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Papua New Guinea

Daru September 6, 2014: Jesus is a Black Man

Papua is the center of the world, the God’s sacred and chosen nation. The day will come, when the black people no longer be the slaves, and the whites in turn will be the slaves of the blacks. That’s how Dogen Molang sees the future of the earth, based on the ancient story he believes. He is now conducting a secret yet important research. That is, to prove that Jesus was a black Papuan man. Mr. Molang is an enthusiastic man in his forties, a respected English teacher in the Daru High School—the only high school on the tiny island of Daru, the former capital of the isolated Western Province of Papua New Guinea. The first time I met him, he came with thick photocopy thesis of an Australian researcher about the border area of Papua New Guinea. In one chapter of his thesis, Kevin Murphy the researcher described the folktales of different tribes in the area on how the universe was created. The stories captivated Molang very much, and made him jump to the conclusion: that Jesus were [read more]

September 18, 2015 // 0 Comments

Marukara 4 September 2014: A Dangerous Adventure with Indonesian Illegal Traders (2)

We were traveling in the southern coast of Papua New Guinea with a group of illegal buyers from Indonesia. As the buyers were fearing the assault from local criminals or being caught by PNG police patrol, we decided to stay overnight in the wilderness. The most sensible place for tonight was Marukara, an empty small island across the village of Mabudauan. But unfortunately, when we arrived in the darkness of night, we found that the island was anything but empty. There were many boats parked on the shore. Men were shouting at us. We recognized that they were shouting in Kiwai language, which nobody in our group understood. Sisi shout back in English, “We are not enemy, we are from Tais. Are you guys from Mabudauan? In the past, our ancestors also caught fish in this area. Our ancestors also worked together with your ancestors.” The men shouted back. “Yes! We are from Mabudauan. Welcome!” Suddenly from the island came out a dozen of young men, directing our boats to avoid the [read more]

June 10, 2015 // 0 Comments

Marukara 3 September 2014: A Dangerous Adventure with Indonesian Illegal Traders

The coastal region in the southern Papua New Guinea near the Indonesian border is notorious for the illegal cross-border trading activity. Indonesian traders often cross the sea border from Merauke in the west and venture to Papua New Guinean villages to do their unlawful business. This is a very dangerous journey, due to attacks from the pirates and possibility being caught by joint PNG—Australian border patrol. I could sense the over-cautious attitude in Herman—a Marind trader from Merauke, whom I saw one boat of three passengers floating on the sea near the Buzi village. Marind is a Papuan native tribe inhabiting Merauke, a big city and its surrounding regions at the Indonesian side of the border. Thus, as a dark-skinned and curly-haired Melanesian, Herman did not look any different from the PNG villagers in this area. It was Sisi who disclosed Herman’s Indonesian identity to me. Herman’s boat was heading from west to east, making a short stop in Buzi as he was to meet [read more]

May 19, 2015 // 0 Comments

Buzi 2 September 2014: Not As Paradise As It Seems

Being in such isolated place like Tais, I was totally at the mercy of my host. I could go nowhere without approval from Sisi the Tais woman who brought me here. I had been staying in Tais for more than a week. I wanted to see more places. I wanted to go to Mari, the neighboring village four hours away by walking where Sisi used to live. But she did not allow me, saying that people there would kill me. I wanted our group to depart earlier to Daru, so we could stop in Buzi or Sigabadaru, border villages face to face with Australian islands of Boigu and Saibai. Sisi also did not allow me, saying that the villages were full of raskol (rascals). “But Sisi, how can be raskol there? These are just little villages, everybody knows everybody,” protested me. “No, no. You markai are just foreigner, you never understand,” said Sisi, “These people are jealous people. They will kill you.” Tais, she said, was different from other villages nearby. Tais is so small, the people have [read more]

September 3, 2014 // 0 Comments

Tais 30 August 2014: A Nation in Waiting

Nobody would deny, Tais is a very blessed land. See how green the vast pasture surrounding the village—even though your economist mind may ask why such a potential fertile land is just wasted and overgrown by wild grass as tall as your chest. See how bountiful their garden products are, their huge yams and blue yams and cassavas and sweet potatos, their super-sweet bananas and super-hot chili and super-fresh coconuts and super-big oranges. When the men go hunting to nearby jungles, they almost never come home empty handed. The people of Tais never ran out of food, as their land provide much more than enough for its 80 families spread in the 1 kilometer breadth of their village. Despite of this, you would see the children were very unhealthy; they have skinny bodies of bones but with big bellies. I asked Sisi—my host in this village—why. She just laughed, and said that it was children loved to eat too much. But I thought it was due to their monotony of diet, most of which was [read more]

August 30, 2014 // 0 Comments

Tais 28 August 2014: What is Your Dream?

The school is supposed to start at eight in the morning, and to finish at twelve. But none in this Papua New Guinean coastal village have clocks. Including Madam Singai, the only school teacher in the village. Nevertheless, she knows perfectly when she should start her class. That is when she has finished the cassava cooking and baby feeding in her house, and when she believes the sun is high enough. She then roams around the village, shouting all her students’ names. Dozens of barefooted students then resemble a parade of obedient ducks, follow her to the school hut at the end of the village. Madam Singai also knows when to finish her school. That is when most of her students make so much of noise, crying because of being hungry, or because of her own stomach produces noise calling for lunch. After gathering the students, Madam Singai is ready for the class today. The classroom for the Grade I and II students. Centipedes disrupted the class. Of course once in a while Madam Singai [read more]

August 28, 2014 // 0 Comments

Port Moresby 20 August 2014 Flying with Air Niugini

“One thing you have to remember is,” said one staffer in Indonesian Embassy in Port Moresby, “PNG is acronym for Promise Not Guaranteed. Never think that by holding a valid flight ticket you are guaranteed to fly.” Last week, Indonesian and PNG government held an annual border meeting in Port Moresby. One Indonesian delegation of 40 people was departing from Jayapura and crossed the land border to Vanimo in Papua New Guinea side. From the northern city, together with the Indonesian Consulate delegation, they were supposed to take domestic flight with the national carrier, Air Niugini, to Port Moresby. But once they arrived in the airport, they were told that the flight they were taking had no seat left. All of them held a confirmed ticket, but they were refused to fly. Worse, there were no other flights in the next three days. Thanks to assistance from the PNG governor in Vanimo, they finally made their way to Port Moresby, by chartering a special airplane! Jacksons [read more]

August 20, 2014 // 1 Comment

Jakarta, July 29, 2014: Australia and Papua New Guinea

I grab my backpack, clean it up from a layer of thick dust covering it, and put my clothes inside. It has been years since the last time I touched this backpack. Suddenly I realize I do not remember the last time I felt this kind of anxiety. Anxiety to face the Unknown and the Otherness. Tomorrow, I will start my first trip out of Asia. Just few days ago, on Monday, July 21, I got the confirmation of invitation to attend the Byron Bay Writers Festival (BBWF) in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, to be held from August 1 to 3. It is a literary festival in collaboration with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in the Indonesian island of Bali, which I have attended twice. Each year BBWF provides an opportunity for Indonesian writer for a special appearance in this international event. As the confirmed invitation came up in very last minutes, I was worrying whether I would get my Australian visa on time. Australian visa usually takes five working days. But as Indonesia is celebrating [read more]

July 29, 2014 // 25 Comments