Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Village Church

This Sunday, we went to the village of Banin (we think that's the spelling) for worship. Pricilla, one of the clerks and translators for the hospital had invited Nykki  and us out for worship. It was a sort (5-10 minute) drive down the highway to the village, only past a couple large potholes. The village was a collection of small houses, similar in construction to the church in the picture. (Roofs are either tin or thatched, but the walls were all a weaved siding.) We were greeted by the pastor and several others when we arrived, about 10-15 minutes early for the service.

Church began with the ringing of the "bell": an old, empty tank of the sort one might store pressurized gases. The service was led by Pricilla, who led us through some worship songs. A pair of other women in the church played guitar. Actually, most of the congregation was female, perhaps a half-dozen men, plus a few young boys being the only men present. (And they apparently asked if I wanted to preach.)

The church had posters and signs all along the walls. Some were from the Church of the Nazarene denomination, some were sign ups and schedules for who was doing what during worship, and others were home-made signs.

The music was vaguely familiar. There were more Tok Pisin songs here than at the church just off station, though there were a number of English songs as well. The songs also seemed to blend a number of familiar tunes into one song. One such song went from the chorus of "Power in the Blood of Jesus" to the chorus of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (with a few words changed). (It's also possible that I'm forgetting how some of the old hymns go.)

They had a time when they would share memorized scripture verses. One member would get up, give the citation. The congregation would repeat it. Then they would give the verse a line a time, the congregation repeating each line after them.(I'm not sure if this is particular to here, but I know I've not seen adults memorizing Scripture for a while when it wasn't part of a class.)

Other than those few things, it reminded me a lot of US worship. It seemed, perhaps, more communal, but a lot of that may also be that the whole village seemed to show up for worship, barring a few of the younger kids.Churches here are very local, each village having one of its own. And usually only one, as decisions tend to be group led. Thus, the village decides to join the church all at once. (See the baptism with 16+ people being baptized.)

The culture is very tribe-based, so there has been some dividing done on denominational lines. Most of the churches I've seen around here as we drove from one place to another were Nazarene. A few others exist: there's a Catholic mission up the hill next to us and a Lutheran church down one of the roads. But that said, most of this "tribe" around here seem to be Nazarene. Some of the literature around here seems to comment about how this may help continue tribal divisions, rather than try to bring the tribes more together.

I will say that everyone seems to be overly welcoming of guests into their church or tribe. If someone is an invited guest, a lot of the suspicion and mistrust seem to vanish. I've seen this when we go to church services and to the singsing the day before. Since Jonathan (our wasman, "watchman" or "guide") was with us and was part of one of the tribes in the singsing, we were welcome with open arms. I'm not sure how they would have greeted us had we just shown up. I know that Mt Hagen seemed particularly less welcoming, though that may be city verses village/town dynamics.

Anyway, before the service started, one of the women (I think Pricilla's aunt, but family relationships get blurred in villages, as everyone a certain age is a mama or papa) gave Nykki and Miriam each a meriblos, one of the traditional dresses. (Traditional at least since contact with Western cultures.) And as we were leaving, they gave us all the fruit off the altar (enough to fill to the brim a reusable shopping bag). The other missionaries tell me they do this every time one of them visit one of the small village churches. In all, a very rewarding experience.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Yesterday, we went to see a sing-sing. Well, the rehearsal for the sing-sing anyway. Nykki has a nice write up and pictures over at the family blog. In all it was a very facinating experience. We have a video of the bigman explaining things and answering questions, but it's in Tok Pisin. I'm going to see about adding subtitles to it and posting it later, perhaps today if this little laptop can manage Movie Maker (but I suspect I will be far less irritated if I wait until we're home and I can use a real computer).

In all, very interesting. We might be going back Saturday for the real sing-sing, and the included mumu (earth-oven roasted pork).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cargo Cults

These are religious beliefs born out of a confusion of the local native tribes when they come into contact with more advanced civilizations. Cargo Cults arise when natives believe they can induce cargo (that is modern tools, clothing, items) to arrive by mimicking the actions of the Westerns they observed.

A lot of this happened in the Melanesian world around the second World War. First the JApanese and later the Allied forces entered into contact with the natives. The natives became impressed with the Allies technology, some of which is shared with them. Then, when the war ends, the "cargo" stops coming. At that point, the natives start building imitations of airports, control towers, even airplanes, in the belief that their presence will cause cargo to appear.

