Arawa Susa by bobfoto

Arawa Susa

I have mentioned this before, in Papua New Guinea, Bukans, or Bougainvilleans are known as "Blackskins" and the Bukans refer to the mainland PNGeans as "Redskins". The whole calling people by their colour does not have the same impact in PNG. The PNGean accepts being called Black and they are happy to call people like me White. There is no racist overtone about it.

But I digress.

As we drove into Arawa, the Land Cruiser made a noise. We looked under the bonnet and saw a crack just behind the headlight. That needed some kind of mechanical repair. I asked Father Austin whether this car would be available tomorrow so I could head further south to Kieta. I needed to find something down there, and I needed a guide and a car. It was only 16kms away, but I needed wheels.

Father Austin said that yes the car would be ready for tomorrow.

Awesome! Time to wander around town in the afternoon and relax at the Arawa Women's Training Centre. Walking along, the kids were spell bound by the Pied Piper White Guy with the DSLR and they sang songs and posed and laughed and simply kept me company as I wandered around the beautiful streets of Arawa, despite their destroyed buildings.

Oh yeah, Betelnut in Arawa is massive! It is the size of Mandarins. And I found a buai seller, selling small pyramid stacks of the large palm fruit. I figured being a foreigner in a foreign town, if I purchased some Betelnut, then I could exchange that for information as I went looking and wandering in Kieta. I also thought, I'd buy some to take back to Moresby to give to my friend whom introduced me to Father Austin those weeks ago.

I asked the Buai seller "Hamas long wanpela?"

Her response was "Tupela Kina tasol"

I figured that in Moresby, Buai was around 80 toea for one small nut, so 2 Kina here was good value.

I said "Em nau, mi laikim faivpela" and I gave her 10 Kina, and I slowly grabbed 5 individual betelnuts.

This lady knew I was wrong and confused for the price was 2 Kina for each stack! She took my 10 Kina and then proceeded to put aside 5 stacks for me.... a total of 50 nuts!!!! Ai ai ai!

She said "yu laikim sampela plastic", referring to a plastic bag.

I said "Maski plastic, mi gat wanpela bilum huh?"

So we piled 50 betelnuts into my Highlands bilum.

She said "Tenkyu tru David"

I looked puzzled.

Then it clicked.

I became friends with a white man who had a beard and long hair and a DSLR and a sense of adventure and a knockabout larrikin personality and a warm smile and he was living in Bougainville. I discovered in other areas of PNG that David had been there before me, and I was often called David, but I hear that when he went to places that I had beaten him to, he was often called Jason.

The lady apologised and said "All you white guys look alike!" I laughed, she laughed, all the betelnut sellers laughed and I walked off with 50 betelnuts in my bilum.

So the next morning dawns and I wander over to Father Austin's place, next to the Marist Church. I shared out some of my new found Buai wealth and made a whole bunch of new friends. We all sort of sat around... not doing much, just chewing the nut and then I asked Father Austin, what is happening with our car?

"Nogat kar" he said... I was disappointed. I asked if there was any other way and all of my answers were "nogat". I was gutted, I was 16kms away from my goal, and I was thinking of walking.

This lady who posed for my camera then appeared, she was a Sister of the Church and she asked what was wrong, and I told her my plight. She pointed at an old Toyota Hilux and she said "This one belongs to the Church, it goes okay, just need to push start it, here are the keys!"

She deserves a Sainthood.

Photo taken 7 August 2008.
sweet story David ;)
August 9th, 2012  
LOL! Oh that's Silver Medal worthy Calliope! ;)
August 9th, 2012  
@bobfoto I'll try to do better next time ;)
August 9th, 2012  
She has got a great face! And awesome story to go with it :)
August 9th, 2012  
@calliopef - Nah, you can be known as an Honorary Australian!
August 9th, 2012  
@lily - Thanks Laerke, I did feel the need to capture her portrait!
August 9th, 2012  
Great capture Jason. She has amazingly beautifully coloured skin
August 9th, 2012  
Interesting story and portrait. Her eyes look kind of wild to me--would have never taken her for the religious type.
August 9th, 2012  
@stuckinoz - Oh the Bukans are so engaging!

