Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Hanuabada (village on the water)

Just a quick entry about my weekend, when I visited 4 of my students at their village. Hanuabada is the biggest village in PNG, and it literally means “big village” in Hiri Motu, their language. It’s right next to town, on the edge of the port, and most of the village is actually built on the water. (I had thought all of it was, but we did a brief tour of the on-land part of the village too – apparently everyone used to build on the water because it was too dangerous “with all the killings” to be on the land, but since the missionaries came they’ve begun building on the land too).

It’s the home of four of my Grade 9 girls, who are all cousins. Idau is my 9P class captain, and Silona Ani is in my 9Y class. The other 2 girls (Bele and Edea) are in 9W, and I teach them Library once a week. So it was very exciting to plan this visit with them – my first trip to a village, my first visit with students.

Idau came to pick me up from school with her cousins straight after their church in the morning, and we arrived at their village around 1.30. We went to Idau and Bele’s “wharf” first – each clan that lives on the water has their own wharf or jetty, with all the houses coming off it. The walkway is planks of wood, and you can feel it rocking as you walk – the stilts or supports of the walkway and the houses are built straight into the mud below, and although they assured me they were very stable, you could definitely feel swaying both on the jetty, and sitting in the houses! It was a bit like sitting in a boat. And the walkway had a lot of planks missing – I was amazed how quickly these girls raced along it – I spent the whole time watching my feet!

The houses themselves were basic but nice, and had electricity and water. I don’t know about sewerage/sink plumbing – there were frequent sounds/sights of water gushing from under houses into the sea below, but I didn’t actually ask about that…

And yep the sea was a little smelly, but nothing like what I was expecting. The mud was covered in garbage, and I’d hate to see it at low tide, but really, sitting on the jetty or in the “hall” (the covered space between Idau and Bele’s houses) the place was just gorgeous – sunlight dancing on the water, weathered wooden supports holding up lots of little houses, strings of gleaming washing hanging on lines all along the jetty, fresh sea breeze, kids running around and playing – I could see why the girls missed it so much when they were at school. It was a really beautiful place, and to have all your family around like that would be lovely. A really tight community, with built in friends and support.

We went for a long walk all over the village, where I was stared at by everyone, but felt very safe. The girls told me Friday nights were kids nights and the streets and jetties were crowded with children, and they walk around all the time at night. This was Sunday afternoon so it was a lot quieter, but we passed several kids’ worship sing sing groups, kind of like Sundays school. This was real village life, and just the sight of so many houses sitting over the water was amazing. There’s nothing like that in Australia. I loved it.

It really was a great day – it was so nice to just hang out with the girls, and to meet their families, and their little brothers and sisters and nieces especially. I think they enjoyed showing off me as they showed off their village (she’s our teacher!) and I certainly loved seeing everything, and feeling like I had a right to be there with them, even if I did do the tourist thing and take my camera. As soon as I convert to digital I’ll post some…

Thanks so much Idau, Bele, Silona and Edea – what a fantastic day out!


At 8:02 am, Blogger Nomad said...

Wow you are pretty lucky to get to go there from what I have heard. It would have been a great experience. Lucky you.

At 2:23 pm, Blogger Gia said...

I have been lucky enough to visit HB a couple of times and each vist has been very special.


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