A specific example of such a cult is the John Frum in Vanuatu. (And more locally in PNG, from what one of the missionaries has said.) Named after a mysterious GI (and likely misheard when saying "John from America/where ever").

Cargo cults are beginning to die out, though, as the magical thinking breaks down when cargo does not appear.

Article Notes: Hammar, Lawrence

Epilogue: Homegrown in PNG: Rural Responses to HIV and AIDS
Lawrence Hammar

Many of the villages studied (along the western coast near the Indonesian border) seemed to accept medical explanations of disease and incorporate them into their traditional worldview. But this does not seem to be complete, with some blame being placed on sorcery. Additionally, AIDS is being used more in punitive and condemnatory ways. (See previous article Warrior Women.) AIDS sufferers are often protrayed in ways akin to horror film victims in the West.

Additionally, while condoms are promoted, the culture seems to think using them is only useful in immoral situations. Even more, condoms become maligned and misinformation about their efficacy is promoted. Sometimes they are even blamed for spreading the disease.

While the women in some places have taken the initiative to condem irresponsible sexual practices, in other areas men condemn women as witches when men die for unknown reasons (that get blamed on AIDS). Outsiders get blamed from bringing it in, and insides get named sorcerors or witches.

The government response has been typically to count and catalogue sexual activity and STD infections, rather than to truely study what is and is not causing infection. Health facilities, often run or attached to churches, have condoms stocked, but do not dispense them to the public because the local churches are against it. Rather, abstience is taught, even in cases of infected spouses. Additionally, netsa marasin ("natural medicine") is promoted.

The highest infection rates are in married couples. The men go out of village for work, where they acquire it throughe extra-marital sex and bring it home to their wife (or wives). The wives then pass it on to their children. However, men find their medical information kept private while women find theirs leaked to the press and other settings, either for the benefit of an institution designed to help women out of sex work or through Warrior Women or similar visionaries. And yet, national efforts do not call husbands out on this behavior and label it "high-risk".

Complicating matters are inconsistent views about sex throughout the country. Some areas are relatively sex-positive (in that the sexual act is good in and of itself), however larger areas are negative on the acts of sex but positive on the outcomes and uses of sex (procreation, bride wealth, etc.).

Since women are supposed to be submissive, how can they abstain when a man is demanding sex? (Regardless of whether they want it or not.)

Educational materials rarely actually have useful messages. Also, very little is done to study if the written billboards/signs are useful in a oral society. A lot is also controlled by international aid and may or may not be applicable to a PNG lifestyle and worldview. For example, it may be designed for multiple govenrment services to come together to help a group but ignore the PNG divisions based on denomination, tribe, and family.

Culturally, men are to be mobile and women static. That said, mobile men are viewed as a possible source of disease. Mobile women are assumed to be sexually promiscuous. It is also believed that sexual sins (extra-marital sex, specifically) causes the disease, however it only causes it for the one sinning (not their spouse).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Article Notes: Dundon, Alison

Warrior Women
By Alison Dundon
Australian National University

The warrior women of the title are groups of local women who through ecstatic dancing become touched by the Holy Spirit. The touch is temporary, but while so touched they will lay on hands for healing as well as identify people (usually men) who are practicing dark magic. In recent years, they have also started calling out people who are believed to be engaging in the spread of AIDS/HIV though unsafe and promiscuous sexual practices.

The groups started in the 80s during Evangelical missionary revivals. The revivals would dance in a circle, but those touched would start dancing how the Spirit led them. They would also tok propet, that is, speak in tongues. I suspect it started out of the Pentecostal movements of Evangelical Christianity.

The calling out of the practitioners of magic came a bit later. In one cited example, the women called out a man who was having an argument with the pastor of a church. That said, clergy and lay church leaders are not exempt from being called out.

The focus on AIDS/HIV is interesting mostly due to the traditional views on illness. Becoming sick was a punishment for a sin or breaking a taboo. Illness was also something visible, as with native diseases the illness was apparent on those infected. HIV/AIDS is not, at least at first, apparent. This causes some problems with the traditional views on illness. Also, the village cannot identify the ill to call them out.

Thus, these prayer groups began calling out those who were being sexually dangerous and thus could be spreading this disease. Also, since the disease is terminal, it breaks the mold where an ill person would be sick for a while and then heal. (The name used to call AIDS/HIV is melesene bininapa gite tila gi or literally "The sickness that has no cure".)

Occasionally, madness comes from a 'lying spirit' rather than the touch of the Holy. The women begin acting childish. As long as no damage happens, they are tolerated, but when either material or other damage happens, their kin are expected to take control of the 'mad' woman.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Going up to the Mountaintop

Today, we went to the mountaintop village of Konduk (/KOHN dook/) for a baptism there. We were told it'd be about an hour's walk up the mountain, but we had enough people going that we took one of the Landrovers instead. I'm glad we did, as the road started as a very uneven stone road and then we turned off it onto a dirt road. You can see one of the wooden bridges to the right. Some of the group decided to walk over the bridges rather than ride. I'm not entirely sure I blame them for that, as it was an interesting ride.

When we got there, they were doing a worship service before the actual baptisms. They had several people being baptized today, I believe I heard the number 16, but I'll admit I didn't get a full count. (And some were rededications, and just gave testimony, but more on that later.) It seems one of the elders in the church had recently died of leukemia and that death moved a number of his family to come to the church. The service was in the middle, though its order seemed similar to the Sunday services I've been to here (and elsewhere, to some extent, though I found similarities in worship services in Shinto shrines). They were singing English worship songs, some of which I knew or were similar enough to ones I knew. The spoken parts were a mixture of Tok Pisin and tok ples, that is one of the local languages. In the image, those in white tops and black pants or skirts were the baptisees. The congregation sat in two sides, the left side had most (all but one or two) of the men and a few women, the right was nearly all female. I'm not sure if it's a conscious decision to sit as such, the missionaries do not follow this tradition if it is one.

There was a sermon that I could almost follow in Tok Pisin in places, and then it would switch, I assume to the tok ples and I would be lost for a moment. It was on Matthew 4 and fighting agianst the temptations of Satan, even after baptism. When the sermon finished, we walked further up the hill, past where they were preparing the traditional Papuan feast in a mumu, an oven dug into the dirt, filled with hot rocks and then the food (pork) being cooked and covered with earth, straw and leaves. (See right.)

Up the hill, and past some of the town gardens was where they had dammed up a part of a stream (or it might have been a drainage ditch, or a wadi that only filled when it rained) as the baptismal font. They had thrown flower petals into the water. (This seems to be a tradition here with major events. The missionaries throw flowers for those leaving for extended periods or when they're leaving at the end of their terms. I suspect the missionaries adopted it from the locals, not vice-versa.) The area around the font was hilly and uneven (and muddy, as even in the dry season that the country is in now, it rains nearly daily). Yet, despite the lack of good views, it seems most of the village and likely several from nearby (such as ourselves) had turned out for the baptism. Thus, it was a bit crowded and the footing unstable in places, but everyone seemed helpful in getting through the bad parts and helping us to get a good view.

There was a second sermon here, this time from a woman preacher, which I found striking as almost all the rest of the church leadership I have witnessed here has been male. She preached mostly in tok ples, so I could follow very little of it, save for a few Pisin words that had made their way into it. During her scripture reading, someone read the the Scripture in Tok Pisin first, then she gave it in tok ples, a verse at a time.

What followed were the baptisms. One at a time, they came forward and gave a testimony. Some were rededicating their lives to the church, and thus didn't get immersed, but the others did go in and were immersed in what I can only assume was a cold mountain stream.

A bit of a side note: They are very unaware of the American culture behind a good bit of their clothing. A large amount of the clothing in Papua New Guinea is second hand from Australia and other Western nations. As you can see on the right, one of the elders doing the baptism has a South Park tie, and I will admit while I am fairly liberal in my faith, I am not certain I would wear that tie to a baptism in the US. Simiarly, there was a young man wearing a t-shirt for MTV's Jackass, with the title for the series prominently displayed on the front of the shirt. I doubt that the people here know the culture that these things represent. There was the knowledge that this is the sort of even that one wears a tie to, and I suspect there are not a large number of ties available. (And I doubt that South Park is well known here.)

As Miriam was getting a bit tired, we left about halfway through the immersions. On the way back to the car we did see them taking the pork out of the oven and getting ready for the feast. The natives here feast often, as food is usually abundant.

One other note, we did see the grave of the village and church elder who had died. He wanted to be buried near the church (it's the brown building in the background). This is the traditional grave for those who can afford it here. (Or those who are important enough that their families feel they should spend the money on such grave sites.) Inside the small house is the coffin, above ground, surrounded by flowers. I have seen other such graves along the roads here, both the stone and dirt roads up the mountain and the main road back into Mt Hagen. This is the traditional way to bury Big Men, that is civic leaders. (I need to ask how long the graves stay like this, as I have not seen more than one or two in a village.)

