Archive for the 'Tok Pisin' Category

Up the garden path.

The internet habits of “googling” and hypertext clicking (link-hopping?) are probably changing many of the ways which we look for information, read text, digest data and words, and so on. This isn’t really the time and place to dwell on these matters which frankly others are doing better than me anyway. But, thanks to WordPress, I get a little list of search terms that led people to this site. Not sure if they found what they were after, or whether they were happy to have themselves led up the garden path in a virtual sense. Virtual seekers, seek on, and good luck to you.

Here are some of the terms that seem to have brought people to this humble blog. Some I offer just for expanatory purposes, so that if the same search leads someone here then they may get the answer. Some are included because they’re just odd. Here we go:

Tok pisin olgeta: “olgeta” means “everything”. Hence the name of this blog – “olgeta longlong”, i.e. “everything’s crazy” or “everything’s insane”.

How did Mt. Tavurvur get its name?: I dunno, but I daresay it’s a Tolai name. Sounds impressive though doesn’t it? Say TAR-VUR-VUR in a sonorous voice, like James Earl Jones would after he’s swallowed a nice cup of gravel. I think if you pronounce it like that, it means “goddamn awesome” or “do not fuck with my shit”.

Big supermarket in PNG: As I’ve written before on this blog, the most popular expat supermarket in Moresby is the aptly named Foodworld. An entire WORLD of FOOD. Makes the mind spin. There’s also a place by the harbour still often referred to as Anderson’s, although it was sold to the SVS Group a while before we got to Moresby. The supermarket formerly known as Anderson’s now smells putrid, and old timers are sometimes heard moaning things like “bloody Malaysians turned the place into a bloody trade store”. There is also a whopping new supermarket called Vision City, which houses one of Moresby’s three RH Hypermarts. Vision City will also make your mind spin, due to the fresh aroma of cheap imported plastic toys.

Meri Buka porn: As far as I know this blog does not feature pornography featuring women from Bougainville. All the best with that though… hmmm.

Forget in tok pisin: Sori, mi lus tingting!!!! Ridim dictonary pastaim.

Too busy / wasman.

I recall that Hunter S Thompson dedicated his book Hell’s Angels to the many friends who had mercifully kept him free of employment for much of his life. It’s a nice notion, especially when you find yourself in a constant state of work-induced turmoil – constantly bucketing and rowing towards a horizon that never stops receding. If I may put it that way.

Without divulging too much, I will say only two things – one, it should go on for only a fortnight longer, and two, it seems frightfully easy to change this country’s Constitution. Additional details are not interesting. They have taken over my life of course, much like Jonah’s life was taken over by a whale for a short time. There are already too many Moresby-based colleagues who have endured my profanity-riddled reflections on these matters and to them I apologise – sorry to everyone except my wonderful darling Kitty who, in the midst of this ridiculous period in my world, has managed to evacuate herself to the beautiful and lugubrious town of Madang, where she has even managed to get some scuba diving in. The fish are big over there apparently.

An anecdote for those good enough to keep coming back to this page – thank you dear readers. On the way to work I see a shirt with a slogan. It says – Jesus em wasman bilong mi! Pisin is a funny language in case you haven’t heard me say that before. The verb ‘wasim’ means ‘to wash’, while if you go for a swim or a bath you ‘go waswas’. I was puzzled then whether or not this man’s shirt was subversive or even deliberately absurd – Jesus is the man who washes/bathes me! What?!?! Even your bum?!?! Maybe it was a reference to baptism? Anyway I was disabused of my folly soon after, with my colleague telling me that ‘wasman’ simply means ‘watchman’. So Jesus is this guy’s guardian. Of course. That’s all.

Sanap lo bridge!

I liked this joke when I first heard it at work, my boss told it to the rest of us and I was chuffed that I got it. The punchline involves some rudimentary knowledge of tok pisin – ‘sanap’ meaning to stand, ‘lo’ being ‘on’ and bridge meaning, well, bridge. Here’s the joke:

An American was cruising through the Ramu Valley in his 4WD, admiring the vast expanse of sugar cane and oil palm and dodging the potholes. Inevitably he came to one of the many one-lane bridges that provide the rickety-looking passage over the wide-banked rivers of the valley. To his surprise a ramshackle, sack-laden ute of uncertain age drove onto the other side of the bridge when he was about half way across. He figured he had the right of way and pressed on, but the other car kept coming. The two vehicles stopped inches apart, blocked by the other.

The American got out and made what he thought was a friendly overture and a reasonable request for the other driver to reverse off the bridge – after all, the American HAD been half way across when the other vehicle arrived on the scene. The other driver, a short weather-beaten old local man with a straggly beard and a wide red mouth, didn’t seem to understand. He replied in tok pisin – which of course the American, new to PNG, didn’t understand either. The exchange was persistent but pointless, and neither the American or the old man seemed willing to do the obvious and reverse their vehicles.

This continued for nearly ten minutes, with the only development of note being the old man’s move to retrieve his buai, dakka and lime pot from the colourful bilum hung around his neck. A car or two were now waiting at one end of the bridge and honking irately for the issue to be resolved. The American tried his best pleading tone, his best blustering tone, his best threat-of-bombardment tone, his best offer of compensation money tone. No result.

