18 February 2004

Morobe Field Diary, June 1976: Fieldworker's Frustration

Before setting out for Karsimbo I felt the first severe case of fieldworker's frustration. I was tired of being unignored, or scaring kids, of being hailed for doing the least bit of work. And though my reports and dictionaries were proceeding well I realized my speaking/hearing ability was a disappointment to both me and the rest of the village. Partly it was the necessary swing back from total communication and little work to lots of work and little communication. I didn't take my work to Karsimbo and spent more time communicating and doing things I could describe to people in the village that they didn't already know about beforehand. I talked about my solo walk up the mountain to see if I could see Kui. I ended up seeing Salamaua Peninsula and the mountain ranges behind Lae (or at least their clouds) but not Kui because the angle wasn't right. And I didn't get lost (as I had been warned I might). I followed the huge caterpillar swaths [logging roads] and only turned back when the road I was following was overgrown too much and I heard a not unsizeable creature 'break bresh'. I came down the mountain feeling quite invigorated and rehearsing my description of my excursion, finding, a little to my surprise, that I could say about all I wanted to say.

Back at camp my hosts had gone en masse to bring back a pig a guy with us had killed and so I went over to another group who had just finished fighting saksak [pounding sago] and told [them] I had climbed the mountain, not seen Kui but seen Salamaua, heard plenty of hornbills and not got lost, all in Binga N. and in return was offered betelnut, talked about a bit and informed that now I had heard Binga N. finish. It was just the sort of success I needed to bolster my spirits and encourage my teachers.

I came back to Siboma telling stories of the two pigs that guy killed--one with a spear made from a speargun--and of beating kundu [sago], which is not waitman's work.

The last day there they forced me not to help with a third sago palm they were helping someone else do but on the way back I got the big paddle [not the kid's paddle they gave me on the way there] and paddled like a maniac to dispel my lethargy. I sat in the front where I would affect the steering less and just did most of the power stroking while my mama ('father') and awa ('mother') took turns keeping the canoe on course and paddling. Part of the fun of this kind of fieldwork is getting to readolesce all over again as well as play with kids on their level--all for science of course. So my brief dumps down in which I found myself last weekend are dispelled and I've set aside my dictionary work for a while to start talking more. This weekend I'm in good spirits--partly because I'm heading into Lae for a day or two. And when I get back with my new supplies I will be able to go visiting with more grace (i.e. goods) and confidence. And people are beginning to talk to me in B.N. off the bat now after I began to start every communication in B.N. leaving Tok Pisin for the reserves.

I torture the kaunsil with thoughts of the cold beer waiting for me at the other end of my boat ride. I plan to bring back a case, along with a thousand other items.

No comments: