Thursday, 4 October 2012

POC: Wasfemili

Our wasmama

Another part of POC is having a local wasfemili (host family) who we spend time with about weekly building relationships, learning about PNG life and practicing Tok Pisin. The first time we met was here at POC, as they all came for a meal with us. For many it was an awkward meal, as our Tok Pisin was not yet very good, the relationship new and we weren’t sure what to talk about. Our wasmama was great. She has been a wasmama a few times before and kept the conversation rolling when we ran out of words.

Betip village
Next visit it was time to go to their place instead of them coming to ours. We headed off before sunset, about a 20 min walk, with dinner to share in hand. We sat, we chatted, we ate, we started to learn to make billums (local string bags that carry everything) and we relaxed into a forming friendship. Our Tok Pisin had improved and so had our comfort levels with these people who were no longer strangers.

Wasmama outside her house
The visit after was an overnight stay, then once again a dinner visit from us before it was time for our wasfemili to come back to POC. That time we entertained them in our haus kuks, showing our skills at cooking on the campfire, but still learning plenty from them as to how to get the fire just right for the tea and just how sweet the tea should be. By this time we were having fun hanging out together. Sometimes we chatted and at other times the silence was comfortable.

The final wasfemili event completed the circle as we gathered together in the meeting hall as a group once again. It was a time of saying thank you for sharing their lives with us over the last while. We exchanged gifts, as that is an important part of expressing relationships here. Michelle and I now have matching bilums which many have ‘eye greased’ (envied) and our wasfemili has some new towels, a meri blouse and laplap I sewed and some earrings from Michelle. Our bilums have decorative tassels on one side. When worn facing outwards it means we are happy with life and all is well with relationships. When the plain side is worn outwards, it means a relationship is broken and I am giving my back to your village… facebook posts, bilum style.

Mi amamas. Laip bilong mi em I gutpela sindaun

Yumi gat bikpela hevi. Mi givim bek long ples bilong yu. 
Sharing life with a local family has been a precious thing. They have welcomed us, taught us, encouraged us and become our friends. I feel for my wasmama as she lives with chronic pain from a childhood injury, family history of arthritis and a life of hiking mountains, gardening and carrying heavy loads. I feel for my was susa (sister) as she prepares for her exams, exams which were delayed a week or two because the papers have not yet arrived from Port Moresby. I hope to visit them again sometime, to bring my own sister here when she visits, as we are all family now.

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