared her so bad that she screamed absolute terror in my direction and began to cry because she was so frightened. I was not expecting nearly so much effect. I could not quit giggling as I wiped her tears. Her hiccups were gone.
Nadine and I went to visit my American friend Melissa who is ex-South Korean English teacher colleague, and her friends. We went to a supermarket together where Nadine and I blew their minds with our savings at Woolworths and our ability to live cheap. They are travellers, and they have no idea how it is to be a backpacker, living in a van like a hippie. The past 8 days have only cost me $160 to live, eat, sleep and hang out. We used the free barbeques in the park, had a nice feast and met them again later at their hostel where we visited until they caught their midnight bus. I have now seen Melissa in 3 different countries by chance/similar goals. Cool beans!
Nadine and I woke up early to meet Ken to talk about our plans. We will meet again on the morning of the 18th, so Nadine and I bought a few groceries from Woolworths and decided to head out of town. Before we left, we wanted to fill the van’s water tank for the sink. It turns out that the van’s water-tank holds 35L. We found that out because we walked two 1.5L bottles back and forth, never believing it would hold so much. It was an extensive beneficial lesson.
Northbound we left Cairns behind and arrived in Port Douglas. Stopped, looked around and headed for Cape Tribulation. It cost us $18 for a two minute ferry ride return ticket. It would not take many cars to afford a bridge at that price, but I get the impression that he who owns the ferry has done this for years and has lined his pockets well. On the other side we drove down the road until it turned to dirt and 5kms later it took us to a creek that we would have crossed with a 4WD, but conservatively camped there instead as the road was really only 4WD recommended from that point on. While camped, I was reading by candle light and I accidentally lit the sleeve of my shirt on fire. I could smell burning and realized it was me. One of my Big Beaver shirts…. Damn…
The night ended with pitch black sex. It is so dark in the forest, and consequently in our van, that I could not see Nadine’s face right in front of me. So, now I know what it would be like to do that blind. I would miss the visuals, but it seems I could still put on a decent performance.
We woke up and I felt like the bridge troll that one has to pay to cross. We sat on the back of the van and talked to everyone who came through and gave advice about crossing the creek. A couple of bikers on Harley’s came along and got me high. It had been a long time since I last got high and Nadine hated that I was high because she was already mad at me before I got high and then I got busy having fun being high once I was high. After a patch-up we went to a campground for $12/each, bought some groceries, ate, and I spent one full hour giving Nadine a candlelit, naked head-to-toe massage with Victoria’s Secret lotion while listening to The Beatles’ Abbey Road. It was a nice evening.
‘Every day it was new accusations, the first is repulsed, the second brushes you, the third wounds, and the forth kills’ (p.148)
‘Zadig’ – Voltaire
We woke up late, changed campgrounds and headed to the beach for the afternoon. Cape Tribulation has beautiful beaches. Just back from the beach is a rainforest and tourism has not made a mess out of the place yet. We ate lunch, went for a hike, and climbed some huge rocks along the beach. It was a good adventure day.
Sometimes Nadine says things with funny wording and while we were walking down the beach, she said to me, “Hit me in the arm.” We had been play-fighting so I asked her, “Hit you?” She replied, “Yes…” I said, “Okay, how hard?” She pointed to her shoulder and replied, “Medium hard.” So, I punched her medium hard in the shoulder. She winced in pain and looked like a puppy might look if you hit it for doing something bad. Sad eyes looked at me while she asked me why I had just hit her. I told her that I thought that she instructed me to. Then I found out that she was telling me that I had accidentally hit her when we were play-fighting. She had been telling me what I had done, rather than asking me to do something which turned into me hitting her in her in the exact sore spot on her arm. Miscommunication. I felt bad and we both laughed at the silliness of it while she held her sore shoulder.
At night as we were laying on the bed at night I was telling her about what it is like when a cow chases you. I told her how the cow can catch you, knock you down and get you on the ground. Nadine asked me, “What will she do after she gets you on the ground? Will she bite you?” It was a very sweet question. My heart swells.
