03 March 2004

Morobe Field Diary, August 1976: Traders, Workers, and Dogs

Last nite the [M.V.] Suena Dubu, a ship belonging to the people around Morobe Patrol Post down the coast a ways, came in and offered goods for sale, a floating store. Seems a German business advisor had his girlfriend (who spoke little English) come to visit and conceived of this business venture as an excuse for getting her (& him) around to see the real New Guinea. I bought tobacco & crackers [ship biscuits] which I was running short of and exchanged a few words with the German man, in about half Tok Pisin, half Tok Inglis, and generally milled around with the other villagers when the two & a few of their (PNGean) crew came ashore to buy a few things. That nite I put on Bach's Brandenburg Concertos 4, 5, & 6 and let it drift out over the water for them but I'm not sure it was loud enough. They slept aboard the boat, did some business in the morning and chugged out a few hours ago.

The line between me and everyone else in the village expands to include me in the presence of outsiders.

This morning there was a demonstration (one sign) by the fishermen in the village demanding 20 toea/lb for their fish (a 100% raise over the present 10t/lb). They enjoyed themselves.

After most of the week hibernating working on my dictionary, I was getting sore sitting down so much and quite irritated at being interrupted. Part of the irritation was from the fact that I had nothing to share with people verbally. But by Thursday I had pretty much caught up and had about had it so when a younger guy was getting people to beat sago I volunteered. It was the tree of the kolapa (young, i.e., unmarried, man) and mostly it was kolapas who did the work though three ewekapas (young women) helped with the carrying of the pulp to the washers. I raised my blisters again just when my last crop was peeling off and managed to break all but one so my hands are usable if a bit sore today.

Today I accompanied the kaunsil's family to the garden (the second time I've been there). It was just what I needed to stretch my legs, change my scenery and snatch some real peace & quiet. We walked all the way up and over the top of the ridge which I estimate to be about 200 meters above sea level and follows a slope of about 50-60 degrees. The kaunsil is cutting a new canoe just over the top of the ridge. Getting it down to the water is going to be real fun. Getting ourselves down in the rain today was treacherous enough.

I finished Hyman's phonology text except for the chapter on generative formalisms. I'm well pleased to have brot it with me. But I got hungry for fiction so I dug out an abridged Don Quixote (432 pp.) and have been enjoying it immensely.

The kaunsil's prize hunting dog that is well behaved and can shake hands (having been raised by a European) as well as leap over wild pigs contracted mange that threatened to destroy his beautiful yellowish-brown coat. I went to town and got some medicine but no one has gotten around to putting it on and the hair continues to drop off, scabs rise and even the hair remaining has lost its luster. And sympathy has begun to turn to disgust--so strange are human emotions. Saving a dog's skins is just not high on the list of priorities, most of which are subsistence level--repairing the old canoes that were on the verge of falling to pieces, finishing the veranda on my house, cutting the new canoe, gathering food from the garden and preparing it.

Several people have mentioned I'm getting fat! It shouldn't be surprising but for my usual inability to do so. It does seem like I've put on a pound or two. I bet if I shaved people would think I was emaciated.

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