PNG report #4

July 10

We visited the local Cultural Center in Omai – fairly new and consisting of some land and a grass hut that houses some antiques and new baskets for sale. It was a grand gathering of mostly men/boys making different kinds of baskets and some women/girls making baskets and string bags. They were so pleased to be able to show their work and answer questions. We then were treated to some speeches that were translated three times for us to understand* and were given the opportunity to say something back to them. All very political! I acquired a new pen pal – Joel, 26 and in grade 8 who was the most talkative and forward in approaching us. Got a big laugh when I said that he was the same age as my baby!

We made arrangements for Peter, the guy in charge of the Cultural Center, to come by early next week so we can purchase some baskets and trays. Will see what he brings. The coiling work they are doing is quite nice and the checkerboard plaiting is done over pieces of wood and then sewn together to make the basket form.

Foods have been fresh (other than the tinned lunch meats) with veggies straight from the garden. Lots of bananas and avocados and pineapple. And the best homemade bread that I’ve had in a long time! Noreen, the housekeeper, is a good baker – breads, pies, cakes. No chance of loosing weight here! (Turns out they don’t eat this sumptuously all the time – usually less meats and fewer desserts, but the bread is a constant. And very little dairy.)

Warm, full sun most mornings, rain most afternoons/evenings. Chilly temps – we are over a mile high and I’ve noticed just a bit of difference in breathing. Most of the nationals go around without shoes or socks and don’t worry too much about being in the rain – lots of runny noses, colds, pneumonia and TB present in the area. Miri tried flying her mini kite (which I gave her in LA), but didn’t have enough of a breeze. The kids didn’t seem to mind.

I pulled out the cotton shirt I had brought along, picked up some yellow and black dirts from the yard and started a mudcloth shirt. Then, I went looking for a red I remembered seeing in the area. Wound up picking it up from the flower garden of the Bishop’s house – and he caught us in the act! Really nice guy. One of the local women, Margaret, then said she knew where to find more of the red and also some white so she went off in the rain, returning a bout an hour later as it got dark with two bags of dirt. Not sure what I can do with the white (they use it to do body painting for dancing) as I don’t expect it to show up on white cotton. Srs Maria and Rose made their marks on the shirt, too. Not too shabby! Will have to see how much color stays. Maria is very interested in doing this with her second graders.

*There are over 700 languages in Papua New Guinea. In the 50s the country adopted Pidgen English as the national language – just so they could all talk with each other. Most PNGers are also learning regular English.

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