While I was there, I left my two survey companions at a village called Bula and grabbed the only available transport, an Indonesian Chinese trader’s motorboat, for the village of Jarai right on the edge of our survey area. I had no way of communicating with the rest of my team and I thought I’d be back in 24 hours so that we could head back to our final village location and catch our flight out of there.
Heh heh… think again boy.
I spent the last two days of the survey writing a song about it. The recording’s a bit rubbish and I’m afraid it’s a wma file (so Windows only) but you’ll get the idea. Click to download the Jarai Song (wma file @ 5.3Mb) and/or the lyrics (Word doc @ 87Kb).
Just come back from a week in Somerset and Devon. These are counties down in southwest England about 4 hours’ drive away. We attended a fantastic wedding on Easter Saturday and were adopted by a couple from the church where the wedding was held. We were thinking of camping for a few days down there to explore the beautiful coast and this couple wouldn’t hear of it, offering us a room in their house for as many days as we wanted to stay.
We spent the days walking and exloring the villages and coast of this beautiful part of England. The weather starting grim but turned out to be gorgeous by the end of the week – perfect for long rambles along clifftops. In fact, one day, it was so nice, we did actually camp by the River Lyn in Devon.
Here are some pics.
On a hill overlooking the town of Madang is the village of Nobnob. When the Germans settled this area in the late 19th century, the Lutherans set up a mission station here. The site was good, away from the heat and higher humidity down by the coast which meant less chance of malaria and more chance of rain and cooler clouds.
The mission station has been gone for many years. Now, the Summer Institute of Linguistics leases the site from the Lutheran Church and uses it to run the Pacific Orientation Course (POC). Usually this is run twice a year in January and August. The full course lasts 14 weeks although you can do a shorter version of 6 weeks. We were a special case and managed to leave after 4 days.
The course is designed to integrate you into life in Papua New Guinea. It also aims to help you come to terms with living and working in multi-cultural teams. Apart from PNG nationals, there were people from Australia, the US, Canada and the UK there. Often there are many more nationalities than this.
The course consists of language study (Tok Pisin), cultural lectures, anthropology and physical training (hiking and swmming) and preparation for a 5-week experience of living in a PNG village. It’s quite demanding and at some and often many points, participants feel so far from their comfort zones they can’t even remember what they felt like.
As we were sitting in on just the first four days of the course, the pressure was off us. We knew that, if we return next year, our time would come. But, for now, we could relax and take it easy, doing only what we felt like. Thankfully, we felt like doing most things.
We had heard that swimming a mile in the sea was one of the physical challenges of the course. Every Wednesday, there are trips down to the nearby coast where a 100m rope is strung between two buoys out from the shore.
16 lengths of this will, roughly, see you hit the target. Not only did we manage this but we also were part of a brave few who walked down to the beach beforehand. It felt good to know that we were up to it all physically.
Culturally though, I think things may be more of a challenge. The idea of living 5 weeks in a PNG village where we may not have any electricity, we’ll probably have to fetch our water and will be cooking all our own food on an open fire is something that may well be a challenge. More of a concern though is how we’ll get on for the other 9 weeks of the course living with ex-pats from a wide variety of backgrounds who are all going through differing amounts of culture-shock. That’s the real challenge!
We got to have our first Tok Pisin lesson a few days in. After smashing our heads against a wall of Japanese for six years, Tok Pisin is remarkably easy for us English speakers. 70% of the vocabulary is borrowed from English and sitting through our first sermon in the language we picked up about 50% of what we heard. That would have been a good Sunday near the end of our time in Japan.
We also had a chance to see the area around Nobnob on a community hike that we took. This was our first experience of hiking in PNG. How can we describe it? Well, imagine that horizontal doesn’t exist. Everything is either uphill or downhill. And every slope you walk on is orange mud through the lush rainforest. Falling over is pretty much mandatory at some point.
Everyone we met on the hike was welcoming. The course participants probably provide so much entertainment for people on the hillside that they can’t wait to see us.
The hike took us through forest with all sorts of plant-life and fruit trees. At one point, when I asked a village elder what a particular fruit was he promptly whipped out his foot-long bush knife, hacked a pod off the tree and then spent a hair-raising few minutes hacking the pod open with the same knife only millimetres away from his fingers with each swipe. It was worth it though – coconutty seeds that were nice and cruncy. Forgotten the name now…
We left on the fifth day of the course having seen enough to get an idea of what we’re in for next year. We couldn’t stay longer though as we had to meet someone up in the highlands. This meant we had to brave a PMV trip. More about that next!