@worldbiking - That's her serious look. When she smiled, her whole expression changed!
August 9th, 2012  
@bobfoto It's an honor! I've always wanted to discover Australia... some years ago I was even planning to go there for working...maybe in some years :D
August 9th, 2012  
@calliopef - I was just playing on our performance in the Olympics... you should visit Australia, it is massive, and has something for everyone!
August 9th, 2012  
@bobfoto For sure, kind of fascinating!
August 9th, 2012  
fantastic portrait
August 9th, 2012  
@abhijit - Thanks Abhijit :)
August 9th, 2012  
This story and portrait sure are silver medal worthy.
August 9th, 2012  
you chewed that stuff, too? well, i guess as the saying goes, while in rome - or png. . .still have your teeth? this woman seems to be just on the verge of friskiness. she looks like a really nice, happy person - great capture.
August 9th, 2012  
Great story and photo once again. What are betelnuts? Are they like chewing gum?
August 9th, 2012  
Very fun story. I keep worrying each day as I read this week. Your promise of a hard one coming has me on edge.
August 9th, 2012  
Looks like she is looking right through you. Love the story, David....I mean Jason.
August 9th, 2012  
cool photo, cool story...as usual :)
August 9th, 2012  
The assignment that i finished writing this week was on pejudice... looking at previous research.. There was one piece of research that was asking participants to give meaning to expressions of either black people or white people in photos.. The participants were all white.. and they could not accuratley guess the correct emotions of the black people.. I criticised this paper, as it should have research different cultures and ethnics, to see if Asian people struggled with white faces etc.. The pure fact that the lovely lady said that all white guys look the same is my case and point on the research.. Research needs to look from all perspectives... I love your story, I love how your skin colour was just your skin colour.. Western world is so fecked up about it all.. I ramble on... sorry :)
August 9th, 2012  
Very nice shot, her eyes look so full of kindness.
August 9th, 2012  
Beautiful beautiful portraits.
August 9th, 2012  
Angels are everywhere.
August 10th, 2012  
Oh !! Those Bukas are so black in the sun their skin has a purple sheen. The only Buka soldier I had in my unit was the most dignified of them all. Lovely capture, continuing great yarn.
August 10th, 2012  
Beautiful portrait. She looks wise
August 10th, 2012  
LOL I so enjoy your stories, I hope to see it in book form soon (with pic). You write real well!!
August 10th, 2012  
@kjarn - Every other Aussie would agree too!

@catsmeowb - She was a lovely person, very softly spoken. And no, I chewed no nut, I was generalising by saying "we all" chewed nut... I kinda meant "they all" chewed the nut. I am a Horticulturist by trade and I have chewed many nuts including palm kernels in the past, and I can't get over the foul taste.

@boatpainter - Oh Janet, if you have time over this coming weekend, go back to Jan 1st of my project, and start reading... throughout the past 8 months I have given a pretty good description of the dreaded Betelnut or Buai as it is called. Basically, and quickly, it is a Palm Nut, that is chewed with Lime Powder and Piper betel stamen. It is a narcotic and PNG is addicted to the stuff!

@tigerdreamer - it is close.

@tthompsonca - hee hee hee... I went to the Football once with David, and people asked if we were brothers! Ha Ha Ha!

@houdiniem - Cheers!

@michelleyoung - Feel free to ramble, I do in every post ;) But yes, it was refreshing to be called white guy or white man, and feel safe enough to call the PNGeans Black kid or Black guy. BUT. It is often the second word that causes the problem. I hated being called White Master and I never called anyone Black Boy. Just wrong on all accounts. And unlike a US couple I saw at the airport, I never wore a Pith Helmet.

@dalboy - She was a kind and wonderful lady of the church.

@ptowncook - Thank you Laura :)

@beckys - Indeed they are.

@tonydebont - Thanks Tony, I'm glad you are enjoying the ride!

@swilde - I think she certainly could have taught me a thing or two.

@leananiemand - Thanks Leana, you got room in your panniers for a "coffee table book"?
August 10th, 2012  
Gosh Jason... really interesting to hear that people still use the reference terms as Master and Boy... Rolls my eyes
August 10th, 2012  
@michelleyoung - Oh it felt bad sometimes....
August 10th, 2012  
Jason, er David, er Jason...what a great story...great photographs...I will pray for her sainthood...it's a long process so they better start now. :-)
August 11th, 2012  
@shamrockinmom - Thanks Sherry, Australia is on the edge of their first ever Saint, and this country will go nuts when it happens. I couldn't imagine how big the celebration would be in Bougainville if it were to happen there!!!
August 11th, 2012  
Jason... I have just sat down with a cuppa and got comfy and read all your adventures... I'm up to date and just exhausted. (And the tea is gone). To think that you lived these adventures.. I imagine it must wear you out to retell them for us?
Great shot of this lady, she has such a kindly, protective look
August 13th, 2012  
@filsie65 - It has been a tough project. I have already downloaded all of the 4,950 photos for the month of September, and I am trying to find only 30 photos and only 30 stories. I believe November will be tough too. October might be a moment of peace and December may be an anti climax.
August 13th, 2012  
gorgeous portrait david.. eh jason! :P
August 23rd, 2012  
@agentzuckerguss - hee hee hee...
August 24th, 2012  
I love the casual warmth your story implies about the people here.
September 3rd, 2012  
@hellcat - They are beautiful.
September 3rd, 2012  
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