Nadine and I did not know what to do; whether to leave Cape Tribulation or to spend another night. We went for a drive and decided to go for a hike along the beach and through the rainforest. We started making-out on the beach and got heated up so much that we went into the trees, found a sturdy one to lean against, watched for crocodiles, and had sex in the tropical rainforest of Australia’s north. We went back to the campground ($10/person) and checked back into our same parking/camping spot. Bernie, 31, from Newcastle, Au, was camped next to us with is dog, Cindy. We made good friends with both, drank beer together with Bernie in our site and went to the bar with him where we drank three pitchers of beer and played three games of pool. I taught Nadine to play to game, which seemed to come semi-naturally to her. We left to go back to the van a little before closing time and I am pretty sure I passed out while Nadine and I were fooling around.
“Stefan & Nadine,
May one thousand camels urinate in your campervan giving you godspeed to lifes long road to success,
Bernie & Cindy
Albion Park, NSW”
Cleaned up, packed up and headed for the south towards Cairns. We stopped in Port Douglas for a nap and got to Cairns by 6pm where we headed to the park to cook a huge dinner on a barbeque. Nadine is a vegetarian, which makes me a little bit of a forced vegetarian, but meatballs came into the picture because we feel we can relax a bit about money. Meat is good! The little wonderful things in life when you are broke… Even Nadine had a meatball. We are living the dream today.
Nadine and I woke up to meet with Ken, planned our trip and bought tickets to Papua New Guinea. They were still $498 each/round trip. Sweet. We spent the rest of the day mundane tasking to prepare for our departure in two days. I needed to write about 10 emails to clear some headspace that had been building up. Computers geeking sucks.
‘It is claimed that we are less unhappy when we are not unhappy alone’ (p.152)
‘Zadig’ – Voltaire
Today was a day of tying loose ends and running errands. We opened Nadine a bank account and then I sent 24 different emails of pictures from the summer to whoever was in them. We then headed to PNG Airlines to talk to Emma who works there and offered us the opportunity to park our van at her house during our Australian abstinence. It was too good of an offer to refuse and then she offered a cherry on top when she asked us to spend the night at her place where Nadine and could use her daughter’s queen-sized bed. Awesome. Emma is a sweet sweet woman. There are great people in this world.
Money exchange .422 $740 Au = 1,673 PNG kina
Emma woke up at 5am to drive Nadine and I to the airport. What a wonderful lady. We will have to buy her something nice for her. We flew on a cessna twin propeller plane for two hours and fifteen minutes to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Ken met us at the airport and took us on a hotel search in his pick-up truck. We stopped at a ‘mission’ where the price is better than a hotel, and the man at the counter told us that the price was even better if we were, “Full-time servants of the lord.” Disgusting. ‘Gouge thine neighbour if he doethn’t believith in fairytales.’ The filth of Christianity… Most accommodation in the city was fully booked, so Ken took us home to his house after we filled out Nadine’s online Australian Working/Holiday visa forms.
We ate traditional food called ‘pariva’ and then went for a drive. Ken lives on a farm outside of town and we have to pass army/military guards who protect the road on the way to/from the farm. We travelled everywhere riding in the box of the pick-up truck as does everyone else in PNG and many people produced surprised looks to see two whities in the back of the truck. Everyone waved at us. We were told that usually white people have too much class to ride in the back. ‘Nope. Not everyone.’ At one point when we were later driving around in the pick-up truck, there were 12 of us in the vehicle. After visiting a beach we went to a supermarket where Nadine and I bought 52 kina worth of groceries (about $22Au) for the family. There is graffiti on every wall and fence that is accessible to evening artists and Nadine and I are the only white tourists here. Many things are strange and out of the ordinary. There was a sign that said, ‘Coffins Sold Here. Adults. Babies.’ It was the happiest looking grim sign I have ever seen. Sometime during the drive I saw a dead and burned dog in a park.
