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Monday, August 11, 2003

August 11, 2003 People of the Lousiades

Sam Works on the Carving

Much of the adventure of this cruise has been the local people we've met. We've met many Papuans, mostly island people. The island people of Papua New Guinea are delightful people and we love them. They claim however that they are different from the "highlanders", those people who still live in the mountains of the mainland, and only in recent times have begun to adopt what we might call civilized ways. The island people we've met are happy, friendly people, and they accept us as guests to their island homes. On the other hand, they tell us that the highlanders are a darker race, not only in the color of their skin, but in their hearts. There is much written in the local press of violence and killing in the highland villages and in the cities where the highlanders have come to look for jobs or to get into trouble. The skirmishes reported are shocking; ten people killed for example, because of an allegation of black magic, or someone whose limbs have all been hacked off, in vengeance for an insult. The police cannot stay ahead of this crime, it is just too endemic and they are too few, too weak. After one massacre the police spokesman announced that, "The matter has been settled, several pigs have been exchanged."

But we've stayed away from the cities and the mainland, and we've met few highlanders.

The worries about highland violence does not even enter our minds as we interact with the locals in the islands of Papua. Today we spend most of the day on Bagamon Island, trekking from one end of the island to the other, visiting three villages on the way.

In the far village, Bryan, a cruiser who in his previous life was a cook, was teaching bread making. He'd been in the village on several days, all arranged of course, and he'd built an oven in the village square, out of rocks and cement and a steel oil drum. In this oven the villagers could bake bread and pastries, if they knew how, and today Brian taught them. The recipes were simple. For bread, a few packets of yeast, two kilos of flour, some salt, lots of kneading, and let it rise twice. The pastries were made from half self raising flour and half normal flour, some pig fat, roll it flat, and fill it with local fillings. Everything popped into the oven and left until it was golden brown.

Brian tests oven

The women watched intently and discussed the recipes and techniques while the men tended the cocoanut husk fire under the steel drum of the oven. Bryan moved back and forth between the outdoor kitchen and the oven, keeping both going, and the rest of the village sat around and socialized, just happy to be part of the event. Judy drew a crowd as she passed out balloons to the kids.

When the first pastries were done everybody had a taste and the day was deemed a success.

We began our walk back across the island, past Oysi village where chief Gulu and some of his sons sat at their work bench under the tree making crafts for sale to the yachties, past the beach where our dingy waited anchored offshore and tied to a tree, and on to far side of the island to another village where Sam's house was. We needed to visit Sam because we'd contracted with him to carve a name board for Wings that we wanted to use on our main hatch and Sam had not completed it. We needed to tell Sam that we were leaving in the morning and he needed to get going on the job before we departed.

While we were at Sam's the rain came and we clustered under the eves of his house, and most of his village came around too and we met all of them. I sat inside the doorway of his house on his raised floor and showed Sam exactly what we expected from his carving commission, and Judy chatted with his wife and father and played with a dozen or so children while we waited for the rain to ease.
Sam's Kids

The walk back through the jungle, fresh after the rain, and over the low hill to our anchorage, was easy even though it was humid and thick with the smells of damp vegetation. We talked of the experience we just had at Sam's village and we were glad we'd gone there.

Just as we're glad we got to Ebora today.

Click here to see all the photos From the Louisiades

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Papua New Guinea

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