In all, a very interesting day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Article Notes: Filer, Colin

Custome, Law and Ideology in Papua New Guinea
Colin Filer

Comparing Custom (Kastam or Kastom) and Law (Lo)

Law and Custome seemed to have been blurred, especially between the multiple colonial powers/periods and then into independence. This is especially true for land ownership rights, which became a sticking point with petroleum and mineral mining operations tried to lease lands. Anthropologists were rarely asked to be legal experts on traditional customs with regards to land. Originally, "custom" was used to throw out practices that colonial powers and missionaries disliked. Other problems include Tok Pisin words that occupy a larger semantic range than their English roots.

The concept of  Law also ran into problems when it was fragmented into several "rules". Local "Law Men" hashed out the "law", which was mostly whatever they could agree on, usually with respect to amounts due for certain offenses. They would refer to lo bilong tumbuna, that is "Law of the Ancesters" but this was usually as a last ditch effort when losing an argument.

The "Law Men" councils were replaced at independence with a court system. This court system was not always very thorough and these "Law Men" bemoaned their loss of influence. Custom started to gain in strength, though whether these "customs" were actually traditional is up for debate.

Usually, if a company wanted to know about "customs" it was mostly due to land ownership rules and rituals with regards how much they should pay for a lease when starting a mining operation. (See notes on the Society Reform Program). "Customs" however would often change from situtation to situtaion. However, land ownership rights became very important when gold mining started to become more prevelent and the amounts of money being discussed grew. (For a view on this and gender, look at page 12-13 of the document about widow excluded from land rights discussion.)

While some might argue that Custom or customs aren't in practice anymore, they do seem to still be practiced. Customs are practiced, though they may be overly legalized in practice. An example is the mortuary ceremonies.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cultural Addendum

Apparently, the pharmacy won't order more of a medication until they run out. Not "I opened the last bottle we have, better make sure we order more", no. "I just gave the last 3 pills of Cipro out, put it on the list to order." This can lead to some problems, obviously. One of the doctors apparently has taken to hiding a bottle or two of some of the very commonly used ones so when they think they're "out" and order, they're not really out.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cultural note

Talking with Mike (missionary in charge of construction and maintenance) and Steve (a visiting surgeon from WA) last night, we talk about how the local PNG natives seemed to ignore planning for the future at all. And it's not just one or two, but they seemed to notice it as a cultural thing.

Mike talked about how when they would take the trip to Mt Hagen (~60 minutes away) to buy parts, a local would only by one (or however many were needed) and no spares. Similarly, the hospital runs on a well, but they only have one pump for it for the longest time. Recently, he made them get a spare. Even with that, they don't clean the pump regularly. Rather, they wait until it breaks and swap them. Mike has been trying to get them to swap the pumps at the first of the month and clean the just removed one.

They have 4 suction machines for surgery. Rather than tell Mike when one of the breaks, they will just get the next one and only call Mike when all four are broken and they are about to start a surgery where it will be needed. (And even then, they don't leave them on for fear of burning the motors out, Steve says. Rather, there's a nursing student at the switch to turn them on and off as needed.) However, Mike was relating a story about how all four were broken at one point and they were urgently needed for a surgery. He gets a couple of them back to the maintenance building and opens it up. It just needed cleaned, as the filters were clogged. He had it cleaned and it worked.

Steve was talking about how in a surgery they often have to "clamp-clamp-cut-tie", that is they use 2 forceps to clamp either side of something, scissors to cut, and then they tie the ends. Yet, no matter how many times they do this, the surgical tech does not seem to either be paying attention or doesn't think ahead and offer the second forceps, scissors, or ties until asked for. Steve says it drives Jim, the resident surgeon, nuts.

Steve also related how they will send someone out of a surgery to get some suture or some other instrument. Rather than get two, as they might need more than just one, they get just the one they're asked to get and return. Steve was saying this is very different than the US where it's drilled in to be prepared and have extras.

This seems to be something cultural. Currently, the hospital is working on building an entirely new building. Mike is trying to educate the PNGs about how many of what personnel they will need to run the hospital. Or more precisely, how many maintenance, cleaning, and other such they'll need. He relates that it seems to be a foreign concept to them.

Looking at the cultural history, this seems to be from their tribal history. Here, there is always food. There is no cycle of plenty and scarcity that more temperate climes might have. Since gardens are always producing food, there was no cultural reason to find ways to store foods. Rather, in times of plenty they shared it. (And thus earned respect and debts from those they shared with.) Then, should they run into need, they could call on those debts to fill in their shortfalls.

This cultural view seems to have permeated their lives here, even when they are trying to live in more Western environs. There seems to be little maintenance or cleaning done, even in the hospital. Nykki and the other doctors complain about the lack of places to wash their hands (and even a lack of soap in the hospital!) or even hand sanitizer.

I'm not sure if this is changing as the country adopts more Western culture. I suspect so fatr it's not, but I'm not sure if the younger generations might pick up on the idea of maintaining what is built, rather than just rebuilding every few years. Since the traditional building materials (wood and thatch) are still in use, I suspect not. (I also suspect even traditional buildings were simply replaced when they become faulty.) The spattering of sheet metal buildings seem to be similarly in disrepair. And I'm not sure the PNG see it as a fault, this living day-to-day. Traditional wasy of living don't require it, but I suspect if they want to adopt a Western way of living (or at least of building) they will need to learn to maintain and plan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Article Notes: Stewart, PJ and A Strathern

Female Spirit Cults as a Window on Gender Relations in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea
By P J Stewart and A Strathern
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5.3 (Sept 9,
1999): p345.

This article examines three cults based around female spirits in the PNG highlands: one in Hagen, one in Duna, and one in Pangia. The cults generally are/were practiced by groups of men worshiping a female spirit, asking for success in reproduction and other things (varied by cult).

Duna, which was the more geographically removed of the three focused on acquiring powers for the individual. Such powers might be detecting witches through divination, healing, etc. Each parish had its own maternal spirit.

Hagen was more group oriented in its goals, stressing alliances through exchanges. Pangia was similarly group-focused.

Christianity has since its introduction influenced these beliefs. Many of the menstral rituals were abandoned, cult practices were dissuaded and it promoted monogamy rather than the polygyny (and some polyandry) practiced by these groups.

Hagen's cult was extant from 1964 through 1984. Pangia's began in the 1920s, but died out within a generation, no longer present when Christian missionaries arrived in 1967. Duna the cults slowly vanished in the 1960s as Christianity came into the region. That said, the middle aged and older adults are still influenced by some of the cult beliefs today.

Hagen's cult was around Amb Kor. The tribe would invite allies to participate in the rituals. They divived the men into 2 groups, rapa (men's house) and amb-nga (women's house). One man from each group would be paired together in the ritual. Women stayed outside of the ritual grounds and sex was avoided during the ritual. However, women provided the food and sacrifices for the rituals. After preparations were complete, there would be a ritual dance and a feast.

The Pangia cult was around Laiyeroa. It placed limits on menstrating women. Also limited which foods could be consumed and involved a ritualized cooking. Sex again was avoided during the ritual. There was a fear about injesting menstral blood. It was believed that doing so could make a man pregnant. As gender confusion is greatly feared in the culture, any such injestion was greatly feared and the rituals protected the men from the power of menstral blood.

In Duna, Payame Ima was worshiped. Married men were also excluded with the women. The rituals were for a coming-0f-age for boys into manhood. However, the ability to divine witches was also received through the rituals. This was believed to help protect the boys from witchcraft.

Major Themes:
1) Women's work was integral to the cult.
  • cults needed both genders to collaborate
  • women provided needed food/sacrifices (pigs)
  • Also made netbags (which symbolized the womb)
2) Observing Taboos
  • both genders have to keep taboos
  • even the exclusion taboos needed to be kept for the rituals potency
  • ritutals benefited both genders
3) Reproductive Symbolism
  • Hagen/Pangia had visual elements that inferred sexual activity and the procreative outcome
  • used reproductive organs of sacrificed sows
  • Duna had male and female elements merged in a hut (womb)
4) Menstral Taboos
  • Blood -> fertile woman, no blood (yet) -> Not fertile
  • Absence of blood in a fertile woman was a good sign
  • Taboo due to 'power of menstral blood' and the fear of male -> female gender changes
5) Collaboration vs Trickery
  • narratives stress that achieving procreation (or at least wives) through trickery leads to problems
  • Rituals require the collaboration of the genders
6) Incest, cosmos, exchange
  • Incest both frowned upon and common
  • Boys today "spend too much time with their mothers", implied that it might lead to incest
  • everyone helps with brideprice for sons to avoid incest
  • Daughters' brideprices used often to pay off father's debts paying for the mother
  • Male cults have collaborative elements and themes
  • Male exclucivity obscures both female agency in the rituals and symbolization of gender relations
  • Gender alliances stressed rather than male dominance
  • Both separation and conjuction stressed

Monday, June 8, 2009

Local Market

Went to the local market in town today. We say "market" but it's a bit different than Hagen's. There is a trade store there, with a smattering of goods, all behind fences in the building, topped with razorwire. One section had individual items (cans of coke, cooking oil, flour, etc.) the other side had more wholesale type items (cases of coke). Bought a can of coke to break a K50 note (think stopping at the quick-e-mart to break a $20 bill).

The market was across the "street" (loose term for a gravel path slightly wider than the upiquitous trucks). Market consisted of people (mostly women and older men) sitting under umbrellas with their fruits and vegetables for sale. Some had cardboard signs with prices, other you have to ask. Some produce (like the kaukau, the local sweet potato) are sold by the small pile, others sold individually. Almost all of it looks of decent quality, though the bananas they had you'd want to eat quickly as they were already yellow-brown.

Scott, who went with me the first time, said that it's mostly safe for station people. A lot of the people on station who sell their produce (and buy it) come down there and will look out for the white-skins (which are assumed to belong to the station). Sort of "our tribe", if you will, versus the local townsfolk. (I'm not sure how much bigger the town actually is. The station has a number of houses, but there is a school outside the walls and a church. Several small shops along the market way, but I can't see much else through the dense vegetation around the market and roads.) He also said that today's selection was down, as there are usually more bananas, pineapples (we bought the only 4 available) and the like. Though if we ever run out of kaukau, I know where to get more.

There are also street vendors selling food which We Are Not Supposed To Eat. Scott and I split some sort of deep fried dough thing, though it was cold. There were also on the way back "lamb flaps" or something like that. Basically they're lamb ribs that are grilled fresh for you. I was full (and not quite that adventuous) or we would have stopped for some.

Article Notes: Romaine, Suzanne

Boring Bibliographical stuff:
The Grammaticalization of the Proximative in Tok Pisin
By Suzanne Romaine
Language, Vol 75, No 2 (Jun 1999), pp 322-346

Notes on terms:
Grammaticalization refers to the process by which a word moves from having one specific (usually concrete) meaning and slowly over time picks up an abstracted sense, usually one that becomes almost technical in nature. Examples of this would be the pas in the French negation ne V pas. Orginially from the root for "foot", it was used for the sense of "it doesn't go". Overtime, that became obfuscated and now it's simply part of the negation in French.
Proximative is the grammatical form that is used to mark an action that is about to take place. In "the wind is about to blow", "is about to" is forming the English proximative, however it is not a fully grammaticalized morpheme. (English lacks a proximative marker, rather has contructions like "is about to".)

Article reaction:

There are two major proximative markers in Tok Pisin: laik ("like") and klostu ("close to"). Both of these seem to be used today, however laik is a newer gramatical term. Klostu has history back to the 19th century, however its grammaticalization slowed or stopped when laik began to be used in the early 20th century.

The two terms are from different kinds of words. Laik expresses desire as it root did, "like". While it began in this fashion, as it become more of technical term used to show proximate actions, it by necessity lost some of the implied desire. One cannot say "the wind likes to die down", however since the statement Win i laik dai is used to say "The wind is about to die down", laik has clearly lost the volition that it had previously implied. This happens often in other languages as words become grammaticized. The Hebrew pәne (lit: "face") is used as "surface", usually of things not necessarily being anthropormorphized. (See Gen 1 where God is hovering on the surface of the waters, since it is assumed that water does not have a face as a person would.)

The other proximative seems to have begun the process earlier but then developed in tandem with laik. Klostu also is used in conjuction with laik when the latter alone might confuse the audience. Em i laik dai could be either "he/she/it is about to die" or "he/she wants to die". However, klostu em i laik dai takes away that ambiguity, making it clear that the subject does not necessarily want to die. This is not to say that klostu has to be used with laik. Klosto em dai would convey the same meaning. While laik syntaxtically falls into the verbal slot, making the verb it is acting as a proximate for into its object, klostu can be placed either preverbally (em klostu dai) or external to the phrase it is modifying (klostu em dai).