Ken seems have a very close, tight family and everyone looks out for everyone. When Nadine and I wanted to buy batteries for my camera, eight people came with us because they wanted to make sure no one would pick-pocket us at the massive market. Nadine got bumped/hit by a car in the street as we were walking but it was a gentle nudge.
The family introduced beetle-nut to us and it made us a little high. Eating beetle-nut is a little like smoking pot, and it makes beginners a little loopy. Everyone in PNG chews beetle-nut: men, grandmas, children… It makes blood-red spit and it is all over everything: down the sides of cars, down the windows of buses, all over the sidewalks…
And security here is like nothing I have ever seen before. We went into a bank to change money, and there were security guards at the entrance with rifles. Security had to click a button to open the first door for us where we entered something of a glass hallway and from inside the second door at the end of the short clear glass corridor to let us inside the bank would not open until the first door had clicked closed. Tight! Hotels, supermarkets…every business has security guards.
For dinner we had a huge feast and there were 14 of us who ate and slept in the house. Nadine and I were given a queen-sized bed with a mosquito net around it. Under their house on poles, the family had something of an early Christmas and passed out gifts bought in Australia. They sang songs while playing two guitars, a ukulele, and a set of drums made out different lengths of PCV pipe with inner-tube skins covering them. Everybody sang together as one. It was pretty special.
The rooster does not just crow once at the break of dawn. He crows all morning long. We finally got up at 8:15am to get ready for the day but the rooster seemed to have half a day in already. The toilet at Ken’s is an outhouse and the shower is two whiskey barrels full of water in a small curtained area with a 1L jug cut in half to scoop the water out of the barrels to pour it on your body. I shower Nadine, and she showers me.
Today we loaded two people in the front of the truck, five in the back, ran some errands in Port Moresby and then headed out on a three hour drive to Ken’s father’s village to help his brother build a house. Our friends have such dark skin that they look at Nadine and I like we are crazy as we have to smear sunscreen all over our exposed body parts.
On drive through the countryside there are people every kilometer or so walking down the road or sitting on the side, usually selling fish and coconuts. Today we stopped to talk to four guys selling wallabies that they had killed and gutted last night. The wallabies cost 40 kina each. They shoot them with a 12 gauge shotgun after they spotlight them to freeze their motion in the night. Each shot costs 10 kina, so it is pretty expensive to miss. Locals also hunt the wallabies down with dogs that kill them if the owner does not have enough kina to afford shotgun shells. Harsh… The hunters told us that dogs can bring down wild boars unless a boar gets his back to a tree, in which case the boar can kill the dogs with his tusks: so, the hunter has to run in fast with his spear in hand, drive it through the hog and climb the tree in one motion so that they boar cannot kill the man as it begins dying.
We were half way to the village when we turned around because Ken remembered that he had other obligations. Back at the house, Nadine and I ate 6 cookies each because we are not accustomed to eating meals so many hours apart. And eating is a true test of my manhood. They eat a lot of fish in PNG and I have never had a pleasurable bit of fish in my life. Evening dinner was fried fish, boiled fish, and fish soup. Troubling times, but I am managing. In PNG, if you do not like the flavour of what you are eating, just put a little salt on it, PNG’s only spice. If you still do not like it, put a little more salt on it. There, now it should be perfect. I dry-heaved once while trying to get the fish down, but I managed to get everything on my plate into me so I should be able to handle fish well by the time we leave.
Everyone connected to this family is so good to us. A boy named Robert walked through the rain to find Nadine and I under a roof/shack so that he could bring us an umbrella and then he ran home without one as it poured down. So sweet. We have been given a bed, but no blankets, so at night we cover up with my towel and Nadine’s skirt.
