Today I went with Mason (our language and culture teacher) across the street from our mission center to join in a community work day with our national neighbors. The short 15 minute walk involved following winding muddy trails and fording a waste high, very cold, fast moving river (luckily with no Pacu, the man eating fish). We passed through a small village with homes made of woven grass (pit pit) walls and thatch roofs. I met many new friends along the way and had a chance to practice my limited Pigin (the trade language). As the only two “white skins” to go on this outing, it was hard to blend in and hope they didn’t notice my severely lacking language skills. But our new neighbors were so incredibly friendly and forgiving as I fumbled to remember phrases, names, and pronunciations. Our project today was to dig ditches on the sides of a well-worn path to prevent it from wash out during the rainy season. It was a great opportunity to build relationships with the people as well.
The ground here is very hard and dry this time of year so in order to make digging easier we filled 5 gallon buckets of water in the little stream (lik lik water) and carried them up the path (not an easy task) just to pour them out on the ground. Surprisingly enough, their method was very effective and we finished about at 30 yard section (2 sides) in around two and a half hours. The work was rough at times but there were many hands to switch off and help. During a break time we were given fresh roasted peanuts; not quite like home but they were good just the same. Work was often interrupted by groups of people walking down the path we were excavating. Everyone would stop as they approached and each person was greeted with “moning” and a hand shake. In PNG, respect for each other and the community as a whole is extremely important and this is just one way they show their respect for each other. Schedule is not as important as taking time to meet and talk with people. A concept some of us type A Americans should consider adopting
I’m kicking myself for not taking a camera with me today as there were so many sights I wish I could share with all of you. The good news is I am planning to go again in the next couple of weeks and I won’t make the same mistake twice. I have, however, included a picture of me in town with my new hat. Several of the local men commented that I was a PNG man now:) What do you think?