Klostu, as a locative, also did not need to shed its sense of volition during its grammaticalization process. Rather it merely moved from a spacial proximate ("The tree is close to the river") to a temporal ("The tree is close to falling"). Later, it even shed the temporal and began modifying quality or other aspects.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Betel Nut (part 2)

Source: Wikipedia

The practice of chewing Betel Nut spans the area from south east Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, etc.) to PNG and the Solomon Islands. Combining the Areca nut and the Betel leaf for their psychoactive properties seems to have been around for at least four thousand years, according to archeological findings in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

The effects typically are the same as a cup of coffee. That said, it does have a fairly strong carcinogenic effect, especially the processed/dried forms. The preparation is a cut nut wrapped in a leaf, with lime.

In PNG, the nut is usually consumed fresh, not in its dried forms.

Some thoughts on Tok Pisin

Verbs only have 2 states with regards to person: 1st/2nd and 3rd. Example:

Mi lainim Tok Pisin
'I learn/am learning/learned Tok Pisin'

Yu lainim Tok Pisin
'You learn/are learning/learned Tok Pisin'

Em i lainim Tok Pisin
'He/she learns/is learning/learned Tok Pisin'

Note: Tense is implied via context. Also, the 3rd person singular pronoun is ungendered.

The difference, seems to be the presence of the particle i. The source would be gramaticalization and simplification of the phrase "Him, he learns". The /h/ is weak and drops out, leaving just the vowel /ee/, which in Pisin is written i. Since the "he" would have no place in 1st or 2nd person, it was never used, thus the difference in syntax.

Article Notes: Bartle, Neville

Basic Themes of Melanesian Worldview
Published: self published (?)

Major themes/concepts:
Life is clan-centered
  • Tribe first, self/others later
  • leads to corruption in govt and business
  • resources should be used to help tribe
Life is balanced
  • A gives B a gift. B now owes A one, A can ask for it
  • No giving vs selling, all trade
  • Share the wealth (means lots of people owe you)
  • Pols spread money/projects for votes.
  • A injures B, B can extract revenge from A
  • Modern courts confuse this, causing problems with law/order
  • Friends will pay back/give gifts
Male > Female
  • Males stay and give to tribe
  • Females give to another tribe
  • Males -> Gardener, Females -> Garden
  • Homosexuality is rare/non-existant
  • Sex not mentioned, marriage a way of "sharing the wealth" and making someone owe you
Life's goal is to be "Big Man"
  • Big Man has a lot of people who owe them
  • Happens in Politics lots
  • Pols switch sides as it suits them
  • Polygamy -> lots of people, children, also allies with wives' tribes
Life is measured in events, not a timeline
  • Time is neither linear nor cyclic
  • Series of "nows"
  • "Do you have a headache" will be answered in the affirmative if they have -ever- had a headache
  • Tok Pisin does not have true tenses
  • Little planning for future (food always available, no need)
  • Some remembering of past
Goal of life is well-being & harmony
  • Live in now
  • Life abundant
  • no spirit/physical duality
  • Appease spirits to right physical issues
Power should have results
  • All power should produce
  • Less stress on religious doctrine, more on what it does for the adherent
  • pragmatic life view
  • no need for future planning (food available year round)
Dead live on as spirits
  • Similar to Shinto beliefs
  • Dead influence physical
  • need appeased via sacrifice
  • blood sacrifices have become rare
  • no traditional heaven/hell analogue
More sources of power -> good
  • Polyreligous tendancies
  • "Cover all bases"
Life is to be celebrated
  • Like to feast
  • No indiginous methods of food storing
  • Rather, when abundant, share with everyone. Then they owe you

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Betel Nut (Part 1)

It seems to be the regional drug of choice. A stimulant, so says the guide book, from some local plant that grows on the island. The seed-pod is plucked, the nut extracted and chewed, spitting the saliva it causes you to create. It also has the effect of staining one's teeth red-brown.
The stains are on everyone: men, women, children that I would think would be barely out of elementary school. It's somewhat omnipresent. (Easily a third of the people I saw at market and the grocery had evident stains on their teeth.) Even the roads are stained with the bright red splatters of the spit from users. I've not seen anyone I could tell was on the substance, but I don't know how potent it is.
One of the local missionaries says that it's addictive, but I don't know if it is physiologically or psychologically addictive. (And I find it amusing that coffee and caffeine are just fine, but any other stimulant is to be treated with suspicion.) A bit further study on it will help.
I've seen what I think is it being sold from little stands on the side of the road. It's a small, green pods. Usually set apart from other stands. I can't tell if there's a native stigma to it or if the stigma on it is because white-man put it there. It is forbidden in a number of places, but it seems that may be to prevent the red stains and possibly the problems with intoxicated users.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Notes on Tok Pisin

Note on format: The following syntax will be used
Italics will mark words in Tok Pisin
/Forward slashes/ will be used for pronunciation guides
'Single quotes' will be used for definitions
"Double quotes" will be used for root words
I will try to adhere to this throughout the blog.

