Friday, 30 November 2012

Village Living: Family

Our was femili (host family)
At the end of five weeks in the village, it was sad to say goodbye to the people who had become our family. For over a month these people had been our guides, our teachers, our encouragers, our security and our friends. They had built our house for us and provided for us, given generously of their lives and experience. To leave  with no knowledge of when we shall meet again, is difficult. Although communication by sms and mobile phone is possible, my ability to communicate by these means in Tok Pisin is quite limited.

Our other was femili next door
Our immediate wasfemili was Papa and Mama plus their six children, two grandchildren and grandfather. The extended family included Papa’s three brothers who lived nearby and their wives and children. One of these families in particular were very much part of our lives as they lived next door. At least one of Papa’s sisters lived along the road as did Mamas brothers, all of whom became our family…although in five weeks I never quite got all the names, faces and relationships sorted!

We did everything with our family. We helped in the garden, we went to market and town, we sat in the shade and made bilums, we shared stories, we laughed, we cried, we ate, we waited for the birth of the newest grandchild and celebrated when she was born safely. Sometimes we went on ‘tourist’ outings; to Heem to see the view over the Gogol valley and to explore a cave and to Omoru to see the bat cave and tour the coconut, coffee and cocoa plantation. Some days doing everything with family was tiring, but once we left I missed them.

Looking down the bat cave
Family is the glue of PNG society. It defines the structure of villages and there are responsibilities that go with those relationships. For awhile in the village we were surprised at how many women worked at one particular business in town, until we found out that a ‘liklik papa’ (uncle) owned the business. Then it made sense for all the family to be employed there.

The night before we left we shared in a feast. Everyone brought food to share and we sat and ate together for the last time. We were given gifts of bilums and necklaces. We shared stories and songs. As I looked around me I was touched by the closeness of family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, all sharing life together. I wouldn’t recognise some of my first cousins, let alone my second cousins. People who here they call ‘sister’ (daughter of father’s brother) are strangers to me in my own family.

Looking across the Gogol River

I hope to visit my wasfemili again sometime, to continue the relationship that was started. In the meantime, I live distant to my wasfemili and distant to my genetic family, yet enjoy the company of my POC family and build relationships with my new Ukarumpa family. Although single, I am rarely alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment