An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Conference and Bikpela Sing-Sing

Well it has been an interesting week. From the Monday when I picked up mum at Nadzab (Lae) airport till now while we are in Goroka having a restful Sunday at my wantoks house, Monica.

I'll start at the beginning I guess, with the arrival of my mother. Monday afternoon and with a bit of a wait around at the airport - which I found out later was caused by the late arrival of mum's flight to POM from BNE - mum eventually turned up, multiple items of cabin luggage in hand (most of which was mine).

Driving back into town and it is always interesting to get someone's first impression of somewhere new. This meant that mum chipped up with comments like "Look! She's carrying that on her head!", "Goodness, look at the grass house" and "Everything is so green". First things first and I took her off to the little market near home to get some kai kai for dinner, and she got a lot of kudos and smiles from the locals when people found out she was mama bilong mi, this included a big hug from one of the old women who has taken a bit of a fancy to me and always pops a little bit extra in my bilum when I buy from her.

Early rise and off we went back to Nadzab to catch a plane to Goroka. In true PNG style, the plane was supposed to take off at 0730 and arrive 0805. Of course we arrived at 1030, with a side trip to Madang thrown in. We took our stuff off to the Bird of Paradise and left our bags behind the desk and went for a look around the town. Mum was very impressed with the range of bilums lining the street outside the Government offices and was overwhelmed. She wanted to get one to use for the week, but had an issue in deciding what to get, I think her words were "it is like a being a kid in a lolly shop".

We met up with all the volunteer crew as they gradually trickled into Goroka for the AVI in-country meeting that coincided with mums visit. They were usually hanging around the pool at the Bird, as the sun was out and the weather was great. In the afternoon we got a lift in the back of the ute that AVI had hired for the week to the Conference centre about 5 minutes out of town towards Mt Hagen. Personally it was great for me to meet up with all the people that I had came here with and to meet more as well.

I wont go into too many details of the conference over the next two and a half days, suffice to say it was a great time, with a fantastic mix of social and serious discussions. We met various individuals doing amazing work in the community, who were invited to talk with us. We also met more important people from the Government and AusAID who talked about what they were doing.

The group from AVI

During the afternoon on Friday we moved our stuff from the conference centre to Monica's house - a fellow volunteer in Goroka - and then got ready and to go to our first of a lot of culture for for the weekend at the Raun Raun Theatre to see a locally produced performance about the history of PNG. It was great as they used a mix of English for the colonizers and Pidgin for the locals. I sat and interpreted for mum doing the pidgin sequences.

Saturday morning and it was time for the next chunk of culture, where most of it for the weekend came from, at the Goroka Cultural Show or bikpela singsing. This was one of the reason that mum came up at this time of year, and I think it would be safe to say that she was blown away by what she saw.

There were groups from Mt Hagen to Madang and Lae, about 25 in total, all doing their various performances. Some of the best I had to admit were from my province of Morobe, especially the coordination involved in their moves. But in terms of cute factor the winner would have to be by a mile the group from Simbu province who simply sat on top of a plinth and did a show which in lots of head wiggling and looking into each others eyes. The cuteness came from the little kids who sat at the front.

One of the Mangi's (boy) from the head wiggling group

It was a great day and I could talk for ages about it, but it is one of those experiences that really needs to be seen with your own eyes to appreciate, words won't do it justice.

Tomorrow we are heading off to Maimafu in the Crater Mountain wilderness area, directly south of here, unless something happens like more rain, which will mean the airstrip will be too wet to land. We are staying two nights in a guest house before coming back on Wednesday, whereupon we head down to Madang to chill for a bit.