Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Day 5: The Land of the Unexpected

"PNG is the land of the unexpected," Luke told Tim and I on the first day. That statement didn't sink in till about now...

I had no idea my name can mean so many things in one country. In the Keri dialect, Nina means you and me; in Kuman--father; in Kewabi--mine alone, just to name a few.

This morning we saw a man on the street with a machete hacking away at another man, blood on the face and cars continued to whiz by.

The most talkative and articulate farmer I've ever met in the third world, narrating away his life story during the interview. I barely had to ask any questions. He was a natural on camera as if he'd been waiting for this moment all his life. Farmer John, who also works as a school teacher, missed work today because he knew we were coming. He wanted to take care of us himself, showing us his piglets and corn rows. Soon enough, mud stacked up underneath my sandles. All of a sudden, my flip-flops became platform shoes, with every step creating heavy plunge-plunge sound deeper into more mud. At the end of such arduous trek in the corn field, John's aunt had to hack away at the mud with a machete and gave me a mud-whacking, shoe-cleaning service, all free of charge--only with a big smile and a good laugh. (Everyone seems to carry a machete in this country. It's not at all uncharacteristic of PNG to drive by a security guard who is capable of flashing you his betelnut- stained teeth and his big machete, all at the same time and, naturally, we give a polite but awkward smile, nod and hope he doesn't take a swing near any of our body parts.) Not long after the mud-whacking experience, an army of red ants, out of nowhere, marched onto my feet and attacked me with all their might. Tim didn't stop rolling the camera. Ha..ha.. not funny.

In the afternoon, after filming Peter's home in a settlement in Morata, his wife and aunt (possibly in their fifties and sixties), hopped, yes I mean they literally hopped like grasshoppers, onto the back of a yewt (the Aussie version of a pick-up truck). Tim was wondering if he should be the one in the back of the truck instead of them. But no, oh no, for PNG women, that's how they do it . Peter, with his reputation of being a gangsta driver, drove off like there were no tomorrow. I was holding on to the backseat with my dear life, hair flying wildly in all directions. Tim wasn't sure if Peter forgot that his wife and aunt were sitting in the back of the truck. And that's not the end of it. When I turned around to check on the two elderly, there was not an once of fear or discomfort on their faces, just smiling and chatting away.

Tonight we had dinner at Julie's house, and it, unexpectedly, turned into a PNG dance party, featuring O-Shen and Patti Potts music.

This is Nina Chaiyapin, reporting live from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. All for reals...

1 comment:

nathanbos said...

Very interesting blog. I haven’t read any of the past posts so I’m not really sure of any context or anything, but PNG sounds like a pretty interesting place. I’m amazed at the differences in culture between countries, and how something that would be seen as utterly bizarre (like carrying a machete around) is considered normal in other places. I enjoyed reading the post.