Susan by bobfoto

Susan

When we made arrangements for this walk down the mountain, we asked for a female guide, firstly to offer some companionship for my GF and secondly because I had seen some ladies working the Kokoda Track, and the Trekking company whom I knew very well was operated by a lady and Betty's Lodge was operated by Betty, so we were trying to keep the male-orientated trekking business in PNG honest.

It is obvious in PNG that the men are unsure of a female who is confident and open to handshakes and communication, so my GF did not want a quiet walk down the mountain with a bunch of shy boys. So Susan came along for the journey.

Susan is Betty's Sister and the Mother of Ken the Raskol. The other two lads, Boss Ishmael and Shy Lucas, I wasn't sure where they slotted in, but they were definitely nephews in some way.

We expected Susan to be our guide, we didn't want to burden her with carrying a pack, but we also knew that she had spent a great deal of her life carrying sweet potatoes up steep mountains and well the pack was pretty light by comparison. Susan hoisted the backpack onto her shoulders, we made some strap adjustments and we started to walk... about one hour late Susan dropped the pack to the ground, pulled out one her large Sweet Potato bilums and laid the pack sideways across the bilum. She then tied a huge knot in the two ends and swung the bilum up over her head so the knot rested on the top of her hair. This was the traditional way she would carry sweet potatoes so this was the way she would carry an expensive purpose built hiking pack.

Oh and yes, Susan hiked along with just her bare feet.

Susan has travelled with her sister Betty (who is quite a successful pioneering businesswoman of PNG) and Susan has seen cities that I only dream of. She has been to London and New York and travels regularly to Brisbane and Sydney. But when she is home in PNG, she tends to her sweet potato patch and looks after the many children of her village.

I don't think anything could faze Susan.

Photo taken 13 November 2008
I must start reading all this...but I want to say..I am so overwhelmed by your ability to capture the human spirit! Breath taking!
November 23rd, 2012  
Very beautiful story Jason and a very Interesting one and a lovely portrait of Susan .
November 23rd, 2012  
Lovely story and shot!!
November 23rd, 2012  
Great portrait series here Jason.
November 23rd, 2012  
@angelamartel - Thanks Angela, that is sweet of you to say. :)

@gerry - Thanks Gerry!

@carolmw - Cheers Carol, thank you.

@corymbia - yeah I kinda knew that these 4 shots needed to be grouped together. Images of the trek itself start tomorrow.
November 23rd, 2012  
I always love reading your stories. I should pop up to the Kokoda one of these days. I friend of mine went a few weeks ago and he had a blast.
November 23rd, 2012  
@agima - you should. Kokoda is a great walk. This one here, the Bundi Highway is easier and shorter but has less tourism traffic.
November 23rd, 2012  
i completly agree with angela....you really do have a way of capturing the human spirit jason!! fantastic story once again.
November 23rd, 2012  
@kdimagery - Thanks Kd :) you have always been so supportive of my 365 project! Thank you. #:0)
November 23rd, 2012  
Awesome portrait. Techie-backpack-makers be darned!
November 23rd, 2012  
Susan is a very strong woman in so many ways and an example to the female of the species! Good photo here on the track!
November 23rd, 2012  
@archaeofrog - Thanks Katie, and it amazing to see how much more comfortable she was with the pack in her bilum.

@maggiemae - She is Maggiemae. I met many women in PNG who I thought worthy of some kind of recognition, they were so very determined.
November 23rd, 2012  
Fabulous story and what a woman!
November 23rd, 2012  
love this series of portraits! :)
November 23rd, 2012  
@kjarn - Fantastic lady!

@agentzuckerguss - Thanks Katia, they were all great to not pose... this was how they were all sitting when I approached with my camera, although I think Ishmael climbed up onto his seating spot.
November 23rd, 2012  
I love this shot Jason and I love your words..
November 23rd, 2012  
@michelleyoung - Thanks Michelle. Thank you.
November 23rd, 2012  
You can't judge a book by its cover, and you can't judge Susan's experience in the world by her bare feet. Yet another fine portrait and story.
November 23rd, 2012  
Have to fav. this shot of such a great example of PNG womanhood. She is amazing as are all the women in that country with the lives they lead. And I love that straight back. Did you get a shot of her balancing the bilum as she walked?
November 23rd, 2012  
The pack wrapped up in her bilum looks huge. Probably less strain on the back and shoulders by carrying it on your head. Susan looks very relaxed.
November 23rd, 2012  
I am so glad I found you. Not to comment on every shot, but the whole PNG theme, people especially, is wonderful. For what it is worth, I am a linguist, and marvel about the diversity in PNG, as well as the common lingua franca and how the country communicates.
November 23rd, 2012  
I might classify a lot of your shots as "street" but that would not be right. No "streets" in PNG.
November 23rd, 2012  
Awesome photo of Susan. She must be one fit lady!!
November 24th, 2012  
Another wonderful portrait that makes one wonder about her experiences in the big cities of the world! terrific story ,Jason!
November 24th, 2012  
What a remarkably strong woman - nicely portrayed, Jason.
November 24th, 2012  
@rvwalker - Thank you Ross, and yes, Susan had us spellbound with her stories, but so too was she captured by the world in which we lived. So much respect.

@girlie - i did get a shot of Susan on the steepest part of the track, and she was in typical highland meri pose with both hands just resting on her head, holding the bilum as she took the last few steps of a very steep climb.