The rooster was hard at work again this morning from the crack of dawn until about 9am. Nadine told me that previously in her mind, the rooster wakes up just a little before dawn and makes his long walk up the hill. He gets up there and crows to let the world know that the new day is beginning. Then he takes the long walk back down the hill and goes about his regular day as he had it planned. I love that imagery. But nope, we have learned that this not the case at all. The rooster is a noisy bastard for hours and hours…
Nadine and I got up at 9am to start our day just as the rooster was finishing up the most important part of his. We lounged for a while this morning and then spent about 2.5 hours trying to push-start a 3 ton truck that had no working starter. There were seven of us who would push the truck backwards, uphill, up the road as far as we could struggle to get it…, and then run the truck down while someone inside would jam it into gear to try to start it with the momentum. In the late afternoon, the oldest boy, Jonathon, 28, took us to the community games where we watched basketball and volleyball while we had a ‘South Pacific’ beer. It was a bitter beer, but it was still beer, and that made Nadine and I very happy.
Ken took us to something of an engagement party, a preliminary for something called a ‘Bride-Prize’ where a man pays for what translates to his fiancé’s bones (a man with many daughters becomes very wealthy in PNG). Tonight there were about 60 people at the bride-to-be’s house from both sides of the soon to be united families. The groom’s side brought food to feed the bride’s side and the bride’s side returned the favour to feed the groom’s side. We ate food from a mumu, where the food is buried under the ground with hot rocks that cook the food, and we met a lot of people today. Nadine and I kind of stand out in a crowd and everyone is very pleased to meet us and have a visit.
Women are impractical. Men are insensitive. Patience is the key, but patience only goes so far. It is a true test of oneself to spend 24 hours a day, every day, with no breaks, with a member of the opposite sex. I try to be patient and understanding, but sometimes I just want to throw in the towel. I absolutely dread the idea of losing her and quitting, but sometimes I think that I need a break to see what it is like to be apart. One day might be enough… a few hours at the least. We are around each other so much that we sometimes get on each other’s nerves. We live one life and only seem to use one brain, but when we use two brains, sometimes we clash. It is difficult and frustrating.
Nadine and I got up early and headed for the whiskey barrels of water to shower. After a bit of an argument this morning it felt good to pail that cold water on her. It was sort of altered vengeance. By the time we were cleaned up, Ken and the family were ready. My hair was full of coconut oil to maintain some kind of control and I was given a colorful, flowered, Hawaiian looking shirt to wear. Then Nadine and I joined the family for a morning of church. I put on a makeshift smile and went completely against my inner will. Nadine said that going with them to church is part of our ‘package holiday’ Papua New Guinea experience deal. I was initially very irritated because we were not asked to join them at church as were just told what time we were to be ready, but it all turned out pretty good. It was a full gospel church and there was one hour of constant music to kick things off with no stops between the songs. Ken’s son, Kenny Jr. was the song leader. They had a full band with an awesome drummer, guitarist, keyboardist, bassist, and five microphones for eight singers. They sang and the whole congregation sang and screamed ‘Hallelujah’s and danced through the whole musical extravaganza. It was pretty wild for a church affair. Those people feel God. The music was great and after that hour of it the actual church service was just another half hour. Even the preacher said his part with crazy passion. Nadine and I had to go on stage, stand up, and introduce ourselves through the microphone to the congregation. Everyone seemed pleased to meet the Caucasian foreigners.
After church we changed clothes at Ken’s house and headed towards his father’s village, Makerupu. It took about three hours to drive: two people rode in the cab of the pick-up truck and seven of us rode in the box, including Ken’s 75 year old mother. It rained on the way and we hid under a tarp in the back as we cruised down the road. It turns out that PNG is pretty much one massive tropical rainforest of trees, but where there are no trees, it is swamps, and bogs. Houses are on stilts and since it is presently the rainy season, many ‘yards’ are flooded underneath of the houses. This is no grass anywhere in the villages and pigs, dogs, chickens, and ducks run free everywhere and together. It seems that the dogs get bored at times and put the run on a squealing pig, just for the sport of it.
