Plotinus in the Jungle

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Independence Day

We have fallen quite behind on our posts.  Sorry!   The term here ends the start of November, so I have been very busy with end of the semester business.  Rebecca delivered a report on Good Shepherd’s finances to the Governing Council last week, whose preparation kept her occupied.   So we’ll try to catch up on some of our adventures.  Here is a post on how we celebrated PNG’s Independence Day.

September 16 is PNG’s Independence Day.  The country is 43 years old.  It was given independence by Australia in 1975 (Australia received the colony from Great Britain, who won part of PNG from Germany following WWI).  PNG mostly celebrates the simple fact that despite being formed out of 600+ tribes with 800+ languages and some of the tribes only making first contact with the outside world in the 1930’s and 40’s, it has survived as a country.  Every transition of power has been peaceful and mostly democratic.

At Good Shepherd, we celebrated with a 6:30 am mass with the Rector giving a nice sermon on the need of PNG nationals to embrace their agricultural heritage rather than seeing it as an archaic weight that holds the country back from developing properly.  All of my friends who love Wendell Berry would have given a standing ovation.   Then we assembled for the raising of the national flag on a makeshift bamboo flagpole that was assembled the day before.  The Good Shepherd celebration concluded with a singing of the national anthem in which
“We’re independent and we’re free
Pap-u-a New Guinea”
Is repeated many times.  (Note that Wikipedia’s version of the anthem “O Arise, All You Sons” seems different from what we sung.)

Our celebration was so early so that the seminarians could “roam around” and have the day off.  We decided to go native and do our own roaming.  I picked a large hill visible from the seminary, made arrangements for Annie’s babysitter, Miriam, to be our guide and we set off around 9 am for adventure.

On our way out of Fatima, we ran into a student drum corps heading to the secondary and primary schools for their Independence Day festivities.  Though their dress was not quite traditional, they kept up a lively tempo!

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Miriam kept referring to this group as a “brass band” though they seemed to only have percussion instruments . . .

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 It soon become apparently that Miriam did not actually know the way up even though she had referred to the hill as her tribe’s mountain before.  So as we walked in the general direction of the hill, she stopped and asked people in tok pisin if they would guide us up the hill.  Eventually, she found a guide for our expedition – Joseph Goru, a Catholic catechist who lives at the foot of the mountain and whose son is a third-year student at Good Shepherd.  We just happened to run into him at the beginning of the dirt road that lead to the base of the mountain.

He lead us through a large coffee plantation and then up a dirt road that follows the Warakar river.  We passed and were passed repeatedly by a family that was walking back from the Waghi valley (where we live and where roads are) to the Jimi Valley north of us (where there are no roads and no infrastructure).  They were carrying goods that they had bought at market – oil, rice, clothes, tin fish.  Imagine walking 8 hours one way over mountains to do your shopping!

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The road to the Jimi valley. Our mountain’s lowest flank is visible.

We walked a bit past our hill and then Joseph took us up the ‘road’ to the hill.  By ‘road’ I mean something like a deer tract that started behind someone’s hut and then meandered through some coffee before finally going straight up the equivalent of a ski slope!

Up the 'ski slope.'  With our guide Joseph Goru.

Up the ‘ski slope.’ With our guide Joseph Goru.

After making it to the mountain proper, we rested by some tree.  Apparently they were planted by the painter of Good Shepherd – Michael Nolle – who owns land on the mountain.  Then we slowly walked up the bare hill to the top.

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We rest as Joseph takes a phone call.

The view from the top was spectacular: a near 360 degree view of the Waghi Valley and the mountains separating us from the Jimi.  Here is my attempt at a panorama:

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Looking east at the mountain we climbed with Sister Latina.

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Looking east, down into the valley from which we ascended.

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Looking north. The ridge continue to go up.

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Looking northwest. These mountains separate our valley from the Jimi valley. The far mountain is where our Dean of Studies is from.

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Our guide and Miriam look south into the Waghi valley.

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Looking southwest into our valley. The view straight south is blocked by a small stand of trees.

Here are some pictures of the same views with cute and not so cute people in the foreground.

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The mountain on the right is the one we hiked with Sister Latina.

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Triumphant.

Then we started down.

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Now we are looking south. The white dots in the middle are the health clinic across from Good Shepherd and the Catholic schools down the road from us. Good Shepherd is obscured by a low hill with pine trees on it.

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Here is the southeast view. We are looking up the valley that we hiked through with sister Latina. The road to Banz is on the other side of the low ridge.

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The way down is the way up.

Joseph took us on a path that became narrower and narrower until it was just where the grass was not as deep as the rest.  We westerners in our fancy shoes were quite prone to slipping on the clay soil.  No one got hurt, but mommy and daddy falling down made Annie upset.  Once we were at the bottom of the hill, it was revealed why we went down as we did – it was the path to Joseph’s compound!  We admired his chickens and coffee plantation. Here is a picture of our guide by the tree branch on which he hangs the jawbones of pigs that he has slaughtered and eaten:

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Eating your own pigs is a sign of prestige in the Highlands.

Then we returned back on the road through the coffee plantation.

We are thankful to be independent and free in Papua New Guinea!

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