Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wedding crashers

Paul and I were invited to a mumu; a ceremony/celebration to name our
friend's baby after me. Someone was going to come to our house to show
us the way to the village. They were to come around 10 am but we're
operating on PNG time here so we didn't hold our breath. After waiting
about 1 1/2 hours we decided to hop on the motorcycle and try to find
the village since we had a general idea where it was.

Paul drove along a dirt road through the coffee plantation - so
beautiful. We saw some women sitting by the road and told them we were
looking for a mumu. They pointed out the way and sure enough in a
couple of minutes we saw a lot of people sitting in little groups and
the smoke of a mumu rising in the air. There were even streamers and
balloons which was quite a surprise; these aren't too common in PNG.
The motorcycle was very loud and as they directed us to drive right up
through the people and park I felt a little awkward about our dramatic
entrance. Once we'd gotten off and taken a look around I realized "I
don't know a single person here!" Turns out we were not only not at the
right mumu, we were at a bride price ceremony which is the equivalent of
a wedding. At this point we saw 11 pigs penned up and two huge piles of
food - all part of the bride price or payment the man's family gives to
the bride's family. After an attempt at an explanation in Tok Pisin and
several "sori trus" we roared out of there feeling pretty embarrassed.

Before long we found the right village (banana block). Our friend
showed us around while her family prepared food for the mumu. There was
a chicken running around and next thing we knew it was headless and
getting plucked! While we waited for the food we decided to walk down to
the river. This was no easy feat; I lost my flip flops in mud halfway
up to my knees and our friend, Lewi, had to hold me up at times along
the way.

Later back at the village the family started talking very excitedly,
almost shouting. I thought something was wrong and asked Lewi what was
going on. She said they'd decided that her brother's newborn boy should
be named "Pole" after Paul. The mom and dad didn't really have a say in
the matter but that's typical here; decisions are made corporately. A
relative arrived and sat down next to me. She told me her name and
waited for me to say mine. If I said Laura it might confuse everyone.
No one can really say Laura so the baby named after me is Rola. I
decided it would be simpler if I just told her my name is Rola (nem
bilong mi em i Rola).

Papua New Guinea is called the land of the unexpected - I believe it.

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