02 April 2004

Morobe Field Diary, November 1976: Trip to Morobe Patrol Post

The kansol's daughter-in-law is going to have a baby so the kansol's wife left us to go attend to her in town. She took her daughter & granddaughter with her so there was no one left to look after the kansol, his son & me, at least not the way she did. She was worried about our meals and arranged with the kansol's sister, who lives next door, to feed us. It turns out however that several families have gotten in on the act so the first week after the kansol's wife left we were getting 3-4 dishes of food (often accompanied by separate meat & vegetable dishes) per meal. One meal we sat down to food provided by 5 different women (5 plates of starch & two meat & vegetable dishes). On top of that several young men caught a load of fish so we were eating fresh fish (including a sizeable lobster) as well.

At the end of the week the kansol & I went to Morobe patrol post for his monthly council meeting (& so I could see the sights). There the ocean is teeming with fish & we ate fresh fish (& lobster again), greens & onions and fresh smoked pig I bought at the market and fresh (tough Oceanic) chicken that our hosts killed and served the day before we left. There are small daily markets there that cater to the gov't workers who must buy their food with cash so my cash was able to keep us in betel nut which we are all very short of in the village.

Our hosts were a Numbami couple. The husband works as a (para)medic. His wife is sister (elder, Aga [1st daughter]) of the kansol's wife (Damiya [3rd daughter]) and there is a special word, goda, to describe the relationship of the medic (dokta boi) and the kansol, who are married to sisters (asuna for females).

Morobe patrol post used to be quite a place with a high radio tower and a notorious jail. The Germans were established there. It is a beautiful spot with a wide protected harbor & good breezes and, like other spots that appeal to European eyes, has lousy garden land. Jungle makes good garden land when cleared. Open land has hard soil and less water.

The kiap (gov't official) received me about as cordially as I received him when he came to Siboma (neutrally) and I spent most of my time with my wantoks. I also got in a good bit of English conversation with the medical officer-in-charge who I told about Hawaii & who told me, among other things, an interesting war story about New Ireland, where was stationed before. I also got a heavy does of American newscaster English on election day. I listened in about 2 hour spurts from 7 am, when the southern states were lining up behind Carter, to about 6 pm, when Carter made his acceptance speech--much more easily endured times than you folks [in the U.S.] had to endure. It all seemed so unreal & faraway that I listened with a good deal of detachment--I wasn't excited that Carter won though I preferred him to Ford.

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