09 February 2004

Morobe Field Diary, April 1976

The boat ride to Siboma [in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea] took 10 hours [from Lae]. Darkness came about Salamaua. Shortly after leaving we could see Lasanga Island that lies off Siboma a ways. There was a half moon and all nite the coast was visible. During the day villages were marked by smoke, at nite by lites. The lite of a single lamp can be seen a long way off. And on the boat you could barely hear the person next to you for the sound of the [Yanmar two-cylinder diesel] engine. When the engine stopped everything sounded a bit faraway well into the next morning.

We got in in the middle of the nite and not a lite was shining. I left most of my stuff aboard and went straight off to the kaunsil's house to sleep. He has a couple of rooms facing the sea. He took off to go hunting for pig soon after we got in so I stayed around the next day so I would be here when he got back.

About the time I got up the boat was leaving for the fishing grounds pulling about a dozen outrigger canoes all lined up behind. It puttputted out and got back about dark pulling the canoes back in. Mostly women and children were left behind along with some old men who kindly taught me stuff.

Siboma lies in a cove with mountains surrounding it. There is a narrow stretch of sand with about 3 dozen houses strung out along [it]. The timber company that bought their timber cleared land for a new village on the other side of the cove but only one incomplete house is there now.

There is a pleasant little stream, nice and chilly, to wash in a little ways out of the village. The women's W.C. stands near my end of the village and the men's all the way (100 yds?) at the other end.

Plenty of dogs and chickens abound but no cats and, strangest of all, no pigs. The past kaunsil said to get rid of the ones in the village for sanitary reasons. Though they may keep some down the coast a bit they mostly have to get them in town or hunt for wailpik like the kaunsil does with his shotgun the size of Dan'l Boone's long rifle.

There really are no mosquitoes, it's amazing; and the compensating sandflies don't bother me as much as they seemed to bother [the fieldworker who arranged my stay].

Yesterday, my second full day in the village I had a mild case of diarrhea that affected my appetite and worried my hosts a bit. But this morning I made up for it some by polishing off a whole fish and a huge plate of rice.

There is one crazy ('longlong') man here who wanders around covered by a blanket and one mute I share a room with. Neither does anything all day but each is apparently provided for. Some of the women are from other places but they have learned [the village language].

Today the kaunsil called everyone together and apportioned the work: who's to fish, who's to cut sago, who's to split it, who's to wash it, etc. The sun has withered many of the gardens so people are turning to sago, which is hard work, for their starch. It's good I came equipped with 25 kilos of rice. There are no gardens near the village [not entirely true, as I later found], only some stands of sago and coconut. The women all have to take outriggers to work in their gardens [on the hillsides above the cove].

None of the smaller outriggers are equipped with sails but they are a joy to paddle. There are about three big canoes with masts and a couple more in the making. [In July, I counted 28 canoes in Siboma's cove.]

No comments: