Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good Story from Papua New Guinea

On our last night in Papua New Guinea we had an elder employee of the lodge describe to us the first time that he encountered, met, saw, a white man. The man’s name was James and he spoke no English. One of our guides translated for him. His story was very interesting, and I would be willing to bet this man was at least 80 years old, although he did not know how old he was.
He got his name, James, when he converted to Christianity. Many missionaries have come to Papua New Guinea in the past years. My mom said that she know a lot of shoeboxes were delivered there in the past. It was very evident why. I thought it was interesting that he received a new name, I wasn’t aware that was practiced at all in Christianity. I thought it was interesting that Muslims practiced this, and I think my eyes were opened a little bit to learning this was practiced in Christianity in parts of the world. When the missionaries came they taught the local tribes not to violently fight each other and not to kill people for things such and being a widow. The tribes took this to heart, there was no violence that we saw at all.
I think in my previous post I painted an ugly picture of Papua New Guinea. The truth is, they do not know any better. This is the way things have been for a long time, as long as these people have been there. Their traditions are passed down and because there is limited access to other people and places in the world, they truly do not know any different.
When James was done telling his story the manager of the lodge, who was an American citizen, asked if she could tell a 9/11 story. We all said of course. So, here is the story.
In the entrance to the lodge there is a world map. In the US the world maps that we use have America placed in the center and the rest of the world around us. This world map, however, has Papua New Guinea in the center, with Europe and the Middle East to the West and the Americas to the East. Although there is no cable TV in the highlands of Papua New Guinea there are some radios. On 9/11 the people of the Highlands heard of the tragedy, and although they did not know exactly what happened they knew that America and Americans were in danger. In Papua New Guinea, wars were not fought by invasion, but were fought by the two opposing sides meeting in the middle. So, on 9/11 the employees of the Ambua Lodge showed up in their black war clothes and black face paint. The manager asked what they were doing, and they said that they had come to protect her. On the map in the lodge Papua New Guinea was directly in between the Middle East and the USA. They had come to protect her because they thought that the US and Iraq would fight in Papua New Guinea.
I thought this story was just amazing, and that it shows that these are good hearted people. They just live in a society which focuses on retaining the traditions of their ancestors and have not been influenced by modern society. I think that in 20 years this will be a different country. The people there need help and need a boost to their economy. There are beautiful beaches and mountains, and I think with time this will be a great place to visit.

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