Once we arrived in the village for dinner we shook a lot of hands and when Nadine needed the outhouse I walked her to the little shack. When I opened the door for her, beside the seat was a spider nearly as big as my hand. It had a small body with very long creepy legs, and it looked like there was the design of a skull on its torso. It was one spooky and badass spider. A neighbour came over to investigate what we were staring at as we peered into the outhouse. Nadine impresses me so much at times: after the spider ran away when the neighbour failed to kill it with a shovel, Nadine just went into the outhouse to pee like she was local. I am not even sure if I could have done that…
We are the guests of honour at Ken’s little brother’s house and we have been given the bedroom with the only mosquito net and a large mattress on the floor. I believe that we are being given the royal treatment.
The roosters began crowing at the crack of light. It seems there are two or three rooster buddies here who talk to each other in the morning and they go off in sequence. One, then the next, then the next…right after each other and they keep on making rounds waiting for their turn to make a hell of a lot or racket. It is noisy…for hours…
Ken says that pythons here are big enough to kill small pigs. He told us that he has seen pythons coil around a pig, and while the pig is still squealing, he and his brothers have had to shoot the snake or kill it with a knife to save the pig. Last night, as Nadine and I were standing under some trees a short distance from the family, Robert, our little friend, came running up to us and said, “You, you must come. Come away. Umm…Ummm, (points to the branches above our heads) snae, snae, snakes.” There are venomous brown snakes in the trees at night. Dangerous.
We are totally un-contactable here in the middle of the jungle at PNG. No telephone. No internet. No electricity. The entire village is black at night and we write by kerosene lanterns. Neither Nadine nor I told our families where we were headed and there is no way to really track us down. If bandits decided to knock us on the head (or cook us!), people at home would not even know what country to begin to try and track us down in. And if they were able to find out where we were, they would not be able to contact anyone so they would have no idea where to begin to look to find us and we would just disappear from existence. If snakes killed us, Ken would have a very hard time figuring out what to do with us. It is an emptying thought and maybe we should have let someone know of our intentions to come here….
The anonymousness of PNG makes is so beautifully untouched and unspoiled. White-man and tourism has not been here to take PNG’s treasures and leave behind their trash. It is refreshing. The unscathed beaches are full of starfish and beautiful seashells that have not been raided by foreigners. This morning when we went to the beach close to Ken’s father’s village we seen black sand, caused by volcanic activity: another unique and special feature of this giant island.
At the local market, Ken purchased evening dinner which was 3 kg of shark for 2 kina. Cheap. Shark tastes bland with a fishy flavour and it feels wrong to eat. So, shark tastes like fish. Potatoes taste like fish. Rice tastes like fish. And fish tastes like fish. I miss variety in meals. It makes me wonder if I could endure 6 months living in a tepee with a tribe somewhere as I had recently thought I wanted to do. I had never considered the culinary situation before… At the market Nadine and I bought another 9 kina worth of cookies to continue sneaking after every meal. After dinner, we talked about superstitions and Ken told us that if you feed your dog shark, it will bite you. Awesome…
Back at the village, we went to meet the men who are working to help Ken’s brother Carley, haul 3 meter logs, 50 centimeters thick, that they had chopped from trees in the jungle. The logs will be used as stilts for Carley’s house that the men will build as a team. The stilts will to keep the houses one storey off of the ground so that the rainy season does not affect living standards, creatures are less likely to visit and there is a space underneath for cooking in the shade away from the hot sun.
