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Published: September 30th 2009
Sam's take on Papua
If you want to get married Dani country you have to have the pigs to do it. Usually a wife costs around 4-6 pigs depending on the size of the pigs and the quality of the woman. Now, 4-6 pigs isn't cheap, but the good news is if your lucky enough to have acquired many pigs, you can buy many wives! If you're a woman, uh...well, you can't really buy a husband. It just doesn't work that way.
This might sound like a loveless sort of affair, and we pondered about the relationships between husband and wife over in the grass hut villages and could only decide that life was way too different to make a comparison. But on the third day of our trek a short interaction with a passing group of men gave us a little insight. After some obligatory greetings and handshakes they began explaining where they were coming from and why. This group of men had gone to the village of Sikosimo on behalf of their friend/relative where one of his wives had run off to. She was living with another man! Total love triangle. So the group of men we
Since this bridge had recently fallen down we had to cross over a single log that was draped across the river...somehow we all made it across mostly dry
were talking to, who were all holding axes or machetes, had gone to Sikosimo to demand a payment of 6 pigs in retribution for the pigs their friend/relative had paid to marry the woman. Sounds more or less fair...Right? Our guide John, however, didn't think that they'd get the full allotment of six pigs. He figured there would have to be some negotiation. But what if negotiations fail, we asked. "Well then, the villages will fight."
If you read up on the tribal people of the Papuan interior, you'll quickly find that the history of their interaction with the outside world is quite short. These tribes were only first "discovered" in 1938 and largely forgotten about until the 50's and 60's when missionaries first started "converting" villages. Now, missionaries really get around and go to some remote places and were probably some of the first people to interact with some of these tribes, Which can sometimes be a very bad thing. Our guide's friend, Martinoos, was happily telling us a story about his people, the Yali people:
Martinoos: "Sometimes we fight other villages."
Us: "How do you fight? Do you use guns?"
Martinoos: "No, no. Just bow and arrow.
Not many fights now. But my father had many fights."
Us: "Wow, just bow and arrow..."
Martinoos: "And when we kill an enemy we eat them."
Us: "YOU EAT THEM?!?!?"
Martinoos: "Uh huh. My father eat many people. He says best part is here (pointing behind the knee), and here (pointing to his palm)."
Us: (Stunned) "Your people would kill their enemies with bows and arrows and then eat them?"
Martinoos: "Yes, yes. Well, they would eat us if they killed us."
Us: "Right, yeah, so I guess it kind of makes sense."
Martinoos: "My father also eat foreigners."
Martinoos: "You know, the missionaries. In 1971, missionaries came to our village. I think it was an American and Canadian. My father ate them."
Us: "Your dad ate the missionaries!?!?"
Martinoos: "Uh huh. But now we don't eat people anymore."
Us: "Oh well, that's good to know."
Martinoos: "Yeah...here eat more noodles. Eat more soup."
Us: "Uh...are you trying to fatten us up?"
There's this terrible habit that many of the Papuans take up. They chew this thing called the beetlenut. I think it's some kind of fruit with a large pit. They stuff their mouths
full of this beetlenut and some other twigs and white powder that act as catalysts. They chew this all into a huge lump that turns blood red all so that they can get a mild jolt similar to a cup of coffee. It's very similar to chewing tobacco, except when they spit, it looks like they've just been punched and are expelling the blood that's accumulated. It's all kinds of gross. We asked John, as he had just started chewing, "Is it good?" We expected a response like, yeah, it's an acquired taste or I like the feeling it gives me. Something like that. Instead, John slowly shakes his head and says, "Not sooooo good."
So on the first night of our trek, we all loaded our mouths full of the beetlenut, twigs and the mysterious white powder. Within seconds we were all spitting bright red puddles all over the place. Our teeth and gums glistened bright red in the light from our flashlights. I could hardly discern any physical effect, if any, it had on me. Everyone else felt the same way. But we happily chewed and spit red globs for a few minutes until the novelty of
it just barely wore off.
It's been about a week since were walking around Dani country and we've spent our time relaxing in the very easy going Gili islands off the coast of Lombok. We ate pizza, sandwiches and even watched a movie. We swam with giant sea turtles and tried to feed the giant clams. Turns out, they don't really like bananas. For most of our time there, we were being whipped by some vicious winds that were a result of the same tropical depression that just cause horrible floods in the Philippines. The winds created a choppy sea which brought on a big enough wave to destroy the windshield of a speed boat we were riding. We all got very wet. Tucker Kuhn took a week off from his work in Vietnam to experience this part of his trip. Our wolf pack, which was three wolves, had now grown by one wolf, so that our wolf pack which was only three wolves was now four wolves. But Tucker's trip was short and now he's left on epic journey through three Asian countries in 24 hours with three different airlines.
Our next step is to board a boat for the next four days and cruise on out to the Komodo islands. Gonna see enormous dragons and hopefully not get bitten.
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