@onie - She took it all in her stride.

@frankhymus - Oh Frank, the languages of PNG are amazing and so contradictory. I loved learning the occasional Tok Ples greeting and loved learning how influential the whole wantok system was. An amazing place!

@georgews - She carried that pack with ease, her sweet potato harvest would be twice the weight!

@grammyn - She was so generous in her tales yet so keen to hear our story. Such a gracious woman.

@cmuir1963 - Thank you Cindy, Susan was pretty special.
November 24th, 2012  
your photos are so wonderfully human and beautiful, and your words compliment them perfectly
November 24th, 2012  
@luvthyclassics - Thanks Jesse, I think it maybe because it was such a 'human' down to earth experience. We all broke relationships down to simple matters, it was all taken on face value. Just sweet really.
November 24th, 2012  
Amazing story ! No shoes and a pack on your head! Susan is the girl!! Enjoyed the story, really like your composition here.
November 24th, 2012  
@ruthmouch - Thanks Ruth and yes, Susan was wonderwoman!
November 24th, 2012  
hardcore
November 24th, 2012  
She sounds like an amazing lady! I like how she had her own way to carry the bag too :)
November 24th, 2012  
Another wonderful shot, Jason.
November 24th, 2012  
@bobfoto You are blessed , Jason to have met so many fascinating people.
November 24th, 2012  
Lovely capture, Jason.
November 24th, 2012  
Love this!
November 24th, 2012  
@houdiniem - Susan would disagree, she says it is just another day in the life...

@alia_801 - She was so much more comfortable in carrying the pack like that. There are other regions of PNG that are trying to get trekking going and they often go to the Kokoda Track to train and see how it is done. Those Kokoda Guys and Girls are amazing to watch, so when it comes to more remote trekking like this, they're not so used to slinging a pack around. Was interesting to watch.

@redsherpa - Thanks Toni :)
November 24th, 2012  
@grammyn - there are others that I worked with whom their idea of a short holiday was returning back to Australia and going shopping... mine was to get out and see every corner of this amazing country. Not that many fascinating people to be found in Cairns but.


@sangwann @sebella - Thanks Dione and Sebella :)
November 24th, 2012  
@bobfoto I am blessed that you chose to do that! It has opened my eyes to a part of the world I would not have known about if it weren't for you!
November 24th, 2012  
@grammyn - Thanks Katy, always happy to share. :)
November 24th, 2012  
Fantastic shot. Great shot of Susan and also of the land you are trekking through. Great composition. Great story of Susan. Betty and Susan sound like great people to know.
November 24th, 2012  
@daisy - Betty's story gets better on the final day of the trek.
November 25th, 2012  
She's obviously an amazing woman to be able to do that - both the head and feet thing.
November 25th, 2012  
What a woman!
November 26th, 2012  
@kareen @tthompsonca - Oh ladies, she was so impressive. We couldn't hug her enough when we finished our journey!
November 26th, 2012  
wonder if my friend who is a Kokoda track guide has met Susan :) Nikki's a wonder woman too.
November 27th, 2012  
@palusami - I would say Nikki has met Susan, for I definitely know Nik has met Betty.
November 27th, 2012  
@bobfoto haha funny I will mention I have been following your shots when I see Nikki in Cambo at New Year
November 28th, 2012  
@palusami - I daresay I will bump into Nikki sometime throughout 2013...
November 28th, 2012  
I swear its nowhere near 6 degrees of separation....much more like 3!
November 28th, 2012  
@palusami - 1.5 perhaps?
November 28th, 2012  
Sounds like a great trekking companion and guide all around. And a woman after my own heart traveling sans shoes.
November 29th, 2012  
@geocacheking - I see your feet in your profile shot there! This guy needs boots.
November 29th, 2012  
She certainly looks one tough cookie. Guess that's just as well...
November 30th, 2012  
@filsie65 - she sure was!
November 30th, 2012  
She looks strong of character and will. I'm a bit miffed at her son thought still.
December 2nd, 2012  
*though
December 2nd, 2012  
@hellcat - she's already achieved more than he ever will. Not that that excuses him.
December 3rd, 2012  
No, it doesn't excuse him. If he doesn't get along with her, fine, but to humiliate her like that by trying to over power her shows he's a very unhappy person. And maybe feels that sense of failure you allude to. But then, family is a strange beast... Sometimes it's better to just cut the ties.
December 3rd, 2012  
@hellcat - he was in desperate need of a male leader who could knock him on the back of the head to let him know that he was steering in the wrong direction. The Priests in Brahmin really should have been told what he was doing and Betty should have got stuck into those blokes.
December 3rd, 2012  
What function in society do the Priests have? You make it sound like they have sway over the community.
December 3rd, 2012  
@hellcat - Religion is everywhere in PNG, and everyone lays claims to some kind of attachment to a church. However, I'm not sure if they do all go to Church on a Sunday morn... although in the SDA communities, they do seem to all attend on the Saturday. There is a respect to the senior members of the church and there are still many a missionary hidden away in poky little corners of PNG trying to learn the language. Check out the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Kangaroo courts appear often in tiny villages whenever an act of wrongness occurs and the court is often made up of the Chief, the local Church leader, a local police officer and maybe a member of Parliament. (or whomever is available). These courts can deal out a range of punishments and often it is an eye for an eye... despite any concerns about legalities and constitutional rights.
December 5th, 2012  
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