I am an Australian working in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Bible translation and linguistics. Before I moved here I worked on traditional sailing ships doing sail training, and shared life with friends through our variation on intentional Christian community living.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinion of any of the organisations mentioned.
Friday, 30 November 2012
Village Living: Family
Our was femili (host family)
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
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!
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
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
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
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