Papua New Guinea 9/7/01

Papua New Guinea – 9/7/01

Subj: 2nd Postcard from PNG
Date: Friday, September 7, 2001 4:17:51 PM

Hello again,

For those of you that are now new to my list, welcome. These letters home may sometimes be short quips, but never count on that. I love to write about my goings-on. Thanks for all the great letters you sent after my first postcard home. Sorry I am so short on time that I can’t respond. Well, I am in Cairns and on my way to Alice Spring today. It is 8:50am on Sat. so in L.A. it is 4pm on Fri. I should be at Ayers rock tomorrow or the next day.

Well, after 15 days in Papua New Guinea, I left with memories that will last me a lifetime. Certain moments will stand out more than others, but I will always remember that each day in a village was like stepping into the pages of National Geographic. There was the contrast of Western Society just around the corner at the nearby modern hotel and modern supermarkets and western clothes mixed with traditional attire.

The cruise ship sailed along beautiful black sand beaches while these beautifully decorated villagers in colorful costumes and shell necklaces and beads would engage us in song and dance in remembrance of their ancestral traditions. The villagers in the coast chew Beetlenut on a regular basis with mustard dipped into lime powder, which is shells that have been burnt, and the lime powder is the residue ash. The result is a huge smile with dark red stained teeth and gums. The coastal homes, woven of Sago Trees and Toddy Palms are built on stilts to protect them from the rising tides. As we sailed across the Bismark Sea to the mouth of the Sepik River, many
sunbathed, while others watched videos on their private screens in each room, while others still, enjoyed socializing by the bar in the main lounge. As it was extremely hot and humid, temperatures near the 100’s, some took the opportunity for a daily snooze, as I did every day. It was great fun having the kids paddle their way to the ship in their traditional dug-out

Some of you have asked how I have been feeling. So, instead of answering individual questions, I’ll send out the overview of my health. Thanks for asking by the way. As it has been so hot, I have had problems with fatigue. I must sleep a couple of hours during the day. Luckily, village trips were early and then again later in the day, which allowed me a chance to regain some energy. I don’t think I realized it would be this tough. Many of you know I had epidurals in my lower back the week before I left. They seem to be working and giving me relief. My right arm is what holds me back a lot. Although I had 3 sets of injections (steroids and some other stuff) in my right arm up to the day before I left. My elbow and right arm give me a lot trouble. There is still this shooting pain that goes down from my right arm down my side in the back. It has been too hot to wear my armband or sling so that hasn’t helped. It is hard to hold my arm up on its own, and since I have to alot, it hurts. With all the pictures I take (19 rolls in PNG), it doesn’t help. Eating can be a problem and using the computer so I have typed these letters in spurts. I have to take many breaks when writing in my journals. Sitting in the plane, the car, or just sitting on the ground for performances has stressed it out a lot as I have no place to rest it. As long as I have a table or armrest, I am fine. It is just not so easy all the time to get accommodated. Anyway, I ice it to relieve it at night to prepare it for the next day. Thanks for letting me share; I think it helps to complain every once in a while. I didn’t want anyone to think I was having too good a time.

Except for that and about 12 mosquito bites so far, I am fine although they itch like no others. I think the worst ones were actually the sand flies. They have a harsh bite but don’t carry diseases. Don’t worry about the bites, I am taking my malaria tablets each week.

At the Kama Village in the Eastern provinces of Goroka, Kesko explained his matrimonial customs to me. He said, “I will share my secret with you because you are friendly”. If a man and wife do not bear a son, he can ask his first wife if he may take on another wife to bear him a son. She has the power to approve or deny him. In Kesko’s case, age 45, he was on his 4th wife. He had wives from 3 other areas and his current wife age 25 is unaware of any of them. He said she is young and beautiful and if she knew of the others, she would kick him away and say you have kids everywhere, you do not need one with me. They have an 8-month-old baby daughter together.

In my Eastern Highlands in Goroka my hotel had the biggest bathtub I had ever seen. It was great. After that, I went to the Kominive Village to see the Asaro Mudmen. This is the only place where they still exist. They put these round white clay masks on their head and paint their bodies white. They are scary looking. That was how it started. They tried to scare their enemies away and it worked. Then I got to wear this heavy thing. It was really huge and weighed a ton on my neck. I don’t know how they went into combat with them on their heads. Then the villagers tried to teach me to shoot the local bow and arrow unlike our traditional one’s. It wasn’t easy
and I finally shot it about 5 feet. They cheered for me. They were a sentimental group.

The Western Highlands of Mt. Hagen are filled with roundhouses defining their owners as single, widowed multiple wives etc. At Dualo Pass, I was able to see the entire region and it was like looking into Coldwater Canyon filled with round huts instead of beautiful stilt homes.

I flew in a Beachcraft Baron from Mt Hagen to Tari, in the Southern Highlands. I spent 2 days there and it was fantastic. I took a 1 1/2 hour trek through the jungle and it was more “jungly” than ones I have been in Africa and South America. It was really tropical rainforesty. Here in Tari are the native Huli Wigmen. They still dress traditionally so it was really
great to see that because you knew they weren’t just dressing for the tourists. They have a very colorful tradition. Looking into their local market was like looking into a rainbow collage of outfits. The village visits here were great and I took lot’s of photos with them. It was really a
great time.

I was then off to Port Moresby where I shipped my few souvenirs home and toured the city. Well, I am back in Australia and I claimed everything to customs including my shoes. The girl, (not the one I dealt with last time), said I was the most thorough tourist she had ever seen. I wasn’t going to take any chances. They took 2 pairs of my shoes to dip them and I was glad
cause it really cleaned them. I was in and out of there. Got through customs and called Kev straight away to say hi, I miss you and told him how much I miss all of you. I hope he tells you. He was a bit out of it as it was 3am but I didn’t know when I’d be able to call again.

He has Casper better now, most of you know Casper has some Kidney failure. It was hard to leave but I know he is in great hands. Well, I better hit send so I can go eat breakfast before boarding my flight.

Forgive the spelling and grammar errors as I type these quickly in spurts and don’t really reread them. Lack of time. I pay by the minute. For those of you that are added since I started this trip, it has been a pleasure meeting you. I’m sure I’ll think of some more to add later about PNG but
this is all for now.

Always in my thoughts and prayers,