It did not take much for the children to entertain themselves. They repeatedly jumped off the wharf, emerging with a smiling face each time.
A grandmother offered me this hand woven bag that she had made from coconut tree leaves.
Captain Marakai Sijou had made my transition from Finsch Harbor to Lae very easy.
Impressions from Papua New Guinea...
March 22, 2009
My most striking observation while waiting at Finsch Harbor was that there was not a child nearby that was obese. I saw healthy children playing outside around the wharf, using their creative energy in games instead of being fixated on expensive toys. They had the sea available to them in the protected bay where the wharf was located. Their endless energy was only encouraged when I brought out my camcorder to film them jumping repeatedly in the water from the wharf.
Saturday morning on February 7th, I woke up in my rowboat to the presence of a young boy, perhaps eight years old, crouched on the edge of the wharf. The high tide had brought my boat up to a level even with the concrete platform. He held a half dozen small fried fish in his extended hand. Had he been waiting there the whole time for me to wake up? I climbed out of my cabin, then took one of the crisp fish. It was small enough that I could eat the whole thing without worrying about any bones. The boy would not withdraw his hand, expecting me to take another. Eventually he ended up handing me all of the fish…
Having decided to end my row on the PNG shores, I now had a bag of chocolate bars which I no longer needed. I reached in the bag and offered him a chocolate bar to take. “How many children are in your family?â€? He did not respond. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?â€? “Yes…â€? “How many?â€? He later walked away with six chocolate bars, with a hop in his step…
It did not take him long to return. He now had an entire plate full of fried fish to offer me. I could not take the whole thing; the fish would not have kept in the heat… I took a few more of the fish as the rest of his raucous siblings approached with his mother and the women of the neighboring houses. My visitors until then had been just the men; the women had kept their distance. While their children were repeatedly jumping off the wharf into the water next to my boat, splashing water all over, we held a conversation with the mothers about what it was like to be alone on the water. They were especially curious about whether I was married, or had children, or what my mother thought about all this. I told them that Nancy and I did not have any children or our own, so we decided to do the journey to educate and inspire children everywhere. I could see their approval as they nodded in agreement…
This expression of kindness in the offering of fried fish was later repeated during our visit at the Newsland Phonic Elementary School on Tuesday, when a grandmother gave me a handbag that she had woven using coconut tree leaves. Without a word spoken there was a nod and a smile, and I understood. “My wife will love to receive this,â€? I said to her, holding the handbag close to my chest.
Later after arriving at the Lae Yatch Club, I was welcomed by the club management and its members. Lae was the most industrial city of Papua New Guinea which had much to offer in natural resources. Most of the club members were expats from Australia who worked in companies related to the mining, oil, natural gas, shipping, manufacturing and service industries. These companies required qualified personnel, and created many jobs for the Papuans and expats alike.
The day after towing my boat to Lae, Captain Marakai Sijou came to visit me at the Lae Yacht Club together with his son. They shared my excitement during the visit and took pictures "for remembrance." When I return in autumn, I will certainly be looking for him and the cargo ship UMBOI under his command at the Lutheran Shipping Company wharf adjacent to the yacht club.
I heard many stories of yachts being boarded at Finsch Harbor, roadblocks by armed “rascalsâ€? between Lae and the nearby airport, horror stories about sorcery killings and random crime, yet I saw nothing but kindness from locals and expats alike. I will hope that my lucky streak will continue when I return to Papua New Guinea in autumn. With a bit of horse sense and added prudence, I believe the journey will be able to proceed safely from Finsch Harbor to Port Moresby.