Independence Day 16th Sept
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Friday 16th Sept was a public holiday to celebrate the 36th anniversary of PNG Independence. The day before we became the proud owners of a car. The woman who was selling it was rushing around because Thursday was her last day at work and they were giving her a send off but with the holiday it was her last chance to do stuff. When we went to pick up the car she was in a tiz because she'd wanted to pick her son up from daycare before she surrendered the car. Fine, we'll go together to pick up the child, I would drop her back to work for her send off then drive the car home. I stayed in the locked car while she went to get her son. We were parked behind some shipping containers and I was feeling decidedly uncomfortable so was keeping an eye out for I don't know what. Next thing I know there is a naked man bristling with a bow and arrows, feathers, paint and a woven belt looming up in my rear vision mirror!!!
Originally we had planned to be at the 50th Goroka Show that weekend but had not been able to get any accommodation. We were assured we would not be disappointed by the happenings in Moresby as recompense. To this end James Enagi and his family took us in hand. We met at the Ela Beach Apartments for breakfast, always a good way to start the day, or atleast it always had been. We were a group of 4 adults and 4 children so elected to sit outside. It took an hour before we could get anyone to even take our order and another 3/4 of an hour for it to come!! I was getting pretty fed up as we were missing the waterfront festivities. I was decidedly peeved when the group (7 adults) at the next table sat down, ordered their food and got it all in about 20mins. By this stage we had already complained twice of the slow service but I was now ready to get angry when Mark took the wind out of my sails by telling me it was because we were with nationals!! Seemed particularly rich when they were supposed to be celebrating their independence! Not sure where the attitude comes from but it was very uncomfortable.
Having FINALLY eaten we headed across the road to Ela beach to walk through the stalls and watch the lakatoi boat races. These boats are made up of 3 dug out canoe hulls and are very stable for sea travel but if the sailors lose the wind out of the sails, the sail drops into the water and it is very difficult to get them moving again. It takes great skill to keep the boat in the wind but when you do the boats fairly fly through the water. There were many casualties limping back to the beach
The UPNG students put on a big cultural display of dancing and singing accompanied by traditional music played on traditional instruments. The aim is to highlight the great cultural diversity that makes up this land, and on a more intimate level, the student body. It was great. Because of the breakfast debacle we missed the dancers from the southern and eastern provinces but what we saw was pretty awesome.
WARNING: WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS A FRIGHTENING NUMBER OF DEAD BIRDS!
In part and whole! The feathers have to be seen to be believed. I'm sure they looked better on the birds but they look pretty spectacular here as well. The headdresses of the Simbu and Western Provinces groups reputedly cost approx K5,000 ($A1,250) not cheap in anyone's language.
The day was hot and the kids survived incredibly well. It was the 1st time Sylvia had been to the display so she got something out of it and James was in his element and determined that we should have a good time. We take great delight in cultural differences, communication and assumptions that crop up. James offered to get us some cold, bottled water. Now did you want it in a coca cola bottle or a sprite bottle?! There were fellows selling water in any bottle filled from who knows where and others collecting said bottles to refill and resell! They did pass through an esky so were pretty cold, atleast at the beginning of the day
We were a little disappointed that the MC didn't give out much information to the spectators on what they were seeing so I'm not much the wiser for the most part on the background of the headdresses, songs, dances of the different groups. There are 3 groups that are very distinctive that I've managed to do some research on since. The 1st is the Asaro Mudmen and the 2nd, the Duk Duks of East New Britain and 3rd, the Huli Wigmen of the Southern Highlands. They share their beliefs about women with another tribe, the Enga.
The story of the Asaro Mudmen goes something like this (I hasten to add that there are many variations of this story so I have gone with the one as told by "the last living original Asaro Mudman") The people of Komunive Village in the eastern highlands were being badly defeated in a fight with their enemy. They retreated and hid down near the Asaro River but when it looked as though even that wasn't enough protection they slid into the muddy river. There they waited for dusk to fall thinking they could slink away under cover of darkness. As they left the sanctuary of the river they found themselves covered from head to foot in smelly, pale grey river mud and by the light of the moon they looked very eerie
The other group, the Duk Duks of New Britain, is just as controversial. Unfortunately we missed them but the story's a goody! Once again there are differing stories all of which may be true but the one I'll tell here comes from a Mr H Romilly who wrote in 1886 of one ritual that was part of a very long initiation
The Huli Wigmen are reputedly the fiercest warriors in PNG. most of the following beliefs and customs are also practised by the men of Enga.
The men and the women live separately. The men can be polygamous but the women are only allowed 1 husband at a time, why would she want more? When a man marries he receives pigs as dowry from the bride's family and in return he must give his wife an arable plot for a garden and build her a house. Here she works and raises their children. Divorce is reasonably common and is usually due to no children being produced and in such cases the ex-husband will try to recover the pigs from his father-in-law but this isn't always successful. The girls stay with their mothers until they marry but the boys are sent to live with their fathers from about 9 yrs old. Soon after the boys are put up in a bachelor house (apparently these are going out of favour now so they live with their fathers in his hut). Here they start to grow their hair. Once away from their mothers the boys are not to have anything to do with any female. They can't eat her food or even look upon her in case she is menstruating. The legend goes that a Huli man killed an ancestral woman, Pepeko Wane Padume. Out of the menstrual blood soaked ground grew the bog iris, padume and bamboo tubes were filled with her blood
The day ended with a proposal to go to the Pacific Adventist University (PAU) Markets on Sunday
The PAU grounds are extensive and beautifully looked after with large dams/ponds covered with water lilies and full of the biggest gold fish you have ever seen, well I've ever seen. The kids had been bribed with the promise of feeding the fish after we'd done our shopping. The big thing on the menu was sweet corn. People were frantically dehusking it as they went and the floor was ankle deep in the resulting debris. There appears to be no concept of composting here so no one wants any extra vegetation. All they do when they get home is burn the refuse in very smokey fires in the gutter. We can't find a compost bin anywhere. We need one that is enclosed because fruit fly, rats and cane toads are a problem, give me choughs, possums and wombats any day! So we are working on a design we can build and put in the wedge next door. We will also have to educate the garden staff as my early attempts at composting resulted in Asiko digging it all up and taking it away to burn!
On the highway near PAU is a double act business run by a fellow who goes by the moniker, PNG Gardener. I have mentioned him in an earlier blog as having worked in the Botanic Gardens and from whom we bought our first orchids
The hunt for a toilet for the ol pikinini brought our visit to an end with the promise we'd take Mark's mother, Mardi, and his brother, Philip, out when they are in town. We headed next door to the PNG Adventure Park. Outside is the most incongruous collection of African animal sculptures and inside is a large acreage with a cafe, picnic areas, barbecues, fish stocked dam for fishing and a couple of water slides. The kids were in heaven! An area has been set aside for a tree kangaroo breeding program which has already started in the grounds of the PAU. Early days but given it is so hard to find places that are safe for kids to be kids this is pretty exciting
Monday came around rather too soon but we'd had a great weekend.