Sunday, April 4, 2010

More from Kokoda Station, Oro

It's been a while now since I left Kokoda; in fact its been 18months at least since I was there and while I keep an eye on how things are going, I am sure something is different and maybe nothing has changed...

These three photos again show three different expressions on three different groups of people with three potentially different dreams. The first shot of the three lads sitting outside Andrew's Stoa is one of my favourites from Kokoda. If you finish the Kokoda Track at Kokoda then the first point of call is the carved timber signage out front of the Hospital and then the second idea is to wander down to the Airfield or find a place to stay. Diagonally opposite the Hospital is Andrew's Stoa where you can buy some typical stoa goods in PNG; SP lager, and Maggi Kakaruk Seasoning both seen here in this image. Next to this Stoa is Little Priscella's Place run by Priscella and David and not to be confused with the bigger Priscella's Place (scene for shot 2).

In many parts of PNG one can find isolated Villages where the kids may not recall the last time they saw a white person apart from the local Missionary and this often leads to awe and amazement from the kids when you first show up to town. Kokoda however sees its fair share of white visitors (some are brown from the 96km mud track, and some are clean off another plane) so I excused the kids when they didn't show too much enthusiasm for a white guy with a camera. But this guy at the front of the shot is great; his total "I couldn't care less" attitude has given this shot a sense of realism and it offers his whole "where does the future for me lie?" imagery. He is eating a cucumber and he is sprinkling Maggi Kakaruk Seasoning on it before taking a bite; a very cheap snack and apart from the MSG in the Seasoning, it could almost come across as being "healthy"???

Interesting fact; at the time of this photo being taken, the Kokoda Local Level Government (LLG) were holding elections meaning that the sale of alcohol was prohibited, the cartons you see in shot are empties and are waiting for the big truck to come by, pick up all the dead ones and take them to Popondetta, and then to Buna and then back to Lae by boat. The bottles that survive this journey then get washed and refilled and end up at a similar Stoa just like this one. Earlier that morning, I met with a few Police Officers who had been sent from other Provinces to keep an eye on the election and the Prohibition. We spent some time chatting as they were all waking up for a brand new day; later on in the afternoon, I would find the Officers again washing and relaxing at the local stream drinking the SP they had confiscated during the day and they then offered me a beer. Now I don't mind a beer and it had been some time since I had last sipped on the golden ale, as I had spent some time in the mountains away from such luxuries but even I draw the line at warm SP; no electricity in town, no refrigeration.

Shot 2 was taken at Priscella's Place which has quite a sizeable guesthouse and dining room. Like everyone in Kokoda (Little Priscella included), you can arrange Porters and Guides through most of the Guesthouses and contacts you make at Kokoda Station itself. Priscella is very welcoming and knowledgable about the track and Kokoda and on this day, she had arranged for a local Oro-kaivan sing-sing group to perform and the kids in the photo are relatives of the Performers. Again I like their "another white guy with a camera" look and I hope that PNG does not adopt this philosophy nation-wide as I am sure, more and more tourists will seek out the potential of this wonderful country. The fantastic thing about this image is the true awe and amazement of the three youngest kids as they watch their Mums and Dads and Aunties and Uncles perform a traditional sing-sing; perhaps the traditional ways will continue to educate and en-rapt for generations to come?

And finally onto the last image from Kokoda Station and that of the older generation of women I met down at the Airport. The day waiting at the Airport for my flight was a fantastic day of fun and games. I met up with Cecily again and we once again greeted each other in the language of the Tolai, much to the mirth of some of the meris in shot. I sat down with these ladies behind the Airport Shelter and the women asked if I would like to play cards with them and I remembered back to the moment in the Southern Highlands on a wet day, walking into a Pool Hall and a Rasta man asked me "Do you want a game of pool?" to which I replied; "I'm no good at pool" and he said "You don't need to be good, you just need to have money!" so I replied to the card meris that no, I didn't understand their rules to which they said "Neither do we, but you just need some money!" and they all broke out in laughter.

Well I continued to watch the very confusing blend of Go-fish and Uno and Snap and decided my money would be best spent on a cold beer when I finally returned to Moresby. The meris were enjoying the conversation and enjoying the betelnut and they then asked why I wasn't spending time with the white trekkers at the front of the Airport shelter and I was out back here with the gambling meris? I must admit it did feel like having a cigarette behind the shelter shed back in High School and was obviously the place where the bad meris hung out, but it was also the most liveliest place. I knew none of the trekkers and they were all tired and dirty and wanting to get home whereas the local meris were laughing, chewing nut, gambling and we were all eating the really bad chocolate do-nuts that PNG makes soooo poorly.

I had a great day, sitting out underneath the Oil Palm in the shade just watching the coming and goings of a group of people who could have so much more but thanks to a few are left with what they have and it doesn't faze too many.


John said...

Nice story Steve - would like to have seen a shot of the police officers bathing and drinking the confiscated beer.

The kid you described in the first shot reminds me of my grandson (aged 7) who, when preoccupied with something, like eating, will completely ignore (or pretend to ignore) everything going on around him!

Steve Bennett said...

That is probably what it is, food can distract anyone at times... Hmmm, is that a Pie I can smell???