09 April 2004

Morobe Field Diary, December 1976: Texts on Tape

Texts on tape have been eluding me and getting me worried as hell. I felt something would turn up but I wasn't sure how and how good it would be. Well, last nite I hit a gold mine. During the day the kansol put out a story of war [WW II] coming to the area that was 1st class -- well organized, clear and slow with good constructions I've wanted and a sprinkling of new vocabulary. And I forgot to press the record button. I was ready to bash in my head but the kansol said, "well, good, now you've heard it so you'll understand it better next time: I've practiced telling it and you've practiced hearing it. Let's go chop some poles for a smoking platform and come back and try again this evening."

Physical labor was, along with less worry about tapes, exactly what I needed to dispel a case of hemorrhoids that was plaguing me. That done, we came back, rested up and that evening after dark I hauled out the tape recorder and the kansol told his story again -- not as good as during the day but covering very much the same material and almost exactly the same length. Before his wife put her account of the preparation of food by women, another fellow came by who is chock full of stories and has a clear slow way of speaking besides. He lives in Paiewa but is visiting thank God. He told a good personal experience war story with Japanese pidgin ["A, banana sabis, ye?" = ('banana free, okay?') uttered by a starving Japanese straggler], conversation and dangerous experiences. He also told a somewhat shorter story about a woman who didn't want to get married, supposedly true from before contact times. His war story is about 35-40 min. (This guy's brother is a truck driver on the Mt. Hagen to Lae [Highlands Highway] run and is such a talker that his cab mates don't get any sleep on the 12 or so hour ride.) Finally the kansol's wife put her piece on tape clearly & concisely. I've got about 70-80 minutes of unbroken talking on the several cassettes I went thru last nite. I want to transcribe as much as I can here so I can get unstuck as I go along.

The day before, in my desperation I recorded some old men who got together to put something on tape after putting me off several times. They got together, bullshat about what they were going to say and decided they would do it better later. I got some revenge by surreptitiously recording them but it's going to be hard to transcribe. That nite I was carrying my recorder to ask a man to tell me about canoe-building (another promise). I started talking with some kids around a fire and secretly pressed the record button. It too will be hard to transcribe but has good mixed language conversation (30 min.). [The two surreptitious tapes remain untranscribed.] So, I'm breathing much easier and my asshole itching less.

No comments: