Heritage & culture Feed

Bundaberg issues historic blackbirding apology

Pacific Islanders on a Queensland sugar plantation (State Library of Queensland)
Pacific Islander slave labour on a Queensland sugar plantation (State Library of Queensland)

JOHANNA MARIE & STEPHANIE DOOLE
| ABC Wide Bay

BUNDABERG - The stone walls that stretch along Bundaberg's farms are a stark and lasting reminder of the history of slavery in the region, but the community has taken a step forward to begin the healing process.

In an Australian first, Bundaberg's mayor Jack Dempsey is issuing a formal apology to the region's South Sea Islander community for the practice of blackbirding.

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The book that went missing for 50 years

Marie Reay
Marie Reay wrote the the first, book on women’s lives in the PNG Highlands. It was not discovered for 50 years (Noel Butlin)

FRANCESCA MERLAN

Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society by Marie Olive Reay. Francesca Merlan (ed). ANU Press 2014. 268 pages. ISBN 97819250212155 (paperback). Link here for free download

Marie Reay (1922-2004) was an Australian anthropologist, best known for work in the New Guinea Highlands. The manuscript for Wives and Wanderers was discovered in 2011, seven years after her death and 50 years after she had made her last amendments to it. Editor Francesca Merlan did a fine job in bringing it to publication and providing a valuable and stimulating Introduction. Some edited extracts follow - KJ

CANBERRA - Wives and Wanderers presents vivid, ethnographically based narrative of the lives of women of the Wahgi Valley in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Marie Reay explores the experiences of courting, attraction, love, marriage, and the combination of male dominance and barely restrained female resentment and rebelliousness.

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N’gego – Melanesia’s house of governance

Haus Tambaram  Palambei  Middle Sepik
Haus Tambaran, Palambei, Middle Sepik. Duncan Gavin argues that PNG’s Parliament House should not be called a Haus Tambaran

DUNCAN GABI
| Aunamelo Independent Blog

MADANG – Papua New Guinea’s parliament house is one of the world’s most fascinating examples of public architecture.

The building incorporates various structural features found in PNG but the design that dominates is the architectural style of Maprik in East Sepik Province.

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System we gave PNG just doesn’t work

Parliament
Westminster system spared Papua New Guinea nothing, not even the Speaker 's wig

PAUL OATES

CLEVELAND – It has taken me a long time to reach an understanding of what the problem was leading up to Papua New Guinea’s independence.

At the time, in the 1970s, the thought process was that the Westminster system works for us in Australia, this we can impose this obviously working system as a unifying force for a people and their many hundreds of cultures.

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Put politics last: Let’s stop reversing evolution

V2050MICHAEL DOM

LAE - How do we return Papua Niugini to a culture of Melanesian cooperation and how can the common people make those in power behave responsibly?

According to the evolutionary perspective, the birthplace of democracy was the tribe. Indeed, tribalism is sometimes referred to as ‘primitive democracy’.

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Thoughts of then, now & cultural variance

Road building  Pindiu  Morobe District  1965 (Frank Haviland)
Road building,  Pindiu,  Morobe District,  1965 (Frank Haviland)

JIM MOORE

WARRADALE - In the late 1960s, as a young kiap based at Mt Hagen Sub-District Office, I was assigned to supervise work on a new feeder road.

It led off the Hagen-Togaba main road and heading north towards Bukapena in the Mul Council area, perhaps eight kilometres out of Hagen.

Part of the construction through a small hill had resulted in a cliff 10-15 metres high that had to be reduced to allow the road to be widened using the stock tools of the time - picks and long-handled spades.

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Needed: A compact between govt & people

ContractSTEPHEN CHARTERIS

CAIRNS – Michael Dom is right (Two questions long struggled with) in asking how can Papua New Guinea return to cooperation and how can the common people hold power to account and keep it responsible?

No one doubts the absolute necessity for a strong well-governed and administered political centre.

A modern nation state does not exist without it.

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Two questions long struggled with

Sweet-potato-farming-Southern-Highlands
Sweet potato farming in the Southern Highlands - communal sharing for mutual benefit is the Melanesian Way

MICHAEL DOM

LAE – Power, power, power. Yeah, sure.

In Papua New Guinea subsistence agriculture is a basic mode of living, resources are communally shared and political power is gained and maintained by the assurance of mutual benefit for all.

It can be challenging to understand that the infant national character (that which emerged through parliamentary democracy) doesn't know what to do about the vast wealth made available to it.

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PNG must make people the centre of power

PeopleSTEPHEN CHARTERIS

CAIRNS - Patrick Angrai’s article, Death of a Teacher, hit me hard too. Firstly sadness, then anger.

Death in childbirth, through lack of timely referral or resources, is so horribly common in rural settings and often goes unreported.

As Arthur Williams has said, how can this happen in such a resource rich country?

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Report calls for laws against witchdoctors

Glasmeri (witch-finder) recanting her accusations (Anton Lutz)
A glasmeri witch-finder repudiates her previous accusations against an alleged 'sorcerer'(Anton Lutz)

KEITH JACKSON

‘Sorcery accusation-related violence in Papua New Guinea: The role of glasman/glasmeri as catalysts of accusation and violence’ by Miranda Forsyth, William Kipongi, Anton Lutz, Philip Gibbs, Fiona Hukula & Ibolya Losoncz, Issues Paper 36, National Research Institute of PNG. July 2021. Link here to the full research report

PORT MORESBY – A National Research Institute report says many incidents of sorcery-accusation violence in Papua New Guinea are triggered by glasman or, less commonly, female glasmeri.

A glasman or glasmeri (witch doctor) is a person skilled in interpreting and using supernatural forces, including the identification of people who are sorcerers.

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Further adventures in Tok Pisin

TopKEITH JACKSON

NOOSA - My romp through Tok Pisin the other day brought some amusing embellishments from readers.

I've packaged these into this brief piece, along with other information about how you might pursue an interest in this most eloquent language.

When Phil Fitzpatrick returned to Papua New Guinea in 1997, more than 20 years after he had finished his service as a kiap (patrol officer), he worked in oil and gas exploration and, later, in social mapping.

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You’re 'katim lewa' & I’m 'ai gumi'

Pisin
Sign 1
 Public announcement. Don't pick the flowers. [Don't] dump rubbish everywhere. This is a school!
Sign 2
Read, think, speak and write English

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – One of the great pleasures of entering Melanesia’s linguistic gateway is to discover the realm of Tok Pisin, with its animated rhythms, vibrant style, and idioms as creative and colourful as a political promise.

Melanesian Pidgin emerged in the south-west Pacific during the late second half of the 19th century on copra and sugarcane plantations to which labour was imported from Melanesia, Malaysia and China.

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750 languages but no word for maintenance

An unmaintained road in Lae  PNG's second largest city
An unmaintained road in Lae PNG's second largest city

GRAHAM KING

YUNGABURRA - The Collins English dictionary defines the word ‘maintain’ as the ‘to keep in proper or good condition’.

And, of course, it is a standard procedure for a successful business to always allocate funds in its budget for repair and maintenance.

Potholes must be filled before they become enormous craters; engine oil must be changed according to the manufacturer’s schedule; tyres must be replaced when worn out. And so a very long list goes on.

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There’s a lot in a name in highlands Melpa

MelpaFR GARRETT ROCHE

DUBLIN – Some people who read the article on Fr Clement Papa and his family may be wondering how it happens that six brothers came to have six different surnames.

Anthony Kunump, Thomas Webster, Paulus Ripa, Joseph Palimi, Jeffrey Pup, Clement Papa - all with different surnames and all sons of the same father, Pius Pi Kumbamung.

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Regarding the perfect Melanesian gentleman

The late Sir Buri and Dame Carol Kidu
The late Sir Buri Kidu, with his wife Dame Carol Kidu, is considered to have exemplified the Melanesian gentleman - ""Quiet, but confident with his profession / An honest expression and eyes that don’t lie"

MICHAEL DOM

LAE – It is my observation that true Papua New Guinean gentlemen respond with quiet confidence, not in brash retaliation.

In 2016, writing to encourage creative and intellectual contributions to the theme of 'The Perfect PNG Gentleman', I wrote:

The article was inspired by the prose poem 'Perfect Gentleman' by Dolorose Atai Wo'otong, which is good to reflect upon in the current situation relating to the University of Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "Regarding the perfect Melanesian gentleman" »


Violence: Driven by men with fragile egos

MN
Martyn Namorong

MARTYN NAMORONG
| First published in PNG Attitude, March 2011

PORT MORESBY - Apart from the ‘f’ word, what is the most common explicit used by Papua New Guineans? It is the Pidgin ‘k’ word that refers to the vagina.

Heterosexual intercourse is described in Pidgin as kilim pik [kill a pig] or pasim sua [dress a wound].

It is an everyday experience to hear these descriptive terms on the streets of this nation.

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Bride price today: abuse & exploitation

bride price
The modern bride price system, corrupted by foreign influence and culture, has made the man the centre of attention

DUNCAN GABI

MADANG - Bride price is a notable Melanesian tradition passed from one generation to another; it is a form of payment or dowry to the bride’s family by the groom.

Traditionally, bride price was a gesture of appreciation towards the parents and relatives of the family who had raised a woman with traditional moral values.

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The long tradition of orators & wordsmiths

Road opening  Jimi  1970 (Tom Webster)
The Jimi people gather for a road opening in 1970. There will be many speeches. They will be long (Tom Webster)

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Older Papua New Guineans will recall the role of oratory or speech-making by clan and tribal leaders.

Many kiaps and other field staff will also remember those times when hundreds of people gathered to hear the words of these important people, not least because they were expected to take part and contribute.

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Sana: The making of a great man

SanaDIANE HIRIMA & MINETTA KAKARERE
Academia Nomad | Edited

Michael Somare: Sana, An Autobiography

PORT MORESBY - Sana was first published in 1975, the year of Papua New Guinea’s independence. It traces Sir Michael Somare life from childhood to politics and his leading PNG to nationhood.

Sana (peacemaker) is a metaphor for a life lived both in upholding and fulfilling traditional obligations and enabling the transformation to modernity.

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The unfortunate Lucy Maino controversy

Lucy Maino
Lucy Maino - An innocent victim of deep-seated misogyny or offended Christianity? Or perhaps both

AVDOH D MEKI

PORT MORESBY - Lucy Maino is best known as a Papua New Guinean footballer and recently Miss Pacific and PNG 2019-20.

Because of Covid, her tenure was extended into 2021 but she was released from duties by the MPIP governing body earlier this month after a video she posted on TikTok triggered a social media storm.

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Oro harmony: Say sori before the sun sets

(The Man Who Would Not Die)
Peace-making in Oro culture (Photo from 'The Man Who Would Not Die')

CAROLINE EVARI
| Ples Singsing

PORT MORESBY – Early in the evening of Saturday30 January at around 7:30, my family hosted small peace-making ceremony here in Port Moresby.

Leading into the new year, there had been some misunderstanding amongst my older siblings’ daughters that resulted in dispute and disharmony between several family members.

Continue reading "Oro harmony: Say sori before the sun sets" »


You will not colonise my children’s names

Simbu children (Simbu Children Foundation)
Sil Bolkin - "The names I chose for my children are saintly names from Simbu" (Simbu Children Foundation)

KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

PORT MORESBY - Duncan Gabi must be thanked for raising the issue of 'decolonising the mind'.

I am a practicing Roman Catholic but all my eight children have traditional Simbu and Aroma Coast names.

When I took my first two children to the priest to enrol for baptism, the priest asked for their names.

Continue reading "You will not colonise my children’s names" »


Cash-craving relatives shun death traditions

The life and death of Imbakey Okuk
Segment of screenprint, 'The life and death of Imbakey Okuk' by Mathias Kauage (1987)

KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

PORT MORESBY - At the dawn of time, all humans were born to toil the earth for sustenance until they grew grey hairs and died of old age.

But this is not always the case.

Some few dudes and lasses are born into a dome of privilege and have never have sweat on their brows before old age strikes and they dutifully depart.

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Decolonisation & the changing of our names

TribesmenDUNCAN GABI
| Aunamelo | Edited

PORT MORESBY - While many people think decolonisation means just breaking away from colonisers and getting political independence, there’s more to it than the average mind can ever comprehend.

I am not going to write on political or economic decolonisation but on cultural decolonisation which I believe is the first step to take in the decolonisation process.

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Tok Pisin’s emergence as a literary language

Dom
Michael Dom - "People think English is the only language ‘good enough’ to demonstrate their capacity to write creatively. This is a silly notion that needs to change in order for PNG to really have a thriving creative writing culture"

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – Michael Dom, an established and most readable poet, has in recent years occasionally delved into the intricacies of translating his poetry between English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu.

