16 August 2013

Across two centuries

Just before dinner last night, we had a visitor. Actually, we had 3 visitors. One of my direct reports, who has only recently moved to Tabubil, dropped in with 2 of her 3 daughters. They carried a huge polystyrene bag which they placed on the floor in our dining room. After a few minutes of conversation, Serah leaned down, dug into the bag and brought out several treasures. They were gifts for our imminent departure and they included 2 bags woven from tree bark, another bag woven from cane and a set of jewellery made from shells (necklace, bracelet, earrings). She ceremoniously placed the bags around our necks and pressed the jewellery into the palm of my hand. Although I was standing in the middle of our dining room, I felt like Captain Cook on a distant beach surrounded by natives. I was decorated with meaningful items skillfully crafted by people from foreign lands. I don't know how Captain Cook felt but I was very humbled indeed. Serah is from Manus Island, the beautiful island to the east of PNG where Australia has just started to redirect illegal boat people. She had sought the assistance of family members and friends back on Manus to make these gifts, then to carry them from the island to the highlands for us. A couple of centuries ago, Captain Cook was an "invader" who had received garlands from natives and here was I, another generation of "invader" still receiving garlands from natives. Much has changed between generations but this remains the same...




  1. A beautiful gift from people who give from the heart. The value of the gift is all in the generosity of the giver. There will probably be a few tears the day you leave, and justifiably so.


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