Vowels: Pisin uses a 5 vowel system, similar to Japanese: a (/ah/), e (/eh/), i (/ee/), o (/oh/), and u (/oo/).
Consonants: p, b, t, d, k, g, v, s, h, m, n, ŋ, l, w j, r

That said, the vowels can vary, becoming more complex that the basic 5, either though diphthongs or by influences from outside languages.

Verbal system:
-im is a transitive suffix for verbs
Tense is controlled by helper verbs, with the default tense being present. Future uses bai (from "by and by") and the past uses bin ("been"). Present progressive tense is indicated with a stap. (ie, 'eating' would be kaikai stap, or "food stop") Completive/perfective aspect uses the word pinis ("finish").
The only person differences are that verbs with 3rd person subjects use a helper i between subject and verb.

Nounal system:
No number indicator (save for pronouns). Gender does not seem to be indicated by the nouns.

Here, I'm just going to copy Wikipedia's chart. Interestingly, the 3rd person singular is ungendered.

Singular Dual Trial Plural
1st exclusive mi
(he/she and I)
(both of them, and I)
(all of them, and I)
1st inclusive - yumitupela
(thou and I)
(both of you, and I)
yumipela or yumi
(all of you, and I)
2nd yu
(you two)
(you three)
(you four or more)
3rd em
(they two)
(they three)
(they four or more)

Duals are used often, Trials less so.

Usually have the pela ("fellow"). Some dialects shorten -pela to -pla. The notable exception to this is liklik ('little'). Numbers used adjectivally use either -pela or a counter depending on what is being numbered.

There are only two: long and bilong. Bilong is used to make a genitive or construct chain of words. ('My name' being nem bilong mi.) Long is used for all other prepositions, functioning as a indirect object marker.

Reduplication is used both for a form of derivation and also to distinguish between similar sounding words. (sip 'ship' and sipsip 'sheep')

Sentence structure mirrors English.

Wikipedia Source

There are a large number of gramaticalizations of the words used in Tok Pisin from the English roots. Words such as "fellow" and "belong" morph through usage to technical grammatical terms (-pela denoting an adjective/pronoun, bilong marking a genitive prepositional phrase). Gras ("grass") is used for anything grass-like, such as maus gras ("mouth grass" or 'moustache').
Roots seem to come from English, German, and Portuguese, though several words are from traditional langauges of the islands.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some History and Culture

Papua New Guinea was more or less ignored by the West until late in the 19th century. Human remains have been found dating back 50,000 years. Even after the West started to have more than a passing interest in the country, it was mostly constrained to the coast. It has been administered by the Germans, the Japanese and the Australians before gaining independence in 1975.

The Highlands specifically weren't explored until the 20th century, when they were explored and "pacified". Today, they are the most densely populated areas of the country. Mostly agricultural, they produce coffee, tea, cocoa, and other cash crops, as well as traditional villages and gardens.

The inhabitants are tribal and continue to practice ritual gift-giving. Inter-tribal gift ceremonies can be lavish and extravagant. While continuing to hold to traditional tribal villages, they have adopted a lot of modern technology and customs: gifts today include traditional food and livestock (pigs) as well as motor vehicles. Tribes do also practice tribal warfare, though the violence is limited to the offending tribe (and outsides, a la Europeans, are more or less ignored). Mostly wounds arise out of this, but death is not unheard of.

Dress ranges from the traditional wicker belt, perhaps with a flap of cloth in front and leaves covering the rear for men and grass skirts for women to western apparel (though women do not wear pants). Traditional wear is mostly saved for sing sings, the gift-giving ceremonies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First Post!

This blog is going to be used by me for relfections and notes while I travel to the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Specifically, I and my family will be at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital. My wife will be working there as a physician. Meanwhile, I will be helping around the compound, watching our two year old girl, and hopefully learning a bit of the local language, Tok Pisin. I hope to come away with an appreciation for the Papua New Guinean culture, a basic understanding of the language, and many new experiences.

This blog is for academic purposes, mostly. Our family blog can be found here.