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.
Monday, 10 December 2012
we spent our five weeks living in the village, I was impressed at the
balance of modern and traditional life in each day. Mostly people seemed
to have found a workable balance that they were happy with.
village was an easy PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) ride to Madang. A few
PMVs operated on that route and each went at least twice a day (on the
days they weren’t broken down!). Ladies going to market to sell buai and
others going to town to work an office job were the bulk of the PMV
passengers. These people then brought back cash and store goods to
supplement village life and produce.
Bilum making with plastic string
many people had mobile phones, the village did not have electricity.
This meant some people charged their phones when at work or rigged
chargers out of four D batteries taped together. Although the phone and
the need to charge it is a modern thing, using it to keep in touch with
family is an ancient thing. Community announcements were still by
garamut. Different rhythms pounded on this hollowed out log indicated a
gathering for church purposes, for community purposes or a death.
modern equipment had been applied to traditional lifestyles, making
things easier. The cooking seemed fairly traditional, but the big metal
pot was not. Clearing the land is traditional, but bush knives, axes and
chainsaws are not. Buying a two kina heavy duty plastic bag is easier
and cheaper than making a string bilum for taking buai to market. Bilums
are mostly made of plastic string, not bush rope, although the
technique is traditional. Clothing is very much western, as is the need
for laundry soaps and buckets to wash it.
mostly appear traditional, but they are held together with nails rather
than bush rope. Metal roofs allow people to catch water, but they also
make the house baking hot during the day. Traditional roofs are cooler.
Our house was half and half, so we could catch water on one half of the
house and nap under the other.
Our house, with half morata half tin roof
life is biodegradable because it is produced locally. Modern items are
produced in distant factories using lots of chemicals and do not break
down. Flat batteries, bleach bottle, plastic wrappers…these were all
things I saw discarded. Yet unlike traditional items, they remain where
they are thrown and do not return to the soil. Some items, such as rice
bags, are not discarded, but are used a fire starters in the haus kuk,
with questionable environmental and health consequences.
a glance village life seems very traditional, but in each day we would
find touches of modernity. Often this was beneficial, by saving time and
energy, but the downsides were there also, such as the rubbish.