Translation of this kind is a high art because it goes beyond the literal into often complex metaphors that do not translate readily from one language to another.

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How the bilum reached Rangiora

Bilum-weaving at the Palmerston North -part of the Melanesian world view (Laurens Ikinia)
Bilum-weaving at the Palmerston North - part of the Melanesian worldview (Laurens Ikinia)

LAURENS IKINIA
| Asia Pacific Report | Extracts

AUCKLAND - Papua New Guinean academics and community leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand tackle their concerns about climate change and mental health issue in the Pacific through a traditional and famous craft – weaving bilums.

Late last year, a Papua New Guinea cultural language week was held by the PNG Community Trust in Manawatu region at Rangiora Community Hall in Palmerston North.

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A monument to the Grand Chief

Jordan Dean top
Jordan Dean says PNG should honour Sir Michael Somare with a monument and memorial park

JORDAN DEAN

SYRACUSE, USA - Winter in upstate New York can sometimes be unforgiving. Last month, the temperatures dropped to minus 25 degree Celsius in February and I had to double sweaters.

My apartment heater has been on since November. Thank God, there have been no power outages.

Apart from the beautiful eighteenth century architecture, the thing I love about Syracuse are the statues and monuments.

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Sukundimi: Guardian of the mighty Sepik

Sepik sunset
Sunset over the mighty Sepik

DUNCAN GABI

GOROKA - The mighty Sepik River has existed since the dawn of time, twisting and turning, forming a wide belt of active meanders and fish-populated great lakes.

This great river, its banks adorned with lianas, sago palms, and pandanus, deposits vast amounts of fresh water into the ocean.

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Parking your wife, or 'marit antap long marit’

Png sceneKELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

PORT MORESBY – While Papua New Guinea has a couple of matrilineal societies, the majority of our many cultures are patrilineal, meaning the heirs to the land are male.

If a woman gives birth to sons, she is respected by her husband’s family, although this does not mean she is always safe.

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I walked on bilums. I’m sorry

Marape - Feet of the chiefsJAMES MARAPE MP

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape recently visited Kainantu and, upon his arrival, walked along a prepared pathway of bilums, the woven string bags that are utilitarian, symbolic of the strength of women and culturally very meaningful. The prime minister’s action generated significant public rebuke, which he sought to address in this response - KJ

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Why that Lowy incident will be remembered

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson
Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson - "Respect is taught and driven home in every aspect of our lives"

LAGIPOIVA CHERELLE JACKSON
| Medium

SAMOA - When the editor of the Lowy Institute’s, The Interpreter, called leaders of the Pacific Islands ‘toddlers’ and referred to the stance by Micronesian Leaders as ‘tantrums’, it could have easily been yet another condescending article by an Australian journalist who thought he knew better than all of us put together.

But this time, it was different.

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Bousimae, the chief who resisted colonisation

Waide - Bousimae  the Binandere chief
Bousimae, the Binandere chief

SCOTT WAIDE
| My Land, My Country

LAE - Papua New Guinea is a collection of nations, each with its own rich history.

Much of that history has been lost and much needs to be told.

The stories need to be told not in the context of the 200 years of colonialism, but from the perspective of our elders and based on 60,000 years of unwritten precolonial history.

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Mr Marape & the tenacity of PNG writers

BookshelfDANIEL KUMBON
MICHAEL DOM
AG SATORI
PHILIP FITZPATRICK
Edited by Keith Jackson

“To all my children across our beautiful and blessed country, have hope and faith that you too can make it in life and make use of your time and talents by working hard wherever God has placed you in our diverse and blessed land of PNG” – James Marape, ‘Advice for young people: You’re here for a purpose’

DANIEL KUMBON – THE HEARTBEAT OF PNG

WABAG - You know prime minister, your words are gold for children of this country. Your direct message can impact their lives at an early age.

Your words can get them off Facebook and get them into a library full of books.

Continue reading "Mr Marape & the tenacity of PNG writers" »


The beauty of the haus krai

Enga mourning
Simulation of an Enga mourning ritual (Daniel Kumbon)

JOE HERMAN

SEATTLE, USA – Over the years, the haus krai [mourning rituals] concept has evolved and changed its spiritual framing.

Growing up in Enga, my first childhood experience of death was the loss of my second mother.

She had been confined in bed for several days from an illness. We had no access to medical assistance and she was unresponsive to the rituals administered.