Eventually, inevitably, the American lost it and growled at the stubborn old man: “You sonnova bitch!”

To which the old man enthusiastically replied: “Yu tu yu sanap lo bridge!”

Ahem… well I guess you had to be there…

Televisual travesties

Despite best efforts I haven’t been able to unfurl much glorious prose to pay tribute to the fantastic Madang-Goroka holiday we had during the silly season. In part this is because of what I said earlier – writing is hard. Much of the holiday was scenic, yet there’s nothing more laborious to write – and, often, to read – than rolling descriptions of landscapes, figures of speech piled atop each other like the hills and mountains that are the object of evocation.

Another reason why my attempts have fallen short is that television has made a loud re-entry into our lives. Originally we accepted the thing because we knew there was only one channel on free-to-air TV here (actually there’s also a public station that broadcasts only a few hours daily, and a 24-hour bible-bashing channel as well). ‘We’ll watch the news every now and then’.

Test cricket didn’t help. Then came the Twenty/20 games and the one-dayers. Meanwhile the nightly EM-TV news has continued to surprise and amuse us with both its shoddy production and Channel 9 material (even the theme music is the same as Channel 9 news!), and A Current Affair’s vulgarity sucks us in like a great whirlpool – we’re doomed, but we have no hope of escape. Then comes Temptation – ‘quiz show! quiz show!’ I exclaim nightly, before indulging in half an hour of whistful ‘I’d be such a great quiz show champion’ reverie. Then – who knows. Tok Piksa is actually half decent. The other night it featured a retrospective show on the Sepik Crocodile festival, with footage of guys in full ceremonial regalia dancing around with live grown crocodiles strapped to their backs! Other nights we emerge, baffled and dazed, after having sat through the duration of some rugby show. (Not even a Rugby League show, which would at least have local credibility, but an imported Rugby Union show. Yes, Union. I sicken myself.) Thus far I have not succumbed to any of the shitty American movies screened by EM-TV, although Kit’s resistance has crumbled – last night she inflicted a lame Nicole Kidman & Sandra Bullock romantic comedy on herself. ‘Our Nic’ and the Bullock (the name says it all) played a pair of latter-day witches in search of love. I went in search of a porcelain bowl to vomit in, before retiring with the almost-equally painful ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ by F.A. Hayek.

Excepting the cricket, the programs on EM-TV has no chance however when compared with the ads – in terms of production value, ingenuity, or just pure dodgy hilarity. Advertising on TV here is equally as infuriating as in Australia, equally as loud, but thoroughly addictive nonetheless. The best ads are those with original jingle lyrics. We dutifully chime in with ‘Ela Motors! Ela Motors your first choice!’ at the end of every Hino truck ad. We enjoy the afroed antics of Henry Wopa who went on holiday (a Wopa breakfast biscuit sent him on his way… he ate one on the mountain, he ate one by the sea, he took them to the singsing and he shared them happily…). We sit awestruck by the advertising hegemony of Brian Bell retail stores (separate ads for sports equipment, Puk Puk brand hardware, electronics, and the new home centre). We wonder why we never actually see ‘real’ PNGeans cavorting in the ocean with their Yamaha outboards like in the (other) Ela Motors ad. We also wonder at the mindset of an advertiser whose slogan for a new range of laptops is ‘small but terrible’ (the laptops come with Linux operating system so maybe they really meant it), and marvel constantly at the ingenuity of the names given to mobile sawmills – the six inch model is called ‘Model 6’, while the eight inch model is called ‘Model 8’. There is also a ten inch model but the name is not divulged in the ad – guesses anyone? And there is always, always time to sing along with the Tablebirds chicken song – ‘Mama save kukim yu! Pikinini laikim yu! Papa tu! Bubu tu! Tablebirds tasol!

But nothing, NOTHING matches the overpowering genius of ‘Klina Meri’. First, you take a jungle directly ripped off from the Tom Jones song ‘She’s a Lady’. Then you get a montage of well-dressed PNG ladies (ie, mostly wearing meri blouses) of various ages performing their domestic duties while looking dazed yet happily at the cameras displaying the product in question – an all purpose soap – in a hand that swings left and right, left and right. How that klina meri soap swings hypnotically! The true value of this ad is only understandable when you render the lyrics from Tok Pisin into English (don’t forget to sing to the tune of the Tom Jones song):

Klina meri i gat groove (cleaner woman she’s got groove)
klina meri i gat style (cleaner woman she’s got style)
trupela meri (true woman)

Laikim yu, nating tru (I love you like nothing else)
Yu never gonna get a beta meri (You’ll never get a better woman)

And the refrain:

Klina meri! (Cleaner woman!)
woah woah woah
klina meri! (Cleaner woman!)
o klina meri (o cleaner woman!)
klina meri bilong mi (My cleaner woman!)

Then finish with the family shot of a younger klina meri, her no doubt utterly pristine husband and daughter, with the slogan – strongpela sop, gutpela smel (strong soap, good smell).

Goodbye, brain!

‘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.