Each massive stilt is chopped with an ax and all ten 250 kilogram logs are hauled one at a time by six barefooted men who lug the logs through the jungle. It is a huge amount of work as they carry the logs with ropes attached to poles resting on their shoulders. It was like a scene in National Geographic. I wanted to help and take a shift to carry one of the logs but when I ran to get in place, all of the men with 250 kg of weight on their shoulders had a laughing fit as they had never seen a white man run before. My, how they liked that… Even the simplest things we do amuse the locals. Sometimes the children follow Nadine and I around the village when and call us white angels in their language. If they only knew…
Before bed as we were getting ready and I was making notes on the day, a chicken came up the stairs into our bedroom and Nadine had to chase it out so that we could go to sleep. Raw…
The morning started like this: the roosters started crowing to each other at about 4:30am and did not let up until a dog started yipping, wining, and crying for another 30 minutes until the piglets started squealing for the next 45 minutes because they were hungry and as soon as they stopped, the rooster started crowing again. It was as if he was waiting for his turn again after everyone else had said their part….
We got up at about 8am and visited with the locals. They dressed Nadine in a grass skirt, gave her armbands decorated with real flowers, a beaded necklace and a basket to carry with her head. Then they dressed me in a loin-cloth, armbands with feathers, an axe to carry and gave me a cassowary feather head-dress-wig that I was to wear for the day. We got pictures in traditional clothes and then they took me to a beetle-nut tree that I was to climb with a rope wrapped around my feet to act as traction so that I could collect the nuts high up in the tree. There were about 25 spectators. I was the white-monkey. They cheered and made Nadine and I feel like celebrities. We then went to a garden where Nadine helped the women to haul yams and tapioca that grows as a root in the ground. Ken’s 75 year old mother can bend over at the waist and touch the ground to dig in the garden without bending her knees. I would like to meet a 75 year old woman who can do that in western society.
When we returned to the house, Nadine and I were forced to walk through the village so that people could see us. Everyone cheered us as we looked so ridiculous wearing their traditional clothes. I had a load of coconuts on my shoulder and a machete in my hand for chopping bamboo and anything else in my way. The locals climbed a very tall palm tree for us to get to about 30 coconuts that we sliced open and made traditional food out of while they sang songs for us. It seemed as though the locals enjoyed having us as much as we enjoyed their lives, where things are beautiful and uncomplicated in Papua New Guinea.
The PNG locals tie a coloured ribbon around their chicken’s necks to tell whose chicken is whose; some parts of their lives are clever with simplicity and they are so resourceful. They eat bananas and coconut with almost every meal because they are so plentiful. Coconuts are; juice, oil for food, shells for cups, pig feed, sauce for soup, oil for the hair, cosmetic moisturizer, and nearly everything else imaginable. To eat the coconut meat they break off a chunk of shell to use as a spoon to scrape the meat from inside the shell. Every single thing has several uses. They gave Nadine a rose, and the vase was a less pretty flower that was shaped like a vase because they sealed the small end of the flower by tying it with its own stem.
We were showered with gifts when we left the village and about 25-30 people seen us off before we headed back to Ken’s house. Those people in that village are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Men told us that they will miss us. Men never tell anyone they miss them in western culture, so the honesty is beautiful. It was a truly special experience.
At Hula, the next village over that is built on a point, Ken figures that one could build a house and be set up for between $25,000-35,000 Au, a very nice price. There is no power yet in the village, but they are putting in the poles now and expect to have electricity by December. The change is a little bit ugly because as much as the locals want it, it will alter everything. Suddenly they will need money to pay bills and the days of trading a dog for a pig and a bag of sweet potatoes for a dog will be gone. Goodbye innocence. Things are slow to arrive and a wheelbarrow is a new addition to PNG life.
Every village has its own language, even if it is only a 30 minute walk away. In Makarupu the speak Makarupian, and in Hula they speak Hulan, a consistence among villages totally unrelated languages. So everyone speaks four or five different languages to communicate with those around them. That is why the 800 languages of PNG make it the linguistic capital of the world and this island accounts for some 2/3 of live world languages. There are plenty of similarities between the people of PNG and North American Native Indians of 300 years ago. It is like modernization forgot about this part of the earth.
I am a little concerned about malaria. One of Ken’s boys told us that he has known ‘many’ people who have died after catching the disease. PNG has heavy malaria risk and I have probably 60-70 mosquito bites…. Upon further assessment, I just counted 19 bites around my left knee alone. I likely have over 100 bites.
