May 20, 2005

We are currently at the Feni Islands off the east coast of New Ireland. We left Kavieng last week and stopped for one night at Tabar before pushing on to here. We have motored the whole time as there is no wind. The anchorage is lovely and protected. There are several families near where we are and the people are lovely and welcoming.

They are very interested in trading things unfortunately they don’t have a lot to trade except some fruit and vegetables. We make ridiculous trades like a kilo of rice for a huge cucumber. All the fruit and vegetables here seem huge and the skins super thick. I guess that’s the natural way and we in the west have bred fruit with thin skins. I don’t know really but the grapefruit here is the size of soccer balls and the cucumbers are like melons. We basically just have decided to give gifts of rice and sugar (all pretty cheap items) and they are thrilled. They did say they will buy it from us which I thought showed a lot of pride but we feel pretty stupid taking 50 cents from people who probably make $100 a year. I give lollipops to the kids and Jonah gives his old toys of which he has small mountains.

The anchorage is tucked in behind a small islet and we had to move the first time because it was too shallow and we were hitting coral heads. The coral is lovely around here – amazing perfect stuff right in front of where people live. The current can pick up between the main island and the little islet. This morning I heard some voices shouting and I saw three tiny kids had taken one the big outrigger canoes and where being taken away from shore by the current. The Dad started swimming after them and I got in the rowboat (we decided not to use the inflatable) and went to rescue the little kids. I got hold of the canoe and the little kids (around 3 years old) promptly started screaming in terror. I guess being swept away was scary but being saved by a crazy white woman in shorts and sunglasses proved to be too much. I held the canoe till the dad caught up and we brought the boat along side the Queen Jane. A dugout canoe even with an outrigger is a fairly unstable craft and is tricky to get into from the water. The dad climbed onto our swim ladder while I swung the canoe around so he could get in. He said the kids were just playing in the shallows until the current grabbed the boat. Kids! Two of them were identical twins called Jordan and Zordan.

Yesterday I rowed in two trips 10 kids to the little islet so everyone could play. I sat with the girls while they tried to teach me a little song and game. You had three rocks one held in your palm while you bounced the second one up and down and the third you hit the rock in your palm on certain beats.

Off we go off we go off we go to Goroka and Port Moresby.

We come we go we go we come to Goroka and Port Moresby.

I was miserable at it and they giggled like mad at my attempts. I rowed the girls to the Queen Jane and let them look around for a bit on deck and then took them back to land. Jonah had lots of fun running around and getting the big guys to carve spears for him from bamboo sticks lying around.

I am very impressed with the English language skills that many of the people have here. They all speak their own language, PNG pidgin, and some also speak English. Phew the language skills these people have are quite impressive. There are about 700 different distinct languages in PNG so pidgin is the lingual franca. It’s a bit different from Vanuatu pidgin but very much the same mutilated English that missionaries decided to teach because they thought the locals were too dumb. So to forget is “tinktink lusim” – if you say it out loud you realize its “think think lose them”. Or “em i haus bilong yu stap?” which is “Where is your house?”. But faced with a local talking at a fast clip – its hard to make out much of what they are saying, except for a word here or there which makes you think you might have a clue as to what they are staying. The girls on the beach asked me where I was from and I said USA and then when they looked confused I said “United States of America” and they all broke into smiles and repeated my words to each other.