Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Village People

Accessible only by air or a multi-day trek by foot, the village of Simbai offers a taste of life at its most simple.

We are staying at a lodge that is a 30 minute hike from the gravel and grass airstrip that made our arrival here possible. Shelter here comes in the form of straw huts. Showers in the form of river water in a bucket. Heat in the form of fire. In the communal area, there is solar power, which extends our evening social time by about an hour.

Yesterday, Emmanuel and I went trekking with two of the locals, while the others took a tour of the village. The terrain was spectacular. Steady climbing. Rugged jungle. Small villages. I am not a bird fan, but there were a lot of interesting sounds in the jungle (Dad, every time I hear a bird chirping, I think it is you). I was surprised by how few bugs there were in the jungle. Apparently there are no snakes around here either. It's a hikers paradise.

After a few hours, we came across a woman and her two children in their 'garden' (marginally organized patch of soil in the middle of nowhere). She had set up a small fire on the dirt and was cooking the potatoes that she was peeling with a dirty stick. When they first saw us, the kids ran away. But, in time, curiosity brought them back. Eventually, one came up behind me and began inspecting my hand. I get the impression that there are not many visitors around here - particularly white ones.

Then again, we did see two albinos today. TWO.

When we arrived back in Simbai, we walked around the village and watched the school kids play volleyball. Bob brought a few dictionaries to donate, which got us a free pass in to the classrooms and an excuse to chat with the village people. I'm getting over my struggle with how much impact to make on this place - because this seems like a very good idea. Next time I travel to a developing country, I'll bring some dictionaries. And pants. There seems to be a shortage of those around here.

In the evening, we played texas hold 'em for stones until we ran out of light. Let's just say that I'm lucky that we were only playing with stones.

A storm rolled in over night, bringing plenty of rain, thunder and lightening. I had forgotten how much I enjoy sleeping in storms (provided that I am somewhere dry). I left my window open so that my room would be illuminated every time there was lightening. It was so lovely that I didn't want to fall asleep.

I came to PNG for the Hagen Festival and I would say that it met my very high expectations. But it is the time that we have spent in this village that I have most enjoyed.


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