Archive for July, 2008

Bad career path.

An excerpt from the PNG English-language daily The National from 21 July 2008:

THE National Court in Lae last Friday sentenced a man to 23 years in jail with hard labour for the murder of a suspected sorcerer. Justice George Manuhu sentenced Gideon Neo, in his 20s, from Simbuluk village, Bulolo, Morobe province, in a courtroom filled with his relatives. Court documents said that Neo and two others, armed with a bush knife and axe, went to the house of one Kiputong Waiag on the night of April 18, 2006, and killed him while he was asleep in the kitchen. They had accused him of causing the death of a relative through sorcery.

And more a couple of paragraphs later:

Justice Manuhu said many people, accused of murder, used sorcery as an excuse for their crimes. He said that people should exercise restraint in dealing with sorcery and find alternatives to resolve deaths through such alleged acts.

Exercise restraint indeed! When people start dropping inexplicably, think twice before heading out and sticking the local sorcerer with your trusty bush knife. It’s against the law after all. However it’s worth noting that Justice Manuhu did take into account that the victim had been “convicted of sorcery earlier”. Maybe poor old Kiputong Waiag could have chosen a safer profession. Gun-running perhaps. What’s stupefying about this scenario is not merely the fact that people get chopped up for being ‘sorcerers’ but also somewhere, somehow in PNG law being a sorcerer is a codified offence. What. The. Fark.

The fate of Kiputong Waiag reminds of an excerpt from the excellent book Making ‘Black Harvest’ by the Sydney filmmaker Bob Connolly. He introduces Tumul, a bigman from the Highland Ganiga tribe:

When he was young, Ganiga Paia’s brother died for no reason and a man from a neighbouring tribe was suspected of sorcery. While various Ganiga talked about what to do, Tumul took his fighting axe, chose an opportune moment and with one tremendous, legendary blow split the sorcerer’s skull right down to his shoulders (p.25).

There you have it. Sorcery. A very, very bad career choice.

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Another month.

Word arrived the other day. A reappraisal of the situation. No more week-by-week plan, no more living tensed and on the brink of sudden departure with belongings poised to be stuffed into suitcase and backpack. We wait another month. Hopefully a realistic date to work towards, otherwise who knows how long before whichever ineffectual bureaucrat manages to do some data entry, click ‘print’, and apply a rubber stamp of authorisation.

Meanwhile schemes to avoid glassy-eyed ennui are flapping around in my head like a fish trying to extricate itself from the dry world back into water. Frantically at first, but not for long. Soon the same answer presents itself as it does every other time, almost inevitably – booze! Or thinking practically if not realistically – a job. Wait a second, I just quit two of those.

It’s cash I’m worried about pissing against the wall. The same can’t be said for time.

‘Kaukau’ and beyond…

Kaukau is the Tok Pisin word for sweet potato. No doubt it will be a useful word seeing as I’m led to believe they eat a lot of it over there. I have however been assured that the plethora of sweet potato varieties available in PNG will astound the typical Australian diner accustomed to the standard variety available from Woolworths. Nonetheless I must admit that as a staple kaukau does not excite me too much. Bring on the condiments.

PNG time.

There is a concept called ‘PNG time’ that we’re supposedly going to have to get very accustomed to. It is a similar notion to ‘hippy time’ and ‘koori time’, so if you’ve not heard of or encountered these things I won’t bother trying to explain them too deeply – suffice to say you either learn patience, grit your teeth, or lose the plot.

PNG time is I suspect why Kitty and I are still in Australia as I type. Which isn’t necessarily all bad. If it weren’t for PNG time we’d both have flown out of Sydney a mere day and a half after finishing our respective jobs, with no chance to ease our way into our imminent new lives. As it happens we’ve managed week up north to see friends of mine in Burringbar, Brisvegas and family up near Melaney – a blessing in hindsight. Now however we’re back in Sydney again, with no news regarding visas and departure dates.

Seeing as Australian Volunteers International (AVI) handle the visa negotiations and plane tickets we can’t complain too much, although I’ll be squawking when the cash runs out. At least we still have a room, albeit a smaller one – thanks guys, you know who you are.

Now we wait, and find more stuff to do and buy. Shoes. Find a new home for my bike and ugg boots. A new backpack (maybe). Some condiments to fire up what I am told is a rather repetitive diet (kaukau and meat from tins, ahoy). Stuff to shave with, assuming I bother with that. Negotiate a price for Larry’s camera. More odds and sods from the chemist. Last-chance beers with those who missed the farewell party.

The buffer of the mundane before the clutching terror of the new.