Okay, so I feel like I’ve cheated a bit. I didn’t really do any writing today. But I did edit most of my essays from Papua New Guinea in preparation for a next step. I hadn’t looked at them in four months, and it still seemed a little soon, a little fresh for me to go back to them. I still have a lot of emotional baggage to dig through concerning Papua New Guinea. Maybe it’ll produce some good art…maybe not.
So anyway, here are some sections from my editing. Perhaps not my best paragraphs, but they’re somewhat interesting.
My clothes didn’t want to come onto my body again, sticking and pulling with every drop of sweat. Not for the first time since arriving on the island, I cursed this modern age and my Western background. Back home, I was stylistically conservative, sporting t-shirts and walking shorts in warm Oregon weather. In Papua New Guinea, though, how I wished to go nude like the climate demanded! The New Guineans usually covered the crotch area for modesty, but breasts were not culturally sensual in the least. I understand why; being topless in that heat would have been a blessing. But with four American male traveling companions of varying ages – and two who could damage my university GPA – the freedom was a no-go. Granted, too, a certain modicum of modesty was required in our situation and setting. Staying at Martin Luther Seminary in Lae, the only white faces among many dark ones, we already stood out simply by existing.
His name was Davis. The first time I saw him, he was suddenly perched next to me on a table, watching the students from America perform funny scenes. I didn’t know where this little boy in a brown checkered shirt came from and I didn’t know who he belonged to; at the Seminary where he lived, everyone seemed to claim all of the children, both teasing and loving them like their own. He was silent, either not knowing English or pretending he didn’t. It was hard to distinguish between the two with any of the children, especially a little ten-year-old like Davis. He had seen white people before. Some of them taught at the Seminary where he lived, but I doubt he had seen so many young white people in one place before. I tried to engage him with my broken Pidgin. Nem bilong yu? He just smiled at his swinging shoes, a beaming bright dark face with shining white teeth. The smile made his face erupt into joy, embarrassment, and uncertainty all at once.
Dakis is not unfamiliar to everyone on my team. Our leader, a professor at the college, calls her meri bilong mi. My woman. Rhett teases her in Pidgin and she scolds him for his mild flirtation. It is the kind of communication possible because Dakis knew Rhett when he was a little white boy following his teacher father around, and now she is giddy because that boy she remembers is a man. But even those without such history can see Dakis for who she is: a rockstar, says Cyndi, one of my teammates. Dakis walks around Martin Luther Seminary like she owns the campus, not unearned haughtiness but instead an ownership born out of years of living with and through a place. Martin Luther Seminary is her home.
My team begins to work with the children and teens outdoors, playing theatre games and drawing them out of their shells. I step back to watch, and I find myself on the stairs next to Wendy Bailey. Wendy’s Northern Irish dark eyes snap with intelligence and passion. Her shoulder-length dark hair is plain and pretty, offset by her pink button-up shirt and long jean skirt. Her manner of speaking delights my ears– the lilt of her voice, her evident passion, and the way she uses my name over and over again as she speaks. I feel like she is talking to me and only me. This woman is beautiful and vibrant, absolutely beside herself happy to watch her New Guinean children have so much fun with these visitors.