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Sunday 18 November 2012

[Suzanne's Travels] Homeward Bound

It's 8am on Sunday morning. My flight back to Brisbane is Tuesday lunchtime.

I'm finding it difficult to sum up the "feel" of this visit: on the one hand, I have been reminded again of
* the incredible advantages of the wantok/tambu systems,
* the generosity of spirit overall and
* the joys of communal living;
on the other hand, I have been reminded again of
* the incredible bonds & disadvantages of the wantok/tambu systems,
* the frustration of dealing with "PNG time",
* the unbelievably annoying aspects of communal living and
* despair over whether or not it is remotely possible to do something which will genuinely (eventually) bring change to the underlying & perpetual potential for violence & corruption.

As I write this, it's 8am & I'm sitting on the front porch of my niece's house. My 9yo cousin E1 is up; one of my tambus (T1) has left for work (security guard) & one (T2) just arrived home, the worse for wear after falling asleep (drunk) at a bus stop & being mugged; my nephew D & 1 other wantok (Y) are asleep on the porch; my 2 aunties T3 & C who look after the house, & the wantok (L) who is the Official Babysitter to The Destroyer (my niece's 21-month-old daughter E2), are still asleep inside, as are my niece G & her husband R and (thankfully!) E2 herself. That's 10 people in a 4-bedroom house, and the numbers fluctuate throughout the day/week.

Last night there was a massive kerfuffle round the side of the house & I went out on the back porch to see what was going on. (First, I have to explain that the downstairs of the house is split into two flats: one 1-bedroom currently occupied by an American MK (M) on a Fulbright scholarship, the other a 4-bedroom rented by 5 sisters from Kimbe.) So, a man - who one of the sisters was acquainted with at Uni this year - had come to the house on Friday, when said sister (J) had expressed concern that he even knew where she lived and had told him to leave. He came back, drunk, last night. F, the only other sister at home had opened, & then immediately shut, their door - he shoved the door open, an altercation ensued & then he punched J in the head & split open a 1" long gash at her temple. So the kerfuffle was 9 of our lain (pronounced "line", means - at its most basic level - "family") all turning out to confront this guy. He was so drunk that he didn't even react when he was poked (or, as I call it, "stabbed") twice with a sharp machete/bush knife by T1, & eventually had to be physically carried to, & thrown out, the gate because he would/could not leave on his own. J said not to call the police because of how difficult it can be to get them to do anything without bribing them. M provided butterfly bandages to hold J's cut closed; I applied 2 of them after 15 minutes of J holding ice against the wound, then a carful of people (R, G, C, D, F, J) left to take J to the hospital for stitches, and I went to bed.

Variations of this scene happen over and over and over again in PNG, every night, and it's why I'm involved with the Domestic Violence group here. J is lucky enough to live in a private home with a group of people & access to a car to go to the hospital - many/most women don't have that option. The police corruption is another subject entirely.


"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.". -- Edward Everett Hale

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