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PNG’s mercenary funerary rituals

Wapenamanda burial (Barry Taverner)
Wife of deceased sits atop his body at Wapenamanda mourning , late 1960s (Barry Taverner)

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG – One of the many rare photographs in my new book, 'Victory Song of Pingeta's Daughter', is an image of an elderly woman sitting on the wrapped body of a warrior killed in tribal war that has been hung on a pole.

Below the body and her, other women mourn. How she climbed on to the pole, I do not know.

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Toroama reaches out to ‘King’ Noah

Historic meeting between Musingku and Toroama
The historic first meeting between U-Vistract's Noah Musingku and Bougainville's President Toroama (Anthony Kaybing)

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – The Bougainville government continues to make headway in unifying his people as it prepares for consultations with the Papua New Government on independence for the autonomous province.

And on Friday it was with unity in mind that Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama met with U-Vistract leader Noah Musingku.

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The day the crocodile god walked

Korogu haus tambaran
The Korogu haus tambaran

DUNCAN GABI
| My Land, My Country | Edited

MADANG - On Wednesday 16 December, 2020, the Save the Sepik team of volunteers departed Wewak to begin a one-week patrol to the upper Sepik river to talk to the people about Frieda mine.

We arrived at Pagwi waterfront at about 3pm and from there took a 20 meter dugout motor canoe and headed down river towards Korogu, a village built on the banks of the Sepik.

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The importance of language in culture

Culture-LanguagePHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY – In his essay, Tok Pisin, Tok Motu na Tok Ples, Michael Dom starts with the question, “If Tok Pisin is the language expression of our lifestyle and our intermingled cultures” then what does this language say about us as a people?”

Later in the essay, he writes: "We are educating the native languages out of our societies and along with them entire visualisations and expressions of the human experience.

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Tok Pisin, Tok Motu na Tok Ples

Tok-pisin-rootsMICHAEL DOM
| Full references at end of essay

LAE - If Tok Pisin is the language expression of our lifestyle and our intermingled cultures” (1) then what does this language say about us as a people?

As first-language English-speaking Papua Niuginians, my siblings and I were introduced to Tok Pisin during our late primary and secondary school years.

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The scandal of PNG's massive cultural loss

TribesmenPHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - The republishing of Bomai Witne’s 2014 article on how difficult it is for many Papua New Guineans to distinguish how much their cultural perceptions belong to tradition on the one hand and colonialism on the other prompts my further exploration.

It seems that the link with the past for many people, particularly children, in modern day Papua New Guinea is growing more and more tenuous as the years go by.

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Merry Christmas PNG, with love from Emma

Emma-Wakpi
Emma Wakpi - "There are kinks in the cultures and ways of my people and I continue to struggle against them. But for the most part I am at peace"

EMMA WAKPI
| Published in PNG Attitude, 25 December 2012

MY DEAREST MOTHERLAND - I am writing this letter on the eve of Christmas to let you know how much I love and appreciate you.

This time of the year reminds us of what we should be thankful for and of what love is really all about.

Often times we argue so much about what is wrong and right and how it’s supposed to be done nowadays.

Continue reading "Merry Christmas PNG, with love from Emma" »


Heritage, culture, Christianity & change

Bomai
Bomai Witne - "It is a challenging time to assess whether and how we want to keep a link with our tribal heritage. Some of us are struggling"

BOMAI D WITNE
| Published in PNG Attitude, 24 December 2014

GOROKA – What did I inherit from my tribal and national ancestors who migrated here some 50,000 years ago and what did I inherit from colonialism?

I have to find answers to these questions and the answers are hard to find.

I was born in Imil-Tomale, a remote hamlet, under the shade of pandanus trees and clothed with soft and tender leaves.

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The worm catchers of Sialum

Reef off Sialum
Reef and atoll off Sialum typical of where 'Christmas' worm catchers ply their trade

PAUL OATES
| Published in PNG Attitude, 25 December 2011

CLEVELAND, QLD - Sialum patrol post was situated on the north-eastern tip of the Huon Peninsula about 60 miles north of Finschhafen, the sub district headquarters.

I say ‘about 60 miles’ because Rudi, the Lutheran missionary at Kalasa, and Hans, the Lutheran agricultural extension officer always argued about how far it was.

Continue reading "The worm catchers of Sialum" »