Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Becoming Culturally Well-Versed

We have encountered many new foods here in Papua New Guinea. Some are quite delicious while others are, well, not so much. Though we rarely cooked kaukau or yams for ourselves, we’ve eaten plenty.

I am certain that persons from other cultures, should they spend any amount of time faced with burgers, pizza, tacos, and pasta, could write similar verses about their encounters with our food. Yes, including French fries. :)

Anyway, we enjoyed this poem in particular, not as an insult to PNG food, but because it is always possible to have too much of even a good thing!

In order to understand it best, you will need to know a little bit of Tok Pisin. Translation will follow. And yes, every fourth line rhymes. :)

Kaikai Tumas






Snek Bin












Kaikai Tumas = Eating Too Much

Muli = generic term for various citrus fruit

Melon = generic term for various melons

Ananas = Banana

Pomolo = a sweet citrus fruit that is kind of like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit

Pis = Fish

Snek Bin = “snake bean” – a cucumber-looking bean that can be two feet long or more –

very delicious!

Kakaruk = Chicken

Popo = Papaya

Pitpit = a stalk vegetable that, when growing, looks like corn, but tastes totally different

Kumu = generic word for garden greens

Marita = a kerneled seed pod from a tree that is used to make sauces; comes in red and yellow

Laulau = a tree fruit, some of which taste similar to an apple

Aibika = a green that tends to be on the bitter side

Yam = a dense, starchy cousin to our yams

Tulip = a green that is not on the bitter side

Kaukau = a dense, not-so-sweet PNG sweet potato

Traut = this word has nothing to do with fish; instead it is the Tok Pisin word for vomit :)

Almost every evening of our village time, one or both of us would sit with our wasfamili (and sometimes with others, as well) and “story.” This “shooting the breeze” could last well into the night, especially if we’d made tea. One thing that is ingrained in PNG culture is the value of relationships, and this is regularly demonstrated by the time spent storying with one another. A Papua New Guinean would never turn someone away for that would send the message that the person was not important or the relationship was not worth investing in.

However, occasionally, culturally appropriate or not, we would catch one of them yawning. :)


I make some tea, the sun goes down.

Soon at your house I will be found.

You cannot just turn me away

So we talk and drink ‘til the break of day.

And no one gets much sleep at night,

For want of trying to be polite.

1 comment :

  1. I love reading your posts and think you have the right spirit to be in this mission field. What a fascinating season of life and I'm sure you are amazed at how the Lord is using your family. How great is our God!


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