We got up early and were out of Ken’s yard by 10am. Nadine and I spent the day driving around with Ken getting very little accomplished. Buying power in PNG is like buying mobile phone minutes. It is called EasyPay where you pre-pay for power, get a receipt and punch in a number into a meter connected to the electricity in your home. It will give you electricity until you use up your allotted amount. When we went to an internet cafe, they actually had to go and buy power for us before we could go in to use a computer. Beautiful…
For lunch we went to ‘Big Rooster,’ a fast food PNG chicken place which seemed to be a bit of luxury for Ken and two of his girls. We visited the university to look around and then we stopped at an art museum where there were 100’s of awesome masks, carvings, and benches that I would love to own someday. Everything in the art museum was moderately priced for what you could buy. The beauty of non-tourism…
Ken is extremely religious, but agreed to let Nadine and I buy a 6 pack of ‘SP Lager,’ PNG’s national brand of beer. Nadine and I sat in the truck in front of a beach and drank beer while we discussed religion with Ken. It was so nice to drink beer again. We went to meet Debbie, Ken’s daughter, and Nadine and I spent 400 kina on groceries for the family including their first toaster. Back at the house, we ate pasta for dinner, which was a treat for Nadine and I, but they cooked fish as well. However, dinner was a dandy as Ken had turtle cooked for us. When you get a plate of green meat, your first thought is, ‘Holy! It is green!’ Then your mind recollects the situation and thinks, ‘Of course it is green, it is turtle…’ But, for that split second, a plate of green meat will really startle a mind. Nadine would not touch the plate of meat. I ate a lot of the green jiggly substance at first, and then found out it was so mushy because I was only eating turtle fat. Where a turtle stores fat, I am more than curious… The actual meat is very tough and I ate only a little. Ken loved it, and he was licking his fingers to savor as much flavor as possible.
At night we made our goodbyes, exchanged addresses and took pictures together. People in PNG do not have personal mailing addresses. If they give you a mailing address, it is the address of a company they work for if they are in the city, or else it is the address of a school close by in the country. Nadine and I finally got to bed at midnight. It was a long day.
– Grade 10 is about as far as most kids get in school. School goes to grade 12 and the kids start grade 1 at 7 years of age.
– Ken works for an electronics firm and makes $200Au every two weeks. Debbie and Jonathon work as well, so I assume that their money helps to feed the 12 or so mouths every day. Ken has many kids at his house that are not his that he has raised, belonging to his brothers or sisters. He is a good man, and has five children of his own.
We got up at 8am, ate breakfast, and packed our bags. Ken drove us into Port Moresby where we went shopping. I bought three shirts, a pair of shorts, found a PNG backpack patch for my bag, and a beat up PNG licence plate to mail home to Beaner for his garage wall. We made our goodbyes to Ken and daughter Shalom when we boarded our plane. A full moon was on one side of the plane and the sun set beautifully on the other side. It was very pretty.
When we got back to Cairns, Australia, and Emma picked us up from the airport and brought us to her house where our van was parked, made us stay the night at her house in her daughter’s bed and cooked us dinner. Wow what a wonderful woman. Nadine and I showered and we shaved for the first time in a week. I was pretty ugly but Nadine’s legs were still tolerable. The greatness of a hot-water shower cannot ever be overstated.
Emma encouraged us to eat breakfast and wash our clothes, extending an open invitation anytime we like or any time we are broke. She is so sweet. We ate a little, washed our clothes, and then went to a bank to change our kina back to Aussie dollars. I had 382 kina left and got $133Au back, meaning I only spent about $300 in PNG. Nadine and I bought Emma chocolates, flowers, and a card thanking her for her kindness. At Rusty’s Market we bought and ate fruit for the first time in a week. Fruit is good! A couple of beer finished the evening and we slept in the van for the first time in 9 days. Ah, home…!