Friday, 27 April 2012


Two weeks to the day after I arrived in PNG I was back at sea and on Kwadima II heading off on a Translation Awareness Trip. It felt good to be on the water, even if we were motoring. Leaving early afternoon from Alotau we rounded East Cape near sunset. In the morning we stopped at Worupa village to pick up Kipling, an Anuki man, and were at Yarame village, in Dima, by early afternoon. We had been invited there by the community to help them understand what was involved in starting a Bible translation project in their language.

Our welcome was grand! By dingy we came up the creek among the mangroves, landed and walked among banana palms and gardens to the village. As we approached the village, we were met by a welcoming party. Dressed traditionally, playing drums and singing they welcomed us to the village by replaying how they welcomed the first missionaries and pretending to spear us. It was a little intimidating, to be honest.

Dimdima man singing a welcome song
We were shown through the village to a house they had finished for us to stay in and given four chairs to sit on, the only chairs in the village. Once the song was done we came back down to the grass and met people through a series of speeches. There was quite a reaction when I was introduced as only having been in PNG for two weeks. Hopefully this meant I was readily forgiven for anything I did that was inappropriate, as I'm still learning about PNG life and culture. As the crowd dispersed we were brought fresh pineapple, pawpaw and sweet black tea. It was the beginning of an expression of hospitality which I almost found overwhelming. As an egalitarian Aussie I'm not used to being made a fuss off like this and had to be deliberate about accepting it as the generous gift that it was.

Church the next morning was distinctly Anglican, but with Dimadima songs, including in the liturgy. The drums, guitars and voices were beautiful. Less beautiful but more amusing was the choir that accompanied the church bell; all the dogs in the village gathered and howled every time the bell was rang, with the roosters providing some punctuation to their chorus.

Translation exercise
The workshops themselves went well. A good cross section of the community gathered and joined in the sessions. Although English is the language of wider communication in Milne Bay, we got Kipling to translate for us during the day. He has Dimadima people in his family and speaks their language. Like so many people in this country, he speaks several local languages. At the end of the workshops, the community was inspired to proceed with a translation in their language. This was decided in a town meeting held on the grass after the workshops.

Being part of a community process like this was good. We came by invitation, shared our expertise and then let the local community decide what next. The ball is in their court to make the next moves; forming a committee, nominating local people to be the translation team and organising for them to come to a training course later in the year. The community welcomed us and looked after us exceptionally well.

Ladies preparing bananas for dinner
On the last night we shared a meal with most of the village as well as guests from other villages. I watched enormous bunches of bananas brought in from the gardens, prepared, cooked and eaten. Men had been fishing and women had been collecting shells from the mangroves for us to eat. There were speeches of thanks and of motivation for proceeding with translation. There was much hand shaking and I got good at saying nuba yamaibi  'good night' to people as they left.

Farwell to Dimdima. Note the cross they have on the hill above their village.
Yamaibi 'good' sums up our time at Yarame. Invited, welcomed, hosted, listened to and able to inspire people. It was indeed yamaibi.

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