Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Time. A month. A year.

How does one measure time? Joshua is beginning to walk. My hair has grown to my shoulders again. My tube of toothpaste is crinkled and my shampoo is balanced upside down in the shower. My Dad is back to cutting hay in the fields just as the day I said goodbye and turned to the next chapter in my life.

I can hardly believe it's been a month since my last post. Even harder to believe that a year has come and gone since I arrived in Papua New Guinea. Some days I feel as if time is flying by..these are usually the good days. Maybe a teacher used a strategy I taught or a parent felt empowered to enroll her child with a disability in school. Other days I feel as if time is standing still here in PNG while the world, and particularly everyone and everything at home, is changing so quickly.

Time is an interesting concept here in PNG.

Cletus, our knowledgeable guide on our trip up the Sepik River this past week, had a very different concept of time as we quickly discovered. As Westerners we felt the need to know what time we would leave the village in the morning and how many hours it would take for us to canoe to the next village. Cletus, in his best attempt to satisfy what I assumed he thought was an irrational need, would say “We will leave after breakfast around 6 or 7:30 arriving in the next village in 2-4 hours.” Distances and time…..being an experienced guide Cletus knew general markers such as morning and afternoon would not be enough for tourists. We needed numbers and exact times and a map and a plan. So that’s what we got, but my traveling friends found this broad time range even more frustrating and continued to question the time they should set their alarms and any deviation from “the plan.” Wise Cletus knows nothing is ever exact or planned in PNG, especially on the Sepik. And as for myself, who is habitually late and lives for spontaneity, find I fit better in the South in this regard.

Take the time. Sit and tok stori, tell stories. Shake hands with strangers, ask questions, listen to the birds sing and the children play. Otherwise life will pass you by. I will quickly forget the names of the 5 destinations we highlighted on the map, but I will never forget the newly initiated young man covered in pukpuk (crocodile) cuttings telling me the history of his ancestors settling the land. It’s the unexpected events that mark time in ones life, the moments of surprise. Bathing in the river where the villagers used the toilet and reaching a low spot in the river and having to get out and push the boat through the mud. These events, mishaps, adventures.. whatever you would call them.. were definitely not included in the plan, but these are the stories we find ourselves sharing about our time on the Sepik River.

And speaking of time…once I find some more I will write and tell you all about our trip on the Sepik. The landscape, the fauna, the people, the fish, the canoes, the art, the spirit houses!

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