Visiting the local school

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July 28th 2009
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: -9.13333, 149.333

It had been windy much of the night … until about 2am, when Fabian had predicted it would die a bit. Still windy, but not as, and choppy seas when I awoke around 6:30am. Overcast, so, with the breeze, very comfortable.

Tasty breakie: scones, fried plantains, and Nescafe. Then we bathed and got packed and ready to go. But just after eating, we signed the guest book. Over the last five years (Fabian didn't have a book the first year), only a few other people from the U.S. have stayed here: two separate groups from New York, a group from Minnesota and Chicago, two separate groups from San Francisco, one group from Santa Barbara. Funny how we Californians get out so much (of course, there are a lot of us).

Fabian and his brother took us in their canoe to the next guest house at Tainabuna village. We had to wait, when leaving the beach, for a break between the swells before we could pull out into the fjords. The canoers like to hug the fjord walls as much as possible. We rounded the point to where Tainabuna village sites … going through a very small, shallow pass between the tip of the peninsula and an island. Again, it had to be timed between the strong swells.

The guest house sits on a point of land across a small bay from the village. We were greeted by the family saying, "Welcome!" in their language over and over again – and presented with leis of frangipani. Our hosts, Christopher and Phoebe (not his wife, who we never met), then took us to the kitchen, where we all sat a table, had fresh coconuts, and chatted for a bit. It definitely seems that the tourist business is slow at Tufi: Christopher's last guest stayed back in December 2008.

Both Ecotourism and Tufi Dive feed guests to the guest houses. Christopher indicated that some guest houses work with Eco and some with Tufi. I asked if they could work with both, and he said it was “up to management.” Fabian had indicated that they received K100 per guest per day from Ecotourism, which isn't too bad. I asked what they charged if we came on our own: he said K85 per person for just accommodations and food – they charged extra for transport and tours.

Anyway, we made a plan with Christopher for today: snorkel and read before lunch, lunch (with maybe a special fish that he says is a favourite of “the white man”😉, then canoe over to see the village and visit the school. Then canoe or walk back. So overcast today, the walk should be fine.

Despite the swells and the poor visibility, Paul and Keegan went for a snorkel. Kyla and I read, perched on lava rocks at the tip of the point.

After a late lunch (1:30pm) of fish pie and fresh bananas, we were shuttled (two at a time) to Tainabuna village. The village has about 200 people (included surrounding small hamlets). We saw Phoebe's house and Christopher's house. As we walked through the “main village” – with its two rows of houses and field in the middle (much like Orotoaba), we learned that everybody was in the gardens. I asked if they had to walk a long way to reach the gardens, and our guide said, “Yes. We have to walk about an hour to reach the gardens.” And I thought I had a long commute.

We also had a chance to visit the school. It runs grades 3-8, 117 students, with two teachers. We spoke to the head teacher (our guide's father), who said they have put in a request for a third teacher but have been told that none are available. We saw the grades 3-4 classroom, where students sit on mats on the sand floor; grades 5-6 classrooms, with desks, and grades 7-8 building. The students had recently completed an Environmental Protection project, where they had to make a “protect an animal” poster, like a grasshopper saying, “I live in the grass. Don't burn my home.” Given the number of fires around (“making a garden”😉, I think no one is listening. (Of course, I bet the grasshopper is happier with the garden: something to eat.) School runs from 8am-12pm five days a week. Some students come from very far away – especially if the winds are high, and they can't come by canoe, they have to walk the long way around the fjords. But the head teacher says he understands and excuses their tardiness.

On our way back, we heard a bird with a very pretty warble. Our guide said this was the bird that called the women home from the garden. It was their clock (or factory whistle): when they hear it, they know it is time to walk home. We also heard the funny-sounding bird that half-mews, half-whines. It's a black crow, and it sounds like it is saying, “Black crow! Black crow!”

After dinner (fish and fried bananas – I'm craving fresh fruit by now; who'd have thought I'd be deprived…😉, we sat around the table and talked to Christopher about PNG. He told us a story about an early missionary who arrived, only to be killed by the locals. They cut him into bits to eat him … but thought his boots were part of him, so boiled those and tried to eat them, too. It took them a long time before they gave up. We also learned that Papuans and New Guineans speak Pidgin differently (Papuans use more English). The local language is spoken by about 15,000 people, no more. Christopher's wife doesn't speak his language, and he doesn't speak her language, so they communicate in English. He doesn't like Australians; thinks they are too demanding.

We played Hoopla for a while, then we all read. Christopher says he is a big Reader, so we've promised to send books on our return to the States. He likes history and politics and economics. We can probably find one or two of those in our personal library.

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