Saturday, October 16, 2004


Well, it was my real first night as local last night, going in to town with the teachers to Wally’s Bar and Grill. It was a fundraising dance at one of the Moresby nightclubs, charging 10 kina a head in the hope of raising money for over due rents (!) A few of them asked me and Pia about it a couple of weeks ago when I first came back, but I don’t think any of them really expected me to come along, and Pia didn’t want to go as it was bound to be a late night. But I was pretty keen, not really having done much outside school with these people, and always up for a night out of Bomana.

So, 7.30 saw me spinning with Josepha and the driver in the de la Salle boys’ truck (the bus they’d booked having broken down), driving round the backstreets of Bomana and 9 Mile picking up people to take them into town. It was a bit disconcerting at first, being out on the road at night (I usually make sure I’m not!) but having a truck full of big black blokes makes a difference, and it was actually really nice just driving (or being driven) – I ended up staying with Josepha for the second round of pick-ups rather than going straight to the bar as I was just enjoying the breeze and the dark, and seeing what Friday night holds for the people we were passing.

Lots of people sitting in the dark in groups in front of the little kai-stands that sell deep-fried food, SP (beer) and coke to the local settlements. Little fires along the road where people were cooking something or another to eat for dinner. Kids playing basketball in the dirt as the sun dies against the mountains. Bright red sunset glancing off dead cars and burnt-out PMVs fallen sideways in the long grass at the side of the road. A group of men throwing darts against a tattered board hanging on a tree. The market at 9 Mile curiously deserted, a lone plastic bag (rather than the ubiquitous tumbleweed) bouncing across the dirt and onto the road. A group of 3 security guards walking to their night job at the seminary, guns swinging against their backs, and a pink leopard-print plastic top-hat in one of their hands (who knows?!). Later, darker, on the second round of pick-ups, confusing the graves in the cemetery for the people who spend their afternoons selling flowers by its gate; the bundles of wood for sale standing like strangers staring onto the road; the potholes craters on the dark side of the moon; and the best sight of all – the crowd of 30 or so kids and adults gathered in the dark in the area just behind the corrugated iron kai-stand out the front of the Vanuatu settlement, sitting in the dirt and on pieces of wood, watching the TV that’s been set up outside (no doubt using electricity illegally siphoned from the Canossian School of Life), watching the bright lights of Survivor together…

The trip into town was just as surreal. Everything looks so different at night – as Josepha pointed out, the streets almost looked beautiful with the dark shadows of trees covering the houses, and the scent of frangipanis and wood smoke in the breeze almost dissipating the lingering smells of betelnut and decay. The dark hides all manner of sins… but not for long, because soon we arrived at Wally’s Bar (again) and this is when the real PNG nightlife began to show itself.

The dance itself was actually pretty fun. Now those who know me best know that music for me is usually about listening and maybe singing, not dancing, but it was one of my grand ambitions to lose those inhibitions whilst here in PNG, and you know, I think I’m actually getting somewhere with that! Even though I did dance for a couple of songs last weekend at Lamana, I spent most of the night watching, coming to the conclusion after several hours of scanning the crowd and joining in with Ben at one (brief!) stage, that white people just can’t dance. Or maybe they can, just not these white people! I’m sure it’s all about confidence, and there’s something about being in a crowd of funky young thangs who love nothing better than to show off their stuff that kinda makes you feel less than adequate when you try and join in. Or maybe it’s just that most of the music is black music (either American R&B/rap/dance, or PNG-style music, which is certainly in a category of its own), and as one of a handful of white people in the place you feel less authentic when trying to match their moves. Or maybe it’s just realizing that, again, as one of the only white faces in the place you certainly stand out, and when you know everyone’s watching you, you really don’t want to look stupid. Or when your other AVI mate are watching you!

Anyway, all of the above were still true last night – the music was the same, except maybe even more PNG stuff (I hardly recognised any of the tunes), I still feel a bit stupid dancing at all, and this time as the ONLY white person AT ALL in the place (and a lot taller than most of the people there - Papua New Guineans are short!) I knew everyone’s eyes were on me whenever I went up to the dance floor (and even when I was off it). But, I still had fun! And danced most of the night! And it didn’t even really require alcohol! (although I think the fact that I sunk a couple of SPs made the other teachers who still don’t know me all that well relax a little bit more). It was a good night – I spent most of the time dancing with some of the other young female teachers, but there were people I knew from school hanging out in a few places around the bar, so although I was the only ex-pat there (there weren’t even any Indians or Filipinos, which surprised me) I felt like people knew I was there with friends – and the few drunken or otherwise blokes who tried to come near were hustled away by various mates quick-smart!

Still didn’t stop our driver’s cousin from having a go though! Asked me straight out (after he’d bought me a drink I said I didn’t want) if I was single, so of course I said no, I had a boyfriend in Australia (couldn’t tell this one I was training to be a nun – he already knew me!). So then he told me he’d be in Darwin next year to box, would I come watch him? I told him I’d still be here in PNG next year, so sadly I couldn’t. And to that he replied that if I was going to be in PNG for 2 years then why bother with the boyfriend back home – I needed a black man while I was here - one for here, one for there! Oh dear! I just laughed and told him I was a good girl, no thanks. Hopefully that’ll be the end of that!

Anyway, even that little exchange ended with a laugh, and on the whole it was a good night. The only problem was the driver coming to pick us up 2 hours late, by which time i was totally buggered and very ready to be at home in bed – but as I could sleep most of the day away today (thereby missing most of the hours when the water was shut off) it was a small price to pay for a fun night out which was both a good time at the time, and will hopefully also create a huge rise in my ‘she’s one of us’ stocks with the staff…


Post a Comment

<< Home